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Dublin: 5 °C Sunday 16 December, 2018
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Missing a bad ex but not the nice lad, losing a 30 year friendship, dealing with a wagon at work - it's Dear Fifi

All the way from Myanmar.

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Your foreign correspondent Dear Fifi here, coming at you from the communal space in a hostel in Yangon, Myanmar. I’ve been writing a little bit while I’ve been away - if you’d like to read about a train journey I had the other day, be my guest. 

Just here for the advice? Well, you can ask me anything you like right here

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Recently broke up in a 6 month relationship, but haven’t missed him at all. The only person I feel I miss is my very problematic long term ex from years before! Why don’t I miss the decent guy! Feelin’ confused.

Break-ups are really weird and there’s really no road map for them. They’re all as unique as the relationship that preceded them. I also think a bad relationship is likely to be more difficult to get over emotionally than a more straightforward, decent encounter that simply didn’t work out or happened to wind down.

Another thing that doesn’t get enough airtime, I think, is the way a break-up happens. If it’s a bolt from the blue or there’s no communication about what occurred or you’re treated unfairly, this can lead us to have residual questions or thoughts that hang around longer than they should. Other break-ups are cleaner and there’s less to mull over, less to endlessly analyse in our low moments. Bear in mind, this ex from years ago that you’re hung up is more a memory and an idea of someone than a real person. Why is that? What pulls you back to this?

Don’t beat yourself up for not missing someone if you genuinely don’t feel it. It’s good that you have the insight into yourself to see that you need to do some work on the previous relationship. I think talking it out and figuring out what’s at the root of it still affecting you will enable you to move on, either with friends or a counsellor if you’d prefer. You’ve half the battle done by knowing what’s wrong. Good luck. Don’t let the bastards get you down.

I have been friends with a woman for about 30 years. We have a shared hobby. Her husband is not happy about our friendship so I kept a low profile. We would go out and about when he was at work. He has now retired and is home all the time. I do not get to see her that much now and it is a very hurried encounter. I realise now she was also my soundboard and I miss her lots. Should I just draw a line and say our friendship is now over?

It may not be over, but it’s going to have to change. Essentially, this woman is going to prioritise her marriage over your friendship – which isn’t pleasant for you, but is understandable all the same. After 30 years, it may be too far gone to try and win over the husband or become his friend too. Is that an option? (The less said about sneaking around when he’s not there, the better I think. Water under the bridge now though, but not the best way of doing things.)

I’m not privy of the nuance of your relationship with this woman, but it does sound a little intense, plus awkward with her husband not approving. Is he unreasonable about this or does he have justification for it? Be honest with yourself. Has it been appropriate?

Either way, I think you need to let her set the boundaries now. Respect her if she needs space. Perhaps write her a letter explaining that you have greatly appreciated her friendship all this time and her listening ear, but you want to be respectful and take a step back. Let her know you’ll always be there as her friend if anything happens. Then back off. She knows where you are if she needs you. 

Perhaps use this new free time to cultivate friendships with other people where you can be a bit freer and more transparent – it’s better for everyone. 

I’m in a situation of having to work closely with another girl who I don’t get on with. We have very different working styles for a start, but I find her passive-aggressive and manipulative. We tried hard for a while to make the relationship work – meeting weekly, talking through any issues and trying to build trust, however we ended up having a row last week and I just can’t work with her. I don’t want to leave my job and don’t think she will either. What do I do now?

My Dad is very wise man sometimes. Something he said to me years ago when I was having trouble at work has always stuck with me: “Fiona, working with difficult people is one of challenges in life that you will have to rise to.”

It seems like you’ve done all the appropriate things that are deployed when two people clash at work: the increased attention to communication with weekly meetings, bringing the issue to light to work through it openly, etc. (I assume a manager or HR person helped with this? If not, involve them.)

Start to view getting along with this colleague as part of your job – a challenging and frustrating part, but an important one. 

I’m sorry, but I don’t have any better advice for you than to just rise above it – because it’s the only way. If she’s as pass-agg as you say, then that’ll be clear to other people. If you can find reserves of patience and calm within yourself, you will look really good to everyone else if you can just deal with her. You don’t even have to pretend you’re doing it for her sake – by all means, do it for selfish reasons. You’ll look controlled, people will think you’re the bigger person. Win by being unflinchingly kind even if she does her worst to wind you up.

Put yourself first by working tirelessly to always treat this woman with respect. Other people will notice and it’ll speak well of you. Offer it up. You’ll be a better person for having tried to accept her as she is and let your anger go. It’s a skill for life you’re learning.

From a cynical perspective, you need to protect yourself too. Many onlookers in a workplace won’t see the detail you do – they’ll automatically think there’s two of you in it if you have a row. It’s not fair, but shit sticks. Avoid arguing with her lest you be lumped in with her and labelled difficult.

Some day, this woman will be an anecdote in an interview where you’re demonstrating how cool-headed, even-handed and fucking magnanimous you are in the face of workplace strife. Focus on that when she is getting your back up. (And make a vow not to lose your temper at work again. This column I wrote about dealing with really annoying people might help a bit too.)

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Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always.  

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