Miss Information: My ex now wants a “professional” relationship with me

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He told me that we need to keep things "professional" with no feelings or attachment, but what does that mean?

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Dear Miss Information,

I've been dating someone long-distance for over a year. We met in school and hit it off quickly, and shortly after he moved. Our relationship has always been up and down because of the distance, but every time we are together all of that disappears, and, honestly it is as if we are inseparable like a married couple. I know that he loves me, but the distance has really put a lot of stress on the both of us. We decided not too long ago that we'd try to cut out the romantic thing because it's extremely rough. The only problem is that I feel very strongly for this guy, and I suspect that it is the same for him.

Recently he told me that we just need to keep things "professional" with no feelings or attachment because that is the best way he knows to handle this situation. Honestly, I'm devastated by that because not only is he someone I love deeply, but until recently I've considered him my best friend.

Now I'm at a point where I'm trying to decide if I should sever ties with him entirely (at least until I don't feel so deeply about him). Staying involved with him is really taking a toll on me–and us, and I know the whole "just be friends" thing does not cut it for me–especially when it's "professional friendship." Do you think me completely disassociating myself for some period of time might save our friendship, or should I just struggle along and try to keep from random bouts of emotion towards him until I've gotten past that phase?


Disconnected and Confused Girl"Friend"

Dear Girl “Friend”:

Oh, “professional friend”: what does that even mean? The kind of friend who clocks you in when you’re running late? The kind of friend you chip in $5 for to buy a grocery store cake on her birthday? The kind of friend you ask, “So, working hard, or hardly working?”, then bean with your rubber band ball?


Given that the distance isn’t going to change, the trick is in coping. He seems to be coping by making up a niche (“professional friend”?), and cramming your relationship into it. I’d wager that the restrictions he’s placing on your communication are directly proportional to his feelings for you—after all, he wouldn’t have to work so hard to keep you at arm’s length if he didn’t care.

You’re now tasked with making up a niche that makes you comfortable, and putting him there. (Semi-pro friend? Hobbyist friend? Thursday-only friend?) If staying in touch is painful, give yourself permission to cut off communication. Again, not talking isn’t the same thing as not caring; in this instance, it is evidence of just the opposite.

The important thing to know is that this is temporary. Redistricting a relationship after a breakup is a process; it’s unlikely to stay as stark as it currently is. If you think time off from talking to him will help you, then by all means take it—and know that he will be there when you get back. Remember, Girl”friend”, that if a relationship between two people is strong, it can bend many times without breaking. Don’t you have people in your life like this? You may not speak to each other for years, but once you’re in the same room, you snap back to how it used to be. He may be one of these people. It sounds like silence now might be part of a necessary evolution in your relationship—but that hardly means it’s dead. Think about what you need to do in the short-term to maintain your sanity, and then remember that, in the long term, anything can happen.