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#369: Breaking off contact with an ex.

African Violet, photo by dog.happy.art on Flickr, shared under a Creative Commons attribution-noncommercial license.

Photo by dog.happy.art on Flickr, shared under a Creative Commons license.

Dear Captain Awkward:

A year ago I broke up with a girlfriend of three years. Before she was my girlfriend she had been my best friend for over 10 years, and was someone whom I deeply trusted with pretty much everything. When we broke up it was very messy and she said some very hurtful things to me, things that, due to all those years of knowing each other, she knew would hurt me pretty deeply. And it did. But that really is not my core issue.

I’ve been suffering from depression for a couple of years (approximately 2 years), and only recently have I started seeing a therapist and taking meds to help me with my issues. And it has worked wonderfully. But those sessions have made me realize a lot of really troubling things about my past relationship. 

The doctor brought to my attention that her behavior had been pretty controlling and abusive towards me, even before we started going out. A small list of her behavior: she would get upset when I went out to hang out with other friends that were not her; also, if I had planned an outing with her and a few others, she would get upset that there were other friends there appart from her. If I liked things that she didn’t like, she got upset, same if I didn’t like things that she did. It got to the point that I would just agree with her so she would’t get passive-agressive with me. She also would get angry with me for the strangest things, like, messing up the structure of a sentence or misremembering the name of her college. She would start berating me for forgetting something so easy and so on. And on one occassion, when one of my friends was staying over at my room (I currently live in a college residence) because she was sick and her roomate wasn’t there, while i was skypeing with her, she got very upset and demanded that I tell her to leave, when I didn’t she got angry and hung up. I got so distressed over that that my friend took to leaving to her room whenever she called me via skype. And whenever I called her out on her behavior, for some reason, I would always end up apologizing to her for saying anything. And she could be so condessending towards me that she made me feel bad for things I didn’t feel bad for before (I’m really short, I don’t have a complex about it. But she once told me that she avoided heels when going with me so I would’t feel bad. I was hurt and for years I didn’t know why).

It wasn’t until I broke up that I took notice of how much she monopolized my time. My friends said that they were happy that I  had more times to hang out with them and I have stopped agreeing with people just to avoid a disagreement. 

I am currently in a relationship and I am very happy. My girlfriend knows about my past relationship and is very helpful and supportive of me. I can’t help but notice how different a healthy relationship is. 

The problem is; though, that my ex wants to have a friendship with me. She sends me e-mails asking how I am or via IM saying hi and telling me she’s bored and so on. Up until the past weekend, I would answer and chat with her for a while. However, ever since my session with the doctor I feel very uncomfortable whenever i recieve messages from her. Mostly because I feel hurt that she would act the way she did when we were going out and because I didn’t notice and allowed it to continue. I haven’t answered her messages since and I have avoided logging on on the IM, but I can’t do that forever. I do, however want her to stop trying to treat me as if nothing had happened. i don’t know how to tell her in a way that won’t end with me apologizing again. 

I want to make it clear to her that I don’t want her to keep contacting me. I don’t want an apology or anything of the sort, I just want to stop contact. I just want to do it in a way that would prevent her from taking it out on our mutual friends and with my sister, with whom she is relatively friendly with.

How do I do that?

Yours, 

Progressing

Dear Progressing:

Grieving a breakup is weird. There is the part where you miss them. There is the part where you get really angry about stuff that happened, except the person you’re angry with isn’t around anymore so you’re just left with yourself and being angry at yourself for putting up with it so long. You have all this insight and the creative energy released by destruction….and nowhere to put it.

I’ve got a lot of these “delayed reaction” questions in my mailbox. “I’m realizing in the aftermath that my ex was really not good for me. Why am I still sad/angry about that even though things are so much better now? What can I do?

Sometimes we get this delayed burst of self-awareness. M.F.K. Fisher called it “the sea change”:

“The next time we put to sea, in 1932, was not so much later, about a year…but I was more than a year older. I don’t know why; I simply matured in a spurt, so that suddenly I knew a lot about myself and what I wanted and what I had to do. It made me soberer, and I was much less shy.”

-from The Gastronomical Me, by M.F.K. Fisher

You’re in the middle of the sea change.

And you are doing all the right things to take care of yourself. Going to therapy is so, so smart. It’s the place to take this newfound voice of yours and let it talk. It’s okay to still be processing everything from the relationship – you’re not taking anything away from your new partner by working things out. Cutting off contact with your ex is one more way of taking care of yourself. You don’t have to relive all the old feelings every time she feels bored and gchats you.

Good news: You don’t have to be friends with your ex. You don’t have to justify the decision or prove any bad faith or bad qualities on her part. “I would prefer not to be in contact” is a good enough reason to not be in contact.

Bad news: You want to cut contact off in a way that will “prevent her from taking it out on your friends and your sister, who she is still in contact with.”

What makes you think you can control any part of her behavior? What makes you think there are words for this? You can’t. I can’t. Your new self-awareness is not transitive. She may well take it out on mutual friends or have a bad angry scary reaction or a lot of hurt feelings.

Let. Her.

And let that go as something you have to worry about or try to prevent. Just take care of yourself. Even if she reacted very badly, cutting off contact with her would still be 100% the right thing to do. Her behavior is hers and you won’t have caused it. It won’t be a reflection on you. Also, there is no Being the Bigger Person Award for Suffering In Silence.

You’ve already started this process by not replying to any of her messages since your doctor’s appointment. So get your courage up, run this by your therapist, and then send an email:

Dear (Ex):

I appreciate your efforts to remain friendly, but I’m finding that I need to make a clean break with you in order to fully heal and move on from everything that happened with us. I realize that this is painful given the long history we’ve shared, but I must ask you not to contact me anymore and to let me be the one to get in touch if at some point I feel ready.

I’m sure we’ll run into each other from time to time through (sister, mutual friends), and I’ll do my best not to make things weird when that happens. In the meantime, I wish you all the best and thank you in advance for respecting my wishes about this.”

Then, once you’ve let her know, block or filter her emails, and block her on every social media platform. Delete her number from your phone, or download a call blocker app. And if she gets around those safeguards and somehow contacts you, don’t answer. Even if she contacts you 1,000 times. If you answer, you just teach her that it takes 1,001 pings to get your attention.

Understandably, no one loves getting a “and by the way, never talk to me again” email, so her reaction might not be great. You describe a lot of controlling behavior within your relationship, and controlling people don’t like to see a good minion get away. She may try to get you to interact with her or to agitate your sister or mutual friends into bugging you on her behalf. She might try to manipulate a situation where you have to return stuff to each other or float some bullshit about “closure.” If that happens, keep in mind:

1. Returning stuff to unfriendly exes is what the postal service is for.

2. Closure is an illusion. It isn’t something that another person can give you. Closure is you saying “I want a clean break, don’t talk to me” followed by her having whatever feelings she’s going to have about that until she finds some peace for herself. It’s not something she will get by remaining engaged with you or by you meeting her for FEELINGSCOFFEE one last time.

ONE “Whoa, I’m really sorry to hear that, is there anything I can do to change your mind?” reply from her is understandable and within bounds. You don’t have to reply but you can say “I am sorry, I realize that is bad news, but it’s the right decision for me,” (and then not reply anymore). Any more than that is way out of bounds and deserves no acknowledgement or reply. So if she escalates or tries to drag your friends into it, don’t frame it as “I told Ex to stop contacting me and now it’s my fault all my friends and my sister are getting riled up, oh no, I made drama.” Frame it as  “Ex is confirming that I made the right decision. She is making drama instead of doing what I asked her to do.”

You can tell your sister and your friends exactly what happened:

I found I needed a clean break from being in contact with Ex, so I asked her to stop contacting me for a while and let me be the one to be in touch. I’m sorry if that put you in the middle in any way, but I feel really good about the decision. I don’t really like talking about her, so can we change the subject? How are you doing?

It’s honest, direct, and you’re not asking anyone to take sides. If she keeps bugging them about you, they can make their own decision about what to do about that and you can make your own decision about how much of that you tolerate.

You’re going to have a day, probably very soon, where you don’t think about her at all. A day where you’ve made it all the way across the sea into this new life of yours, and when you tell the story about your ex it will be like something that happened a very long time ago to a different person. “We were very close for a long time, but it didn’t work out in the end.”

The rest is silence. Silence and time.

108 comments
  1. Sheelzebub said:

    I’m seconding everything the Captain said here. If this ex actually stirs crap up with your sister and mutual friends, then she’s proving you made a good decision to cut off contact.

    Good luck, LW! And many Jedi hugs.

  2. I have had so many FEELINGSCOFFEES with various exes over the years, in pursuit of that elusive holy grail of closure. All any FEELINGSCOFFEE ever achieved was FEELINGSPEE. I wish I had realised it was time to disengage sooner. Also that therapy was a good thing, much, much sooner. LW, you are smart. The next [block of time] is probably going to be hard while your Evil Ex flails and tries to pull you back in, but you are going to survive that and you are going to be fine. Jedi hugs to you.

    • Elin I. said:

      “All any FEELINGSCOFFEE ever achieved was FEELINGSPEE.”

      This is another one of those sentences that need to be embroidered on something.

      • Indeed! There should be an Awkward craft meetup someday where we cross-stitch these phrases onto pillows or something.

        • caryatid said:

          i’m in!

          • :) I would seriously consider hosting a Boston-area crafty meetup, if people are interested and if I can think of a public space that would work.

          • SarahTheEntwife said:

            I would be interested!

          • Sheelzebub said:

            I would totally go.

          • Beth B said:

            Ha! I would totally join in that, if the timing worked out.

          • Awesome! This month is really busy for me, but I will start looking into possible dates and venues for sometime next month. :)

          • millefolia said:

            I’m totally in, as long as it’s late October or later!

          • White Rabbit said:

            I’ll join in if I’m available!

          • Sarah said:

            Me too!

          • Kim said:

            I too would be all over this.

          • Lonespark said:

            This is brilliant! I missed the last Boston meetup, and I love cross-stitch.

        • Maudite Entendante said:

          [My server burbled just as I tried to post this last time, so not sure whether it’s being modded or whether the server ate it… apologies, if necessary, for the re-post.]

          Anyway, all I was going to say was: I’m a total lurker here, but I am de-lurking for the purpose of exclaiming HELL YES AWKWARD CRAFTY MEETUP. Do please count me in!

        • YES.

          …I feel like it might make a good gift for the boyfriend who wouldn’t let his girlfriend pee.

          • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

            Bwahahahaha!

        • alphakitty said:

          ;)

        • Nerdlinger said:

          PERFECT.

      • Major Attitude said:

        I`d drive 6 hours to Boston to join that!

      • JenniferP said:

        I am fortunate that reading that sentence didn’t make me FEELINGSPEE my pants, though it was a close call.

      • neverjaunty said:

        Seriously. I may take up embroidery again just to make this happen.

      • Not It said:

        Should I admit this? I actually have a computer program that allows me to chart cross stitch designs. Sometime I even use it. Someone start collecting everything you’d like to see embroidered and maybe I can come up with some charts. (Free, downloadable pdfs, of course).

        • Can you do knitting patterns? I bet I could use a simple cross-stitch for a knitting pattern but it’s not really the same.

          • Not It said:

            No, sorry, just embroidery (counted) patterns. It’s a simple grid. What are you going to knit?

          • Well, I don’t cross-stitch, but I knit. So I could knit feelingspee or something.

    • Nerdlinger said:

      FEELINGSPEE made me snerk up my FEELINGSTEA that I was drinking!

  3. Hoo-boy. Progressing, you’ve escaped a toxic and emotionally abusive relationship and my hat is off to you. Congratulations; that requires more courage and confidence than many people realize.

    I’m with the Captain on this: cut all ties. I’m a BIG believer in what I call the Nuclear Option – severing all forms of communication. This means deleting their number, blocking their IM handle, unfriending them on Facebook (AND setting your Facebook profile to “Friends Only”), unfollowing them on Twitter (and in cases like yours, blocking them) and otherwise cutting them out of your life.

    Personally, I wouldn’t feel the need to inform your ex that you’re cutting her off; I don’t think a “go away forever” email is going to do you or her any favors or somehow pre-empt her from trying to do an end-run around your precautions by trying to go through your sister or mutual friends and if things were as bad as they sounded… well, I’m having a very hard time trying to imagine a scenario where you WOULD want to get back in touch with her, up to and including performing a hostage exchange.

    Just be sure to give your sister and associated parties a heads up that you’re planning on cutting all ties and she might try to get to you through them. Like Cap says: you can’t control how she’s going to respond, so the best thing you can do is warn people who might get caught up in the crossfire.

    Good luck!

    • J said:

      Re: ” Personally, I wouldn’t feel the need to inform your ex that you’re cutting her off”

      WHAT? No WAY do you stop all contact without letting someone know. Unless there are safety or other important considerations, that’s just plain cowardly and rude.

      Worse, it’s our culture’s traditional male non-solution alternative to doing even the most rudimentary communication work. Meanwhile, women are tasked, again and again, with relationship mind-reading. (Note: I’m not positive the LW is male, but I’m responding to DrNerdLove, whom I know is male.)

      Why is it so important to skip this one basic task? Just tell her you want to stop contact instead of making her spend time and energy figuring out what’s going on. News flash: women have to politely and firmly reject advances all the time in this society. It won’t kill you to have to do it once or twice. (Just as it doesn’t kill women to risk rejection by making the first advance.)

      Analogy: I work with a lot of male engineers. Often, if I ask a question they don’t know the answer to, they simply don’t answer. Then I repeat the question. Then I repeat it again. (Part of my job requires me to ask questions.) Finally they say they don’t know. I’ve started asking these guys why they didn’t just say that the first time I asked. The most frequent answer is, “Because I didn’t know.” They seriously expect me to fill in all the gaps, rule out all the possibilities, and determine that yes, they heard me, and yes, they didn’t forget to answer, and yes, the answer is that they don’t know. What that says to me is that my time and energy are worth far, far, far less than theirs. I used to date guys like this. No longer!

      In fact, one of the best reasons to send that polite, firm email is to practice good, clear, respectful communication for future romantic relationships. Because, you know, love and sex.

      • JenniferP said:

        Especially since there are mutual friends involved – just tell the ex how it’s going to be and then make it be that way.

        • I’m of the opinion that once you’ve left an abusive relationship – and this WAS an abusive relationship – the best thing is to stay out of contact, even to say “we’re staying out of contact”.

          • Except that if it progresses to the point where you need to get law enforcement involved, it can be REALLY IMPORTANT to have something to point to to show that you clearly communicated a boundary that they’re breaking. Restraining orders are hard enough to get to start with.

          • piny1 said:

            I agree with this, if we’re talking about getting out of abusive relationships. But this is different. This woman didn’t just dump her ex here–she maintained a post-break-up friendship with her for a decade, one that–as far as ex knows–is still going swimmingly.

            That’s ambiguous. And that’s fine! It means LW is a nice person who genuinely tries! But it also means that the friendship needs to be explicitly ended. It won’t peter out, and the ex will not give up for months. If they were still dating, I’d offer the same advice: for your sanity and ease, break up with this woman. Don’t wait for her to figure out you’re not dating anymore. That gives you all the trauma and none of the power.

            I do agree that LW should keep it as brief and simple as possible, and then drop it completely and resist any demand to talk.

          • piny1 said:

            A year, sorry! They’ve been “friends” for a year! But they were best friends before the relationship for a decade, which makes it even more different from dumping a lover and then ceasing contact.

      • piny1 said:

        Also, it’s…look, I say this as someone who has friends all over the world (it sucks) and who suffers from a certain level of relational anxiety. But the thing is, I am also a flake! I am a normal flake. I forget to get back to people for days and weeks; I lose touch with friends for weeks or months. It doesn’t mean I’m not overjoyed to hear from them.

        It seems like this is quite common for relationships that have settled in: you take it for granted that you’ll eventually talk to them again. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all. And it seems to have gotten worse now that we can passively maintain relationships and communicate via email. I no longer need to talk to my friends to know how they’re doing–I get the broad strokes from their facebook pages.

        This does not mean that soft refusals don’t hold in some cases. I think it is still an established norm with people who won’t hire you or sleep with you. But I don’t know if it’s a convention with buds. Or exes who seem to think they’re buds.

        This also does not mean that a soft refusal is wrong. If you don’t feel safe or comfortable contacting someone, they don’t have some right to communication with you. Abusive people are people who have signalled their unwillingness to respect you. Conventions don’t apply to them.

        But…letting emails go unanswered and calls unreturned may not be a clear signal anymore, if it so often means “I am busy and my inbox is crammed.”

      • This, oh god, like, a zillion times.

        Plus, I don’t think doing the “fade away” is going to work here. She’ll likely just continue to escalate contact and try different avenues.

        Taking the like, 5 minutes, it will take to e-mail her and tell her to go away is at least clearly stating your desires. That way if she does anything after that, she is going against the LW’s clearly stated desires, not just trying to figure out what the hell is going on. She can’t pretend she’s worried about the LW’s health, or wondered if they lost their phone and therefore stalked them. She’ll know, unequivocally that the LW wants her to go away, and that she’s not doing that.

        And frankly, If my friend of 10 years and ex just stopped responding to all of my attempts to contact them I would PROBABLY show up at their house and find out specifically what is up. She may think that it is one specific thing, or the new girlfriend or something. She may not realize it is just a desire to cease all contact.

        I think clearly stating one’s position is so important. It will just make the whole process of getting her to go away happen more quickly.

      • W.T. said:

        “No WAY do you stop all contact without letting someone know. Unless there are safety or other important considerations, that’s just plain cowardly and rude.”

        I… disagree heavily with this? Like yeah, I absolutely think the LW should tell the ex that they are cutting off contact, but just out of the PRACTICAL concerns that other posters have brought up, not because it would be “cowardly” or “rude” to do otherwise. The ex being an abusive jerk was rude. Cutting off all contact with them with no notification due to this would not be rude OR cowardly.

        (And maybe ‘abusive ex’ is one of the “important considerations” you were talking about! But that… is the situation that is being discussed… so I’m not sure where the “cowardly and rude” is coming in.)

    • piny said:

      Well, a couple of things. I agree that you do not owe this woman notice that you are cutting off contact. It sounds like she’s a jerk; it’s okay not to be polite.

      But! If you do not cut off contact, she will spend several months trying to get in touch with you. If you don’t want that to happen, don’t give her plausible deniability: tell her you want a clean break, that you don’t want her to contact her, and you will not be responding to any more emails or IMs or fb messages or WHATEVER.

      That way, she can’t pretend you’re just busy. That way, any contact from her is explicitly unwanted by you, even if it’s not hurtful. That can provide you with a certain amount of emotional leverage in your attempts to resist her; it may help you keep in mind that “Hey! just thinking about you!” is exactly the same as, “What is WRONG with you? how can you treat me this way?!”

      It also means that when she pitches a fit (I don’t agree it’s a risk; I think it’s a certainty), you can tell your friends that you told her you wanted zero contact and she will not leave you alone. This means they’re just enforcing your wishes, not communicating or interpreting them.

      She will get the message eventually–and she’ll adhere to it at some point after that. But I suspect she’ll either blow up at a hard refusal or put off acknowledging a soft one.

      I do agree that you should make the communications break complete–and that you should do whatever you can to make it impossible for her to contact you at all. Don’t put yourself in the position of continually choosing whether or not to give in.

      • neverjaunty said:

        This, exactly. It’s not that Ms. Toxic-Doucheloaf is owed anything; it’s that a cut-off email a) removes all ambiguity b) prevents Ms. T-D from claiming there was any ambiguity.

      • AnthroK8 said:

        Word to not doing something that makes the communication/interpretation an issue for mutual friends. Team You is there to support you, but that’s not their job. I really, really dislike having the “should I should I not say…” reaction when something like this happens. Knowing what the person in LW’s position wants/has decided is really helpful for me in knowing how to react in a way that I am comfortable with. If an LW-friend said the above script to me, I’d be making it my business to steer clear of talking about LW to the ex. In theory we should have other stuff to talk about, and passing on information isn’t necessary so why do it? If that’s our only shared topic of conversation, maybe we need to not be talking so much any more.

        Also, J, you are so on it. I don’t think an abusive partner is owed much of anything at all by their ex. There are good reasons to not contact someone.

        But I do think if it’s safe, making the direct statements direct is so important. And by that I mean, important for LW. Stating wishes and expecting them to be followed. Not expecting anyone to read your mind. Not forgoing the (scary? maybe, but also empowering) act of saying by fiat this is done.

        Also, I too, am All Done with dudes who think it’s my job (because apparently I am the stage 5 clinger, (also known as Lady) in the relationship and therefore I care more, and therefore it’s my job to interpret with my magic psychic lady powers (also known as precious time) their intention. I have other things to do. Like read mystery novels or develop semolina cake recipes or stare at the wall.

  4. Leela said:

    What the Captain said. You owe your ex nothing except common courtesy, which means you don’t snipe at her if she shows up at a mutual group thing. You do not owe her email time, IM time, coffee time or any other form of contact.

    One other thing- I get that you want to protect your friends if she decides to make trouble, and that’s understandable. However. You are not the jackass whisperer, here to save the world from her bad behavior. She is an autonomous person with her own choices. If drama happens, she is causing it, not you.

    • staunchly said:

      I think I desperately need a shirt that say “I am not the jackass whisperer”; your entire comment is spot-on!

      • JenniferP said:

        A shirt or a series of printed business cards that you can hand to people as you move away from them.

        “Alas, I am not the Jackass Whisperer and I do not speak your language. Goodbye.”

        • staunchly said:

          Heh. I think this is going to be my new stock response for internet asshole-ery.

        • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

          A line that might confuse a PUA creep just long enough to give one time to get out of his vicinity.

          • Oh yes. I now think it unfortunate that I have aged out of the sight lines of PUAs.

          • piny1 said:

            I just wing a copy of Gyn/Ecology at them and run for it.

      • Leela said:

        Thanks! I can’t take credit for the line, unfortunately. It’s from Brene Brown’s Dare Greatly. “Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.” I’ve found it is generally applicable to life, especially internet life. :)

  5. I’m someone who can’t be in contact with her exes. I just can’t. It hurts too much and it’s bad for me.

    This was really healing to read. Thank you.

  6. irishup said:

    Congratulations, LW, on moving on & doing some good work with your bad self!

    One of the worst things about relationships with abusive people is that they set up things such that *you* are the one who is responsible for *their* feelings/actions/wellbeing. They gaslight you into believing that this is actually TRUE. So, because you are probably out of practice with this – or at least, I was when I finally left Bad Boyfriend – here are reminders that I found useful to repeat to myself:

    You are the boss of you. They are the boss of themselves. Fullstop.
    It’s not (and never should have been) *your* job to bear responsibility for their feelings.
    It’s not (and never should have been) *your* job to bear responsibility for their actions.
    Living your life to make yourself happy and healthy is NOT something you are doing TO them.
    Anyone who makes YOU responsible for what THEY feel and do? is hella fulla shit! That’s ish they should work on with their *own* therapist.

    As an eldest kid and an ACoA, I have the unfortunate tendency to attract very broken people, and to start Taking Care of Things. Whenever I’d find myself in the trap of caretaking someone else, I’d just start repeating those to myself like mantras. Decades of practice has paid off; almost none of my relationships now are with unhealthy, gaslighting, controlling people – certainly none of my newer voluntary relationships. (Alas, my family are still related to me. But it’s manageable now.)

    Stand firm, LW, you are on the right track.

    • Guava said:

      YES. And have you ever noticed how abusive people try to use the fact that you are a decent person against you — by going to elaborate lengths to set you up in situations where you can either do what they want or look/feel like a complete asshole? That is another big red flag.

      • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

        Makes me think of something I said once, when getting away froms someone pulling the “That wasn’t very nice!” manipulation schtick when I wouldn’t play along – “I never claimed to be nice.”

        • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

          *from

        • mskayo said:

          There’s also “nice is overrated.”

      • Laura M said:

        A “friend,” upon my cutting off contact with him thanks to some shitty behaviour, said “I never thought you’d act like [your mom]”- because my mom gave me the silent treatment and I wasn’t talking to him. I fell for it in high school; fortunately, by the time we’d graduated, I realized what a shitty argument it was.

    • coraanderson said:

      Seconding the Captain’s advice.

      And I want to say: if the worst happens and your ex causes drama and pain and frustration and drama and EXPLOSIONS… it’s still not your fault. It’s just not. It’s so easy to hear “If you do X, I will do Y!” and hear “Y is your fault, if it happens.” But the truth is, no matter your X, the Y is the other person’s responsibility, for good or bad. It isn’t your fault.

      • coraanderson said:

        Whoops, this wasn’t meant to be a reply to irishup! But I suppose this isn’t a terrible place for it…

  7. Guava said:

    “Controlling people don’t like to see a good minion get away” << this is awesome.

    LW, I have been in this situation many, many times with ex-friends, which I realize is different than a romantic ex in pretty significant ways. Nevertheless, I can't agree enough with what the Captain says about people respecting your need for a break from them.

    I've asked people to stop contacting me, and have been met with gracious silence. Maybe a single email that expresses that they're sorry about the demise of our friendship, but otherwise radio silence. And then others have tried to push every. single. button. they think they can push to try to get my attention and worm their way back into my world. This type of reaction sheds light on who they are as people, the tried-and-true tactics they use to get their way, and how they really feel about respecting you and your needs.

    I have a funny feeling that this ex of yours is going to try to start shit. She may focus on your sister or mutual friends, and one of them may cave to her tactics and come to you to try to convince you to give her "one more chance" or "just hear her out".

    STAND FIRM. She may not have respected you, but you clearly respect yourself. Good for you for doing what you need to do to live a happy and healthy life.

  8. Joan of Anon said:

    Remember, LW, that should your ex react to the perfectly reasonable request of no more contact by trying to get your mutual friends and your sister on her side, you absolutely have no responsibility to hide any of her behaviour from them. If they ask you, “Why don’t you want to talk to her/give her a chance/etc etc?” you can say “I just think the break up will go better for me if I have a clean break.” But you are also well within your rights to say “Well, I’ve been thinking about some things that happened during our relationship and I’ve started to feel she was controlling and so I don’t want her to be a part of my life.” If they ask for details, you can give them details if you want to.

    There is absolutely no responsibility on you to not say things which are true so that other people won’t think badly of her. And to be honest, going through things like this, it is helpful to have your friends and family supporting you and being people you can talk to. If you think it would be good for you to have some IRL people to talk to about the things that happened, go for it. You don’t have to protect her.

    • JenniferP said:

      Absolutely agreed.

    • This is a great point and I think very important to mention. It sometimes is easier to just gloss over real problems with a past relationship, especially if you have a tight-knit group of friends or worry about your personal issues being common knowledge, BUT there is some value to being honest with people when they ask you. If that feels right, go for it.

      I spent years not really saying much about how an ex had treated me, because he was kind of a Big Name in the (relatively small) trans/queer community where I lived. Some friends knew the details, but I didn’t say anything to mutual friends. But when I finally, years later, mentioned some of the issues to other people who had known him, it seemed like NO ONE was surprised that he had been so terrible. And I realized… if I’d talked to some of these people, they could have reminded me that a lot of his behaviors were seriously messed up, and I might not have felt so isolated from the community after I broke up with him.
      It turned out ok in the end, but now I wish I’d focused less on being “nice” and more on being honest.

  9. I agree with Nick! I mean Captain Awkward… *Ahem* I had a problem with my ex – we’ve been friends for a long time, dated for nearly fours years and then we broke up. We tried to be friends but it took ages to get to the place where we could see each other and now I’m tempted to break contact because he’s not a good friend. Sometimes trying to be friends with exes works, and sometimes it doesn’t. If a clean break is what you need, go with it and don’t worry too much about your sister. She’ll probably be happy to see you happier again.

  10. Julie said:

    The idea that I can’t actually act in ways that will control people’s behavior is something I’ve really had to work on. For various FOO reasons, I had always vacillated between I Will Make Everything Okay and Falling Apart Because I’m So Ineffective.

    I’m not actually ineffective. It’s just unreasonable to think I can control someone else. And that goes for protecting person X by doing Y to / around person Z.

    Life is so much more straightforward when I stay in my own dance space.

  11. I have a firm policy of regarding the time after a breakup as being Temporarily Insane Time. Your emotions go all over the board as you process the end of an attachment. It’s why rebounds happen; people sometimes try to insert a new person into the empty slot left by the old person. (Not on purpose, mostly!) It’s why people often need to go cold turkey on contact with their exes. It’s why some people can’t do cold turkey and have to go more slowly, although I personally figure that just draws it out.

    This applies to pretty much everyone, although people who are uncomfortable with my ableist language are welcome to find another term. Everyone is affected differently, and so everyone is temporarily insane in their own way. Some people shut down. Some people have a dozen one-night stands. Some people eat all the chocolate fudge brownie ben and jerrys ice cream. Some people clock fifty hour weeks a the gym. What you do is what you have to do to recover your emotional stability and heal over the scar of the torn attachment.

    In your case, you’ve got the extra bonus difficulty of “whoa that was actually kind of unhealthy” and so you’ve got to tear out even more threads that she tied around your brain and heart. As great as it will be to be free of all of them (if you ever are!), the meantime is pretty hard because you got used to them and grew around them. They look like parts of you, so it’s difficult to figure out what should stay and what should go.

    This is all super hard emotional work, for everyone, so it’s no surprise that people get unbalanced as they do it. They, and you, are not at their best emotional selves. It’s okay! It’s how things are supposed to be, as sucky as that is.

    What that means for you is that you get to ask for whatever you need to recover healthiest, and let other people’s temporary insanity play itself out. If that’s “I never want to talk to you again”, you wouldn’t be the first! Your ex wouldn’t be the first to play others against, you either. It’s a known bug with the human condition. Your confused feelings are totally normal, your desires are normal, your anger is normal. You’re doing what you’re supposed to do at a time like this, even if you feel like you’re completely losing your mind.

    The captain’s advice is rock-solid. You get to tell her to leave you alone. You get to tell all your friends and your sister that you don’t want to hear anything from her. You get to tell your friends and your sister that if they won’t shut up about your ex, you’re going to stop talking to them for a while. You get to do all this, and it is okay, and folks will get over feeling annoyed and offended.

    I love my temporary insanity explanation, because it is something I can lean on for giving myself permission to ask for what I need or draw boundaries I need to maintain. “My FEELINGS for you are too big. I cannot deal with you without working really hard and having a flail at my therapist afterwards. No, I will not have coffee, I will not invite you to my party, I am not your friend.”

    • zilla said:

      I like this. I would say that it applies equally to the ex. Not that it makes it OK for them to do the things they do. Just that thinking of it this way makes it easier for me to not stress myself over those things. Don’t look for logic, don’t get involved in armchair analysis – just chalk it up to the temporary insanity and don’t engage with it.

  12. Xenophile said:

    The healthier the person/relationship, the more likely they are to respect your boundaries afterwards. If they don’t, let that be your reassurance that you’re better off without them. In my own experience, if someone treated me well while we were dating, they got over me quickly, lived happily ever after with someone else, and didn’t try to contact me. If they treated me poorly, they would try to contact me at regular intervals, often with drunken confessions of ‘I’m so sorry give me another chance I swear I’m a different person now…’ (Although there was this one guy who never once apologized but repeatedly sent me emails at 4am letting me know that he was watching The Office and wanted to know if I’d like to watch it with him. Wow, tempting.) There was a direct correlation between how abusive they were and how many times they tried to contact me before giving up. LW, if your ex is as controlling as she sounds, don’t be surprised if she ignores your boundaries again, and bear in mind that even apologies can be red flags. And if she invites you to watch TV in the wee hours, that’s not a compliment.

    • TR said:

      Side note: Someone can be healthy and take a while to get over someone. It’s not how long the process is, it’s how they deal with it outwardly.

  13. And just think – if your ex starts shit because you broke things off with her, there’s a chance that she’ll alienate your sister and some of your mutual friends, and then they won’t have to deal with her either. (Particularly because her blend of abusive tends towards anger.)

    The only time you need to worry about someone’s reaction in this scenario is if there’s a real chance they’ll get violent. And even then, your worry is “how do I make myself safe”, not “how do I phrase things to be as gentle as possible so they won’t get angry”. Because you can’t. And you will waste so much time trying to figure it out when you could be trying to move on and be happy.

    • heathenbee said:

      Actually what I was wondering was whether, her being more the controlling manipulative type, she would try to turn LW’s sister/friends/etc against LW. That’s an equally destructive and very insidious tactic of emotional abusers, especially when thwarted.

      • Yeah sadly that can happen. :-/ Which is why it’s often important to explain your side of the story first, even if all you say is “I’d prefer not to be in touch with her so both of us can have some space and heal.” But even if you do everything perfectly it’s no guarantee, because controlling manipulative people have more practice at getting their way than decent people.

  14. MJ said:

    I stayed in contact with a toxic and abusive ex for five years; I rationalized it to myself in a number of ways, most of them having to do with how kind and compassionate I was and how deeply he needed friends, but it really boiled down to the fact that I wanted to think of myself as the kind of person who can be friends with exes. I had to really work to untangle “being friends with this ex” from “being a good person,” because being friendly with an ex just seemed like something a good person would do, and I didn’t want to be a bad person. It took five years of manipulation and drama before I realized that it was HIM, not ME, who was the not-good person in the situation, and finally enabled me to make a clean break.

    Sometimes doing the right thing involves not just changing the way you look at the situation, but changing the way you think about yourself. Ceasing contact with an ex as a means of taking care of yourself doesn’t make you a bad person, or a mean person, or a compassionless person, regardless of how hurt the ex in question might feel; it makes you a strong person who knows what they need and how to get it.

  15. I had to do this recently with an ex. So I can definitely empathize. My ex insisted when we broke up that we try to stay friends and I agreed (partly to get him to leave my apartment, which is a whole other kettle of fish). Then he started acting creepy and I felt uncomfortable so I deleted him from my facebook friends list, but I didn’t block him. I hid from my phone all weekend too, which really should have made me realize what kind of person I was dealing with. When I finally did check my messages, I had voicemail, email, and texts from him admonishing me for deleting him “without warning him”.

    Stuff happened, I was badly injured, and about a month later I decided to re-add him and see if I was ready to be friends yet. We met up a few times over a couple of months, but everything he did felt like he was trying to manipulate me in some way. The final straw was him following me home on public transit and trying to invite himself over after telling me all about some new girl he was dating. Yep, he was a real prize.

    So I deleted him again, and blocked him in every conceivable way last month. Haven’t heard a peep, and I feel so liberated.

    He was my first boyfriend, so also my first ex-boyfriend. Boy, did I learn stuff!

    Best of luck, LW. It sounds like at the very least, breaking contact for now is a good idea. Definitely do the blocking though! I can’t tell you how relieved I am that my ex cannot contact me!

  16. case-in-point said:

    Good on you for figuring out what you need and deciding to ask for it. As usual, the Captain’s advice was wonderful.

    What I want to re-iterate is that your ex is probably going to come to you or ask others to come to you to ask why? To ask for the iron-clad, non-negotiable reasons that allow you to no longer have a friendship. They’ll want to know what she ever did to you or etc, etc, etc. This is a trap. Come up with a stock response and rehearse it, so that when these questions come up from her or from others, you’re not caught off-guard. All you need to say is something like, “I just realized that I needed to cut off contact for a while in order to heal. *change subject*”

    Your ex may start telling people that you’re still madly in love with her and scared that you’ll never get over it. Let her. She may tell people that you’re a mean, mean person who is spiteful and hateful and mean to her. Let her. This will blow over faster if you hold the line that, “This is the best decision for me. Out of respect, I’m not going to get any further into it.” If she takes this route, you’ll probably itch to defend yourself/set the record straight, but that’s going to have the opposite effect of the one you want– you and whoever else happens to be handy will get drawn further into her drama. She gets to create as much drama as she wants, that’s on her. The best thing you can do is to refuse to add any fuel to it. It will eventually go away.

    You don’t owe her or anyone else any reasons why you’ve made this decision. You could decide to end a friendship because you feel like it, or because it’s Wednesday, or because you’ve conceived a hopeless passion for rutabagas that no one else could possibly understand. That’s fine, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      This is so true.

      LW, if the ex is throwing poo around her room, let her. After awhile, people will see that she’s the one covered in poo, not you. And they’ll probably figure, “Ew, no wonder LW cut off contact! SHE’S THROWING AROUND POO.”

      • Seriously. In a situation like this, I find it helpful to practice a certain facial expression. You just raise your eyebrows slightly and let the faintest of smiles cross your lips, as if to say, “That’s interesting. Interesting in a sort of sad and pathetic way. Wow.”

    • heathenbee said:

      Ah, didn’t see this when I posted above : ) Yup, same idea.

  17. boots mcgee said:

    I just want to chime in with a gazillion jedi hugs for the LW. I’ve been in the toxic ex situation before, and it’s a hell of a great thing to get right with yourself and refuse to let the badness seep back into your life.

    When I went through this myself, I was amazed at how just *one* IM from a person like this could send me into all the spirals of awful. It’s like I would relive years of feeling bad about myself in the half a second it took to read the word “Hi!” and then it would fester for hours. Manipulative/malevolent people totally realize this, and they want you to go through it because it keeps you tethered to them.

    Go on with your bad self, LW. Go ON.

    • Yeah I got a blog comment from my ex, eight years after I left, and had to take my anti-panic-attack pills and go outside to cuddle a rabbit for a while before I could deal with anything. It was really shocking how bad it still hit me when I’ve done SO MUCH growing since then.

      • Lilly said:

        Chris – wow, I can sympathize, I had a similar experience after I broke up with someone who turned out to be very emotionally abusive. I had to do a complete, clean break where it was very clear that he should not be in touch, but after which he turned into a creepy stalker-type for a while.

        Long story short, after some time had passed, I was with someone else and had moved far far away my ex continued to stalk and found a blog I posted anonymously (it took him a lot of work to figure out it was me, that is how invested he was) and posted a nasty comment on it. Wow, I needed a lot of bunny-hugging to get through that one :)

        I think that the advice about the LW *making it crystal clear* to his ex that he no longer wants contact, then blocking and not responding to contact, is the best. Once he has made his wishes known, the ex has no excuse for overstepping boundaries.

        About keeping in contact/ being friends with exes, I think this so much depends on the situation. I have managed to be friends with one ex, but I realized it was painful for him because he still had feelings for me. Another ex, it was too painful for me because I had feelings for him and he was not nice about them. The abusive ex, well, it was hard enough to get away from him in the first place. Actually, the abusive ex is obsessive about staying in contact with all his ex girlfriends, and keeps very close tabs on their lives.

        An aside: I hope the ravenous spam filter doesn’t eat this one. Spam filter – this comment is not tasty, and it’s bad for your teeth! Spit it out.

        • Luckily in this case it wasn’t a nasty comment – he had tracked me down somehow (on a different journal using a different name, so I’m not actually sure how he found it) to, like, make sure I hadn’t died or anything, and the comment was sort of like “oh hey you didn’t die, that’s pretty neat, how are you”. But he really DID NOT need to leave that comment. He could easily read back and see every single post I’d made about my life since the earth decided that everyone had kind of outstayed their welcome and threw a tantrum and note that I had explicitly reassured my actual friends that I wasn’t physically injured. I guess at least it told me that he was able to see what I was writing and gave me the opportunity to tell him exactly what went wrong with us and kindly request that he not contact me ever the fuck again, though for all I know he might still read it when I get around to posting there (which isn’t often anymore).

          • Nerdlinger said:

            Ugh! I’m so sorry that happened to you. I’ve never understood the exes that need to do a private check-in on a semi-open space (ie fb walls, personal blogs, etc). If they REALLY were grateful you weren’t dead, they shouldn’t have to announce it via public forum, or just be grateful you know? Its like (unwanted) graffiti on your house – a useless marking of territory.

  18. Beth said:

    Almost three years out of a bad, bad twenty-year marriage, I just want to unlurk (I’ve been reading for about two months) to nth the: HEAR, HEAR. Seriously, print this out and pin it to your bedroom mirror, make a self-care date to re-read it every Saturday, whatever. EVERY WORD.

    I stayed “friends” with my ex for two years because I didn’t want him to take it out on our grown kids, our mutual friends, The Internet, whatever. I spent those two years just as scared and angry as I’d been when I was with him, and sometimes I thought, “Why did I even bother to get divorced?”

    One day, my daughter stopped in the middle of pressuring me to invite him to my birthday party or some such, looked at me and said, “I guess you kind of hate Dad, don’t you?” And I said, “Yeah, a little. I don’t expect you to understand that, but maybe someday we can talk about it.” And it all just fell away. I think I’ve spoken to him twice since, very briefly and bloodlessly, about unavoidable practical things related to college finance responsibilities. When I run into him around town, or in a social group, there’s always someone else Suddenly Very Interesting to talk to. And I truly don’t give a damn if people think I’m rude, or if he goes around telling people that I’m awful and won’t play nice. It’s lovely. It’s freedom. It’s delicious.

    You’ll get there. It sounds like you’re a good part of the way there already. Best wishes!

  19. Jillian said:

    The Captain’s advice is awesome, as is that of the above posters.

    I just want to reiterate: LW, you owe her nothing but common courtesy. I don’t know how we got to this myth in our culture that people should stay friends when they break up. This myth is awful! It makes people who are already emotionally vulnerable post-breakup feel even shittier. It imposes some ridiculous expectation on them that is likely unfair and unhealthy. Yes, it works for some people, but for a lot of relationships, it doesn’t. And that’s OK! As has been talked about here before, you don’t have to be friends with anyone you don’t want to be friends with, especially if it’s someone who behaved poorly towards you when you were in a relationship.

    You are no longer in a relationship and you do not owe her anything. Not regular contact, not one last email/call/roll in the hay/FEELINGSCOFFEE. This does not mean you are a bad or mean person. It means you are taking care of yourself and setting up reasonable boundaries. I don’t mean to make it sound easy; it’s not. But it sounds like you might be in a good position to make this move, which will benefit you in the long run. Good luck!

    • Britt said:

      I think it’s an extension of the sunk cost problem that causes people to stay in relationships past their expiration date — there’s history there which makes people feel like they owe their ex something even when they really don’t based on current behavior/relationship status. You’re right that it’s really awful and damaging.

    • Vicki said:

      I suspect that it somehow went from “if someone says all their exes are evil/crazy/to blame for everything, it’s a bad sign” (which is often true–but red flags aren’t 100% reliable) and/or that it’s wrong to put your friend in the middle, to the idea that you have to not only be polite about and sometimes to your exes, but that distantly cordial isn’t good enough, you have to act as though there was nothing really wrong with the relationship and that the breakup didn’t leave emotional scars.

      • Sheelzebub said:

        This. And it’s infuriating because the reasonable approach–I am no longer in contact with my ex because we weren’t right for each other and so we each focused our energy on our own lives–is somehow unheard of in this day and age. But at the end of the day, it’s often helpful to move on if you don’t hang out and stay in contact.

        There are ex-boyfriends whom I hold no rancor towards and who I think are basically good people, however, we do not hang out and we are not friends. It doesn’t mean I’d spit on them if I saw them or that I wouldn’t be happy for them if I heard they got married/got a promotion/won the lottery/whatever. But I’d rather keep things, as you so succinctly put it, “distantly cordial.” I don’t want to take what little free time I have to hang out with someone I used to date when I already have scads of friends I’d rather be hanging out with. And if I didn’t have scads of friends, there are still books to read, projects to complete, and things to do.

        • Xenophile said:

          My theory is it’s about not making waves in the social circle. If there’s any distance or tension between two formerly close people, the people around them might feel uncomfortable and somehow we’re taught that discomfort=conflict=drama=END OF THE WORLD. It’s somehow better to repress your needs/feelings than be caught causing the dreaded d-word.

        • I only have the one ex that I have negative feelings about. The rest were perfectly nice people, they were just so terribly not right for me.

      • solecism said:

        Yep. I had that problem. The first person I had sex with, which was more compliance than consensual, dumped me the next day. We were part of the same friends group, and I spent the rest of my school career trying to pretend nothing was wrong and that I wasn’t emotionally scarred. Eventually I figured out that I didn’t need to make excuses and be understanding and that he was just a jackass, and I stopped trying to keep in touch. He certainly recognized that the experience was awful because I had not one, but two, friends ask me years later what was up with me and him, based on his creepy reaction to my name or whatever.

        I remained friendly with various casual hook-ups over the years, so I thought I was the Cool One Who Stayed Friends With Exes. So I told my most recent and abusive ex that we could be friends. Then I followed excellent advice from a friend to cut off all contact, because anything less would be treated as an invitation. The ex then tried to use my optimistic statement against me, about what a liar I was, etc. So glad he’s out of my life and that I didn’t try to keep up that pretense of amicability.

      • neverjaunty said:

        Yes, and also discarding the idea that men and women only want/need one thing from each other and couldn’t ever be Just Friends, therefore if you’re not dating them why are you still friends? The opposite of that isn’t and shouldn’t be “stay friends with all your exes, no matter what”.

        As Harvey Fierstein said, if God wanted us to stay friends with our exes, He wouldn’t have made them such shits in the first place.

    • eselle28 said:

      The We’re Still Friends Mandate is really unfortunate, and it seems to be getting worse. Didn’t the narrative used to be that people who didn’t have children together went their separate ways, and eventually either moved or drifted into different social groups?

      I blame Facebook, and email, and all the other new ways that make it easy to keep in touch with people who we wouldn’t have wanted to spend the money to call long distance or the time to send a handwritten letter. People can’t make the excuse that it’s too much of a pain to keep in touch, and admitting that you just don’t want to is difficult when the two models are We’re Still Friends and Crazy Psycho Exes. We need to have some more models of Civil, Mature and Distant.

      • We’re Still Friends was a thing (if not exactly a mandate) when I started dating, and that was way, way before Facebook. The Internet just made it easier.

  20. trotula said:

    Ugh this could not be more timely.

  21. Skydancing said:

    LW, I commend you for your growing self-awareness and knowing what boundaries you need to set for yourself. Can’t agree more with the view that any drama your ex may cause over your decision is not your problem. Stay strong – once she realizes the audience has moved on, she’ll take her drama elsewhere.

    P.S. – “All any FEELINGSCOFFEE ever achieved was FEELINGSPEE”. I SO love the commenters on this blog :)

  22. Ms. K said:

    Oh, Lord. FEELINGSCOFFEE. That is an exercise in futility if there ever was one.

    My ex tried everything he could think of to keep me under his thumb. When I left him, he called the priest at the other local Catholic church (not the one I attended), in order to shame me into staying because divorce is against the laws of the Church. When the priest contacted me, I told him that I would meet with him and discuss what was going on, but my ex could be nowhere near the church. Father agreed, we met, I told him what had been going on (my ex was abusive to me, and an inveterate cheater, to boot), Father told me that I had a case for annulment, and not to worry about my ex, that as soon as my ex figured out that he had no further control, he’d turn it into an extinction burst, and go away, regardless of the child we shared.

    The priest was right. Once my ex figured out that he could not keep me hanging around, and the courts would not allow him to beat me over the head using our child…..that was it for him.

    LW, you owe this woman nothing in terms of telling her that you’re cutting her off. You have to do what is best for you, rather than what she wants to hold over your head so she won’t tell your mutual friends and your sister that you’re a horrible person. So she runs her mouth….you get to tell them that she’s pissed off because you don’t want contact with her after the break up, she engaged in controlling behavior while you were together, and she has a right to her opinion, and you have a right to yours, and if she gets to tell everyone how awful you are….well, you don’t have to keep your mouth shut, either.

  23. LW, I feel you on this to the nth degree. One particular ex of mine was pretty much a carbon copy of yours, except for the worry about friends after the fact. My friends were thrilled to have me back and wanted her to socially go as far away as possible. She tried to pull the “let’s stay friends” card after the fact too. The messages you’re getting might have their letters arranged to say “Hi” or “I’m bored”, but what they really mean is “You took away my favorite toy and now I want it back.” She’s just looking for an in, a crack in your armor that she can sink her claws back into. You’re way ahead of the curve, as far as I see it, between reconnecting with your friends and going to therapy. Keep on keeping on with that, and don’t let her drag you back down into the muck.

    As far as cutting her out, if you decide to go the route of sending a message instead of radio silence, I feel like it’s only fair to warn your friends and sister that shit may or may not be about to get real. She sounds like the kind of person that’s going to try to turn people against you by any means she can, so forewarned will be forearmed for them. On a related note, you can’t worry about how she’ll react to being told to buzz off. She’s going to make a huge stink no matter what you do, and as it was already correctly pointed out, you can’t control what she does. If she throws a massive shit fit, that’s her choice. Remember, the “If you X, then I’ll Y” line is classic abusive behavior. The reality of it is, nobody is putting a gun to her head and forcing her to react in any particular way. She’s choosing to have that reaction, and it’s one of the worst forms of cowardice and irresponsibility to hide behind “I had no choice, you MADE me”. Victim-blaming is not and will never be cool.

    Therapy will definitely help you get through this better and faster, and it’ll help you not to keep things bottled up inside where they can poison you. I tried to play the “look how good we are as friends” game for a while with that ex, and it ended up with her haranguing me about not trying hard enough to be friends, just like she used to browbeat me for not being good enough at pretty much everything else. I eventually exploded at her in a fairly unhealthy way, but all I cared about was getting out all the awful feelings I’d been keeping locked up for years. It really wasn’t the right way to go about things, so good on you for having a healthy outlet.

    Keep your chin up. You’re out from under her thumb and nobody can make you go back. Remember that.

    • And if she WARNS you that if you X then she’ll Y, that means she doesn’t even have the dubious excuse that she was taken by surprise by her reaction. She knows how she’ll want to react, so it’s completely her responsibility to anticipate that and deal with it herself. (Not that she shouldn’t also deal with it herself if she doesn’t know in advance, but I’m sure everyone’s had a moment where they were taken by surprise by themselves.)

      • This is something I’m dealing with at work. “If they X, then Y will happen!” Y is a pretty obvious and self-explanatory consequence that people should know about. If they don’t want Y to happen… maybe they should have thought about it before they did X. If the LW’s ex doesn’t want their mutual friends to think badly of her, maybe she should not unleash her rageful hosebeast side on them.

  24. Pterinochilus murinus said:

    This is so relevant right now. A friend of mine has just been invited for FEELINGSCOFFEE with an ex, and I and another friend spent a good half an hour last night reminding her that if she meets him again and then looks at him funny or blinks or says the wrong thing and he turns back into Vader, that is NOT HER FAULT OR RESPONSIBILITY. The other friend made the really wonderful point that if you’re that worried about doing something wrong and ‘causing’ them to blow up, that is in itself a good reason to cut off contact.

    Secret message to that friend, even though she usually doesn’t read the comments here: DO NOT HAVE FEELINGSCOFFEE WITH HIM. YOU DON’T EVEN LIKE COFFEE, REMEMBER? Have diet Coke and Daily Show with me and Friend B instead!

  25. ona555 said:

    I want to take the opportunity to thank Captain Awkward for the validation– not that you knew you were doing it– for all the times I broke off contact with my exes and so many people told me I was being SO MEAN for not believing it healthy for me to have to continue relationships with people I didn’t actually like any more. I haven’t really ever understood that pressure to be Friends With The Ex. Why? I don’t like them, we don’t get along, we broke up for reasons! Personal space to heal from a past relationship is a freaking virtue, not a character flaw.

  26. And even when it’s a matter of the other person not feeling it, with no drama or abuse or manipulation, it just feels better to take a break for a while. I requested this of two exes, and they were absolutely fine with me being the first one to make contact.

  27. unagi said:

    I’ve been talking about this at length with a friend, who imho should not allow her ex abuser (we’re talking black eyes and cracked ribs) back into her life under the mandate of being friends. I have exes I’m friends with, and exes I never want to see again, exes whose very name and existence I’d be happy to forget. What’s the difference? To me, it boils down to the reason for the breakup.

    Sometimes you break up for ‘love relationship” reasons – you know, one of you wants a lot more sex than the other, one of you is way too into/extraverted and won’t leave you alone about it, one of you isn’t that much into the other, one of you keeps allowing their crazy mom/bf to run your relationship.. It keeps you from being lovers, it doesn’t make them a bad person, you may have gotten (unfairly of course) dumped, you may have felt obligated to leave them to keep your sanity. But you don’t doubt they’re at heart a good person, they’re just not the one for you. Those people you may need to break with while the “crazy breakup” period abates, but there’s no real problem to them being a future good friend.

    Sometimes you break up for “friendship failure” reasons. The person you love and perhaps live with should also be a friend. A good friend, who has your best interests at heart. If they do something like lie about something serious, have major ethical failures, manipulate you, hurt you knowingly, that is a failure of friendship. Those people you should really break with, and stay broken. If they were not able to be a friend when you were together, do you think they’ll be better at being just friends? No way. Stay away at all costs!

  28. L said:

    Hi, LW here. Thank you so much to all of you, all your comments helped me a lot to gather my courage and actually send that e-mail. (which I just did about ten minutes ago). I took the time to inform my sister that maybe shit would go down, she seems alright with it. And I took the time to make a small list of the mutual friends I have with my ex who I believed would actually be on my corner and told them the same. All of them were pretty supportive, althought one of them needed a bit of an explanation given that when she met her everything was going swimingly in our relationship. I’m not sure still if it was alright of me to do that, since she now hates my ex, but I think you all are right and I can’t control other’s reactions (I’m trying to internalize this, repeating it over and over helps.). I did manage to convince her to just let her be.
    Sometimes I think I was a bit too harsh when describing that relationship, I still think she’s not a bad person, just kind of closed minded as to how a relationship is supposed to be. Still, I don’t believe a friendship with her is not healthy for me. And I should be the one important to me, as my doctor is fond of saying.

    So, once again, a big thank you to all of you. Here’s to hoping she doesn’t read that e-mail before I learn how to block her number from my cell (shoul’ve thought that through).

    PS: That craft meet up sounds awesome, too bad I’m nowhere near Boston (or have a visa, to begin with…).

    • unlurking said:

      Hi – That is so great that you sent the email, and I’m so glad that you were able to tell your friends to respect your wishes on what will be the healthiest for you. I always feel proud when I’m able to do for myself what supports my health & wellbeing, and hopefully you do, too. I hope all’s going well.

    • *confetti*

      Good for you. :)

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