Dear Jo… March 10, 2015 – Posted in: Advice – Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I feel caught in a dilemma.

Some time back I got into a relationship with someone for whom I developed very strong feelings. Sadly the relationship quickly broke down because of some complex family issues that she had to deal with. It happened so fast that at the time I felt very confused and sad and wasn’t quite sure what to believe.

We have managed to stay friends and I do trust her much more than I did previously, but I don’t feel that the friendship is a healthy one for me to maintain, because, even though I can see that this woman is not relationship material, I still feel a real ‘charge’ whenever I see her and it can take me several days for the intensity of my emotions to subside if I have spent time with her. I feel that keeping in contact with her is preventing me from moving on. She, however, really wants to stay friends with me, even though it is very clear that she has moved on romantically and is seeking casual relationships.

The problem is that I really want a change of career because I am stuck in a rather menial, low paying job – and the career I seek is in her field, and she has offered to help me get into it. She is very well connected in this field and I am sure that her experience and contacts would be a huge boost.

Without her support, I feel that making a career move would be a real uphill struggle. What to do??


Oh Will! I know your situation so well because, like so many people, I’ve been there. And it was agony! The first thing I want to acknowledge is how desperately painful it is to have strong feelings for someone who can’t or won’t reciprocate. Your shock, confusion and sadness are utterly normal, as losing someone like this is very much like going through a bereavement. But of course, unlike a bereavement you are still in contact with the person you miss, accepting a friendship from her when it’s really a relationship you want. I’ve made this mistake myself and when I look back I can see that I was holding onto that friendship in the hope of rekindling our wonky relationship.  Of course, it didn’t work.  I was stuck in limbo and took much, much longer to move on than I needed to.

So, when you say that the friendship with this person isn’t a ‘healthy one for you to maintain’ I would agree. That’s your guts speaking to you right there and you need to listen to them! Because our guts are our truth-tellers. The ‘charge’ you feel when you see her is normal because you have a strong attraction to her. Rather like a cocaine addict feels when he scores, you feel the rush of adrenalin and excitement at being around someone who makes (or used to make) you feel amazing.

Trouble is, just like an addiction, by continuing to see her you are keeping yourself hooked on her. It’s my opinion that with this type of intense relationship the quickest and most surefire way to freedom is abstinence – i.e. no contact, at all, for as long as it takes. That would be the most kind and loving thing you could do for yourself and her – the relationship is over and you both need time to heal. So, if you can, give yourself time – tell her why you are doing this, ask her to respect your boundaries and then take the action you need to take (give her mobile number to a friend for safe-keeping and delete her from your phone, no Facebook contact, hide photos etc). This won’t be forever, just until you heal. Then, when you feel better you can make a more rational decision over whether there is a friendship to be had.

As for your career – I’m going to be tough with you now, Will – is your ex really the ONLY person who can help you break into a new career? I very much doubt it and I wonder, if we dug around a bit, whether we’d discover that the career thing is just another excuse to stay in touch with her. If you want a new career then there are many steps you can take to making this a reality for yourself. Write to influential people, go networking, offer your services for free to a company for a week in order to get experience and meet some people, go on a training course, etc. If you are determined then you will make this happen and to be able to look back and say you’ve done this under your own steam will be a huge boost to your wounded confidence. In fact, this could be the perfect thing to throw yourself into while you heal from your ex; a good distraction, if you like.

Here’s the good news, Will. You CAN and WILL get over this relationship and you CAN make a new career for yourself. Yes, you’ll be scared but fear is a part of life and doesn’t have to cripple you. Yes, you have a challenge ahead of you but facing and overcoming challenge is how we grow as people and become happier and freer in ourselves.

You said at the beginning of your letter that you feel caught in a dilemma but I don’t think the dilemma is your problem, I think it’s fear of going it alone that’s really troubling you. But, I know you can do it. Because I did. And if one of us flawed human beings can do something, I believe we all can. That includes you, Will!

Good luck and please let me know how you get on.

With my love,


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