how do I deal with a broken heart at a new job?

A reader writes:

I don’t know how to deal with my broken heart at work.

When you are ill, you can take sick leave. When you are bereaved, you can take compassionate leave. It seems a break-up doesn’t suit either criteria, and I can’t help but feel I’m supposed to Pull Myself Together. It also feels somehow unprofessional to even raise it with a colleague, like it is some kind of high school problem that comes across as unprofessional.

I have been in an on-again off-again relationship for a year. It caused huge anxiety in my previous job over the summer, to the point where there were times I just needed to leave the office and go home. I was luckily in a flexible situation where I could. It didn’t help that I couldn’t tell anyone there though what was going on.

I am in a brand new job with very friendly people, and I want to be successful there. Days before I started, the relationship properly ended. All week I have found myself in meetings with my mind wandering to what text messages I want to write to my ex, and crying on my lunch break away from the office. I am in a daze.

I am pulling it together as I want to make a good impression, but my question is whether it is ever possible to really tell colleagues that you are going through a break-up and work may slide because of it, or that you may even need time off? This is not a separation or a divorce, nor did we even live together, and it feels as if it falls outside of colleagues’ compassion. Also, for the sake of any gender bias, I am a man.

I’m sorry you’re going through this! Break-ups suck.

If you’d been at your job for a while and were a known quantity, there would be room for explaining to the people you work most closely with (or maybe just your boss) that you were going through a difficult personal situation, and that if they noticed you seeming off, that’s why.

But you wouldn’t want to say that your work may slide because of it. That’s not usually a thing that people are delighted to hear or leeway that you should expect to have in all but the most extreme situations. But you could frame it as “if you notice me seeming distracted or off, this is why.”

Whether or not to specify that it’s a break-up (as opposed to just a difficult personal situation) depends on how much you’re comfortable sharing … but it also depends a bit on context about the relationship itself. People aren’t likely to give you the same leeway and understanding for the break-up of a six-month relationship as they are for a divorce after a long marriage.

A year … well, a year is a little closer to the six-month end of that spectrum (and to be frank, that’s especially true of a year where things were on and off and full of what sounds like drama). That’s not to say that a break-up after a year can’t be really painful, because of course it can. It’s just that your coworkers are likely to expect you to pull it together at work more than with longer relationships.

But as a new employee, the whole calculation is different. When you’re new, you’re not a known quantity, and it’s harder to ask for the type of slack you could get if you’d been there longer. A new person saying “I’m going through a break-up and it may affect my work” is going to worry colleagues in a way that it won’t when it comes from someone who’s been there several years and has a track record of excellent, conscientious work.

That’s not to say that there’s never any leeway for a new person in difficult personal circumstances. But the bar is higher — typically more like death or divorce. The break-up of a non-long-term relationship is more likely to be seen as something that really sucks and is a crappy thing to deal with while you’re also adjusting to a new job … but not something that you’d ask your workplace to accommodate.

If it would help, you could certainly take one or two sick or personal days if you have them, as long as you’ve been there at least a couple of months (and without naming the break-up as the reason). But I’d stay away from making the break-up a thing at work when people are still getting to know you and still forming opinions of your work. I’m sorry!

{ 348 comments… read them below }

  1. Shark Whisperer*

    I worked with a guy once who called out once by saying he could come in because “he was going through heartbreak.” It turns out it wasn’t a recent break up, but he had just seen a picture of his ex-girlfriend with another guy on facebook. He was the worst and should have been fired many times over (for many other issues besides this). So don’t be that guy. If you take a personal day or sick day, just say your aren’t feeling well.

    1. LadyPhoenix*

      Not sure if this is helpful and in fact, it kinda minimizes the OP’s pain and makes the OP’s issue look petty when it is not.

      Also, being cheated on hurts a lot because not only are you dealing with mourning a relationship ending, but also a betrayal so… ehhhhhh

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Is it cheating if it is a ex with another person, though? If it was a year after the break-up, there couldn’t hav been cheating involved

    2. CommanderBanana*

      I broke up with my partner of over eight years, took the day after it happened off, told my best friend at work and cried a little, but otherwise kept it strictly under wraps. Yeah, you don’t want to be this person.

    3. Argh!*

      I supervised one of these. Every little thing was a big drama and upset, and I was supposed to be “understanding.” Uh, no. Life happens to all of us and we show up to work and do our jobs. Death of a loved one, dissolution of a verrrry long-term relationship, house fire, etc. — those are things to be “understanding” about. If someone really can’t handle the normal things people go through in life, they don’t need coddling at work. They need therapy, or a circle of supportive friends, or a new relationship, not workplace accommodation.

        1. Yorick*

          If you have an illness that you go to therapy for and is also eligible for ADA accomodations, sure.

          But if you go therapy to move on from a general sad thing, like a breakup, not so much.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Yep, exactly. I check in with my therapist a couple times a year for strategic help on difficult life things even though it’s been a long time since I needed weekly sessions. Let’s please not feed into the idea that therapy is only for “big” things. I wish we saw it as, say, physical therapy — important with a chronic injury or after a car accident or something, but also, a lot of people with ordinary aches and pains would find it helpful as well!

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        I sit near one of those. Every day is 5-6 hours of drama on the phone and to anyone who is foolish enough to slow down long enough by her desk. Thankfully TPTB seem to be clued in, but change is slow here.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          I worked with one of these – she was engaged and every shift was drama-filled phone calls to her fiancee, which meant she was off the floor. It really sucked. A few years later I was in a volatile, unhealthy relationship myself and it really does take up a lot of headspace. Thank god I ended it pretty quickly.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I worked with one that was just overall full of drama. We shared an office. Her relationship was on its last legs and they were attending couples therapy. Every morning, she’d come in, get on the phone, call her mom, and give her a detailed account of the hour they’d spent in therapy the night before. Then call her sister and give her the same account. Then her friends. Then it’d be time to go home for the day! It was driving me insane. But it also allowed me to hear about how it ended. One day in therapy, the boyfriend said something like “I don’t have it in me to go on with this”. Then he may or may not have walked out (been 20 years, my memory is rusty). Then he moved to the exact opposite end of the country. Like, we are way up north and he moved as far south as he could without leaving the country. I would’ve probably done the same if I were him.

            Incidentally, my marriage was going through its absolute worst periods at exactly that time. Up to and including my husband telling me “I don’t love you anymore, it is your fault, but don’t expect me to leave, I’m staying for the kids”. (We were young and immature, and have both evolved since then.) You can imagine how I felt. I told a few close friends, but I certainly wasn’t on the phone all day, every day about it.

        2. Cactus*

          I used to work with one of those. She was in a relationship that did not sound great. She was also HELLA vindictive and fake, was already one of the boss’ favorites coming in because they had both transferred from another department to ours, would throw anyone under the bus to stay on our boss’ good side, and gossiped all the time. But when she and her boyfriend were having problems, she got a ton of leeway that no one else ever got.

    4. Mommy MD*

      My husband died and I took two weeks off. No matter how I felt I just had to suck it up and be professional at work. You have to put your brain and emotions in work mode.

      Break ups are hard but you have to deal and move on. It sounds like a drama-filled relationship. Turn to good friends or a counselor to try and break away from it for good. Good luck. You can’t bring it to work.

      1. SusieCruisie*

        My husband died unexpectedly as well on a Monday. My employer stated that my 3 days off would be Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and I was expected back on Thursday. I immediately quit, but that was because I knew my limitations. I understood they had business needs but I had personal needs that were more important. Sometimes you have to make those choices. I’m sure there are some people who would have found a way to go back to work that quickly if their situation demanded it. I can’t expect my employer to deal with my personal stuff (although the “3 days for a spouse” bereavement leave was clearly written by someone who has never lost a spouse).

        Everyone grieves differently, but you have to figure out a way to hold it together at work or you owe it to them and yourself to formally take time off, if possible, or resign until you are in a position to do a good job for your employer.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          3 days for a spouse? I’m glad you quit. You deserve better.

          It’s only business but there’s a lot of policies that are viewed as the spirit of the thing and not the letter of the law. That’s how all my bosses have rolled, I expect understanding when death is involved!

          1. not anonymous to me*

            Three to five days is standard. Do other people work at companies where they get more than that for bereavement? Or, let me guess: you have never actually read the bereavement policy at your place of work. Or you work with actual human beings rather than corporate robots disguised as humans?

            1. Mazarin*

              Our staff get two days paid bereavement leave, but I would expect them to also use sick leave, holiday leave, or unpaid leave to take more time off. So yes, this is the standard amount. But also yes, the policy should have room for being understanding- not ” back at work Thursday”

              1. Someone Else*

                Yeah, exactly. We get 3 days bereavement but it doesn’t mean we can only be out 3 days. It just means we get 3 extra paid days in the case of bereavement. So if it’s a not-close relative and you’re just attending the funeral, you didn’t need to use vacation for it. But if it’s someone like your spouse where your whole life goes upside down, it’d be fine to take longer, you just do have to use vacation time beyond those initial 3 days.

              2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Second this, three days has been standard at any place I worked. It’s the “back to work Thursday” part that makes it unacceptable.

                I got three days for my dad that enclosed the weekend (he passed away late Thursday night and I got Friday, Monday, and Tuesday) and I spent those entire five days on paperwork and organizing things (like the funeral). And I was pretty lucid at the time. I cannot imagine someone who is grieving and has just lost their spouse being able to be back at work in 72 hours.

            2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              3-5 paid time but we would let them borrow PTO from future time or give them an employee loan if they needed more time and money was an issue.

              I am human resources. We actually care about employees and are very tight knit, I’m not saying “like family” because that’s cliche and often a cloaking word for toxic employers.

      2. Liet-Kinda*

        You are often a little more of a hardliner on these questions than I would be, but I’m with you here and now. It was a tenuous, short-term relationship with a minimal level of commitment. I don’t want to harsh the guy too much, but…a divorce, a bereavement, the end of a long-term committed relationship, those are things I can see affecting you to the extent your work quality slides and you need to take time off. This? My friend, time to power through.

    5. JulieCanCan*

      Gross. I’m sorry, but that is ridiculous.

      I went through a divorce – start to finish – without missing a day of work. I even had my [soon-to-be] ex husband’s attorney and my attorney come to my office so I could sign and deal with all the necessary paperwork.

      I don’t know if it was because I was more relieved than sad about the divorce, or if I preferred being at work during that time since it was so busy that I didn’t have a free moment to dwell on the divorce, but I didn’t miss a day. I wanted to use PTO for fun, not to think about the a-hole who came home one day and out of the blue told me he decided he was moving to New York….alone.

      My boss kept reminding me that I could take some time off, for “things,” if I needed time for myself. But I’d rather stay busy at work and keep my mind off of personal crap if that’s an option. (Full disclosure: my personal office had a walk-in closet that had a full-length mirror in it and I kept a spare bag of “office makeup” in there…so on the rare occasions I felt tears were coming on, I’d lock my office door, run into my closet and shut the closet door, have a mini-breakdown, then make sure I looked presentable before exiting both the closet AND my office. That closet really came in handy over the years).

  2. Arts assistant*

    I feel for you OP! I started a new job a month or so after a break up and found it immensely helpful to throw myself into work. It also helped create distance (at least mentally) because my coworkers didn’t know anything about me and had never met my ex (and this couldn’t ask about him). If you can embrace the new identity that comes with being in a different environment, that might alleviate some of the pain.

    1. The sky is falling*

      I feel for OP too, but being an adult is sucking up shit and going on. Get knocked down 7 times, get up 8.

      1. Amber Rose*

        This is really, really unhelpful, and lines like that are why people who really need help don’t seek it out.

        Please rethink saying this to anyone, ever. Being an adult doesn’t make you somehow immune to personal struggle, or better at dealing with it.

        1. The sky is falling*

          But being an adult does mean not wearing you heart on your sleeve, putting your head down, and living your day to day work life. Feelings are real but unless it slides into mental illness territory then I’m sorry, grow up.

          1. LabManager*

            That’s ridiculous. OP is carrying on, and getting to work. The fact that she’s affected by her emotions doesn’t mean she’s not “being an adult.”

            1. sunny-dee*

              Is he, though? In his previous job, he was ducking out early and now he’s going off and crying by himself daily. This is his first week of work, and he’s already trying to get time off to grieve and / or to tell people that his work quality is going to suffer.

              That does not sound like someone who is pulling to together.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Both the reports of behavior on the old job, and the desire to tell people on the brand new job that his work quality is going to suffer–those are not typical responses to heartbreak.

                I think Arts Assistant is onto something with throwing oneself into the new job–OP needs less time thinking about how sad he is, not more. And perhaps therapy, of the “sometimes a third party helps you process things you’re struggling to sort out on your own” sort rather than because any of this must be mental illness.

                1. AnnaBananna*

                  Honestly, based on the letter, I think it’s too late for that and it’s already in the mental health category. There’s an established set of behaviors for dealing with stress/trauma (see last job) and it is already showing in a new environment. A new environment/project (new job) isn’t likely to cut it. It’s probably best if OP seeks out a professional. It really couldn’t hurt, and it’s the best next step in the long run of healing.

                2. MM*

                  I strongly suspect this relationship was very toxic, and that’s why the fallout is so rough. Therapy would not hurt, just to get some perspective.

          2. Amber Rose*

            If you really think it’s that simple, the one with some growing up to do is probably you? It’s a somewhat childish impulse to believe that just being older means you have your shit together all the time and that it’s super easy to just do it. Aging does not confer magical powers over your emotions. Therapists do not just help the mentally ill. They help everyone, and many many thousands of people who are not mentally ill go to see them, precisely because “suck it up” is so useless and real help is needed sometimes.

            Also nowhere in LW’s letter did they say they were wearing their emotions on their sleeve. They were asking for help in not doing that specific thing, which you have ignored in favor of just telling them to “suck it up.” This is an advice column. If you’d rather not provide advice, maybe step back from commenting.

            1. Klem*

              This is a very good point. As people grow older, they have experienced a lot more than younger people. Death, divorce, job loss – the longer you live the more you have to deal with. But hopefully, you are also learning along the way how to deal with these things.

            2. AnnaBananna*

              I really don’t understand the lack of compassion in this thread, I’m a bit saddened by it. Usually the readers here find empathetic ways of dealing with problems but telling someone to simply ‘grow up’ is as good as telling someone to ignore their pain, or telling them it’s all in their head. It’s a something someone with a serious lack of self awareness says, and not worthy of an AAM comment.

            3. Liet-Kinda*

              I would argue that if you are going off alone to cry on the regular at work, you are wearing your emotions on your sleeve and you do not have your shit together.

              “Suck it up” is not helpful, but I think “you need to understand this is a counterproductive and extreme emotional reaction that is going to torpedo you professionally, and you probably need some therapy to find ways to cope and mitigate the intensity” is.

          3. kiwimusume*

            “unless it slides into mental illness territory then I’m sorry, grow up.”

            As a mentally ill person, I’m skeptical of your assertion that we’re the select group of people who have it bad enough to be treated less harshly by you. Many symptoms of neurodivergence are coded as the person just being lazy/wallowy/etc., and even when it’s known that someone has a mental illness (or a chronic physical illness, apparently), a lot of people would still rather assume that we’re not doing everything we can to manage our condition than accept that our symptoms are going to inconvenience people at times despite our best efforts.

            On top of that, I didn’t actually know that I was mentally ill for years. For a long time, I thought stuff was supposed to be this hard and that I was just being lazy or wimpy. So if even the mentally ill person thinks they just “can’t grow up”, would you be able to actually spot that they’re mentally ill?

            And finally, if this is how I see you treating people whom you assume to be neurotypical, I’m going to have a really hard time believing that you would treat me any better. If that’s your default way of viewing people who are going through stuff, I have no reason to believe that a compassion switch will suddenly flick on just because I can present a therapist’s note. When people show me who they are, I’m gonna believe them.

            Don’t use mentally ill people to justify what you’re saying. If you want to help me as a mentally ill person, read the replies you’ve been getting and take them on board.

            1. Emily S*

              Yes, so many characteristics/symptoms of mental illness are present on a spectrum rather than an on/off state. With these symptoms, you only get a diagnosis if you fall on one side of the line, but the same symptoms diagnosed people experience are present in other people to a lesser degree, and someone who is just barely one side of the line has a lot more in common with somebody just barely the other side of it than someone at the extreme end of either side has with a person on the borderline. The same cognitive tools can help people with severe or frequent symptoms and people with less severe and less frequent symptoms – they just become all the more critical for people with severe or frequent symptoms.

              1. Jules K*

                In addition, sometimes the difference between keeping those tendencies from becoming maladaptive and having them “slide into mental illness” is in practicing some awareness and self-care as issues arise instead of forcing yourself to swallow your stress. At least, in twenty years of periodic, diagnosed mental illness, that’s been my experience.

        2. Liet-Kinda*

          It might not be what OP wanted to hear, but if I were OP’s boss, and their work performance and attendance slipped because they broke up with a short-term girlfriend….I would severely question their professionalism, it would affect my perception of their reliability and commitment, and I would probably have words with them.

      2. Emily S*

        Of course being an adult means needing to find a way to carry on when times are difficult.

        But this person is writing in asking for advice on HOW to do that. Simply telling them that they must do it because they are an adult is not helpful. They already know they have to “be an adult” about this. They are seeking advice and strategies for doing that.

        Your comment seems to suggest that OP should be able to “just do it” and doesn’t offer any helpful advice or strategies.

        1. BookishMiss*

          Thank you. The “walk it off” advice is as invalid for emotional and psychological injuries as for a broken leg or heart attack.

          LW, you have my sympathy. Please don’t feel afraid to reach out for help via a support hotline, a counselor, or even anonymous internet blog commenters.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Thank you for this.

          I’ve had it with these unhelpful comments (here and elsewhere) and also the “do it the way I did or you’re not doing it right” crap. Unless you’re joking with a friend, if you can’t do better than “Suck it up, buttercup,” keep quiet.

        3. kiwimusume*

          “But this person is writing in asking for advice on HOW to do that. Simply telling them that they must do it because they are an adult is not helpful. They already know they have to “be an adult” about this. They are seeking advice and strategies for doing that.”

          THANK YOU. This is one of the major things that bugs me about comments like that.

          1. ElspethGC*

            “I want to do the thing, I’m trying to do the thing, but I don’t know how. Can I have some advice on how to do the thing?”

            “Just do the thing, god, stop complaining about it and be an adult.”

            If OP knew how to do the thing, OP wouldn’t be writing in for help on how to do the thing!

        4. sunny-dee*

          Well …. not exactly. The request wasn’t for advice on how to deal with it. It was on advice on how to ask for time off a week into the job and whether to tip people off that his work was going to suffer. That is not a helpful or mature line of thinking.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yes. The question should have been how to move on and not obsess over the ex and how to avoid creating an awful impression at new job–and Arts Assistant had a good suggestion there–but it’s not what was asked.

            1. AnnaBananna*

              Okay, yes. However OP may be at the stage where they can’t see the forest from the trees, and the only thing they can think is ‘gotta keep working until I can’t…how can I make that happen without losing absolutely everything’. I’ve been there, and recently. I still don’t think the advice that Alison and others have provided would be ineffective.

          2. The sky is falling*

            You’re saying all the things I meant but in a less curmudgeonly way….thanks for that.

          3. Emily S*

            I read it a little bit more charitably than that, I guess. The first thing they said they didn’t know how to deal with their heartbreak at work, so I was reading the whole letter through the lens of “How can I deal with this?” And I took from the fact that LW had not actually taken time of work that they understood it wasn’t actually acceptable, and they were just expressing a “druthers” wish to be able to convalesce at home the way you can from a physical injury, and hoping maybe they’d read the situation wrong and it might be possible. The question wasn’t, “How do I tell my coworkers X,” it was “whether it is ever possible to tell my coworkers X,” and I would think that a more helpful answer than, “No, it’s not possible,” (which he already clearly knew deep down was the answer) is, “No, it’s not possible, but here’s what you can try instead:”

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        One thing I’ve learned from having been an adult for quite a while, and having gone through quite a few adult things, is that you cannot get up and keep going until you’ve taken care of yourself and healed. You can try, but it will come out sideways (spoken from experience, because, yeah, my generation has been raised on tough-love talk like yours above).

        When something wears out in our cars, oh say the brakes, we don’t expect our cars to somehow keep going on with faulty breaks. We get them taken care of. I would think humans deserve at least as much.

        1. Amber T*


          Sometimes you just need to sit down for a while. You’re going to get up again, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a rest, reevaluating things, and (most importantly) asking for help back up if you need it.

      4. W. S. Gilbert*

        If you get knocked down seven times and get up seven times, you’re up. That eighth time seems superfluous.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            This… right here from you both… is a really good point and I’m kind of jealous that I wasn’t the one to have seen it first! Nice catch!

            (Of course, the real answer is “if you have enough drive and gumption, you’ll know how to get up twice after falling once.”)

        1. Red 5*

          I agree with you, but this is actually an old saying and IIRC the implication is that you started on the ground, and you had to get up the first time before you were knocked down the first time. Get up once, fall down once, get up twice, and so on.

          I don’t think it’s a helpful saying to be using in this circumstance, and I think it’s meaning has been far too lost over time, but you know, themoreyouknow.gif and all that.

          1. kiwimusume*

            Also, I’ve spent time in that proverb’s country of origin (Japan) and I’ve never seen anyone there using that quote as harshly as OP was. It’s generally used as your standard inspirational quote, rather than to call someone immature for struggling with something. So let’s not make fun of it just because OP was using it to be unkind.

      5. The Rat Catcher*

        Please remember that OPs read these comments. If they’re full of stuff like this, and in a year this office has a duck club or someone’s boob gets frozen to a railing, we will never get to hear about it because OP will nevet come back here.

    2. Amber T*

      Yeah, this is where it’s really valuable to have a separate work and personal life. At work, from 9-5 (or whenever appropriate hours), I am strong, I am a leader, I get stuff done, and personal distractions be damned. When I’m off the clock, it’s okay to have that pint of Ben & Jerry’s and think about sending those texts (from one former broken heart to another – don’t send them!).

      This is totally easier said than done… there’s not a switch you can turn on and off to get into work mode. And sometimes you can’t do it. But it’s helpful to have complete separation, at least for a while. So promise yourself that you won’t check Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/insert social media here until your home, or on a break, that you’ll silence your (personal) phone until later, that you’ll do whatever measure you need to do to make it to the end of the day.

      Bad break ups suck. Sending good thoughts your way! <3

      1. PlainJane*

        This is excellent advice. Also (at least while at work), when you catch yourself ruminating on the relationship and your pain, try to force yourself to focus on something else. Start a work task, do whatever you reasonably can to redirect your thoughts. Distraction helps me so much when I’m hurting over something personal while at work.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Seconding to not send those texts to the ex. Don’t follow them on Facebook/Instagram/etc, don’t call, don’t text. Give yourself some time away so things can scab over.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          With my last big, monogamous, “we-want-this-to-be-the-rest-of-0ur-lives” LTR (2 years), he came over to break up, we broke up, I walked him outside, he got into his car and drove away and I went back inside. That’s when I deleted his phone number. Will be three years on the 31st (yes, the goof broke up with me on New Year’s), zero texts, would not have done it any other way. Saved myself a lot of drama and extra pain that would’ve occurred whether he answered the text or not.

        2. Beaded Librarian*

          Thirding the do not send texts or look at texts they send you. Block their number chance yours whatever you need to do. I got dragged back into a bad relationship because I say a text where I thought they were going to self harm and I couldn’t walk away at the time. Wasn’t good for anyone.

    3. Formica Dinette*

      I started a new job the day after I broke up with my partner of about two years. It was tough, but work was a welcome distraction. Added bonus: my usual new job anxiety wasn’t an issue. *sad trombone*

      1. Formica Dinette*

        Other comments reminded me of this anecdote: I had a temp job go permanent, and the weekend before my first permanent day, I had to have my cat put to sleep. I broke down crying and they were incredibly sympathetic, practically scolding me for coming in to work.

        Anyway, I neglected to say earlier: OP, take care of yourself.

        1. DeepThoughts*

          My horse is very special to me. If I had to put him down, I would be devastated and I know I could not just go back to work in one day. He had a very bad injury recently and thanks to $$$ and modern veterinary medicine is 100% now – but the day the vet called me and told me the issue, I was at work and I shut my office door and cried as he might have had to be put down. As Formica experienced, animals are part of your family.

    4. DAMitsDevon*

      This is a great way of putting it! Although it’s ideal to not have to deal with difficult situations outside of work, being able to throw yourself into work can help distract from something like a breakup, at least for those 8 hours or so that you’re at the office. And being somewhat new means that you can probably put even more focus on the job as you continue learning the ropes.

      Also, for the OP, if you don’t already have one, you could consider seeing a therapist (assuming you don’t already have one and it’s affordable). Even if you don’t have some sort of mental illness, therapy can be a great option when you’re going through stressful situations and/or you’re having trouble adjusting to a change like a breakup.

    5. Dr. Pepper*

      Yes, this is great advice. Really focus on your new job and put all of that emotion that has nowhere to go into your work. I’ve found great relief from personal problems in work because it’s a space that lets me put the turmoil to the side and focus on something else, with people who will treat me just like normal. It’s natural to grieve the loss of a relationship, it doesn’t matter how long it lasted (or didn’t). It’s just that, fair or not, other people’s grace tends to be dictated by such things. You can validate your own feelings, it’s not necessary to involve your new colleagues. In fact, everyone- including you- will likely be happier this way. Take a sick day if you really need to (if you can), and say you’re under the weather. It’s not a lie, and that’s all your colleagues need to know anyway. You have to alter your life plan now regardless, and being at a new job is a great opportunity to really embrace that.

      1. Isotopes*

        This actually happened to me, I’d been with someone for a couple years, it was pretty on-and-off and when it ended, it messed me up. But I was at a fairly new job so I just focused on that, and thought of it as kind of a “clean break” from the whole thing.

        It sucks, heartbreak sucks. But you’re not going to want to tell anyone at work that your work might suffer because of it. I’m going through a divorce right now so I told my boss what was going on, but it hasn’t really impacted my work, other than I needed to take a last-minute half vacation day once. I like work as a distraction, though. It makes it easier to deal with things overall.

        You can handle this, truly. When it’s been off- and on-again, the closure is a lot more difficult, because you’re used to going through some sad feelings, and then…getting back together. And that’s not going to happen this time. But it’ll be better for you, in the long run. Just as an aside, cut off all contact with the ex for at least 6 months. No emails or phone calls, delete them from any social media accounts you have. A clean break will hopefully help you process this and move on. But it sucks that you’re going through it right now.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        In the 90’s I was still pretty messed up from bad parents, and I found relief in technical work. I got involved in things like data management and Microsoft programs and being involved in the technical details was a way to forget my troubles. I ended up in data management because of this experience. :)

    6. OP*

      Hello – I’m the OP and thank you so much for your advice. I hadn’t thought of it like that – a new start, new identity and no-one asking about my ex sounds wonderful! The new job is a great distraction – as well as a rewarding fresh new chapter.

      I should add, to other commentators, in case of the confusion: I have no intention of asking for time off or telling colleagues right now as I want to stay professional and make a good impression. I was asking more in general if it is EVER ok to bring heartbreak up at work. It was useful to see how many people say it’s better not to mention it and why – and to take sick leave when necessary, without oversharing.

      1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

        OP, I was having the same thought as the other folks. Lucky that you have a new job to focus on and “embrace”. It may sound trite, but thinking about the various things for which you can be grateful can increase your happiness. New job, friends, family, your health, cronuts, the next Avengers movie, whatever you value! In time, you may have a better perspective on your prior relationship, which, by your own account, was not a successful one and caused you stress. For your particular circumstances, no, I wouldn’t bring up the break-up at work.

  3. Four lights*

    I’m sorry; this stinks. Don’t be afraid to cry and mourn when you’re at home. It may help to designate certain crying/mourning times. Then when sad break up thoughts start you can say “I can’t dwell on this now. Mourning Time is at 5:30. I’ll think about this then.” Telling yourself that you’re not pushing them off indefinitely may help you. (I learned this in therapy for Worrying thoughts; I don’t know how well it will work for sad thoughts.)

      1. Butter Makes Things Better*

        Yes, I’m definitely going to try this as well! I’m a writer who works from home, so it’s so easy to just allow whatever thoughts/feelings that come up intrude on my work. Sometimes you can use that to inform what you’re writing, but most of the time suggestions like this one would be so handy.

    1. DecorativeCacti*

      It works on all kinds of thoughts! I also learned this in therapy. You can’t ever reckon with something if you constantly put it off, but if you can give yourself some proper wallowing time, you can still process your emotions while keeping your composure at work, in the grocery store, etc.

      Highly recommend this, OP.

    2. Myrin*

      This is what I did when my beloved cat died two years ago. He died an hour before I had to leave for teaching my very first course at university where I understandably didn’t want to show up seeming like a mess. I put it all away, the course went great and I actually managed to not think about my fluffy boy at all, and then I absolutely broke down when I got home six hours after the fact.

      1. Catwoman*

        Compartmentalizing is key. It may help to visualize putting all your hard feelings in a box before you go into work and then telling yourself the box doesn’t open until you’re done with work. It may also help to schedule happy hour or dinner with a friend after work so you can talk about your struggles.

        In general, try to stay busy and active. You need some reflection to process and deal with your feelings, but you don’t need to stop your life and dwell on them. As other have said, a therapist can be really helpful here too! Their job is to help give you the tools to help yourself and that be especially beneficial after what seems on paper like a pretty tumultuous relationship. Good luck!

    3. Engineer Girl*

      Not just mourning times. You can also schedule text reply times etc. Designating times for that allows you to push it off and concentrate on work.

    4. n*

      This is good advice. Going off of that, sometimes I’ve found it helpful to schedule specific amounts of time to let myself feel bad. Like, “ok, I have ten minutes to go silently cry in the bathroom, but then I have to get back to work.” Of course, this advice kind of depends on whether or not you feel like you have enough self-control in the moment to turn it off after said period of time.

      1. PlainJane*

        I’ve done this and found it helpful. Get those emotions out in a private place, then clean yourself up and go back to work. And remind yourself that it gets easier with time. Sometimes when you’re in the middle of something painful, it’s hard to imagine that the pain will ever stop. But it will. You just have to put one foot in front of the other each day till it does.

    5. Dr. Pepper*

      It sounds stuffy but it works. Schedule time to mourn, wallow, cry, brood, whatever, just like you’d schedule time at the gym. Knowing there is a dedicated space for all your negative thoughts helps you keep them there, otherwise they lie all over and clutter up everything else.

      1. Anon for this*

        I’m so sorry that you are going through this. I went through a big break up a few years ago and started work a few weeks later, having been out of the workforce for a long time. Having cried everyday for six weeks and boring even myself, I made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t cry *today* and that’s how I got through the day at work (this helped me generally get to grips with my feelings). I did have therapy by my own choice but it’s not always necessary. There are tons of online resources if you want to jump down that rabbit hole but I found keeping a journal of my feelings or actions helped me dump the emotional load from my head. One thing that helped was no one at work knew that I was heartbroken/angry /feeling wobbly so I didn’t have to dodge questions about it. It sounds trite but one day you’ll wake up and realise that you haven’t thought about your ex for a few days.

    6. Agent Diane*

      To quote Scarlet O’Hara: I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.

      OP: this is the kind of situation where “throw yourself into your work” is bandied about. If you are concerned that you will struggle to absorb the new job’s details, do try the O’Hara approach.

      Also, maybe try to plan a little time in the day for reflecting on what you have done well in the job, or identifying things where you lost focus. It’s much easier to say “sorry, there’s so much to absorb! Could you run through teapot spout attachment again for me?” in the first few weeks than months down the line.

    7. Red 5*

      Yes, this is a great thing to try. I have absolutely done this with sad thoughts.

      It might also be useful to look up some _guided_ forms of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation focuses on training yourself to recognize that your thoughts are temporary, and that you can learn to just let them wash over you and move away from you without letting them “live” in your mind.

      But as helpful as this has been for me, I very, very, very much stress that anybody that wants to try it should do it with a reputable guided book or app or even a therapist. It is not something that is natural to just sit down and pick up after reading a quick blog post, and it’s something that takes time and practice. It isn’t sitting down and clearing your mind and tada you feel better, it involves steps and training different aspects of the process in order to learn to do it properly so that it can work. I read a book that worked well for me called Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World and also regularly used the Headspace app after that. But I was also in therapy at the time and these were resources my counselor recommended that were tailored to me and to what she knew and could help with if I needed it.

      But really, it’s been a big deal for me to be able to have an intrusive thought in a meeting or something and be able to remind myself “this thought doesn’t need to live here. It’s okay to be having this thought but it’s just a temporary thought and now it’s over because now I’m going to think about something else.”

      I’m over simplifying a bit, but maybe worth looking into.

    8. OP*

      Thank you – I’m the OP and I have been doing this. Rather than run away from my feelings, or be totally consumed by them, it helps to set aside some time, feel what i feel, and then move forwards.

    9. CJ*

      Really good advice. I started a new job in a totally different field 12 days after my dad died. For the first days I remember I’d write down notes in my planner when a memory hit me hard, so that I could revisit it later. It actually took a couple of months for both the shock to wear off and the stress of the job to set in (after training).

  4. juice*

    i’ve been at my job for 2 years now, but i got dumped out of the blue blue sky about 2 weeks after starting, so i know how awful this is. i took like an hourly break to cry in the bathroom and i was scared that i was walking around with bright red eyes around my brand new coworkers. the fact that i didn’t know anyone at work compounded the loneliness. i actually posted here in a friday thread asking for help, lol. the way i got through it was to absolutely throw myself into work. i was here like 11 hours a day. i knew if i could just get through like 2 weeks the pain would lessen, and distracting myself did the trick. so i guess, that’s what worked for me, and i really empathize with your situation and i wish you the best in overcoming this awful, shitty period that will soon be in the past <3

    1. LadyPhoenix*

      Mine was having my dog put down the day before. Kept my office door closed to spend the whole day bawling my eyes out while I worked.

      Getting some eyemasks helps a little, the ones for redness, puffiness, or relaxing.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yes! The death of a pet is another one of those things that society doesn’t always take very seriously, so it can feel kind of silly to be so broken up about it at work, but – man, it is really painful when it happens to you :(

        1. LadyPhoenix*

          Yas. I mean, you have accepted this animal to your life and family and now it is gone and your whole household and livelihood changes. You’d forgive me if I find the whole thing upsetting or disconcerting.

          Luckily everyone in the office who knew understood my pain and let me be sad.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, it’s a good analogue for the OP’s situation; it doesn’t map onto the kind of tragedy that will be an automatic pass from new co-workers, but it still knocks you for a loop.

            I think the challenge isn’t so much making sure nobody knows you’re sad at all as making “capable new co-worker” a stronger takeaway than “grieving co-worker.” Sometimes that means hiding in your office; sometimes that means being more visibly focused at meetings and in communication to counterbalance the sadness.

          2. R.D.*

            I’m not really a pet person because of allergies, and I remember being about 23 and really surprised by how destroyed a coworker was about a pet’s death. I am so glad I kept that lack of empathy to myself. Some people just don’t get it. I probably still don’t really get it, but at least I know that I don’t really understand.

            I think there are plenty that don’t get it, won’t admit that they don’t understand, won’t have empathy and will be judgmental about it. It’s not fair or right, but it is the reality.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              But that’s why the same advice applies. You just say, “I’m sorry, I’ve got something going on that’s making me a little distracted right now, so let me just double check X” and you don’t bring the specific issue into the work place (and of course you don’t expect to be let off your work responsibilities because of it). You don’t need people to agree that your reason for being upset is valid.

              1. R.D.*

                Agreed. Both deaths of pets and the end of relationships that lasted one year and you aren’t living together are situations where some people just wont have enough empathy.

            2. Lissa*

              Yes I think that this is also hard because certain things can absolutely emotionally devastate somebody but there absolutely is a social expectations for what things we are “allowed” to feel certain degrees of sadness about. And like…I don’t always think that means people are being horrible either. I mean, it’s become more expected that being devastated over a pet can happen and is normal, but I think most people would still give serious side-eye to somebody calling out from work and saying openly it was over a celebrity death, or a massive fight with a friend. And then there are things like failing a class, having an important possession be destroyed, losing out on an opportunity (like for grad school or having something published)…there are a LOT of different things that could potentially seriously devastate someone but even the most empathetic of us is really unlikely to give the same leeway to somebody with an issue *we* don’t see as a big deal especially compared to a death.

          3. Lily in NYC*

            I found out my dog died when I was at work and I cried in front of my boss and two coworkers. They were wonderful – they made me go home for the rest of the day and I came back in the next day to find a box of chocolates and a nice card on my desk. It was very touching!

        2. Damn it, Hardison!*

          I had to say goodbye to my 22 year old cat in October (had her since she was 9 weeks old), and I was so thankful that my boss and immediate coworkers are pet lovers and very understanding. I was able to take the day of it off but the next day was still hard (and even now I still tear up randomly at work). It did help to have work as a distraction, though.

          1. Health Insurance Nerd*

            I had an early morning conference call a few weeks ago where someone announced they were hungover, with their director also on the call. I think I made a surprised “oh!” sound, but then the director clarified that the hangover announcer had put their dog to sleep the night before, and I instantly understood and felt so sad for them.

        3. CommanderBanana*

          Yes, for sure – we adopted an older dog with some health issues knowing our time together may not be as long as we’d like, and I get teary just thinking about her passing, even though she’s in pretty good shape now and hopefully will have a lot of good years left! We’re deeply attached to her and she’s been my constant companion since she came home with us.

        4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I second that. I took the loss of my dog harder than I did the loss of my dad. I have no rational explanation for this. But our whole family was a wreck the day we had to put that dog to sleep.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            I think part of it is that if you have to euthanize a dog, it’s a decision you have to make, right? Like the dog has no control over it. I obviously would never want my dog to live in pain but I also can’t stand the idea that I might one day have to make that choice for her. :(

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              We kept putting it off and the dog got a lot worse very quickly. He’d had a heart disease and my mom called us on our last day of vacation saying he’d stopped eating two days before. In the moment, I just wanted him to stop suffering. I guess it hit me a bit later.

          2. Alex the Alchemist*

            Something similar happened in my family. We had to put down a beloved dog a week after my grandmother passed away. We all had so many mixed feelings; I think in a way the difference was we had seen my grandmother’s health declining for a while so we could prepare for it, whereas with the dog he was healthy and young and was randomly hit by a car. The differences in mourning doesn’t necessarily make the love any less for anyone.

            1. Lissa*

              OH yeah, I have a thing where I am way way more upset by “unexpected” death. I mean I suspect that’s normal, but I know for me I’d be more upset with losing a young pet suddenly than an elderly family member, because the latter is inevitable and there’s really not a lot of “what if” in the same way. But other people would feel totally opposite from me and that’s ok too! I never ever get upset over famous people dying unless they are still really young and I think about their families etc. I mean – we say we aren’t supposed to “rank” tragedy/death/heartbreak but I think we do, just not all the same way.

              it’s why you can’t make judgments like “oh this person must have never experienced anything real” or “they must have deeper issues” etc. Brains are weird.

  5. Princess Loopy*

    This isn’t exactly a one-to-one, but there’s excellent advice here about how to keep it together at work when personal things, quite frankly, suck:

    Another option is to throw yourself into work, making the conscious decision if you can to absolutely not think about the bad stuff when you’re working. If you’re able to convince your brain to do it, this can make work a welcome distraction from the other crap you’re having to deal with.

    I hope you find yourself in a better mental space soon, OP. Break-ups can be devastating.

    1. always in email jail*

      I was going to recommend searching captain awkward for advice on how to deal with a breakup in general, as well.

    2. R.D.*

      Throwing myself into work really helped me when my mom died. Nothing reminded me of her there. Then I would cry all the way home.

    3. Erin W*

      This may or may not apply to your situation, OP, but I had a boyfriend (live-in, 4 years’ duration) leave me just as my second year of full-time graduate school was starting. I was depressed and dazed, and I considered taking a leave from the program while I got over things. But I suddenly thought, this guy ruined my home life, but my work life is for me, and I don’t need to let him ruin that too. It’s so hard to separate your home life (which feels wrecked) and your work life (you’re still you in both) but try to protect your work life as something which is yours, which that person does not get to destroy. It was a really deliberate mental shift I had to make, but it carried me through.

  6. Kel*

    Sending you warm thoughts, LW. I’m going through the same thing right now regarding the ending of a 6 year long relationship that honestly feels more like a divorce than a breakup but alas…

    Try to be as fully present in your job as you can. If you’re new, I’m sure there’s a lot to learn. Trying to be fully present in the moment is advice my therapist gave me to help me keep all my negative thoughts at bay. And if you’re new at the job, it might have the added benefit of making to look exceptionally dedicated.

    (Full disclosure, I realize this is far easier in thought than action).

    I hope you feel better soon, LW. I’m sorry you’re going through this.

  7. Loopy*

    OP I feel for you! I went through a break-up that really destroyed me when I was a new professional. I didn’t tell an older colleague because I thought I was hiding it perfectly fine- turns out, I wasn’t. She mentioned I hadn’t been as outgoing/friendly for a while and asked if she had done something to offend me. Turns out, I had been coming off as suddenly cold to people without realizing AT ALL because I was so focused on Keeping It Together.

    I didn’t feel great admitting an entire behavior shift was because of break-up, especially to someone older and more experienced in the professional world, even though she was understanding. I can’t speak for everyone, but even with someone who didn’t seem to judge me for it, it made me very self conscious to admit (which is unfortunate!).

    If I were you I’d just make a very conscious effort to be aware of your behavior and try and keep up any habits you had established- like daily conversations/greetings to whatever degree is possible. If you get the sense this isn’t possible, maybe keep it vague and something alone the lines of “If I seem off lately, I’m just handling some things outside of work that have had me very preoccupied/drained. Just wanted to give you a heads up so as not to cause concern!”

    It sucks but as a new worker, I’d want to keep it very vague IF I addressed it. I had been at that job for probably an entire year and it still didn’t feel super comfortable to address the breakup in any depth.

    1. J*

      Oh, this is really good advice. I was dealing with depression and *thought* I’d been my usual friendly self at work, so I was shocked when my boss talked to me about the fact that I’d seemed sad. “Nobody can realky tell, though, right?” I’d asked. And he said no, several people had mentioned it to him.

  8. Queen_of_Comms*

    This is a terrible situation, LW, and I’m sorry! I went through something similar a few years ago and it was awful. One thing I did to cope was to create a mental “box” for the bad emotions as they arose. When I noticed myself becoming sad, weepy, distracted, or negative fantasizing, I would open my imaginary box, put the feeling inside, and tell myself that I would deal with it later when it was safe to do so. Sometimes I would go to my car on breaks and just feel bad for awhile. Then I would pack the sadness away for a few hours, crank out as much work as I could, and go home to be a mess in the privacy of my apartment.

    Ultimately, it’s not about “pulling yourself together”, but procrastinating. I know this feels impossible to do in the moment, but after a little practice it’s actually a very helpful practice.

    A few other things I found helpful while healing: exercise and lots of sleep. Being physically healthy helps keep you out of the pit when you’re mentally unhealthy. Hugs and support go out to you as you navigate this time of life!

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Procrastinating the negative feelings, you mean? Like, you’ll deal with those later when you get home? That’s a good way to think of it, I’ve never really put it that way to myself before.

      1. Queen_of_Comms*

        Exactly. When people tell you to “pull yourself together”, it feels impossible. How are you supposed to just start acting like everything is fine when, really, it isn’t? Procrastinating the bad feelings acknowledges that they are present, powerful, and need to be contended with, but just a little later on in the day.

    2. SansaStark*

      I second this idea of having a mental box. I have a couple of those where things go so that I can handle them later. Crap from my mom actually goes in a wastebasket and I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to mentally crumple that paper up and throw it into the trash. For some reason it really does help me to put inconvenient feelings somewhere that feels safe to deal with later.

    3. Operational Chaos*

      Scarlett O’Hara that stuff. “I’ll think about it tomorrow.” And then repeat tomorrow. Eventually it’s so far out you’re not going to feel the brunt of it when you do finally let yourself consider it all.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Hmm haha I think the advice to put it off when you need to power through your work day (and then deal with them at night / on weekends / in the morning) is good, but I’m not sure it’s psychologically best practice to put off the negative feelings altogether long term until they don’t hurt as much. If I tried to do this, I’m pretty sure the bad feelings would start popping out in other weird ways. But YMMV!

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Great point about exercising. I went on a lot of hikes after each breakup. The downside being that, in a group hike setting, people find out that you are now unattached and react by asking for a date, which is the last thing you want. The upside is fresh air and all of the endorphins.

  9. LadyPhoenix*

    I think to help take some of the burden off, you do what Dr. Nerdlove calls “The Nuclear Option”:
    1. Delete your ex’s number
    2. Block and hide your ex’s (and their friends’) social media
    3. Delete the pictures

    Also understand that there is no closure beyond “the relationship is done.” No why’s or what if’s, just realize that you 2 were dancing and your dance partner decided to not dance with you anymore.

    I think this will take some of the emotional edge off.

    Also PLEASE take a look at Dr Nerdlove’s blog. He just recently covered a video about “not getting over your ex” and has several good articles to help. You can also write him in or consider submitting to his new helpline project?

    Good luck, OP. Break up sucks, but you gotta learn to shrug it off and let it go.

    (PS: Obviously this post was NOT sponsored by Nerdlove. I’m just a help blog fan and he happens to be one of the help blogs I follow, along with AskAManager and CaptainAwkward.)

    1. Walter White Walker*

      Seconding this! Dr. Nerdlove has such great advice for mental and emotional hygiene and well-being. I read him regularly, and I’m well out of his target audience.

      LW, I know it’s cold comfort, but this will pass. In the meantime, I’ve found it useful when I was going through personal issues I didn’t want to discuss at work, to blame allergies. Eyes red from crying? Allergies. Feeling sluggish and depressed? New allergy medication doesn’t agree with me. Allergies are common, relatable and non-contagious, so they fly below anyone’s radar. Best of luck to you, LW!

    2. Sammy*

      Speaking of Captain Awkward, her site has a useful post about keeping it together and making it look good when you are in emotional straits. It was for depression, but a lot of the same principles apply.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, I used that option after the second of my two post-divorce LTRs ended. I used a book called Getting Past Your Breakup by Susan Elliott; my ex and I did what she calls “no contact”. We’d agreed on it when we were still together and doing well that, should things end, we’d go no contact on day one. It was three years ago, I miss having the guy as my close friend (though we did also both agree that, if one of us needed help from the other, to be free to contact the other, but I only needed to contact him for that three times in the three years and probably never will again), but this way, all we have left of our relationship is good memories, or at worst, funny stories of “that one time when my ex was being a total goofball”. I did the relationship inventory that the book recommends, hand-wrote him a letter, read it to myself out loud, burned the letter on my outdoor grill, it all sounds funny and odd, but it really did help move on. AND I went into therapy two weeks after we broke up.

      To contrast, when my first of those two LTRs ended, the ex and I wanted to stay friends, like he had with his previous ex. They used to keep in touch and meet regularly for coffee, until, after two years of that, she said “enough” and moved across the country and cut contact. Took me a few months to see the wisdom of her ways. My ex’s idea of staying friends was messing with my head and not giving me the space and time to heal.

      This won’t apply if you two are members of the same group, where everyone has dated everyone else and everyone has ended things with everyone else and the group needs to be able to stay together despite all that. I’m in a group like that now, and am aware that, if I get involved with someone in the group, I won’t be able to use my good book when things end. But hopefully that does not apply to you, OP. That’s a tough one to navigate, in my opinion. Remember, this is a positive change. We grow and develop, and outgrow our relationships. I wouldn’t get back with any of my exes for a million dollars (well maybe for a million, I would for a few months, I need the money).

      I’ll have to look into Dr. Nerdlove. I am at a stage in my life where the Getting Past Your Breakup book and anything else by that author might no longer work for me. I’ve been looking for a new mentor. Thanks for sharing the info.

    4. Mommy MD*

      Also if you’re broken up resist sending a text. If the relationship was rocky it wasn’t right. Grit your teeth and deal with the pain until it gets better. Off and ons are never healthy.

  10. Sara*

    If you need to say anything, just say you’re dealing with a personal issue. People may pry further, but as a new person, it’d likely be easier just to leave it vague if you need to qualify your distracted behavior. I’m sorry for your heartbreak.

  11. K*

    Sending you warm thoughts, LW. I’m goibg through the same thing right now regarding the ending of a 6 year long relationship that honestly feels more like a divorce.

    Try to be as fully present at your job as you can. If you’re new, I’m sure there’s a lot to learn. Trying to be fully present in the moment is advice my therapist gave me to help me keep my negative thoughts at bay. And if you’re new at the job, it might have the added benefit of making you look exceptionally dedicated.

    (Full disclosure, I realize this is far easier in thought than practice).

    I hope you feel better soon, LW. I’m sorry you’re going through this.

  12. Lil Fidget*

    This sucks, OP. Breakups with non spouses are one of those things that society has kind of arbitrarily decided isn’t equal to other things, but they do still really, really hurt. I feel the same way about messy friend breakups, which are real to me but don’t really have a cultural ritual or narrative that makes sense to anyone else. Maybe try to think of work as a place of refuge away from the emotional turmoil of your personal life, it can be kind of free-ing in many circumstances.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Oh yes, the ending of a friendship is so painful, especially when it’s messy. People don’t realise it until it happens to them and then the culture at large doesn’t recognise it as being a problem, which means it’s hard to get support and understanding.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I’ve found that friendship in general is downplayed, at least in Western culture. It’s not “supposed” to be as important as family / marital relationships. But for me my friends are pretty central to my life (I suppose because I’m not married?), and I still get some funny looks sometimes about it. I think the idea is that you’re supposed to have lots of friends who come and go throughout your life, but that’s not really how I’ve experienced it.

        1. Close Bracket*

          > But for me my friends are pretty central to my life (I suppose because I’m not married?)

          See what you did there? You downplayed your friendships as stand in for marriage.

        2. alienor*

          Me neither. If anything, it seems that as I get older, there’s more and more friend attrition – old friends go, but new friends don’t come to take their place.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Yes, and I think that’s so weird – my last partner and I were together almost a decade, long enough to have other friends meet people, get married, and get divorced – and somehow that wasn’t supposed to be a big deal? I was not only losing my partner, I was losing my best friend and the person I spent the most time with for the last almost decade of my life.

      1. PlainJane*

        The presence of a marriage license says little about the emotions involved in a relationship. A long relationship, with or without the piece of paper, is a very big deal, and yes, it’s the emotional equivalent of a divorce. I’m sorry for your pain.

    3. Portia*

      Totally agreed that society doesn’t have good framing for non-marital breakups. My boyfriend of ten years and I went through a very prolonged, messy, miserable breakup. At one point, my mom told me that I should basically treat it like a divorce, and thinking of it that way actually helped, as depressing as that sounds. I felt like it was “just a breakup” and I shouldn’t be so devastated over it, but plenty of marriages don’t last ten years! (Or one year, for the OP’s situation.)

      Also, my ever-wise mom told me that it would be, without question, the worst time of my entire life, and nothing else would ever be that bad. And, so far, she was absolutely right –even my mom’s death last year was not the same kind of hard. Breakups are a particularly nasty kind of grief, because there’s rarely such a definite split that you can just move on, so, as you note, you spend a lot of time thinking about text messages you want to send and stuff you might or might not mail back to them. And they generally affect so many aspects of your everyday life — like, I don’t necessarily think about my mom every single time I walk into my house, but I sure did think about my ex every time I came home to the apartment we had shared.

      Anyway, all that is to say, breakups are the worst and you will feel better eventually but it’s hard to see that now. I agree with the advice to try to really throw yourself into work while you’re there.

      1. PlainJane*

        The “just a breakup” thing drives me crazy. I’ve been through some painful stuff in my life–pretty big painful stuff too–but few things hurt as much as breaking up with my first boyfriend when I was in my late teens. Romantic relationships are intense, probably the most intense relationships we have (that’s why they’re a staple of so much fiction and other entertainment). Losing a romantic partner hurts like hell, and no one should minimize that. Yes, you need to push through it, but it’s totally normal for it to hurt and totally OK to not be OK for awhile.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      It really is unfair. When I left my husband of almost 20 years, I felt nothing other than “yay, finally”. I’d mourned that relationship many times over the years, and by the time it was over, I was really and truly done. Plus, after 20 years together, we each already had a full life outside of each other. I was in a lot more pain after each of my two-year-long relationships ended. But to the society, the first was somehow a reason to feel sorry for me (or outraged at me – that also happened), and the rest were no big deal.

      1. Lora*

        I think it depends on how much you have financially entangled and how long the legal stuff drags out – you really need the time off to deal with legal stuff if it’s a Bad Divorce that isn’t going through mediation and there’s a lot of financial chicanery and custody things to work through. And if you own a house together, getting it ready to sell and then selling it and then re-lawyering your way through splitting the proceeds and collecting all the paperwork to split up 401ks and pensions and stuff, all that takes a lot of time that can only be handled during regular business hours, nevermind if you own a business with your ex and need to figure out how to divide that up. And then if you’re trying to get full custody it’s another ordeal with social workers and child psychologists and a whole raft of people who also can only be worked with during regular business hours.

        It’s very different if you don’t own property or share Swiss bank accounts with your spouse and have no kids and it’s a civil breakup where both of you are sane and reasonable people. The moral of the story is, don’t co-sign for real estate with a wacko.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          We owned a house together. He kept it. I had to give him a gentle kick in the rear to finally get my name off it when I needed to buy my own house, but that was a few months later. I asked for the kids and the dog and got them. We both had to sit through some kind of mandatory training for a couple hours and watch a video in a class with ten other divorcing couples, but that was it. Did not ask for anything else, but got child support and my share of the equity in the house. We’d had separate bank accounts the entire time we were married. So I agree, it was an easy divorce. However, this is all in reference to material and bureaucratic issues. While I had plenty of that to deal with, on top of diminished income, having to find a place to live, having to find a place to live again a few months later, because the first place wanted our dog out, I felt no heartbreak or grief whatsoever. Which is what OP is saying she is needing help with. I did not have that. All I had was boundless energy that helped me deal with the material stuff and the two moves in six months.

      2. Artemesia*

        I too felt fine after a separation and divorce — it was high time. I felt much more after a couple of break ups that I didn’t want and didn’t see coming.

    5. TootsNYC*


      I “broke up with” a roommate who had also been a close friend.
      For some reason it came up at work–I think someone asked if I was OK because I’d been a bit brittle and not my normal sunny self. So I opened up a little, and she said, “Yes, all breakups are tough.”

      But I know that to many people, it wouldn’t seem as big a deal.

  13. Name (Required)*

    I’m about to break up with my boyfriend of 4 years, and move to a small town 4 hours away. I have been with my company for 3 years, and they’re transferring me to a small town after I requested a change. I’m going to be THROWING myself into work, and working on some personal changes I’ve been wanting to make for a long time. I think working really hard will help me with my breakup. I hope everything works well for you OP!!

    1. Can't Think of a Name*

      Working on personal changes is a great way to cope with a breakup! Breakups can leave a big hole in your personal life (in terms of activities, time, and obviously emotion), and I’ve found that focusing on myself gives me: a) something to do besides mope b) an opportunity to develop myself and try something new (and thereby feel better about myself) and c) is a great way to meet new people

      I also find it’s a good time to reconnect with friends and family, especially friends I haven’t seen in a while. It’s a good reminder of the people in your life you have who love you.

      Best of luck to OP and Name (Required)!

  14. AllAccountsAreNotCreatedEqual*

    Yeah, when you’re new, anything that points to a lack of resilience or ability to cope with something people may consider non-life-changing, is not a great impression to be giving
    But as others have said, if you’re unwell (as in struggling to hold it together) then use sick leave or PTO – and don’t feel like you have to explain more than “I’m not feeling well”

  15. Artemesia*

    The pain of this is terrible, but it is something that you need to learn to manage in the workplace. Of course a few days sick leave right when it happens may work okay — no need to make clear that it is ‘heart sick’, but after that, you do need to learn to self manage the agony. Been there, done that, so know it isn’t easy.

    I recently went through a different but similarly painful personal situation and I would highly recommend a short course of cognitive behavioral therapy to help acquire the tools for dealing with this sort of thing. It is always hard, but having some self management tools helps and time does help.
    Hope it gets better soon and that when you look back, you realize that the breakup is what put you in a place for something new and wonderful. I saw that as someone in the 45th year of a wonderful second marriage.

  16. Lilo*

    I am sympathetic, I once trained someone going through a divorce. It is hard. But I will say she stayed professional and did her work. You can try to give leeway, but with a new person you are still feeling them out and it is really important to lead with your best foot. While the circumstances suck, we have all had the coworker who always had one source of drama or another and never really performed.

    So I know it is a but tough to say “power through” but I do think it is important to do so, especially when you are first at a job.

  17. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    Sorry you’re going through such a rough time. Something I did was tell people I’d just got some bad news and would tell them about it another time. (My issue wasn’t a break-up, but it was bad enough to have me crying at work.) That was enough to have people cut me some slack. I didn’t have to tell them about it another time because life went on and they forgot. If they had, I had a quick summary ready for them.

    Take care of yourself and be kind to yourself. Hope this passes as quickly as possible.

  18. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    If you do take a sick day, don’t take a Monday or a Friday. A sick day that happens to form a 3-day weekend is pretty suspicious when it’s the new person in the office, especially if they’re not allowed actual vacation days yet.

    1. Amtelope*

      People have the same likelihood of getting sick on any day of the week. This doesn’t strike me as something that most people should worry about unless their workplace is unreasonable in its attitude toward using sick days.

    2. Psyche*

      One sick day on a Friday or Monday shouldn’t look suspicious unless he works with very unreasonable people. One time is not a pattern and there is a 2/5 chance that if he gets sick it will in fact fall on a Monday or Friday.

      1. R.D.*

        It’s higher than 2/5 because if someone is sick on Saturday or Sunday, there is a decent chance they will need Monday off.

  19. miss_chevious*

    I echo the comments of the majority of comments here — you might want to mention to your leader that you’re having a difficult personal situation right now in case you seem off (don’t mention that it’s a breakup), but you’ll be back to normal soon. In the meantime, make sure to keep up with your work and focus on it as much as possible, so your performance is still strong.

    And don’t be afraid to take a day off here and there, if you need it. Don’t associate those days with your heartbreak to your manager–just be “sick”–but give yourself a break when you need it.

  20. Camellia*

    All great advice above. I just will add that “Allergies are really bad this year!” explains red, irritated, slightly runny eyes very well.

    1. Susan*

      I was going to say blame it on seasons changing in some way. This time of year in the Northern Hemisphere can be hard.

  21. Cousin Itt*

    Ooh, this is tough. I feel for OP, but given that your new colleagues never knew you while you and your ex were together and you weren’t living together I would steer clear of bringing this up at work. If someone becomes concerned and asks if something’s going on in your personal life I think you can say you’re going through a rough break up to explain, but don’t bring it up unprompted. I’d also try not to take a sick day over this either given that you’re so new, but if you really feel you have to give a vague excuse.

    The person I replaced in my current job actually did take a sick day for the break up of a three month relationship. It did not go down well with her co-workers who thought it was unprofessional and kind of an over-reaction considering how short the relationship was. The Managing Director sent her a heartfelt email about how hard it must be for her though, so apparently upper management didn’t mind.

  22. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

    I’m so sorry. I recommend keeping a journal, if you don’t already. I’ve found it really helpful. I would also really encourage you to take detailed notes at work. One, I think it will help you concentrate, and you will have a record so if you mind wanders at times you have records to fall back on.

    For me the part that always sucks the hardest is the inability to concentrate and the fact that my mind wandered. So anything I can do to mitigate that is important to me.

    1. literal desk fan*

      +1 on “take notes”! Even if the meetings don’t seem like the type where notes are necessary, they will help keep your mind on the task at hand, and you can always say taking notes helps you remember all the new information, if anyone looks at you weird.

  23. CommanderBanana*

    OP, would seeing a therapist help get you over this rough patch? It sounds like whatever was going on this relationship was already pretty disruptive at your last job; it may help to have someone to talk through this with.

    1. Vicky Austin*

      I was just going to make this suggestion. If your personal life is bothering you to the point that it interferes with your ability to work, then it’s a good idea to get professional help.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I think that a couple of sessions of discussing some CBT exercises to do in-the-moment might be really useful.

      It doesn’t have to be about “fixing yourself” so much as “coaching on how to manipulate my own bodily and emotional reactions.”

      1. animaniactoo*

        I wrote about my own experience some below, but for me it was far more about “taking control of myself and being able to be in control of myself rather than letting life and all its various bumps in the road be in control of me.”

        Yeah, there was some fixing that came as a part of that. But really it was about actively choosing who I wanted to be and figuring out which actions were going to allow me to be that person – both to myself and others. Some things I learned I can’t change about myself – they’re too integral to who I am mentally, emotionally, ethically. But I learned that I can accept that and find ways to handle those parts of me that align best with who I want to be and put that me forward without much frustration, guilt, or regret.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yes, it worked for me. I went to a CBT one. A year later, I didn’t need him anymore and so gradually stopped going. But those first few months with him were a huge help.

  24. animaniactoo*

    OP, a lot of people have issues compartmentalizing when they’re going through heavy stuff – but it sounds to me like you are especially struggling with this over and above what most people do. To me, that sounds like you have a problem sorting emotions and keeping them from affecting you too strongly throughout your day – or even that you may be making choices that lead into a lack of ability to compartmentalize. i.e. You know that such-and-such was an issue when you left this morning. But instead of taking 15 to 20 minutes to be able to figure out what you want to say and how you want to approach your (former) partner about it after work and then being able to more or less put it aside as a settled plan of action for later and freeing you up to focus on what’s in front of you now, you take the 15 to 20 minutes and then message them during work to try to sort it out? make a point? something? which then leads into more issues when they respond and their response either continues the issue, escalates it, or creates a new one.

    And to be fair – all of us do that sometimes, but I get the sense that sometimes is a little more regular for you?

    If this sounds on-target, I would really recommend looking into working with a therapist to help you figure out how to manage these kinds of situations so that you can minimize the impact on you. When I was younger, my life often felt really out of control in the way that you describe – because I had very few tools for choosing my own reactions, making them purposeful, and sorting through what probable outcomes of actions were so that I could be more deliberate about what I chose to do. Working with a therapist helped me immensely in being able to assess situations and work to contain things to appropriate spaces far more effectively through my choices of how to react to them. I was a flailing mess. Now I’m not. Or at least, not nearly as much.

    Sorry about the breakup, and good luck to you.

    1. Princess Loopy*

      Therapy is such a good option in so many situations. Therapists can work with you on personalized coping skills, help you process the grief and angst of both the tumultuous relationship and its end, and provide a safe space to let the feelings out.

      It also, OP, might give you a bit of space to have a “standing medical appointment to deal with a non-serious health issue” which might give you some needed time away from work without raising as much suspicion as the candid truth.

      1. Mrs. D*

        I also recommend exploring therapy. Many of us have experienced life events or circumstances we find ourselves struggling to handle on our own. It sounds like this may be the case for you, OP. You say you don’t have anyone that you can open up about this, and from your letter it seems like talking to someone would be very helpful. Depending on your health insurance, part or most of the cost could be covered. Check out your options for this for the sake your own well-being.

        In the meantime, the distractions that many comments have already mentioned could help take your mind off things. And perhaps throw your energy outside of work into activities you enjoy–reading, hiking, cooking, whatever–to further distract you and give you something positive to do.

  25. Lizardbreath*

    This is really tough and OP I’m sorry that you’re going through this. Unfortunately I think you need to power through-you don’t have the track record built up yet to earn the leeway that I think you want. It’s been a long time since I went through a breakup but I know that throwing myself into work really helped to distract, and I went to therapy. It gave me dedicated time to process what happened and discuss with someone openly-and having that to look forward to every week helped.

    I recently had someone I manage go through a a breakup with someone who they had been dating a few month. While I actually would have been able
    To give more leeway, they lost the team’s trust when they called in sick frequently over the course of a few weeks and were distracted, unfocused, and often late for a month or so after the breakup.

    I tell that story to say, those above you may have more tolerance than peers or more junior teammates who don’t have as much experience to draw on or reference, so they may not be as tolerant.

    I hope you can get through this alright Op-good vibes your way.

  26. Où est la bibliothèque?*

    Last-ditch trick for when you can’t help crying at work: fake a coughing fit. It’ll explain the teary eyes and can even give you an excuse to leave the room for a minute to get a drink of water. Nobody ever questions it.

  27. The Original K.*

    Maybe you can look at the new job as a welcome distraction, OP. You have a new thing in your life that requires your focus and attention. You can throw yourself into it and fill your time that way. If you have any sick time, take a day or two – but I wouldn’t say why, just say you’re not feeling well. I don’t know that it’s necessarily unprofessional to raise it with colleagues, but I wouldn’t, honestly. You’re new and you want to be known for your work, not your personal troubles.

    As my grandmothers (both of them) used to say, “trouble don’t last always.” I hope you heal quickly.

    (In terms of general “getting over heartbreak” advice, I am firmly of the belief that the best way to get past a breakup is to cut off contact with the person – where possible; obviously if you have kids you have to communicate – so I always delete numbers and remove them from social media. Out of sight, out of mind really helps. If people are meant to find their way back to each other in some way, that tends to happen on its own. If you absolutely must peek at your ex’s social media, don’t do so at work.)

  28. CP*

    Oof. Something in this answer really kind of grated on me. My last two real breakups have been after 7, and 5 years (non-monogomous so there have been other less big breakups). I never married either of my partners, and I see more and more of my friends’ relationship styles going in the same direction. In both situations work wasn’t really an issue for me – I fell into the camp of WANTING to throw myself into my work (big time compartmentalizer! I’ll deal with those stupid feelings LATER!) But it stings a little to feel like unless you got married and now have to go through a legal divorce, the ending of a relationship with a Partner that lasted as long as many marriages, wouldn’t warrant the same grace and understanding from the people you spend 40+ hours a week with. Not commenting to say Allison is wrong, just kind of a crappy reminder of all the ways we (American culture at least) prioritize and legitimize monogomous marriages over any other relationship style.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, I don’t think we disagree. My distinction is between long-term relationships and not-long-term relationships. A one-year on-again off-again relationship where you didn’t live together is a different thing than a seven-year relationship, whether the latter was a marriage or not.

      1. CP*

        I see what your saying. The positioning of “marriage” being the alternative to a one-year relationship is always a frustrating thing to encounter, and in my experience is still very much a prevailing attitude – but my read of this is DEFINITELY painted by a lot of personal experience and not directly related to the OP.

    2. Myrin*

      I agree with the core of what you’re saying (about monogamous marriages being valued more than other relationships) but I also want to point out that your situation doesn’t really mirror OP’s other than that they were both breakups – an “on-again off-again relationship for a year” isn’t the same as a stable relationship of seven and five years.
      I really think Alison is simply being realistic when she says “That’s not to say that a break-up after a year can’t be really painful, because of course it can. It’s just that your coworkers are likely to expect you to pull it together at work more than with longer relationships.”

    3. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      I got no impression or inkling that AAM’s reply had anything to do with marriage versus non-marriage relationships. (And I am possibly a bit sensitive to the topic as well, since I have a long-term domestic partner.)

  29. Anon for this*

    I was dumped out of the blue, literally at the end of a (otherwise normal) date night after two years together. I thought I’d just tough it out and go on with my work like nothing happened, nope, does not work that way. On the third day after the breakup, I made a huge mistake that I would not have otherwise. I sent a coworker an IM indicating my opinion of how things were done at our company’s another location (not a favorable one) while he was here and was presenting to everyone at that location. Somehow I still kept my job. Good on you, OP, for being proactive about it and looking into ways of taking care of yourself before mistakes are made!

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yep, I find that when I’m going through some kind of emotional upheaval I need to be extra super careful because I’ll THINK I’m behaving and even feeling pretty normally minute to minute, but … weird things keep happening. Or at least that’s how I experience it (in reality, I’m not fine but I’m in denial).

      When I know I’m upset, I try to not make any big decisions / double check everything more than usual / work on the easy rote stuff first and put off the tricky things if I can. Also double check things like “where’s my wallet” and “did I turn the car off” …

  30. spek*

    Assuming the letter was written in November – this has been going on a while. The relationship was affecting work forcing days off in the summer 6 months ago when it was only 6 months old and has been a source of angst since then. Not something you can discuss at work, especially at a new job, but I hope you have someone who can help you with this, be it a friend or therapist or whoever. Something that seems to be so damaging isn’t something you should keep bottled up with no one to turn to.

  31. Stuff*

    I’m going to jump in here and recommend maybe seeing a therapist. Most insurance covers it but if not there is often free community therapy available. The only reason I say this is it’s not just the break up that has you upset but the fact you said the relationship itself caused anxiety and issues in your previous job. It might help to talk with a professional about the whole thing and work out both how to handle things like the breakup grief and how not to let yourself repeat the situation.

    1. EditorExtra*

      Absolutely. This is what I came here to say. Therapy can be extremely helpful. A licensed clinical social worker might be especially good in terms of dealing with heartache + work. OP, you’re hurt and it’s going to hurt for a while. The fact that you reached out for advice and help here shows you’re more willing to accept help, I hope. Definitely seek some additional help out. If you find a therapist who you jibe well with, I promise you won’t regret it. Does your new job offer any EAP benefits?

  32. Greg NY*

    I think Alison and my fellow commenters aren’t giving enough consideration to this LW. Everyone grieves, and it’s not up to other people to determine what is valid grief and what isn’t. For example, even with death, grieving your mother or father is seen by some people to be more valid than grieving a second cousin. But what if you were close to that second cousin and had an estranged relationship with your parents? The same applies to a pet, a non-marital romantic relationship, or a friend you had.

    No one should be in the business of parsing out valid from invalid grief. Instead, the question should be whether showing ANY grief in the workplace is right or acceptable. There is a case that can be made that even for parents, you should stay home until you are able to do your job effectively without being emotional all day (and good workplaces tell you to do just that, saying “take all the time you need”, fully paid). There is also a case that can be made that, again even for parents, if your grieving is taking place over a long period of time, it affects your ability to do your job and affects your colleagues. Striking a balance between colleagues putting up with it and resentment at a longer term inconvenience is key in all such situations, including medical situations (where it often comes up).

    Now, of course, I prefaced all this with the word “should”. We all know that many (perhaps most) American workplaces really don’t care about your personal circumstances. The only advice I would have in such a situation is to do your best to show as little as possible during work hours, see a therapist to facilitate you doing that, and let the chips fall where they may. If you get resentment from your colleagues, a bad review, miss out on a good project assignment, or even lose your job, you will at least have done everything you could to prevent it. Until there are protections for grieving employees, there isn’t any really good solution.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you’re asking something of human nature and human judgment that isn’t realistic. Most people are going to raise their eyebrows at someone who’s visibly grieving and asking for slack after a two-week relationship doesn’t work out. If you accept that, then you accept that there’s a continuum of what kind of grief it’s considered professional to expect/ask slack for at work. You may think that a one-year on-again off-again relationship meets that bar, but you can’t really argue that no one should ever bring any judgment to the question of what does and doesn’t.

      1. jo*

        See, I have to disagree here too.

        I am a person who has been STARVED for love my entire life. It’s a joke – women like me are mocked as “thirsty” and the butt of so many jokes, memes, songs… Like living without love isn’t bad enough, we have to get laughed at for it too.

        So, a relationship of three months, for me, could be a very, very meaningful thing. If I feel like I’m building something really fulfilling, and the rug gets pulled out from under me, that is almost MORE devastating than a long relationship that has run its course. I have experienced both, and the pain of the loss of ‘what could have been’ is acute.

        I’m not asking every person to understand this (most won’t anyway). And I’m not saying it’s okay to cry at work all day long. But I am asking that we don’t assign parameters to other people’s pain.

        1. Courageous cat*

          I’m with you on a part of this, like I get really attached to people after really short periods of time and could be somewhat devastated by something like this too… but I have to balance that with the fact that ultimately the fault lies in me for putting so much stock into something so new, and pushing my hopes insanely high onto something that very well may not work out.

    2. Argh!*

      LW was hired as a long-term employee, and if a short-term relationship has LW in knots in 2018, will it also happen in 2019, 2020, 2021, etc.? What happens when the car needs an alternator? What happens when someone in the next cube says something LW can’t handle?

      As a supervisor I would not want to be stuck with this person, and I would end employment at the end of the probationary period if LW couldn’t keep herself together.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s not gender bias. Many commenters here default to “she” when gender is unknown (as I do myself) and I assume she simply missed the last line of the letter.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Sure, everyone grieves and you do so while continuing to live your life and going to work, grocery shopping, etc. Life can’t just stop because you’re grieving or dealing with some other emotional upheaval. You have to learn how to keep going whether through therapy or meds or some other kind of treatment plan.

      1. jo*

        Yes but when in deep grief, you WISH life could just stop. And importantly, nobody seems to consider a lack of love as a reason to “grieve.” We only grieve death, divorce, job upheaval, but a breakup? It isn’t taken seriously.

    4. SheLooksFamiliar*

      No one is saying the OP’s grief isn’t valid; in fact, I see acknowledgment that the OP is dealing with difficult, valid emotions. What they ARE saying is telling the boss and/or team that his work could suffer is not going to serve him well. His grief, while valid, comes from something that doesn’t typically produce the same level of grief that a death, divorce, or break up of a long-term relationship. People are naturally going to wonder about the OP’s commitment to work, and ability to pull himself together, over something that simply doesn’t compare to more profound loss, no matter how profoundly he feels it. He has my sympathy and even empathy, but I think he needs to manage his expressions of grief at work very carefully.

      It’s not useful to (disingenuously?) to make the sweeping generalization that The American Workplace does not care about personal circumstances. This Workplace is about producing work, yes, but also provides EAPs, personal days, grievance days, and understanding bosses who manage their team as they deem appropriate – including approving time off if possible.

      It’s also not useful to oversimplify this issue and ask if ANY form of grief is acceptable. Grief is a highly personal journey, and people just don’t fall that neatly into either/or blocs. I worked with a woman who lost her husband, but never mentioned his death at work: ‘One more sympathetic look and I’ll lose it!’ She could keep her composure at work, which helped her tremendously. I also worked with a fellow who took a week off when he had to put down his cat, and he told the story of the cat’s last days to any and everyone. After a couple of weeks, he showed no signs of slowing down and did some damage to his reputation. His pain was valid, but not appropriate to express at work.

    5. Hyaluronic*

      Wow, I had to read this response 3 times, as usual you have went off the deep end of reality with your response. Comparing that loosing a parent is not less detrimental than loosing a 2nd cousin and that employers should have to pay the full income for all employees for as long as they need to be off for any death, breakup, or inconvenience. Other than loosing a child, loosing a parent whether you are close or not is one of the defining moments in life, and something you rarely get over where after a while other people close in to you in life don’t have that same impact. I’m not sure what La La land or realm of reality you reside in but this is so far off from real life that what you are saying I think is harmful to people especially new people to the workforce.

      1. Dankar*

        I agree with your point about employers not realistically being able to provide any/all time off for any/all situations, but let’s not pretend that loss works the same for everyone. What determines the depth of your grief is not the deceased’s proximity to your branch of the family tree. There are many, many people for whom the loss of an estranged parent would not be a “defining moment,” and for whom the breaking up of a long-term relationship “(or loss of a close friend) would be much, much worse.

        Good employers will make allowances where they can. I don’t think the OP has any leeway to ask for here, being a new employee and in a situation that most people will not find sympathetic enough to request time off. Grief is not one-size fits all, and you’re totally in the wrong to insist that your feelings or experiences will be everyone else’s.

        1. Hyaluronic*

          We will have to disagree on the parent front, I really think whether you are aware at the time or not your parent or child dying has a huge effect on your life like no one else.

          But yes Good employers will make allowances where they can, but OP doesn’t qualify.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Sadly there are some people so miserable to their families that an estranged adult child simple feels relief at the parent’s death. The grief came long before, in the lead up to the estrangement.

    6. Gregory Albright*

      Lotta should, little use, as is almost always the case in your comment, Greg. It’s not helpful to OPs when you choose to lay out your “in a perfect world views”, you know.

  33. Illyria*

    Letter writer–I started my current position on January 9th a few years ago and my live-in partner of 3 years announced to me that they were moving out, were leaving me for someone else, and that they were taking our pets with them on January 19th of that year–ten days after I had started. I was devastated and took a sick day saying I had the flu, then found myself crying at my desk and distracted to the point of inefficiency. I actually told my new manager within a week and she was the most compassionate, wonderful person to me–exactly what I needed in that moment. In the 10 days leading up to the breakup (which was a shock to me, to be frank), I had put the pedal to the metal and done a lot to take on the new role, stayed late, etc. While I do agree with everything Alison said, and I don’t know who your manager is or what kind of person or professional they are, but it may be worth disclosing to your manager without the sordid details: just flatly say “I wanted to get ahead of it in case I seem a tad off and I do apologize, but I just went through an impactful breakup. I may seem a little bit distracted for a few days, but I’m really excited to be here and I have no intentions of my work suffering from this. I’ll bounce back soon and don’t want to be a downer around the office.” If your manager asks for leading details, you can just reiterate that it was an impactful breakup and that you’re working to lick your wounds and working to recalibrate. Being honest about it was actually really important for my manager and I and helped us to develop our very strong relationship that we now have. To whatever degree, I think she put on her empathy cap and looked at my like a person and not just a worker bee, and really just made it possible for me lick my own wounds. I’m hoping you can get a similar result. I’m sorry for what you’re going through and hope your heart heals soon.

  34. GRA*

    Nothing more to add – but I just want to say how much I love this community that Alison has built. 95% of the comments are so supportive and give good, concrete advice, in addition to Alison’s. If I was the OP, this would help me immensely to get through this sucky time.

  35. Adalind*

    I can soooo relate, OP. This happened to me right before I started my last job. I did open up to a couple people I was friendly with and it helped to have someone to talk to once in a while, but I tried to keep most of it to myself and just concentrate on work. You’ll get through this!

  36. T*

    Sorry this happened, it does suck. What helped me was making work my refuge, I totally focused on my job and did not think about my ex at work. Since it is a new job it does make it tougher, since you are being judged for your first 30 days or whatever their time frame is. Distracting yourself instead of focusing on the break up also really helped me, I volunteered after work, etc.

  37. Amber Rose*

    Captain Awkward has a remarkable wealth of resources on coping with breaking up that may help you. One of the best go-to suggestions for coping is distractions. If your mind is wandering during meetings, consider bringing a notebook and pen and focusing on taking the most detailed notes you have ever taken. In your cleanest, most precise handwriting.

    If you need to excuse yourself to the bathroom to cry for a bit go for it, but try and really laser focus yourself onto your work (and any hobbies you have), because that’s going to help you the most right now. Counseling is also an excellent option. There are usually free 24 hour help lines you can access to just chat with someone unrelated to you who can get you through the worst times. Because time is what you need right now.

  38. Feeling stronger every day*

    Maybe I’m just old and cynical and have had too many relationships end too many ways. But when I see “on again, off again” and having it end after only a year, my first thought is, congratulations! You didn’t waste more time on a situation that was apparently not going to work out and seems to have caused far more pain than it was worth. It sucks now, but it could actually be a source of strength and pride if you can do some reframing. It’s not something you want to hear when you’re in the midst of it, but it has certainly been true for me that “whatever didn’t kill me made me stronger.” I hope the same is true for you, LW. Best wishes.

  39. Yams*

    Omg I’m just going through this and it sucks! I honestly don’t have anything to add other than commiseration, because it’s an awful situation and there’s not much to be done other than wait it out.
    I have been a hot mess for the last month or two and I honestly don’t know how I haven’t resigned and left to live the life of a hermit in the mountains (it’s mostly the no wifi thing that’s stopping me at this point). I hope you feel better soon and find strategies that help you cope or at least make it look like you’ve got your crap together, which, ironically may help you find a way to cope with it–at least at work.

  40. Shay*

    I am sorry and I can somewhat relate. In 2016, I began a new job, director-level and very visible, knowing that my 17-year old dog was beginning the end stage of his terminal illness. I was torn … wanted and needed the job but just not feeling I could give it my best shot. I jumped in, tried to keep myself focused in the moment while relying on my husband’s support at home. While at work, I tried my best to be ‘at work’ and waited for later to focus on the personal things in my life.
    But, I would sit in my car at mid-day and collect myself privately.
    And when his time came, 10 weeks into my new job, I looked terrible and simply said, ‘I’m a bit under the weather today.’ I looked a bit shell-shocked for a while (felt worse than I looked fortunately) and tried to move forward.
    I’m still at that job, 2.5 years later. I’m glad I took the job and toughed through those first six months.
    Remember, you likely look better than you feel. Just try to keep focused when you can but save time for processing on the side. For me, bringing my drama to my new job just isn’t my thing and I’m glad I didn’t. But, that doesn’t mean you don’t have drama going on – you now have the added task of managing through it and integrating into a new role. Rotten timing but not a lot you can do about it.
    Please send us an update. Hope you are feeling better soon.

  41. Cassandra*

    OP, I’m sorry. I’m mid-divorce at the moment and ugh.

    I don’t know when you wrote in to AAM, but if it was recent: the timing might actually help you here, a little bit, in that the calendar is signaling endings and new beginnings?

    I live and die by the academic calendar, myself, and this semester has been thoroughly horrible (for a variety of non-germane reasons as well as the divorce). But it’s almost over! So I can wrap it up, stick it in a closet, and call it done even if I can’t call it good. I will come back for spring fully resolved to do better.

    Sure, the calendar is an artificial construct… but if it’s a construct that can help you, I say run with it.

  42. Ginger G*

    I’m so sorry for the OP, breakups can be so terribly painful. I won’t recount the personal miseries, one after another, that have befallen me starting in late 2013, no one would probably even believe it all, but I’ve missed very little work due to the anxiety and depression. I’ve had to take time off for surgeries and funerals, and I did use two days of PTO when I lost a beloved pet.

    I’ve just learned to put on a brave face at work and focus on the job and it actually helps to have the distraction from the personal stuff. Many times I’ve actually had a decent productive work day, then silently cried in the car on the way home. Not to say I’m perfect and everyone can do this, but I’ve really had no choice in order to stay employed. I did have an episode last Friday when I got some very bad news and had to shut my door to cry for a bit. I knew I wouldn’t be able to function well for the rest of the day, so I emailed my boss and said I wasn’t feeling well and needed to go home early, and he was fine with it. Getting out of the building without anyone seeing the emotions on my face was a little tricky though.

  43. Argh!*

    If it’s an on-and-off one-year relationship, good luck finding sympathy. If it’s the end of a 20-year marriage, with five kids, three dogs and a canary to worry about, and an ex-spouse who wants to move 1,000 miles away with all the kids and the one dog you love the most, you’ll get more sympathy.

    Relationship troubles are just part of being young. If you really can’t get over it, there’s something else going on that a therapist might be able to help with.

    1. Kasia*

      That was rude and unhelpful. Who are you to tell OP if they can be sad or not? A year is not an insignificant amount of time. Should they be grieving 6 months from now? Probably not, but a few weeks seems appropriate.

      1. Vicky Austin*

        I didn’t see that as rude or unhelpful at all. They just pointed out the painful reality that the amount of sympathy you can expect from coworkers is proportional to the length of the relationship. They also gave the helpful suggestion to get therapy.

        1. Kasia*

          It has only been a few days for the OP, I think most people would have some sympathy, no matter the length of the relationship. In fact, the majority of comments here are showing a great deal of sympathy.

          Therapy is a great suggestion, but the implication that they “really can’t get over it” is a little harsh since, again, it’s been a few days.

          1. Argh!*

            The part about the relationship interfering with work in the previous job made me think that LW may have more than the normal amount of emotional disruption. Also, why write this letter if LW doesn’t anticipate longer-term consequences?

        2. bonkerballs*

          That certainly didn’t read to me like a helpful suggestion to get therapy. There are many examples above of people being kind and suggesting therapy as a resource. Argh!’s comment read to me as nothing short of nasty, like clearly the OP is messed up and needs help if he doesn’t get over the breakup immediately. Not to mention, relationship troubles are part of being a person in relationships. Nothing to do with being young.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I don’t think Argh! said anything about whether the OP was allowed to be sad!

        The comments were about how other people will react.

        (but I disagree that relationship troubles are “just part of being young”–they hit at any age)

        1. Argh!*

          If you’re a lifelong single person, your 15th break-up at 50 is easier to take than your second or third break-up in your 20s.

          1. jo*

            FOR YOU. Not for everyone. My 15th breakup at age 50, of a 3-month relationship, is more devastating because it is yet another reminder of how I have continually failed at love and am running out of time and options.

            All of this does not excuse losing it at work, but I feel like there are a ton of comments on this thread stating what is acceptable in terms of relationships and grief, and they’re a lot of crap.

            1. FL*

              Thank you for this post. As someone who is in a somewhat similar boat, the comments on this post have been disheartening. I have been through both a divorce and a 1-month breakup, and in many ways, the 1-month breakup (+ very very long stretches of loneliness before and after) are in some ways much more difficult. I have been able to function and even thrive at work through both, but it was HARD. I don’t think AAM was being dismissive of this pain, but the message I am taking away from this comment thread is hurtful :(

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s harsh AF but it’s not unhelpful. They will find limited sympathy in the general population.

        However that’s not to say they can’t be heartbroken and in pain.

        I got snapped at when my bf relocated 6 months into our whirlwind romance and I was stressed. 5 years later, still with him and not friends with that unsympathetic person. Go figure.

      4. Argh!*

        No, I’m saying OP won’t find sympathy in the workplace for the break-up of a short-term relationship amongst people who have dealt with much more devastating life events. The place to seek sympathy is almost anywhere but the workplace, and coworkers are definitely not going to relish picking up the slack for a newcomer who is this fragile.

        This isn’t the Borg here. There are people with different viewpoints and differing opinions. LW needs to know that not everyone in the workplace will be as sympathetic as the “oof” commenters have been here.

        Perhaps I should send LW the email address of the admin I know whose pregnant daughter was killed by a drive-by shooter at the funeral of her brother who was killed by a drive-by shooter. Or the coworker whose husband of 20 years died from slipping on the ice. Or the couple who struggled for 10 years to get pregnant only to have a fragile preemie that died after 10 days in NICU?

        Life happens. If LW is so fragile that life events that other people cope with interfere with work, LW needs support somewhere other than work, and should not expect any sympathy for sub-par work performance, especially as a newcomer.

        1. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

          Not everyone does that sort of comparative misery–someone who has gone through something much worse may think “LW has nothing to complain about,” or they may think that what happened to LW might not be a big deal to them, but LW is clearly hurting, and that he’s in pain is more important than the cause of the pain.

          People are different, as you say. Different things hurt us, and the amount of pain is hard to predict. We also don’t know–and don’t need to know–what else has gone on in LW’s life, or how past injuries, breakups, or deaths affected him.

          LW knows that not everyone will be sympathetic. Telling someone who is asking “how can I handle this?” that “you know, you’re going to need to deal with this” doesn’t get him anywhere.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Seriously, this is like the “but some people DONT EVENT HAVE SANDWICHES” school of thinking. When I was struggling with severe depression, I got a lot of “well just think of people who have INSERT HORRIBLE THING HERE” or “write a gratitude journal!”

            That other random people had it worse than me didn’t lessen my pain one iota. I needed to be on a medication regimen to resolve a serotonin imbalance and learn some coping skills through therapy, not write a gratitude journal.

          2. Argh!*

            Those people who have gone through much worse will be LW’s coworkers and boss.

            LW isn’t writing to Alison for advice on how to get over relationships but how to handle emotions in the workplace. The workplace is harsh and for someone who has handled something hugely impactful, a break-up of a short-term on-and-off relationship will indeed seem like small potatoes.

            If LW were my supervisee and came to me in distress and couldn’t manage their workload, I’d be like “really?” and I would be working on the probationary paperwork to send LW packing.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              You’d start the dismissal process because of this? I think that’s way, way harsh. The LW’s biggest issue is that she’s new and doesn’t have a ton of capital, but she is a human being. Personally, I would much rather have a report come to me and say, “I’m going through a difficult personal time right now,” than have someone simply start slipping with no explanation. If I have a heads-up, I can manage it.

              I had a direct report whose mother had a potential cancer diagnosis and she was absolutely distraught. She came to me right away and I was able to move some things around for her because even though there was no certainty about her mother’s condition, my direct report was very upset and I didn’t want to risk her making huge mistakes while in that state. Her mother did end up having cancer, we worked out a schedule that would allow my direct report to be with her during treatment, and in return I got an employee who always did good work for me and thought I was awesome. On the other side of the coin, I worked with someone who got a strange result on a routine blood test and flipped out over it– distractedly– for over a week but never took responsibility for the mistakes she did make. And you know what? We all rolled our eyes and dealt with it because it was temporary.

              People sometimes deal with crap, and sometimes it hits them in extreme ways. If it happens all the time? That’s a big problem. But usually some compassion is warranted.

              1. Hyaluronic*

                It sounds like OP’s last job let her go because of this, so yes if OP cant get it together then yes letting her go is best.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  Huh. I read it the opposite — OP simply got a better job and the timing was bad we it the breakup.

              2. CommanderBanana*

                Yeahhhhhh, I’m really glad I don’t work with Argh!

                I have a feeling that they’re the sort of coworker that prompts people to write in to AAM in the first place.

                1. CommanderBanana*

                  Also, if something has happened that is affecting someone handling their workload, don’t you want them to come to you? Not just be like OH OK WELL YOU’RE FIRED.

            2. bonkerballs*

              Yikes. Glad I don’t work for you! What a completely unreasonable reaction to human emotion.

          3. PlainJane*

            Yeah, no matter what awful thing you’re going through, there’s someone else who’s been through worse. Comparisons aren’t helpful. Your pain is your pain, and you’re allowed to experience it. I agree that when you’re new on the job, you have to be careful about how you let it impact your work, but I don’t think comments about someone not being able to handle it, it’s just life, etc., are helpful or kind (or realistic). Whenever this topic comes up in online forums, I’m disappointed to see how little compassion some people have. Breakups hurt, because people form attachments and care about other people, and because a breakup of a romantic relationship is a very personal kind of rejection. Yes, you have to force yourself to keep going, as you do anytime life gets difficult, but that would be easier if people were a bit less cold-hearted.

        2. Name Required*

          I strongly agree. The OP in this letter has stated that he has already let this relationship impact his work in the past. I think I’d feel more sympathetic if the letter was asking, “how do I cope with this so I can be successful at work?” but instead it seems to ask, “how can I validate my grief with my coworkers to explain why I’m not performing well at my new job?”

          The answer is, don’t do that. Prioritizing a year-long relationship full of drama over your new job, especially when that person broke up with you … well, it personally strikes me as emotionally immature and yes, fragile. It’s what I’d expect of people going through their first break-up in high school not professional adults. You may consider it unfair, but I would argue that it’s the more common reaction.

          OP, focus on how you can pull it together and emotionally prioritize the new opportunity. There are some great recommendations here on how to do that: keep a journal, see a therapist, set a “grieving time.”, etc. But make coping your action, not explanation/validation. That doesn’t mean that your feelings aren’t real — it means recognizing that you want a specific outcome and you’re unlikely to get it by telling folks you’ve been distracted, to the point of letting work slide, by your break-up.

        3. CommanderBanana*

          I understand what you’re trying to get at, but it’s really not helpful here. Someone else’s pain does not lessen the LW’s. I agree that a new workplace isn’t likely to be that sympathetic to the LW’s situation, but calling them fragile isn’t really helpful – and it’s also not your place to decide if someone else is fragile or not. Some people have the resiliency to handle life’s curveballs, and some people need more support in coping with what you or I might see as not that big of a deal.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              Argh!, it seems like you’re really committed to doubling down on this, and we’re not going to agree. I still think your response is unnecessarily mean-spirited, and I’m glad we don’t work together.

            2. Hug a Tree*

              Uh, you seem to feel just fine speaking for large numbers of people in your advice. Of course, I’m sure it’s different when YOU do it! /s

        4. jo*

          This is a HORRIBLE response. So someone else had a greater tragedy? Who gets to decide what is the worst???? You mention a couple who tried to have a baby. Well at least they found love, some people never even get to be part of a couple! This is sarcasm, but the root is truthful — you don’t get to compare life tragedies. What keeps one person in bed in tears every day may be someone else’s very best day. You don’t get to judge someone’s pain.

          1. CommanderBanana*


            My friends and I call that the Oppression Olympics.

        5. Courageous cat*

          Ugh, this is such a “starving children in Africa” kind of response. And it totally glazes over the fact that no one would even know how long OP had been in the relationship, so it literally doesn’t even matter. But saying someone’s problems matter less because there’s always someone whose problems matter more is such a tired and such a done arugment.

    2. Fainting Goats*

      As harsh as this advice may sound from OP’s Letter it sounds like its time for OP to get some stronger advice than she has received before. OP alluded to being a disaster in her old job because of the relationship falling apart all summer. And while I can empathize to be honest hearing that piece of the letter I was loosing sympathy for the OP, and would question OP’s judgement at this point in her life if she was a co-worker. So while this advice may be harsh, the relationship was a on again off again for less than a year makes sympathy hard.

  44. Jaybeetee*

    OP, some years ago, my bf’s elderly dog (we lived together – with the dog – but always very much his dog) became suddenly ill over the weekend before I was scheduled to start a new job. The Monday I started was the day he took the dog to be put down, and it was obviously a day of quite mixed emotions for me. In hindsight, the people I was working with were awesome and would have been totally understanding if I’d told them, needed to take it easy that day or what have you (it as a WFH position). But of course on Day 1 I didn’t necessarily know that, and didn’t want to make a bad impression on anyone.

    At a different job, I had a very serious car accident while driving to work – I was (mostly) uninjured, but my car was totaled, and I had a lot of anxiety about driving for a little while after that. That job was in a rural location where there was no way to get there other than driving, it was the middle of winter when the roads weren’t great, and I was definitely “off” for like a month. Forgetting and goofy mistakes. Thankfully I’d been working there a little while and most people realized what was going on and cut me some slack until I settled down again.

    If you find yourself distracted/making mistakes/generally not yourself at work, I think it’s okay to maybe tip off your manager, without spilling your guts. That some personal difficulties arose just before your start date and you’re still working through it. I think that lands similarly to just happening to get the flu or already having a vacation scheduled near the time you start a new job – it’s not great, but it happens and good managers know that it happens. At the same time, if I were you I’d be working hard to compartmentalize/cry it out on my off-time, and do as much as I could to not bring it to work. People are people, and we all know that thing sometimes “leak out” at work – but we all try our best to keep it off the clock as much as possible.

  45. origami duck*

    Hi there OP. My husband of 5 years (together for 11) ended our marriage unexpectedly. We worked together. He was second in command and buddies with our boss. He was also in an intense friendship with a collegue of his who worked one building over. It sucked.

    I eventually left that job after I requested a transfer and didn’t get it, and although I still feel it wasn’t fair that I had to be the one to leave, it was the best thing that I could have done, because it got me away from people who didn’t care about me and didn’t care if I felt safe or comfortable in the workplace.

    But that wasn’t your question – this is just preamble to let you know that yes, I totally get it, yes, a breakup can be traumatic and yes, it can (and does) throw you off your game. You wanted to know how to deal with it – here’s what worked for me.
    – Work is your Non-Ex Place. Lean into it. Find comfort and satisfaction in the things you can control (like being awesome at your job) and compartmentalize the things you can’t (your ex’s behavior.)
    – Don’t deny your pain. Find a safe (not work) place to dump all your feelings and just let yourself be a sobbing mess. For me, it was a combination of professionals (my therapist, my family doctor, and funnily enough my naturopath) and friends. I cried in so many appointments, I was taken in for meals and sleepovers by so many loving friends (because feeding yourself when you’re miserable is hard). I had work benefits for those professionals, and when it became apparent I was going to have to leave my old job I used them all. Take advantage of people who are Team You and let them care for you.
    – Practice self-care. I was sorely tempted to stay in bed for days and days – and sometimes I did – but most of the time, I forced myself to go to the gym. Did I want to go? Absolutely not. Did I feel better once I went? Hell yes. Be kind to yourself in the ways you can. If you are OK moneywise, spend a little more on things that make you happy (I bought a shiny new road bike and a membership to my local art museum.) Prioritize eating and sleeping and staying in touch with people who care about you. Take advantage of whatever professional services you can.

    Good luck OP. You can and will get through this. And it is better on the other side.

      1. origami duck*

        You’re so, so welcome. This Internet Stranger is in your corner. Go out & crush that new job.

  46. Anon for This*

    Ugh, I’m kind of dealing with something similar right now, though I’ve been at my job for over 9 years so maybe it’s a little less crucial. I’m going through fertility treatments, and my latest cycle was delayed which seems minor but has absolutely thrown me for a loop. I can’t concentrate on work at all – I’m just too depressed about it. But you can’t really take time off because of that. At least not openly, and I do have things that need to get done.

  47. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. It’s such a difficult situation to be in.

    Please take care of yourself. This will pass and what will be there afterwards is your job and career

    I watched someone implode after a 5 year relationship came to an ugly sad end. That person asked for too much and in a job they had just started. It was such a terrible spiral.

    You seem much better off. I suggest journaling and seeking comfort in friend or e-support groups. Keep it separate from work as much as possible. If your job is flexible enough, use a mental health day it necessary.

    This too shall pass and you deserve happiness.

  48. Annie on a Mouse*

    I have dealt with this, both breakups at work and the death of a sibling when I started college. Someone would reference something I connected with my sibling, and the tears would start to well up instantly. For me, the key to not breaking down was thinking about something else. I find it really helps to have a mantra I can repeat over and over again in my head when I start to think about it. Something completely unrelated to anything is best (mine, as odd as it sounds, is “parsley”.) So when my brain tries to stray into dangerous territory, I just mentally chant, “parsley, parsley, parsley…” Weird ? Absolutely. Effective? Surprisingly so.

    If parsley isn’t your thing, try counting doubles in your head or converting fractions to decimals or vice versa. And then, as several people wisely observed up above, let yourself have your cry when you get home.

  49. Learnedthehardway*

    From experience – if this grief is affecting your day to day ability to focus and live your life, and it seems out of proportion to the nature of the relationship, talk to your doctor or a therapist. OP, you’re dealing with major life changes – new job, end of important relationship. These can trigger situational depression or make an organic depression worse. For the time being, the advice others are giving you to focus on your work, and compartmentalize your thoughts/feelings, is really good. If you are unable to do this (despite your best efforts), or if your acute grief is persistent beyond a few weeks, or you’re dealing with constant intrusive thoughts, consider that you may need some help.

    (Speaking as someone whose breakup after a long term relationship derailed their life for a few years.)

    Also, the best thing you can do for yourself in the short term is to completely cut contact with your ex, and even any friends of theirs. It’s hard, it hurts like hell, and you’ll hate it, but it is the one thing I did do right. The sooner the person is out of your life, the sooner you can start healing.

  50. the_scientist*

    Captain Awkward’s “How to Tighten Up Your Game at Work When You’re Depressed” is the absolute best resource I can think of for this letter writer. I see someone else has already linked to it, so I won’t link it again, but a lot of the same strategies will work here.

    LW, while the timing of this isn’t ideal this new job is also a fresh start! No one knows you yet, so this is a chance to establish a reputation for being smart, capable, and helpful. Try to use this time at work as a distraction, it may be really helpful to focus on work for a few hours and take your mind off the breakup.

    And, Letter Writer, speaking as someone who had a drama-filled, on-and-off multi-year relationship (ah, to be 20 again!): DON’T. SEND. THOSE. TEXTS. Just……trust me on that.

    1. OP*

      Thank you so much – I’m going to check out the article that’s been recommended. And your advice re. not texting… I hear you ;) Don’t worry.
      Thank you xx

  51. StellaBella*

    Dear OP,
    I am so so so sorry you are having this heartbreak and that you have started a new job and your mind is wandering. For what it is worth, would it be possible to arrange lunches with new colleagues to get to know them and talk about them and their work and how they do things – to take your mind off of stuff? Big hugs, stay kind to yourself and treat yourself well in the evenings.

  52. canamera*

    Q: How do I deal with a broken heart at a new job?
    A: You don’t.
    Leave personal stuff at home, whether it’s a new job or an old one. People (no matter how much they might try to look sympathetic) really don’t want to hear about your personal problems at work. If you need to take a day off, just say you need a day to attend to a personal matter.

  53. Youth*

    Hey, I feel for you! It wasn’t a breakup of a romantic nature, but my best friend of ten years suddenly told me he didn’t want to be friends with me anymore (through text! Then blocked my number! And unfriended me on Facebook!) one morning while I was getting ready for work. I drove to work in a daze–then realized I couldn’t do it, requested to use PTO that day, turned around, and went home.

    It’s been ten months, and I’m still struggling, especially at work. (Not just due to that–this happened in the midst of a suicidal spell for me, and since then, it has been insinuated that my being so emotionally fraught is a big reason why my friend “broke up” with me. :( But it has definitely helped prolong the sadness and the struggle.) I will sometimes cry at my desk. Luckily, I’m a known quantity at my job and they don’t want to lose me, so I can get away with just about anything short of burning the place down.

    But in terms of how you get through work when you’re heartbroken–you compartmentalize, you find ways to relax and unwind on the weekend, you ask other people you love to send you encouraging texts throughout the day, you pray if that’s your thing, and you do what you can to get through this one day at a time.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Hang in there! You are worth it and there are people who care about you a lot.

      I’ve been friends with someone who was self-harming, and it is REALLY hard to know how to be a friend. She did lose friends, because it is so hard on the other side too. I’ve also had a friend unfriend me because I wasn’t the friend she wanted me to be, and that really hurts too, on both sides. You still care about them, even when it looks like they don’t care about you.

      People are fallible, we are both good and bad. Focus on what is good in your life, and what you are doing well. You are worth it, you are loved.

      1. Youth*

        This comment made me smile. Thank you.

        He actually didn’t know anything about the suicidal spell, and I think if he had, he would have handled things differently. He just assumed I was purposely trying to be difficult and/or emotional during an argument we’d had the night before. But I can see how from his side, he might have thought this was a good idea at the time, and I wish I hadn’t been too embarrassed to bring up how I was feeling. For what it’s worth, he’d just had major surgery a few weeks before, and having had my first major surgery since then, I realize his emotions were likely really out of whack at that point, too.

        I believe we will probably be friends again eventually once we both figure a few things out. The waiting part just hurts. But thank you, I am hanging in. Somehow. Ha.

    2. animaniactoo*

      If it helps – sometimes it’s not so much about you being so emotionally fragile as with them being unable to handle your emotional fragility. There’s a toll that comes from being on the other side too – some people handle it better than others, some are only able to handle it for so long before it becomes more than they can deal with, some can’t handle it at all.

      The way they did it absolutely sucked, but benefit of the doubt they felt like they just needed to pull the ripcord and if they talked with you about it at all they wouldn’t have been able to stick to something they knew they needed to do for their own mental/emotional health.

      Hang in there, and take care of yourself. (If it’s something you’d like, please accept this [hug] from an internet commenter)

      1. Youth*

        I completely agree, although he didn’t know really know what I was going through, just that I was acting differently, and he chose to tell himself his own story about why that was. He acted the way he did because of erroneous conclusions he drew from that false story he told himself, so in this particular situation, I’m not sure it contributed a ton.

        But yes, thank you, I accept hugs from internet strangers. Also, I love the Animaniacs, and I’ve always liked your username!

        1. animaniactoo*

          Your welcome and ty! I love the Manies – our mutual love of the Animaniacs and Tom Lehrer brought me and my husband together.

          One thing I would like to note – you framed this as a story that he chose to tell himself. I think it’s important to note that it’s a narrative that made sense to him (based on his own experiences not just of you but himself and other people and life in general so far) and what may have been the only way he knew *how* to interpret your actions. So that’s a lens that he brought to this – but it’s not necessarily one that he chose to pick up. It was just there in his hand already. That’s his stuff to work out and maybe between the two of you in future – but it will help if you can see it for yourself as something that was more internal than a (semi-)conscious choice. Or at least give the benefit of the doubt that it might have been.

  54. Dolorous Bread*

    For four years after college I worked as part of a home business with 3 other colleagues. We worked in a bedroom-turned-showroom in the boss’s house, so duties could range from cataloguing and photographing inventory, to packaging inventory for events, to setting the table for family holiday meals and wrapping gifts for the boss’s grandkids. We were all incredibly close as a result of this odd work dynamic.

    I was 22 and had just broken it off with my live-in boyfriend of 2 years. He was cruel and emotionally abusive, which my colleagues knew/had seen, so when I finally snapped one day and came to the realization I was done and would be kicking him out, they let me leave early to go do exactly that.

    WELL, what they probably weren’t prepared for: I was a completely hollow emotional wreck in the aftermath. I cried *all the time*. Now, there are lots of psychological reasons why this breakup affected me this way, but suffice to say for this work-related blog: I cried on the way to work, on the way home from work, and I spent my workdays literally wrapped in a quilt in front of the computer, barely sleeping/eating, seconds away from more tears. All I could think about was this breakup. My colleagues were incredibly supportive for the most part (at one point, after a couple weeks, one coworker asked me, wasn’t enough enough already, and i kind of told her to shove it in so many words..). I would enter the house and my colleagues would be still, wondering, is today the day she’s not crying? Then they’d hear a big, sharp, catching-my-crying-breath inhale from downstairs and say, Guess not!
    It was truly, resoundingly pathetic. I laugh about it now, it sounds like something out of a movie.

    OP, don’t be 22 year old me.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      At least you were 22…

      This was similar to an old friend who had that kind of breakdown but at 30+. She didn’t get to keep her job but it wasn’t a setup like yours in the least. It was an industry with regulations and licencing required. She lost her license in the end.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        That’s brutal. Especially in a toxic relationship as Dolorous describes, there can be a surprising amount of mental/emotional fallout from the relationship ending, even though it’s ultimately a good thing. Due to assorted psychological bugs most human brains have, tumultuous (and abusive) relationships can actually be quite addictive, and it’s almost like coming off a drug when it’s over. I’ve heard many people say that recovering from relationships that were even emotionally abusive (let along physically) felt so much harder, and took a lot longer, than a “regular” break-up. That’s also one of the reasons why people end up going back so often.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          To be fair, in a regulated field, where other lives are greatly effected and at risk, there’s a lot less room for people to emotionally destruct for a period of time.

          But I do agree and understand abusive and emotionally destructive relationships do cause damages that often are permanent. It’s a twisted ugly part of even the most inclusive societies.

          1. Jaybeetee*

            Oh, I didn’t intend that your friend should have been allowed to slide at work – there are many careers out there where if you’re not on the ball, you simply have to sit out for awhile. If I’m having open-heart surgery or on an airplane, I want to know the staff involved are mentally with it and minimally distracted! I was just more generally commenting that people – including the people leaving the unhealthy relationships themselves – can be surprised by the emotional blowback in the aftermath.

        2. Dolorous Bread*

          Yes, this was definitely my experience. Also, Mean Ex had spent the last 2 years systematically crushing any self-worth I had, so when we broke up I literally didn’t know who I was anymore. I actually tried to convince him to take me back even though I was the one who ended things. It took forever to get over, and I still have some scars from it even though I’ve moved on and am in a much better place many years later.

    2. no*

      Glad you can laugh about it now, but not all of us can. Age doesn’t matter. I’m old and have depression, and what you’ve described is not unlike long stretches of my past few years. I think I’ll make “truly, resoundingly pathetic” my twitter bio.

      1. Dolorous Bread*

        I’ve been clinically depressed since I was a child, so miss me with that please.
        My behavior at work all those years ago WAS pathetic, and unacceptable in a professional environment. I’m amazed I was put up with.

        1. no*

          You’d think someone who understands depression would understand how labeling people suffering from it as “pathetic” could be exceedingly harmful. But you didn’t miss me with that.

          1. Dolorous Bread*

            Can you stop projecting? I’m talking about my OWN behavior and I can label it however I want.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Nope. As a person with depression and anxiety myself, so crippling I was a hermit for 20 years, you don’t get to be the Depression Police. I also laugh at my past behaviors. It’s a survival technique and you don’t get to take away my life jacket because you don’t like it’s look.

  55. cactus lady*

    Years ago, I started a new job and then broke up with my (objectively terrible) boyfriend 2 weeks later on a Sunday night. I didn’t get home till after 2am and I was a complete mess. Monday morning I texted my brand new boss and said, “my boyfriend and I just broke up late last night, I won’t be able to come in today but I’ll be in tomorrow.” It was admittedly risky, but one of the reasons he hired me was that we communicated well. He said ok and I took the day off to cry and be upset, I went into work on Tuesday and we never spoke of it again. I don’t get the sense that I was ever judged for it, though I can think of several other bosses I’ve had who would not have been ok with that (I still would have done it, but I would have said I had a family issue or something vague). I think it really helped to have a day just to myself to process everything so that, while I was absent for one day, it didn’t interfere with work in the long run. If there’s any way you can take a day (or a weekend day) to just feel whatever you need to, without judgement, I highly recommend it. It won’t fix everything or make all the sadness go away. But it can help a lot with not having those feelings interfere with work.

  56. Elizabeth West*

    OP, I’m really sorry you’re going through this. Breakups suck donkey balls. They really, truly do. It’s even worse when you’ve got to be on point at work, either in a new job or an existing one. The hardest part is going home at the end of the day, knowing that the person you loved isn’t there anymore. It doesn’t mean that you’re lacking or inferior or that YOU suck, just that it wasn’t the right situation for either of you.

    I second and third the advice to keep work separate as much as possible. It’s a new job; try to focus on learning it as much as you can. Take breaks when you need them, and do something nice for yourself on the breaks–a cup of tea or cocoa, a funny article on Buzzfeed, etc. (if it’s allowed, or on your phone).

    If coworkers ask about your personal life, you don’t have to share anything. You can redirect and talk about stuff you like to do, then change the subject. Like “Oh, I really like hiking in the mountains! It’s so fun and the air is great, etc. So what’s the deal with the TPS reports?”

    For me, I hate when people ask if I’m married, but if I feel comfortable enough, I sometimes say, “Nobody’s managed to catch me yet! *wink wink* So, TPS reports–what’s up with that?”

    When the workday is over, keep that vibe going. It’s okay to go home and have a meltdown, but if you can try to limit the time you spend thinking / being upset about it, it really does help. Like “I’m going to full-on cry over this for fifteen minutes and then I’m going to get up and clean the bathroom with really cool fun music playing / go for a run / play World of Warcraft” or whatever you can do that’s productive and/or fun. Talk to friends and family if you need to, online or off. Limit or cut off contact with your ex as much as possible. You can’t brood about what they’re doing if you don’t see it. Remember to feed yourself and get enough sleep so you can do your work at work.

    Keep telling yourself “I feel what I feel, it’s okay, and this will pass. I will be okay.” Nothing is permanent, not even heartbreak. You will be okay.


    1. OP*

      Thank you for your kind comment :) I’ve got to the point where I’m acknowledging that things are just really crappy atm – and that’s ok. It’s a crappy situation! I was walking to work today, looking at the winter trees and suddenly imagined the trees back in bloom again and how I will feel by then. It really helped! :)

  57. stitchinthyme*

    My mother lost her boyfriend of 15 years on her third day at a new job, when he died suddenly and unexpectedly. I’m not sure how she handled it at work, but I know that outside work she was a total mess for a while, apt to suddenly break into tears at the slightest thing. And because they weren’t actually married, she wasn’t entitled to bereavement leave.

    She got through it, though, and was at that job for something like 10 years.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I have a personal beef with bereavement leave for reasons just like this one. Putting relationships into objective buckets makes me seriously angry. I am so sorry for your mother and her loss.

      1. Antilles*

        Honestly, I think that’s less about the concept of bereavement leave and more about the rigidity of the individual company/management. Legally, there’s a clear difference between being married and boyfriend, but since this isn’t really a legal issue (unless there’s a specific contract in play), any reasonable person would basically wave it off as “take the time you need and I’ll straighten it up with HR” rather than parsing the exact wording.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      What what what? They’re that strict on bereavement leave? Did they require a license? This reminds me of places that require death certificates. That’s absurd and callous.

      1. stitchinthyme*

        I don’t think it’s that uncommon. I just checked my own company’s employee handbook, and it says bereavement leave is for “immediate relatives” and it has a list of what those are (spouse, parents, grandparents, siblings, children, grandchildren — all of these including in-law or step). It does, however, include “domestic partner” — although in my mother’s case, this happened in the ’90s, so I don’t think that category was as common as it is now. (Also, my mother never actually lived with him, so she still might not have qualified even if her company’s policy had included it.)

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ve seen two co-workers lose children.
        My corporation gives 3 days for the death of a child.

        Think about that. If they hadn’t had vacation time accrued, they’d have been expected in to work on Frid as y after a child died Monday.

        Just one of the reasons I’m updating my resume.

        1. stitchinthyme*

          3 days is my company’s bereavement leave policy, too. I have no children, though. The only one in my life whose passing would seriously devastate me is my husband…and yeah, I’d probably need more than 3 days if that happened.

  58. blink14*

    Unless someone mentions that you seem off or under the weather, I wouldn’t say anything to your co-workers. If you can take a day or two off, do that and use it as time to let out your emotions and think about the relationship, but then try to contain those thoughts and feelings to your personal time, and focus on work only when you are at work. You will survive this and move on to better things, most romantic relationships in anyone’s life will not last. Breakups are an unfortunate part of life, but you have to keep moving forward.

    Divorce (or the end of long term relationships), serious illness, death, etc are matters that can and most times should be addressed with your co-workers, as those situations are likely to have a serious impact on you short term and long term. There was a suicide in my family a couple of years ago, and I told my boss and a couple of close co-workers what happened, because I really struggled with the amount of anger I felt about it. In that case, it made sense to give more detail instead of being more general and saying a family member passed away, because it was actually effecting my work and my demeanor. It took me a couple of months before I felt like I was back to “normal” at work, but I can tell you that privately, I’m not still not totally over it, but I’ve learned to control how I deal with it.

    However, it does sound like some of your emotional reactions may be stemming from anxiety, and that is something to look at more closely and seek therapy and/or medication for. Once your anxiety is under control, you probably will find that the emotional side of going through this breakup is less intense.

  59. Delta Delta*

    I find that if I have something to focus on I can steer away from something else. I don’t want to go into a lot of details here, but I was made redundant at a job that I had for about 15 years – and had to continue working there for a few months after the redundancy. It was awful. Because of how it went I had a LOT of bad feelings, including bad feelings toward formerly close friends who worked there.

    During that period of time I figured out that I needed to focus on something or to have a goal to work on. Whether it was 10,000 Fitbit steps, or drinking a gallon of water a day, or something else, it seemed to work. When I felt a sneaky sad coming on, I’d go for a short walk around the office complex, or chug a glass of water, or something similar, so I’d feel like I was working toward that particular goal. That mental shifting helped me focus on THAT instead of the sad thing. Also, I lost a few pounds and was able to stay hydrated (crying is dehydrating, in addition to all the other things that go along with it).

    1. Delta Delta*

      The other thing. I think if someone detects you’re feeling a little off, it’s ok to say you just went through a bad breakup. If you’re able to keep it work-light, you can say something like, “it just happened last week. Talk about terrible timing!” And if people press more, you can say you don’t want to say any more about it because it’s bothering you. That’s probably true, and it avoids having to explain the whole situation, and any normal coworker would understand.

  60. Kella*

    OP, I wanted to respond a bit to the relationship side of things. Sometimes relationships that are very on-again off-again, but not terribly long (less than two years let’s say) are a specific type of difficult to move on from. Often the reason you went back and forth was because there was something in the dynamic or habits of contact that made it very difficult for one or both of you to walk away when you needed to. Because of this, when the relationship really does end, it can be very difficult not to want to slip into those old habits and find a way to be on again with your partner. It makes the aftermath a drain on your energy and your focus, rather than a time for cleansing grief and healing. Sometimes you’re not healing at all, because you haven’t let go of the possibility of going back again. I don’t know if that’s the case for you, or if it’s a conscious pull, but that’s been my experience in this kind of relationship and this kind of pain.

    I second the advice of others here that putting your focus on your work might be really helpful because of that. This isn’t a relationship advice column, but I’d also recommend not contacting your ex for a chunk of time if it’s logistically possible. Break the habits of being oriented around them, focus on *your* life, try to stay present in the moment. I think doing that will allow you to grieve rather than get stuck in a fixation pattern.

    1. OP*

      Thank you – all of this is spot-on. It’s the pull to be on again, even thought it’ll be wrong again! Work has actually been a fantastic way of staying focused on what’s right :) I’ll provide an update soon to Alison, but thank you for your advice and sympathy. It really helps!

  61. Cafe au Lait*

    OP–I’m sorry you’re having a rough time. I was in an off-again, on-again relationship many many moons ago and it took up so much headspace. Especially when it was finally off. The “on-again” nature of our relationship had taught me that he *might* return. Even though the relationship was unhealthy and I was secretly relieved for it to finally be over, part of me was stuck in waiting mode.

    Here are a couple of things I did to help:

    * I left my cell phone at home. The act of checking my phone multiple times a day to see if he texted kept me in the relationship dynamic. I could wonder all day if he’d texted but I wasn’t having multiple build-ups and let downs throughout the day.
    * I avoided the bands and TV shows we had in common. Watching or listening to those bands/shows made me think about the last time I’d watch them with my Ex. I took a six-month hiatus from Scrubs, Fall Out Boy and a couple of others I don’t remember now.
    *I looked at the times I’d most likely be sad and built-in “outs” for those times. I’d usually text him on lunches. I started walking or making a point to have lunch with coworkers. Either way that mental space was filled up, but I could get out of it if I really felt down.

    Ultimately what helped the most was telling him I couldn’t be friends. He’d wait juuuuuuusssst long enough to call for a friendly chat, and then I’d get sucked back in. One night I realized I’d never get over him and told him point blank that we couldn’t get doing the friend thing. I asked that he never call me again, delete me from his social media accounts so he couldn’t post on my stuff and not ask my sister about me. (‘Cause my sister would in turn tell me he was asking). I also told him to find a new way to get to work–he’d drive down my street ’cause it was quieter than the main throughway, and he hoped he’d see me for a moment if I was outside. I couldn’t feel at peace if I knew I might encounter his car driving past my place at any random time.

    Good luck.

  62. BRR*

    I’m sorry for your break up and this is a rough spot to be in because you can’t do the things that would probably help the most at a new job like take time off or rely on your reputation while going through a funk. Build self-care into your work day if you can. Maybe that means getting out at lunch and spending that time alone. If you’re able to, maybe you go for a short walk. Maybe it’s indulging in a coffee on the way to work or splurging on expensive tea to drink through the day. Try and fit into your work schedule what helps you get through the day.

  63. OhGee*

    I’ve been there – I had a very fraught relationship of less than two years end when I’d been at a job less than a year. I wasn’t brand new there, and it wasn’t the longest relationship of my life, but it was painful nonetheless. I second much of the kind advice given here. In particular, I think for many people, therapy can be super helpful for times when you’re experiencing an excess of emotional pain about *anything* in your life – in part because you have a neutral third party who is there to listen to your pain (something you shouldn’t expect of your coworkers) and in part because they may be able to help you figure out how to cope with that pain without it having an outsized effect at work. Good luck! In my experience, the breakups that hurt the most are usually the relationships I’m (eventually) most relieved to be free of.

  64. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    One of the things – about career advancement – is that you have to be able to handle difficult situations, both IN the workplace, and OUTSIDE of it.

    Learnedthehardway did say – seek professional help if this affects your day-to-day activity. It is normal to feel depressed when a life event occurs – a breakup, a death, a family member in distress, etc. and some use their work as a vehicle to get through a rough time. That’s not for everyone, but for some that works.

    I was fortunate, during a family member’s military service (in harms way) I asked for MORE responsibilities — to distract me from what was going on.

    Likewise, when I had the death of a parent (elderly, expected) taking my bereavement was one thing, but I kept on working as well – it was therapy…

    Everyone’s different but I’d advise OP to seek professional help – because what’s happening to her could be clinical depression.

  65. phedre*

    Oh LW, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It’s stressful enough starting a new job, and when you’re sad and brokenhearted it’s even worse. I feel your pain – 5 years ago my live-in boyfriend broke up with me in a particularly unkind way right before I started a new job. (He dumped me in the car after picking me up from the airport the day after Christmas, immediately moved in with his best female friend, and they were engaged 8 months later. In hindsight we were a bad fit for each other, but it was still a really terrible thing to go through)

    My suggestion is just to take care of yourself and cut yourself some slack. I wouldn’t tell your new coworkers right away that you just had a bad breakup, that can wait a couple of months until they know you better. Though you might be better than you think about putting on a professional face. Recently I mentioned offhandedly to my boss that I had a bad breakup before starting this job and had been super depressed. She was surprised and told me she had no idea, even though at the time I could feel the sadness oozing from my pores and was convinced everyone could tell.

    Pare down your life to the essentials – for me going to work, therapy, and hanging out with my friends was where I needed to focus. The gym, some of my hobbies, and volunteering all could wait until I was feeling better. Pour your energy into your work and excel there. Try to compartmentalize and do your best to keep it professional, but don’t be embarrassed if you have a sad day at work. The overwhelming majority of people are compassionate and understand – most people have had a broken heart at some point in their lives.

    You’ll get through this and your life will get better, I promise. When I was in the middle of my heartbreak, it felt like I was always going to feel this way and I would never find anyone and I would be alone the rest of my life. Which of course isn’t true – it’s just the heartbreak talking. It gets easier with time, until eventually you realize you don’t even think about your ex anymore.

  66. agnes*

    It has helped me a lot to do an absolutely bang up job at work when other areas of my life aren’t doing so well. At least I can say that I am knocking it out of the park at work, even if I am not doing so well in other areas. It can be a self esteem boost.

    It has also helped me to think through what bullets I may have dodged by not having this person in my life. I bet if you go back and think very hard and logically, you will see some warning signs that all was not well. Think about if this happened after you had spent years together or had kids together. Thank goodness if this person wasn’t reliable that you found out now instead of later.

    Finally, I do think that having times to grieve works well. Compartmentalizing really does help and is valuable in so many areas of life.

  67. FYI*

    You ARE supposed to Pull Yourself Together, and it IS unprofessional to raise it with a colleague, especially a new one.

  68. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I want to add that this is a survival moment as well.

    When bad things. Painful things. Nasty. No good. Very bad things happen. Our minds can go into self destruct mode.

    Self destruction includes being dramatic in front of bosses or coworkers. It can be oversharing with people who have power over your ability to take care of yourself (pay bills, buy food).

    There are places and people who will help you in times of personal crisis. And you can’t let these things destroy your world.

    At most you take PTO or speak to someone you’re close with.

    I’ve been at my job for a year. A very dear person passed recently. My conversation with my boss was “I got some terrible news. My Loved One passed away. So if I’m a little “off”, that’s why.” He’s a compassionate man who is always willing to deal with this stuff.

    Previous bosses were pricklier. I told them “personal stuff” was going on. They nodded and gave me space.

    But I still showed up. Some extra mistakes happen or I would take extra breaks to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. It’s all about routine when healing.

    You can rehab your heart like you rehab a muscle sprain or broken bone. But you have to want to. Your family, friends and acquaintances can’t do the work for you.

  69. Superman's Wife*

    My husband of ten years and I just separated and we’re going through a divorce.

    I’ve just moved out into my own apartment.

    My 13 year old son who has ADHD and ODD is not handling it well and to make matters worse he just started at a new school and is not transitioning well. He’s having a really hard time with all the changes and to top it all off we are in the midst of trying to find the right medications for him so he’s also adjusting to that.

    He’s been suspended twice in the last month.

    I am extremely depressed and because I am bipolar my current psychiatrist is refusing to put me on an anti-depressant for fear of triggering a manic episode. I’m searching for a new therapist because I need to be on an anti-depressant and SSRIs are not the be all end all of anti-depressants.

    I got off the one I was on because I gained 50 lbs in the year I was on it. Even though it was helping, I made the decision to get off because the weight gain was unsustainable.

    I am so depressed I can barely function. I cry all the time. All I want to do is sleep and hide under the covers until this is over.

    But I can’t afford to do that…I don’t know if you’re familiar with ADHD/ODD but a male teenager suffering from this condition is INTENSE. He has to be under supervision at all times because you never know what crazy stunt he’s going to pull off next.

    I know this does not relate to anything you’re going through.

    I am just telling you because I sympathize with your break up and have an idea of how you’re feeling at work. It’s very hard to get up in the morning and get dressed and get through the day when your heart is broken.

    But it can be done.

    I chose not to mention anything to anyone at work except my manager because immediately after the break up I had to take a week off to find housing and take care of my son. My colleagues think I am still married/with my husband and that we are still all living together. (My ex-husband had two children of his own I was raising). They are staying with him. So it’s just my son and I now.

    I chose not to say anything to anyone because it’s none of their business but also because I can’t talk about it without losing my shit.

    It’s gotten so bad I have suicidal thoughts at times.

    But I am getting through it.

    I get up early every morning and give myself 30 minutes to wallow, cry, feel sorry for myself, let anxiety roam free. Then I stop when the coffee is finished and I get started with my morning. I sit with the cat for a few minutes and let her loving and purring soothe me before I take care of myself, wake up my son and get him ready for school.
    I schedule my lunch for 12pm every day. I make it a point not to schedule any meetings for that time whenever possible. Anyone tries, I politely inform them I have a conflict and cannot reschedule it. Then I make it a point to stop working and while I eat at my desk, I don’t work. I read, browse the internet, read AAM, listen to music while I enjoy my lunch.

    I hired a sitter to help with my son in the afternoons. She cleans the apartment and takes care of the cat box, makes sure she has food, etc. and brings my son to his psychologist/psychiatrist appointments to lessen the burden on me to have to leave work, pick him up, bring him to the doctor, etc. I meet them there.

    I did request time off when the separation took place but I used that time to look for housing. I THREW myself at the task and I’m proud to say I found an apartment in 5 days.

    I put on the brave face at work and smile, interact with co-workers and pretend all is peachy for the sake of keeping appearances but also because I cannot afford to lose it there.

    I wait until my son’s asleep and I call my best friend to vent, to cry, share the latest struggle…to do whatever I need to do to let my feelings out.

    I’ve made it a point to focus on work to get through it. I remind myself I NEED THIS JOB. My son depends on it. So messing up at work or doing anything that may jeopardize this job is NOT AN OPTION. So I am here early every day. I do my work, I contribute and try to go above and beyond. Because failure is not an option.

    So do what you need to do. Use work as your therapy.

    Rely on friends. Take care of yourself. Go to the bathroom if you need to cry. But don’t share at work. You’re new there and they will not understand what you’re going through. They may think a one year relationship is not long enough and they may judge you. You’re the new guy and they don’t know you enough to understand how deeply this has affected you.

    Take care of yourself and best of luck!

    1. phedre*

      This is wonderful advice. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this, and I hope things improve for you soon.

  70. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    I suggest: Cry before you get to work. Cry until you’re exhausted. Wail into a pillow.

    I know it’s weird, but if you wallow a bit and really cry it out, you will get it out of your system, at least for now, and be ready to work.

    If you are spending the whole day trying to keep it together so you can go home and fall apart, all your energy is going to go to holding it in. Think of it like peeing. If you spend the whole day having to pee, you’re going to be completely distracted by how badly you have to go. Pee before you get on the bus in the morning.

    Also: pretend to be a fitness nut and go jogging or brisk walking on your lunch break. Don’t wear headphones. Use that time to think your darkest thoughts. The exercise helps burn off the nervous energy, and your brain also gets tired of the dark thoughts after a while and wants to do something else. Bonus: you will look like a super motivated person who really has their shit together.

    1. Mallows*

      Catharsis! I’ve never known anyone else to recommend it but it sure worked for me – absolutely wallowing in it, crying til I’m red-faced, deliberately watching sad movies, etc. OP, the planned sobbing before work is definitely worth a try because as I imagine you have discovered by now, you physically cannot cry forever. Good luck and NO text messaging – you don’t want to risk having to go through this more than once!

  71. LaDeeDa*

    I was at a company for about 3 months when my heart was crushed in a really dramatic and horrible way. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, my weight was dropping really rapidly and people noticed and asked if I was ok. I said I was fine, there was no way I was going to tell people I was suffering from a broken heart. Because I wasn’t sleeping or eating and was distracted, I was slower at my work- but I did everything to keep it hidden. I took work home on the weekends, I came in early, I stayed late- whatever it took to make sure I met deadlines and my work was flawless. If I was in a bad place I just called in sick, but I tried not to. It took months before I felt better, but I wasn’t going to let people at work know anything.
    You will feel better, and you don’t want this to be what people remember and think about you. Keep it to yourself, and I hope you feel better soon.

  72. Quinoa*

    Oh, OP, I so understand. After prolonged unemployment, I finally got a job that was my dream job. And a month later, my long-term partner of over five years broke up with me. Things had been going downhill in the relationship, but I thought it was salvageable. It was not. I was lucky enough to have a very understanding boss and to have some vacation time scheduled so that I could focus on healing.

    It’s really hard. Especially when you have a steep learning curve at a new job and you are having trouble focusing because of the emotional turmoil. Know that it will get better, that you will survive this, and that one day, probably sooner than you imagine, your pain will ease.

  73. Higher Ed Anonymous*

    I have a colleague who lost a pet and took a sick day. Everyone knew what it was for (she had talked about the dog often), and was sympathetic. She was also off for a few days after coming back, and I don’t think most people thought anything of it. If you are able to take time/go to therapy and keep your emotions mostly to yourself, I don’t think most people will notice.

    However, I will say that now, four months after the dog died, my colleague is snapping at people and not meeting deadlines and telling us it’s because of grief for the dog. That’s the thing people are losing sympathy with her over. Absolutely don’t let this make you get upset with other people (if something happens you can’t control, apologize, which my colleague has not done), and don’t tell others to anticipate your work sliding; that’s going to lose you both work political capital and normal human sympathy.

  74. Jennifer*

    I’m a big fan of taking mental health days. You don’t have to give them the reason why. Trust me, LW, there are many people who have found themselves simply unable to get out of bed during a difficult personal time and called in sick. Also, look into your EAP at your job if it’s offered. A counselor can help talk you through your break up. Best wishes to you.

  75. Bowserkitty*

    Oh OP, I feel you. My situation was a little different but a job I had been a temp for for 7 months hired me on full-time and that was when my relationship of almost 3 years began to completely fall apart. I was lucky I had that past 7 months on me but I still felt like a new employee. As much as I still think my old boss was a psychopath, she was extremely empathetic for personal matters. (To frame this: shortly after the break-up, my mom and childhood cat both got cancer and my kitty passed away. happy to report my mom has been in remission for 5+ years!) She was incredibly sympathetic and offered up our EAP line. This was also the time I managed to say enough is enough and got my suffering mental health into an ARNP who became one of my favorite people.

    I had so many days where I just could not work because I was either getting sick from anxiety (couldn’t keep food down) or I would spontaneously have breakdowns. If you are able to use your sick time please do so. This will pass. It may take several weeks (in my case it took 3 months before I felt normal again) but it WILL get better.

    Rooting for you!!

  76. theschnauzer*

    Ahhh, I’m super late to this, but I also want to commiserate with you :( Breakups are so difficult, and while you can logically understand the rationale behind everything that happened…the emotion of it all can be so wrenchingly overwhelming.

    In any case, I wanted to share something that helped me a lot – when I was struck with the urge to send a text message to my ex, I would write it down instead. Write out everything I wanted to say, as long and as desperate as I felt – just to get it out there, to stop the thoughts from bouncing around in my head. Then I’d close the journal. This helped me mentally close the loop, so to speak, and get on with the rest of my day.

    It may help to keep a journal at work (probably on your phone, to prevent someone from finding it) – just jot down the things that come to mind and then stash the note away.

    It always takes time – more than we’d like – but you’ll get through it. :)

    1. nnn*

      Yes, this is what I came to suggest. When I was in a similar situation, I found it very helpful to write out all the stuff I wanted to say just to get it out of my head, but not send it (and more often than not delete it).

      You do have to be very mindful of your context. You have to be sure that writing it out will help, as opposed to making you cry. You have to be aware of optics – if you’re writing on your phone, it could look like you’re texting all day. If you’re writing on your computer, then you’ve got romantic anguish on an employer computer.

      I did do it on my computer (in Notepad, and never saved anything), which may or may not have been a good idea. But I had a set-up where passersby couldn’t see my screen, so all they could see was fast typing, which is exactly what doing my job looks like. And getting it out of my head gave me the headspace to actually do my job.

  77. Raine*

    I went through an extremely nasty breakup many years ago. Even though the relationship had been less than a year old, it thoroughly wrecked me (it was emotionally abusive and manipulative, and actually changed me as a person) and I ended up in therapy because of it. Something my therapist said has really stuck with me, and that was that when a relationship ends badly, it’s the same as if you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one. Someone you cared for deeply is no longer in your world, and you have to take time to grieve. The fact that our society doesn’t recognize that is probably just another symptom of how messed up it is.

    I’m sorry for your loss. Do what you can to take care of yourself, and if the pain doesn’t fade, don’t be afraid to seek out professional help. It put me back into a human shape again, and it could do the same for you. <3

  78. Anon'ing here*

    I think one reason I haven’t started a new relationship is because the aftermath of its failure is so painful, and I did not like how that interfered with my work day the last time it happened. Quite likely no one noticed, but I remember thinking how much effort it took to keep composed. I have enough difficulty dealing with and helping close relatives with various physical and mental issues. Does anyone else feel like they really don’t want another relationship followed by intense heartbreak?

  79. SloppyLips*

    Reading all these comments makes me angry and sad. I can’t help but think that these situations are exasperating mental health issues worldwide. What are we, emotionless slaves? Where is the compassion? Does it always have to be about the almighty dollar and profits? No wonder the anti-depressant market is so wide spread and profitable. I’m sorry people have to go through those trying times in this manner.

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