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#771: Apology or Apologia?

Dear Captain Awkward,

I began dating someone in August even though we both knew we were moving to different cities at the end of the month. August was great, I learned more about what I want in a relationship, and we left on good terms.

This person was in my new city recently (in early October), and we resumed our “relationship” for the week he was here, but I said that after he left I wanted to stop communicating for 2 months so I could concentrate on my new city and get over him. He agreed and said that was fine.

Which brings me to today. This person and I have begun the “2 months of no communication” that I requested. It has been about a week and I just received this message from him:

“I know we are not supposed to communicate but I was thinking about the mean comment I said the other day. It was dumb and hurtful. I am sorry, I was stupid, you re sweet.”

So here is the incident where the mean comment occurred:

While we were together in my new city, we met some friends for brunch. I mentioned that the previous night he and I didn’t go to a certain concert/club because we weren’t dressed up enough. He said something like “Yea we can’t go dressed like shit. I mean, can you get in dressed like that?” and he gestured at me. I can’t remember his exact words but he basically proclaimed that I was dressed like shit in front of friends. I completely froze. He could tell something was wrong so after we left the restaurant he asked me what it was and I told him. He said I was right, that was fucked up, and he is sorry.

And now he is saying sorry again. I appreciate this, but the problem is it feels like “sorry” is not enough.

So my question is, how do I respond to this? This is a person I enjoyed getting to know, who I felt a connection to, and who I hope I can have a friendship with. Here are two drafts I came up with:

1. Thanks for saying this.

2. I’ve been thinking about it too. And a lot of other things. The past, patterns I get into with people. Maybe you can help me answer some of my questions sometime. For now, let’s stick to the 2 months thing.

Do you have any suggestions or insight? Your scripts always seem so mature and brilliant. I think, ”Obviously! That’s what you should say! Why didn’t I think of that!”

Thank you so much! I love your blog.

Sincerely,

E.D.

Dear E.D.

It’s nice that he apologized and realized that he really hurt your feelings. He could have referred to himself being too poorly dressed for whatever club it was. (Rules for jokes like this dictate that you can only mock someone’s outfit if they are in fact dressed to the nines, the way you can say ‘what a dump!’ only when walking into a spectacular mansion or yacht, and only then if everyone within earshot knows each other very well). His message also has a tang of “Are you really serious about that whole break from communication thing? Let’s test that! Thinkin’ boutcha.

What if you didn’t respond at all? What if you let your break from communication do its work to get the romantic prospect of this guy out of your system? Past You had a really solid idea for helping Present You let go of this person so that you could move to your new city without the effort of a long distance relationship. What if Future You gave Past You a big high five, filtered this guy’s messages to somewhere you don’t have to look at them right as they come in? Your mention of “past patterns” hints at maybe being with a mean person or people before, and maybe it’s worth you sitting with that awareness of what he said (vs. the apology) for a while longer while you work it out in your own mind.

I think what you do depends on what you really want to happen in two months. If you want to be friends and not date, you could say “thanks for saying that” or just leave it be entirely for now. If it upsets him to be left hanging, let him worry about that. You aren’t being mean or rude, you are just sticking to what you said you needed. The break is there to let all the uncomfortable feelings die down so that when you do talk again it can be more relaxed and not all about feelings.

If in your heart of hearts you want to continue a romance with him, you could answer now, or soon, or in two months. Take whatever time you need to know your own desires. Planes, trains, and automobiles exist, and there are lots of ways to say, “Why did we break up again, like, exactly?

If you and Apology-man are meant to be friends, it will happen because you have common interests and affection and you find a way to stay in each other’s lives. If you’re both still thinking about tearing each other’s clothes off and staying up all night talking and making adorable moony faces at one another, you’ll make that happen somehow. If this person was just meant to be in your life for a short time to remind you of what you want in a romance without actually being that thing, you’ll drift apart over time and that will be a good thing. How you respond or don’t respond to his message right this second doesn’t have the power on its own to determine (or fuck up) any of these outcomes, so do whatever feels right to you.

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108 comments
  1. He has apologized twice. He has made an effort to apologize. If you are looking for a reason to break up with him, take it, but if you like him otherwise – well, we have all said stupid things and he has acknowledged that he did so.

    The two-month break? I tried that with my former boyfriend (now husband). We started out as a long-distance relationship right after I had been laid off from my job. I didn’t want to be with him (he got very serious very quickly, talking about marriage) just because I couldn’t find a job, so after a few months of wonderful times (except for my panicked stress about never finding a job again and becoming a bag lady), I told him we needed to cool it.

    He didn’t like it but he agreed to a one or more month freeze.

    But two weeks in, both my washer and my dryer broke. I wrote about it on my blog and the next day, HE SHOWED UP AT MY HOUSE (he flew 500 miles) to repair them.

    I thought, That is the kind of man I want. Someone who 1. can repair major appliances and 2. is willing to take a big risk just to see me.

    I love that man.

    (Whole story is here: http://diaryofagolddigger.blogspot.com/2010/03/in-which-primo-slays-dragon-for-me.html)

    • JenniferP said:

      If I have not told you before, your blog is extremely entertaining.

    • LdyEkt said:

      As the saying goes, if the ladies don’t find you handsome, at least make sure they find you handy!

      • Alucius said:

        + everything for the Red Green shout out!

    • XtinaS said:

      The second time he apologised was explicitly after the LW requested a no-communication period of time. He even acknowledges that he’s overstepping that boundary in his email to the LW. Yay he apologised? And violated a boundary while doing so?

      Of course, someone travelling 500 miles to respond in person to a blog post would freak me all of the way out, and I would never ever recommend (a) doing this or (b) encouraging others to do this, so I may be a statistical outlier here.

      • Saira Ali said:

        Not just you. I’d be freaked the hell out too.

      • jane said:

        Agreed. I’d be more upset that he didn’t take me at my word that I needed no contact.

      • XtinaS said:

        From an essay elsewhere, the main reason I’m side-eyeing the first comment and the two replies:

        “And when we see people violating safety protocols and presenting the good outcomes as proof that “See? This went well, and felt magical, and was therefore correct,” the safety protocol-positive people are going to go, “Ya know, that carried a risk, and I’m not sure you should be presenting it as though it was something people should do regularly.””

      • onyx said:

        I agree with you on both points. BOO at Apology Man for violating a boundary by guilt-tripping (even though he was using his own guilt as an excuse). And boo at extreme gestures; maybe I’m hardened cynic but I don’t find that kind of stuff sweet. I find it bizarre and uncomfortable at best, predatory at worst (loan-sharking red flag).

        • XtinaS said:

          I can’t tell if I’m a hardened cynic or not. However, that 500-miles stuff is the sort of stuff that shows up in romcoms as Incredibly Romantic, and is in real life most often a stalking technique. “I read your blog and saw you had a need so I paid money to fly out and fix this for you!”

          I’m not objecting to it working out for the original commenter, as that is none of my business. I’m objecting more to the “well, he *did* apologise” part, coupled with the “you think THAT’s overzealous!” tone.

          • kaberett said:

            Yeah: it would’ve been much cheaper and less invasive to pay for a local plumber to deal with it.

      • neverjaunty said:

        Yes, this. I’m glad it worked out for you, thegolddigger, but I also feel massive side-eye coming on when people say ‘sure X may be suboptimal behavior, but it all worked out in the end!’ as a way of saying that a person should maybe ignore their concerns about somebody doing X.

        I mean, I have heard married couples laugh and joke about ‘oh, I told him I didn’t want a date, and he just kept pestering me and showing up at my work until I said yes, and we’ve been married for thirty years now and have five lovely children’ – I doubt any CA readers would therefore say, oh well, sure then, it’s totes OK that this dude is stalking you after you said no because some people end up happy that way.

      • Panda Bandit said:

        500 Miles Guy didn’t just show up on her doorstep unannounced. He asked if he could fix them and then flew out.

    • Rose Fox said:

      Wow, I’m glad you linked to the whole story, where you specified that he emailed you saying “I can be there unless you don’t want me to” rather than actually literally flying 500 miles and showing up at your doorstep in the middle of the two of you taking a break. A check-in email in those circumstances is boundary-pushing, since you said you didn’t want to hear from him, but it sounds like it was okay with you and didn’t feel dangerous. An unannounced visit in those circumstances would have me filing for a restraining order.

    • Mary said:

      The number of times somebody apologises is not an indicator of their sorryness. The only indicator of their sorryness is that they centre the hurt person’s feelings and then don’t do it again.

      • LW E.D. said:

        Thanks for saying this so clearly. I think that is what I need more than an “apology”, but there is no way to know if he will do it again. So I just have to decide if I want to take that chance or if one time is already too many…I think that is what I am struggling with..

        • golden peanut said:

          You could always let it stew for two months and then answer.

        • Mary said:

          Yes, doing nothing is actually a pretty good tactic! You’ll know in a couple of months whether you’re barely missing him, or whether your life is definitely better with him in it if he can avoid the nasty remarks. No need to make a decision now!

    • johann7 said:

      So dude ignores stated boundaries and flies 500 miles, unannounced, to fix a problem he may or may not have been qualified to address (I’m not questioning his handiness, just noting that the issue could well have been some propietary component that needed to be replaced, to which he wouldn’t have access) because of a mention of a problem on a blog post? That’s throwing up stalker red flags left and right, but you – and more shockingly The Captain – are treating this as a cute story? In all seriousness, these are exactly the kinds of weird double standards that drive some well-intentioned men to MRA communities. When the standard of acceptible behavior is determined by the subjective reaction – the gold digger interpreted this as a romantic risk instead of a creepy boundary violation – it becomes impossible for the agentic party to know how to act without reading minds. I’m glad your husband didn’t turn out to be a dangerous creep, the gold digger, but WTF?

      • JenniferP said:

        Misogyny drives men to MRA communities and nothing women do or say can either drive them there or pull them out. If you feel like you might stalk someone talk to someone about it?

        I know the gold digger’s blog and the backstory a bit from reading it regularly (like, the dude asked first if you actually read the link). I personally cringe at romantic comedy gestures but to me it speaks to the fact that if the LW is having complicated thoughts about the break she is not alone.

        People who show up unannounced are scary and not romantic whatever movies say.

        • Okay, the part where he asked first is really really important. I’ll be honest: I don’t read every link I come across in this comment section. Rather, I form my impressions based on what people write here, and the gold digger didn’t mention that he asked first, so my first reaction was definitely raised eyebrows. Knowing he had permission makes all the difference.

          • Yeah, that was my reaction too. That one detail makes a *huge* difference.

            I can see how a man reading golddigger’s comment as written, without following their link, might go, “WTF, women? You say you don’t want to be stalked, but then you gush about stalkery behavior. ?!!!” Not that that’s an excuse for becoming an MRA, because MRAs are terrible, but…I get what johann7 is saying.

          • Oh, shoot — I totally missed the part about the ~*~*poor innocent menz*~*~ being driven into communities that teach them to resent and overgeneralize women etc. etc. etc. I retract my support of Johann7’s comment, effective immediately and forever. It is incredibly disingenuous. Maybe consider the possibility that women are not a monolith, different women want different things, and even if this *had* been as stalkery as it seemed, that wouldn’t make it appropriate to engage in similar behaviors with other women?

      • B said:

        I think the fact that gold digger presented it as something they were OK with means we should go with gold digger’s interpretation of what it felt like and meant to them (helpful/nice rather than creepy) instead of deciding our interpretation trumps their own feelings and instincts. Honestly that can really annoy me about some of these advice blogs, the “gotcha, I know more about the situation than you do!” vibe that can sometimes feel like a reach.
        If your objection is that this anecdote is inappropriate because you think LW’s situation is vastly different than GD’s, fine; but I wish folks wouldn’t jump to invalidate someone’s own interpretation of their own experiences

    • spook11 said:

      I love reading your blog – found it through askamanager. It is only happening now when I am in my forties that places like etiquette hell, askamanager, and especially THIS place that I am able to find my thought processes actually articulated and discover that I was never taught to/was self-aware enough to USE MY WORDS. Thanks guys, I am trying to improve how I interact with the world at large because people like yourselves put it out there for people like me.

      OP I was never able to back off situations when I was younger and still struggle with it now. While I didn’t know how to ‘use my words’ I always said a lot of things and I always later berating myself for saying too much, or the wrong things, or just stupid things. I really like the captains advice of just sticking to your own idea of two months silence. I would never have been able to do it, and that is precisely why most of my interactions with people have been disfunctional…From your letter I think that whatever you decide you have the grace to handle things just fine.

      • LW E.D. said:

        Thanks for your encouragement. Backing off from situations because I know it is good for me/self-protective even though I still like the person is also new for me.

    • Frost said:

      I personally would have been very uncomfortable if someone who I had specifically told I didn’t want to see for a while suddenly showed up, but that’s just me and my paranoid self. It’s really sweet that he was so willing to lend you a hand when you needed it, and I’m glad you found someone to make you happy (and being useful around the house is certainly a big plus)!

  2. Mary Sue said:

    I highly recommend the “filtering off to somewhere til I am ready to reply” course of action.

    I asked someone I was dating long distance once for a communication break. The emails came weekly, but I didn’t filter them. So the giant, angry, WHY AREN’T YOU TALKING TO ME dropped in my email box fifteen minutes before the biggest presentation of my career to date. I smashed the keyboard in an angry fashion and hit send and oops there went that friendship/relationship, in flames instead of African Violets.

    SO. Yeah. Filter filter filter. Give yourself some distance, timewise and emotionally, before you reply.

    (For me in that specific relationship, the ignoring the request for the communication break was just the last straw in a long list of boundary violations, and I had pretty much decided to end it anyway but not quite in the nuke it from orbit way it went.)

  3. Dear LW:

    I believe that the Captain hit the nail on the head with this: “Are you really serious about that whole break from communication thing? Let’s test that. Thinkin’ boutcha”.

    That’s why I feel that your best script is no response. For the rest of the two months. With filters that send his communications some hidden place.

    Because I’m a little nervous about this man.

    He has done two lousy things: he’s said something astonishingly mean, and he’s not taking your request seriously. Both those things get a lot of side-eye from me.

    And yet, this is your life. There’s something about this man that attracts you, and you can judge best what you want and need. So if you’ve decided that the two months are unnecessary, that’s good too.

    Even so, once you mention past habits, I’m left wondering if you too perceive this contract as a boundary violation. If so, Kudos to your spidey senses.

    • I’m not as sure that LW’s spidey senses need to be set a-tingling by these two things. The thing he said was very unkind, although I am 100% sure he did not actually mean that LW looked like shit, but was finding a hyperbolic way of saying they were dressed down which backfired spectacularly. He may also have been nervous at meeting LW’s friends and blurted out The Stupid. What makes me side-eye is that he seemed to need telling that he had done that, whereas I would probably immediately be all “OH GOD OH GOD I DIDN’T MEAN IT LIKE THAT OH GOD”.

      Regarding the violation of the request for radio silence, I agree that it’s a problem and a pushing of boundaries, but in my experience it’s very common even in people who do have good intentions. My requests for a break in communication, from friends or lovers, has usually been met with a WHHHHYYYYY or just bafflement. I don’t think it’s an accepted cultural thing yet (at least as far as I can see) to say “Person, I need a break from talking to you and that really means no communication for X length of time.” I still think it’s an unusual ask for most people, plus we have the stupid rom-com idea that it’s romantic to be persistent and trample all over someone’s boundaries.

      I absolutely think that dude is testing LW to see if she really meant it. I guess it’s up to her and her knowledge of this guy to decide if this means THE FINAL NOPE IS NIGH, or if the poor sod has just seen 27 Dresses too many times.

      • I like your response. It’s very kind to both the LW and the guy. It gives him the benefit of the doubt without ruling out Darth Vader tendencies, because based on the information we have this is a very ambiguous situation in that respect.

        LW, you know this dude better than any of us, and you seem like a thoughtful, reflective person. I think however you respond to him (or don’t at all), you’ll do just fine. Just remember that you don’t owe it to him to pet his ego. If you decide that it’s best for YOU not to respond, then delete the message and skip merrily on your way until you do want to respond (and you don’t have to initiate contact after the two months if you don’t want to, either).

        • Thank you. As it happens, I would be NOPEing T F outta there in this situation myself, but I recognise that I am towards the skittish end of the bell curve.

      • I don’t think it necessarily matters whether he’s boundary-pushing out of predatory intent, or boundary-pushing out of societal-message-induced romantic tonedeafness. He’s still pushing boundaries (no, that’s the wrong word; he’s still IGNORING boundaries), and I’m afraid they had better still blow up in his face if LW is going to get a moment’s peace during their two months. Blowing right past a no-contact request early in its tenure is a standard opening gambit meaning, “They really mean this, yes/no?” and I think the *only* effective way to carve out even a very minimal approximation of the time one needs is to divert their emails promptly to the Time Capsule File (marked “Do Not Open Until This Date”) and not look at them until the time is up. Otherwise you’ve just taught them that they don’t have to take what you say seriously.

        I’ve never seen a relationship recover from one partner’s awareness (subconscious or otherwise) that they didn’t really have to take what the other says seriously.

      • neverjaunty said:

        The way the poor sod gets over the lessons of movies like 27 Dresses is learning that real life does not work like the movies.

        The issue here, I think, is less “good intentions” and more that this dude is feeling anxious and lonely, and so is unable to put respecting LW’s explicit boundary over his own need to Make Everything Okay. Which is not LW’s problem and shouldn’t be.

      • FWIW, I knew people asking for breaks 30 and 40 years ago. So it could theoretically be established culturally.

        *hopes*

    • thathat said:

      Yeeeah, it’s kinda tweaking my nuh-uh sensors too. Because it sounds like he already apologized before–shortly after saying it, when LW told him how much it upset them. Texting LW after a “no contact for eight weeks” request just to say he was sorry about something he already apologized for, to me, kind of smacks of grasping for a reason to contact LW. And coming up with this one? An apology? That kind of puts LW in a double-bind. If LW gets upset at him for violating a requested temporary bounday, he gets to spin it as LW being unreasonable, because he only wanted to apologize, SHEESH! And if LW doesn’t *respond* to the text because LW is trying to uphold that temporary boundary and show that they are serious about it, then he gets to spin it as, “Oh, LW must still be angry about that thing I said, even though I apologized! SHEESH!”

      No sir, I don’t like it.

      • Yes! Thank you for putting it so explicitly

      • Stephanie said:

        Yep, this is what I’m thinking. I’m not getting sirens, klaxons and flaming danger signals, but it does make me feel like a bit of a grump. Like, take it as a piece of data to consider.

      • onyx said:

        Also, if he’s apologizing again because he feels really really bad about it… the apology is about making himself feel better, not about the LW. You can’t apologizing for being disrespectful (rude/insensitive) by BEING DISRESPECTFUL (violating a no contact request).

        • espritdecorps said:

          Yes!

        • Jinian said:

          This exactly.

        • XtinaS said:

          Entirely yes.

        • Ariane said:

          My personal guess would be that he wishes they weren’t taking the two-month break, thinks there has to be a Definite Reason LW wants this, and that this must be something he did wrong. So I think he’s seized on this tactless-at-best comment as the real reason behind it all and is trying to undo it while ironically making it worse.

          He could be a creep. He could just be the clingy one who doesn’t want to let go in the way a lot of us are at one point in our lives. From the info given, we can’t be sure. But in either case, LW’s strategy should be the same, and based on her own wishes and instincts about this guy.

          • thathat said:

            Yeeeeaaah, that actually sounds like the most plausible thing, really. A bit of a “But WHYYYY” that he’s answered for himself and is now trying to fix.

      • espritdecorps said:

        I couldn’t identify why this reminded me of the kind of passive-aggressive, no-win scenarios Vader-ex would pull that always made me the unreasonable one, then you said it perfectly.

        Fifteen years ago me needed to print this out to give to my friends who couldn’t understand how it was bad that he for cared about me so much. I was never able to articulate it.

      • Mary said:

        I can kind of imagine having that awful “oh no oh god I said THAT THING” writhe and wanting to do something about it immediately. (Not necessarily the best instinct, but not necessarily a deliberately creepy or manipulative one.) But at the very least, the apology should come with “just wanted to say this, you don’t need to reply to it, I’ll go away now and wait for you to contact me in December.”

      • thelittlepakeha said:

        I’m suddenly thinking of the scene in Cruel Intentions when Sebastian rings up all “Did I leave my glasses there?” while wearing his glasses, with ladies cavorting in the background. (The ladies might have only been in the deleted footage extras on the DVD, I can’t recall.)

      • Light37 said:

        Me too. I don’t know if it’s red-flag territory, but it’s at least a strong pink.

  4. jane said:

    LW, you sound very clear in your letter that for whatever reason, the relationship was not going to continue as it was once you moved away. It’s fine if you have changed your mind, but my advice assumes that is what you still want.

    I wonder if part of your confusion right now is about feeling like you have to be a nice person or follow societal norms and respond to someone when they contact you. I think his message to you is using that feeling to his advantage. He has already apologized to you in person. You have already told him in person that you want two months of no contact. For all he knows, you already set up a filter so that you aren’t seeing any of his messages.

    Would what you want change if you knew that his reaction, whether you responded now vs responding in two months, would remain the same? In other words, try to separate out the feelings of not wanting to hurt him, wanting to remain friends, wanting to be polite, etc. from what YOU need.

    If you decide that two months of no contact is what is best for you, then just do it. No need to explain that to him all over again. You can always contact him after the two months or whenever and say you didn’t see his message until now.

    • Anisoptera said:

      ^ this

      There’s a lot of pressure to always respond to messages and be nice and be kind. And for whatever reason this dude has put you in the position of either going back on the no-contact boundary that you set, or ignoring him – which feels super rude and harsh. Your brain is probably saying “but he doesn’t deserve the icy silence response!” I would suggest, LW, that you still not respond until the two months are up, just because setting and sticking to boundaries even in the face of pressure to break them is very powerful. It’s a good skill to learn. And you seem ambivalent about whether you should reply so this seems like a great time to practice sticking to your guns. Revisiting his apology doesn’t seem to me like a legitimate reason to ignore your no contact rule – it’s not like someone died or there’s important information you need or something.

      Also, your silence might serve as a good test. Because faced with it he might escalate contact and be all “whhhyyyyy aren’t you talking to meeee oh my gooood!” at which point you *know* he’s deliberately trying to break your boundary. Or, he’ll just stay silent for the rest of the two months and you can revisit it later as you planned knowing he just blurted out that apology again because it was bugging him so much and he hadn’t intended to be mean, in which case, an understandable and forgivable thing. Sometimes just sitting back and letting people escalate in whatever direction they’re going to is a powerful way to let them show you who they are. Two months isn’t that long. You’ll both still exist at the end of it and can quite sensibly revisit your relationship (whatever form it takes) when passions have cooled.

      • Sometimes just sitting back and letting people escalate in whatever direction they’re going to is a powerful way to let them show you who they are.

        Quotes for truth

  5. BiancaSnoozes said:

    My first thought also was “no response.” Just because someone contacts you does not mean you absolutely owe them a response, most especially when you’ve already sent up a “silence, please,” signal. I think that the second apology is 100% about the fact that he wanted to contact you in spite of your “silence, please” signal, and the apology was just an excuse to do so.

    We all say dumb things that turn out to be mean, once in a while. The correct thing to do after something mean has accidentally come out of your mouth is to say, “Wow, I’m so sorry I said that dumb thing!”, hope the other person accepts your sincere apology, and then move on in a positive way. You don’t get to use your gaffe to continually get approval and acceptance noises out of the other person, or to test their boundaries, which is what seems like he is trying to do with you. If no contact is the thing you need right now, then no contact seems like the best thing for now.

  6. allreb said:

    LW, if you feel like you want to respond, you might combine your two scripts with a simple, “Thanks for the apology. I’ll talk to you in a couple of of months.” But I’d only do that if you feel like the apology is genuine and meant and not just an attempt to push at your boundary. And after that point, I’d filter and not answer for that two month period, because you *don’t* want him to push at that boundary. If he does keep sending things, then clearly whether or not he was sorry, he’s also not listening to you and thus is kind of a jerk; if he does back off and wait, then you get the time you asked for (and deserve) to figure out how you feel about him in general, including the apology.

    But – that’s only if you want to respond. You certainly don’t have to, and should feel no guilt about it if you don’t.

    • It’s a great apology, pity it’s coming in such a dubious context. I say maintain radio silence.

    • If LW wants to reply, this is the way I’d do it. In those exact words. It lets Mr. Apology know that his response was received, that the communication hold is still in place, and nothing else. It doesn’t give him a purchase to try to hang a conversation on, and it lets him know that you’re serious about the enforcing break.

      • Seconded. That’s a good, clear response.

    • That’s my general inclination as well, and what I would probably do in the LW’s shoes. (Which does not necessarily make it the right course of action for the LW!) There’s a possibility that this boundary-pushing is deliberate, a possibility that it’s a subconscious thing, and a possibility that it’s benign cluelessness. The LW knows better than any of us which of those feels more likely, and there’s no reason the LW’s response should differ based on the reason for the boundary-pushing. (But it can if you feel like it.)

      If it were me, and I went with the “Thanks for the apology, talk to you in December” approach, I would definitely need to set up some kind of a system to hold myself to that. Filtering communications to be looked at later sounds like a winner.

  7. MadDissector said:

    LW, your letter stirred some memories. There was once this guy who I only interacted online with and who at some point nominated me His Best Female Buddy (and, unbeknownst to me, The Woman Who Would Make Him Happy). One day I realized that his hovering and his sexist comments were exhausting me, and I tried to force a break. A week later, I got an email from him apologizing for his “tactless” humour. Because I answered politely back (big mistake on my part), he considered my ban lifted. Did he change his behaviour afterwards? Well, he retreated a bit for a while, but shortly after I was again in the same situation … until the day he made a “tactless” joke that pulled my buttons, I decided that I didn’t need that bullshit in my life and I sent him a digital African Violet.

    Looking back, I realize what I was asking for was not convenient for him, so he decided to challenge me. I also suspect now that he didn’t understand that I really needed that break. He probably thought that I was cross because of his jokes, and that me getting away was a “drama display” to demand an apology. So, inside of his limited comprehension/denial of what was going on, he delivered the apologies and ignored my boundaries. Nowadays, I realize how manipulative that was: by apologizing, basically, he piled the guilt on me (“I said I was am sorry, you shouldn’t react banning me, you’re overacting, why are you punishing me for this?!”).

    I am not saying that your guy is like my guy. For instance, I didn’t have an intimate relationship with my guy, and your guy only made a painful comment so far. However, the pattern of “I write apology/challenge ban” is painfully familiar for me. I can perfectly picture how after several days your guy realized that you really meant to have that break, then spent a long time analysing his own behaviour during that visit, trying to find out if he did something to upset you which you’re using as an excuse to get away, because it’s easier to accept that you’re whimsical than to accept the hard fact that you just want him out of your life, even if it’s only for a while. Of course, I repeat, I am extrapolating from my experience. Your guy might be far a better person than mine. At least, I hope so.

    I would advise to be coherent with yourself and ignore his attempts of interactions until those two months are over. This will give you a chance to see if he’s genuinely sorry and that the email was only sent because he wanted to let you know (he’s not awaiting an answer) or if, in the case that he persists, he’s really trying to challenge your boundaries. After those two months, when your new life is full in motion, feel free to answer those emails.

  8. sara said:

    Definitely don’t think you need to respond, but if you decide to do so, I definitely would not open up a can of worms of how this possibly fits into previous relationship patterns, etc. — I think that just opens up more back-and-forth. I think a good script would be your option 1 plus a restatement of the boundary. So, something like “Thanks for saying this. That said, I was serious when I said I need a break from talking to you. To be clear, please don’t respond to this message, and I’m not going to write you you or respond for the next couple of months — I don’t want to be rude, but this is what I need for my own mental health!” Then after that, there is ZERO question that if he chooses to keep bugging you he’s being a giant bag of dicks and you can block him from everything. 🙂 Of if the bonus apology really was a mistake, he can gracefully leave you alone.

  9. So I have two readings here, and I think the answer to which of the two is correct is probably something that’s only going to become clear with a bunch of context.

    Reading 1:
    Guy realised, when you spoke to him, that he screwed up with the ‘joke’. You had a nice time, said goodbye and then he went home and just…stewed a little. The joke replays itself. ‘Oh god’ he thinks, many many times ‘I was such an ass. Oh god. My apology wasn’t even that good, I was SUCH AN ASS’. And though he knows you wanted some time apart, the joke and the apology are just HAUNTING HIM at this point, so he sends the email. ‘OK SELF’ he says ‘NOW WE CAN STOP THINKING ABOUT THAT PLEASE’.

    Reading 2:
    ‘She wants space’, he thinks. ‘Huh. That’s….huh. I would like to talk to her?’ Maybe he wants to get laid again, maybe he’s just not great at boundaries or listening or whatever in a totally non-malicious but infuriating way. Either way, he would like to talk to you more than he would like to give you the asked-for space. BUT HOW TO BREAK IT. ‘AhHA!’ He thinks. ‘AN APOLOGY. She can hardly OBJECT to an apology, right?! AH HA!’ He sends the email.

    Now, if it’s reading 1 and you respond, no harm no foul! (By the way, I love the ‘thanks for the apology, lets talk in a few months’ wording that allreb suggests above) If it’s reading 2 and you respond, you kind of feed the beast BUT he ought to stay quiet after that and if he doesn’t, you get to stop assuming good faith.
    If it’s reading 1 and you don’t respond, no harm no foul again! He won’t be expecting it and so it’ll be fine. If it’s reading 2 then he’ll either realise you were serious about not responding and stay quiet, or he’ll escalate and keep bugging you.

    So, basically I have taken a bunch of words to say this: I would respond if you feel that’ll make you happy and not respond if you don’t think it will. Whether or not this then goes well is really on him. If he’s a good guy then it should be fine. If he isn’t, then it won’t be. I would definitely take the break, because I think it sounds like a great plan, but whether you want to respond to this one thing? Eh, I don’t think it’s a huge do-or-die thing.

    Good luck in your new city! Hopefully the break is also a great time to do all the ‘meet new people, find your new favourite cafe, eat a bunch of delicious local specialities’ time!

    • Poppy McGee said:

      I love this comment.

  10. Shadowflash said:

    Am I the only one who glommed immediately on to the fact that he apologized but didn’t walk back the original comment?

    He said “you re[sic] sweet” but I almost got a back-handed you’re sweet (but still dressed like shit) from it. Which flies the Red Flag of Not-Pology, in addition to the boundary testing and general guilt-displacement.

    I dunno, maybe the jerkbrain is just overactive this morning.

    • kaberett said:

      Eh, I’m reading this as negging that didn’t work the way he wanted it to so he’s now boundary-pushing over apologies as a separate PUA-style tactic, but I might also be being overly spiky.

    • Kitts said:

      No, I noticed the same thing. Given the spelling, it is possible that he was drunk, and our isn’t so much a deliberate boundary push as an ill-advised drunken email (I’ve gotten that from “on a break” fwbs before). But either way, I think the best approach is to not respond and filter all emails for the next month. And if the LW must respond, I’d go with something like “Thanks, apology accepted, but I really meant what I said about 2 months of no communication, so I’m not gonna say any more until December. Best of luck!” Or similar.

    • Yeah, the word “sweet” always pisses me off. It’s hard to say without sounding condescending. (Just today I almost wrote “You’re so sweet” in an email, caught myself, and changed it to “you’re so thoughtful.”)

      It also has nothing to do with the thing he’s apologizing for.

      • The Aphid said:

        I am not a big fan of “sweet” as applied to people, either.

        That said, some circles do seem to use it as a fairly generic term of general approbation like other groups might use “shiny” or “nice” (a sweet pick-up truck, a sweet sunset, a sweet pair of boots, a sweet job, some sweet plans, etc.) and so just how much it bugs me personally can depend on who I’m talking to. LW probably knows just how condescending it is in context of the particular guy speaking.

        The end of that apology put my teeth on edge, though. Like, how is LW’s “sweetness” or lack thereof relevant in any way to whether he said a stupid thing and whether he needs to apologize?

    • attica said:

      Also, by reminding the LW that they’re ‘sweet’ is a way to soften them up to reinstate contact. Because a ‘sweet’ person will do so, one who doesn’t is therefore, the unstated bitch. It’s a reverse negging, to my read.

      • Nashira said:

        Yeah, especially if LW is a woman or treated as one, I’d compare “you’re sweet” in this case to “keeping a sweet heart” the way some misogynistic fundamentalist groups mean it. Namely, “you, woman, do all the emotional work for everyone around you. With a smile, dammit!”

    • Light37 said:

      IME, “sweet” in this context means “you will give in and do what I want.”

      Signed,

      The girl who was told she was “sweet” when she respected everyone’s feelings but her own.

  11. EGBGOTU said:

    Nope. No. Nuh-uh. You explicitly stated your wishes to this guy, and he explicitly violated them. If he will so casually violate a “little” boundary, how can you trust him to honor larger boundaries? So, he’s cute and funny. Lots of guys are. But he also said something incredibly demeaning ABOUT you and IN FRONT of his friends. That’s a two-fer nope right there. Now he violates your boundary to “apogize”? No. He’s testing you to see how much he can get away with. Drop him. Cute funny guys are everywhere and you don’t have time for assholes.

  12. Chessie said:

    And now he is saying sorry again. I appreciate this, but the problem is it feels like “sorry” is not enough.

    LW, I just want to say that I admire so much that you caught this, that you were able to notice this feeling in yourself. So often when someone apologizes to me for hurting my feelings, I tend to forget to check in with myself about whether or not I’m okay now; I just assume that this is now fixed and that I should be fine. This is such a great skill to have.

  13. Rose Fox said:

    Dear LW, these are the key parts of your letter to me:

    1) Him saying “I know we are not supposed to communicate but”

    2) You saying “I appreciate this, but the problem is it feels like ‘sorry’ is not enough.”

    The first is him putting his needs before yours, and acknowledging that he’s doing that. He’s breaking an agreement with you and hoping that you will reward him (by reassuring him that you still like him, accepting his apology, etc.) for doing so. That’s uncool.

    The second is you saying that even if there were no agreement-breaking there the apology would not be enough for you. He’s trying to offer a thing you don’t even want. That’s the kind of gap in understanding that can only be remedied with conversation.

    So I think the question is which of these weighs more heavily on you (which speaks to the Captain’s comments about what kind of resolution you want). If you’re most bothered that he’s pushing your boundaries, then don’t reply; block his texts and filter his emails and move on with your life. If you’re most bothered that he doesn’t understand what you need/want from him, and you want him to understand it, then get in touch, either now or after the two months are up, and see whether the two of you can sort it out.

    • neverjaunty said:

      This is wise.

  14. DO NOT RESPOND.

    Really. You made a boundary and he came up with a way of violating it. Your instincts to get some distance have just been tromped on with a BS excuse. You are under no obligation to be “polite” with someone who is not.

    Stick with the plan you made. And filter starting right now.

  15. e271828 said:

    What’s the upside of responding to him, LW? Do you get any benefit from responding, or is the benefit all on his side (renewed contact with you, hook for further communication/negotiation about boundaries, ego-stroking from your attention)?

    Venting (“That is not an apology, you jerk” or “What part of two months no contact was unclear?”) may or may not provide you a benefit great enough to continue dealing with him. Think about that before you reply, for a day or so. Maybe you feel that you’ve vented about this by writing in to CA.

  16. omj said:

    Personally I wouldn’t go with no response. For one thing, I feel it leaves you too open to “Did you get my message?” type follow-ups. And if it were me, I would feel better saying something. But make sure it’s a something that invites no response. Something extraordinarily simple, like, “OK.” Or if that feels too dismissive to you, the MOST I would say would be, “Thanks for saying that.”

    Those are both responses that most people recognize as, “I received your message, and I do not wish to talk to you about it any further at this time.”

    Your option B, on the other hand, very much invites a response. It’s starting a conversation, even if you intend for that conversation to happen two months from now.

    So personally, I recommend finding a non-response response. Like, “OK.” And once you’ve done that, stop responding after that (unless it’s to say, ONE TIME, “I told you I’d rather not have any contact for the next two months, and I don’t intend to read any more messages from you until then.”).

    • I don’t understand why the responses you suggest would shut off his messages, if an agreement to keep away didn’t.

      • Concurred. I suspect there’d be a reading of any response that didn’t include “Remember that no contact thing?” would end up getting read as “Oh, well, LW SAID no contact but as soon as I broke that they also broke it to to respond, and didn’t mention the no contact thing, maybe they didn’t mean it.”

        He already agreed to no-contact. He ignored the no-contact.

        LW, if you decide that what he said (and oh, what he said…! I am sorry he did that) bothers you enough that you want to discuss it with him before the two months are up, you can do that.

        And if you want to make it clear that you’re not interested in discussing it until the two months are up (not that you didn’t ALREADY make it clear, even he acknowledges it), I suspect appending “I’d like to keep to the no communication agreement until [date].” would do it… but I can’t swear he’ll hear it. I think this is mostly about making yourself clear, now, and feeling good for that, not about finding the words that will make him behave respectfully.

        (I hope this made sense.)

      • omj said:

        My experience is that *when dealing with reasonable people who understand boundaries,* both options are completely fine but radio silence is more likely to bring about a “Hey, did you get my message?” response, especially if it’s unexpected. LW seemed to indicate that this ex is normally fine and not a boundary-pusher, in which case my suggested response is one that is likely to shut off the contact (or make silence feel more justified to both LW and ex) while respecting LW’s desire to be somewhat civil. The situation could easily be different from that, of course, and LW should take all opinions into account and trust his/her gut on this one. But I don’t see a single response as necessarily opening the floodgates in this case.

        • I read nothing in the letter about Apology Man’s respect for boundaries except that he didn’t respect this one.

          But, more to the point, I disagree with you. I don’t think that reasonable people who understand boundaries will ignore a silence they agreed to and repeatedly nag for attention.

          And if that’s what Apology Man would do, he’s not reasonable and LW is right to ignore his nagging.

    • Kathleen said:

      Yeah… see, the thing is, if this guy isn’t going to respect the “no contact” agreement, he’s not going to respect it, regardless of what she does.
      My personal experience with no contact agreements that weren’t respected is that I let it sit for a couple days, and he sent me alternating texts and emails once a day for a couple days, ending in an email telling me what a [slur] I was for ignoring him.
      I responded, telling him to eff off, he had no business talking to me that way… and he sent me another 5 emails over the next two days and continued to send me the occasional message on email, Facebook, and text for about a year and a half.

      Now, you might say that’s a good example of exactly what you’re talking about, but the thing is, previous to this, he was a perfect example of how breaking silence to respond also ended the no contact agreement. In one case, he said “if you didn’t want to talk you should have just not responded. I’d’ve gotten the message”.

      There is no win. At least if LW doesn’t respond, she can filter his emails through to a folder she doesn’t have to look at; I guarantee you (and them) that responding will open up a conversation, whether or not they end it with “don’t respond to this, we are still under the no contact agreement”

    • neverjaunty said:

      But as noted in the non-problematic parts of The Gift of Fear, telling somebody “I don’t want to communicate with you” IS COMMUNICATING WITH THEM, and it’s sending them a message that you aren’t really serious about the don’t-talk-to-me thing.

      • omj said:

        I think a one-time communication of “don’t communicate with me” is OK in a situation where somebody has previously indicated that they can respect boundaries. It doesn’t sound like LW’s ex has a history of issues in this area, and LW wants to say something, and that’s basically what the “non-response response” is for – times when you want to say something for the sake of it, but you don’t want to invite further conversation.

        There’s certainly nothing wrong with not responding at all, but in my experience it tends to read as hostile if there isn’t some kind of lead-up. Which is also completely not a problem if that’s what has to happen, but it sounds like LW is looking for a different way to (re-)assert the no-communication boundary before going to that.

        • Vicki said:

          The one-time “don’t communicate with me” is appropriate when a person hasn’t already said “don’t communicate with me.”

          In this case, the LW has told this man not to communicate with her for two months, and he found an excuse to ignore it. An apology is definitely an excuse; a reason would be on the order of “I just found out that I was incubating XYZ Infectious Disease when we last had dinner. Please see your doctor,” something both important and urgent. (Even that might not justify ignoring a no-contact agreement, but a second apology for the same misdeed is definitely an excuse.)

          LW, I would advise either ignoring it completely, or if you really want to reply, saying something along the lines of “I got your message, in violation of our no-contact agreement. I will not be contacting you for at least four months. Do not contact me in any form unless I contact you first.”

          • Drew said:

            I’m sorry; I totally missed this response when I wrote my almost identical one just below. But you said it better!

          • Lurksalot said:

            I love the suggestion of doubling your break as a reiteration that you’re serious, but be sure to set up a filter if you go this route, LW! Presenting firm consequences may generate a BUT WHYYY response.

            LW, touching on what you said about feeling that this apology is not enough, I don’t think you should thank him for attempting to apologize – especially in this shitty way. I am getting major red flags from this guy and think that preserving your emotional and mental wellbeing is most important here. This guy’s apology seems incredibly manipulative and pressuring. I think that no reply until your break is up is a very kind approach, as it neither demands you break the promise to yourself you made when you chose to give yourself time.

            If I had been in this situation, though, it would be very hard for me not to immediately respond with something along the lines of “If you want to express remorse for belittling me, violating our agreement to take a break is not a great strategy. Lucky that you’ve got (# of) weeks to come up with a better plan to make amends!

            signed, Sweet Shit”

        • Drew said:

          There’s certainly nothing wrong with not responding at all, but in my experience it tends to read as hostile if there isn’t some kind of lead-up.

          There was a lead-up: LW said, “I don’t want us to talk for a couple of months.” I’m not sure why LW is now required to explicitly reinstate this agreement just because their friend has SADFEELS. Seems to me that it was perfectly clear the first time.

          There are circumstances in which I think breaking a no-contact agreement is justified. “I am sorry for violating our agreement, but I thought you should know that our mutual friend X is in the hospital/has died/has suffered some other grievous calamity. I didn’t think you would know. Here’s the pertinent information so you can follow up on your own.” “I feel awful about how things have gone between us and you should know how awful I feel” is not on the list.

          • neverjaunty said:

            Yes, this. Also, who cares if it “reads as hostile”? It’s not LW’s job to coddle his feels.

        • neverjaunty said:

          When somebody violates boundaries, they are indicating that they cannot respect boundaries, whether or not they have merely said they can respect boundaries. LW’s ex agreed to two months of no contact, and then contacted LW after an entire week.

          I don’t understand the argument that LW cannot see this behavior for what it is – stepping over a boundary – unless the ex has some kind of long and storied history of that.

      • Light37 said:

        Exactly. The LW said don’t contact me, Ex contacts them and a response tells Ex that an apology will get them off the hook of No-Contact.

  17. boredemily said:

    I feel like his second apology would be a bit weird even if there wasn’t a communication ban.

    The original comment happened about a week ago, and he apologized that night, so for him to send an apology randomly a week later makes it seem like he was silently stewing over that exchange the whole time. I know some people tend to fixate on their mistakes, but that would definitely get an eyebrow raise from me, because I can easily imagine him fixating on your mistakes and basically being the type of person who is constantly reviving old arguments.

    Obliviously I have no idea if that’s true at all for this guy, but my point is that even you give him the benefit of the doubt about this not being some deliberate attempt to end the communication block, it still seems a bit odd. Maybe not red flag or horde of bees level odd, but I would definitely make sure if you decide to respond to his apology to do so in away that makes it clear the communication ban is still in effect.

    • The original comment happened about a week ago, and he apologized that night, so for him to send an apology randomly a week later makes it seem like he was silently stewing over that exchange the whole time.

      If LW’s response is not “Huh? Why’s he fixating on that?”, but rather “It feels like sorry is not enough,” then it sounds like LW’s been stewing, whether or not the guy was. It sounds to me like this might have been something big enough and evident enough for an apology to make a certain amount of sense.

      That said, I definitely agree that the reply shouldn’t be an opening to further conversation.

      • (1) He already apologized.

        (2) “I was stupid, you re sweet” is not an apology for saying someone was dressed like shit in front of friends. It’s a statement that sweet people don’t deserve to be treated badly.

        It is entirely possible that it was a badly written drunkmail, and that the subtext of “if you’re not sweet I won’t be sorry” is a miscommunication. But if it was a badly written drunkmail, I’d be disinclined to count it as an actual apology.

        (Which would be fine, because he already apologized. The not-fine bit is that he’s currently poking the LW when they made it explicitly clear they don’t want that.)

        • (1) But LW obviously wasn’t satisfied with his apology, because she said she isn’t.
          (2) I’m baaaasically opposed to trying to overanalyze a two-line text message. Especially under the constraint of “I shouldn’t be writing anything to begin with.” You get clear communication when you actually talk to somebody; until then, you make do without, not assume you can extrapolate it on your own.

          Again – if LW is feeling pestered, she doesn’t need clarification or closure. That’s her call; she should do what’s good for her. I just wouldn’t leap to assume “insensitive boundary-ignoring douche with nasty subtext.” It’s more likely he’s just a guy acting imperfectly in an awkward situation.

          • If he thinks an apology was enough, he’s already done it. If he thinks an apology wasn’t enough, then there’s no reason to think pestering/repeating with the apology will be enough.

            LW obviously isn’t satisfied, because they told US they aren’t. We don’t know what they told him besides “don’t contact me”, and we saw how respectful he was of that.

            I want suggesting insensitive. I realize the nasty subtext is something that might not be there. But based on what LW told us, he is explicitly both boundary-ignoring and a douche.

          • Stupid tiny phone screen with oversized send buttons.

            Also, I want to note: LW does not need to get closure from him in order to get closure.

  18. Clarry said:

    “It feels like sorry is not enough.”

    What would be enough? I agree with the others who point out that he broke the no-contact boundary so I won’t belabor that point. I ask what would be enough because it makes a difference. Sometimes when I ask myself that question I realize that there’s no good answer. If that’s the case, if there’s nothing he could do, then you owe it yourself and to him to end this now. Contact him long enough to tell him that you don’t need 2 months to come to a decision, that you’ve thought about it, and that you know that your relationship is over, not going to work long distance, not going to work when he’s in town briefly, just over. But maybe there is something he could do, something that would reassure you, maybe something that would put the hurtful comment into perspective so that it doesn’t seem so bad against a backdrop of good. If that’s it, don’t contact him for the 2 months, then tell him that you’ve thought it over and give him your terms.

  19. Flash said:

    If this helps… If you want to respond rather than continue the break, Id just say “I hear your apology. The most important thing with an apology is simply that you learn and don’t repeat the behaviour. That’s something only you can do. Best wishes.”

    And then go back to the break.

    Honestly, Id use that whatever the topic. He is looking for acknowledgment and acceptance from you (either that or this is just a scuzzy attempt to contact you and elicit a reply) – bat it back to him, leave it with him, and whether you meet again in future or whether this attempted retraining becomes a favour to his future partner(s), there it is.

  20. postitnote said:

    LW, I am so sorry. I really hope that you are taking extra good care of yourself right now.

    I think that the 2 month communication moratorium was a good idea. My own feeling is that maintaining that time for yourself is important. However, you know best.

    I do have a stronger suggestion about your drafts–assuming I’ve understood correctly. Are those two drafts something you were thinking of saying to him? If so, I suggest skipping some of the details in the second option.

    I don’t know what all you’ve shared with him already and of course, I don’t know him from Adam. I just have this tiny snapshot which is this thing that prompted you to write in for advice. My concern, LW, is that he is being disrespectful of your clearly stated boundaries right now and has said something demeaning about you (in front of friends, no less). If you were my sibling or best friend asking me for advice, I would recommend not alluding to your past relationships or sharing anything that can be used as ammunition against you (in this argument or in the future).

    Maybe circumstances will change and things will work out and you will want to talk about those patterns, but I think that can be a separate conversation. I personally would wait until things were a little more solid to bring that up.

    Best of luck in whatever you decide.

  21. resili0 said:

    I would find a dating situation that ended after the other person moved and then reignited two months later and then got shut down later that week with a no contact deal confusing. Especially if I had upset the person during that week.

    If this was dating rather than a significant relationship then I don’t think it is fair to rehash it with him. If he isn’t someone you want to pursue a relationship with then imo, you shouldn’t be having deep talks about your past patterns and analysing his mistakes with him. He shouldn’t be violating hour no contact agreement. But switching from dating to friends to no contact unless you are in town in which case you do couple brunches strikes me as mixed message.

    If he is a friend from whom you are taking a break from them it is fine to leave the apology and move on.

  22. IMHO, there’s no reason to be too hard on him at this point.

    It’s an awkward situation for you; bear in mind it must be an awkward situation for him too. It’s not awesome to let slip some derogatory snub, but it happens sometimes; from your writing here, this was obviously something that really hurt. It’s a safe bet he picked up on that.

    So now he’s basically stuck knowing he’s not supposed to talk to you for months, but also knowing he’s insulted you, probably unintentionally, and that that’s likely to fester. He doesn’t really have any good options here – whatever he does, he’s doing *something* wrong, either by leaving you insulted or by breaking your agreed radio silence.

    I’m assuming some stuff here that’s giving him some credit, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. You know he’s otherwise respected the time-apart bit; you know he feels bad for hurting you; you know his assessment that this is still bothering you is correct. So, in the awkward situation he’s in, he did something fairly reasonable.

    What’s left is two things. One is, he violated the radio silence. The second is, you’re still mad at him.

    The radio-silence thing is actually the really easy one. If he’s respecting that but has to make just-one-exception, you’ll see that. If he’s testing boundaries, you’ll see that too. So to this message, you can say “Thanks; I appreciate you saying that.” Because, well, I think you do. And because that isn’t an invitation to further discussion. If he keeps prodding, under this pretext or another one, *then* you can comfortably say “Listen, we said two months, please respect that.” Or just cut ties off. Now, with one message on a reasonable subject that doesn’t actually seem to open up conversation? I think you’ve got good cause to give him the benefit of the doubt, if you’re so inclined.

    The second, that you’re still angry, is a problem you will not be able to solve right now without changing your terms. If you feel that “sorry is not enough,” then the only way you’ll advance anywhere on this is by having an actual conversation. Which violates the radio-silence.
    It’s your call what you want more, or what you want sooner – the space and distance, or the opportunity for reconciliation. If I were in your place, and if the additional “sorry” didn’t turn out to be the first volley in a pestering campaign, I’d be comfortable enough with that apology to consider it as sincere, and wait until we’re back in touch before I did anything to try to resolve it any further than that.

    TL;DR: I think there’s reason to give the guy the benefit of the doubt here, and that you lose little by doing so. If he’s trying to wedge his way back to opening communications, you’ll find that out real quick. It sounds like you might be considering (A) re-initiating contact early, and/or (B) pursuing closure for the time he insulted you; those are choices you need to make on your own, and in your own time; to your own satisfaction. You don’t have to decide that now, in response to this one message.

    • LW E.D. said:

      Thank you. This was very insightful.

      • Oh! Glad to hear 🙂
        All the best to ye, however this plays out.

    • neverjaunty said:

      You know he’s otherwise respected the time-apart bit

      But…he didn’t? He said he would respect it, and then a week later, stopped respecting it.

  23. I would respond to the boundary-pushing contact after I specified “I want no contact for X days” by not responding at all (a response indicates that it is OK not to respect what you say about your needs, and also rewards the person stomping all over your boundaries) and filtering all his messages and so forth, all the while feeling put-out that I was being made to go to the effort to do so because my boundary-setting request was ignored. But I am exceptionally prickly about people stomping on my boundaries, as I have a close relative who does so and with whom I cannot yet go low or no-contact, so I am obviously a bit more strict than perhaps is usual about boundaries I have set in other areas.

    Start as you mean to go on. If it annoys you now when the stakes are relatively low-stress and you’re already OK spending time away from this person, it will REALLY REALLY irritate the living CRAP out of you once you train him that it is OK to work out run-arounds around your boundaries and requests. Don’t train him into thinking there will be exceptions to the rules you set forth. That means do not respond.

    But this is how I, personally, would deal with it, along with feeling very uncharitable and cranky about this person to boot. I don’t like anyone enough and I am too busy and too tired to work up the energy and will to deal with any more boundary-stomping people in my life.

    You are the boss of you, LW, with more insight inbto the situation than any of us have, and you know whether contacting or not contacting this guy is the right move. I believe that we’ll support your choice either way.

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