Oilfield Lady

I work in the oil field. I’ve had flings at work before (not difficult being one of the few women working in the oil fields) but nothing really serious. A few months ago, I started seeing one of the guys up there (we worked on the same project, but in different sections.) He was really sweet, and the sex was fantastic. When that project ended, we each got new jobs in different places. Long story short, we started arguing, and I think miscommunication was playing a big role as we were only talking over text message. One time, he sent me a text that said “We’re done.” Which I took to mean he was breaking up with me. But he said he meant he was too tired to continue arguing that night. Things like that.

While we were arguing, the possibility of breaking up came up several times. And every time it did, he’d beg me not to leave him. He’d say how he doesn’t want to lose me, and he’d ask what he could do to make things better, and he never liked when I said I needed space to think. I’m pretty sure he still doesn’t understand why I was upset in the first place (I didn’t want to spend my days off sitting around in a hotel, hoping that he’d find some energy to spend time with me after working twelve hour days.)

Well, we wound up breaking up. He said he wanted to figure some things out, and that he couldn’t do that while in a relationship.

And now, just a couple of weeks later, he wants me back. He hasn’t figured out anything, except that he doesn’t want to lose me. He wants me to tell him what to say to make it better. I told him that I don’t want him to say what he thinks I want to hear, or some grand romantic gesture, or anything like that. I’m hurt and I want some space. What should I do?

Keep doing what you’re doing.

Grand romantic gestures only work in movies and smut novels. They won’t fix the communication problems that got you two into this mess in the first place.

He needs to figure out that if he can’t work through communication issues with his partner, he’s going to lose her. Getting back with him at this point wouldn’t change anything.

Text message is unfortunately one of the worst ways to maintain communication in relationships. Yes, it’s quick and easy. You can send off a text whenever you have a spare moment, instead of planning to sit down for an hour to talk over the telephone. But you lose body cues and vocal inflections that provide context to words (if you’d been in the same room when he said “We’re done” and you could see how tired he was, you might have realized that he meant “We’re done arguing right now, because I’m tired.”) It’s also too easy to be something you’re not when you’re hiding behind text.

Sending texts throughout the day isn’t a bad thing when you use them properly: to check in with your partner, say a quick hello, send a joke or funny picture, that kind of thing. But important conversations, like why you’d rather not spend your days off sitting in a hotel room waiting for him to come around if he has the energy, should be done when you can at least hear each others voices.

That being said, this man needs to work on his communication skills. Of course you’re going to confuse “We’re done” with “I’m breaking up with you.” Why couldn’t he say, “I’m really tired. Can we talk about this more tomorrow?”

So take your space, nurse your wounds, and do whatever you need to do to feel more like yourself. If you need to go celibate for a year, or have wild, swinging-from-the-chandeliers sex with a random partner, or something in between, do it. But take care of yourself first. He can worry about himself.

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