Having a relationship with an officemate is great. You get to see your love every day, you start looking forward to each workday, and you get to steal kisses during breaks.
That is, until you break up.
Now you find yourself removing all her things on your desk (why are they even there in the first place?), untagging all your couple photos on Facebook, and crying about it with your good friends over beer.
That’s what happened to Regie, 28, who last year broke up with his ex who sits just across his cubicle. “I can always hear her making vacation plans with her new boyfriend, the same guy she cheated on me with,” he said. “There were days that I really purposely went on sick leave para lang di ko siya makita.”
“Gusto ko na talagang mag-resign, pero kaka-promote ko lang no’n,” he said.
When asked what it was like to sit next to the girl for several months, he said, “Ang hirap, sobra.” Eventually, Regie filed for a resignation and got the separation he desperately wanted.
Emman, 23, on the other hand, took months to finally move on from his own doomed office romance. “First work ko and first girlfriend ko siya kaya nahirapan akong mag-move on. Dagdag na rin doon yung lagi ko siyang nakakasalubong since same floor kami,” he said.
It tortured him so much that he suffered from mild depression at the time. “Tuwing makikita ko siya na may kasamang iba, sira na agad araw ko. Hindi rin ako maka-focus sa work tsaka hindi ako makakain,” he said.
He ironically mustered the strength to move on when he was recuperating from dengue. At the hospital where had been confined, his boss and work friends visited him often. “Doon ko na-realize na marami palang nagmamahal sa akin at hindi ko pala siya kailangan.”
When Emman came back to work, he focused more on his job and close friends at work. “Puro kami inom at lakwatsa every Friday. In time naka-move on na rin ako. Nakatulong din nang nalipat siya ng ibang project at floor.”
While normal breakups are hard, office breakups are completely a new ballgame. Professional ethics necessitate that you and your co-workers treat each other with respect and work as a team. But can you even really be teammates with a former girlfriend? Imagine the awkwardness you, your colleagues, and bosses have to deal with.
So what do you do manage the emotional blow, stay professional at work, and move on from the relationship?
Practice the age-old breakup tactic of avoidance, suggests Ronald John B. Recio, MA Cand, a Filipino clinical psychologist internationally certified in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). “Limit the exposure you have with your ex, and try limiting the information you get about her,” he said.
Tweak your schedule, if you can or office policy allows for it. For instance, arrive at work earlier or later to avoid coincidentally bumping into your former flame. Don’t go to the pantry or break room around the time your ex's takes her lunchbreak. This might seem like a high school-ish to you, but it can help to take at least a little bit of awkwardness and tension in the workplace.
More importantly, Recio advises men to simply “accept the reality of the situation.” It will take time for everything to be okay because of your unique predicament. As you work your way through these complications, though, try to treat
Understand that normalizing your relationship with your ex-girlfriend will take time, because you’re bound to see each other every day. And as impossible as it might seem, treat your former flame as you would other officemates, and keep things strictly professional.
Remember, you were a professional before the relationship, and you can continue to be one. When you conquer the unique challenge of having an office break-up, you’ll come out on the other side as a better, brighter, and stronger man—both personally and professionally.
Ronald John B. Recio, MA Cand, is a clinical psychologist internationally certified in REBT and CBT. For professional advice on relationships and more, you may call him at (+63) 925-544-5377.