Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Real Talk with Rachel: Ex on the Job; Vacation Incompatibility

by Rachel Kurzius

Hello and welcome to "Real Talk with Rachel." I am the eponymous Rachel and together we will explore your questions of ethics and etiquette, from the monumental to the mundane. Essentially, the moment you throw your hands up in frustration screaming, "What do I do?" you should start typing up your quandary
and sending it my way.

President Obama (and surely presidents before him) noted that, by the time something arrives at his desk, it's not usually good. Otherwise, his staff would have already dealt with the issue. Similarly, by the time your questions get to me you've exhausted your other advice resources. I look forward to tackling your challenging queries.

My experience in advice-giving comes from a life of doing so more than from the acquisition of degrees. I am on-call 24/7 for friends and family regarding topics like work interactions, relationship woes, friendship navigation and more. People call because I listen and think carefully about my response. I pledge the same to you.

Of course, my advice isn't the end-all be-all. I am sure some of you will disagree with me at times. This is a good thing -- it demonstrates the murky waters we swim in when we offer counsel. For a truly robust community, I encourage you to write in with your misgivings. This is going to be a good time.

Thank you for joining me today, and I hope on a weekly basis. Be well!

Rachel Kurzius
advice @


Dear Rachel,

About two months ago, my boyfriend's ex-girlfriend moved back into town. Worse, she now wants to apply for a job at his company. I don't mind them being in touch, but I can't live with the idea that they might be co-workers. I want to talk with my boyfriend about this before she applies for and possibly gets a job at his company (about 50 people), but I feel it might be unfair for me to ask him to discourage her from applying. She is quite well qualified for the position. On the other hand, I get this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach just thinking about the possibility of the two of them working together every day. Should I tell him how I feel?

Worrying Overtime

Dear Worrying Overtime,

You should definitely have a conversation about this with your boyfriend, not so he'll discourage his ex from applying to the job, but because the two of you should be open with one another about your feelings. Skip the dramatics and calmly explain how the ex-girlfriend's new moves make you uncomfortable. If you and your boyfriend have an honest and caring relationship, you'll have little need to worry.

It sounds like you're really torn up about this, though. Do you think she's only applying to the job because your boyfriend works there? Or, do you worry that your boyfriend still has feelings for her? These are things  you should bring up in the conversation, but try to avoid accusing him. Stick with "I feel..." or "It makes me feel..." sentences.

Let's say she gets the job (and she might not -– I've applied to tons of jobs where I felt well qualified and never even heard back.) That means she'll be working with your boyfriend along with 48 other people. If they're actually working, there'll be little time for rekindling old flames. Don't imagine them chatting it up in the lounge; think about him actually working to avoid paranoia during the work day.

And, most importantly, don't forget that she is the ex for a reason. The two of them realized they shouldn't be together. Now you're the girlfriend. Be confident and keep the lines of communication open.

All my best,


Dear Rachel,

Are my boyfriend and I incompatible? I like planned vacations, scripted, knowing where I'll be staying, at a minimum. He likes to "wing it," even when it comes to hotels. I like making dinner reservations; he likes walking around and seeing where we end up. Is there a middle ground? Should we take separate vacations?

Planning for the Worst

Dear Planning for the Worst,

Your situation sounds like the plot of a romantic comedy – an obsessive planner and a spontaneity-loving vagabond head to the tropical islands for a week full of hijinks, hilarity and, in the end, love. It's never a good idea to depend on Hollywood for advice, but you two aren't necessarily doomed.

Being incompatible is less about whether you have the same preferences than how you compromise your different tastes. For instance, what happens when you two disagree about the course of action (or lack thereof)? Do you listen to each other and try to come up with a bargain? Or, do you both get so frustrated that it becomes a big argument? If it's the former, you two could still be perfectly compatible. If you more resemble the latter, you need to think about why you're together.

You should come to a compromise that works for the two of you. Here's a suggestion to jog your brains: book a place to stay for all nights but one, when you'll get the chance to wing it. And then, do the opposite in regards to dinner by keeping all nights free except for one or two. That way, you can make reservations for the restaurants you're excited about, but leave your options open for discovery on the other nights. Hopefully, your compromise will help you see the appeal in one another's preferences.

From what you've written, it seems like this is an issue that only flares up during vacations, though presumably you're still more interested in planning and he prefers winging it while at home. Vacations can be stressful because there's such pressure to relax, ironically enough, and because you're spending hard-earned money. Just take a deep breath and enjoy. Safe travels!

All my best,


Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a reporter at a financial trade publication. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel at advice (at)

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