Entitlement much?

Thank you all so much for a very constructive discussion. At nearly 600 comments, the thread has grown beyond where I can reasonably keep up. So as of 5/14/2014 10:17 pm Chicago time, comments are closed. 


In this piece at Medium on “Cut-Off Culture,” “Emma” broke up with the author after four months of dating, asked for space, and then when they tried to rekindle a friendship after a year, decided it wasn’t really for her.

“After nearly a year of silence, I reached out to her and we began a series of conversations toward repairing our friendship. She said she had recently begun dating someone new and I think it was difficult for her to talk to me about our relationship. Her response was to withdraw again. There were misunderstandings and miscommunication.

She stopped responding to my email and when I called to inquire she blocked my number and emailed me to stop contacting her. Over a space of nine months, I wrote her two kind emails in the spirit of healing. Finally, she replied, “I do not want to see or hear from you ever again” and threatened to file an anti-harassment order against me. The open, thoughtful, communicative Emma I knew had vanished.”

She said,”Please stop contacting me.”

He sent two more emails. She got angry (and possibly afraid) and asked him never to contact her again.

Then he wrote an essay about it, blaming her for invoking his past with an abusive mother(!), making all kinds of assumptions about her “trauma,” and discussing his confusion with her choices:

When personal safety is involved, cutoff is warranted. But most times this isn’t the case. When it’s not, this kind of behavior dehumanizes the other and sends the message “your needs don’t matter, you don’t matter.” University of Chicago neuroscientist John Cacioppo told Psychology Today, “‘The pain of losing a meaningful relationship can be especially searing in the absence of direct social contact.’ With no definitive closure, we’re left wondering what the heck happened, which can lead to the kind of endless rumination that often leads to depression.”

Emma once told me, “You’re the first one to want me for me,” but her abrupt about-face might make you think I ran off with her best friend or boiled her rabbit … I did neither. In fact, to this day, I have only guesses to make sense of her hostility to me.

Because Emma’s withdrawal and eventual cutoff surprised me so much,I had a lot of intense emotions and questions about what she’d experienced and the choices she’d made. Rather than face my need for explanation and desire for resolution, she chose to withdraw.

Here is what the heck happened:

  • You guys broke up.
  • She didn’t communicate for a year, but eventually gave in when you contacted her. Unfortunately you wanted to hash out the end of the relationship; she didn’t. She was into a new dude and didn’t want to talk about old emotional business.
  • So she decided it wasn’t really for her. She tried a slow fade. After all, you guys weren’t really close anymore.
  • Then she TOLD you what was up. “I don’t want to talk to you anymore.
  • You kept contacting her against her explicitly stated wishes. Emails seeking “healing” are still unwanted emails.
  • She got angry and enforced the boundary.
  • You  happened to turn up at her work on a date and she didn’t like it.

What additional “closure” could she have given? What kind of explanation would satisfy? Breakups are painful, and we don’t always understand the reasons for them, but after a four-month romantic attachment ends I don’t think the person is responsible for all of your feelings literally YEARS later. And I don’t think there is any peace or solution possible here, short of “keep being my friend even when you don’t want to.”

Everything about this made my skin crawl:

Cutoff culture is violent in its own ways. The person cutting ties gets what they want, but the person getting cut off is left in a situation where what they need or want doesn’t matter.

Emma’s last note included the phrase, “Apparently, what I want seems irrelevant to you.” She didn’t realize the irony that what I wanted had long been irrelevant to her. Being on the receiving end of a cutoff, surrounded by friends and culture that just expect you to get over it, can leave you feeling utterly powerless.

You are not entitled someone else’s attention and affection! Avoiding someone is not “violent.” YOU GUYS WANT OPPOSITE THINGS. And yes, it is on you to take care of your own feelings here. It is on you to do what you can to heal and get over it. Talk to your friends. Talk to a therapist. Say the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear. Don’t force your ex to take care of you!

“If you’ve cut someone off, the ideal response is to ask what the other person needs to feel at peace and to try to offer compromise. Yoga teacher Sarah Powers says, “A lot of wounds in this world could be healed if we would say to the other, ‘I’m sorry I hurt you, what do you need now?’” Sometimes we cut off because we lack capacity. One can also say: “I can’t do this right now, but maybe can touch base later. What do you need in the meantime?” This is a place where technology can be helpful. Email can be used to communicate at a distance that feels safe.”

What compromise is possible between “I don’t like you or want to be in your life” and “Please stay in my life?” Why do you want someone’s grudging attention that you force them to give you? In the second to last paragraph, the author tells a telling anecdote:

The friend who was told to break up via “JSC” told me another story. One of her friends chose to have sex with a lover after breaking up with him; she said even in the midst of ending the relationship, she wanted to “be generous in spirit.” While I don’t necessarily advocate taking things that far (in part because it can create confusion), I embrace the sentiment.

AH HAHAHAHAHA “Good closure” with a “generous spirit” might involve still having sex with your spurned lover after you dump them while they heal at their own pace. Ok got it. He also invokes technology, and the act of blocking, as a catalyst for stalking, but not in the way you think. His reasoning is that if you block someone it will maybe force them to stalk you. “More than 3 million people report being stalking victims each year, the ultimate measure of collective cluelessness about ending love affairs well.” OR POSSIBLY IT’S ‘CAUSE OF STALKERS. LIKE YOU MIGHT SORTA BE.

The subtitle/logline of the piece is:

“Cutting off exes not only hurts our former partners but limits our own growth as well.”

Actually, this person knows nothing about Emma’s growth. When I cut off a former partner who stalked me, I grew just fine. I grew away. I grew alone. I grew free. I hope “Emma” did, too. Today seems like a good time for a reminder: You don’t have to be friends with your ex. And when you say “stop” and the other person keeps going, that person is telling you that you were right to flee.

P.S. He publishes excerpts from her private emails to him. NOT CREEPY AT ALL YOU GUYS.

P.P.S. Edited to add: This paragraph right here? Blaming male domestic violence against women on women making men feel powerlessness?

“I believe that most domestic violence is the result of men with trauma histories reacting to powerlessness in response to experiences with their ex, friends, or family. Certainly men are responsible for finding nonviolent ways to respond to feeling powerless, but culturally we need to understand the dynamics driving these kinds of situations if we’re to reduce them.”


Bubs and Johnny from the wire with the quote "Equivocating: you're doing it like a motherfucker."

Domestic violence springs from a sense of contempt and entitlement towards women. Men who abuse women don’t think that women are entitled to their own needs, feelings, opinions, and personal space. They think women exist to be emotional caretakers and nannies for men, and that when they fail to put men first, it somehow constitutes “violence” that must be contained and retaliated against. Sound like anyone we know? This is a chilling, MRA-style argument that makes violence against women the fault of women. “Emma”, wherever you are: keep running. Your instincts are in solid working order.

595 thoughts on “Entitlement much?

  1. She definitely did have reason to fear for her safety. She dropped hints, and okay sometimes people don’t notice, but then she straight up told him no. And he kept contacting her. If she can’t trust him to respect her no she can’t trust him not to hurt her! I’ve finally learned to take this on as a basic rule for personal relationships. I don’t care how unimportant it is, if you refuse to listen when I say no, you’re not my friend.

    1. I really like this. I’ve taken to setting a small boundary early on in all my new relationships, be it friendship or something else. It’s a good way to measure respect and understanding without big feelings at stake. If they are boundary pushers I’d rather know now so I can get the fuck away.

      1. I like this; this is super smart. It hadn’t occurred to me to do this deliberately, but over the last year or so I’ve definitely gotten into the habit of hanging back from emotionally committing to a friendship until I’ve seen evidence how my new friend’s boundaries work. Some might call it cynical but that early disinclination to trust easily has served me extremely well, and when someone demonstrates a healthy sense of How To Boundaries, it bring gladness and friendship and trust right into my heart.

      2. Kellis, this sounds really interesting and might benefit me – I think I could also do with setting boundaries on myself as I know I can be like an enthusiastic puppy sometimes.

        Could you give me a for instance so I can understand what you mean? Can be hypothetical of course!

        Im asking because the examples I can think of, like ‘dont contact me more than x times a day’, already kinda indicate a problem! So Im wondering what simple boundary you might set in a new friendship which doesnt appear to have problems.

        1. I do small-boundary setting too nowadays; it’s usually something simple, e.g. “I really dislike taking phone calls, so could you please email or text instead? And if you need to call, could you send a heads-up text message first? I’d really appreciate that.”

          The way people respond to that has been a really good predictor of how the relationship will progress.

        2. Maybe something like “I’m busy tonight, so I won’t be online. I’ll talk to you on Thursday” (or whatever). Then if Friend pushes that boundary by texting a lot, trying to reach you online, or getting cold about your boundary, you’ll know something about how they react.

      3. I do this too (not that I date much). For me, the very first thing is, will he let me pay for my own coffee/dinner. I’m not looking for traditional gender roles in a romantic relationship, so if a guy really feels the need to be the one to pay because He’s The Guy, that’s a bit of a flag. If he absolutely insists even after I say no thanks…it’s not a good sign. (I get if he at least tries after the first, “no I got it”–we’re socialized to expect that. But if he won’t back down, then he’s not listening to me.)

        1. Oh yes. I got dumped once after I paid for lunch. Since I’d invited him, and he’d driven up to see me, I thought it was appropriate to pay (also I get creeped out by the men-always-pay thing, it feels infantilizing).

          He freaked out that I paid and stopped returning my calls the next day. Prooooobably dodged a bullet there.

        1. Perfect example: someone who thinks that enforcing your own boundaries and making sure that your friends/partners respect that is “game playing” is someone to stay the fuck away from. Thanks for the object lesson!

          1. Right? You could reframe this kind of thing in so many ways. Why not call it “asking a question the person should answer with actions” or “teaching people how to treat you” or “communicating your priorities upfront?” It’s not a game because there is no winning. It’s not a game because it’s not recreational. It’s not a game because it’s not make-believe.

            And honestly, if you make the “does this person respond to boundaries by respecting them” idea value neutral (it’s not value neutral at all), you can look at this as “are we compatible?”

            As in “I want to date someone whose ideas about contact and communication are compatible. I want to date someone who believes when I say something, I mean it, and acts accordingly. Therefore if they don’t respond to a boundary by leaving it be, we probably aren’t a good match because people who don’t listen to me and understand that I don’t ask for things I don’t want are a deal breaker in my book.”

            You’re saving everyone a whole lot of time by figuring that out in advance, like if you have compatible sexual chemistry or have enough in common to talk about on a lot of dates and resolve conflicts productively together.

        2. But this is … actually… the opposite of game playing? Game playing is saying one thing and meaning another, and it generally requires that the other person correctly mind-reads to suss out what the person actually wants. An example with setting boundaries might be: “tee hee, don’t call me after 9pm (*but secretly do call me and I will get pissed off if you don’t*)”. Saying “Please don’t call me after 9pm because I’m winding down before bedtime”, and meaning it, is just… straightforward. It is literally the opposite of game playing.

          1. A woman setting any kind of a boundary with a man is game-playing, doncherknow?

    2. You know what creeped me the hell out? When he claims he just ‘happened’ to show up with a date at the restaurant where Emma waitresses. I am so skeeved. He couldn’t even be honest enough to admit he had gone there in hopes of being able to interact personally. No, he just ‘happened’ to show up at her job and proceeded to watch her every move and expression. (His date must have LOVED that.) And then to go from seeing how angry she was to deciding ever so benevolently that she clearly wasn’t as over their relationship as he was and something something whatever something another woman having sex with her ex as a ‘healing’ thing for the guy but not that he’s saying Emma HAS to do that but it sure would be SUPER-SWELL HINT HINT EMMA something something I collapsed from a near-terminal case of the willies omfg.

    3. Thank you for this.

      I’m 30, had only one pseudo relationship in the early days, and then had the beginnings of an intense one earlier this year. I stopped it when I realised the guy doesn’t know what “No” is. Before I left I told the guy, “When we tell you “no’, it really means ”no”. It doesn’t mean ”No, but maybe…”, it doesn’t mean “No…I’m joking”. It really means NO.

  2. Great reminder. I love the way he slips in the “people think I’m this great millionaire, but really I’m just a lonely guy!”

    I think the fact that he acknowledges that he was a fair bit older than her and therefore he knew they would have to break up eventually is also fairly telling of the power differentials at play. It also makes it kind of boggling as to why he’s so upset about her breaking up with him — is it because she got in first?

    1. “Is it because she got in first?”

      Yes. “How dare you break up with Awesome Me when I was doing you such a favor by letting you date me?” Ick ick ick run away run away hard run away NOW.

    2. He actually doesn’t say who broke up with who, which makes me wonder if he was actually the one who broke up with her.

  3. A question: how much of an explanation do you owe someone who you only know over social media?

    The reason I ask is because I recently defriended someone on Livejournal (yes, I use Livejournal; I’m a dinosaur.) I hadn’t really been feeling a friendship with them for awhile and thus didn’t reply to their comments on my posts, and eventually I just took them off my friendslist. They didn’t notice until a few weeks later, and when they did, they sent me a message asking why I’d defriended them. I didn’t really have an answer (“because I’m . . . not that interested in you as a person?”) so I decided to just let the message go without a response and let that be my answer. And I thought that was the end of it until a few weeks later, when I got a comment from them on one of my public posts saying that they really wished we lived nearby each other so we could meet up and hang out. Obviously that last one went over the creepy line, but it did leave me feeling uncertain- was I being unfair by not responding to their question in the first place? (The other person is a guy and I’m a girl, which is partially why I got so creeped out by the second message.)

    1. You don’t owe him anything, but if you want to make it clear, a) delete the public post asking to hang out b) respond to the initial message and say something like “It wasn’t personal, but I did cull my feed of journals I’m not that interested in reading anymore. Unfortunately, yours is one of those for me. I wish you well.”

      Then block if you feel creeped out or if he escalates attempts at contact.

    2. I have two answers.

      1) You don’t owe this person anything–your obligation to give them an explanation ends whenever and wherever you decide it does.

      2) If you want to be polite, though, I usually go with a simple-but-honest explanation. “Hey, I defriended you because I don’t feel like we’re clicking and I don’t see that changing. For that reason, I wouldn’t really be up for hanging out in person. Thank you for understanding.” Sometimes there are hurt feelings, but being really upfront about your lack of interest in rekindling the friendship usually ensures that they won’t be complaining about those feelings to you.

      1. This is a good one, and I’ve noticed(and used) variations of this when people do a big unfriending, because most of the time it’s nothing more than what you’ve said. Sadly, one of the best ways of dealing with boundary violators seems to be to pretend that they aren’t.

      2. Oh, that is useful. I had the same problem, someone on LJ who Id never met demanded to know why Id defriended them, it was rude of me, etc etc.

        My view on social media is that my account is my space to talk about what I want; Im usually surprised when people that Ive never met want to follow me because I think I talk a load of boring rubbish, but its their choice to follow or not! And likewise, my choice to follow people or not, and if their topics change to things Im less interested in, or they say something incompatible with my beliefs, I just unfollow.

        The demanding LJ friend, well I just said I didnt think we had much in common, and she was quite prolific so took up a lot of my friends page, so Id unfollowed but would still be popping over to her page to see how she was doing now & then as I still hoped she was ok and wished her the best.

        That was the truth, but it didnt go down well. Thank you for giving me a different script.

        I also wonder if in this situation there is some surprise hurt, along the lines of ‘I think youre really cool, and Im upset that you dont feel the same about me’? Ive had to consciously check myself a few times when Ive tried to DM someone on twitter and found they arent following me, but I rein it in by thinking ‘I know we are friends as we enjoy doing things a & b together, and talk freely, but lets be fair, I tweet quite a lot, and mostly about x y & z, so no wonder they dont want me filling up their friends feed!’ But I do have to remind myself so I dont accidentally overreact.

        On the same note, how do people deal with others saying ‘I need to message you privately so please follow me’? I find it a little passiveaggressive honestly, and if I do follow them so they can contact me, when do I unfollow again? Do I let them know?

        I tend to say ‘oh, Im more likely to notice an email, could you mail me instead please?’ but Im not sure whether there is a better solution?

        (Apologies for this comment getting long!)

        1. There are several people on my LJ friendslist who I like reasonably well, but don’t want to read their posts — generally because they’re drama queens. So I have a filter called “Secondary”, where I can move someone and accomplish the same effect as defriending them without actually doing it. Of course, this wouldn’t work if I were uneasy about them reading my friendslocked posts — or at least, it would require the effort of building a posting filter that would not include them.

          I do really like the way DreamWidth handles this. The “friendslist” concept is split out into people you “subscribe to” and people to whom you “grant access”. This means that you can follow the posts of people you find interesting without necessarily letting them see your locked posts. I now do all my posting from DW (because it’s trivially easy to crosspost to LJ from there), which also gives me a mirror site for my journal (because DW lets you import comments from LJ). But I still hang out on LJ, because not all my friends have moved to DW.

        2. If the truth you said here didn’t go down well, I don’t think anything would have. It sounds like you were perfectly polite.

      3. I might do #2 on the public post asking to hang out. That way, if he ever pulls some bullcrap snowjob on people about you, you can point to it as how clear and reasonable you were.

    3. Lol – I used to be on Livejournals, and I remember feeling a weird dread when I would unfriend someone – “omg they’re going to wonder whyyy” or if someone unfriended me “whyyyy did you dooooo that?” It felt personal!!

      I later realized – meh. In general the “it’s personal” folks tended to be a bit more high maintenance than I was comfortable (including myself back in the day).

      If I unfriended someone now in social media and they asked, I would likely say something like:

      “I just realized I wasn’t very engaged in what you were writing. To be honest, I’d “unfriend” my mom if I weren’t reading her posts.” I’ve also done something like this on Facebook – “I didn’t care for the types of things you posted” or “It was a lot more X than I prefer to have on my feed.”

    4. I’m a dinosaur, too (and I like it) 😉

      Anyway, you don’t *owe* anyone an explanation but of course being sometimes at the giving and sometimes at the receiving end, we all know how it feels. A few weeks ago someone wrote a nice comment to one of my posts, we answered back and forth with a few more, then she unfriended me. It felt like “what did I say?!?” I found a public post of hers though where she said she couldn’t keep up with the feed, so she culled. I left it at that. Hadn’t I found that I think I would have asked. AND expected an answer. If only a polite “go away”.

      I’d go with some of the other scripts. Sorry, no time, we didn’t really click, wish you well, bye. Which is nice, appreciative, and still sets a clear cut. Doesn’t hurt you but helps that other person.

  4. Oh, no. No no no.

    Also, this: “I believe that most domestic violence is the result of men with trauma histories reacting to powerlessness in response to experiences with their ex, friends, or family. Certainly men are responsible for finding nonviolent ways to respond to feeling powerless, but culturally we need to understand the dynamics driving these kinds of situations if we’re to reduce them.”

    How is that not an implied threat? How is that “but” not excusing domestic violence?

    Also, this is just hilarious: “There were hints of trauma in her personal history and her occasionally limited capacity for difficult emotions during our relationship.” YOU WERE DATING FOR FOUR MONTHS. MAYBE IT TAKES LONGER FOR SOME PEOPLE TO OPEN UP TO A DATING PARTNER THAN FOUR MONTHS. ESPECIALLY WITH A PARTNER WHO DOESN’T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND PERSONAL BOUNDARIES.


    1. He should read Lundy Bancroft’s book. Domestic violence by men against women grows out of disrespect and contempt for women. Sure, trauma is probably covalent in many cases, but it’s not the cause of someone being violent.

      His discussion of gender borders on MRA territory. How many of those 3 million stalkers are men stalking women who tried to break up with them? I feel comfortable saying “most.”

      1. This is also a situation I’d recommend Men’s Work by Paul Kivel, which is kind of a men’s guide to reducing gendered violence, starting with you-the-reader. He has some really great things to say on how men get sold this myth of perfect romantic love as a promise that they don’t have to manage their own emotions, because one day The Perfect Woman will come along and manage those emotions for them–so when men get into relationships and men mysteriously have all the same hangups and worries and neuroses they had before, they blame it on women’s inability to be perfect enough instead of realizing that it was a myth in the first place. Which leads to entitled rage and violence.

        1. “He has some really great things to say on how men get sold this myth of perfect romantic love as a promise that they don’t have to manage their own emotions, because one day The Perfect Woman will come along and manage those emotions for them”

          I’ve never heard this before. It gives me a lot to think about. Thank you for sharing.

      2. I was reminded of that part of WDHDT? too, and also remember that there’s a part where Bancroft says that if an abuser comes from a household where abuse happened, it is in the vast majority of cases the father who is abusive, not the mother, thus being the worst role model from early on about how to behave towards women.

        1. I am always somewhat dubious about vast majority of cases claims in this sort of thing. I think it makes logical sense, given the cultural attitudes toward women, but I don’t really trust the data since a lot of the narrative around domestic violence assumes female victims, and there are a lot of barriers and stigmas for ANYONE reporting or seeking help, but even more for men, so I’m never sure how accurate the data can be at the moment. If women have trouble recognizing that they’re in abusive relationships, I imagine it’s even harder for men, because fewer people even believe they can be in abusive relationships as the victim.

          1. While I do understand your comment, I have to admit I’m a bit uncomfortable with it because it seems to at least a bit buy into the “But what about teh menz?!” rhetoric that is so often used as a derailment, especially when the discussion is about rape/sexual assault (which this here isn’t but I got the same vibe regardless).

            But, more importantly, that doesn’t really have anything to do with what Myrin talks about? They (and Lundy, too; it’s been a while since I’ve read the book but I clearly remember this section) talk about abusive PARENTS, not abusive PARTNERS, so you commenting on “abusive relationships” (which I take it you mean a romantic/sexual relationship, not a parent-child one, but please correct me if I’m wrong) doesn’t really have anything to do with it.

          2. Abusive parents, but Mydin was talking about abusive fathers giving poor examples of how to treat women. Which implies intimate partner violence in the abusive households. If they (or the book) meant that all households where child abuse takes place its mostly the father, that’s just inaccurate, so I assume they were referring to the type of abuse which that would fit the numbers.

            I agree that it is similar to what about the menz comment, and I’m not super comfortable making it. But it is also an actual issue that deserves to be raised, because in DV, the possibility of men as the abused is just too dismissed and shameful in our society, and that sucks. I realize it has a lot of risks and that frequently abusers claim to be abused by their victim, and that that’s a huge problem. And that our society generally favors men and believes them over women. But we should also acknowledge the fact that there may be more underground stuff going on. EVen though I very much think it is mostly women being abused, I don’t think accurate numbers are out there.

          3. If they (or the book) meant that all households where child abuse takes place its mostly the father, that’s just inaccurate, so I assume they were referring to the type of abuse which that would fit the numbers.

            But that isn’t what they (both the above commentor and the book) say! It’s not about “all households where child abuse takes place”, it’s about abusers who come from a household where child abuse took place; that’s an important difference!
            And Bancroft found that, if abusers come from a household where they themselves were abused, it was usually /the father/ who abused his wife and children, not the mother. And that is not some idea he had just because, but an observation Bancroft made while working with his abusive clients.
            These clients often use “I was abused by my mother as a child” as an excuse for their own abusiveness towards their partners. Whereas asking the right questions that required detailed and precise answers led to the revelation that, if there was even any abusiveness going on in their childhood home at all (because some abusers straight-up lie about that), it was commonly the father-figure who was abusive.
            (To put it another way, it’s way more likely for an abuser to come from a home where the father was abusive than from one where the mother was.)

      3. Having been in a domestic violence situation, I don’t think that all situations are about disrespect and contempt. Granted a lot of them probably are, but in my experience it had more to do with control vs powerlessness and external vs internal validation.

        I believe that most domestic violence is the result of men with trauma histories reacting to powerlessness in response to experiences with their ex, friends, or family. Certainly men are responsible for finding nonviolent ways to respond to feeling powerless, but culturally we need to understand the dynamics driving these kinds of situations if we’re to reduce them.

        I think that here he show some insight, and acknowledges that men are responsible for reacting in non violent ways, without really understanding how is history with his mother probably contributed to the break up. Yes he sends some serious red flags, and Emma doesn’t owe him shit. But the dialogue around this sort of thing really needs to open up. I don’t think telling my ex that he held contempt for me would wake him up. Because he loved me just so, SO much. Telling him I wasn’t responsible for his happiness potentially did some good. And that isn’t dependant on gender.

        My current bf is fantastic, but his last relationship was with an emotionally abusive woman. She in turn was raised by a violent father. Just because she didn’t hit my Bf doesn’t make her any less violent, any better than her father. She learnt unhealthy ways of dealing with interpersonal issues. The causes of these issues isn’t gendered, but the way they manifest themselves can be by the different narratives around appropriate gender expression

        Furthermore, and this will also be controversial, this particular realm of sexuality and breakups is one in which women wield more power; it’s easier in our culture for women to find emotional and physical intimacy when a relationship ends than it is for men.

        I remember Emma described during our breakup that her housemate would cuddle with her as she cried; with no such support and few single friends, I was left to watch TV with my cats. It’s rare for men to have the rich emotional networks of support that women do.

        I don’t think his piece is a bunch of fluffy bunnies, and yes he’s entitled, but credit where credit is due please.

        1. Furthermore, and this will also be controversial, this particular realm of sexuality and breakups is one in which women wield more power; it’s easier in our culture for women to find emotional and physical intimacy when a relationship ends than it is for men.

          This strikes me as a pretty tone-deaf response to this article. We’re talking about a woman who had to suck it up and smile when her stalker ex showed up at her workplace to harass her, remember? A woman whose stalker ex is demanding in all seriousness that she continue to support him through the aftermath of her decision to dump him and never speak to him again.

          Women don’t have access to support when their exes decide to use “closure” to perpetrate emotional abuse. They aren’t emotionally supported or offered any level of intimacy under rape culture. Emma is the cold-hearted bitch who is probably a little bit unbalanced, trauma issues, obvs. Emma has to guard her heart against his instead of taking care of her own feelings of upset, loss, and fear. Emma can’t be complicated or sad. Emma is being publicly humiliated for failing to offer her creepy stalker ex (-teacher!) enough support and intimacy years after leaving him.

          Emma’s ex-boyfriend, on the other hand, can get hundreds of people to verbally abuse poor Emma by proxy. That is emotional support. “My bitch ex-wife” and “my crazy ex” are bids for emotional support. Dysfunctional, toxic, selfish emotional support, but it qualifies, and it doesn’t function as a substitute for hugs and therapy.

        2. We will gather around and praise men who point out the many issues men face in dating and relationships…but those points have been made well by men, different men, who have not also used their writing to endorse shitty attitudes and action towards women.

          Yet somehow people don’t pay a lot of attention to those men. Well, unless by “people” you mean “people who work in feminist programs to reduce the amount of violence that men commit” and I work with some and they are awesome, but they are also all feminists who would side-eye this essay so hard. But anyway, THE ONLY TIME people other than those feminists want to talk about men’s emotional difficulties is when someone has suggested that women are to blame for violence about them, and also men’s emotional difficulties, and that person’s supporters are like BUT HE HAS A POINT YOU KNOW.

          THE ONLY FUCKING TIME. Whenever those of us who CARE about men’s emotional difficulties want to open up the conversation NO ONE IS LISTENING.

          But if you want to talk about it, there are amazing resources made by men who do not support domestic violence in any way ever that could desperately use a signal-boost.

          Like, I Don’t Want to Talk About It by Terrence Real has been around since 1997; Paul Kivel’s Men’s Work (SRSLY YOU GUYS, PAUL KIVEL SO AWESOME) was published in 1998. That was more than 15 years ago. They are both stellar books full of so much theory, wisdom, and grounded, practical advice. They are very passionately empathetic to men’s pain and the boxes men find themselves in. Reading them was a soul-searing and healing experience for me.

          And they never, ever suggested the kind of crap Jeff Reifman is suggesting.


      Like, he just does not get that the conversation stops at, “Woman has expressed a clear boundary. This makes me unhappy. I should respect her boundary and deal with my own feelings.”

      You don’t deal with it by taking over the powerful role of Judge of Whether or Not You Have a Good Enough Reason to Cut Me Off. You have to actually sit with the pain of feeling disconnected and vulnerable, and work through it with the resources you already have.

      1. Perhaps he would have a richer network of friends if he were better at understanding people’s emotions and needs, or at putting in the work, or at RESPECTING CLEARLY STATED BOUNDARIES.

        That’s not very generous to the lonely, but I don’t feel inclined to be generous to someone who’s proven that he’s basically scary and not to be trusted.

        1. Don’t worry, the times I’m lonely I definitely don’t want to make myself not lonely by making people too scared or uncomfortable to not be my friend! I feel like that would just be really awful for me as well, anyway. Whether I was aware of it or not.

        2. It’s a bit of a letting-himself-off-the-hook to say that women in general have better social networks. He is not confined by that supposed generalisation. If he wants a better social network, he can put in the work to get one, just like those women who have good social networks. It’s not like they get social networks by virtue of having a vagina.

          1. I am the owner of a vagina and I most definitely do not have a social network – because I *don’t* work at it. Now, I am an introvert with some trust issues, so this is actually pretty deliberate, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is my own action (or lack of action) that keeps my social circle small to non-existent. I think Jane Austen put it best:
            “I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

            “My fingers,” said Elizabeth, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault—because I would not take the trouble of practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman’s of superior execution.”

            While Darcy (that sly dog) manages to pull a compliment for Elizabeth out of that, it doesn’t make her wrong – if either of them were willing to put in the effort they would certainly see an improvement. And perhaps they would never be the best player in the world or the most sparkling wit, but there is a biiiiiiiig middle ground between “most sparkling wit in the world” and “no friends at all”.

      2. This has a lot of similarities to what I’ve been talking about with my therapist about my mother. She just *does not get* boundaries. Sure, she knows I SAID I didn’t want to talk about X thing, but SHE wants to so what’s the problem? I wasn’t serious, right? She has feelings and I need to help with them!

        Last night my therapist said “So … what do you get out of your relationship with your mother? What does it give you?” And … I couldn’t think of anything. And then this morning she figured out how to circumvent my FB block of her posting to my timeline. YEEEEP.

        1. I realize it’s sort of last resort, but I finally gave my mother yet another set of boundaries, told her if she didn’t respect them I wasn’t going to be in contact with her: she didn’t, and now I’m not. It’s been incredibly liberating and pleasant, to be honest. Obviously not for everyone, but it’s been great for me.

          1. Yeah, I also have a boundary ignoring mother and it’s a surprising relief to actually set and stick to said boundaries. At first you feel like you couldn’t possibly, because she will escalate wildly and freak out and get really upset (like talking about suicide upset) and it seems like it’s not worth it (because that’s what we learn as kids, and that’s what the rest of the family reinforces). But actually, if you keep doing it and just ignore the over the top reaction, things can improve. I know some people who have gone zero contact like rayoffuckingsunshine, and it really does work for them, so don’t rule it out. There’s also a low contact middle ground that sort of works for me, and might work for you depending on your circumstances. I live in a different city to my mother far far away which helps tremendously, along with the fact that I got rid of my landline and she refuses to call mobile phones or even text me to call her, so contact is easy to limit. It wouldn’t have worked when I lived in the same city because she used to turn up on my doorstep all the time.

          2. It’s been the same sort of thing for me, really. I told her I needed a no-contact period, and she hasn’t respected it. I had to block her FB feed because she fills it with passive-aggressive vaguebooking statuses about how she “suffers in silence” (yeah, right) and “doesn’t deserve this”. She’s contacted my spouse. And just last week she ANGRILY texted my daughter, demanding to know why she was ignoring her when she could see my daughter logged into Facebook. The kid was in class! She has a smartphone, it always shows her logged into Facebook!

            I have all kinds of guilt and anxiety over it still, and like Anisoptera says she hints at suicidal thoughts which is more guilt and anxiety.

            The irony about the whole situation is this: my brother hasn’t spoken to her in almost 20 years. So whenever she was with me, she’d turn the conversation to my brother and why he doesn’t talk to her. EVERY. TIME. Which… way to make me feel important, mom. After months of telling her I was not going to discuss Brother with her, she pulled it at my father’s funeral. Her obsessive need for “closure” with Brother has now led to neither of us wanting to talk to her.

      3. Unpopular opinion, but…he does move on. He stops contacting her, gets a new date, and continues on with his life. I’m kind of tired and rambling, but my main point in all the text I’m going to write below is twofold:

        1) I don’t think his behavior before the blog post was problematic. I’d even call it healthy.

        2) His analysis of what happened is a train wreck.

        The man’s public sharing of Emma’s emails and his bullshit hindsight about her “past traumas” is scoundrel-worthy behavior. However, the actions he went during the relationship and its immediate aftermath were very understandable.

        Captainawkward and commenters seem to see him as going through a period where he needed a woman to be “caretaker for his emotions”, but he just wanted answers. After all, being ignored over the course of nine months can have a variety of causes, and up until she threatened him and told him to stop, there was ambiguity in the air.

        I say this as a person who went through a loss of many friendships – during a period of depression I violated virtually all my friends’ boundaries, and they responded appropriately at the time: they ignored my neediness when it became clear that I’d become an emotional vampire. This included everything from a romantic relationship of a year, to a friendship spanning 5 years.

        I took a year off from school, and upon returning, felt immense guilt at my behavior back then. I thought my relationships were not salvage-able. I told my therapist that maybe I should give up on them. My therapist put it this way:
        “If you can be thoughtful and present when talking with your old friends, I think there is room for those relationships to become as fulfilling as they were before. I’d hate for your friends and your ex to stay disconnected without at least seeing the new you, now that you’ve spent a year gaining perspective and easing yourself out of depression.”

        It was hard work, especially for my romantic relationship. I’d been emotionally manipulative during the end of that, and my ex would have been justifiably spooked by me contacting her. Nonetheless, she responded – as did all of my other friends. They were happy to see that I’d reached a different point in my life, and all those relationships are repaired and have been for a while.

        A lot of what got me through DID involve “work[ing] through it with the resources [I] already had”, but one of those resources was exercising judgment. For me to feel adequate as a human being, I had to realize that there were two truths:

        1) All of my friends had every right to disconnect with me.
        2) I had every right to feel betrayed and to sink further into depression in response to that, because there’s always something that I would feel that they could have done better.

        That is a judgment: my friends could have done better, and if they had gotten over their own inhibitions, they would have done better. I don’t hold that against them, but it does allow me to make sense of what happened, because otherwise I’m the one who messed up, 100%. I’m the one at fault and should have just gotten over my depression faster, right?

        Cutoff culture IS violent in its own way. I fail to see how you guys fail to see that. This guy’s post is equally violent, with all its unsubstantiated claims and his overstepping of boundaries. That doesn’t invalidate his entire experience, it just makes him kind of a jerk to Emma.

        Btw if you think it should be obvious that she was scared of him just from the silence alone…some of my friends WERE scared of me during my absence from their lives. Some were scared FOR me. Some loved me but felt out of their depth, and so didn’t contact me. My ex actually stopped contacting me out of guilt. One of my friends felt betrayed by me, that I had not talked to him more.

        Reading his entire article, I think he’s reached a better place both for himself and for his future relationships. I don’t see the entitlement in asking for clarification, and since I went through the same pathway as him, I don’t see that entitlement in myself either. There could be some privilege thing I’m missing, but CaptainAwkward’s article seems to imply that I should have just let every single friendship I had go to waste because “what other closure could I want” and “you can’t compromise – if they wanted you out of your life at point A, they will never want you again amirite”.

        Biggest difference? I got my friends and ex back in my life. He didn’t.

        1. “Cutoff culture IS violent in its own way. I fail to see how you guys fail to see that. This guy’s post is equally violent,”


          To quote a nice Twitter follower: “Cut-off culture” is consent culture.

        2. You say you identify with him, but there is one major point I want to clarify:

          Did your friends specifically tell you that they wanted you to go away and stop contacting them?

          Because Emma did. Repeatedly. This guy did not decide to fade on his own. SHE broke up with HIM, SHE told HIM to stop contacting her, and yet he still did, and now he’s written an essay that opens her up to even further scrutiny and public pressure. (This article itself, I am very sure, is going to cause him to re-enter her life without her permission as people go, “Hey, didn’t you date this guy for a few months two years ago? He wrote something about you”) He is continuing to ignore her repeated requests.

          Maybe you’re new here? We talk a lot about how being cut off by someone SUCKS and HURTS and is REALLY PAINFUL and how our society doesn’t help people deal with that gracefully. We get that. I was cut off by someone four years ago in a way that can still make me cry today. I’ve been there. A lot of us have. There really is a difference between what you’re describing, and what this dude is doing.

          1. Fair points, all. Didn’t read that linked article before, and it definitely gave a different perspective. And all of my friends did tell me they wanted me to stop contacting them (some more directly, some less), but it was before my break, and afterwards, with the help of my counselor, I kind of proceeded to ignore those statements on the basis that maybe they’d expired? I felt very uncomfortable doing that, mind, but it paid off.

            As to me being new here – I’ve never commented, but I’ve read a lot of the posts here. Honestly I’ve learned a lot and grown as a person simply through reading. I guess the idea of cutoffs just rubs me the wrong way. Rereading this with a more awake brain, I see even more problems with the blog post than before, but his actions before he decided to jerk-blog about life still seem reasonable to me…and it worries me that he and I basically went through the same actions.

            Consent is important. Full stop. I’m not adding asterisks to that, but maybe male privilege means I have a harder time intuitively linking cutoff culture with consent. I just responded here because of that parallel with my real life, and how things worked out there.

          2. I’ve hit max nesting and this is a reply to the comment above:

            And all of my friends did tell me they wanted me to stop contacting them (some more directly, some less), but it was before my break, and afterwards, with the help of my counselor, I kind of proceeded to ignore those statements on the basis that maybe they’d expired? I felt very uncomfortable doing that, mind, but it paid off.

            I am glad that re-opening contact worked out for you, your ex, and your friends. Sometimes people are ok with having their boundaries pushed and do change their minds.

            It could as easily have gone the other way. You–and they–were lucky.

            maybe male privilege means I have a harder time intuitively linking cutoff culture with consent

            Please define “cutoff culture”. Neither you nor Reifman does so and I am pretty sure he’s railing against a thing that doesn’t actually exist. Cutting off contact is seen as an extreme step. There is no one making a movement of it.

            Refusing contact with someone is refusing consent for them to be in your life. That is the connection between refusing contact and consent.

        3. Asking for clarification is fine – once. Twice if you didn’t get a response the first time. Maaaaybe once more after that if plenty of time has lapsed and you have reason to believe they might be more open to talking to you now. Same with attempting to explain yourself, or trying to re-establish contact and relationships. Nobody’s saying that people should never do that, or that friends/exes should never respond to it.

          Continuing to ask for clarification and contact someone who has explicitly and in so many words asked you to STOP DOING THAT is terrible behavior. It shows you don’t care about them, their needs, or their boundaries. That is what makes your situation different from his. You understood that your friends might need space and were prepared to honor that if they asked for it. He obviously, demonstrably, was not interested in what his ex wanted. That’s the bad behavior, not the initial attempt at contact.

          I really have to wonder what this guy thought he was going to get out of this. I get the temptation to think that just one more conversation is going to somehow heal all your pain (as, I’m sure, do most people who’ve been dumped), but the fact that he’s clung to that belief for so long is very disconcerting. Most of us hit that phase, realize we’ll never get an answer, cry and scream about the unfairness of it all, and then move on to dealing with our own lives.

        4. up until she threatened him and told him to stop, there was ambiguity in the air.

          A.) We only have his word for it that her “please stop contacting me” came out of the blue and that he had no idea that there was anything wrong. Do you see where he said “there were misunderstandings and miscommunications”? He’s glossing over something there. His whole story has been carefully rehearsed to put him in the best possible light. He’s probably spent so long dwelling on it that he actually believes that her “past trauma” is responsible for her seemingly unreasonable behaviour towards him.

          B.) It turns most people do understand the meaning of a soft no or a slow fade. Some just choose to ignore it because it’s not “GO. AWAY.”

        5. I’ll stick my neck out on the chopping block and say: Thank you so much, Jacuzziant! I was going to leave a comment on the post about how although I LOVE most of Cap & crew’s advice on here, and that there were parts of this man’s behavior [note: I have not read the entire original article] that were defniitely not OK, suddenly disconnecting from important personal relationships IS violent and confusing and traumatic to the recipient in its own way, especially if the recipient is genuinely well-intentioned and has no idea what’s going on.

          Tangentially related, and something I’ve wanted to get off my chest for a long time: Every time I read a post like this from this blog I get mildly – well, very – discomfited, because the sort of intense self-focus isn’t a characteristic of every culture, but this blog seems to assume that all its readers are North American/Western European, or wish to embrace a highly individualistic* way of approaching their relationships that puts the self at the *absolute* center regardless of how it may affect others. When I saw the letter from an Indian woman a few posts ago I was very excited about reading what the response to it would be and about the advice it may offer for balancing individualistic and collectivistic cultural backgrounds – but I was disappointed as it was more of the same. And when I see the vehemence of responses to any commenter who dares suggest that sometimes someone shouldn’t put themselves first, I feel scared that the social approach that myself and many of my friends were raised within is being attacked like this. I don’t have any answers either and the conflict is very strong within me as a first-generation immigrant, but I’m always disappointed to see a blog that I know reaches a lot of people with very solid advice taking such a tone-deaf approach to relationships as they relate to other people.

          No letter can ever be impartial and I would like to see more responses from this blog that deal with how to cope when someone has (rightfully) utilized self-care strategies in a way that is hurtful to you. I think it’s easy for us to unknowingly describe someone’s behavior as terrible and Darth Vadery when we have unpleasant memories associated with them, and when we can only see our side of the situation. But I think seizing upon the other side ignores the possibility that they can truly be well-intentioned, but just doing it the wrong way, or that they don’t know how else to cope – not that they are evil bastards.

          Lastly, Jaccuziant, I’m glad you got your friends back and that you were able to disconnect from your former self effectively enough to do it! How did you manage? I was in a very similar situation a few years ago, and I left those friendships behind for fear that I’d not be able to keep the old crazy/depressed side of me from surfacing again if the waters were stirred. But it’s been long enough that perhaps I could give it a try?

          * Individualistic not as a derogatory term – just the opposite of collectivistic culture.

          1. Dear Culture Shock:

            I have a distinct point of view about stuff like asking someone to stop contacting you because they keep demanding explanations even after you’ve given all the explanation you are capable of (sometimes the reason is “I don’t know, my feelings changed, sorry.”) and then having them keep contacting you. I think this behavior is icky and that people should stop doing it. I think it is a barrier to forgiveness, to harmony, to eventually normalizing relationships even after a separation or crisis. It’s not a hidden agenda, it is prevalent on the site. Also prevalent on the site? Many questions involving stalkers, or partners who refuse to let go after a breakup, from people who don’t actually know that they have the right to end relationships. Whatever else our culture is, it’s a culture where women saying “No, actually, I don’t want to spend time with you” is seen as the MEANEST THING EVAR.

            Having an opinion that differs from yours is not necessarily an “attack” on how you and your friends would handle something, just like avoiding someone is not the same as violence. (Seriously. Everyone stop saying that. “I left you alone and asked you to do the same” vs. “I did something violent to you” are not the same!)

            I’m just one person, with limits, informed by my culture as you are by yours, informed by my experience as a rape survivor and a survivor of stalking that never went all the way into violence but still terrified and worried me and sucked up years of my time and attention. I don’t pretend to come from an objective place at all, and ALL advice is caveat emptor. I also fortunately host a comments section where people who have alternate perspectives (like alternate advice for the Indian woman involved long distance with the potentially creepy dude) can post those things as long as it is constructive and where several people from India weighed in. Comments on that thread are still open, go to it! How would something like that (where a man is being controlling to the point where he lies about crises to keep his girlfriend on the phone even when she has stuff to do, and the woman seems to have abdicated her entire personality and interests in favor of repeating his opinions of things or relating every single subject to him) be best handled in your culture? I actually want to know. Keep in mind also that the Indian woman in the situation didn’t write to me; her friend did.

            American culture is more individualistic than other cultures, but if you think that somehow makes us free of pressure to keep the people who harm us in our lives even at great costs to ourselves for some sense of the community or the “greater good”, you are mistaken.

          2. Couldn’t you look at it from the other angle, though? It seems like this guy’s romantic strategy is USian individualism gone wrong: it’s the elevator pitch of love, where if you just keep trying and show them what a go-getter you are, and refuse to take no for an answer, you’ll get the girl.

            I mean, he doesn’t strike me as remotely cooperative or compassionate. He doesn’t seem inclined to compromise on any relationship but the one in his head (to be fair, there’s really no workable compromise between get-lost and friends – it’s like cake with death ganache).

            His take on this is me me me me me why isn’t she thinking about me, where am I in all my ex-girlfriend’s plans, why isn’t she doing enough to comfort me? His heart is like a difference engine that can only ever find for one side, and he keeps one-upping her putative concerns (safety, privacy, finality) with rather tenuous versions on his part (trauma, self-determination, “closure”).

            He just comes off as totally self-absorbed. And a lot of his self-absorption bleeds out onto other people in the community: her employer, for example; his new date; their friends. He’s not cooperating with her or anyone else.

            I also don’t think that cutting off contact is a strategy. It’s a tactic. Many people who go for the cut direct or the slow fade are doing it because their exes are too dense to be coddled. It’s not choosing between your comfort and someone else’s comfort – it’s choosing between clarity for both of you vs. false comfort and confusion for at least one of you. Pleading like this is a pretty strong indication that the other person won’t let go of the relationship in a cooperative way – that unilateral tactics are the only effective ones.

          3. Max nesting hit too, so:

            quartzpebble: You’re absolutely right there. Maybe I’m asking the wrong question about whether I was morally in the right and Jeff was morally in the wrong. We could have both been wrong and boundary-breaking in our actions, I was just the luckier one – the one with better friends, or the one who by chance said the right things during reconnection.

            “Cutoff culture”. To clarify, all I mean is that cutting-off is an extreme step, and not a go-to solution. I recognize that it’s necessary, or even when not necessary, it can make a person feel safer or more in control of their lives. I’m just not comfortable putting it on a pedestal. Not for shaming it either, mind, but it’s the unfortunate reaction to feeling cornered and ideally nobody should have to experience that. Again, if my wording signifies that I’m missing your point, I apologize in advance.

            What I meant by the next bit is just that cutting off permanently isn’t built into a world built on consent. I see it more as a semantic contingency for when you feel cornered, and to two individuals in a relationship, it’s very easy for one to feel cornered even as the other doesn’t feel that they are “cornering”. And that sort of misalignment is always unfortunate. I like to make consent culture about enthusiasm and having fun and tend to sequester everything else as contingencies necessary when things go south.

            Like, raising your voice, repeating yourself, and slapping someone are all ways to communicate “no”, I just don’t see them as part of a healthy consent model, for all that they may naturally occur even in a healthy relationship, on a bad day. Hope that makes sense? Don’t think my distinction is too drastic.

            Culture Shock: Thanks for posting! This isn’t my blog so I can’t speak comprehensively for it, but I think people will be more accepting here than you give them credit for, even when someone posts something that flows upstream, so-to-speak.

            It’s difficult as someone raised with elements of a different culture. I’m in the same boat as you. However, on a more societal scale, I think it’d still be justified for Emma to do what she did. As you say, you and I just may weight Jeff’s pain a bit more heavily, but ultimately his blogging of a bunch of private emails and experiences is problematic.

            I don’t feel attacked on here, even when I see elements of myself in, say, the Darth Vader boyfriend. It’s part of growth to recognize what you can improve upon, and I take everything here with a grain of salt, but also take my own self-evaluation with a grain of salt. Entrenched in depression as I was, it was easy to assign my friends as jerks for not being primary caretakers for poor little me. Several social justice blogs as well as this one allowed me to slowly own my problematic behaviors on a micromanaging scale while still loving myself in a holistic manner.

            Emphasizing social importance is huge in many cultures, but while it has its advantages, I think we can afford to be flexible with our values as immigrants, to try and see things from as many perspectives as possible. Rather than seeing your culture as an impediment and thing that you must defend, you can simply see it as yet another perspective you happen to own within your own identity.

            Er, with respect to the last part, it’s a bit more personal than I’m willing to fully share. I’ll try. Um, I was very careful. You can’t go in with the idea that you will resolve things into a certain picture, or you will try to be controlling. For someone just out of depression, I was hugely tempted to be a control freak. I wanted to drop hints that I’d been displeased with people. I wanted to guilt people if I could. I wanted to make them realize how much they’d hurt me. I wanted them to understand the feeling of betrayal I’d felt.

            Ultimately, all of that is very unhealthy. From a social perspective, if you’ve grown past that, bringing it up is just introducing more negativity into the memosphere. Additionally, if you have quality friends, then honestly? They know all that shit already, even if they might not feel comfortable forming it into words. Bringing any of that up is just attacking them on a side they aren’t ready to defend.

            From a more individualistic perspective, giving in to those impulses just would have been hugely self-harming. I didn’t need to vent for self-care, I wanted to vent to cause vindictive pain.

            So I went in and dropped my expectations. One of the biggest challenges of reconnecting is realizing that every action is a step forward, even if they don’t seem so to you. For most of my first-time-reconnects, we just ate food and had small talk about life. We didn’t touch on anything beyond the surface of things. This felt hugely inadequate for me, but it is actually a huge step forward for friends. The last impression they had of me was someone unbalanced, apathetic or pathetic depending on my mood, and disillusioned with life. The new me had stories to tell about how my life had progressed and was obviously more animated. I think they needed to just see that and spend some time sitting with it.

            After that, I slowly eased into topics as they came up. I didn’t pretend that nothing had changed, per se, but I did skirt around anything if my friends seemed uncomfortable. They had, after all, been very much hurt by me, even as they hurt me, and as the person who had taken time off I had the responsibility to be more conscientious with the rebuilding. They had continued on with life and that came with all its own unique and new stressors.

            My ex and I, especially, had to touch on a lot of uncomfortable points. I think sometimes you have to force yourself to find closure with what you get. For instance, I really wanted a comprehensive apology for event A, and I also really wanted to give a lengthy apology myself for event B, which had been my fault. I started in on B, but she said that she’d already thought about it and had forgiven me, but if it was alright with me we should not talk about it for at least a few years (she knows my quirky desire for time variables). My entire planned speech of an apology was shut down. It was jarring, but honestly, I got more than I deserved with that forgiveness, so I kind of forced myself to accept that as a compromise. Her apology for A was sloppy, disjointed, and had some elements that sounded wrong to me. Where there was total dissonance, I tried to timidly joke that something maybe was wrong, and she amended. Other areas, I just let sleeping semantics lie. We were clumsy, fumbling in the dark, but we got through. It was a relief to feel some of those holes in the heart get patched up, even if it was messy. It’s again more than I deserved or expected, and I’m not going to go back and try to make those patches perfect.

            Other people have been drumming this in, but – I was lucky. These people actually DID want to reconnect, wanted to give me a chance again. If your friends don’t, or do but don’t have the emotional depth/skills to, then I do think that you have to find closure yourself if you want to continue friendships with them. Some topics just…aren’t talked about again. You can let the friendship go on if you can find peace with that. If you can’t, then you have to move on.

            Sorry. I was vague as fuck, but even writing this much makes me queasy. And my situation probably doesn’t parallel yours too much. I doubt you fucked up as much as I did. XD I hope it helps.

          4. max nesting again, to Jaccuziant:

            I like to make consent culture about enthusiasm and having fun and tend to sequester everything else as contingencies necessary when things go south.

            And this is where myself and the popular conception of “consent culture” part ways. “No means no” (which implies having the tools to be able to say “no”, gracefully or not) is a requirement before you can get to the happy enthusiastic funtimes of “yes means yes”.

            If it’s not ok to say no, you end up with shit like me continuing sex with my ex because me saying I wanted to stop for the night and go the fuck to sleep would have made him sad (and I note that making your partner sad is not about fun or enthusiasm). Fuck that. Having the skills and the social ok to enforce your boundaries is not some filed-away contingency plan, it is a necessary component of positive consent. Step 0: everyone learns how to say no. Step 1: No means no. Step 2: Yes means yes.

          5. @Culture Shock. I have noticed too that there is more of an individualistic focus on this blog. I guess it’s fair enough that The Captain is limited by her cultural background. I don’t mean that as a criticism. We all are — we can’t speak from experiences that aren’t our own.

            Sometimes I wonder, when The Captain says stuff like “But faaaaaamily!” is not a legitimate response, how that would work in more collectivist cultures. I am living in a ‘traditional’ Aboriginal community (though I’m not Aboriginal). In this culture, everyone has a place in a tightly woven kinship network, and everyone has family obligations specific to their kin relations with every other person.
            I wonder, in a culture where “family” is so much more all-encompassing, is literally the bedrock of society, how would someone enforce boundaries with someone who was taking advantage of the kinship obligations??

            All this keeping in mind that I have a lot of respect for The Captain and this blog. I have got so much out of the posts and comments over the years.

          6. I am genuinely interested to know – What happens when someone in that community rapes or molests someone? Pesters someone? Follows them around? Won’t take no for an answer? Because there are subcultures/social groups in the US that are also tightly knit, based on kinship, etc. and the answer seems to be “the victim of abuse isn’t really allowed to ever talk about it because they are the ones ruining the social contract if they don’t preserve secrecy for the sake of the group.” And the questions begin – Well, what were you wearing? What did you do to provoke him? Why can’t you just forgive him? Why are you being so difficult?

            Is any culture free of misogyny and sexual abuse? Does any culture have a good handle on how to protect victims of violence while also maintaining some kind of constructive ties to violent men? Is there any culture where victims aren’t expected to bear the emotional costs of what happened to them? I would love to know alternatives.

          7. Well, there is a narrative in the dominant culture of Australia that there is a greater incidence of abuse in Aboriginal communities. But I don’t know the stats on that and so I don’t know how much of that is truth and how much is racism.

            Because of this potential for racism, it is a really difficult thing to discuss. I don’t want to make generalisations about a culture that is already vilified and marginalised.

            In terms of the response to harassing, etc., I think it probably operates in a similar way to the dominant culture in terms of cones of silence forming around the behaviour of those that people are afraid of, the worse the greater the power differential is between abuser and survivor.

            For myself, I am really interested to see how close kinship cultures can have a part that protects and supports abuse survivors. I don’t know if that is a thing anywhere. It might be a thing here.

            And in general, my understanding is that the societies/cultures that have the lowest rates of abuse are those with greater equality between men and women.

            I don’t know, it’s really tricky. But I think the main thing is cultural pressure is really strong for everyone. Perhaps more so if you are part of a culture that is being threatened.

            Like you, I would love to know alternatives as well.

          8. No, cutting off relationships is NOT violent. It’s belittling to people who are victims of violence to call it that. Violence threatens a person’s safety. Having your “no” violated repeatedly threatens your safety. Having someone drop out of your life does NOT threaten your safety. It hurts. It sucks. But lots of things in life hurt and suck and are not violent. Not getting what you want is NOT the same as being a victim of violence.

          9. max nesting repeated ad nauseam, to quartzpebbles:

            Ok firstly why do nesting maxes exist.
            Secondly will this even appear in the right order? I kind of don’t know any more.
            Thirdly, your point.

            We’ll have to agree to disagree when it comes to fine nuances. I get where you’re coming from, but when I say “contingency” I mean it’s not something you keep at the forefront of your toolbox. It’s not something you enjoy doing. That’s all.

            I’m hardly suggesting that you not use it, nor am I placing it in a priority bracket lower than anything else. I’m merely suggesting that its usage means something has already gone wrong. That is to say, boundaries are already at threat and someone has already made a Mistake – usually the privileged person.

            Step 0: everyone learns how to say no. Step 1: No means no. Step 2: Yes means yes.

            Absolutely. I just end up boxing things differently in my head.

          10. This is a reply to Jennifer’s question about how stuff like this works in other cultures. I do my academic work on the history of sexual violence in Southern Africa, primarily during the transition from the precolonial to the colonial period (anon because this will immediately identify me to anyone in the field). I’ve found some very interesting differences in how precolonial Southern African cultures understood sexual violence and sexual consent. Women’s sexuality was meant to be under the control of their fathers and/or husbands – no sex before marriage, no sex outside of marriage. On the one hand, that’s a deeply patriarchal norm (although it’s also one that was regularly violated, and it was more important to *appear* to follow the norm than to *actually* follow it; people valued sexual discretion very highly). Women were also not mean to appear enthusiastic about romantic or sexual relationships, at least in the beginning, which meant that men regularly and normatively acted in ways that we, on this blog, would call pestering. On the other hand, women were able to use these norms to protect themselves from sexual assault much more effectively than is now the case. Women who said they had been raped were believed, full stop (except in the case of marital rape). And men were punished for rape based on nothing more than women’s testimony. Precisely because all extramarital sex was ‘illegal’ (not quite the right word), men could not defend themselves from rape accusations by saying that a woman had actually consented, since even consensual sex outside of marriage would be make a man liable for compensation payments to a woman’s family.

            There’s a lot more to the story (a book’s worth, in fact), but I hope this short summary is of interest. In this case, the introduction of a consent-based legal framework (but not a true culture of consent) made things substantially worse for many women.

        6. The fact that they were willing to take you back — especially when you presumed that them telling you to go away had an expiration date — says better things about them than it does you, to be honest. Particularly if, after saying your ex had every right to be spooked, you then assert that what she and her friends did to you was “violent.”

          1. I do in fact agree with this. Thanks for posting this though! Honesty is good.

            “Luck” is definitely the only positive attribute I’m assigning to myself there.

            It’s just that when there are stories like this, where friendships can be rebuilt, it makes for the stories where one just cuts things off to feel like there could still be an opportunity to repair things.

        7. Wait, sorry, I just noticed your first paragraph. A new date…that he takes to Emma’s restaurant. That’s not the same as a new date.

        8. Look, I’m sorry for everything you went through and I’m glad things are better, but: no.

      4. “You have to actually sit with the pain of feeling disconnected and vulnerable, and work through it with the resources you already have.”

        Heh. And he says that people cut off their ex to avoid dealing with uncomfortable feelings. Be the change you want to see in the world, skippy.

    3. I know, right? 4 month relationship he is STILL struggling with letting go of what appears to be TWO YEARS later?
      She did good to get away when she did

    4. Yeah, boy did the domestic violence paragraph jump out at me.

      “… but culturally we need to understand the dynamics driving these kinds of situations if we’re to reduce them.”

      Soooo, if feeling powerless leads men to respond with violence, it’s women’s responsibility to make sure they never feel powerless?

      1. And the only way I can think of to stop someone feeling powerless would be to give them power over me, which WTF that isn’t safe for me to do!

        How can someone feel that as a right?

        1. Thanks for making all the wrongness of that super explicit. *shudder* God, it is SO awful.

      2. Or we could do the good thing and change the entire damn culture so that men’s supposed worth wasn’t tied into weird power games. Not that this dude would ever be okay with that.

    5. Well, y’see, we need to understand what women do to make men abuse them, so we can reduce the chances of women doing that thing, thus reducing instances of domestic violence. It’s a win!

      (*throwing up slightly*)

      1. A lot of women have died trying to make men feel better about themselves.

    6. I read that bit and felt absolutely certain he was talking about himself. I just can’t shake the feeling that he’s using that as an excuse for his own behaviour.

      On the bright side, he wrote all this under his own name, which is a nice big shiny Do Not Have Anything To Do With This Person Ever sign.

  5. I wonder what this author would think of the fact that issues relating to MY abusive past were triggered in reading his story of boundary-crossing and attempting to manipulate his ex into taking care of his emotional needs.

    1. My shoulders were so far up around my ears as I read it. This guy has an outsized sense of entitlement to Emma’s time and attention. I’m sure a bunch of people sent this to her and she’s curled up in a ball somewhere wondering “Why, why, why won’t he leave me alone?”

      Emma, if you find your way here, ^5.

      1. Shoulders around your ears…thank you for describing what I was doing so well. That, and trying to twitch right out of my skin. I don’t want to believe that anyone could be so completely clueless about their actions and the implications, but well, clearly he exists (and so do many others like him.)

        1. I’m doing both those things right now. I feel like my shoulders are trying to escape.

        2. More disturbingly, I don’t think he’s clueless at all. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing and why.

          1. I absolutely don’t buy the entire “clueless” argument any more. Why? Because these same guys who say they Just Don’t Understaaaand! have no problem understanding the same signals in a non-dating context. You wanna talk about game-playing — well, playing the “I’m so clueless!” card is a prime example. And no, it’s not up to us to “educate” you, because this is a game we can’t win.

      2. That’s it: shoulders up; and stomach roiling. I was shaking with disgust and rage while reading it.

  6. Omg captain, I think you missed the creepiest line – when he says that he thinks men who are domestic abusers are doing it because they experienced what he experienced! And then he’s like, “No, but you shouldn’t hit people. But maybe it’s sort of not men’s fault when they abuse? Culturally, I mean.” Like he’s almost self-aware enough to know that he shouldn’t say what he’s saying, but he really really wants to.

    Personally I do think it’s usually wrong to cut someone off without an explanation unless they really deserve it, but who knows, she could have given him an explanation that he was unwilling to recognize as such. He seems like that kind of guy. Plus, he seems to think she had trauma too but that’s not an excuse for cutting off, though it is an excuse for decades-long wallowing… apparently.

      1. I read this whole thing with my mouth agape and then made my husband late for work because I needed to talk to someone safe about it right. Freaking. Now. Omg this guy and this piece and ugh ugh ack nonono.

        1. I asked my partner to read the original article and tell me what he thought because I really needed to have the brain weasels informed in no uncertain terms that not all men think like this. My partner is not exactly read up on his feminist literature, but he’s a practical, kind, no-nonsense man and his reaction to it was noooooope. I started feeling better immediately. And when he came home from work today he brought chocolate with him. ❤

    1. “Please stop contacting me’ is, I think, a perfectly decent explanation. It explains that she no longer wishes any communication with him.

      Yes, a more in-depth explanation might be considered kinder, but the truth is that most want don’t want to hear an explanation because the explanation itself brings comfort. They want an explanation so they can poke holes in it, debate its merits, and convince you to change your mind. “Stop contacting me” doesn’t invite any of that (though even then, he still gave it the old college try!)

      I very recently went on my first ever date from a dating site. The guy rang every alarm bell I had within seconds and kept pushing my boundaries. He had me so rattled and nervous that when he asked about a second date, I said yes…mainly because I just wanted OUT of the situation. As soon as I got home, I realized I had no intention of going on another date with him, so now I had to decide if I should block him or explain, and if I did explain, how. With some great advice from the Friends of Captain Awkward forums, I set him a very brief note and then BLOCKED HIS ASS. Because I KNEW he would take any opening as a chance to try and convince me my feelings weren’t valid…he was very much that type of guy. When people give very short explanations like this, it’s usually because they know what will result if they don’t. Also, I think sometimes there is no clear-cut, easily articulated explanation. Sometimes we just no longer feel like speaking to a person, and saying just that isn’t going to be any more satisfying than a terse “leave me alone.”

      1. Yes! The “explanation” can be variations of: I don’t want us to be in touch anymore. It’s not working for me. I don’t enjoy it. I don’t want to.

        Glad you didn’t go on second date with Nope McGrope, Tired Caregiver, though I’m also glad you’re giving the online dating & meeting new people a try.

        1. Despite the one bad experience, the second try (with a different guy, obviously) went terrific and and we’ve seen each other a number of times now. Even the experience with Nope McGrope was a good thing, I think, because it showed me my instincts are sound and that I should listen to them more closely in the future. Also, thanks to Genuinely A Nice Guy’s gentle encouragement, I have officially taken my first ever highway drive…and did not die! (As evidence: this typing.) This is turning out to be a big year for me already, and a good deal of it is due to this site.

          1. Rock on with your bad self! If there is such a thing as Jedi high-fives, you get all of them.

          2. Oh, hey, I didn’t know you’d gone and conquered the highway! (I think I remember you posting about some nervousness over in in the forums.) Go you!

          3. \o/ It’s so great to hear that after all the crap you’ve been through.

      2. Tired Caregiver – Definitely didn’t mean that a first date should be given detailed explanations of why there would be no second date! Just that though it is always our right to cut someone off without explanation, it’s also our responsibility as humans to try to do things for the greater good, aka avoiding undue (whatever your definition of undue is) harm to the cut-off-ee. But there are many times when it is unavoidable, I agree.

        1. (Unavoidable also including when the cutter-offer needs to protect self from even greater harm, which is often the case, and hopefully it’s clear I agree with that!)

        2. I get what you’re saying, but in situations where one person has decided they no longer want communication with another, avoiding harm is basically impossible. So you’re left with reducing that harm…and how to do so is not an easy answer, even if you remove the fear of the other person’s reaction from the equation.

          Because again…”you get on my nerves and I just don’t enjoy talking to you” is an honest answer, but hardly a comforting one. “I don’t feel we’re clicking anymore” is also honest and less bluntly phrased, but I’m betting most people wouldn’t find it satisfying. You’re left with either telling the complete, blunt truth, which is sure to hurt, or you’re left with meaningless platitudes that invite questions and don’t provide the mythical closure that the other person is seeking. Or, of course, silence. All three answers have their drawbacks, and all three will cause pain. By its very nature, a break up of any kind is painful.

          I’ve been on the other end of this, and I know platitudes were deeply unsatisfying for me at the time. I had a situation where a long time friend did something hurtful. I pressed him for his reasoning, and he provided answers that I felt were illogical. So I went on pressing for his *real* reason, and he continued telling me we were still friends, everything was great, etc. I was incredibly irate, and I’m still carrying a lot of anger over the situation. All I wanted was the truth, damn it! But if he had said “I don’t like your company anymore, so we left you out”…would that really have been better? I doubt it. His kindness didn’t feel like kindness, and in the end, I was the one who cut off contact.

          Though really I don’t think you can remove the fear of the other person’s reaction from the equation. For the most part, people usually have a reason why they no longer wish to associate with someone (whether or not they can clearly articulate that reason.) Something has gone wrong with the relationship, and in many cases what has gone wrong is that a boundary is being pressed. As in the article…the man wanted to keep rehashing the past, the woman did not. She gave several hints that she was no longer comfortable talking to him; he ignored them. So basically she had every reason to suspect that a detailed explanation would result in denial, accusations, and debate. If she had provided that detailed explanation, I do not believe for a second that he would have simply have “Thank you for explaining and have a pleasant life.” Any kindness on her side would have been perceived as an opening.

          If people want the silent cut-off to stop, they need to first change the culture that makes it unsafe for people (particularly women) to refuse to engage. We can’t as a culture berate women for disappearing without an explanation, yet also harass and chip at their boundaries when they do try and explain their reasoning. If we treated cutting off communication as something unfortunate and sad, but definite (as opposed to something we can whine our way out), then maybe people would feel safe to be kind. That problem here was not the woman’s unkindness, but the actions of the man that required it in order for him to understand that no is, in fact, a complete sentence.

          1. Oh, wow, this made me jump up and say, “Yes!”:

            If people want the silent cut-off to stop, they need to first change the culture that makes it unsafe for people (particularly women) to refuse to engage. We can’t as a culture berate women for disappearing without an explanation, yet also harass and chip at their boundaries when they do try and explain their reasoning.

            Thank you for articulating so clearly and succinctly the thought I had been trying to formulate about this situation. You’ve articulated exactly the bind I’ve found myself in with overly-pursuant exes. This is a really empowering thought, actually, because the way you’ve framed it, I can totally see how this is a lose-lose proposition, rather than my fault for being “cold” or “mean.”

    2. Did you also notice the use of “hysterical”? But carefully quoted from someone else saying it. Those uteruses, always shifting ladies into fight-or-flight responses.

      1. I’m also willing to bet that he used the age gap to undermine her every chance he got. He just seems like the kind of person who’d use “when I was your age I was wrong about this too” wherever possible.

        1. And possibly wealth difference too. “Before I made my millions I used to think that too…”

          What amuses me is that he describes feeling powerless by her cutting him off. Meanwhile, she’s a younger, probably poorer women who has a powerful tech expert with the ability to put his story out there publicly who won’t listen to her when she says she wants no contact.

          And then he brings in the line about men’s domestic violence against women as a response to perceived powerlessness. How is it not a case of, eurgh, dude, you keep trying to take up this lady’s time and attention in a way she’s already un-signed herself up for, and you’re practically admitting it’s a power play, so why don’t you go sell some Microsoft shares and influence the stock market instead or something. Jesus.

          1. It’s a bit like dating a musician who then writes a song about you called “WTF is wrong with you, Emma?”. Or an artist who then does a painting about you called “Emma is a cutting-off awful person”. Dang it – I WILL have my say AND the sympathy of my adoring fans!!

      1. “Her response was to withdraw again. There were misunderstandings and miscommunication.”
        I think her communication was quite clear, and he simply could (can) NOT see it because it wasn’t what he had planned. And to still be going on and on (and ON) about it? Scary. and sad. Mostly scary.

        1. I’m reminded of how most men understand a soft no, but CHOOSE not to because they don’t want to be told no.

          I’m willing to bet that when they tried to be friends again, it was largely her just kind of unenthusiastically agreeing with him and him thinking that was just aces. Until, y’know…he said or asked something she DIDN’T agree with (anyone wanna put odds on the “miscommunication” being him sort-of-but-not-officially coming onto her again and her shutting that down while he was like, “Wha–? No, Emma, I’m…I’m not coming on to you. Ha! Why would you even think that!”).

          1. Agreed. Though, given the relative ages, the come-on may well have been arm around her shoulders, “aw c’mon” (pun intended) “you always liked it when I did this” – where “this” would be something she hated.

    3. “Personally I do think it’s usually wrong to cut someone off without an explanation unless they really deserve it”

      I’m not sure I agree in general, but there is a particular case where I disagree strongly: if you have reason to believe that the person in question is a bit scary, and wouldn’t take an honest explanation well.

      This guy has proven that he doesn’t respect her no, he doesn’t respect her privacy (he publishes her private emails!), he can’t let go (writing pity-me essays about a four-month relationship nearly three years after the fact), he’s older, richer, a powerful technologist, he came to her work and when he saw that she was angry and upset he didn’t leave straight away. What evidence do we have that Emma could have given him a harsh-but-true reason and he would have fucked off?

      I think not only could it have been a case of “giving him an explanation that he was unwilling to recognize as such”, it could have been “giving him an explanation that made him angry, made him argumentative, made him re-engage and up his efforts to Change Her Mind and Heal The Past so he could Keep Being A Good Guy In Her Eyes etc. etc.” And fuelled his fire for even more years (YEARS OH MY GOD YEARS)

        1. Yes yes yes a thousand times yes. I’ve encountered this so many times, where an explanation doesn’t “count” unless the listener agrees with it. Otherwise, they say you haven’t given one.

          1. I kept having variations of this conversation with my mother:
            Mom: Let’s talk about your brother and how he made me sad.
            Me: I need to you stop putting me in the middle of this thing with you and Brother.
            Mom: I’m not putting you in the middle! I just want you to tell me everything you know about him because you need to help me solve my feelings!


    4. The people who deserve to be cut off without explanation are the very same people who will not respect any explanation that’s given. The cutting off maneuver is specifically designed for those people, in fact.

    5. I think “Tell person what you want and why”, which includes telling someone you don’t want to be in contact and, if simple enough, the reason, is a good default. It’s worth a little extra energy for me to be that compassionate. But in the face of someone like this guy who is going to be equally angry in all scenarios except getting exactly what he wants, I wouldn’t bother.

      I wonder if that’s why he’s so set on blaming “cut off culture.” Because the other option is people do default to compassion, but he’s disqualified himself.

      1. >”It’s worth a little extra energy for me to be that compassionate.”

        Of course you are absolutely right and compassionate. It is precisely this impulse that Jeff-type fellas are looking for, though, and it’s good to note and evaluate this almost instinctive response: “how much energy is this interaction really worth?”

  7. Sounds like Emma dodged a major bullet by breaking up with this guy. It sucks that he can’t respect her decision to not continue contact with him.

    He is so oblivious, I just want to smack him. You make your own closure! It’s not on her to make you feel better about the break up! Take responsibility for your own feelings! GAH /falls over twitching

    1. Right??? It’s like, sure, getting help for how you’re feeling is a good thing…that DOESN’T HAVE TO COME FROM HER. And in fact probably shouldn’t.

      (Actually dudebro could probably benefit from Lundy Bancroft’s abuser therapy the most, frankly.)

  8. Gods, this guy sounds like an ex of mine. Guy breaks my heart by dumping me over a resolvable issue, blames everything on me, calls me names on Twitter, and just generally makes it clear that he hates my guts. Then he tells me to never contact him again, so I don’t. After a month of silence, I get an email with him seeking “healing” and trying to extend an apology…problem is, the person he’s trying to heal isn’t me, it’s HIM. I ignore the email, not wanting to deal with someone who hurt me that much. But of course, he continues trying to contact me, eventually using a mutual friend to “make sure” I’ve gotten his message. Part of me wonders if I’ll be seeing a “thinkpiece” like this coming from him in a few years…

    Seriously, wow. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to be that far up your own ass.

  9. Wow, what a creep! This guy is trying to give legitimacy to his creepiness by quoting psychology today, but I clicked through and read the article, and guess what-at no point does it say that anyone has some sort of obligation to maintain ties with an ex. In fact, let me quote point 7:

    “7. Make it a clean break. Do not try to cushion the blow by suggesting future friendly meetups. “Saying ‘Let’s be friends’ might be a way for the rejecter to try to handle their own guilt, but it’s not always good for the person being rejected,” Baumeister observes. Such a misguided attempt to spare a partner pain can leave him or her hopeful there might be a chance at future reconciliation, which can hinder the efforts of both parties to move on.”

    Looks like SHE understood that article he kept quoting better than HE did!

    1. Hahaha thanks for pointing that out! Looks like he was quoting a section about why we shouldn’t dump someone via email or twitter or Facebook, and instead reinterpreted it as being how we shouldn’t cut off contact? Wtf? That article didn’t support his points whatsoever.

      +1 to your reading comprehension!

      1. I was fairly sure his quotes were out of context. Because abusers take these kinds of statements (especially psychological stuff to appear “reasonable) and apply them to entirely different situations. E.g. ending things via e-mail etc. can be justified when your ex is as bad as this guy.

        1. That struck me, reading thru his rant. How many of his sources agreed *perfectly* with his opinion and how Emma was *totally* doing him violence by breaking up with him and staying that way? Clearly he saw in those sources what he wanted to see.

          The one that really shot my eyebrows up began “The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with.”

          Umm… First, not the only or even the main reason. Lots of people don’t want to feel vulnerable, and opening up to another person makes them vulnerable. How many people told their Best Friend a Cherished Secret that Friend spread all over the school in first or second grade? Pretty much everybody, I’d guess. Which is why adults take Time to trust others, and why first loves only happen Once.

          Second, this quote really *doesn’t* support his main point, which is “Emma should still talk to me because I still want her to, and by not talking to me she is actively hurting me. Two years later.” This quote says that Emma’s closing off of herself is because Mr. Dude confuses her, and she can’t deal with that. I’m pretty sure Emma is as un-confused about Mr. Dude as it is possible to be: she doesn’t want him around. But Mr. Dude couldn’t her that after the break-up, wouldn’t hear it a year later, and now two years on, it is still *Emma* that is the one who is “confused”? No. No, Mr. Dude. Just no.

          1. And even if Emma were “confused” she’d still have the complete and total right not to talk to him. He could, theoretically, make the most ironclad case in the world that it would be in Emma’s enlightened self-interest to sit quietly and listen to him explain just why he’s been hurt by her. He could get every psychological and metaphysical expert in the world to agree that Emma would benefit from listening to him. It still wouldn’t matter!

            The fact that he seems to think that any of that part of the article is even slightly relevant may be the most frightening part, actually.

    2. That is even creepier.

      Now I’m wondering if sending feedback to the site about one of their writers misrepresenting facts (and also basically excusing domestic abuse as the fault of women for “taking away men’s power) might not be an idea…

        1. Medium’s a platform where anyone who signs up for an account can post things, there’s no editorial overview or submission process or what have you. Like posting on your own blog, Twitter account or what have you.

          1. Or what have you what have you. Sorry, dashing off comments while at work leads to badly written things.

    3. I was way the hell too lazy to click through and read it, but I read that quote that Creepy there used in his essay and thought “I’m willing to bet that isn’t what the article is saying at all.”

  10. Usually if I cut someone off it’s because they have indicated they’re incapable of respecting my boundaries. And boundary enforcement is a lot like quitting an addiction — it’s way easier to do “NONE, EVER” than “maybe a little bit occasionally,” so if you’re persistently violating my boundaries my boundaries will become “we communicate never”.

    That and the friend I pulled the slow-fade on after like the fourth or fifth time he behaved embarrassingly at a gathering I hosted and apologized after I called him out. Because he was just not gonna learn, apparently.

    1. And boundary enforcement is a lot like quitting an addiction — it’s way easier to do “NONE, EVER” than “maybe a little bit occasionally,”

      Yes, so this! I haven’t written a word to my ex-husband that I couldn’t help since, well, whenever in the divorce process the last logistical email occurred. I have received several short messages from him, most trying to be gracious, I think, over the years. And I look at them, and I can see…he thinks he is “the bigger person” (a concept the Captain has so beautifully debunked.) What the hell would writing back accomplish? I don’t even want to tell him I don’t want to hear from him: the divorce was pretty clear about that, and the occasional condescending well-wish is not scary enough to take action over. All contacting him back would do is let him feel his sense of accomplishment: either I’m “nice” and he’s mended fences like a Big Fucking Person, or I’m “mean” and he tried his best in spite of me like a Big Fucking Person. Silence, asshole. Listen to it.

    2. That was my thought too. Also, all the advice about dealing with a stalker or abuser says that you should cut off ALL contact and never respond to the person ever. I wonder if Emma had evidence or intuition that this guy was dangerous, and cutting off contact was her way of protecting herself. Abusers LOVE projecting. Him calling her behavior “violent” struck me as…worrisome.

      1. Same here. I went through being stalked/harassed by my bf’s ex when we first began dating, and we learned through mutual friends that she was telling people that HE was harassing HER, but describing her own behavior. “He won’t stop texting me, he’s sending messages to my new bf, he’s threatening to kill himself, etc”… all stuff she was doing to us after bf tried to cut her off. At the time I thought it was really bizarre (like, she obviously realizes how creepy and inappropriate her behavior is if she’s telling people about it, even though she’s projecting it as his behavior?) but after reading up on how abusers think and behave… I get it now. Anyone who assigned loaded words or specific actions in situations like this… major red flags that they are projecting their own actions. This dude is scary and I hope Emma is okay, or at least blissfully unaware of his little public tantrum.

  11. Notice how crazily specific some details are? What kind of lecture did you attend, exactly? Us readers must know to understand. This is just another attempt to contact “Emma”, disguised as an opinion piece.

    And when they attempted to become friends again, what he complains about is her inability to discuss their relationship. It doesn’t look like a friendship was going to satisfy him.

    1. Yep, his plan is that she’ll see it and feel bad and then call him and they’ll be friends (maybe sexy friends!) again. Because if she stays away she is JUST LIKE his abusive mom, or something? (I don’t want to belittle what he suffered at the hands of his mom, that sounds terrible indeed. But it has zero things to do with “Emma” dumping his ass).

      1. I feel like it’s an attempt to get A reaction from her – not that she’ll necessarily feel bad but even perhaps angry – and then he’ll FINALLY know what happened. This feels more like evil bait to me. If that were me I know my face would be really hot and I would WANT to publicly slam him, but I would also not do it. Basically she is put in the position where she has to defend her actions either to him or her friends (who, like you said, will likely forward it to her).

        Ugh. Just ugh.

        1. At the very least, it’ll make her think about him, and then they’ll be EVEN, because he’s thinking about her all the time. It’s like the bit in the restaurant where she’s clearly upset to see someone she TOLD NEVER TO CONTACT HER EVER AGAIN, and he takes that as evidence that he closured better. “Ha! I made you feel worse than I do! I WIN!”

      2. Well, you see, women are all interchangeable, so if his mom was bad to him, all other women in the world must now make it up to him by doing whatever he wants. Because Manpain.

        1. Nearly a year after I left my abusive ex [a man], I [a woman] started dating a woman.

          Shortly after I started my new relationship, ex heard through the grapevine about me dating a lady, and he went out of his way to circumvent safeguards I had put in place to prevent contact with him, to tell me that, by dating this woman, I was JUST LIKE HIS MOTHER, and how would he EVER be able to trust a woman again. Clearly, I was just TRYING to hurt him, which meant I was still obsessed with him, so I should still be with him. (WTF?)

          See, years before I broke up with the ex, his mother left her 20+ year marriage to his father in order to be with a woman who she’d been cheating on him with for some time. The whole thing was messy and fucked up and neither party was blameless, but the father was more of a pathetic sad-sack and the mother was the cheating/seemingly cold bitch, so ex sided with his father and hated his mother.

          All of which would be relevant if I had left my ex in order to be with a woman I had been cheating with. But I didn’t. I left my ex, and many months later, started dating a woman. But they’re totally the same, because [logic?].

    2. Yep, and men all socially and culturally just have such shitty friends that don’t listen and support them that the only way to solve this problem is to have exes never dump them ever. Because going out and finding less shitty friends is impossible.

        1. Yep.

          Do we think this guy would be an awesome, respectful, chilled friend?

          Because I do not think this guy would be an awesome, respectful, chilled friend.

          1. Because of this I have spent all day with the mental image of him trying to be a “chilled friend” meaning that he is in a cold dessert arrangement of jell-o and whipped cream (like, a tiny version of him half the height of the serving ladle; it’s an oddly vivid image). But he has failed, because he is angry and flailing around, and his body heat is melting the dessert. He is not a chilled friend.

          2. Noooooo staranise I do not want this image, a heap jell-o and whipped cream with his face sticking out of it

            (I’m laughing my head off)

          3. Hrm, I’m thinking this guy’s food-equivalent is an over-boiled egg that popped b/c it was left on the stove for too long.

            Aw dang, now I want ice cream!

      1. I don’t know that his shitty friends are the problem. I like to think that I’m a good friend and I will drop everything to be at your side during a break-up. But if after TWO AND A HALF YEARS you are still complaining to me about your ex and how sad you are that she dumped you, I’m probably going to start losing sympathy.

        1. Yeah, like, he’s a rubbish person, maybe he has rubbish friends, but also maybe they are just SO VERY DONE WITH THIS. Maybe a couple even told him he was being creepy and obsessive and that maybe he should just not contact the lady who doesn’t want him to contact her.

        2. Exactly. At some point you have to start dealing and stop moaning how she’s done you wrong, and he’s clearly not there yet. I don’t think I could be patient at this point either.

    3. I read the line about making soup and thought “he’s trying to make me picture this like a scene in a rom com and that’s a bit part of the problem – he feels entitled to a rom com happy ending – ninety minutes of misunderstanding and frayed egos followed by a tearful reunion, sexy times and closing scene wedding.”

      1. Also. Like. Making amazing soup together one time does not equal an unbreakable connection. Emma still gets to walk away from the soup, even if this dude thinks it is The Best Soup Ever. THE SOUP IS NOT A METAPHOR FOR WHY EMMA SHOULD HAVE STAYED WITH YOU AGAINST HER OWN JUDGMENT, ASSHOLE.

        1. The vegetables in his soup from HIS GARDEN. He is INTERESTING and CONTAINS MULTITUDES and is ENTITLED TO LOVE, specifically FROM HER.

          1. (I probably should point out I’m being sarcastic, here. Sorry if that was unclear.)

          2. Reading this in the voice of Peter Cook’s priest from The Princess Bride makes it even better!

          3. You know, if I let a vindictive ex-boyfriend serve me any meal, it sure as fuck isn’t going to be soup.

    4. If I dated someone, decided it wasn’t working, took time out for a while then we both decided we could handle being friends, I don’t think I’d want to discuss the relationship either. Maybe if there was some context that absolutely needed acknowledging that was affecting a current issue, but otherwise, nope. It didn’t work that way between us, leave it alone, rehashing it won’t help the friendship.

      1. I feel like this is also a pretty solid litmus test for if pursuing a friendship is going to be emotionally rewarding for you? If you say to yourself, “There is this Big Issue that I need to work through with this other person before we could be friends,” and the other person says, “I don’t want to talk about Big Issue,” then probably you could jump straightaway to the conclusion that a friendship is not going to work out, so you can walk away now.

      2. Also note the conspicuous use of Passive Voice in his description of the year-later recommencement of communication. “There were misunderstandings and miscommunication.” Oh, there were, were there? This after a long series of “I reached out…” and “She said…” statements. Oh yeah, NOW those misunderstandings and miscommunications *just happened* thanks to the vagaries of time and the whims of the universe, but Emma is still Actively doing violence to your feelings, Mr. Dude? I just wonder what violence you did to HER feelings while all those “misunderstandings” were going on? Is it possible that the one who didn’t understand things was you?

    5. Literally nodding my head right now. This is *absolutely* a vile piece of condescending passive-aggression targeted directly at her, disguised as a thinkpiece.

  12. I don’t know why with all of the glaring entitlement, inflated ego, and inability to own his own shit I am surprised by the length of that piece but wow he takes an unnecessarily long time to say “I am a huge creep who thinks my wants are more important then another person’s boundaries and feelings of safety”

  13. “When personal safety is involved, cutoff is warranted. But most times this isn’t the case.”


    1. “but most times I MEAN WITH ME this isn’t the case”

      Q: How do I know when someone really doesn’t want to talk to me?
      A: They don’t answer any communications for a while, and then they tell me explicitly to stop contacting them, and then when I do they tell me to knock it the fuck off.
      Q: But I’m so confuuuuuuuuuused. I mean, how I am I supposed to KNOW?

      1. This is the grownup version of “I’m not actually TOUCHING you!” (Too many car rides with the sib…)

        “I’m not CONTACTING you, I’m just finding out why you don’t want me to contact you.”
        “By contacting me.”
        “No, no, not at all — but why can’t I contact you?”

    2. Also: Apparently cutting off contact with someone is “violence”, but ignoring someone’s repeated requests to be left alone is ~not worth getting worried about~.

      1. Oh, gosh, yes, let’s talk about his redefining the word “violence” to mean “hurts my feelings” so he can frame his ex as an Emotionally Violent Person. (Meanwhile, he’s harassing her and using his pulpit to shame her online for the crime of not wanting to talk to him.)

        That is some ninja-master-level Douche fu.

        1. But hey, a woman whose ex won’t stop harrassing her and who says that domestic violence is understandable when it’s done by people like him has NO REASON AT ALL to keep contact cut off completely! She should just open those gates back up for another go-round at healing his emotional wounds. What are these “warning signals” you speak of?

        2. “That is some ninja-master-level Douche fu.”

          When I get done cleaning the spew off my screen, I would like to spread that masterpiece far and wide.

    3. Yeah, that just reminded me of some comments on Doctor Nerdlove’s recent article about dangers of dating. “Well, sure, women should look after their safety, BUT *I* AM A TOTALLY SAFE PERSON AND THEY SHOULD ALL KNOW THAT AND FEEL SAFE AROUND ME. After all, *I* would never rape someone and I know hitting women is wrong, so I can’t possibly be dangerous.”

      1. I’d like to make those commentors read Schrodinger’s Rapist about fifty times, but I think they still would refuse to get it.

        1. Usually it’s something like, “So women see all men as creepy rapists and it’s best not to try, got it.”

          It’s kinda beautiful. You can lead a horse to water…

      2. You know the people I feel safest around? People who are aware when they’re a threat to me.

        My adoptive family and our friends are hugely comprised of military veterans and martial artists. They’re people who are very up close and comfortable with their potential to hurt people because in some contexts they have deliberately used it. So they don’t get all wounded when the thought crosses my mind that, hey, you’re a foot and a half taller than me and you weigh 150 pounds more and this is a dark alley at night, and I say, “Let’s take a route with better lighting” or “I’ll go ask my sister to walk with us”. Because they’re like: Hey, makes sense, who likes to feel unsafe when they don’t have to? It’s not offensive; it’s just that the whole point of a vigilant mindset is that it doesn’t turn off easily.

        And then when somebody says, “I could take you there, but you don’t need some big guy walking with you in the dark. I’ll go get your sister and see when she’s leaving,” I actually feel more comfortable around him. He’s acknowledging that my safety is important and he is willing to contribute to that effort.

        1. You know the people I feel safest around? People who are aware when they’re a threat to me.

          That’s a clear and brilliant definition. Thanks

        2. This reminds me of a thing that happened with my husband (who is small and skinny and, like, the least physically imposing dude it is possible to imagine) a couple of years ago. He happened to see a couple of guys in a truck harrassing a woman on the sidewalk–catcalling, trying to get her to get in their vehicle, following her slowly down the street while she was on her cell phone and clearly creeped the hell out. He intervened, the guys drove off, and he asked her if she was ok and then LEFT HER THE HELL ALONE. Someone who was with him at the time noted with some consternation, while relaying this story, that she didn’t seem to want to talk to him, and wasn’t that rude?

          He said, and I quote, “The last thing she needs right now is some dude trying to get her to pay attention to him.”

          It doesn’t take an advanced degree in Social Justice Matters to not be a threatening douche. It just takes some basic empathy. It makes me sad how many men are unwilling to make even that much effort.

  14. I don’t have a lot of experience with breaking up so I’m going to ask a question with an answer that’s probably really obvious for most people: being this uh… “passionate” about an ex you had a relationship with for four months after two and a half years isn’t normal, right? It’s where you might suggest therapy? (I understand the break-up was hard because it reminded him of his mother, so all the more reason for talking to someone?)

    1. I’m not going to say that there is a definite timeline for being emotionally over a past relationship. People can feel how they feel for however long it takes. But I think there is a statute of limitations on how long you can expect someone who broke up with you to remain emotionally invested in your “healing,” and the fact that 2.5 years have gone by and the author is still this hung up on it definitely raised some red flags. On a sympathetic-to-his-pain level, if you’re crying every day, having PTSD episodes, to the point where it’s interfering in your life, etc. it’s time to look into professional help!

      1. Based on his persistent disregard for boundaries, preferably with someone who’s used to working with abusive men and won’t fall for his enlightened new-age yogini bullshit. I just bet your ex felt guilty and shut down when he “shared his feelings.”

    2. I honestly don’t think it’s an obvious answer. Time isn’t really the issue here. Some things take a long time to heal from, so even years later it aches really bad. The problem this guy has is that how he is dealing with his feelings around his relationship are affecting his quality of life, and that of the people around him. He’s behaving in inappropriate ways towards this woman and it’s interfering with his personal and professional life. That’s the big one.

      Also, obligatory “there is no minimum distress necessary for counselling” reminder. I’ve had a lot of my clients start seeing me right around breakup time, including a few people who got broken up with and immediately walked to our office and said they wanted to talk to the first counsellor who’d see them. Others started even before that, when they could feel relationship trouble in the offing. After all, therapy isn’t so much “take abnormal person, make them normal again” as it is “take person in pain and distress, help them find ways to soothe themselves and access tools to recover”.

      1. “After all, therapy isn’t so much “take abnormal person, make them normal again” as it is “take person in pain and distress, help them find ways to soothe themselves and access tools to recover”.”

        Thank you for that. I hope i can find a therapist who feels the same way.

      2. “After all, therapy isn’t so much “take abnormal person, make them normal again” as it is “take person in pain and distress, help them find ways to soothe themselves and access tools to recover”.“`

        That is such a beautiful way to put it. I want to frame this and hang it on my wall.

      3. “After all, therapy isn’t so much “take abnormal person, make them normal again” as it is “take person in pain and distress, help them find ways to soothe themselves and access tools to recover”.”

        Thank you for this.

        I’m dealing with issues that I’ve avoided for a long time, because I can’t ‘fix’ them, but don’t want to let go of the fantasy that I could.

        1. I’m glad to hear that. I’ve seen a lot of people confuse “I can’t be completely fixed” with “nothing can help me”, as opposed to, “I can get better, even if it’s not all the way to where I want to be.”

  15. Oh, sure! He posts excerpts of her emails, but none of his, notice. The most he’s willing to say is that there were “misunderstandings and miscommunications” and that he was “intense”. Oh, and then his bullshit about her having a difficult past, so obviously that made her biased and triggered a flight response. No, f***er. The reason your actions triggered a flight response is because her difficult past made her better able to detect creeps like you. “The open, thoughtful, communicative Emma [you] knew” is still there for people who aren’t creeps. She only “vanished” because those “intense miscommunications” were f***ing creepy.

    1. He appeals to their “amazing chemistry” or whatever in that way that always sets my advice-columnist spidey sense a-tingle. He is working too hard to build a portrait of a relationship that was “meant to be” when by definition something is not meant to be if one of the people flees from it like one would flee a burning building or a shambling zombie horde.

      1. Anyone else suddenly have “Love is an Open Door” playing in their heads? But with just the guy singing, for some reason…

      2. Yeah. In particular, “Emma once told me, “You’re the first one to want me for me,”” sounds exactly like the guy from the song “Somebody I Used to Know” (who I think is clearly doing some kind of manipulative shittiness.) Because being happy once means she has to stay happy with you forever? No, dude. She’s allowed to change her mind.

        1. I promised Greg B. I would marry him in second grade and yet we remain strangely unmarried. Oops, my bad!

        2. I’ve loved “Somebody I Used to Know” ever since I realized that it’s deliberately a duet. It’s got a guy whining that he was cut off abruptly, and then a woman replying to him saying, “Yes, because when I’m around you I felt like shit, and I am so much happier with you totally gone from my life.”

          1. The San Cisco song Awkward has a similar progression – it sounds like a fairly normal “waah, I miss you” song at the beginning, but as the song goes on it becomes clear the male vocal part is a stalker. It’s quite brilliant, I think.

          2. I’ll add Belle and Sebastian’s “Funny Little Frog” to that list. It starts with “Honey, loving you is the greatest thing. I get to be myself and I get to sing…” and by the end of the song it’s clear that he’s never even spoken to her. The video’s great too.

          3. I’d never heard the actual song before; I assumed it was about somebody who after breaking up was talking about how the other person is now “just somebody that I used to know,” in the context of being completely over them. “I used to be so hung up on you, but now you’re just somebody that I used to know.” I like my interpretation better. 😐

    2. “intense” is almost always a red flag word to me. (Though I still use it not necessarily that way in fiction, natch. It’s people using it to describe their communication method or feelings that makes me go HMMM)

      1. Yep. “Intense” in a relationship context for me has always meant UP-DOWN-UP-DOWN, calling-me-at-1am-to-tell-me-how-you’re-in-love-with-your-ex, giving-me-all-the-STIs, oh-so-you’re-technically-a-drug-dealer fun times.

        1. I just laughed out loud at the absolute truth of this.

          Vader Bob was entirely justified in coming to my mother’s home in the middle of the night (a five hour drive), because the woman he cheated on me with dropped him when her spouse came back from overseas.

          I was of course the only person who could help him process this. The ‘intensity’ of our connection transcended petty concerns like my moving to another state to get away from him.

          My heart goes out to Emma, and I hope she has the kind of friends who will never mention this to her.
          One of my friends issued a “Do not talk about Vader Bob’s attempts to get Esprit’s attention!” directive to our friend group, and it was one of the most loving things anyone has done for me.

          1. Wow, VaderBob sounds like he might beat my ex in the Asshat of the Year Awards.

            I told my ex that I would like to have no further contact after finding out he had he planned to dump me when I was on a short trip to a country 1000s of miles away from our shared apartment; he told me not to come back and then got back with his ex the same day, which he lied about.

            That SAME DAY he mailed me on some trivial issue and said that we “shared too much” and had “intensity” so he “could not say he wanted no contact”.

            He then hung out refreshing my website all day, mailing me, etc — though since he was back with his ex, naturally he told me he could not communicate with me when she was around DESPITE THE FACT I TOLD HIM NO CONTACT.

            He then forced me to negotiate for my belongings that were in our former shared apartment – sure, I know I could’ve just given them up so maybe “forced” is the wrong word, but it was ALL MY CLOTHES AND SHOES and I am far from able to replace a wardrobe. He STILL hasn’t returned everything months later.

            No contact is a gift. Even if you wind up friends with your ex down the line, you need time to process, move on, etc. Forcing someone to be in contact with you when they don’t want to be is coercion. Abuse is not just physically hitting someone.

            I hope “Emma” is safe. Emma, don’t contact this guy. He is not interested in you, just in a fantasy of you that he can control.

          2. There is a 100% chance that if “Emma” were like “Ok bro we can have coffee” after reading his plea for acknowledgement disguised as a think piece, the author would not be like “OMG are you caught up with Mad Men” or “what r u reading l8ly?” or “what is your favorite brunch spot” but he would be like “Can you explain again why our relationship ended and help me achieve closure?”

      2. I am the least intense person ever in relationships, and I’ve had some of my less-relationship-experienced friends (the ones who only know from movies) occasionally question my commitment and love for my partner because I’m chill. I’ve since convinced them that intensity is…. rarely if ever a good thing. (Intense in bed? Okay, I’ll give you that one. But outside the bedroom? Nope.)

        1. I can distinctly recall when I first got together with Partner that I had the whole “I wonder where he is, is he thinking about me, lalala…” pink clouds – yet I was informed by a coworker that because I could endure being parted from him four nights a week our connection must not be that intense. Blech.

      3. I don’t like it because (in relationship/friendship terms) it usually means the person is a jerk or drama llama who KNOWS that they’re inappropriate, but they can use a cool 90’s word to make it sound like it’s a personality trait and not a serious personal failing. That way, when their SO is freaked out by them, they can say, “Hey, I’m sorry, I told you I’m intense!”

    3. So her difficult past means that she’s biased and unreliable and doesn’t know her own mind. And his difficult past means that she has to take extra good care of his feelings. Her pain = makes her feelings incorrect, his pain = makes his feelings more valid.


      1. But Manpain! is worse than her silly fears that he might stalk, harass and kill her.

        And I just gagged typing that.

      2. Not to mention that the only reason he thinks she has a difficult past in the first place is because she cut off all contact. So cutting off contact = she must have a traumatic past = her feelings are incorrect = her reasons for breaking up are incorrect. Therefore cutting off contact = her reasons for breaking up are incorrect. Using his “logic” it is impossible for her to break up with him and be right. The act of breaking up with him proves she should not break up with him. This is some serious, circular fuckery right here.

      3. This struck me so hard, too.

        “Breakups are often hard for me, but hardest when there is cutoff. For me, Emma’s flip from care and openness to withdrawal and, ultimately, hostile rejection mirrored my mom’s behavior and re-opened deep wounds from my past.”

        “Trauma specialist Hala Khouri says, “If it’s hysterical, it’s often historical.” I view Emma’s threat of a court order in response to my letter in this light. Those with trauma in their background often can’t discern between the person triggering them and the original source of trauma. When difficult emotions arise, they may feel real feelings of threat and anxiety. Their brain may shift toward fight-or-flight mode. Cutoff can be a flight response that helps keep difficult emotions at bay.”

        So Emma is responsible for all of her own trauma stuff and shouldn’t overreact out of her presumed trauma history, but somehow she is ALSO responsible for triggering the author’s trauma history and for being available to him after their breakup simply because he wants her to be? How exactly does this NOT cause huge amounts of cognitive dissonance, exactly?

        The whole thing is a practice in cognitive dissonance, though.

        1. Of course, Creepy Cutoff Culture Guy never says what Emma’s trauma is. Unless he means the trauma of dealing with HIM.

          He could’ve avoided the heartache (and making an ass of himself online) if he’d just gone to a therapist, you know.

  16. Well said! Haven’t had to cut off a lover, but I’ve had to cut off a friend and her actions were very much like this, totally unable to respect my boundaries to the point where her behavior became stalking. I’m in a much better place without all that.

    1. I have a former friend who I didn’t cut off; she cut me off (a quarrel ended with her telling me not to contact her again or she’d sue me for harassment). I have not contacted her since. Every few years she turns up and says something to me in public online forums, always with vitriol and hostility.

      I never respond back, but I do tell other people she’s my stalker when they ask. Because, man, what the heck even, is that violating your own boundary? What even is that? Some people just…I don’t know.

      1. Wow. Yeah, that’s a whole other thing, when they set boundaries, then violate them. But kuddos for not engaging with her interactions. I’ve found that to be important when dealing with my friend, though it can be hard sometimes.

  17. Yiiiiikes yikes yikes. One thing that comes to mind is how much of the logic with creepy/stalky people is just fucking weird and self-fulfilling. I recently cut off contact with a friend after trying a “let’s be polite and distant small doses friends” thing with him (we never dated or anything, it was just a Really Intense Friendship that went on and off for years). I was clear on my desire to end contact, and I will say part of my reason for doing it is I felt his recent contacts were harassing, so I wanted to have my ass covered should a protective order be necessary. (There are a few factors keeping him from being a physical threat, but he sent some really weird, manipulative emails that I was JUST NOT COOL WITH.) But I did not say anything about legal action or accuse him of any crimes.

    His response? “I had already gotten your hint and it’s not necessary to issue legal threats like this.” To which I was like, Dude, actually, you DIDN’T seem to have gotten the hint, which is why I sent the email! And also, putting words in my mouth like this is a really bad habit you have that I’ve never liked and REALLY don’t like in this context. And also, um, the fact that YOU bring up legal action actually makes me think maybe it MIGHT become necessary. Because if you have to convince someone you’re not scary? Chances are you are at least a little scary. Maybe a lot.

    1. Or he was trying to egg you into continuing the argument. “What? I totally didn’t make legal threats!” “Well, maybe not technically, but you have to understand blah blah blah…” and suddenly you’re negotiating the meaning of no again.

  18. I know I basically said this on Twitter, but thank you so much for writing this!

    When I read this, it sent my haunches up big time. About seven years ago I met this man who was one half of a married couple that were good friends with my boyfriend of the time’s parents–although the meeting itself was relatively innocuous (also, in retrospect, my creep meter wasn’t very good, so who really knows), he ended up tracking down my work information (from obscure bits and pieces mentioned during the getting-to-know-you convo at a family party.

    Within a week, he had sent me multiple emails that were thousands of words long, littered with sexual and romantic references that I think *he* thought were subtle. He wouldn’t leave me alone and as little as three years ago, I was still hearing from him, despite making it very clear (multiple times) that the initial connection was inappropriate and that I wasn’t interested in continuing.

    Although according to the author’s account the origins of this story are very different, everything about his approach to his ex and all of that…it just reminded me of that guy so much. It’s not exactly the same, but there’s an alarm bell that men like this set off that just screams bad news. I’m so glad you broke it down; I can’t always articulate what feels wrong about these things. I know it when I see it; I know that feeling. Having you articulate exactly what is fucked about this entire article is great, and one of the reasons I so have appreciated your blog–you give me the language to describe something like this.

    So thanks, Captain. As always.

  19. Been there, done that. This overlong string of nonsense feelings dump could have been written by my most recent ex-boyfriend. We dated for about 18 months, then broke it off mutually (or so I thought). I said he was controlling and emotionally abusive; he said I was unsupportive and uncaring of his needs. 11 months later, I am still receiving pitiful text messages once a month or so. He says he is so “brave” to want to still be friends, and that he will continue trying because he “cares” about me so much, despite me being so immature by ignoring him. He also accused me of being “abusive” for breaking up with him and refusing to answer his emails and texts. I haven’t communicated with him in about 9 months or so, since the last exchange of breakup detritus and other sorting out of possessions whatnots was handled. At least he has obeyed my edict forbidding him from calling me.

    1. Even though he took it quite literally and acts as if messaging was okay. Wtf (this) dude.

  20. Spot-on as always. I’m glad this post was my first encounter with the original piece — at least this way I can be creeped out in good company.

    Unrelated point of order: May I gently mention that I’d be happier if you didn’t use “guys” to refer to a group of people whose gender makeup is mixed or unknown?

    It makes me cringe a little whenever I see it, these days, and I hate being distracted from the latest awesome post by that twinge of ickiness.

    Or, I mean, carry on, I will still be here either way. 🙂 I just wanted to mention it since I’m not sure if it’s come up before. It’s kind of like the ableist language where you can’t but run into it a million times a day and most people don’t understand why it matters.

      1. Occasionally while speaking in English I’ll suddenly drop a “koutou” (when addressing a group of 3+ people) in the middle of the sentence, lol.

    1. It’s been my experience that “guys” is becoming a gender-neutral term for a group of people regardless of gender; I hear women referring to their female friends as “guys” as often as I hear it used of male friends or a mixed group.

      1. But it also exists as a reference to men.

        “The guys went to the laundromat.”

        “Some guys like potato chips.”

        And is always masculine in the singular: “I met a guy.”

        Me, I use “folks” when I want to describe a group of people.

        1. I was planning not to really address this because it’s not a hill I want to die on this but since we are going back and forth here it is:

          In the third person, guys means men. “A group of guys went to the laundromat.”

          In the second person, i.e. “Hey guys, what’s up?”, “guys” commonly means “folks.”

          I realize there is debate about this, and it’s complex. After all, “Hey ladies!” can’t ever be similarly gender-neutral and maybe that’s a problem and women can wear pants but men are ridiculed for wearing skirts and everything is gender-policed and we should absolutely question commonly held habits of language.

          I will now probably wince whenever I use “guys.” And I use it, a lot. I would bet it’s in every single thread on the blog because I write very conversationally. The discomfort about it has been successfully transferred to me. But here endeth this subthread. I do not want to moderate further discussion from either people who want to defend “guys” or people who want to chime in to say they don’t like it. Point made. Point taken.

    2. It always makes me cringe as well. I think part of it is that my language does not have a similarly gendered expression right there, so it always stands out to me as obvious sexism in language. Where I live, we have other unnecessarily gendered terms, though, and I use some of them out of habit, so I understand that as well.

  21. “Why doesn’t she want contact? Whyyyyyyyyyy?”
    Dude, I know literally nothing about you other than what you’ve put in his essay and it’s blindingly obvious to me. And from indications in the essay you look to be a good bit older than me. . . How have you avoided being hit by the self awareness stick so long? Terrifying.

    1. Yes, my instinct on this even setting aside most of the OTHER red flags in his essay is that he seems really emotionally exhausting to be around and ain’t nobody got time for that. (Not even his friends, apparently.)

  22. I get the feeling that very people wake up in the morning and go ‘the sun is shining, the birds are singing and I never want to see, speak, or hear from friend/relative/ex again’.

    Usually when someone is cut-off it’s done after a lot of time and soul searching, and it’s usually done for the sake of safety and sanity. That this guy is still hung up on it years later makes me think this more about his ego than anything else. And I willing to bet if Emma was the one contacting him he’d be ranting about how ‘crazy’ and ‘clingy’ she was.

    1. (sarcasm) “Hm. I’m feeling a bit bored. I know! That person I’m dating? I WILL NEVER SPEAK TO THEM AGAIN. Yes, that’ll be a good distraction.” (/sarcasm)

  23. Hi everyone; first time posting here. I’ve really been enjoying the Captain’s articles for the last few months, and I haven’t felt the urge to comment on anything because I haven’t had anything to say besides “I agree.”

    Here, though, I think Jeff Reifman has some important points to make, and I think JenniferP and the other commenters are not really engaging with them. Right now, the standard rule in polite company is that when someone asks you not to talk to them, you comply, period. You don’t get any say about whether someone else talks to you, and (if you’re a guy following more-or-less traditional gender roles) you’re not really supposed to be upset about that either; you’re supposed to be able to calmly write the relationship off as an acceptable loss, and promptly move on. I think one of Jeff’s key points is that these rules are not always healthy or fair. However, instead of responding to Jeff’s critique of the standard rules by explaining why the standard rules are better than the alternatives, most of the commenters are just repeating the standard rules and using them to mock Jeff. I don’t like that.

    Personally, I think Jeff makes a good point — if you invest in someone, if you consensually build up a degree of trust and commitment and intimacy, then it’s rude to suddenly disappear without so much as indicating why. Yes, there are many jerkfaced and/or abusive dudes who will seize on any explanation as an excuse to argue. Yes, when you find one of them, the correct response is to block them, leave the situation, and never look back. However, that doesn’t mean that all attempts at explanation are useless or unwarranted. When I was a teenager, I had a girlfriend who broke up with me even though it seemed to me that our relationship was going very well. I asked her why she was dumping me, and she explained that her father was remarrying, and that the added stress from the re-marriage made our relationship feel weird for her. I didn’t try to challenge her feelings or her decision. I just…gratefully accepted her explanation. Her explanation saved me from months of grief and insecurity — because I knew that the relationship wasn’t ending because of something specific that I had done wrong, it was relatively easy for me to move on, and we remained cordial and friendly to each other.

    Now, of course this girlfriend was not *obligated* to give me an explanation. If, for whatever reason, she had found it too painful or too frightening to try to clue me in as to why our relationship was ending, I would NOT have sent her endless emails or followed her around or otherwise tried to pressure her into a clearly unwanted conversation. It’s creepy and wrong to try to demand an explanation as if it were a debt that somebody *owed* you. But just because you have the right to refuse to explain yourself doesn’t mean that you should. If my friend was breaking up with her boyfriend, and the boyfriend hadn’t done anything physically threatening, and my friend asked me for advice about whether to try to talk things over, then I wouldn’t say “Just cut all ties; it’s easier that way.” I’d say, “Stand your ground and don’t apologize for your decision, but if you liked this guy enough to share a few months with him, then hopefully you still feel fondly enough toward him to give him one more hour of your time to try to explain why you’re leaving.” There are always exceptions, but most of the time, I think that shouldn’t be too much to ask.

    1. The thing undermining the author’s points is the author’s self-serving story. When someone breaks up with you, doesn’t talk to you for a year, halfheartedly engages with you and then decides to stop doing that when all you want to talk about is the end of a long-dead relationship, and then specifically asks you to stop emailing, you actually have all the information you need about what is going on: It’s over.

      Feeling hurt and sad is one thing. Blaming stalking and domestic violence on women who make men feel “powerless” by refusing to communicate with them, blaming “Emma” for a resurgence of PTSD from childhood abandonment, projecting all kinds of trauma onto her, writing an extremely detailed essay 2.5 years later that quotes her personal emails to him (and most likely ensures that she will be identifiable and have to see this as mutual friends email it to her) is another. We say a lot of stuff when we’re in an ongoing relationship with someone and we’re feeling hopeful about maintaining ties. That stuff isn’t evidence in a public internet trial; “But you promised once upon a time!” isn’t actually a reason for her to keep talking to him if she doesn’t want to. It sounds like she gave plenty of explanation for what was going on; she just never told him what he wanted to hear. Is that supposed to be on her?

      I think it’s disengenous in the extreme to suggest that if “Emma” had just given the author “one more hour of her time” (to quote your last example) that this would all be okay. That he would feel okay. He wanted a continued friendship. He wanted more of her time and attention. She was done. She told him she was done, she acted like he was done. This is a thing that men constantly do to women: They ignore their decisions because they weren’t communicated “nicely” enough. Just one more hour! Just one more fuck! Just one more long email exchange where we rehash our breakup! When does a woman just get to say “No thank you, I’m done” and have that be heard? Apparently with the author of this piece, the answer is “Never.”

      This person is being treated like a pest because he’s acting like a pest. The way you get rid of a pest is to ask them to stop contacting you and then stop answering any of their communications. Someone who has been told to leave you alone and is still lamenting it publicly 2.5 years later is not behaving like someone who can be reasonably negotiated with for some kind of nice wrap-up chat, as much as you’d like to think so.

      I’ve been dumped, cruelly, by someone who promised one thing and then went back on everything he said. My head was spun up about it for about a year, and I did not let go easily.

      I’ve also broken up with someone who just refused to hear it and who kept showing up in my life, explaining to me that he “forgave” me for my decision and was magnanimously choosing to overlook it so we could continue our relationship (that I had just broken off). He’d want just “one more time” and then one more “one more time” and I would give in because he was hurting so much and I felt so guilty. Then he accepted the breakup, sorta, but moved back to my city so we could be in proximity and he could bump into me all the time. The author of the piece blames cluelessness about breakups for the prevalence of stalking, and here I’ll agree: We don’t teach people, especially women, how to break things off permanently and cleanly. My last conversation with this person would look very cruel to an outsider. “LEAVE ME ALONE. GO AWAY. NO, DON’T TOUCH ME.” etc. But that was after a year of trying to do it the gentle way.

      Being dumped unexpectedly hurt.
      Being constantly monitored by someone I had asked and pleaded with to stay away from me was terrifying.

      You want to talk about power differentials in relationships? Let’s talk about men who abuse their power and the goodwill of women by clinging on tight when they’ve been told clearly to let go.

      1. “You don’t get any say about whether someone else talks to you, and (if you’re a guy following more-or-less traditional gender roles) you’re not really supposed to be upset about that either”

        See, that’s not quite true. You can be upset about it, you can be heartbroken. It may cause you to be depressed in the long run.
        However, you have to take those feelings and *put them somewhere other than the ex*, preferably a counselor or maybe a good friend.

        “most of the commenters are just repeating the standard rules and using them to mock Jeff. I don’t like that.”

        That’s probably because we’ve been there so many times in our own lives. Most people here know a Jeff or two…dozens. The question is: what does Jeff really want? What possible solution would make Jeff happy? Apparently, he wants “more Emma”. But the Emma-supply has all run out.
        So instead of focusing on how to get something that does no longer exist (for him), he should try to find peace in something else. Anything else.

        I’ve been a bit of a Jeff myself in the past. It makes me cringe to think about it, but it’s true. I already understand his point of view – but then I grew up and saw where I’d gone wrong.
        See, I do believe that his pain is genuine. Jeff is in pain, no doubt. But at this point, it has nothing to do with the living, breathing person that is Emma. She needs to be left alone for good.

      2. Only semi-relevant, but one of the most head-desking things about this Jeff dude is that he tosses around the word “trauma” like it’s candy or something.

        I don’t think he knows what the word means, because either it’s real in which case it’s private and he’s being way too blase about sharing his speculation, or it’s his replacement for inhibitions.

        A lot of my friends didn’t contact me during my funk because they just didn’t feel like they were able to do that in a healthful manner while also taking care of themselves.

        They weren’t “traumatized”, just “uneasy”. Big difference.

        Also Captain, why did you laugh at the woman who had sex with her ex? It seems like an odd thing for you to laugh at, since a lot of your other posts are all about sex being fun and not a thing to be judged as long as consent exists, people are into it, yadda yadda. I don’t exactly resonate with the whole “having sex with your ex” thing, but I know people who do that both healthfully and non-healthfully, and I try not to judge when I don’t know details, which really I shouldn’t ever know anyway.

        1. I’m not laughing at the woman who had sex with her ex – it’s a time-honored tradition. I’m laughing at the author of that piece invoking that as a good, compassionate example of handling a breakup in a piece about a breakup with someone who said she never wanted to talk to him again.

          1. It’s kind of like saying, “I was recently fired and it felt pretty harsh. YOU KNOW WHAT’S A GREAT TRADITION? Six-figure severance bonuses!”

          2. Yeah. I’ve had sex with almost all of my exes after they became exes. But it was “we wanted to do a thing that seemed appealing at the time”, and definitely not, “this is totally the best example for everyone of a healthy thing to do as part of breaking up with someone”.

        2. In our society trauma is considered to be a private thing. It certainly is a vulnerable thing, but I’m not comfortable with saying that it shouldn’t be something he talks about, and I’m not comfortable with people on the outside judging whether or not his trauma is legitimate enough to count. That treatment makes a lot of people feel like they can’t talk about or own their own experiences, and like they need to treat core pieces of their identity like dirty laundry.

          Of all the things we need to talk about here, I think that whether or not Jeff is allowed to identify as a trauma survivor or talk about feeling traumatized is one of them. It’s not our call.

          1. Wait perhaps I was misunderstood. I meant how Jeff speculated about Emma’s behavior being motivated by that.

            “There were hints of trauma in her personal history and her occasionally limited capacity for difficult emotions during our relationship.”

            I wasn’t questioning his own references to himself. Obviously talking about yourself is something other people shouldn’t have a say in. I was just hugely uncomfortable with how much he speculates into Emma’s trauma/life/reasoning/thoughts when she literally hasn’t said anything to him besides “stop yo”.

          2. Wait, I was misunderstood! I meant the way that Jeff used Emma’s potentially existent-but-possibly-not trauma as part of his speculation. Though I definitely did not write that clearly, and I sincerely apologize for that. Any discomfort you felt was completely my fault and I’ll be more careful with wording in the future.

            But yeah, just angry at his speculation in general. Like I said, when my friends cut me off, it would have been weird to assign trauma to them, even if I did in fact have some insight into their pasts.

            “There were hints of trauma in her personal history and her occasionally limited capacity for difficult emotions during our relationship.” <- WTF Territory

            I realize that he talks both about himself and his ex when using that, so again, sorry for not clarifying. It's just that I was annoyed at how seemingly casually he used it at times in reference to her and people like her and even generally people who cut other people off. I don't mean to police his language when talking about himself, but he got really broad there with classifying others.

        3. What truly bothers me is how he uses his past as weapon and a tool. I mean it sucks that his childhood was abusive and unhappy but it’s not Emma’s job to fix that. If he is truly having trouble coping then maybe it’s time to get some help. Instead he basically says that you are never allowed to break up or cut contact with anyone because they might have trauma and managing it is now your responsibility.

          1. I know how nice it is to believe that if so-and-so just Truly Loved You, you’d be all healed and none of your trauma would hurt like this anymore. I know. There’s a reason why it’s such a common belief. But it’s not true, and leads people who hold it to think, “Hm, my significant other isn’t giving me the emotional healing I wanted. They must not love me enough. I’ll make them love me even more, and then I’ll be healed!”

            If you’ve got trauma on your shoulders, it’s on your shoulders. Other people can hold your hand as you unload it, but they can’t take it from you.

    2. I’ve been blanked a couple of times by exes. In one of those cases, I thought we’d built a strong post-breakup friendship. It hurt that he didn’t want to be friends, and it hurt even more that he apparently didn’t think enough of me to tell me why he was bailing. I was sad. I was angry at him.

      “Sad” and “angry at him” are reasonable responses. I don’t think anybody judges the author for feeling sad and angry.

      But then there’s this:

      “After all she’d said about remaining friends, Emma’s withdrawal so shocked me that it reactivated my earlier experience of disbelief and suffering in isolation, essentially triggering episodes of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

      No. Either he goes into relationships understanding that PTSD might ensue if things turn out badly, or he avoids dating until he works out his issues. He doesn’t get to make his ex-girlfriends responsible for his mental health.

      1. I think it’s okay to feel poorly toward — even hate — someone who (even unwittingly) triggered your mental illness(es).

        But unless that person is someone with whom you have a longstanding relationship of great value to both parties, then probably it isn’t possible to get that person to change their behavior, let alone worth the effort. Emma doesn’t want the author and doesn’t want a relationship with him, so in all likelihood she’s not able to offer him the kind of emotional support he needs, even if he could badger her into doing it. Disregarding if you can reasonably assign blame for triggering someone by abandoning them, practically speaking about all you can do to mitigate the emotional effects of the abandonment is say “well fuck you too” in your own head and get help elsewhere.

      2. I know it’s not great to lie when you’re breaking up with someone and it would always be better if everyone could just be honest, but I feel like “I still want to be friends” is always something you should take with a heap of salt. It’s what people say to ease the blow and to make things easier on everyone, it’s not a pinkie swear to be best friends forever. People deciding that they don’t want to be friends after all is sad and angry-making, but it’s not exactly outrageous and unprecedented behaviour.

        1. Someone saying “I still want to be friends” and then deciding that they don’t want to be friends with you after all is not necessarily being dishonest. They could be changing their mind. Just like people get to change their minds about wanting to date you, they also get to change their minds about wanting to be friends with you.

          When I broke up with my Jeff, I said “I still want to be friends.” I said that because he was a big part of my life, and imagining a life without him in it felt very empty to me at the time. But as I gradually rebuilt a Jeffless life and got a better idea of what that looked like, I realized I didn’t want to be friends after all.

          It didn’t help his case that what I said was “I still want to be friends SOMEDAY,” and his reply was “OK! We will be the best of friends starting now now now!”

          1. YES THIS. also, when somebody has been emotionally abusive in a relationship, it may be difficult for the victim to recognize what was going on until well after the actual breakup, or to understand just how bad it was. sometimes it take time and sober reflection to figure out just how incredibly fucked-up that whole thing really was. you stare and stare at the picture of a duck while everyone around you insists that it’s a rabbit, but only after walking away and coming back can you actually see the rabbit, too. and when you do, the tearful “I’ll always care for you and be there if you need me!” is suddenly revealed as a pit trap. full of spikes. and poisonous snakes. covered in spikes.

          2. Or maybe saying “sure we can still be friends” is the way you get them to Goe Away and leave you alone in that moment. There are lots of reasons to say that and yet, none of them are legally binding.

    3. If my friend was breaking up with her boyfriend, and the boyfriend hadn’t done anything physically threatening, and my friend asked me for advice about whether to try to talk things over, then I wouldn’t say “Just cut all ties; it’s easier that way.” I’d say, “Stand your ground and don’t apologize for your decision, but if you liked this guy enough to share a few months with him, then hopefully you still feel fondly enough toward him to give him one more hour of your time to try to explain why you’re leaving.” There are always exceptions, but most of the time, I think that shouldn’t be too much to ask. (bold added)

      Your bar here (“physically threatening”) is way too low. Abuse generally happens through escalating boundary violations and precisely *when* it escalates to physical is difficult to predict. Also, if there’s been no physical abuse but there has been emotional abuse, why would you suggest that your friend put herself into a situation where he could push her buttons and fuck with her head again, even for “one more hour”?

      If you would give this advice to Reifman’s ex, you’re making that decision based on Reifman’s description of the situation, and I think you’re naive to treat him as a reliable narrator here.

      You say yourself:

      Yes, there are many jerkfaced and/or abusive dudes who will seize on any explanation as an excuse to argue.

      If you don’t think that Jeff Reifman is probably one of these after reading his screed (pay particular attention to the DV comments, seriously), I suspect that you have not been on the receiving end of an abusive relationship and that your intuition/pattern-matching ability hasn’t been trained with as much data as that of most of the commenters whose responses you don’t like.

      1. Abuse generally happens through escalating boundary violations and precisely *when* it escalates to physical is difficult to predict.

        Weeellll, except for one very solid trend that has been established over decades, in many different cultures and situations:

        Abusers tend to escalate when they fear that their victims will leave them.

        So nope nope DOUBLE nope.

    4. Generally, it seems like you’re basing your comment on the premise that the situation that Jeff Reifman describes is more like your old breakup than the abusive relationships that commenters here are describing.

      If Reifman had made a different post that was actually about him and not about him trying to get at his ex, one that wasn’t sending up an entire drill team’s worth of red flags for abuse, it might reasonably spark the discussion that it sounds like you’re looking for here. But he didn’t, and I don’t care to have that conversation in this context.

    5. Others have addressed why everyone’s acting like this guy’s a disturbing creepy stalker, so I’ll leave that as read. But no one on here has ever said everyone (or men in particular) should not feel sad/angry/hurt if they’re dumped or cut off. Of course you would feel terrible! You get to feel terrible. What you don’t get to do is continue contact with someone who doesn’t want to continue contact.

      Stupid cultural rules are indeed often repressive of men expressing certain emotions, like sadness (in the same way that women are punished for expressing anger, this isn’t a one way deal). This is bad. However, it doesn’t mean that women need to hang around taking especial care of men they’ve broken up with, just because those men might not have close friends whose shoulders they can cry on. That’s not the responsibility of the person who’s leaving! They are, in fact, leaving the role of being the person who does that.

      The solution is to attack the cultural expectation that men don’t cry or grieve. To discuss better ways to support our friends in a crisis, to care for their emotions. Not to demand that women continue in the role of emotional caretaker for men they are breaking up with.

    6. I think that one huge problem with what you have said, Jason, is that both you and the author of the original article maintain that you are not dangerous, not scary, not the type of man who needs to be cut off completely after a break-up. You may be right. But the person breaking up with you doesn’t KNOW that for sure. Stalking, domestic violence, and all kinds of abuse can start very small, with an apparently unremarkable breakup; then they escalate. Women do not magically know whether someone they break up with is a safe person or not, any more than you do. But doing what the author did and repeatedly trying to force contact, after Emma had repeatedly said she wasn’t interested, is a big red flag that somebody is not safe.

      You may find the Schrodinger’s Rapist theory useful for understanding this: http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%E2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/

      In short – look at a crowd of people and tell me which one is the stalker, the creep, the dangerous person. Don’t know? Neither do I. So I, like many women, decide to do what makes me feel safe, which may involve cutting off contact even if the other person doesn’t like it. If they massively overreact, it’s a clue that I was probably right to cut them off in the first place.

      1. I’d also like to add that a person doesn’t have to be dangerous in the any way for you to want to cut off contact with them. So even if you in fact definitely KNEW someone isn’t dangerous and won’t be, you would still be well within your rights to never have anything to do with them ever.

        1. I’d like to add to your addition and say that someone doesn’t have to be physically abusive to be dangerous. Emotional abuse is also horrible and it doesn’t leave any scars that others can see. From crawling through the archives here and listening to the stories of friends, it’s easy to see just how deep it can cut someone. And I believe that not respecting boundaries is a clear indicator of emotional abuse (correct me if I’m wrong). In which case, cutting off contact is a good way to get away from those toxic people.

          1. Yes this. This guy sends up epic emotional abuse flags for me, especially if I read the article as if it was a letter he sent to his ex (which it basically is).

      2. Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful replies, many of which I wholeheartedly agree with. Some of my favorites are:

        JenniferP — it’s more important to help people who have trouble getting out of bad relationships than it is to worry about the occasional person who ends contact with an ex slightly too soon.

        cinderkeys — your exes are not responsible for mental health events caused by the ordinary and foreseeable consequences of dating; if you literally can’t handle the possibility of a breakup, you shouldn’t be dating.

        jane — your exes might not be capable of giving you appropriate support even if they wanted to.

        quartzpebble — Reifman is probably one of the guys who would have seized on any explanation as an excuse to argue, which is an obvious and serious problem, and so his story isn’t a good jumping-off point for a discussion about subtler aspects of etiquette and gender roles.

        Rachel — people don’t always know how dangerous their ex is likely to become after a break up, and so it’s reasonable to err on the side of avoidance.

        I continue to disagree with some of the more extreme comments claiming that there is *never* any benefit to talking over a relationship that’s ended, but after reading your replies, I’d agree that Emma did the smart thing by immediately cutting off all contact, that it’s worthwhile to teach people that they’re allowed to cut off contact, and that Reifman is an untrustworthy narrator who seems way too self-centered to be a useful spokesperson for any kind of cultural change.

        1. “I continue to disagree with some of the more extreme comments claiming that there is *never* any benefit to talking over a relationship that’s ended,”

          Look at it like this. With whom is it appropriate to discuss the deep and intimate emotions that come from a painful breakup? The answer is: people with whom you have a relationship. You don’t do this with strangers sitting next to you on a bus. If someone tries that with me, I would call that “oversharing” and edge my way out of that totally inappropriate conversation ASAP.

          It’s only an appropriate conversation with someone with whom you have a relationship. But what has your ex told you s/he does not want? A relationship! Your relationship with that person has ended. So this discussion is not appropriate, any more than it’s appropriate to have it with a stranger on the bus.

          Absolutely discuss your breakup and all the painful emotions it evoked, just not with your ex.

    7. A reason people are down on Jeff is that even in his version of the story, in which he puts his best foot forward, and in which we don’t hear “Emma” at all, he comes off as precisely the kind of scary person an ex shouldn’t have to keep contact with.

      It’s great that you’d have accepted silence as a teenager. Jeff didn’t even accept “I’d rather not rehash our breakup.” He’s scary.

    8. You say:
      ” Right now, the standard rule in polite company is that when someone asks you not to talk to them, you comply, period. You don’t get any say about whether someone else talks to you, and (if you’re a guy following more-or-less traditional gender roles) you’re not really supposed to be upset about that either; you’re supposed to be able to calmly write the relationship off as an acceptable loss, and promptly move on. I think one of Jeff’s key points is that these rules are not always healthy or fair. ”

      One, yes, if someone does not want to talk to you, have a relationship with you, be your friend – the only way you can respond to this is to accept that as a fact. There is literally no other possibility. Everything else is a violation of their boundaries. This is always wrong. It is important to understand that. Readers of this column has had the excellent captain expand on this point – especially important to those of us who have been socialised as women to always put others needs ahead of our own – explicitly stated that she is here to give us permission to say no, to put our own safety and well-being first.

      Whether you’re upset or not is your own feelings, whether you move on or not, and when, is yours to own. You get to own your feelings, but you also get to take responsibility for them. The fact that you feel hurt or sad or angry is not wrong, but it does not entitle you to anything from any other free, autonomous person. Not even an hour. You have to accept the other person’s judgement and decision. Everything else is disrespectful and wrong. This is personal relationships, something that takes place between consenting equals. As soon as one person leaves that relationship, there is no relationship.

      If you read the article, this man does not come across as someone who respects “Emma”‘s boundaries. This is not a question of one last hour, this is someone who refuses to let go, refuses to respect her point of view, her decision, her sense of comfort and safety and, ultimately, refuses to take responsibility for his own life.

    9. Or the dump-ee could reasonably assume that the “because” in a blanking is, “because I don’t love you anymore and don’t want you in my life.”, respect the dumper’s really clearly expressed boundaries, and move on with their life.

      None of which Jeff did.

      At best that makes him an inconsiderate jerk and at worst a stalkerish creep and/or stalker.

      Also, how many “polite” ways to end a relationship are actually invitations to “fix” something and try again, again?

    10. “You don’t get any say about whether someone else talks to you, and (if you’re a guy following more-or-less traditional gender roles) you’re not really supposed to be upset about that either; you’re supposed to be able to calmly write the relationship off as an acceptable loss, and promptly move on.”

      Those may be the standard rules, but I don’t think anyone here would agree that people who have been broken up with should have to not feel upset and immediately move on. Break-ups are always painful, and anyone who’s been dumped has the right to feel that pain and be sad and angry and hurt. What they DON’T have the right to do, however, is to try and deal with that pain by asking someone who has explicitly cut off contact to explain their reasoning, again, just one more time, okay maybe one more time after that. Talk to your friends; talk to a therapist or other trained professional (especially if you’re dealing with fallout from childhood abuse! That’s exactly what therapists are there for!); talk to any other supportive person in your life. But don’t try to make all your bad post-breakup feelings go away by talking to an ex who has clearly said they do not want to talk to you.

      There’s a twofold reason for this: the first reason, which we’ve mostly been discussing because it’s shocking how many people still don’t get it, is that stomping all over your ex’s boundaries is a shitty thing to do and makes you come off as an unsafe jerk. But the second reason is that forcing the person who dumped you to explain their motivation for breaking up with you is RARELY going to actually make you feel better. There was a post on here recently about how “Why did you break up with me?” is not a question you actually want an answer to. In your personal example, your ex-girlfriend had a reason for the breakup that had nothing to do with you, but most of the time the truthful answer to “Why don’t you love me anymore?” is going to be something about you that made that person stop loving you. We hedge our breakups with things like “I just don’t think we’re clicking” and “I can’t be in a relationship right now” because saying things like “I thought I could get over the fact that I find you really physically unattractive, but I can’t” or “Your deeply-held political opinions make my skin crawl” would be REALLY RUDE. Do you really want to hear that? Is that going to make anybody’s bad post-breakup feelings go away? I don’t think so. If you push and push until you get that reason, not only are you doing something really uncool to your ex, but you’re setting yourself up for more pain.

      So, bottom line: you are allowed to feel hurt after a breakup, because getting dumped is always shitty. But badgering your ex after they told you not to contact them because you want them to say some magic words to make the hurt go away is a horrible idea for multiple reasons.

      1. Here’s a good illustration of that: smbc-comics.com/?id=3300

        Almost all break up reasons are either like the first one given (which is unsatisfying), or the second one (which is hurtful). Neither makes the dumpee feel better.

      2. I think the question behind the question for most “Why don’t you love me [anymore]?” type queries while in the process of being dumped is often “Is there anything at all that I could fix or work on fixing so you would love me [again]?” It’s only after the mourning for that relationship is over when the question starts in the direction of productive post-mortem, the “What can I learn from that relationship that will strengthen my future relationships? What mistakes did I make there that I can avoid later?” This guy really does not sound like he is interested in fixing his current self to strengthen a future relationship. He sounds like he wants to trick her into revealing the cheat codes to her heart, and then time-travel to give his past self those cheat codes before his past self fucked up.

    11. I’d like to know, Jason, what you think will come of it? I mean, seriously. What answer could a hypothetical ex give for breaking up that would make things better? What explanation? I posit: precise NO explanation will make the broken up feel better. In fact, the Captain recently had a column devoted to just that issue.

      You’re bad in bed. I like someone better. You make me feel small. You snore. You pick your teeth. You insulted my friends. You don’t make enough money. You are boring. You are weirdly religious in ways I can’t handle. You’ve told me the same story five times and we’ve only been dating two months. You’re childish. I don’t like you.

      Any of those feel good? No? Then don’t. Ask.

      1. This. Especially considering in Emma’s case, the response is probably something along the lines of “You display the following number of Red Flags that make me want to GET AWAY.”

        Engaging someone like this dude in explanations only opens the door for him to wax poetic and pathetic about Why He Acts That Way, and No You’re Wrong, and Aren’t You Just Projecting Your Own Past On Me? We Can Work This Out. Point in case: the giant essay he wrote to a publication A YEAR after she dumped him, in which he admits to *showing up at her workplace* and performing other super creepy behavior while insisting he’s the victim.

      2. Yeah, there’s really no answer that’s going to help, so the best thing to do is to accept that and move on, which Jeff is unwilling to do.

        1. And giving a reason is just giving the other person a reason to argue. “No I’m not!” is what will follow, and that is not going to make the pain of a breakup go away any faster.

    12. A conversation I had with my four-year-old son this morning may be illuminating for you. He was screaming and freaking out and yelling about being sad.

      Me: It’s OK to be sad. You can feel sad as much as you need to. But it’s not fair to your teachers or your classmates if you are going to express your sadness as tantrums. You doing that is a choice you are making. If you can be sad calmly, you can go to school, but if you cannot, you will have to stay home and be in your room until you can calm down.

      Him: [calms down after a few minutes and goes to school, still sad, but managing himself.]

      Article-writing dude can be as sad and abandoned and woeful as he feels like, for as long as he wants. What he does with his feelings is his choice, though, and he’s choosing to be a scary, boundary-violating jerk.

      If my 4 year old can learn this lesson, some adult-ass man has no excuse.

      1. “If my 4 year old can learn this lesson, some adult-ass man has no excuse.”


      2. I have been cruelly dumped; I have dealt with it poorly due to my personal brainweasels (YAY DEPRESSION); I nursed one obsession about having been dumped for over a decade. I’m not proud of any of this, but what I am proud of is that I KEPT IT TO MYSELF. I vented about it privately, or semi-privately with trusted friends (most of whom did not even know the person I was venting about or have any way to contact them). but I only did this after deleting the person’s contact information from every record I had, blocking them in every possible way, and swearing off any attempt at future contact.

        so, yes. it can hurt, truly, deeply, mortally even–but how you handle it is always, always your own responsibility. accepting responsibility for that can also be difficult, but it’s incredibly rewarding and self-affirming in the long run.

    13. If Jeff’s essay had been about the negative effects of societal expectations that women will do all the socializing and relationship building for men, that would have been interesting.

      Or about how men are taught that reaching out to other men for emotional support is a sign of weakness. that the only acceptable forms of emotion for men to express are anger and pride, leaving them without ways to express unacceptable softer emotions like sadness and regret.

      Or about how men can become dangerous when their only acceptable outlet for these softer feelings leaves the relationship, how he managed his emotions when this happened to him and he became dangerous to a former partner, what changes society should make to teach boys how to handle their emotions.

      I would have given him all the Feminist Approval Cookies he wanted if he had written any of those essays. Those essays written from his perspective about his experience of himself would have been a valuable contribution to the discussion of gender norms.

      But he chose to write an essay about how a woman is morally obligated to make him feel good about himself before she can leave him. That uses quotes from ‘experts’ to speculate about his former partner’s mental health and imply that she is damaging herself spiritually by refusing to make him feel good about himself.

      I don’t have words enough for how disturbing that essay is.

    14. I think the reason people aren’t responding in the way you’re suggesting is that the writer’s story isn’t really similar at all to what you’re describing. What you’re saying is true — you don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you break up with them or end a friendship, but there are cases where it can be a nice thing to offer anyway, depending (sometimes not – sometimes an explanation just adds to the pain).

      But that’s a scenario so completely different from what the guy in the story is describing that it seems like a different topic altogether. E.g., you say yourself “I would NOT have sent her endless emails or followed her around or otherwise tried to pressure her into a clearly unwanted conversation. It’s creepy and wrong to try to demand an explanation as if it were a debt that somebody *owed* you.”

      And the idea that she owes him more conversations, and that he’s justified in sending her unwanted emails and trying to pressure her into further conversations against her will is precisely what he’s written an entire essay about. (FWIW, I get the strong impression that she’s even TRIED to explain why she doesn’t want to talk to him at some point, and he just didn’t accept it as a sufficient explanation. Though I don’t think she owed him even that — but it sounds like she did have some conversations from him after they broke up).

      Actually I think there was a thread a while back that addressed something more similar to what you’re describing — a friend who had ended a friendship very abruptly without explanation, and the left-behind friend was asking for advice on how to process the end of the friendship. And there was even some discussion about better and worse ways to end friendships.

    15. There have been a lot of excellent replies to this, but I just wanted to add one short thing. That “mocking” thing? That you disapprove of? It is necessary.

      Jeff is a high-ranking (millionaire, remember?) cisgendered heterosexual white (I would bet money on this) man. Practically EVERYONE here is lower on the social ladder than he is. (Practically everyone in the U.S. is, for that matter, but set that aside…). Emma is a woman who is not a millionaire (I don’t remember any mention of her race in the article, so I am assuming she is white also). She is lower on the social ladder.

      Therefore, when Jeff wrote this article, whether he meant to or not, he was using his higher social rank (privilege) to lend his words — his version of events — a sheen of authenticity. He has status and money and rank and access to places that will publish his self-pitying screed and call it “an opinion piece.”

      Emma does not have access to all of that, and neither do most of the commentariat here. (If anyone here is a millionaire, I am not aware of it.) The only thing we have access to is our community, our ability to share our understanding, willingness to pick apart bad arguments, outrage, and a forum to share all this. Humor is a tool, and in this case, it is a tool being used to a) help prevent everyone from bursting into tears or swearing because this kind of thing comes up so often and b) to focus attention where it should be: on the flaws in Jeff’s argument. (The commentariat here are punching up, not down, if you are familiar with the terms the comedy people use.)

      “Mocking,” in this case, is being done by those who have less power in order to point out that the emperor, indeed, has no clothes.

      1. Also, a lot of commenters here have been, are, or will be in a relationship with someone who is toxic to them. When you’re in that dynamic, the person who’s doing your head in can seem all-important, all-powerful, able to dictate reality and turn your world upside down. By using humour and, yes, mockery, we’re taking power away from the “other person” (notice all the people here saying they’ve been in situations just like Emma’s?) and pointing out that they’re NOT right, they’re NOT all-powerful, and they’re NOT behaving appropriately. Once you’ve gone “lol no” at someone on the internet, it is a lot easier to do it to the ex who knocks on your door at 3am and wants to know whyyyyyyy you broke up with them.

        1. Incidentally, I think you just explained to me why I come here. And read every post. And all the comments if I can find the time. And comment sometimes excessively.

          Because here, we laugh at the type of people who utterly crushed me. And that gives me back some power.

          I’m three goddamn years out of my most toxic, traumatizing relationship, and I still need that. Still, all this time later, remembering that I loved someone so much who was so willing to hurt me in the most vicious ways he could imagine….can damn near destroy me sometimes.

          It scares me that I was once that person. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, but I also worry that if I was that person once, I could be again. Coming here and knocking down justifications for everything from minor boundary violations to massive, obvious abuse… its interesting and engaging and I learn things, sure… but a lot of what I get out of it is the confidence that now, I am capable of prioritizing my own sanity and safety, and of enforcing appropriate boundaries.

          1. thank you, so much, for writing and posting this. I just have to say: ditto.

          2. @keelyellenmarie And thank you for contributing your experiences. CA wouldn’t be what it is without such a vast pool of shared experiences.

    16. “if you invest in someone, if you consensually build up a degree of trust and commitment and intimacy, then it’s rude to suddenly disappear without so much as indicating why.”

      Well, yes, it might be rude. I would suggest reading Gavin De Becker’s “The Gift of Fear.” It talks a lot about how women are socialized not to be rude, and many many predators take advantage of this fact by pushing women’s boundaries in such a way that enforcing those boundaries would come off as “rude.” Then they attack.

      If my intuition tells me that someone might be a threat to me, I am more than willing to be rude in order to protect myself. If my intuition is wrong, the worst that happens is that their feelings get hurt a bit. Sad, yes, but utterly survivable. If I choose the polite route and I’m wrong, the worst that could happen is I get raped, beaten, robbed, or killed. Which seems like the better option to you?

      We don’t know what Emma really things. But given that this guy is obsessing over a 4-month relationship more than 2 years after the fact, making statements that sound remarkably apologetic to domestic abusers, calling a cut-off “violent,” and sharing his ex’s personal emails…I feel pretty okay saying that she probably had a strong intuition that he isn’t a safe person, and wouldn’t have just cut him out of her life otherwise. If the majority of readers here are seeing warning signs in this one article, is it such a stretch to think Emma saw even more of them in person?

  24. Ugh!
    “Some time after her final email, a date took me to a restaurant in which Emma happened to be waitressing.

    She grimaced when she saw me. Her expression seemed mixed with frustration and anger. … For nearly a year, I’d had only a couple of short email sentences saying she wanted no further contact with me. … Until that night, I didn’t realize how angry she is at me—but in person, it was obvious.”

    So when he shows up AT HER WORKSPACE after harassing her and ignoring her requests repeatedly, he is _ surprised_ and _hurt_ that she’s angry, and thinks she owes it to him to discuss why she feels that way!!! Wow. Just… Wow.
    (And how on earth will the MRA dudes manage to explain a woman who clearly is NOT their classic “golddigger” engaging in hypergamy, since he’s a millionaire, she’s a waitress, and she Still. Doesn’t. Want. Him??? I guess he’s just a Beta Male, or some silliness.)

    1. And, imagine Emma’s position. If she’d been really scared of him, and angry, and upset, she couldn’t have done anything to get out of there without potentially offending or losing the restaurant’s millionaire patron. And this guy does NOT strike me as the kind of guy who is above using his station to get more of her time and attention, even by pestering her at work, even at the risk of her job.

    2. Funny how it never occurs to him that she might be angry because he showed up at a place where she “happened to be waitressing.” Really, guy, you couldn’t have gone anyplace else to eat in the world?

    3. Well, and he knew it was her restaurant: he could have moved the date somewhere else. That was plausible deniability.

      1. Or, if he didn’t know, he could have suggested they relocate once he realized.

        1. Yes. Although I would bet a significant amount of money that he totally knew. In fact, I’d bet that his date wasn’t the one who suggested the restaurant. In fact, I would bet that it was no accident that he was there when she was on-shift. Creep. Slimy not-very-plausibly denying creep.

          1. I’m further putting money on his thought processes working something like a) will take date to ex’s restaurant to show ex up and make her all jealous and she’ll want to be back in contact with me b) wow she looks angry, but why? what did I do to her, she’s the one who did it all c) ex is to blame for the date failing

            meanwhile how would you like to be the date going out to a restaurant so he can go from lording his “date” over his ex to being a pouty mcwhinerhat when it fails– ever feel like the third wheel on your own date, well it looks like this.

            That’s the other lesson in here: if you’re on a date and your date is doing the “oh look my ex is here imagine that well that was totes unexpected” dance, your script is “CHECK PLEASE” because you do not want to stick around for the aftermath of this.

    4. Also super creepy is if he’s on a date, why is his entire focus on Emma and her reactions to him and not the current date? Ohh, because everybody has to love him all the time! (That I’m thinking the date is in the first stages of his stalktasticness and has Emma’s fate to look forward to probably isn’t an idea out of left field.)

      1. Yeah, he does sort of dwell on how much she’s walking past him and not talking to him. I don’t think I’m particularly unusual in not really focusing my attention on wait staff going about doing their job waiting on other people. Like, even people I’m friends with, if I’m at their place eating food and with someone else, I’m not counting how many times they walk past me, I’m eating my goddamn food and paying attention to the person/people I’m with. Aside from the whole look at me on a date with a person in the one restaurant you work in thing, it’s rude to be constantly trying to catch the attention of someone who has a job to do unless it’s got to do with their job.

    5. Or maybe she was having a bad day and it had nothing to do with him at all.

      1. I don’t know, is she allowed to have an independent existence outside of Creepy McCreeperston?

        1. I dunno, that might enable her to have independent feelings, and that’s almost anarchy.

      2. Right? Talk about projection! Maybe it was the end of her shift and her back was killing her. Maybe she just got stiffed on a tip. Or maybe she even WAS thinking about him: maybe seeing him brought up feelings of sadness about the fact that he didn’t turn out to be the guy she thought he was at the beginning of the relationship. There are so many things other than anger at him that could have brought a frown to her face.

        Which isn’t to say that anger at him would be an unreasonable response, given his apparent record of pestering.

    6. I know, I know! They would say that she wants to ride the alpha cock carousel or something like that. That the ex was too beta and she wanted to be fucked by alpha. Then they would go about whining how this whore humiliated and hurt a good man and so on, and all women bithces are like that, they dump good guys and sleep with assholes. And then they would say that when she’s 30 and old and wrinkly the tables turn and nobody would want her anymore and that’s the price women pay for being bitches.
      I got educated on Manboobz 😀

  25. Argh, maybe this is too sympathetic to the guy who wrote this shitty article, but —

    The thing about not respecting the dumper’s boundaries as a dumpee is that it also is not honoring your own worth as a human being? Like, my dude, I have been that dumped person who feels like a sack of shit, who desperately wants an explanation that will make me feel better about myself for being the not-wanted one. But the only explanation you get — and the only one you need is — THIS PERSON’S OPINION OF ME HAS NO IMPACT ON HOW MUCH I AM WORTH AS A HUMAN BEING. THIS PERSON’S DECISION TO BE WITH ME OR NOT DOES NOT CHANGE THE REALITY OF WHO I AM. (Maybe definitely colored by my experience of getting an absolutely logical explanation for being rejected which just made me feel ONE MILLION times worse! CLOSURE IS A LIE!)

    Argh. Dumpees of the world! You deserve the person who CHOOSES YOU! If someone does NOT choose you, they are by definition a shitty person for you! Even if you are not so clear on the other person’s boundaries, honor your own worth by not spending time on the person who doesn’t want you!

    1. Thanks very much!

      I say this mainly as a person who is still floating in the shallows of the bitter-stew-of-perpetual-insecurity-and-rejection sea. I always see the Ghost of Christmas Future (so to speak) floating over posts about dealing with rejection badly — “Unless you change, this is where you are doomed to end up.”

      The things I regret most about relationships that I ruined by refusing to back off, refusing to hear a soft no — relationships that were probably doomed for other reasons, but whatever — is letting myself be humiliated so completely. I am not saying that it was totally within my control. But — forgive the metaphor — if a relationship is a horse that is carrying you along, and at some point it starts bucking desperately to get you off, you can either hold on to the last possible second, until you end up bloody and bruised on the ground and too injured to get up for quite a while, or you can jump off, get your breath back for a few minutes, and start walking by yourself again. It would have been kinder to myself and to the horse to just get off at the first sign of unhappiness, instead of ensuring that I will fucking hate that animal for the foreseeable future because of how badly I was hurt. Don’t put another animal — human or otherwise — in a position where they feel like they have to defend themselves from you. Because they will, one way or another, and most likely both of you will be more hurt than you had to be.

      The horse analogy is also appropriate in that I think when you hold on so hard to someone who is trying to get free, you can do real, lasting damage to yourself — that is, your own ability to love other people. It’s hard not hate someone who you see as holding back something you desperately need — and indeed, we all need love, kindness, connection. But when you force yourself into a situation where you simply CANNOT succeed in getting any of those things — that is, trying to continue a relationship that has ended — you are only giving yourself the option to practice hate, resentment, bitterness. The more time you spend practicing those things, the harder it is to retrain yourself to use the emotional skills needed to be in a relationship of mutual care and love.

      I say this as someone who has spent a significant portion of the last six years marinating in hate and bitterness, largely (mostly?) because I held on too long in certain relationships and forced the cruelest possible rejection. I often wonder if I’ve permanently fucked up my relationship-having emotional skill set because of this, because it seems like sometimes I have a hard time feeling kindly toward or interested in other people? In conclusion: DON’T BE LIKE ME. THE HORSE IS LEAVING WHETHER YOU WANT IT TO OR NOT, SO PLAN ACCORDINGLY.

      1. Mixed metaphors — is the horse the relationship or the person? It’s not really that clear to me in real life sometimes either. . .

      2. Thanks for sharing this, Jane — one of the things that makes this blog so valuable for me is the combination of “being validated about my suspicions that someone intentionally treated me badly” (which feels great) but also a lot of lessons about mistakes I have made (which sometimes feels… what’s the word I am looking for? Awkward 🙂

        Anyway, yeah, I have been that person who is convinced that really *showing* the person trying to end things with me HOW MUCH IT HURTS ME will transmogrify into them not ending things with me. Yeah, humiliating. Yeah, unsuccessful. Yeah, manipulative. Yeah, no good very bad behaviour that felt *so justifiable at the time*. I mean felt like a tower of righteousness and also a total path to future bliss. If only the other person would LISTEN and UNDERSTAND.

        With distance it’s easier to realize that a relationship you had to beg to keep wouldn’t be worth having anyway, and also, once you are in that dynamic the only good option is to get ahold of yourself and knock it off. Both because of respect for others, their choices, their boundaries, and all of the points made so well by many people here but also just because of self-protection and self-respect (points you made so eloquently, above!).

  26. Sadly, I recognize myself in a lot of what he said – me from a long time ago. Of course I was the source: either I picked people who had a penchant for cutting folks off without warning, or I was behaving in a way that encouraged that. In any case, folks went from being besties to one day not answering my calls.

    It was frustrating. Confusing. Annoying. Hurtful.

    I just wanted to know WHAT HAPPENED!!! TELL ME SO I CAN FIX US OR ME!! AAAAA! I neeeeeeeeed to knooooooooow!!


    It made me somewhat paranoid in my later friendships and I would at various points ask folks to promise to tell me why if they decided to end our friendships.

    It’s 10 years later and at almost 40, I can finally recognize that ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. I’m not interested in folks who cut off without notice. That’s not the type of person I want in my life. I want people who care about our friendship and if they see a problem, they’ll try to actively fix it DURING the friendship. Those are the kinds of friends I want to have in my life – reciprocated caring about our friendship and a desire to work together to make it last.

    Nowadays if someone I cared about cut off all contact with me without saying why or without saying “Please don’t contact me again,” I would likely send out a final goodbye to them – a closure for myself – in the form of a single email saying “I’m not sure what happened. I value what we had, and I’m sorry that things led to where we are at today. If I don’t hear from you again, I won’t contact you again.” In essence, a “good luck to you” and a clear message that says I will no longer initiate any contact.

    I believe in healing old wounds, but not crossing explicit boundaries. Thankfully I’m now at a point in my life where I don’t need “WARNING STAY AWAY, DO NOT CROSS THIS LINE” to see a boundary, and instead I can see the more subtle borders, and if someone has decided to put up rose bushes and thistles where I normally walk across, it is them saying “hey, don’t walk there” without actually using those words.

    1. I like your rose bushes and thistles analogy! It illustrates perfectly that pleasant boundary is still a boundary. Also reaffirms that if someone keeps ignoring the thorns and trampling all over your rose bushes, you’re more than justified in breaking out the barbed wire.

  27. From the original article: “The person doing the cutoff may benefit from taking some deep breaths and asking themselves, “What am I trying to avoid here?””

    YUP. This is the only non-terrible thing in the whole article. Because in a similar situation, a few deep breaths and asking myself this question yields the important answer: YOU. AND EVERYONE LIKE YOU. AND ANYONE WHO ACTS EVEN A LITTLE BIT LIKE YOU.

    And yes, this is, in fact, informed by past experience by people who act like you. Not because I’m blinded by trauma, but because /I learned from my experience./ Because that’s what experience is for.

    1. “What am I trying to avoid here?”

      In Jeff’s mind, the answer could never be “a clingy ex who has spent two and half year moping about our four-month relationship, ignored requests my requests to be left alone and has just published a long creepy essay about how I’m quite possibly damaged because I’m moving on with my life and am no longer caving to his demands for attention.”

  28. Oh, wow. Wow. I couldn’t even finish reading this. Like, this could have been written by my abusive ex, down to the hints of MRA-ness and claims of PTSD. (not trying to invalidate those who have PTSD from breakups. this guy just sets off my warning bells.)

    To all the Emmas of the world – including myself & previous commenters – good job getting out when you did. Because people like this? Creepy as fuck. And dangerous.

    1. I think this guy probably legit has PTSD from this if his childhood was how he says. The thing is, though, that’s NOT Emma’s fault, and it’s NOT her problem.

      1. Good point. After posting this, I skimmed the parts I couldn’t read. It’s perfectly reasonable that he’d have PTSD from his childhood trauma. The problem isn’t whether he has it or not; it’s whether he uses it against Emma (& other partners).

  29. So to point out an aspect that hasn’t been touched on too much: a much older man, a self professed millionaire, is ‘assisting’ in what sounds like a survey/undergrad class, and then employs one of the students. after a year as her employer, they begin a romantic relationship- although she says the friendship is more important, which sounds like a soft no to me, but whatever. Then all the other crap? My sideeye begins before the breakup, is what I’m saying, and dude was awful even before he cemented his place as The Worst with this horrifying screed.

    1. AAAAAAAAH. Oh god, I missed that opening bit about him teaching her and then employing her. Holy shit, 100x more creepy. Power differential much?

  30. So annoyed that there’s no way to comment on the original article.

    It’s weird how gendered the author perceives his situation to be. Okay, his points about how people respond to male vulnerability are reasonable, but the rest of it? His biggest underlying assumption is that cutoffs are something that women do to men. Never the other way around. Which is just weird.

    Of course, if he acknowledged that men also cut off women, he might have to notice that women are much less likely to respond with violence, even though they too feel powerless!

    1. I feel like situations like those are indeed very gendered. Imagine an Emma had written this piece about some guy named Jeff. While it would be the same situation, peoples reaction would be so. much. different.; the error so much more obvious.

      From my personal live experience I came to the subjective observation that women are expected to just get over rejection and not make a scene.

      Take Nice Guys for another example – the same happens to girls all the time, yet I never heard people on the Internet complain about those ‘heartless, cold dudes’ who refuse their private parts to their (female) friends. Because not offering your private parts to every random person who’s showing interest is a basic human right… as long as those parts are male, apparently.

      “His biggest underlying assumption is that cutoffs are something that women do to men”

      I’ve had this happen to me, and the guys were right, I was creepy when I was young and knew little about boundaries. If only Jeff took some time for self-reflection.

      1. I see it as less inherently gendered (although still some, yeah), because my biggest experience with this was when my Best Friend finally cut contact with his manipulative Ex.

        It. Took. Months.

        Because she didn’t want to be left alone. Because he didn’t want to hurt her, and so wasn’t it his job to make her feel better. One last screw. Let’s keep hanging out. One last screw. One last–hey, I have blackmail power over your current relationship now. Oh, did that secret get out and make your life chaotic. Hey, why won’t you talk to me anymore?

        In the end, he sent her a very long e-mail and blocked her. And she kept wanting to meet to talk about why. She waited by his car twice. She kept texting, and then used her boyfriend’s phone to text Best Friend’s girlfriend. Not threatening. Just always wanting to know whyyyyy and if they could just sit down, the four of them, they’d work this out and everybody could be friends.

        Women do it too. Heck, Eponine is the patron saint of Nice Guys. And we were scared–all of us–about what she might do next.

        That said, I get the feeling guys probably do it more, because guys are more likely to feel entitled to a woman’s time and attention do to Social Mores.

        1. Yep. My fiancé’s most recent ex before we got together spent months e-mailing him, his mother, and other people in their larger social group demanding that they owed her money. She lived in his parents’ house rent-free (long story) and actually stole money from him. She whined about her need for “breakup sex” after I was already dating him. She would not leave their house for over two weeks. No one owes money to her. This behavior transcends gender.

          1. The behavior itself is not gendered. There are violent female stalkers (see the documentary Dear Zachary for an example) and violence between same sex partners. However, far more men stalk, rape, assault and abuse women than vice versa, and we can talk about patterns rooted in male entitlement and misogyny without being unfairly “essentialist” or whatever.

          2. In addition to the frequency of the behavior being gendered (as CA pointed out), the social narratives to this behavior are gendered, too. Off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen rom coms where a dude ignores boundaries and wins a happy ending where the girl realizes that she was wrong and they’re in LOOOOOVE and that’s all that matters. I can’t think of any where the girl does this, except when the girl is the ex who’s the heroine’s opposition. Girls who do this are crazy bitches, guys are being sensitive and hurt.

      2. “Take Nice Guys for another example – the same happens to girls all the time” Yes, it’s one of the odder parts of the narrative (or the ‘friendzone’ label) to me. Since when is it a guy thing to like someone who doesn’t like you back?

        1. But that’s not what the “Nice Guy” phenomenon describes, and I’m honestly kind of frustrated that lots of people seem to think it is. A Nice Guy is a person whose affections aren’t returned, yes, but who then proceeds to pretend to be friends with the person they are infatuated with, hoping all the while that this will be some kind of back-door into a romantic and sexual relationship. It’s not about just liking someone who doesn’t like you back.

        2. I am actually having this combo issue right now – someone I went on a couple of dates with (he is a fellow and I am a lady) REALLY WANTS TO BE FRIENDS REALLY REALLY but doesn’t want to date. And I am in a weird situation of replicating the friendzone narrative – I really am not all that interested in hanging out with someone who’s romantically rejected me, being his buddy, being civil to people he’s dating at potlucks, etc. I’d rather make a clean break and go find someone who wants to date me.

          Which makes perfect sense. But it also reminds me of the complaints of a friend of mine who is a lady and is very very attractive and has dealt with people she wanted to be friends with cutting her off after she declined to make out with them. It’s true that straight men can bring a kind of toxic entitlement to these situations, but honestly, being on the other side of it is causing me some empathy with those dudes. It sucks to simultaneously be rejected and not feel like you’re entitled to distance because you feel like you owe someone friendship.

          Anyway, I have had an ex-girlfriend not respect my boundaries, much in the style of the article author, and it was a horrible experience that left me pretty actually-traumatized. Past a certain point, when someone won’t respect the distance you’ve asked them for it stops mattering what you once felt for them, because every time you see their number on your phone you feel a kick of terror in your gut that wipes out everything else. If you want people not to treat you like you’re scary, _don’t be scary_ by pushing for a level of contact they don’t want.

          1. I think it’s perfectly cromulent after a romantic rejection to say “That’s so kind of you, but I need some space to collect myself before I want to hang out. I’ll let you know!” and then go do your thing. That’s not mean, that’s self-care. If you’re meant to be friends, you’ll circle back around to them when some time has gone by.

      3. …If Emma wrote an article like this people would respond by calling her crazy, probably literally. They would say that she was mentally ill and dangerous, and that her ex should definitely take out a restraining order, because she is clearly about one step away from murdering him and his pets in their sleep.

    2. Of course, if a woman continues to demand a man’s attention after he’s cut her off, she will go down in the annals of the social group’s history as “that psycho girl who published a 3000+ word essay about a four month relationship with John, poor guy, he really dodged a bullet, that’s what you get for sticking your dick in crazy LOL, but seriously, desperate much?”

      This stuff is definitely gendered, but like with all gendered things, there are some major double standards at play. It’s a cultural assumption that guys will cut off girls who get too clingy too quickly, and society will pat them on the back for not being tied down or “pussy-whipped” or whatever. When a girl cuts off a guy with no sense of boundaries, she’s chided for failing in her role as emotional caregiver and encouraged to keep coddling him until he’s ready to move on.

      1. When you cut someone off, the Mutual Friend Chorus starts up soon after. “But he’s so saaaaaad?” “Why can’t you just tallllk to him?” “You could at least be civil!”

        And it’s hard to explain to people who weren’t there that your ex wasn’t abusive, exactly, he just sometimes kept you up all night talking about the relationship the night before your big test or interview and insisted that “we shouldn’t go to bed angry” and “we need to resolve this! Don’t you want to talk it out?” You don’t want to tell them about the sad hand-jobs you gave your ex because you hoped that it would least get him to let you fucking sleep. You feel embarrassed, like you are airing dirty laundry, if you talk about how when you broke up he wouldn’t leave your house for hours and sat there crying on your couch. And in the weeks right afterward, he seemed to be everywhere. Like, you wanted to stay friends, but you meant “after a long cooling off period” not “I know we broke up 3 days ago, let’s grab brunch!”

        It’s hard and embarrassing and feels cruel to try to paint that picture for other people when you really actually DO care about the person you broke it off with and want to help them save face. You just want them to go away from you to do it.

        The thing about “cut-off culture” where a woman says “Hey don’t talk to me anymore” and a man says “ok” and then processes his feelings privately is something I am actively trying to support and create with this blog. Because we live in the opposite kind of culture, and when you’re the one being leeched on by someone who won’t let go it’s terrifying and exhausting.

        1. A friend of mine once blocked an ex on Facebook. That was when the Mutual Friends Chorus – who had up until then studiously avoided the dreaded “taking sides” – suddenly became very vocal. Words like “harsh” and unnecessary” were used.

          The guy in question had been:
          – turning up at parties he definitely wasn’t invited to because she would be there
          – trying to get her alone in bars and other social situations because We Need To Talk
          – extremely obviously monitoring her social media by liking every status and photo within seconds of posting
          – barraging her with erratic and abusive FEELINGSMAIL (“you’re a cold bitch” followed by “I miss you so much” a few hours later).

          But no, it was blocking him on Facebook that was really out of line.

        2. OMG, SAD HANDJOBS WITH PEOPLE YOU SHOULD NO LONGER BE DATING. I think we’ve all been there. “At least you waited until I stopped crying to guide my hand to your junk!”

          1. “You seem to be falling asleep. Would it wake you up if I just put my junk in your open hand?” #truestory

        3. “And it’s hard to explain to people who weren’t there that your ex wasn’t abusive, exactly, he just sometimes kept you up all night talking about the relationship the night before your big test or interview and insisted that “we shouldn’t go to bed angry” and “we need to resolve this! Don’t you want to talk it out?” You don’t want to tell them about the sad hand-jobs you gave your ex because you hoped that it would least get him to let you fucking sleep.”
          I think you just described my last relationship. Luckily my friends and family were very supportive when I cut ties with him (although after a year or so we got back in touch and are now sort of on good terms). But yeah, it can be super hard to wrap your head around “not exactly abusive, but unhealthy and fucked up enough that I seriously need this person not in my life.”

  31. So, basically, this guy just broadcast his latest manipulative stalkergram to the entire internet, because his ex explicitly told him never to contact her, with added legal threat. This way, she definitely gets to see the message when friends inevitably alert her to it, but she can’t complain because it wasn’t sent to her. Even though it’s chock full of gasslighting like saying her decision lacks her usual maturity and is actually a form of violence (!) and really a sign of trauma and inability to cope and is bad for *her* healing. Oh and also? Here are some quotes (and misquotes) from “experts” explaining how terrible and bad it was for her to not be friends with him.

    If I read this as if it was a letter he sent directly to her it makes me want to scream. And the thing is, it basically was sent directly to her. And to the extent that some people will link this with agreement and approval it was sent accompanied by a cheer squad of internet strangers to add weight to the gasslighting.

    God I hope “Emily” either never sees the original or if she does, she finds her way here or to somewhere like it.

    1. Kind of remind me of an ex. He usually said that I was mature and intelligent when I agree with him or make a decision he likes. But when I said or do something he didn’t like, I sudently “weren’t being as mature and intelligent that I usually be”. It didn’t last long and I never knew if he did it on pourpose or if he really was that oblivious. Anyway, doesn’t really matter, breaking up was a good decision and time has probe it. Same will happend to Emma.

      1. Yeah the thing is: it doesn’t really matter. Whether he knew what he was doing or not, he was manipulating and gaslighting you. The effect on you doesn’t go away just because he may haven’t been absolutely and entirely aware of what he was doing.
        On the other hand, since reading Why Does He Do That, I believe that abusers do know what they’re doing more often than not.

        1. Yes! Intent is a red herring – the behaviour and its effects are real regardless of intent. And also, bad behaviour is more likely to be deliberate than we think it is (thanks Lundy Bancroft for talking to so many abusive arseholes and then reporting back on how they really think), but we give our loved ones the benefit of the doubt and tend to be blind to that. So stepping away from thinking a lack of deliberate intent is a magical pass on behaviour is a good idea.

    2. God I hope “Emily” either never sees the original or if she does, she finds her way here or to somewhere like it.

      yes, yes, a million times yes, or all the other places that horrible manipulative shitrag diatribe is being shredded for the horrible manipulative shitrag diatribe that it is. I’ve seen three different people reference it, all of them saying how terrible it is, and all of them linking here, so–fingers crossed for “Emily”!

  32. Danger, danger!

    This reminds me of when I had a fight with an old boyfriend. I don’t even remember what about, but I do remember that I didn’t want to continue the conversation because Enough Already and needed a break and told him so. His reply? To storm up to me, inches away, and bellow ”What about myyyyyy feeeeelings?” When I asked him to leave my apartment, his first response was ”Nope, I want to talk this out now.” I was like… but I told you that you need to leave my place, why isn’t it working?

    Oh, right, because you care more about yourself than the security and feelings of others. Specifically the person you claim to love. Time to board the Nope rocket and call the cops to get him out. I don’t wonder why we didn’t work out, but I bet he does.

    1. Yikes. At least that guy’s got the excuse of being a kid. I mean, still pretty troubled and troubling, but hopefully he’ll get better (and maybe that therapist of his can help him, yikes). But this line, after somebody in the comments told him that when a person wants to end a relationship with no contact, you have to respect it:

      “No, I refuse to believe that. It isn’t fair to simply abruptly cut a person off. In a relationship, couples should talk. They should be honest. You can’t be like this to a person without any explanation. Without any apology. You can’t tell me that’s right. ”

      Freaking. Terrifying.

      I think it’s that “In a relationship, couples should talk!” thing. It sounds like what the crazy guy says in a movie to the woman he has kidnapped. Like something out of Phantom of the Opera.

      1. ” In a relationship, couples should talk.”

        But you aren’t in a relationship, dude. That’s the point.

        1. Of *course* we are, Christine. I know when you said that you’d rather marry Raoul, you were really just speaking from a place of fear and hurt. But if we don’t talk about these things, then how can we fix our relationship? Come now, I’m being the reasonable one here.

          (Trufax: in the books Eric was almost terrifyingly chipper half the time, especially while talking to The Persian.)

          1. Why are you running from my sewer cavern?! Is it because I threatened to garrote anyone who comes close to us? They are just jealous, my love! Jealous of our music!

      2. “I think it’s that “In a relationship, couples should talk!” thing. It sounds like what the crazy guy says in a movie to the woman he has kidnapped. Like something out of Phantom of the Opera.”

        Exactly… Or what the guy holding the woman in this basement says to her. It’s just so over the top fucked up, and what makes it worse is it half makes you want to make the guy see sense, when the fact that something like that sounds reasonable to him means that you’d only be making yourself crazy.

  33. Jeff reminds me a little of about one week of my life when I was 16. I told my diary that if you accept someone’s love you’re responsible for their feelings, and should be nice to them – by their definition – even after a breakup. On further reflexion, I realized no, you’re not. You’re responsible for acting in a non horrible fashion, as you define it.

    Jeff is not 16, however. Jeff has come up with a series of horrific rationales for stalking and harming his exes. I mean come on! He’s the one with the power in the relationship (and at a guess that’s a major reason she ended it). Two years later he is pounding the world over the head with tales of her awful-not-acceding-to-him-ness and he doesn’t get why she walked away?

    The commenters who indicated that he really needs a therapist are absolutely correct. His lack of self knowledge is astounding.

    And as for “Emma” – yay! How great that she’s self supporting and has a new love.

  34. Sheesh. I think I’ve figured out why they broke up in the first place. Jeff! No one is obligated to pay attention to you, and especially no one is obligated to pay attention to you in precisely the manner you desire to their own personal detriment!

    1. The scary/funny thing is that this simple fact is completely incomprehensible to people like him. I never knew anyone like Jeff who actually changed.

  35. Look at the narrative this guy has weaved for himself. He did nothing wrong in the relationship. There were “misunderstandings and miscommunications”. Nothing more serious than that! He sent two nice emails in the spirit of healing. The poor girl, she was broken already when they got together so if she was upset by aspects of the relationship, it wasn’t his fault. If only she’d talk to him, he could fix her.

    I knew an antifeminist on livejournal who was exactly like this. Every woman who ran screaming out of his life when he ignored their “soft no’s” was clearly suffering from a mental disorder. He was just drawn to wounded birds who were too messed up to return his affection.

    I once saw him fly into a rage on a public community at a woman who had recently stopped all phone contact with him. He threatened to call CPS on her. Five years later he was still mourning the end of their friendship and casting himself as the innocent victim of her emotional issues.

  36. And to Emma, run far and run fast, and be oh so very glad you did not reproduce with this person. The FEELINGSMAILS and FEELINGSSTANDINGOUTSIDEYOURWINDOWAT2AM tied to that are effing monumental.

  37. I appreciate so much the way you sort out the issues. I’ll read something (one of the letters, an article) and find my adrenaline is high and I feel completely agitated and SOMETHING IS WRONG-ish—and then you divide it up into what is going on and what should be going on and what shouldn’t be going on, and it feels like such a RELIEF!

    The term “cut-off culture” is continuing to bother me. It seems to be trying to evoke the term “rape culture.”

    1. I just noticed this! Also framing an ex cutting you off as “violence”.

      This is another strong parallel with MRA rhetoric. Appropriating shorthand language that women use to talk about their experiences and using it to frame a male experience as an equal or equivalent. Because you know, two sides to every story, both sides of the same coin, everything is all about feeeeelings and nothing is about actual real gendered violence that happens to women every day.

      1. Yeah, there are lots of issues where people say they deserve equal time, when what they ACTUALLY deserve is proportional time. “We should give equal time to all the mens being abused by the horrid matriarchical wymmyn!” Um, no, you shouldn’t, because that’s not anywhere near on par with men’s violence committed on women in our society, and giving you equal time distorts the truth, rather than revealing it.

        Sure, maybe the situations are parallel, but one parallel line segment is a WHOLE LOT shorter than the other. Quit pretending they’re exactly the same, bro.

    2. Uuuuugh, you gave me another squick moment. *shudder*

      It’s so nice that we can all sit down and pick out all the individual things that are so very creepy and wrong with this, identify them, and then pin them to a board with a label. Makes it easier than “this is all vaguely unsettling…”

  38. I’m glad you posted this, it’s important to point out how utterly wrong this thinking is.
    “More than 3 million people report being stalking victims each year, the ultimate measure of collective cluelessness about ending love affairs well.” But this? This is spectacular. What do you even say to that? As a rational human what possible response is there? This is the equivalent of saying 3 million people a year continue to walk into swinging fists and fail to realise it’s their own fault. And to say we live in a cut off culture? I’ve cut people off, and believe me when I say that even those intimately familiar with the situation, especially men, continually tried to edge me toward forgiving and hearing the person out even after they had made it clear that my own need for safety was second to their need for closure.

    We don’t live in a cut off culture pal. Not even close.

  39. Jeff, you don’t want closure. I went through this in college after a love affair blew up. And by “went through it,” I mean in a lot of ways I was YOU. Because I was Young and In Love and knew if I just stuck to it he would see how much I needed him. I wanted him to see how wounded my soul was. That only he could fix it. I never crossed any legal lines but my behavior cost me big time. My chosen career was over before it started (he’d been a mentor to me). The bitterness oozed out of me and tainted my friendships. I felt the same way you did — what did I do? It’s not like I boiled his rabbit.

    I was 30 when I finally realized he had no obligation to stick around until I did. The way he saw it I always had a pot of boiling water on the stove ready and waiting for Fluffy. You know how I learned this lesson? Sticking with my ex-husband because he insisted his pot of water was nothing before he tried to throw my rabbit in. And even then I had no right to be mad because he didn’t actually *do* it he boiled water for nothing WHAT WAS MY PROBLEM?!?!???*

    So here’s your carrot for not doing what you weren’t supposed to do. Said carrot is revoked for constantly having the water boiling.

    *To his credit he now realizes how often he violated Wheaton’s Law during our marriage.

  40. In a way, I find this sort of thing creepier than the rubbish MRAs spout. Because with MRAs, their virulent misogyny is on display for the entire world to see. You don’t need to be well-versed rape culture or predator red flags, or even particularly good at close reading, to see that they feel entitled to women’s time, bodies and attention and they are hopping mad that the world order is no built on this arrangement.

    Guys like Mr. I’m Just A Super Relatable Nice Guy Tech Millionaire, though? They’re the dangerous ones. They couch everything in the language of the Sad Panda (so broken-hearted) and the Concern Troll (guys,cutting people off hurts EVERYONE, because emotional growth and shit). He’s flirting with MRA ideas and making them palatable to a much wider audience. Men who would be horrified by the contents of MRA forums can read this and identify with it, because maybe they were once hurt by a cut off, and they remember that hurt. And now some totally reasonable successful guy writing on a semi-reputable platform is telling them that all those feeling of hurt and anger are totally the responsibility of that bitch who dumped you, and really you’ll be doing everyone a favour if you continue trying to insert yourself into her life after she’s specifically asked you not to. Because you just care about her personal growth!

    But then he escalates to heavy petting with MRA ideas in the horrific paragraph about domestic violence. And with the “I’m not saying you SHOULD pity-fuck your ex or anything, but all the same…” It’s all the same toxic entitlement issues bubbling just below the surface.

    1. Yes. This. Here in the Bay Area, this pseudo-enlightenment crap as a cover for entitled passive-aggressiveness is knee-deep and getting deeper all the time. My ex (also, probably not even coincidentally a computer guy) told me in a tone of great concern when we were breaking up that I was never going to have a fulfilling relationship again until I worked out my personal issues that had caused me to dump his wonderful ass. He was miffed when I laughed in his face.

      1. It never seems to occur to these guys that: “Being alone forever” > “Wasting one more second on your bullshit”

  41. I thought his assumptions about female support networks being so much richer and warmer than men’s support networks were interesting*. Particularly when I read what he said his friends were saying to him, “good thing she’s out of your life”, “plenty of fish”, “time to move on”. What does he think women say to each other?

    For the record, I have had some wonderful and generally-supportive women friends that I am absolutely certain were tired of me talking about my last breakup within a month. Two months, tops. And I don’t blame them, I’m sure it was wildly boring to hear me out patiently and repeatedly, as they did. (Luckily, I got tired of the topic eventually, too.)

    It is the rare friend indeed that will listen after 2+ years to maunderings about a 4-month relationship – I hope he’s suitably appreciative of his amazing friends. Except I fear the odds are good that he’s just not noticed that those friends are really frickin’ tired of the subject, too. Maybe they encouraged him to (go somewhere else and) write this piece?

    *interesting meaning here not-interesting-but-wow. That is the stereotype, and maybe there’s some truth there, esp. if you’re a man who wants to literally cry while being held by a friend after a breakup, but it’s a nasty thing to accuse your gender of not forming rich supportive networks amongst themselves just because their version of support is less touchy-feely than you might wish it was. Recently heard a story of two fellas, one of whom had their marriage end, and the other who called him daily for three months and/or dropped by and made him come out, etc. – bet they talked about music, mostly, and not the break-up, but that was still support and comfort and keenly-felt by the recipient.

    Maybe if Jeff isn’t finding his networks sufficiently rich it’s because he’s too busy being wrapped up in his own universe to care about others? You get what you give – a new not-completely-true stereotype he might find more practically-useful than the stupid sexist one that allows him to feel more like a victim of others and less like someone whose own choices might cause “thoughtful” people to cut him off.

    1. “What does he think women say to each other?”

      When one of my friends gets dumped, we lovingly drape in her layers of Kleenex, then we smear our naked bodies in chocolate ice cream and perform abridged interpretations of Timeout’s 100 Best Romantic Movies using dance, shadow puppets and Tuvan throat singing.

      It’s very healing.

      1. Good Lord, I need to step up my friend game.

        (Also, thanks for making me snort tea out of my nose in the middle of a library.)

      2. “perform abridged interpretations of Timeout’s 100 Best Romantic Movies using dance, shadow puppets and Tuvan throat singing.”

        I am going camping in July. This sounds like the perfect campfire activity. 🙂

    2. Indeed. Also – I had this niggling feeling that given that it was only a four month relationship and it’s been two years, his friends are probably well into trying to get through to him about maybe not being a stalker. You know, like, he can’t talk to most of them about this anymore? Probably because they are starting to freak out and try to shut him down.

      1. Yup.

        I’m sure his friends’ lack of support is less about gender dynamics and more about them not stopping everything they are doing to focus on making him feel good about himself,

        Apparently having anything more than a casual acquaintanceship with him means you are morally obligated to meet his emotional needs in perpetuity.

  42. I have two favourite phrases concerning breakups.

    1) It takes two to be a couple but only one to break up.

    It means you need to accept the other’s wishes when it comes to breaking up but not when it comes to being a couple (again). No discussion.

    2) The opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference.

    Closure means (at least for me in the past) to get over the “why” and “hate” and “but I want” phases and get to the “I honestly don’t care any more” state of mind. It takes time but apparently in this case “Emma” got there much faster than he did. He can take his time but he can’t make Emma care again, even for a short time.

    1. I think in a lot of ways you’re very right: it’s most important to keep the practical things at the front of your mind after a breakup.

      Your feelings are your feelings and you should be kind and tender to yourself about them even if they seem stupid or fucked up, but you still have to function in the world as a relatively decent human being. And no matter how much you are hurting, you can probably manage “no contact,” “were you thinking about contacting that person? no, wait some more” “no really, how about waiting another hour? another day? another month?” until the pain has faded.

      I also appreciate your functional definition of closure — as long as I thought of closure as “understanding,” I was ashamed, because I either couldn’t understand why or understanding why didn’t help feel less like a bucket of ass. I’m sure it helps some people, but the only thing that helps me is . . . waiting it out, until the edge is blunted enough that even if I don’t feel great about what happened and I don’t understand why it happened that way, it’s no longer eating at me.

      1. I know many people define closure as something of a final talk. Whenever I hear that it sounds to me like what they really want is to say “No, you don’t break up with me! I break up with YOU.” And I think it’s a natural wish. It would make us feel less vulnerable, less helpless. And maybe there’s a little revenge in it too. When you think about it though, this can’t ever work because if it did, the other would need the same closure then and it would go on and on.

        I think your phrase of the “edge to be blunted” is exactly what I often felt. I needed that feeling and only then I can think about it more calmly and find out what may have gone wrong.

        1. I’ve definitely read people hear saying that a final talk helps them!

          It just. . . doesn’t help me. No matter how good someone’s reasons are for rejecting me, THEY ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR MY EMOTIONS.

          Moreoever, I think (especially when you are a woman-person who is interested in man-people) it is easy for the (man-)person who is rejecting you to tell you that the things he doesn’t like about you are things OBJECTIVELY WRONG with you that you need to FIX even though they might be just things that don’t work for him in particular — and it’s really easy for you to believe him.

          I am all for looking at your past actions and figuring out how to improve, but I think at some level that desire for improvement needs to come from your own assessment of what’s important to you, and not from shame because someone else enlightened you to all your failings.

          Immature and shitty though it may be, I think it’s better for me to say to myself, “I’m sure your reasons for not wanting me are stupid, so I don’t need to know what they are, but the fact that you have them is a good reason for me to move right along.”

          1. “Moreoever, I think (especially when you are a woman-person who is interested in man-people) it is easy for the (man-)person who is rejecting you to tell you that the things he doesn’t like about you are things OBJECTIVELY WRONG with you that you need to FIX even though they might be just things that don’t work for him in particular — and it’s really easy for you to believe him.”

            Thank you so much for this! It explains something from my past to me so well. In my case I did the rejecting, and I thought I had to give him reasons even though they boiled down to “I’m not really attracted to you”, and he (being, naturally, hurt) burst out with a litany of all my personality defects including the prediction for the future that I would be “very successful in my career but never happy in my personal life.” And it messed me up. It caused my anxiety to spike back up and I went back on Zoloft which I hadn’t taken for a few years. And I took it all as the truth for a long time, and even now I sometimes do– even though his prediction for the future is currently wrong, since I’m in a very happy relationship (and about halfway through a PhD, so, doing okay on the career front for the time being)

  43. I have been compiling a little mental list of “things to teach my daughter before she gets into her first romantic relationship.” Many of them are things I teach her in her day-to-day life — how to set and enforce her own boundaries, how to respect others, how to disagree without being nasty, how to compromise without compromising herself.

    But in particular I’ve been working up this mental syllabus on how to break up with someone, and its corollary — how to behave when you get broken up with. And I think this may be the most perfect example of “How Not to Behave.” (On his part, of course.)

  44. Reblogged this on The Monster's Ink and commented:
    Holy fuck. In interpersonal relationships between grown adults, there’s no substitute for respect. This guy at Medium has no respect for his ex and he doesn’t even know how much it shows.

  45. OHMYGOD I have had this ex. This very ex. Except we had a text conversation that looked like this:

    ME: Since you are either unwilling or unable to respect my boundaries, I am unwilling to have any contact with you ever again.
    HIM: So is it okay if I text you sometimes?
    HIM: Hello?
    HIM: I mean, I only ask because I can’t READ YOUR MIND.


    1. I just finished reading a story collection by Ursula K. LeGuin about a town on the Oregon coast called Klatsand. One of the stories was about four generations of women and their lives, over the course of about 80 years. One of the women was a poet who married a man that became a Big Name Harvard professor. She was happy with him until she wasn’t, and told him she wanted to move back to the west coast, finish her PhD. and teach. He came back with a lot of bluster about how he couldn’t leave a Professorship at Harvard and she had lots of time to write, and anyway her writing career was all thanks to his influence and what did she really want? And she repeated, finish my degree, and teach. And he just kept asking her “What is it you want?” because he couldn’t find a way to say, “I don’t want to do that with you, so I think you shouldn’t want to do it.”

      (Spoiler: She left him, finished her degree, and moved back to Klatsand to teach and write. Eventually she won a Pulitzer.)

  46. Wow wow wow what the. If someone can’t take no for an answer, they deserve yes? This is more than the attitude of domestic violence, this is rape culture straight up. If someone can’t even respect a no when you’re not really in a relationship with them, why would you think they’d respect one if you were? And why would you want to be? And if someone told you to be, what would they be advocating? Not consent, that’s for sure.

  47. This guys is obviously super creepy, and probably was or would have been abusive if he had been dating this person longer. However, I actually think, in addition to being super creepy there is some real insight in his last quote.

    “I believe that most domestic violence is the result of men with trauma histories reacting to powerlessness in response to experiences with their ex, friends, or family. Certainly men are responsible for finding nonviolent ways to respond to feeling powerless, but culturally we need to understand the dynamics driving these kinds of situations if we’re to reduce them.”

    While violence can’t spring from “men with trauma histories reacting to powerlessness” it seems to me that it certainly can spring from men with trauma histories who *feel* they are powerlessness to do anything but lash out, and feel entitled to do so. I suspect that while *some* abuse may be a result of sociopathy, there’s probably a lot of it that is
    the result of emotionally dysfunctional individuals who, having grown up
    in abusive situations themselves, have never learned the skills to
    deal with anger and fear in healthy ways.

    If we could give these people the skills to deal with their emotions
    in healthy ways we wouldn’t just help them, we would
    be helping all future romantic parters of the abuser.

    There are some interesting studies out there looking at treatment of the perpetrators of domestic violence as a way of reducing it. (A cursory scholar.google.com search revealed lots of examples and an interesting meta-analysis). The data seem to be inconclusive, sometimes it works, but there is clearly a *long* way to go.

    1. Please read Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That? before commenting further here on this topic. I am dead serious. Go read that book, and until you do, do not come here to tell us that Jeff is insightful about where domestic violence comes from by repeating a common fallacy about where domestic violence comes from.

      Trauma/childhood abuse can be a factor in the history of many abusive men, but it’s not the cause of abuse (see all the men who were abused who don’t abuse and who actually empathize and identify with victims because of their histories). This is a very common and dangerous fallacy.

      I also think that this statement:

      “If we could give these people the skills to deal with their emotions
      in healthy ways we wouldn’t just help them, we would
      be helping all future romantic parters of the abuser.”

      Ok, great, people should be raised with emotional intelligence! Dysfunctional family life can echo through several generations. But abuse victims, exes, romantic partners, or “women” in general are not responsible for doing that training of an adult man who hurts them. I’m sure many abusers do feel scared and small and powerless. But they also feel entitled to power over their victims. And that’s the real crux of the problem.

      Your comments are on moderation and future comments will not show up immediately.

      1. +1000 – really, read the book. The author is a man who runs programs for abusive men and he knows what they say when they think they’re among friends.

      2. “see all the men who were abused who don’t abuse and who actually empathize and identify with victims because of their histories”

        Isn’t it great how abuse apologists will throw actual male victims (who MRAs supposedly but never really care about) under the bus by implying that we are all abusers? (and therefore we should presumably be on board with their misogynist bullshit)

    2. CA has already told you to go take a timeout, but these men are not powerless in the world, or powerless over their own bodies or hearts. They don’t have power over another human being. And they don’t! They shouldn’t! They should not be able to force someone into love or affection or commitment. Their inability to realize that isn’t the effect of trauma. It’s the desire to rationalize abuse.

      That realization – that other people are people – is not traumatic, and it’s really screwed up to talk about this most basic sense of respect for another human being as though it is some wound. It’s a violent response arising from a violent mindset, the end, and I’m sick and tired of hearing people talk about abusers as though they’re just super sad that fairy tales aren’t real life.

      It’s not dysfunction – these men are not loving gracelessly, even the ones who aren’t very sophisticated in their abuse. They’re hurting and coercing their partners, because they feel no obligation to treat their lovers well. You’re talking about unrepentant cruelty, not unknowing cruelty.

      And you know, I had a stalker, and that guy was just trying to get up the nerve to attack me. He wasn’t Cyrano de fucking Bergerac. He wasn’t some lovelorn teenager. He wasn’t mourning his lost sense of me as an animate doll to house in his life. He was terrorizing me in hopes of catching me defenseless. He was selfish.

      1. The thing I keep coming back to is….why invoke domestic violence in this piece AT ALL? Especially to excuse/apologize for it as stemming from women’s shoddy treatment of men? If the author wasn’t violent towards “Emma,” why does this matter?

        Abusive men are actually able to control their emotions and behaviors quite well. For instance, they don’t abuse EVERYONE in their lives, they just abuse women. They mostly don’t do it where other people can see it, strangely, it always seems to happen when they are alone with their victims. Almost like they are deliberately modulating their behavior on purpose, except with people they don’t see as “counting” in some way.

        1. Also, and this bears repeating, the available evidence indicates that they start slowly, by testing their victims’ boundaries, little by little. THAT is why we are reacting so forcefully to people who act like Our Jeff, people who refuse to hear no and insist that their emotions/feelings/reasons/wants are more important than another person’s boundaries. Because THAT is how abuse STARTS and we don’t know who will escalate and who won’t until they do. But by showing that they are capable of ignoring boundaries, that they are willing to disregard someone else’s humanity, that shows us that they are indeed capable of bigger and badder boundary violations.

          I’m with piny — I’m sick unto death of people acting like abusers, rapists, manipulators, and assholes don’t know EXACTLY what they are doing.

          1. Well, yes: stalking is just the slow-zombie version of assault. No stalker ever wants to just follow you to work and stand outside waiting for you. Eventually they bite.

          2. Love the metaphor! I hope it didn’t come across like I was disagreeing with anyone about this stuff. I just get so mad and I’m so fed up and this stuff just doesn’t happen in a goddamn vacuum, you know? Ugh.

          3. No, I got it. And I strongly suspect that Emma’s phase-out happened because it became clear that the author wouldn’t stop pushing at those boundaries. I think she probably decided no-contact was better not because of lingering pain but because he was hugging too long.

            And, well, if you’re making someone uncomfortable, that’s the only thing that matters. You need to back off when they say so, the end. You need to pay attention to their discomfort, the end. If you don’t…it’s not just that you’re signaling potential abuse. You’re actually already engaging in low-level emotional abuse.

        2. The thing I keep coming back to is….why invoke domestic violence in this piece AT ALL? Especially to excuse/apologize for it as stemming from women’s shoddy treatment of men? If the author wasn’t violent towards “Emma,” why does this matter?

          I think you have just put your finger on the MOST disturbing thing in the whole piece and frankly, as an essay, it put all my hair on end and set my teeth on edge and practically made my skin crawl off and hide in a cupboard by itself.

        3. Because he undoubtedly feels that he has been victimized as surely as anyone who has suffered domestic violence. He Has Been WRONGED, Captain! There are cases when such cutoff are warranted – and thank goodness we have him to parse which ones those are for us – but to do so without cause? Abuse.

          Seriously, I think it’s just more of the same Nice Guy garbage. Since he wasn’t awful he is owed her attention and time. To refuse him it is to lump him in with those people because there’s no room for people to just be incompatible – they either are people who there is cause to reject or there’s not. I was good to you and you rejected me, so clearly you are Not Good.


        4. Well, because bitch needs to know that he could have hit her and she would’ve drawn it on herself because that’s what happens when women don’t coddle men and read their minds and cater to their every whim.

          1. And isn’t he just a GREAT GUY for not having already done that to her, despite the provocation she has offered him?

        5. all of this thread has been amazingly illuminating and just fabulous, and I really hope Emma is out there somewhere reading this.

          but this ‘It’s not dysfunction – these men are not loving gracelessly, even the ones who aren’t very sophisticated in their abuse. They’re hurting and coercing their partners, because they feel no obligation to treat their lovers well.’

          and this ‘Abusive men are actually able to control their emotions and behaviors quite well. For instance, they don’t abuse EVERYONE in their lives, they just abuse women. They mostly don’t do it where other people can see it, strangely, it always seems to happen when they are alone with their victims. Almost like they are deliberately modulating their behavior on purpose, except with people they don’t see as “counting” in some way.’

          I am so glad to have read this, I have always hated the ‘but I was abused’ as a defense for abuse..reading the words above has finally given me the words to articulate why I have always believed it to be so wrong…. ditto any other kind of abuse, bullying, sexual abuse..the list is long.


          1. Right???? If you know when you CAN’T do it, then you can keep from doing it at all. (I feel similarly about “socially awkward” [scare quotes intentional] guys who manage to not screw up in front of bosses, etc.)

        6. Well, maybe he…was? I don’t know if it’s appropriate to speculate, but maybe she was afraid of him. Not because of the slow-zombie stalker routine, but because of some fast-zombie undertones of violent or threatening behavior. I mean, this isn’t Oh hi I happened to be at your table. It’s Oh hi let me write a jeremiad against your cold-hearted bitchery for the entire internet, “Emma.”

          1. I adore this slow zombie/fast zombie metaphor. You win the Golden Metaphor Prize! (It doesn’t actually look like anything, it’s just a metaphor.)

        7. …You know, I had some terrible roommates I ended up having to book it from (rent paid up!) and when I came back to collect my stuff a few days later (already helpfully stuffed into some garbage bags, “for cleaning,”) they told me that some roommates would have locked me out and sold my stuff. Not that they would ever do such a thing. They were just, you know, saying. That they could have. Stolen and sold my stuff. I mean, like you say, What’s your point?

          1. When it’s not an outright threat (probably not a threat in your case because their window to do it had closed), it’s an attempt to make themselves look better when they know they’re doing something dodgy. They’re deflecting your spoken or unspoken accusation of bad behaviour by pointing out how much worse they could have been but weren’t. They would like a cookie for this.

            It’s a manipulation tactic.

            Anyone who does this “but look how much worse I could have been it’s not like I boiled your rabbit” thing is trying to minimise their own negative behaviour.

            It can be this and *also* a threat, because it’s possible to try to frighten people whilst also trying to make yourself look good.

          2. I’d read “well SOME PEOPLE would’ve done [terrible thing]” as: they thought about doing [terrible thing]. They may have talked about doing [terrible thing]. Deep down (or not so deep) they think [terrible thing] is what you deserve. They didn’t do it because they know that there are unpleasant consequences to doing [terrible thing].

          3. Cyberwulf, I agree. ”This is what I’d do if I knew I would get away with it. This is what I’ll do if you test me. This is what I’ll do if you make me”

        8. “why invoke domestic violence in this piece AT ALL?”

          I suspect that, besides unhealthy attitudes to relationships and gender, it may have come about from Emma mentioning a restraining order. I would guess, to him, a restraining order has the connotation of domestic violence attached to it, but he has failed to grasp that unwanted communication can be a good damn reason to get one as well.

    3. “If we could give these people the skills to deal with their emotions
      in healthy ways we wouldn’t just help them, we would
      be helping all future romantic parters of the abuser.”

      I’ll rephrase that:

      If people learned how to deal with their emotions in healthy ways they would be more able to keep from abusing other people.

      Look, I’m a therapist. It’s my office a lot of people learn emotional skills in. But let’s be clear: they have to do the hard work themselves. I’ve seen more guys than I want to come in and sit there sullenly with their arms folded, saying, “I thought you were going to help me with this!” when they discover that the process doesn’t involve me waving a magic wand and making their pain and anger just go away.

      You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, and you cannot teach a man something he isn’t willing to learn. The process is not about giving people anything. It’s about them actively learning. And by “actively” I mean that they have to actually feel an emotion and deal with it, because that is how you learn this stuff.

      1. Just on the incentive to learn part… (I’m not a therapist and I’m nowhere near as insightful as staranise, but…) I wanted to dispute that these guys aren’t getting exactly what they want by their behaviour, and thus might have little incentive to learn healthier behaviour.

        See, if you’re a dude whose self-worth is built on power over others, if you haven’t really internalised the idea that other people are people – whole, distinct, complete people with their own goals and preferences and priorities and agency and arbitrary decision-making powers – and you use boundary violation, gas-lighting, intimidation to try and wield power over others, and you scare them or wear them down or are violent to them until they give in, then maybe you are getting *exactly what you want* out of that. That power IS what you want, it IS your incentive and your driver, and your incentive to then go and learn emotionally healthy ways of handling emotions that are NOT based on controlling other people… might just not be there. Because then they wouldn’t be controlling other people.

        1. Yes this!

          Also, they often get a bunch of other less grandiose advantages than power over others. They get bugged less to do things (not worth the effort/trauma), they get to do whatever they like with impunity (too scary to complain) and they get treated really carefully and thoughtfully by people who are desperately trying not to set them off (even when “setting them off” is just a huge frustrating passive aggressive argument and not physical violence).

          Abusers get all sorts of perks, mainly in the form of quietly getting their own way.

        2. THIS THIS THIS is why it’s important for other people who are not the target of the behaviour to step in and say “That’s not okay!” It is ESSENTIAL.

          TW misogynistic slurs: Like, it is sadly common that if a guy’s friends (of any gender) notice that he is being really attentive to his girlfriend and letting her take the lead on a lot of decisions, they let him know what they think is going on! Which is by calling him a “pussy”, calling him “whipped”, saying he’s less of a man, and generally letting him know that they think this behaviour makes him unacceptable and inferior. For being a good boyfriend!

          So in healthy groups that are working to keep abuse from happening? The same thing happens over things that are actually a problem and actually abusive. People say things like, “Hey, that was a mean thing you said, and your girlfriend looked upset.” Or, “She doesn’t want to talk to you? Then it’s rude to keep calling her.” And because they are perceived to be disinterested third parties, their commentary can have way more weight than the target of the bad behaviour would protesting her treatment.

  48. That essay is the creepiest. I wish it had commenting capability. And they were only dating //for four months?// The way he wrote, I expected to learn that his marriage had ended (not that that would excuse his CREEPY behavior). I’m so happy that “Emma” has moved on, and I hope that she’s doing okay.

    A part I especially can’t get over is how his date “happened” to take him to the restaurant Emma was working at, while Emma was working. Really? REALLY? How convenient. Ugh.

  49. What a Nice Guy, looking out for my personal growth like that. Sure, his suggestions for my growth coincidentally include me doing just exactly what he wants me to do, but life is just quirky like that.

    In case anyone is even a little bit inclined to give pause to that “personal growth thing,” don’t. After sending my ex the unexpected (for him) “do not contact me ever again” missive after a full year of grudgingly acquiescing to all his but-I-need-closure whining, I didn’t just grow. I burst open like a seed pod. Even I’m amazed how radically and quickly I’ve changed since then, and I was there. It was the most instantly rewarding act of self-care I ever granted myself. I felt immense relief from the very first second I clicked “send” on that email and having stopped growing since. It’s been a while now, years, but that relief I feel at having done it is still so fresh in my mind it’s like it happened just last week.

    This whole thing is awful (the original post, not this analysis, that is just lovely), but on the bright side, at least now I don’t have to carefully explain what “entitlement” is ever again. I can just link to that tripe.

  50. Is it really not possible to leave comments on his article? He definitely needs challenging on this, at the source, where other broken people might read it unexamined and think it’s good advice (it is not!)

    1. It is possible, but only on a paragraph by paragraph basis. If you hover over any paragraph, you’ll see a plus sign appear to the upper right. Click on it, and it will allow you to leave a note on that particular segment. It appears you need either a Medium account, or it will allow you to sign in via Twitter if you have an account there instead.

      1. but but but doesn’t he realize that making it difficult for random people on the internet to say whatever they want to him at as great a length as they can bother to write out is like VIOLENCE or something


    2. The piece is also posted on the writer’s blog, which does allow comments. Hint, hint…

  51. Why is everything I ever hear about on Medium is the worst thing ever? When it’s not a white woman defending her right to be scared of black men in elevators (in response to an article about Trayvon Martin) it’s a wife trying to defend herself & her husband from allegations of gender-based discrimination with an admission of making his employees work for her non-profit for free (because that’s better?).

    Did anyone else here ever read anything at PLFM? (TW: ableism in the actual name of the site; violence, stalking, abuse, sexual assault in the content of the site) Because this dude’s article reminded me strongly of that and I hadn’t so much as thought of that site in years.

    I think the worst part, aside from the fact that he managed to accuse her of being hysterical by quoting someone else, is at the end where he practically gloats at making her angry that he showed up at her job.

    No wait, the worst part is that he says he was “assisting in her new media class” at the beginning of the article but leaves the fact that she’s a waitress until the end, neatly dancing around the fact that he was dating a student of his for four months who was, in his own words, much younger.

    I hope this doesn’t go any further for Emma’s sake but if it does then I hope it results in this guy not being allowed to teach at whatever school he was at, even if it was just in a “I was just helping” capacity.

    1. My friend Jess curates a good series there, “The Archipelago.” But this is not good and an editor should have squashed it.

      1. I might be wrong, but I don’t think Medium has editors? I think it’s just a place where you can publish any old crap with nice formatting.

      1. Thanks for the rec!

        Looking around, there are good articles there, it’s just that the awful ones seem to get all the attention.

      1. You’re right. Medium is one huge megablog and everyone’s posts just show up at the one site.

  52. No words, just scream. A deep, primal, unuttered scream the whole time reading this, while simultaneously trying to climb the back of my chair and away from the screen. A tiny whisper of a scream.

    Was kinda pissed to find that you can’t leave comments on his article, which just makes it smack of “I’m so confident everything I’m saying is right that I have no need for feedback as I make creepy blanket statements about what women owe me.” Granted, I guess it means it’s not filled with dudebros backing him up, but wow. WOW. “Does she not see the irony?” Do YOU not see the irony, dude? Why on earth is her desire to be left alone more important than his desire to have her in his life?

    What. A. Douche.

    1. Neither one of them could see irony in that, because what he is describing in that passage is *not irony*, but in fact its direct opposite. To wit, ““Apparently, what I want seems irrelevant to you.” She didn’t realize the irony that what I wanted had long been irrelevant to her.” She is not being ironic because what she stated is precisely how she feels, not a sarcastic subversion of those feelings. She is communicating well and clearly, with no obfuscation. He is remarking upon the *unfortunate coincidence* that his feelings are the opposite of hers, and her (to him, obvious) cruelty in not subverting *her* feelings to assuage *his*. If she were to write, “Actually, I do miss you and want you around,” THAT would be ironic, because no, she does not.

  53. Eeek!
    Didn’t read the essay, but I can tell from your response & the comments that I don’t need to.
    Reminds me of my ex, who I refer to as Voldemort. She (I am also a ladyperson) emotionally & energetically abandoned the relationship (she called it “being poly”), and when I (who has had poly relationships that did not involve emotional & energetic abandonment) decided I wasn’t down for it, I cut off contact. I was not closed to the idea that we might “be friends” someday, but her insistence on sending me emails asking why I was “so angry” & lamenting that she “never would have believed that [I] would have abandoned our relationship” repeatedly after I asked her not to contact me still leave me squicked.
    I just don’t understand how “please don’t contact me” gets processed as “please continue to contact me as long & as many times as you like, especially to express sad feelings about why I don’t want to be in contact with you.”

    1. I know a lot of the commentariat here has mixed feelings about Gavin de Becker (author of The Gift of Fear) but one thing that he said in his book that I found really helpful was that if you are being harassed by someone, even if you contact them to tell them NOT TO CONTACT YOU, to that person the content of what you said is less important than the fact they got a reaction. So every time they get a response, regardless of what that response is, they’ll continue to harass the other person. His recommendation is NO RESPONSE after the first one asking the person not to contact you.

  54. It’s almost better for me when people like this man are ranting, sniveling tools. When a temper tantrum reads like a temper tantrum, it’s easier for people to take it for what it is instead of sage, calm, insightful advice. *shiver* I really have to stay away from the internet before noon. It always throws off my morning.

  55. I think part of what makes this so creepy is that he genuinely doesn’t seem to believe that he’s being incredibly creepy. He’s taking a veto situation (it takes two people to BOTH actively choose to be friends, whether sexual or not, otherwise you are not friends. One person wanting to be friends doesn’t matter), and equating it to something that can be compromised.

    I wonder if the same concept came up in different examples, would he get it?
    How far does he take this?

    If I want to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with me, the ‘fair’ thing is to compromise and do something sexual but not ‘go all the way’?

    If someone has $500 and I want them to give me half and they don’t want to, the ‘fair’ thing is to compromise and they just give me $100? That’s me being really nice and generous as I’m compromising way more than they are, since I’m giving up a lot more (of THEIR MONEY).

    And so on… Different examples but entirely analogous.

    Dude, this isn’t a compromise. This is you trying to force someone to give you something that’s theirs (their time and attention) and suggesting that you have the right to expect a ‘compromise’.

    Go find someone who actually WANTS to spend time with you, for f## sake. You can’t bully someone into liking you.

  56. Does anyone else feel like this should be an Onion article?

    ” ‘Area Man Insists Ex Is A Horrible Person For Not Continuing Their Friendship:’

    ‘I don’t know why we can’t be friends,’ Nick Titlement says, as he drafts his latest e-mail to her, explaining very clearly why a restraining order is unnecessary, he just wants to talk. ‘It’s not like I’m a dangerous person or anything. I’m very respectful of her needs–it’s just that she really needs to still talk to me for me to know what those needs are.’

    ‘It’s actually very abusive of her to refuse to speak to me,’ he adds, carefully cutting letters out of a magazine. ‘This sort of emotional violence is exactly why some men become physically violent. Not me, of course. But, y’know. Some men.’

    ‘By cutting me off and demanding that I never contact her again, she’s telling me that my needs don’t matter. It’s like she thinks her not wanting to talk to me is more important than my wanting to talk to her. I just don’t get it.’

    The Ex was unavailable for comment, according to her restraining order.”

  57. I feel like saying to this guy

    “Hi, I’m your old boss from that job you quit because you hated it. I’ve decided I like being around you, so I’m going to come over to your apartment every day and let myself in through the window and sit in your living room and watch TV with you. If you want me to get out of your house, and I want to move in, the obvious compromise is for me to just come during the evenings and watch TV with you. That’s a fair deal for both of us since we’re meeting partway If you tell me to leave, you’re cruel and a bully. If you put bars on the window so I can’t come back tomorrow, you’re violent. And of course I really shouldn’t climb onto your porch roof and climb into your bathroom window, but it’s kind of understandable that I might do that, given how unkind you’re being and how you’re making it impossible for me to come in properly through the front door.”

    I don’t know if he’d get it, though…

    1. This is a really, really great analogy. Unfortunately he probably would say that you’re just as insensitive as Emma…

        1. Totally. How great is Emma, to have apparently seen through this guy’s bullshit? He’s older, he’s richer, he’s more powerful, if he was her teacher/mentor then chances are he has serious sway in her chosen industry, he’s pushy and uses what social capital he has to try and force the point… and she’s just gone. Go Emma. I hope she’s safe and happy somewhere, in a beautiful quiet room, reading or painting or cuddling with a great new partner or in the very least enjoying her life without Obnoxious Jerkface Jeff.

          1. And if this version – his version of the story, which he carefully crafted, presented on his own terms, is this bad, then how much worse is the truth? Go Emma!

  58. This guy makes my skin hella crawl, especially because 1. he has so thoroughly bought into his own bullshit and 2. he’s couching his justification for having harassed someone and then violating their privacy in such gaslighting terms that IT ACTUALLY SOUNDS HALFWAY REASONABLE until you go OH WAIT NOPE.

    I had a similar experience recently with someone I was very very casually involved with after I didn’t answer an email from him in a timely enough (for him) manner because I was traveling for work. He somehow found my work email and phone number and left several messages there, then emailed me to say that it was my fault he had to do that and to demand an apology from me for upsetting him.

    I responded by not responding AT ALL, and I’m still periodically getting texts from him, including one demanding I mail back an item he left at my house (not a valuable or sentimental thing, either) ON THE DAY I HAD SURGERY, which he knew about.

    I don’t think this person is violent, but his complete belief that him harassing me is MY fault because I upset him is TERRIFYING and I never, ever want to see/hear from/or speak to this person ever again.

      1. It was incredibly unsettling, especially because of his complete inability to see that him tracking down my work contacts – which I hadn’t shared – was very, very not ok. He seemed completely fixated on making me apologize for upsetting him. Although before that he came across as a very mild person, that ABSOLUTELY rang my alarm bells and I cut off all contact. I refuse to be held hostage to another person’s feelings.

        1. That is intensely creepy. I wish you freedom from this guy for all eternity -.-

  59. Also, we talk a lot about Red Flags on this site, and I’d like to add another one – someone who, after not getting a response from you in what they deem a quickly enough manner starts trying to get to you in other ways, like through your work or by contacting family and friends if they have their contact information.

    I was unfortunately involved with someone who did this – if I didn’t pick up my phone or call back fast enough for him, he would call my parents and phrase it as him being concerned about me, but I realized very quickly that it was NOT OKAY to do that, especially after I’d expressly told him not to.

    I also think that saying that one owes a former partner contact and/or an explanation unless the former partner is physically dangerous is, as the Captain, WAY too low of a bar. I’ve been casually dating for the past year more than I ever have before in my life, and there are a lot of people I’ve met that are perfectly fine people, but for various Reasons I don’t want to continue seeing them. I’ve learned that all too often the guys I’ve dated see these Reasons as just opportunities for rebuttal or trying to argue me out of not wanting to see them again, so now they get one curt text or email and no further contact. Which, yes, to some readers here this may seem unfeeling, but I’m not willing to take up more of my brainspace with it.

    1. Recently a high-school ex called my phone number a bunch of times but didn’t leave a message. I didn’t recognize the number, so I blocked it as probably a bill collector or telemarketer or something. So he called my workplace. I unblocked him to find out what the hell he wanted, it turns out that he wanted to have dinner when he was in town. A dude I haven’t seen since 1991. Even though we parted amicably….in 1991….there is not enough NOPE in the world for how little I want to see him after he “tracked me down.”

    2. This is precisely why my reply to any dude who whines about “not even getting the courtesy of a reply” on online dating services is an eye-roll accompanied by a loud sigh. Because if I replied, “sorry, I’m not interested, but that was a nice note, thanks for the compliments!” to every dude who clearly spent a lot of time writing to me but who I’m not into for whatever reason… a large percentage of the guys who I replied to would turn around and try to argue me out of my “no”. I know–I’ve tried it. When I’ve actually gone on a date with someone, I do at least give them the courtesy of a “sorry, I don’t want to see you again” message or text, but that’s it… no explanations, no conversation. To do otherwise at best wastes everyone’s time, and at worst gets a guy crazy ranting at me.

      1. Solidarity!

        The entitled rants are precisely the reason why I love the block button on OKC. When I get a hinky feeling from a message and my eyeballs are tired of a rolling workout, I write back “No.” and instantly block them. It is very satisfying.

    3. Yep. Let me tell you about the Facebook message I got from a guy a few weeks ago who had sent me a message on OK Cupid, but I didn’t respond and didn’t seem to be very active on the site (I’m in a fantastic relationship now but had left my profile up primarily out of inertia), so instead of saying “hmm, I guess she’s not looking to date new people right now” he did a REVERSE GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH on my OKC profile picture, with which he found my Pinterest, from which he could click through to my Facebook (and, presumably, glance at my profile for ten seconds to see that I have “in a relationship” clearly marked and also I think my main profile picture at the time was me and my boyfriend). And because I seemed so Cool and Interesting and Someone he could have a Connection with and also Pretty, he decided to message me to let me know how awesome he was at sleuthing and would I like to maybe date or whatever. The message included the line “I am not a stalker. I am just very resourceful.” I blocked him immediately (and then took down my OK Cupid profile, cause it’s not like I’m using it anyway), and it seems like in this case he was just a boundary violator who’d seen too many terrible romantic comedies, rather than someone who was actually dangerous (dangerous to me, that is– I’d call this red flag behavior for people actually in his life!), because I haven’t heard from him elsewhere on the internet or anything. But dude. That is creepy, and it could’ve been so much worse.

      1. Gaaaaaaah! All the nopes in the world!!

        I went on one date with a guy who I would have been open to seeing again, but then he left me another message on OKC (I hadn’t yet given him my number) saying that he’d Googled where I worked – again, I hadn’t told him the organization name, but what we do is distinctive enough that it’s relatively easy to figure out which of a few large national organizations we are – to “see if a friend of his had worked there.”

        NOPE NOPE NOPE. Given that I work in the downtown area of a large city and often meet people for dates in that same area, I DO NOT want someone knowing where my office is unless I’ve explicitly asked them to meet me there. Given that it feels like there’s some sort of workplace violence incidence every other week, I do not understand why it is so hard for people (in my case, men) to grasp why that would seem legitimately creepy.



        Aw, frick, I never even thought of reverse image searching on the site. I really hate knowing that someone can do that. And that is so seriously creepy. “Hey, I tracked you down, aren’t I amazing!” Dude needs to learn about appropriate behavior, stat.

        Especially the line “I’m not a stalker.” (I got something similar from a security guard who tracked down my e-mail. I co-worker got exactly that on one of several scrawled notes written by one of our patrons who kept wanting to be friends with “The girl who can’t talk.” Ick.) It says to me: “I am aware that what I am doing is probably inappropriate, as it is something a stalker would do, but I am going to do it anyway.”

        Of course, I don’t even like it when people on OKC say they recognize me from work or wherever. The only time I was cool with an OKC interaction being brought to facebook was when a friend saw me on the site, but decided to message me (as we were already friends) on facebook instead. And was super polite about it, and super nice about me turning him down.

      3. “I am not a stalker. I am just very resourceful”

        As though these things are necessarily mutually exclusive. Sheesh.

        1. This reminds me of something I’d put away in dark box in the back of my mind, named ”Dun-dun-duuuuun!”

          I once dated a guy briefly, in the olden days before Facebook. Nice guy, but I didn’t feel it, told him that and left it there. Around the same time I made some new friends. How fun! Fast forward a couple of weeks and you can probably guess what happened next. It turns out that Not so Nice Guy sent all these new friends in to spy on me and to gather info and talk him up.

          Nope nope nope. Facebook has made it easier to creep on others, but it has it perks, y’all. If it had happened now I could have made that connection way earlier on.

      4. “I’m not a stalker”, oh for christ’s sake.

        PRETTY SURE most stalkers don’t consider themselves stalkers, dudes. If you act like a stalker, you may just be a stalker.

  60. Once upon a time, I tried to date a friend and then pulled a disappearing act (which I’m still embarrassed about). There was a long period of awkwardness and only-unavoidable-contact, but eventually we were friendly again…

    Which did not require talks about repairing the relationship or rehashing the dating fail. Yikes. We just talk about mutual interests, like…friends, I think?

  61. Moderation note: I am deleting/culling all links to that author’s personal site. Just as I do not want he and his friends to show up en masse here, I do not want us to show up en masse there.

    1. I can’t snap my fingers and I’m not a good dancer, so I’m glad we’re skipping the rumble.

    1. Eh, I’m not going to call someone a stalker for participating in a hide-and-seek game that he was invited to play. What’s described in the article are pretty good tech skills, but nothing superhuman. And nothing that would have gotten the hide-ee caught if he hadn’t gotten bored and started toying with the seekers. The moral of that story is that while it’s possible to disappear, the human need for connection is likely to trip you up. Don’t panic just yet.

      1. Oh goodness, my comment definitely came across that way and I didn’t realize it. My intent wasn’t to state that THAT instance of his behavior was creepy – it was to point out that this is definitely someone with the skill set to track someone down and/or monitor them without their knowledge. My apologies for lack of clarification.

        1. No worries, my comment wasn’t totally clear either. This guy has some tech skills, as you’d expect a professional tech person to have, but he’s not tracking someone down or monitoring them without their knowledge. He found the Wired reporter by following breadcrumbs the reporter had deliberately laid out. If the reporter had kept his big mouth shut, no-one would have gotten close. (And then it would have been a pretty boring project, so naturally he didn’t.) There’s more info about the project here: http://archive.wired.com/vanish/2009/11/ff_vanish2/

          My bigger point is that I’d rather stick to criticizing the jerk for his opinions in the article. There’s enough grossness there without rooting around in his history for more. This isn’t particularly relevant.

      2. I wouldn’t call him a stalker for what he did in that article, no. I *might* call him a stalker for just *happening* to go to his ex’s workplace with a date, and especially for continually refusing to cease contact despite her requests (though it’s more like a harasser, maybe, from the info we have).

        But in light of the clear evidence displayed in the article–that he wrote. To make himself look *reasonable*–that says he does not respect boundaries set by his ex, it is very unnerving to know that he can track down people who try to disappear. It says that if he ever escalates to a point that she feels she needs to be elsewhere to be safe, that he is perfectly capable of Finding Her.

        1. “…it is very unnerving to know that he can track down people who try to disappear. It says that if he ever escalates to a point that she feels she needs to be elsewhere to be safe, that he is perfectly capable of Finding Her.”

          The story with the Wired journalist doesn’t say he can do that. He helped to find one journalist who was playing hide-and-go-seek. The journalist had such an advantage that he eventually resorted to the social media equivalent of coughing loudly when people walked by. Not the same as being able to Find People at will.

          Tl;Dr: Dude is a scary jerk, not a supervillain.

  62. You said it right here “Domestic violence springs from a sense of contempt and entitlement towards women. Men who abuse women don’t think that women are entitled to their own needs, feelings, opinions, and personal space. They think women exist to be emotional caretakers and nannies for men, and that when they fail to put men first, it somehow constitutes “violence” that must be contained and retaliated against.”

    This jerk clearly thinks that way. He thinks that his ex exists to put his needs before her own even after their breakup. And obviously when she isn’t putting his needs first she must be retaliated against (in the form of constantly contacting her like a creep).

    Good for “Emma” for getting out.

    1. Furthermore, this guy keeps talking about the need (really he means his) for answers. Sometimes there is no “reason” and when someone keeps pestering you for a reason all that means is that they’re going to try to “fix” that and then go “see, i’m better now. let’s get back together.”

  63. “When personal safety is involved, cutoff is warranted. But most times this isn’t the case.”

    So who gets to make these decisions about our personal safety?
    Do we just let whomever wants to be in our lives tell us whether or not he’s a safety risk? Gee, what could possibly go wrong?

    But whatever. As long as it’s a free country, even women get to choose their own friends. For. Any. Reason.

    1. Seriously – I found that SO CONDESCENDING. It’s not like potential murderers/stalkers/harassers hand out business cards telling you they’re likely to murder/stalk/harass you. I get to decide if I find someone a threat to my physical or mental wellbeing, full stop.

      While I have a lot of lovely male friends, I personally can’t really deal with trying to explain to guys why cutting off contact with someone entirely is often the best – the only – way to handle a relationship you are ready to not be a part of anymore, because frankly, they just don’t seem to understand what it’s like because most of the time, they haven’t experienced that type of fear. I’m perfectly happy to have someone think I’m mean/uncaring/unreasonable by cutting them off if the result is that I don’t have to speak to them again.

      1. I think “threat to mental wellbeing” is the key here, someone doesn’t have to be violent or abusive for it to be a bad idea for you to hang out with them. Maybe every time you hang out they bring up dieting, or encourage you to do shots or force you to discuss your political opinions that they disagree with. Many people wouldn’t mind any of those things, but you still get to decide that it’s bad for you to indulge in them.

  64. I didn’t read the original article (the comments here are much more educational and satisfying) but I spent ten seconds poking around his website and found a recent blog entry where he put considerable effort into analyzing the gender-biased hiring practices of west coast tech companies…..

    ……..so that he could complain about how hard it was to meet women in his city. EW.

    1. “Gentlebros, we need to be more open to ladies in the industry. So they’ll be more open to us, knowwhatI’msayin’?”


  65. Anytime someone tells you you’re being unreasonable not to trust them and that you need to work on making yourself trust them, it should set off big flashing warning signs.

    Likewise when you set a boundary (like don’t call me) and someone plows through it in order to tell you why you’re being unreasonable in setting the boundary since they’re a respectful person who respects boundaries…

    1. That first paragraph needs to be something we freaking teach our children in schools. Once a year refresher course. Emblazoned on the doorway.

    2. What infuriates me is how often someone says exactly this in a TV show or movie and they’re supposed to be a good guy. Like in the 2nd season of Heroes: Claire is at a new school in a new state, doesn’t know anyone, and has to hide her powers to keep herself and her family safe. So of course this dude she’s known for literally 5 minutes starts telling her how she needs to trust people. “I can tell you’re hiding something, new girl I just met. WHY WON’T YOU TELL ME? YOU NEED TO TRUST ME!”

      There’s this gross trope where (usually) a guy ‘teaches’ (usually) a woman to trust by demanding to know their entire life story immediately after meeting them. Apparently, it’s romantic for someone to demand that you act as though you’ve known them for years.

    3. You shouldn’t need to tell someone that you’re trustworthy or nice or whatever.

      Basically you should never trust what someone tells you about themselves unless it’s benign or bad. Like if you say “I’m so forgetful” or “I’m so racist LOL”, I’ll totally believe you. But insisting you’re a “nice guy/gal”? Show, don’t tell.

  66. I still feel a little guilty for the one time I cut someone off with no explanation, even though he was hella creepy and if I’d had the strength to handle it better, I’d have had the strength to not get involved in the first place given that I didn’t actually like him. Besides which, the first time I did it, he showed up at my house, steamrollered over all my boundaries, talked about how bad my pain made him feel, and strong-armed me into letting him back into my life. The second time I quick-faded, he got the hint, thank God. That could have gotten really nasty. And yet I still feel bad for not being more upfront about things.

    Actually, while at the time I felt guilty for treating him poorly, my solution now would be something along the lines of “Send him an email describing in great detail all the ways in which he is a terrible person and should not be allowed to have relationships with humans,” so. Progress? But I still wish I’d handled it better.

  67. Wow. What an incredible jackass. I just wish I could leave a comment on that site to tell him so. I hope he finds this entry.

    1. I don’t think it would do any good. He’d likely just see people’s shock and disgust at his behaviour as confirmation that ‘the culture’ was persecuting him.

  68. Jennifer, re your comment that you don’t want us to show up en masse at this guy’s site:
    Is there a way we could let him know our thoughts on his piece without “starting an intrasite flame war”? I can’t think of a way — and I do see the horrors of a flame war — but it strikes me as sad and damaging that his article is hanging up there without any counterpoint.

    I guess maybe I could try to get my own article published at Medium? That’s really all I can think of — instead of responding to media like this, creating our own media and putting it out there. I’d really like to do something positive to shake off the squicky feeling his essay left me with.

    1. Feel free to get your own counterpoint published at Medium. THIS POST is my response. Whether the author reads this or not is not actually the point – the ‘cut-off culture’ (barf) he’s ranting about is actually something I am trying to promote in general as a good thing, regardless of whether that guy personally understands or grows or gets Internet Tutored about it. I’m posting for US, the people who have had to walk away from someone who constantly pressures them. Not him.

      1. I think that posting for the Emilys of the world, as opposed to rebuttaling the Jeff’s, is a far more necessary thing. The Jeff’s already have their minds made up, and they’ll use every tool in the manipulative toolbox to creep back into the lives of people who want nothing to do with them. It’s more important for the Emilys to hear that cutting people off is okay, and that they are not responsible for coddling the Jeffs. Because if there’s a culture involved in, it’s the culture that tells us our own needs are secondary, and that we need to be kind at the cost of our own emotional health.

        1. Thanks Jennifer and Tired Caregiver; both great responses. I *so* much agree that the rebuttal model is lacking. I think you’re both getting at what’s nagging at me: that I want to make a positive space in the world for consent culture instead of, well, doing something (like debating with potential abusers) that feels like asking permission for a consent culture.

          I’m not interested in the Jeffs so much. I’m interested in speaking out without any reference to the Jeffs. The typical print model for that is to leave comments or write to editors. But as you pointed out, the problems with that model are legion. That model has been the one tired go-to model for so long that it’s hard for me to imagine other model, though.

          Obviously, this space is incredible for culture-building, as is real life. And I guess I’m on a tangent here but I do find it liberating and interesting to think about all the ways and all the places we can keep building consent culture, and I’ll probably keep thinking about it.

          Anyway, thanks again for your responses.

  69. His post is both sad and terrifying at the same time. He seems to be blaming everyone but himself for his problems (and blaming women for men’s violence against them…wtf?). He thinks he’s powerless because he’s placing all this responsibility on her and none on him. Because how can he stop this heartache when she won’t fix it for him?

    I feel so sorry for Emma. She was probably happy and had pretty much forgotten about this guy. Then a year after they broke up, he stomps his way back into her life, screaming “I HAVE A SAD” and dragging the corpse of their relationship all over the place. Then he points at the trail of emotional goop that’s now covering everything and says “Help me clean this up.” When she says “no, I don’t want to talk to you”, he proceeds to plead with her anyways. When she stays firm, he then writes a tantrum post. Two. And. A. Half. Years after the initial breakup. This guy doesn’t need Emma, he needs a therapist.

    Yet I’m certain that if the roles had been reversed, we would have seen a post about what a “crazy bitch” his ex is.

    I hope that any woman who considers dating him Googles him and finds that post…and then runs in the other direction as fast as she can.

    1. I just wanted to say I agree with all you wrote. And also note that this tantrum he wrote is in its own way feels like a veiled version of “what a crazy bitch his ex is.” Also, note that he’s writing it two and a half years later over a 4 month relationship. So yeah, hopefully other women google him and see that giant red flag.

  70. This was really triggery for me because I am having a similar issue with my boyfriend that I just broke up with who I’ll call Bob. Bob has been pressuring me since we broke up to “talk” which just means he wants to convince me that the issues he hasn’t wanted to resolve for four years really aren’t issues and that we’re really meant to be together if I would just get over it. Now he likes everything I put on FB so I’ve been trying to figure out how to block him without hurting him more. He’s very good about playing the victim. Arrgh. So when I started reading this article I was totally “OMG, I can’t block Bob, he’ll just be more upset like this guy.” I felt better about reading the Capt’s response tho. Thanks Capt.

    1. You’re welcome. I think it’s worth taking care of your own comfort right now – the breakup was hard on you, too! I’m sure you thought about it and it wasn’t an easy, cavalier decision.

      Tell “Bob” you need a break from all contact right now. “Dear Bob, I know you are hurting, but I need to take a break from any and all contact – including social media contact – for a while. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t contact me for the time being. I would like to be the one to reach out when and if I am ready. Thank you.

      THEN block. That way he can’t claim to be “worried” or “confused.”

      And if Bob decides that he hates you and he doesn’t ever want to be friends with someone who would cruelly cut him off that way, then, godspeed, Bob. That’s his right! But it’s not his right to keep showing up in your life when you don’t want him to.

    2. There is nothing you can do to keep Bob from hurting here. He’s hurting already, for reasons that are very much his own, and you are not saving him from his hurt by letting him see your Facebook posts. You won’t even manage it if you get back together and devote yourself to his every whim. So it’s okay to stop trying.

    3. You can’t fix Bob’s hurts. He will hurt if you block him, he will hurt if you don’t block him, he will hurt if you get back with him. Bob’s hurts are background radiation. Try to concern yourself with your own growth and safety.

      Listen to the Captain, inform Bob you won’t be in contact until or unless you want to be, and block him.

      Because Jeff has shown you, and Bob is showing you: you can’t fill a bottomless pit of need and entitlement.

  71. You know what really got me was “Pema Chodron says you’re mean for not talking to me! Pema says you’re chicken!!!” I am paraphrasing, but.

    You know what Chodron also said? “If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart.”

  72. There is much head shaking and sighing going on over here right now.

    I’ve had a fair bit of experience with the dreaded “cutoff”, and here is the main conclusion I’ve come to:

    If I end a relationship in such a way that constitutes mostly or completely ending social interaction with the person, I WILL feel guilty about it. I don’t like hurting people because, for Reasons, it is effectively built into my psyche that it is My Job to keep everyone happy. I also have a lot of misplaced guilt about doing things to take care of myself when they will hurt other people–because I was told that is unacceptably “selfish” behavior. Therefore, if I get to the point where I am willing to totally cut contact with someone, it is because I have managed to convince myself that their current interests are in total opposition to my own, and that I am not safe [emotionally and/or physically] interacting with them.

    So if I cut a person off and they respond by respecting my boundary, being kind or silent about the issue in public forums, and perhaps interacting with me pleasantly through the channels I have approved of them using to contact me [if I have allowed this, it is probably some social media outlet where they are liking/favoriting/sharing things an appropriate amount with any commentary being related to the thing I said/shared and not about our personal relationship]… then my guilt will continue, will lead me to reflect on our relationship. I may even miss it, or come to appreciate some new aspect of the person. Eventually, this may lead to renewed contact with the person and friendship down the line, or it may not, but worst case for them, I feel neutral towards them and we move on with our lives as painlessly as possible.

    But if I cut a person off and they respond by losing their fucking minds at me about how unfair it is that I did this to them, or why I just HAVE TO give them closure….that will just serve to show me that I was in fact correct in my assessment that this person is not safe to be around/that I am better off not having this person in my life. I will probably proceed by taking further steps to cut the person off, and the person will likely never hear from me again. I will also have strong negative feelings towards said person, and will have nothing but negative things to say about them if they come up in conversation.

    What this says to me is that EVEN IF the cutoff was entirely excessive and irrational, your best hope of restarting some form of contact with the person is to respect the wishes of the person who has ceased contact. You can send one last reply/email/letter saying that you welcome contact after some time has passed, and if the person has left some channels of communication open you can use them to show interest in them/their ideas without directly bringing up “the relationship” or being creepy. (Good interaction: insightful comment about shared link. Bad interaction: remember when we watched that movie together? I miss you!) But otherwise, let it be. Maybe you lose something good, and that sucks… but the odds that this person will respond positively to being chased/harassed/stalked are virtually zero, while the odds that they will respond positively to respect-of-boundaries are low, but real. Which bet sounds like the smart one?

  73. OMG, this:

    “I’ve learned the hard way not to talk to most of the people in my life about Emma. I have just a couple of trusted friends that I confide in now. For the most part, no one asks me about her anymore and I only bring the topic up with one or two friends. From the outside, almost no one sees how painful, devastating, and open this wound has remained.”

    Of course most people don’t want to hear about Emma and how she done you wrong. They know that she is ancient history. You dated for a few months more than two years ago! It’s over. It’s been over for years.

    1. “From the outside, almost no one sees how painful, devastating, and open this wound has remained.”

      It’s probably more like “From the outside, everyone sees what a giant creeper I’m being and starts calling me out on it, and I don’t wanna hear it”

    2. It’s more likely that everyone does see how painful, devastating, and open the wound is, but don’t have patience for his whining because it’s a self-inflicted wound.

      Like, he’s voluntarily outsourcing control of his emotional wellbeing to someone who doesn’t even want it, and then expecting everybody to feel bad for him when that moronic decision has completely predictable results. It’s not shocking that people aren’t acting how he expects.

  74. I find myself seeing both sides on this one.
    On the one hand I agree with Jennifer that:
    – Reiman is creepy
    – It sounds like Reiman’s ex was justified in totally cutting him off
    – Continuing to email after being told to stop is always 100% out of order
    – You don’t have to be friends with your ex
    – Reiman’s inclusion of personal correspondence between them is pretty disgusting

    On the other hand:
    Reiman is onto something with the core point that where our culture is moving towards normalising the practice of cutting off all relations with exes, that’s a bad thing. Of course we should if we want/need to. Of course we should if the ex is abusive in any way. But remaining friends should certainly be seen as “the norm” in any healthy culture – and increasingly it is not.

    1. Reiman is onto something with the core point that where our culture is moving towards normalising the practice of cutting off all relations with exes, that’s a bad thing. Of course we should if we want/need to. Of course we should if the ex is abusive in any way. But remaining friends should certainly be seen as “the norm” in any healthy culture – and increasingly it is not.

      Where is this true? It may be true in some (sub)cultures, but I don’t see it.

      1. The thing is that I’m still friends, or at least friendly, with most people who I’ve dated with any seriousness. And I think they are great and that it’s great that we can stay in each other’s lives! I’ve gone to their weddings! I’ve set them up with my friends, on occasion! I’ve cheered for their successes as they have for mine. I agree that that is a lovely thing when it is possible. When the breakup was amicable, when everyone still likes everyone, when you let some time go by for people to lick their wounds and figure out what they do still have in common, it’s absolutely normal and possible to stay friends.

        The exceptions are the ones who treated me like garbage but then still wanted me to nurture and comfort and amuse them. Or the ones where, once the sex stopped, we had nothing in common. And where is it written that you should try to stay friends with people who badger you, who keep hurting your feelings, who keep demanding your attention but only on their terms, or whom you don’t actually like, for the sake of “the culture”? Wherever that is written, it’s not here.

      2. Yeah, this kind of weirds me out, too. Then again, I’m in my mid-30s, and when I was a younger adult, staying friends was DEFINITELY NOT a default expectation and people thought I was weird because generally I *did* stay friends with any ex who didn’t massively fuck things up during our relationship or as part of the breakup, including and especially but not limited to my ex-girlfriend who IS my best friend. We love each other very much, but I realized slightly before she did that no, we cannot cohabit happily due to vastly different mess-and-chaos tolerances.

        I think the “Must Stay Friends” ethos was stronger, at least 15-20 years ago when this was more relevant for me, in the LGBT subcultures of the time, because if you couldn’t be/stay friends with your exes it made it impossible to date while having an LGBT-affirming support structure around you. I don’t know how or if that’s changed more recently, but definitely I noticed the difference between very-heterosexual spaces and spaces with a significant non-heterosexual presence in this particular regard.

    2. “But remaining friends should certainly be seen as “the norm” in any healthy culture – and increasingly it is not.”

      Why? (Genuinely asking.)

    3. Can you explain why people “should” remain friends with their exes? That is the bit that I think the Captain Awkward ethos really isn’t into.

      Because it feels like Reiman’s answer to that question is, “Emma should stay friends with me so she can serve my emotional needs, even if it means failing to look after her own.” Or perhaps more generally, “We should stay friends with our exes because once you have started being friends with someone, you should be friends forever.” Or maybe, “Once you have started being friends with someone, their needs matter more than yours.”

      Whereas my disagreement with that is, “Friendships should be mutually beneficial. If they are not, they should end.”

      Basically, Reiman fails to argue for any productive model of friendship, because the key example he uses to illustrate this case is a friendship that is manifestly only benefiting him, if it’s benefiting either of them at all.

      Also: when abouts is the era you’re thinking of in which people were more amicable to their exes than people currently are now? How do you know it is a cultural shift? Like, are we talking 5 years ago, 50, 500? Because that is the opposite of how I would perceive cultural shifts as happening.

    4. “our culture is moving towards normalising the practice of cutting off all relations with exes, that’s a bad”

      It really, REALLY isn’t.

      Y’know what?

      Because sometimes people need time to heal.

      Because sometimes exes won’t take No for an answer.

      Because sometimes there’s just Something Wrong with a relationship.

      I like that everyone who points out that “cut-off culture” is bad stipulates that “but, y’know, in abusive situations it’s understandable.”

      Well, this guy got pretty abusive (and there was some abusive of power stuff going on pre-break-up). Not physically, no, but he continued to exert control over her (“You request that I leave you alone, but I will not allow you to be left alone!”). She got to the point where she thought she might need legal action. If someone’s pushed to that point, I’m gonna take them at their word that they do not feel safe.

      I don’t think you’re using “normalized” quite the right way here. It’s not “more normal” to cut off contact with exes.” That is, that’s not blatantly and culturally “the thing to do.” Perhaps to fade out of each others life, yes, but the scorched earth cut-off is generally a thing people do under two circumstances:

      1) They need the break-up but it’s hard. To help them heal, they need and request some time without Ex in their lives so they can go through the process of figuring out who they are without Ex in their lives. Some people can handle a little contact, but some need it down to absolutely none. It sucks and it hurts, but that’s a break-up. Working through your grief without each other is kind of a bit part of it.

      2) The person they are breaking up with does not respect them or their boundaries. The person they are breaking up with is a gaslighter. The person they are breaking up with asks “But WHYYYYYY!” and demands an answer, because if they have an answer, they can pick it apart and show the person leaving them that no, really, they belong together because Reasons 1, 2, and 3 are illogical. The person makes their interactions about their previous relationship. The person is basically a jerk.
      –Ooooor… Maybe that person ISN’T a jerk, but the person breaking up with them feels that they might behave in such a way, either from past experience or because they misread signals. It could be that the dumpee is a perfectly nice person who actually *would* give the dumper space and not make it weird. But if the person breaking up feels that way, then for their own peace of mind, this is still what they need. See #1.

      And from the outside, you really can’t tell WHAT is going on in a relationship or in another person’s emotions. What might look like a relationship of playful teasing to you might be another person’s emotional abuse.

      Those are pretty much the two circumstances under which a complete cut-off happen. If it happened to you, then it was probably for one of those two reasons.

      It’s not “normal” in the sense that most people breaking up go scorched earth. It’s–hopefully–becoming “normal” in the sense that, when somebody NEEDS to do this, for their own peace of mind or for their own safety, maybe they won’t be seen as horrible frigid people doing a great wrong to their ex. Maybe their friends won’t keep carrying messages to them from him. Maybe we don’t think less of somebody finding out they were in a relationship where they felt the need to do this.

      There’s nothing wrong with cutting-off becoming “normalized.” The suggestion that it is bad, except in case of abuse, implies that there has to be some kind of “proof” that things were “bad enough.”

      Which is kind of the whole reason you cut off gaslighters to begin with.

    5. If you agree that people should cut off contact if they want or need to then how would it be a bad thing if the culture is starting to see it as normal? I can’t tell if you’re saying that it’s OK for individuals to cut off contact with exes but that the culture should shame them for it or if you’re saying that it’s OK to cut off contact if you want to but it’s wrong to want to in the first place.

      I’m not buying that there is a growing culture of this until someone cites their sources but I just don’t see the problem with people not staying friends with *every single person they’ve EVER dated*. People don’t even always stay friends with people who were only just friends.

      1. “I’m not buying that there is a growing culture of this until someone cites their sources but I just don’t see the problem with people not staying friends with *every single person they’ve EVER dated*. People don’t even always stay friends with people who were only just friends.”

        I’m in my early-to-mid 30s and I’ve been married over ten years. Before I met my husband I dated maybe fifteen people. It would be bizarre for me to be friends with everyone I ever dated at this point in my life. Heck, I don’t think I have active friendships with fifteen *people* I knew before I met my husband (which I’m defining as, do we communicate in some fashion on a semi-regular basis and if they were in my city would I be offended if we didn’t at least try to meet up for coffee).

    6. I disagree and I think that you have failed to take social networking into account. If we go back twenty years and you had a relationship that ended. All it would have taken to ‘cut off’ contact, would have been to avoid the bars/restaurants etc that you would normally have seen your ex in. Even if you worked with your ex, at the end of the working day there would be no further contact..

      these days 24/7 our lives are so enmeshed, if I work with you, I still ‘see’ you online, in my social networking feeds etc etc…so you are always there..my friends can see that I see you, they can see how much you are hurting, should you choose to go all ‘sad panda’

      if you have had a relationship with someone and it is over..especially if the breakup is difficult, for the many reasons in this thread….it is important that you carve out a physical and online space that is free of that person (at least for a while, possibly for ever) ..for your own mental health.

      that is simply a more visible action than avoiding a few bars/restaurants…everyone can see the ‘cut-off’…..this is not a ‘culture moving towards normalising the practice of cutting off all relations with exes’… this is a response to the enmeshing of our lives in an online visible space.

    7. our culture is moving towards normalising the practice of cutting off all relations with exes, that’s a bad thing

      My exes:
      1. Broke up after school when we were 19, went to different universities. Tried being “friends” for three days, til I discovered that his idea of “friends” involved holding hands and having sex. Didn’t speak for six weeks. Met up and had sex, which was nice. Pregnancy scare, which wasn’t. He cut of contact with me. We ran into each other at a thing about two years later, had a perfectly nice and civil conversation, but didn’t really have much to talk about so never really got in touch again, though we still have a couple of friends in common.

      2. Broke up when I was 22, genuinely stayed friends, both met new people who were uncomfortable with us having close friendships with exes. Drifted apart, both ended up breaking up with the new partners, exchange emails occasionally particularly with significant news (he told me when his daughter was born, I told him when my mum died), have tried to meet up a couple of times when we’ve been in the same city, but a bit half-heartedly, we follow each other on Twitter. I still miss him and would dearly love to be closer friends than we are, but have accepted that it’s not a priority for him.

      3. Pretty much the same pattern as 1: broke up, tried to be “friends” straight away, realised after a few weeks that this was not “friends”, mutually agreed no contact, ran into each other by chance a year or two later, went out for a quick drink, were perfectly civil and nice but just had nothing particular to talk about. Still occasionally hear news from mutual friends.

      I think this is pretty normal: my partner similarly has one ex who is a really good friend (and was at our civil partnership: we see him a couple of times a year), one she has no contact with, and three who are on the edge of her friendship circle, people we run into occasionally or who we hear news of from other friends. All pretty mutually respectful non-relationships.

      Absolutely complete non-contact is pretty much the exception in my experience. “Now we’re not shagging we don’t actually have much in common” is way more usual.

      1. I think it’s more “it’s *a* norm that people can legit choose to cut off contact if they want.” People don’t have to, and even if they do, who cares? My perfectly friendly impersonal acquaintanceships with people who aren’t that important to me any more are… not that important? Really? But being able to shut down and cut off someone I don’t want to talk to without chiding and hassle from people around me and their social norms? Is very very important.

        And it’s nice for you that this is how *your* breakups have worked. But if enough people feel the need to take a permanent leave of their exes such that it’s a trending thing? Maybe it’s not like that for everyone.

        Whether it’s because they don’t want to have to be a Cool Girl/Boy after a breakup or because their ex is genuinely scary doesn’t really matter.

    8. Any time you’re about to say “and it SHOULD be the norm for…” you need to check yourself before you (metaphorically) wreck yourself. Firstly, you are not the arbiter of what makes a healthy culture and what its norms should be. What you’re doing, in a backhanded, roundabout way, is saying that anyone who chooses not to remain friends with an ex for a reason that YOU don’t find satisfactory is unhealthy.

      I’ve had amicable breakups and remained on friendly terms with exes in the way the Captain describes, but it’s up to me to decide whether or not to remain friends with someone – and up to them to decide if they want to remain friends with me. This nebulous “healthy culture” as decided by you has nothing to do with it.

      I do agree that the technology we use to communicate makes it rather easier and faster to drop someone without seeing them face to face – a text as opposed to a letter – but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

    9. Why? I mean, really why? I seriously and honestly do not get why that should be a norm over any other norm. I mean, unless there’s really good reasoning behind it, all that this comment argues is “things should be this way because I want it this way.” Also, what even is a “healthy culture?” A “healthy culture” is one that can sustain itself with the current practices it has (because what is good for “culture” is not nesc good for “individuals within a culture”) I am not seeing how this will bring about the downfall of Western dating practice or general social interactions.

      Also, if anything, an important thing that would change if we think that cutting people off is an acceptable and normal thing to do after a breakup is… empowering the people who feel the need/desire to be left alone for safety or comfort or wellbeing or whatever. AND allowing the sanctioning of people who don’t respect that boundaries are a thing.

      Considering how hard it is to protect yourself from an abusive person when breaking up, and how little people support abuse victims after a breakup sometimes (see: Captain Awkward Archives), that’s a good thing.

      I am going to blame the final paper grading, but I have to say, I am having a really hard time seeing how this thesis will play out in a supported and persuasive way.

    10. I’m not sure why there needs to be a “norm” of any kind here. If you want to stay friends with your ex, nothing is stopping you. If you have no desire to keep them in your life, you should never feel any obligation/pressure to. If you don’t, and they try to pressure you into maintaining friendship/closeness that you aren’t interested in, and emotionally force themselves on you, they have proven that they’re not worth staying friends with a hundred times over.

      If you mean a norm as in, “don’t be a jerk/look down on/refuse to date people who decide to stay friends with their ex”/”don’t make stupid assumptions about ex-on-ex friendships”, then yes, I agree totally.

  75. Ooh, this brings back some…unpleasant memories.

    When I was 19, I went to a student activist conference, where I met a guy (“Viagra Guy” for reasons that will become clear later).

    I lived a few states away from the conference in one direction; Viagra Guy lived several more states away in the opposite direction. And I sort of was dragged into becoming his girlfriend, in ways that I would totally not be now. Even the start of the relationship was awkward, “not totally sure this is an awesome idea but I’ll roll with it because at least he’s giving me no grief about condoms” sex followed by him hanging all over me the rest of the conference with distracting groping and “how ’bout I eat your pussy for lunch?” and…yeah. Oh, and lots of stories about how he had been involved with [group that had known ties to a rather violent group of activists].

    It was weird but I did kind of like him and maybe he was just awkward? And he sent me a really awesome book of feminist essays complete with how much he loved me being such a feminist! That’s good, right?

    Except. I didn’t much like my first name and went by a gender-neutral derivative of it to absolutely everyone at that point. He didn’t like that and he didn’t much like my first name, so he started calling me by MY MIDDLE NAME, which is emphatically NOT “my name”. And he was weird and pushy about getting more serious but wanting to see other people at the same time because he was horny. And…a lot of other things that were just uncomfortable about religion, and what he seemed to think our lives would be like – I wasn’t feeling the whole “off the grid natural version of Suzy Homemaker” thing and he really needed to find himself someone who did. Someone NOT ME.

    Eventually I dumped him on grounds of, “Look, we’re too broke to even be in the same place, like, ever. So this isn’t going to work, clearly.”

    Four years later, he found me on the Internet. I was in an “it’s complicated” with someone else that I still at that point hoped might be more, but Viagra Guy wanted to come visit. And booked a plane to see me. And then got all pissed off that 1) I wasn’t shooing away my “it’s complicated” and was in fact continuing to socialize with him and my other friends, 2) I had white cats that shed on his stuff, and 3) I wasn’t falling all over myself to re-commit to him or sleep with him immediately.

    So we were having an awkward couch make-out and he decided to tell me that he managed to get his hands on some Viagra, special, JUST to come and see me.


    He left a couple days earlier than I expected. I was so glad when he went AWAY.

    Jeff sounds uncannily like Viagra Guy. Viagra Guy is NOT a good person to be.

    1. …does Viagra Guy go by the name Jebediah in some medieval circles? Or Cobra?

      1. This Viagra Guy wasn’t into medieval stuff last I knew (and was quite scornful of my “it’s complicated” and the rest of the crowd because we WERE).

        I’ve encountered similar-seeming dudes in the SCA, though, including my ex-Darth.

  76. I’m really having trouble articulating just how much this article resonates with what I’m experiencing with my current ex boyfriend who I broke up with three weeks ago. It just all makes my stomach turn. We dated for about two months but he has been very persistent about getting in contact with me just to be sure I know how heartbroken he is. I engaged him a few times at first, until it got redundant and emotionally draining for me, and I made it very clear that I needed space for a while. He has called, left manipulative messages in my inbox, and even left graffiti on a house next door as a message to me. I have blocked him everywhere and cut off contact, but he recently had the gall to send the girl he was out with (we were in the same bar, and in retrospect, I should have left to avoid the emotional turmoil he put me through) to harass me, supposedly so she could tell me how “upset” he is. Jeff Reiman has been equally cruel, selfish, and manipulative by taking his date out to where his ex works. I really can’t believe he can be so clueless as to not understand why Emma cut off contact. Doing what he did can be read as incredibly manipulative and intimidating behavior.

    The total disregard that Jeff Reifman has for “Emma” is just so strikingly similar to my ex and it makes me so, so angry. It scares me that after so long, he is still determined to break down her boundaries. In my case, this is a tiny city and I live very near campus where he regularly walks past (I’ve seen him walking on my street three times since we broke up), and his best friend lives in a house next door which has access to my house through a backdoor. I’m starting to feel constantly anxious and am losing my appetite.

    1. I am so, so sorry. I really hope you have a good Team You. That sounds really awful.

    2. Augh, he graffiti’d a HOUSE to continue to harass you? That is horrendously creepy and awful. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this.

      1. Yes, he did. It was a cat (he knows I love cats) telling me to “be happy”. That is the worst thing about all this. It is all so damn intimidating and creepy but veiled under this concern for my well-being, making it even harder for me to outright tell him this is terrible behavior and wrong on so many levels.

  77. Ugh, maybe it’s because I was up till 2 last night arguing with some asshole about why I won’t be his girlfriend, but I am not done raging at this article. He says the “open and communicative Emma had vanished”. NO SHE FUCKING DIDN’T. SHE TOLD YOU FLAT OUT MORE THAN ONCE THAT SHE DIDN’T WANT YOU TO CONTACT HER. That IS open. That IS communicating! So basically, he doesn’t consider her open or communicative unless she’s communicating what this fucker wants her to.
    /second rant

    1. Yeah, that is so beautifully inane on his part.

      “Why won’t you communicate with me?”
      “I don’t want to see you anymore.”
      “But what do you want? Tell me!”
      “Not to be talking to you right now.”
      “Why can’t you just be open with me?”
      “I openly do not wish to ever have to interact with you again. I am openly uncomfortable. I am openly considering filing for a restraining order.”
      “I need cloooooossssuuurrrre!!!”

  78. Gee, I can’t imagine why Emma would flee this guy. He’s such a catch! I mean, you’ve got victim-blaming, Nice Guying and “the lurkers support me in email” all in the same article! That takes talent! Oh, and I missed his defense of domestic violence. Dude is good.

    Or, dude needs a good therapist and to leave Emma the hell alone.

    In the words of Gavin DeBecker, “I’ve successfully lobbied and testified for stalking laws in several states, but I would trade them all for a high school class that would teach young men how to hear “no,” and teach young women that it’s all right to explicitly reject.”

  79. You know what one thing could make this slightly more creepy? If Emma never even knew she was in a relationship. “I was taking this class, right? and this guy kept watching me… asked me to watch his house while he was out… then one night we cooked dinner and things really got hopping! … then I started telling him that I really liked our friendship and didn’t want it to go further than that, but he just kept pushing… and pushing… the dude just wouldn’t take a hint…”

    My “Jeff” was known as “R”. He started telling me his plans for marrying me and raising my daughter before our 2nd date was over. *shiver. I couldn’t get away fast enough.

    I need a hot shower.

  80. My BFF was broken up with over a year ago. She was told “We’re done. I don’t want to talk to you, I don’t want to communicate with you, I don’t want to HEAR YOUR NAME SPOKEN.” She was heartbroken, she cried all over me, we ate ice cream and drank tea and hugged, and agreed this was harsh and some kind of explanation would be nice.

    You know what she did? She respected her ex’s wishes, did not attempt contact, and let them get on with their life. It hurt–I think it still hurts–and if her ex ever chose to reach out again, I think she’d welcome any kind of communication, but she accepted that there must have been reasons. And she remains her awesome, wonderful self, and I certainly don’t think one iota less of her just because one person somewhere in the world decided never to speak to her again.

  81. Here’s what’s making me mad about all this. I’ve had several friends come up and say “But… if you cut off contact, you can never give forgiveness! How will you ever reconcile and be right if you can’t forgive people????”

    Well. I’ll readily cop to being the live and let live sort of Christian, but lemme just say that my definition of forgiveness never requires that you actually tell the person who you are forgiving that they are forgiven! And it’s not the sort of thing you get to demand of a person.

    It really made me furious, because these are the same sort of arguments that would have me get back into touch with the guy who assaulted me because I needed to forgive him for my *own* good.

    Ha. No.

    1. “But he’s really beating himself up over this!”
      “Better him than me.”

      1. Psychic high five!

        It’s really hypocritical of people to insist that people who are victimized have an obligation to get over the harm others caused them but if the people who caused harm claim they are also pained by it there is not time limit for them.

        Person A: “I am still upset Person B assaulted me a year ago.”
        Society: “OMG, get over it, it’s been a year!”
        Person B: “I still feel guilty that I assaulted Person A a year ago.”
        Society: “OMG, Person A, why haven’t you told Person B you forgive them?! How can they move on if you don’t?”

        Society never tells Person B to get over it. Not that they should but no one gets angry at someone for feeling guilt just because it’s old guilt.

  82. “When it’s not, this kind of behavior dehumanizes the other and sends the message “your needs don’t matter, you don’t matter.” ”

    I think this is completely accurate. What a shame the original author didn’t have the self awareness to realize that THIS WAS THE MESSAGE HE WAS SENDING, not the message he was getting.

  83. Wow. I’ve read every comment here, CA. You’ve got yourself some great readers. So many thoughtful, smart things said, and almost nothing cringeworthy. It gives me hope for the Internet!

  84. It’s an interesting (and by interesting I mean creepy as hell…) counterpoint to the recent letters about losing friends who cut off contact, I think. Because…I think there is something to be said that if you have a years-long established relationship with someone, yeah, it’s kind of jerkish to drop that person with NO explanation. I’m talking stuff like ending a years-long relationship by avoiding them, or out-of-nowhere dropping a best friend.

    But…that’s not what happened here. At all. Even a little. First–four month relationship. Four months! Not that people can’t fall in love in that time (of course they can) but that’s still well within the time when a lot of breakups happen with “sorry dude/lady, not feeling it”. And as for the friendship, it sounds like he pressured her every step of the way, and the references to “miscommunications” etc says to me it did *not* come out of nowhere. She *did* try to slow fade. This is not some situation that went from ‘seeing each other every day, no issues to speak of’ to ‘never contact me again’ with no in between.

    I feel like a lot of the time “it’s not that they rejected me/left me etc, it’s that they did it the wrong way!” is just denial. It’s someone trying to convince themself that they’d feel better about the situation if they’d just been rejected with different words–nicer, meaner, not within a month of a birthday/christmas/valentine’s day etc…then they would feel OK about things. This is almost never actually true.

    What does he seriously think the logical outcome here is if she was ‘fair’? That she’d hang out with him even though she doesn’t enjoy his company? He seriously wants to hang out with someone who is essentially disliking every minute, but is being ‘fair’ so she’s doing it anyway? That doesn’t sound pleasant for either of them. I mean, I suspect his actual thoughts are not “I want to spend time with someone who dislikes me” but more “I can change her mind cause she’s wrong to dislike me”. Still it reminds me of those guys who try to logic a woman out of dumping im. Dude. She said she didn’t want to see you anymore. Even if you do logically break down all her reasons for doing so–uh, so? The outcome here is…she gets back together with you based on that and…what?

  85. I told my emotionally abusive ex in person, with a therapist there, that I was breaking up with him. We’d been in couple’s therapy for over a year. I had given him a list of things I needed him to change in order for me to continue the relationship, and they weren’t happening. My ex still told me, a month later, that we needed an in-person discussion with just the two of us, so he’d know what was going on. Because it was somehow very mysterious!

    And he told me that it had been unfair of me to involve a therapist in our breakup (which I’d done partly because of his consistent suicide threats whenever he freaked out that I might leave him because he was an asshole to me).

    So, frankly, I’m almost certain that nothing anyone can say will get through to this guy. Once entitled, entitled forevermore.

  86. I had a futher thought–

    Domestic violence springs from a sense of contempt and entitlement towards women.

    “Contempt” was such a hard word for me the first time I heard that said, which was years ago now. I think in my mind, “contempt” was like this lip-curled disgust you held for a person, and that didn’t seem right.

    Then my toddler of a nephew had a tantrum because he wanted a cookie and couldn’t get it, and all of the adults in the room burst into helpless laughter. My brother pulled out his iPhone and began filming, to document the newest epoch for distant family members. I laughed too. I mean, I felt for him, but at the same time, it was so futile and so manufactured it was hilarious to watch him cry and pound his fists–then stop to look to see if this was having the desired effect–then cry and pound some more.

    And I realized: that laughter came from a place of contempt. It came because that infantile anger was so tiny, so futile, so obviously useless, that to see him try was ridiculous and funny. Yes, it existed alongside empathy and compassion, and at the end my brother hugged his son and they moved on with their day, but it was there nonetheless, and if my nephew’s anger were universally greeted with laughter that would be very toxic indeed.

    Contempt for women is the idea that not only are women’s needs and experiences unimportant, but if one stopped to think about them at all, they would be ridiculous, worthy of scorn, perhaps even despicable. It’s the certain knowledge that whatever reason Emma had for breaking it off, that reason was not good enough and she was wrong.

    1. That is such a great image of the kind of contempt we are talking about. It is the emotion at the root of being patronizing as well (in my head anyway.) Love this. (well, not love that it is a necessary explanation but think it is very good.)

  87. I don’t think that his claims to emotional support from her are anything other than a tremendous load of self-serving bullshit.

    Even if there were any sort of merit to them, the term he’d be looking for is ‘abandonment’, not ‘violence’. He thought she owed him something. She, and basically everyone who’s ever seen a situation like that go down, thought otherwise. She cut off contact and NOPEd out of his life the best she could. He’s not a child who was in her care. She wasn’t married to him. Because of his mentions of the friends who said things like “hey get over her”, she wasn’t even his sole emotional support system. Being a person of substantial financial means, he can afford professional emotional support.

    On the “he is at least owed an explanation” front, he *got* the explanation, and now he is waving the receipt and saying that he never got one, well, he decided he didn’t like the one he got, and can he please exchange it for one he likes better. Never mind that it says “NO RETURNS” up top and also down bottom, and it’s two years out of date.

  88. In response to the question,

    Does any culture have a good handle on how to protect victims of violence while also maintaining some kind of constructive ties to violent men? Is there any culture where victims aren’t expected to bear the emotional costs of what happened to them? I would love to know alternatives.

    I wanted to throw out some links about transformative justice, which is a movement driven by women of color that tries to create community accountability to stop violence;



    I think the short answer would be: it is possible, and some truly amazing and inspiring people are working on it, but it’s really hard and takes a lot of time and only works if a sizeable proportion of community are on board with it.

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