Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to email@example.com.
At the company I work for, new employees are brought into the flow in groups. My group had a lot of people around the same age and we all bonded and became friends quickly. (My company allows relationships in the workforce as long as they two people aren’t in the same section.) In those early months I became close to Becca and we started to go out. After around a year, we decided to break up.
Recently Becca has started dating another employee who I work closely with. I have tried not to let this bother me but I think my true feelings are starting to show. In the end, it seems difficult to see her every day and I feel that I have not really gotten over the relationship even though I pretend otherwise. Do you have solutions to this issue?
The idea of someone we were with being with someone else is always a traumatic situation. When Becca’s new relationship turns into a steaming pile of garbage, you will perhaps be somewhat reassured, but the pain will never fully go away. That fact that Becca is moving on in front of you is what John Ashbery termed a blessing in disguise.
Moving on is difficult, but until you have accomplished that long term goal, there are some things you can do to alleviate this present pain. Conventional wisdom would have it that the less you know about the situation the better, but considering your circumstances, that is never going to be possible. Take things in the entirely opposite direction: be incredibly supportive of your co-worker’s relationship and try to establish a friendship with Becca, if possible. This will take the edge off until the pain eventually just fades away.
Lately I find that I am really quick to anger. When passengers were very slow to disembark a recent plane I was on, I felt myself wanting to lash out at them. This is balanced against a deep desire not to enter into open conflict with others, especially strangers I do not know.
I’m starting to think that there must be something wrong with me, to be made so angry but such routine and common frustrations.
Such anger feels like the fancy of a negative moment, but it is in reality a product of prolonged frustration, bubbling to the surface. If you travel a lot, you can see how people let off their frustrations in various ways. Recently, I watched a man who missed his flight throw a temper tantrum by stomping and crying in front of the flight agent. A security guard covertly approached from the rear, sensing that a further breakdown was perhaps in the making. Eventually the guy settled down – his feelings were completely out of his system, and he had moved on to the next way he made other people’s lives as unhappy as his own.
I am not saying you should throw a tantrum, but it is important to let people know if they have annoyed you in a specific way. You might as well start becoming the kind of person who frequently tells other people how the world should be, and it is better that you make this change in the company of people who you will never see again in your life rather than your close friends and relatives.
Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.