Hey Captain Awkward,
I am the LW of the “how do I break up with my mean ex who scares me?” Recently I have received harassing emails and blog comments from his new girlfriend telling me I am a liar and a bunch of other such things. Also telling me to stop “making up stories of my abuse.”
I emailed her back and said, “Sorry you do not believe me, but I am not lying. I am blocking your email so you cannot email me again.” Is there a script I can use that is better in case she tries to contact me again.
I am really upset about this. Not so much because she doesn’t believe me/he is lying about what he did but because it is dragging up things I want to forget.
Not Making It Up
Hello again, Not Making It Up. I am so glad that you are out of that relationship, and so sorry that he has spun his girlfriend up to harass you by proxy. She’ll probably find out soon enough that you were not making things up, and the thought of that is just so sad to me. I can’t wish that on her, not for anything, even if she is being a jerk to you.
I think what you said to her was just fine. Going forward, my advice is to block her from leaving comments on your blog, and if she contacts you again, just don’t respond at all. Every time you respond, your ex-boyfriend gets the satisfaction of knowing that he’s got your attention again. He’s using her to try to manipulate you, and stories of you to try to manipulate her, so that both of you have to think about him and each other and feel crappy, because he is an abusive lying shitmitten.
If you leave it totally alone, eventually they’ll leave you alone when they figure out that they can’t capture your attention. Someday you’ll probably get a message that says “Sorry, you were right about everything.” Hopefully this will all be so far in your past that your first thought will be “Wait a second, who?”
In the meantime, they’ll probably find ways to ping you now and again. Each time, delete/block whatever it is to the extent you can, do something really nice to yourself, and congratulate yourself for getting out from under the thumb of this guy. Your life is so much better now, right? And so much better than this lady’s is. You are brave and smart, and you can definitely handle and outlast this.
Dear Captain Awkward:
A friend and I are in an awkward situation. Both of us share the same ex who is also in the same broad social circle (online social groups & conventions), who has turned out to be what I would call a stalker in the wake of our breakups with him. She dated him first; I dated him a few months later. My breakup with him was partly due to the fact that he was still hung up on her. He would read all her public tweets/blogs/etc. and try to make them conversation, so I concluded he was not ready for a relationship with me, and I ended it fairly early.
Well, now he is also reading up on me. My friend and I, who both did not maintain friendships with him after our breakups mainly due to his clinginess, have both been told by other mutual friends that he is maintaining the same strangely close, stalking attention to any public accounts he knows to be our own, and will inevitably try to make one or both of us the topic of discussion when he can.
My questions for you are first, is this stalking? And secondly, what recourse do we have against this, if any? My opinion is that he’s stalking us, but my friend questions that because he is doing it in this strange, roundabout way, where it’s entirely likely that if we didn’t have these mutual friends, we’d never have realized he was doing it. It’s certainly an unhealthy obsession, and it’s definitely uncomfortable. Is there anything that can be done, or do we simply have to hope he eventually gives up and moves on?
It’s right on the verge of stalking. It’s probably not enough for any kind of legal recourse (though you document it anyway in case it escalates) and whether it fits the definition partially depends on whether he wants you to know what he’s up to in order to upset you or force you to think about him. Is he bringing you up with mutual friends in the hopes that they’ll mention him to you?
Good news, the definition of what he’s doing isn’t important. His intent is only marginally important. The fact that it’s making you uncomfortable is important.
Here’s how I would handle this:
Block/ban him anywhere you can, and never, ever respond to anything he says anywhere you can’t. If you run into him in public, do whatever you have to to not be alone with him. Say you’re at a con and he follows you or starts horning in on conversations where you are (trying to use the camoflauge of the group and your reluctance to cause a scene), don’t be afraid to cause a scene. Walk away. Report him to an organizer. Say to him (or have a friend say to him for you): “Ex, this is a big event, and I’d like you to go find some other people to talk with. I am not interested in catching up or comfortable in having you close by.” Then do not respond to anything else he says. Ignore him completely. Also tell your friends what’s up, so they can rescue you if need be.
Many online communities have rules about how members can interact with each other. Take a look at your terms of service, and/or check in with one of the mods. If his behavior is crossing the line (where he’s bringing you up or linking to you in every thread), the mods may be able to put him on notice and edit/delete certain posts. If something like that happened here, or there was a situation where the person was responding to everything you said in a disconcerting way, I would at very least put that poster on permanent moderation and delete all references to you in their posts. If I notified them at all I would say “Your mentions of and responses to x poster have become excessive, to the point that it is creepy and disruptive to the community. If you want to keep posting here, find a new topic.” Any response other than “Sorry” and not doing it anymore = immediate banning. It wouldn’t have to even be creeping you out to creep me out, and I would never even reveal that you asked me to do it. “Freedom of speech” means you can’t be locked up by the government for expressing an opinion. It doesn’t mean you can’t be kicked out of a party where you’re peeing on the carpet.
While how he interacts with your friends isn’t actually your problem to manage, they may be understandably at a loss for how to handle it. When the topic comes up, let your friends know how very, very uncomfortable you are with his continued attention and ask your friends to immediately change the subject if he brings you guys up with them. “I thought it was creepy when he did it to Friend, it’s definitely even more creepy now that it’s me.” They should give him zero attention/approval/sympathy around anything to do with you. And if they feel able & comfortable, they should let him know exactly why. For example:
Him: “I saw that LW and friend wrote that they had fun seeing you last week.”
Them: “Huh. Have you read The Twelve yet? Do you know if it’s as good as The Passage? I hope that if they make a movie they won’t try to cast it with white people.”
Him: “Did you hear what I said? I was asking about LW and Friend. Do you think they’ll be at the con next month?”
Them: “Yeah, I heard you. Okay, this is awkward, but you bring them up to a degree that makes me uncomfortable. I hope you can find someone else to talk to about them, but I’m not the right person. Let’s change the subject – read anything good lately?”
If he persists, “Yeah, dude, I’m sorry, but that was a serious request. Let’s pick this conversation up another time, ok?” and they should bail. No wallowing, no rehashing.
Someone who is actually a good friend to him can level with him. “You seem seriously hung up on these ladies, to the point that I think you should talk to a pro about your feelings. This level of engagement with someone who broke up with you isn’t normal, and I think it’s hurting you and stopping you from moving on. Whatever you decide, I know that I don’t want to discuss them with you, so, new topic.”
In the (sad) best-case scenario he is not malevolent, just fixated and obsessed – the behavior of checking up on you and the mentionitis has become a habit that he can’t break on his own, and he really needs some help to overcome it. Limerence can make a person feel temporarily crazy – I know I’ve definitely kept unhealthily picking some emotional scabs instead of letting time and distance turn them into scars, and it took good friends being very, very blunt to help me snap out of it. That doesn’t mean you have to put up with a single bit of it, or be the one to steer him towards help.
It’s important that your friends own the discomfort themselves and don’t pass on the news that YOU are uncomfortable. Not because you’re not uncomfortable, but because letting him know that (perversely) rewards the stalking behavior. Stalkers have temporarily abdicated shame, so “She is seriously freaked out and grossed out by the way you are constantly mentioning and keeping tabs on her” passes through the Wishful Thinking Translator and comes out the other side as “She’s thinking about me!”
The Gift of Fear suggests that if you do not respond at all, eventually he will become fixated on some other unlucky soul and leave you alone. It’s hard to do when he keeps popping up in your peripheral vision, but it’s the only way to shake him.