Break Up at Work | Counseling | Therapy

Break Up at Work

Jennifer Foust, PhD, MS, LPC , MS, LPC, PHD — Clinical director

Break Up at Work  Relationship and Grief Therapy in Ocean City, NJ image

A break up at work can be a very stressful experience. Many adults spend a lot of their time at work and with their co-workers. As a result, it can be pretty common to meet someone at work and start a relationship. Or, sometimes a couple decides to open a business and work together. Working together can be a fun and rewarding experience. However, what if the relationship becomes strained or there is even a break up at work? Does someone leave their work or business? If so, who leaves? If neither of you can or want to leave, how do you handle it? Read below to learn ways to manage a break up at work in different situations.

I can’t leave my job. It would ruin my career.

If you had a break up at work and you have decided that you can’t leave your job, there are some ways to make your experience of working with your ex more comfortable. Here are some areas to consider:

1. How much interaction do I need to have? (Relationship and Grief Therapy in Ocean City, NJ).

When you were in a relationship with your ex, you likely spent a lot of time engaging with them. Now, you need to ask yourself how much interaction you really need to have. Be sure to only engage in interactions that you absolutely have to have.

2. Are there ways that I can decrease interaction? (Relationship and Grief Therapy in Ocean City, NJ).

You may find that there are ways that you can decrease your interaction. Maybe you can get assigned to different projects than your ex, or maybe you can work different hours. Any way that you can decrease your interaction with your ex, even if it is small, can really help.

3. Can we have a conversation about how to manage interactions we need to have? (Relationship and Grief Therapy in Ocean City, NJ).

Sometimes having a conversation about the break up at work and how it has affected your work environment can help. See if you can talk with your ex about how to manage the interactions that you need to have and how to make them the most comfortable for both of you. Consider this option only if you think that you and your ex can have a neutral and effective conversation about it. If there were a lot of hurt feelings or negative interactions that occurred, you may want to just try ways to decrease interaction at work rather than risking another negative interaction by trying to have a conversation.

4. What kind of self-care do I need? (Relationship and Grief Therapy in Ocean City, NJ).

Having a break up at work and seeing your ex can be tough, even in the best of circumstances. Try to make sure that you have some time for yourself and any feelings that may come up for you. This could include engaging in an enjoyable hobby outside of work, such as exercising, meditation, yoga, and much more. Think about what kind of self-care really works for you. Some people need something active like exercise, while others prefer something slowing and passive such as meditation or sitting outside observing nature. Other ways to engage in self-care are to distract yourself with something you enjoy such as watching a movie, show, or playing a video game. The idea of self-care is engaging in something positive that feels good for you.

I don’t want to leave my business. It’s all I know and I helped build it (Relationship and Grief Therapy in Ocean City NJ).

Owning a business with an ex involves many of the same questions above. However, there are few additional issues to consider when your break up at work involves you and your ex owning the business..

1.What can each of you do separately to meet the needs of the business?

The needs of the business have to come first in order for its success, and it often involves a lot of interaction from its owners. Ask yourself what business tasks you have typically done together that can now be done separately. Try to complete those tasks separately and meet with your partner to discuss them at one agreed upon time if needed. Also, ask yourself if there are ways to communicate that will be more comfortable, such as with another person present, over email or phone, etc.

2. Can you have someone else help with professional communications?

Sometimes, it can be helpful to have another trusted person in the business that knows the operations to help with communication. Think about how you can utilize another person to assist with communication and what communication that you absolutely have to do with your ex. If you and your ex really struggle to communicate without a lot of negative interaction, having a person you trust that can assist with the communication is really important. It is hard to heal when there are a lot of regular negative interactions.

I don’t know if I should leave or stay (Relationship and Grief Therapy in Ocean City NJ).

In the above scenarios, the person knew that they wanted to stay, but what happens if you have a break up at work and are not sure what makes the most sense? It is important to get more detailed in reviewing pros and cons to really consider the various factors that are involved. Changing jobs can be a big step and you want to make sure that you are making an informed decision. The table below lists the benefits/costs of staying in your current job or leaving for a new one. Here are some questions you can consider while you are completing the chart. An example of a completed chart is below.

  • -How important is this job to me?
  • -Could I find another job I like?
  • -Does my current job have benefits that are really important to me?
  • -Is my job more important than my discomfort?
  • -How would I handle my discomfort if I stayed and how would I take care of myself?
  • -What kind of loss would I feel if I left? Am I prepared for those emotions?
  • -How would selling my business affect me financially?
  • -How would selling my business affect me emotionally?
  • -What would I want to do for work if I sold my business?
  • - Would I have resentment if I left?

New Job

Current Job/Business


-Start fresh with new coworkers.

-No contact with ex.

-Be challenged in a new way and further develop my career

- Have great benefits

- Have seniority.

- Know how the company works.

- I really like owning my own business..


-Starting over

-Unfamiliar. What if I don’t like my new job?

-lose my tuition reimbursement

-sadness and resentment about leaving my current job.

-dealing with my ex daily.

-dealing with the rumor mill and dating issues.

-having to restructure to have less contact with ex which is challenging.

You may want to also look at the benefits of leaving your job right now versus leaving later. For example, maybe you have to give back tuition money if you leave now, or maybe you want to get through a major business hurdle before you leave. Sometimes, there can be major costs to leaving right away that may be mitigated if you stayed a bit longer. It is important to consider these issues. In addition to these logistical issues, it is also important to consider emotional issues. Are you going to be resentful if you leave right away if there are major costs (for example giving back tuition money)? Or are you going to feel relief initially, but then resentful for deciding to leave? Really exploring how you will feel emotionally about your decision to leave or stay is as important as considering the logistical pieces.

I want them to leave and they won’t (Relationship and Grief Therapy in Ocean City, NJ).

Sometimes a person doesn’t want to leave the job but they really expect that the ex-partner should. Sometimes a person may think this because their ex partner has a job of lesser status and because of that they feel the person should leave. While this may feel very frustrating, it is not your decision if they want to stay or leave regardless of their job position. Focusing on anger or trying to get your ex to leave is wasted energy and does not help you heal from the break up. In this situation, it is important to focus on what you can control, which is how to manage working with your ex. Focus your attention on the reasons that you want to stay and how to work on ways to manage having your ex partner in the workplace. Consider responding to the above questions about staying at your job.

A break up at work is hard. If you are still struggling with this experience, talking to a therapist can be very helpful. A break up at work can be a very difficult situation that a therapist can help guide you through. The Center for Growth offers grief and relationship therapy at our offices in Philadelphia, PA, Mechanicsville, VA, Ocean City, NJ, and Santa Fe, NM. We also offer virtual therapy in GA and FL. Please call 215-922-5683 or self schedule an appointment with one of our relationship and grief therapists.

InPerson Therapy & Virtual Counseling: Child, Teens, Adults, Couples, Family Therapy and Support Groups. Anxiety, OCD, Panic Attack Therapy, Depression Therapy, FND Therapy, Grief Therapy, Neurodiversity Counseling, Sex Therapy, Trauma Therapy: Therapy in Providence RI, Philadelphia PA, Ocean City NJ, Santa Fe NM, Mechanicsville VA