As a brainy and attractive academic, I love your website! Here is a situation I haven’t seen posted; I’d love some input:
A couple years ago I was in a short term relationship with a colleague, who, as was I, recently separated from our spouses. We are in our late 40s/early 50s. I have now been divorced for over a year; he is still separated with final papers ready to be filed (for over the last year). This is his second divorce; his current ex left him for another woman. We had been cordial colleagues for a couple of years and good friends for a few months before becoming intimate; I was the first person he was intimate with since he separated, and vice versa. Although I fell in love with this person who I also deeply cared for as a friend, obviously I was just his transitional relationship. He dumped me after meeting someone at a conference with whom he has now been in a 2 year long distance relationship with — although his cheating on me did not come out until recently; he broke up with me by saying that, “although the sex was great” he “no longer had romantic feelings” and wanted to see other women, without admitting he already was. Because of their academic professions and child custody issues it is unlikely he and his girlfriend will be able to move across time zones to be with each other in the near future although they spend every break and holiday together, so presumably they are both happy with the current arrangement.
Since the night he broke up with me, he has on a number of occasions asked me to remain friends, and, frankly, I have been very hesitant about this since I still have feelings for him (including not very positive ones). Since we’re together in work situations on a regular basis, I try to be cordial. We have occasionally met over coffee, but the conversation is superficial and awkward for me so I basically stopped doing that. I have dated since then, and recently have been in a wonderful relationship for 6 months with a man I care for deeply.
Recently during a confrontation about the lingering awkwardness between us, he said he wanted to be more than cordial colleagues and become friends again, which he explained means getting together over dinner or hanging out and talking about “relationships and spirituality, life, etc.” The last thing I want to do is sit around and talk about his relationship with the woman he left me for, nor am I interested in talking about my dating situations with him. I do not understand his agenda. Why would he think that I would want to be his relationship confidante after he cheated on me? Is he just cluelessly insensitive or what??
I have lost trust in and respect for him. Although it would perhaps be nice to regain our lost friendship, I don’t want to be the type of “friends” he has proposed. The problem is that rejecting friendship with him outright will impact our working relationship, so I would like to find a way to “like” him again. Is this possible?
Thanks for writing in. It’s nice to hear from an academic. You didn’t mention your field, but your highly rational writing style sounds like the sciences to me :). Academia has its positives and negatives when it comes to dating: on the positive, you can connect with other bright, like-minded Intellectual Badasses who share important attributes with you, including the desire for intellectual stimulation. On the negative, you must face the awkwardness of seeing that person around if things don’t work out, not to mention any quirks you may encounter in some academics.
In my stint as an academic, I recall one very bright scientist who worked with his wife at their university. He was a chronic cheater – he screwed his grad students and other young women in his field, and flirted with everyone else. His wife tolerated it until they began an acrimonious divorce that involved her trying to get him fired from the university. She was attracted to his brilliance and his ability to turn any dull event into a party, and ignored his callous lack of integrity (and need for female attention) as long as she could. Your situation is different; but there’s something about your colleague that reminds me of the philandering scientist.
As I discuss in Dating the Divorced Man, it’s true that separated men are a risky, risky bunch. They can be needy for sex and attention from women. But even the emotional disorientation of separation can’t turn a good man into a jerk, and your colleague is a jerk.
Why is he hounding you for the LBF (Let’s Be Friends)? I think he still feels some connection to you and, more importantly, knows he still holds some emotional power over you. You admitted yourself you still have feelings, both positive and negative. That’s why he keeps trying – there’s still a connection there. It’s likely he’s the type that needs a woman around and/or needs lots of female validation (a quality you will see in many cheaters). For these men, that need will override everything else, including the feelings of others (or, in the case of the scientist, one’s marriage or job). He’s hounding you because he needs something and is hoping you’ll give it to him.
I know you work together, but he had his chance with you – for friendship and for more – and he blew all of it. He could have simply ended things with you. But he chose to cheat, then lie about it, and I’d bet a C-note he’d cheat on his long distance relationship with you if you gave him the opportunity. I say, cut him off emotionally. Erect the wall. No friendship. You can still be polite without being friends. Ask yourself: are you entertaining the idea of friendship with him because you still hold a small torch? If so, put the torch out. Either way, work on letting go of what happened with him. Figure out what you learned and make peace with it.
Best of luck,