Tales From the Front Lines: The Relationship Counselor
I knew a guy who I’ll call Zach. When his long-term girlfriend Sara broke up with him, he handled it pretty well. He wanted to reconcile with her, but he instinctively knew that he should give her space, and time to start missing him and change her mind.
His plan worked—to an extent. A couple of months later, she contacted him, and they met up for lunch. Zach played it cool, and he could tell she was impressed by the mature, laidback way he’d handled the breakup.
The problem was that Sara had been dating a new guy for the past few weeks, and she began telling Zach about it. She wasn’t sure whether she was compatible with the new guy; there were already some problems with their relationship. She began to ask for Zach’s opinion on this stuff.
Here’s where Zach screwed up. Instead of changing the subject, or showing that he wasn’t interested in hearing about some dude his ex was now datin, he went along with the conversation.
As she explained her issues with her new boyfriend, Zach said things like, “He really said that?” or “That’s horrible!” He thought that he was being sly by getting into her head and pointing out Mr. New Guy’s flaws.
What he was really doing, though, was assuming the role of one of her friends that she would normally call up on the phone and dump all this relationship crap on. And that’s exactly what happened. Sara stayed in touch with Zach, but mostly just to call or text him about drama and problems involving her new relationship. The discussion was never about Zach or the idea of getting together, which it should have been.
It ended up being several months before Sara’s relationship finally fizzled out, and by that time, she no longer had any interest in rekindling her relationship with Zach. By that point, he’d been her “friend” for so long that she could no longer think of him in romantic terms.
This is an example of why you don’t play “relationship counselor” with your ex—even if you think bad-mouthing her new boyfriend could help you gain some traction!