#1122: “I ghosted a guy three years ago. Now he’s back! What do I owe him?”

Dear Captain,

A bit over 3 years ago, I (she/her) went out with a guy (he/him) I met through an online dating site. We had some drinks, slept together, and then I basically ghosted him – ignored a couple of texts, then moved out of the country, changed my number, and never thought about him again. I’m not proud of ignoring his follow-up messages and wish I’d handled the situation differently – but at the same time, our date was very casual, I made it clear that I was not looking for a relationship, and he knew I was moving out of town the next week.

Flash forward to today, when I hit “accept” on a request from an account that’s been trying to message me on a social messaging site – usually I only accept requests from friends, but I decided to see what this was about. What I got was a trove of messages from this guy, dated from last year through last week, ranging from your garden variety emojis to several super intense declarations like “the thing I regret most in life is not spending more time with you.” UM.

Captain, if I had seen the first of these messages I would have sent a “Thanks but not interested, wish you well!” But I’m feeling completely overwhelmed by this backlog (for the record, the tone of all his messages is flattering / wistful / a little deferential – not pissed off or threatening). I know I behaved somewhat badly towards him – I wish I’d been more kind and direct when we went out, or when he later tried to contact me. Back then I was a pretty inconsiderate casual dater, and since then I’ve been really trying to treat people more carefully, and default to Using My Words. But does this level of, what – oblivious persistence? – on his part (again: it has been three + years) make that no longer my responsibility? Has this become the kind of thing where I *should* cut and run? I’d appreciate some help thinking through who’s owed what here, and when someone else’s weirdness means I don’t have to own up to my own.

– More Than Moved On

Dear More Than Moved On,

This guy is so creepy and I am sorry you have to deal with him. It would have been great if you’d replied to one of his early overtures to say “Thanks for the date but as you know I’m moving, and I’m not interested in hanging out more, bye” but given how he’s behaved since then, I’m willing to consider the idea that your instincts were protecting you from his clinginess.

Your utter disinterest in this guy is not a mystery, and what’s happening now is not your fault. It hurts to put yourself out there and receive nothing back, sure, but when someone goes on one date with you and then doesn’t respond to anything you send or otherwise talk to you for more than three years, trust that whatever you may have had together is not only over, it is Extremely Not Happening. This guy should have long ago said “Fine, be that way, LW doesn’t deserve me anyway” and soothed himself into his own closure.

Letter Writer, if you want to just hit the block button and never respond to anything again, I fully support you in this. You owe him nothing.

But because this dude has shown that he does not get hints and that you could power a small city with his wishful thinking, I think it might help you to send one clear, direct “Nope!” before you block him forever.

Try this:

“Hi ____,

I’m really sorry that I never texted back after our one date all those years ago. I was in the process of moving away, and I wasn’t interested in more dates. I wish I had been more clear at the time.

Three years later, that hasn’t changed. When I accepted your message request, it wasn’t immediately obvious to me who you were or what you wanted, but now that I know, I’d like to be clear: I wish you well, but I’m not interested in dating you or talking more with you. Please stop contacting me.” 

THEN block. And never, ever, ever answer another communication from him again.

I included an apology for ghosting in the script because you might feel better if you give it. It might give you closure to say “I’m sorry.” You ghosting him back then was not awesome, but him using you as an imaginary friend/feelings receptacle in absentia is not even close to a proportionate response, and it’s not your fault if he’s sad or embarrassed when you finally tell him to knock it off.

Whether you decide to block him or message him and then block him, I wish you a long future life of not thinking about him at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

198 comments
  1. Michele ITA said:

    Seems this man skipped the lesson about “No answer is also an answer”.

  2. B. said:

    Anyone else thinking this guy is a stalker, or is it just me? The fact that he’s put you on such a pedestal without no input whatsoever on your part gives me the creeps, LW. I’d just block him forever without a word and run metaphorically for the hills, because I find his actions frankly scary.

    • It’s not just you.

    • EllenS said:

      He’s certainly got an imaginary relationship going on in an obsessive kind of way, but I hesitate to use the label “stalker” since he apparently didn’t escalate his attempts to get in touch with LW beyond failed message requests on one social media platform. Creepy? Yeah. Inappropriate? You bet.

      But she was totally unaware of these messages for 3 years, so to call it stalking feels a bit minimizing to those who have been actively terrorized by intrusive, escalating, threatening behavior.

      Of course that could change, but let’s hope not.

      • B. said:

        You have a point. I didn’t mean that what he did to the LW was stalking (yet) (though if the LW wants to name it so, she’s absolutely free to), but that this guy sounds like a stalker to me, aka that given how he’s acting, I’d be -10% surprised if he’s stalked someone before or is likely to escalate the behavior given the chance. So, don’t give him the chance if at all possible.

        I didn’t mean to minimise anyone’s experience, but I also think that violence is a spectrum, and that you don’t need to wait for your experience to tick off a certain number of sucky boxes before you’re allowed to define it in the way that works best for you. Someone else’s suffering doesn’t invalidate your own, or viceversa.

  3. Anna said:

    LW, I’m sensing some “well, we both behaved badly” from your letter, which I think is a false equivalency. You were maybe .05 standard deviations from the ideal way to behave – you were upfront that you were moving THE NEXT WEEK and didn’t want anything serious, and ideally you would have said that in words, but you were clear about your intentions, and it shouldn’t have been a shock when you didn’t respond. This guy is like 3 standard deviations from the ideal way to behave, and whatever you do next, it shouldn’t come from guilt.

    • nutmeg said:

      This is *exactly* what I was thinking. And speaking as someone who has gone out of her way to be nice/let down perfectly valid boundarlies to some mega creepers because ‘what I did was just as bad’ (no, no it wasn’t, not remotely), that can be a dangerous mindset to have. Cap gives good, solid wonderful advice here, but I like that both options end with ‘blocking forever’.

  4. I get that on the one hand you “technically” ghosted him, but on the other, you made it clear you were leaving in the very near future and weren’t looking for relationship, which almost cancels out the ghosting IMO. I agree with Captain that it’s pretty creepy that three years later he is still sending you messages, and this is a big red flag. Block, block, block!

  5. Miscreant said:

    My opinion is that you are dealing with a nut case who cannot read social cues at all. This could easily (this happened to me, anyway) turn into stalking in person, instead of just online. Don’t contact, period. Don’t delete the messages, you may need them for the police later. But block, block, block.

    • Can we maybe not say nut case? Generic bad or foolish or creepy behaviour doesn’t mean mental illness. In any case I think it’s more likely that he can read social cues and is choosing to ignore them for some reason.

    • MoSaurus said:

      Hi, mental health professional here. Can we please not use terms like “crazy” or “nut case” to describe inappropriate and violent behavior? People with diagnosed mental health conditions are more likely to be on the receiving end of abuse and violence, not the giving end. FWIW, this is something I’m working on addressing for myself which is why this got my attention. Thanks! (p.s. I found https://theestablishment.co/replace-crazy-with-the-adjective-you-actually-mean-425562812da2 helpful for deciding on the term I actually mean).

    • Typhoid Mary said:

      May I gently request something other than “nut case”?

    • winter said:

      Can we cool it with the ableist language?

    • 2’ the stalking scenario – it has happened to me too. Save the messages, ignore the bullshit idea that you owe him a response, and stay safe.

    • neverjaunty said:

      Can we also stop assuming that guys who behave this way “cannot read social cues”? They goddamn well can. They just choose not to.

      • Nanani said:

        ~*-THIS-*~

        • CommanderBanana said:

          ^^ THIS

          There was a letter yesterday on Ask A Manager (10/10 would recommend) from someone whose boss kept contacting his wife despite her repeatedly telling him to stop, and the LW was like eeeh maybe he’s on the spectrum? Also he has a hard time understanding social cues? Also maybe my wife telling him to STOP CALLING HER is somehow unclear?

          Mmmmmmmm not disputing that some people have a harder time than others figuring out social cues but COME ON.

          • JenniferP said:

            As always, I ask: How is “leave me alone” an unclear mysterious social cue?

          • johann7 said:

            It’s definitely not mysterious; in fact, it’s the kind of explicit statement that many autistics prefer. If you have an explicitly stated boundary, “on the spectrum” isn’t the reason someone’s violating it*. We’re sometimes bad with implicit boundaries that we’re supposed to have intuited but have never been explicitly stated to us, but we’re not simply bad at boundaries – that’s a problem other than autism. Assholeism?

            *There can be some confusion for allistics who think they’re being clear with nonverbal signaling, euphemisms, socio-culturally implied meanings, or metaphorical idioms that THEY would find clear, but who have not used words to specifically state what they want. I see this most myself where people make a statement of fact that they intend to be an implicit request or command or invitation: “that’s loud” (Please be quieter.), “I’m having a party next Tuesday” (Would you like to attend?). I’ve figured out what some of the implications are usually supposed to be, but it’s not always clear, becasue different things are supposed to be implied with statements of fact, and sometimes nothing at all, in the case where people are just stating facts at each other for the sake of social bonding: “This is some [noting the current weather] weather we’re having!” “[Sportsball team] totally crushed [other sportsball team] last night!”

          • Drew said:

            “Of course I’ll leave you alone if that’s what you really want. I just need to hear it from you directly.”

      • Can we also stop assuming that guys who behave this way “cannot read social cues”? They goddamn well can. They just choose not to.

      • johann7 said:

        I’d like to suggest that we not assume either way, because it doesn’t really matter – an inability to read social cues (real or feigned) isn’t the problem behavior, and three years is far beyond the plausible window for that to be the reason he’s still trying to contact the LW*. It’s possible for someone who can’t read social cues to be an asshole unconnected to that fact, so I think the better approach for pushing back against problem behavior isn’t, “Yes you can too read social cues!” it’s, “Okay, but the behavior still needs to stop, and in the future you need to default to this non-invasive behavior (in this case, not continuing to send messages to people who aren’t responding) unless you get explicit requests or consent for something else.”

        I agree with the call to stop letting shitty dudes use, “I have trouble reading social cues,” as an excuse for any/all behavior, not becasue they must be lying (or often are, or are more than are not, etc.), but becasue 1) that’s only relevant to short-term responses to the social cue in question, 2) it’s a problem easily addressed with clear communication (if someone isn’t picking up on whatever subtle/nonverbal signals you’re sending out, you can remove all ambiguity around whether they are acting in good or bad faith by communicating what you specifically want with words in a language you both know, which will also resolve the issue if the person is acting in good faith or tell you you need to cut contact if not), and 3) it doesn’t excuse or mitigate the harm of the problem behavior, especially not if it continues after the person is told it needs to stop, it only informs the best approach for correcting the problem in cases where one is voluntarily dealing in good faith with a person who has trouble with subtle social cues (i.e. one needs to state boundaries and expectations explicitly, and the person will respect them). Three years of sending messages with no response = “can’t accept no,” whether this person has trouble reading cues or not; the latter is irrelevant.

        *I am bad at intuiting social cues, and I’ve had someone break up with me by way of leaving the country without saying she was breaking up with me, though this was for a three-month vacation, not indefinitely/permanently. For the first two weeks, I kept sending updates about my life every few days and inquiring about the vacation, figuring she was too busy and internet access was too spotty/expensive to respond; then I got worried that something bad might have happened. She did respond to my message asking if she was okay or if I needed to try to get help for her and actually explicitly broke up with me, but if she hadn’t, I would have contacted her family members to see if they had heard from her and then noted that she was just avoiding contact with ME, not everyone, and stopped sending messages. To be clear, we’d been dating for about six months, not a handful of dates, and this was a vacation, not an indefinite/permanent move; in the case in the letter, I may have continued trying to keep in contact for a few weeks without an explicit statement that the LW didn’t want to keep in touch, but I certainly would have stopped banging my head against that particular wall after a few weeks of silence, and I certainly woundn’t have tried to track down friends or family in that case.

        • LeighTX said:

          Wow, that was really crappy of her to treat you like that. It must have felt terrible, and I’m sorry that happened to you.

          • johann7 said:

            Thanks, but it probably sounds worse stripped of context and condensed. I figure things were going well enough (good from my perspective) that she saw the extended vacation as a convenient/natural break point rather than breaking up weeks or months earlier (and we had fun those last few weeks and months). She actually DID respond at the point where I started to worry, so there wasn’t a huge emotional toll there, though it would have been kinder for her to let me know right away, if she even had decided to break up earlier than she told me (I feel like the lack of contact suggests so, but maybe she was still making a decision and didn’t want to tell me until she was sure). In hindsight, she started dating (or continued – it’s possible they were hooking up before she left) one of her friends on the trip, whom she married last year; I certainly wasn’t feeling like she was the person I wanted to marry at that point, so even if things were going well for us from her perspective as well as mine, I think she made the right call in dumping me for him, whom she was definitely more into. I consider, “I like this person more and am more sexually attracted to zir than you,” to be a very good reason to break up with someone, and I don’t really want to be dating someone who is way more into someone else that ze’s avoiding solely out of some kind of obligation to me (I don’t think there is such an obligation, I think dating is a voluntary human social activity).

            Mostly, I think this serves as an object lesson in why ghosting isn’t a great idea unless it’s a matter of safety, especially if it’s with someone who cares about one, because that person could potentially become frantically worried (with good reason!) if one just up and disappears. The messy bit in trying to judge from the outside is that manipulators and narcissists like to claim they never got a reason for going no-contact when they actually have, often a whole lot of times. With my own story, I could be lying and be an abusive jerk who so terrified my ex-girlfriend that she needed to flee the country to get away while claiming I thought things were going well and I had no idea she wanted out and I can’t imagine why she wouldn’t respond to my messages (I promise that’s not the case). As someone hypothetically considering ghosting another person, I would know what’s true (at least from my own perspective), and I think that not ghosting categorically means a cleaner break. The people who won’t accept the breakup won’t accept it either way; if I try to set up communication barriers, they will attempt to circumvent those, just like if I tell them we’re broken up. The people who will accept the breakup are able to do so more quickly and easily if they actually know they’re being dumped, rather than being confused and/or worried, which may cause them to try to track down friends or family when otherwise they would leave me and my social network alone.

          • johann7 said:

            Also, she didn’t directly tell me any of this – that quoted phrase about dumping someone for someone else is me quoting how I would describe the impulse, not a direct quote of something she said to me – I just pieced the timeline together in retrospect.

          • Carrie said:

            Mostly, I think this serves as an object lesson in why ghosting isn’t a great idea unless it’s a matter of safety, especially if it’s with someone who cares about one, because that person could potentially become frantically worried (with good reason!) if one just up and disappears.

            Did you read the Ask A Manager post from the guy who ‘ghosted’ on his girlfriend? I put the word in quotes because what he actually did was up and leave one day from the place they lived in together with no explanation or warning, and then referred to her increasingly worried attempts to get his family and other friends to tell her if he was alive as “hysterical” and borderline stalking.

            All of which is to say, yeah, at least leave a damn note.

      • J said:

        Yeah because zero fucks given does not equal ‘encountering resistance, must continue to engage’

      • Whenever I hear the social skills hypothesis, it usually means one of two things.

        From women who’ve been creeped on it’s “Maybe I need to learn how to say no extra super-duper well if I ever hope for this to not happen again.”

        From creeps it’s “Changing my creepy approach is impossible for me and everyone else needs to stop being mad at me and deal with it because I’ve decided my creepiness is a disability now.”

        • Jenny Islander said:

          Yeppers. Chalk me up as another autistic person who will back off if you tell me, with clear language, that I am too far forward in the first place. I have built up a mental library of nonverbal and indirect verbal cues that I think mean “You are literally or metaphorically too close to me,” but I’ve been told before that I “just fell away, where did you go, why?” when I though I was obeying an implicit signal to butt out.
          So I wish people would use their words more, so that I could screw up less. Somebody who’s well into adulthood and never manages to human even at my level? Just a creep.

          Also, somebody who “doesn’t get social cues” should have that problem with everybody–not just women he wants to make use of.

          • MsMildew said:

            Yep. I am dyspraxic, not autistic, but it’s another neurodevelpmental disorder that causes difficulty with reading body language, facial expression, and tone & pitch of voice. I prefer to both be direct, and be addressed directly, to reduce any chances of misunderstandings. If/when my dyspraxia and ADHD (ENTHUSIASM!!1!) have caused me to overstep a boundary in any way I am *always* effing MORTIFIED. I’d rather run away & hide forever than keep fucking TRYING!

  6. I once had silly thoughts like this when rejected/ignored. I’m glad I kept them to myself. Yeesh.

    Indeed, if you do feel bad, it might help YOU to send one message like the Captain suggests, but you don’t owe HIM anything. I suppose you could have messaged him years back, but you were clear you didn’t expect or want anything to come of it longterm, so he shouldn’t have 500 Days of Summer’d himself into thinking he’d just convince you to want different things.

    • sneaky said:

      For the record, I don’t think the thoughts themselves are silly! I think a lot of people have them, I’ve had them, I’ve forgiven myself for having them, and for anyone else reading this who recognizes those thoughts: we’re all fine. Feeling wistful after a fling is fine.

      Super agree that the “kept them to myself” part is key here. They’re OUR thoughts, and OUR feelings, and don’t have a lot of bearing on the other person. They’re ours to process, especially a month, a few months, a year, three (!?!?!???) years down the line. Pushing them on a completely unresponsive other person is absolutely not fine.

  7. Nanani said:

    “imaginary friend in absentia” is perfect.

    LW, he sent messages into the void for at least a year. After one date.
    He was never writing to YOU. Just to a fantasy lady that happens to share some superficial traits with you.

    You owe him nothing.

    • Carrie said:

      He sent messages up to a week before LW wrote to the Captain. He’s been sending to the void for more than THREE years. Do not send a message like Captain Awkward suggested. Block immediately, block hard, block block block block block but do not delete, as per Miscreant.

    • shantih said:

      And he sent those messages into the void after two years of zero contact! From a person who he had had precisely one date with and who he knew was moving away one week later! And then he sent more messages when he didn’t get any response! And this has been going on right up to the present month, which is three years after that one date! Ugh, LW, I really feel for you, I salute your solid instincts that kept you from deeper contact with this guy three years ago, and I’d strongly suggest that you block him without any further contact at all. You owe him nothing, your ‘ghosting’ barely counts as such, and it has been THREE YEARS since your ONE DATE with him. He had the opportunity to work out that you weren’t interested in going out with him at any point over the THREE YEARS since your ONE DATE with him. If he’s been sending persistent messages into the void for a year with no response from you, how might he react to the encouragement he’d get from your sending him a message?

    • bad at screen names said:

      Yeah, at first I was thinking he’s one of those dudes who thinks if you did it with him at one time, you are going to be DTF whenever he’s bored, drunk, lonely, &/or in between sexytimes partners so he pops up every so often . . . but assuming he’s well aware that the LW is in a completely different country I’m thinking it’s more ^ this.

      • Yup, totally agreed. LW, you owe him absolutely nothing.

    • Polaris said:

      Yeah, he’s turned you into the perfect “one that got away” in his head. Guaranteed whoever he thinks you are is nowhere near the truth.

    • GreenDoor said:

      This! He’s been writing to Fantasy You. And all this time he’s been imagining how it would be, and could be, and should be and has this vision of You Two Together built up in his head desperately waiting for a sign that you still want that fantasy too. Ignore the texts. Block him. You owe him nothing. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we need to go back years later and try to fess up or apologize or explain. This is NOT one of those times.

    • slythwolf said:

      Best case scenario, he didn’t get a response to the first message, assumed he never would, and decided to use the messaging app (or whatever) as some kind of journaling exercise, fully anticipating the LW would never see any of it. If that’s the case, his mortification on either receiving the Captain’s script or being unceremoniously blocked will maybe teach him to put this stuff in a blank Word document next time.

  8. GreenDoor said:

    Egads! I can’t tell you the numer of guys that thought one date – one makeout session – one romp in the sack – meant we were in a Committed Relationship. I love the Captain’s response. But it might be better just to block without the apology that you don’t even owe him. It was years ago! A normal person would have been over it ages ago. He might see your apoogy as an opening.

    • coffeespoons said:

      YUP. I will always remember the guy with whom I had one date, which ended in a drunken hookup, who followed this by sending me a relationship request on Facebook the very next day. No asking me if I wanted to be in a relationship, no asking me if I wanted to go on another date, even! Just wham!–Facebook relationship.

      When I say that I will always remember this, I do not mean that I will remember it fondly.

      Reader, I did not confirm his Facebook relationship status request.

        • Convallaria majalis said:

          Wow, I loved the movie! Will definetely be showing it to my kids.

        • MsMildew said:

          OMG! 😆😂😆

          Yet another reason to adore you (in a totally appropriate, non-stalkery way ha!)

  9. Belle said:

    Jeez… I wonder if these are regular parts of his week, like Tuesday and Thursday evenings are ‘message that ever-more-stale one night stand then watch Brooklyn 99 and do laundry’ OR if this stuff is prompted by failed dates and breakups and bad days and has become a compulsive reaction to those bad feelings. Either way, heed Cap’s advice and send a quick soz and ruuuuuun!

  10. C baker said:

    Wow that’s messed up. Seriously, it’s probably best not to reply at all, even to tell him to stop trying to contact you. Just block, block, and keep blocking.

    • Kitty said:

      Agreed. I feel like someone this… persistent would only take encouragement from a response. Like in The Gift of Fear, a response may only prolong his attachment.

  11. I’d probably reply the once, just to shut my own brain up – but you’re definitely not obligated (buy “I’d reply” i literally mean that I personally would, not that I’m recommending it. Bloody English language)

    • Clorinda said:

      The trouble with replying at all is that it resets his extinction clock to zero and then you’ve got at least three more years of despairing love letters. I get that it would make OP feel better in herself to do this, but her instinct was sound and she should not. When you dodged a bullet, you don’t go back and stand in front of the target again.

      • Yes, it does. That’s why one blocks immediately after the “Go away” message.

        The message is mostly to prove that one did in fact tell him to stop bothering. Without such a message law enforcement or other authorities might not listen to LW.

      • attica said:

        I take your point, but accepting the message request already did the ‘reset extinction clock’ thing. So there isn’t anything more to be lost with a ‘boy, bye’ than is already in play, imo.

        • Clorinda said:

          That’s a good point, Attica.

        • yarnofadifferentkind said:

          Also given that his last message was last week, it’s not unlikely he’d send three more years of letters whether or not he ever gets a response.

      • C baker said:

        That is exactly my concern. After this level of contacting I’d also be worried about ratcheting up – will he try to find my address through friends? omg no.

      • TO_Ont said:

        True, but she already accepted his social media request, so that bird has flown. If she wants to send one message before blocking him everywhere, I’m not sure if it would make anything worse.

  12. jamoche said:

    That barely even qualifies as ghosting – he knew from the start she was leaving in a week.

    • MsMildew said:

      For real! Since when is not contacting a one-night stand considered “ghosting”? In my (pre-cel & internet) ONS days, I usually didn’t bother to even get/give a phone number!

  13. Dear LW,

    I don’t think ignoring someone after a one night stand requires an apology. I’ve ignored and been ignored. Just sayin’

    I would probably reply once. Not for closure, not to apologize, but to have evidence that I’d told him to go away.

    I believe your take on his messages : flattering and unthreatening. Even so, I’d be wary.

    Good luck LW

    P.S. He sounds creepy

    • Tara said:

      Yea, I agree that its *ideal* to have replied to him back then, but I don’t think I’d even put it in the realm of You Did a Kind Of Bad Thing. Certainly not one that you should feel bad about years later. His inability to get over this relationship has nothing to do with LW not responding back then. Normal people don’t need that kind of closure after the kind of “relationship” LW describes. He knew it was going to be over, he knew she was moving! One last reply was not going to ease his feelings on this.

      • I wouldn’t say that’s ideal.

        Ideal for a one night stand is enjoying it and going on with your life.

        That’s what the LW did.

        • MsMildew said:

          THIS!

    • Pinpin said:

      Seconded. There’s a chance I’m going to make this sound very ‘The Noble Art Of Ghosting: A Treatise On Beauty’, but you seem to think that ghosting makes you a bad person and that’s just not true. One of the reasons I found casual dating to be so formative for me was ghosting, both being ghosted and ghosting myself. I’d just split up with my college sweetheart so it was a big part of learning how to be happy as a single person.

      The first few dates I went on I had very elaborate long-term relationships with them in my head, picturing meeting their parents, any children we would have, our wedding etc., but a couple times being ghosted I learned to pack in that part of my brain. Also, I was hung up on that really attractive guy who was kind of a wanker for way too long — seriously, we dated a few weeks, I was pining for c. 18 months — and that’s when most of my Dating Defence Protocol (of which ghosting/being ghosted is a part) was established for my own peace of mind. As for doing the ghosting myself, I only did it after a single date; usually I just wasn’t feeling it with the person, which I consider to not really be their problem or their fault or even anything they can amend. Attraction is a funny thing.

      I did have a date with a guy who seemed nice but kind of nervous, which unfortunately made him socially inept. The entire date he just asked me icebreaker questions; whenever I tried to ask him questions he would always dodge and deflect back on to me. I can imagine he’d heard some advice that was along the lines of ‘people like to talk about themselves so just keep asking questions and don’t ever talk about yourself’ (and that he was nervous about the whole thing), but after the first hour this pattern began to make me uneasy. I hoped by the end of the date he’d talk/open up a bit but it didn’t happen, and I did consider giving him feedback that people go on a date with you because they’re interested in you and want to know about you etc., and maybe I should have done. But I’d met the guy one time, I didn’t know him, and I decided it wasn’t really my place. I certainly wouldn’t think badly of anyone for telling him the reason, but for myself I don’t really have the necessary spoons. With casual dating, I am here for me, my fun, and I agree it *might* have been a good thing to tell that guy but I just find giving unsolicited advice to strangers too nerve-wracking.

      There was a guy I planned to go on a second date with, but in our flirty text chain after the first date he asked for a selfie; I told him no I wasn’t comfortable doing that. When he kept asking, I explained I definitely wasn’t trying to be funny or cute, I was genuinely uncomfortable doing that for a near-stranger. He still kept pushing, at which point I told him unequivocally that this was A Dealbreaker and I would not be seeing him again.

      So LW, I was hoping to just let you know that ghosting is a very normal thing to do with casual dating, and honestly most people understand that. This guy’s behaviour, while not unheard of, is the weirdness here. Like you I used a dating app, and I liked that it meant I could vet people from a safe distance. Casual dating is both riskier and less rewarding for women, and I think it’s worth keeping in mind that ghosting is a normal part of keeping yourself safe (I know you mention the guy didn’t seem threatening in his messages). I reiterate that you did nothing wrong and Captain’s advice is very sensible.

      • ktjp said:

        Agreed with all this. Personally, I’d much rather be ghosted than get a paragraph on how unattractive I am, which seems to be the alternative for a lot of folks.

        • bad at screen names said:

          Yup. Especially for those of us who have had the guy try to rules-lawyer you into reversing your rejection when you tried letting him down easy with a “It was nice to meet you but no thanks”

        • TO_Ont said:

          LOL, yes. If you do tell someone explicitly you don’t want to see them again, don’t try to explain why. I don’t think I’ve ever recieved an attempt at a why that wasn’t painful. It’s enough to know you don’t want to see me a second time – I don’t need to know the details of what you did or didn’t feel, or an analysis of my personality, or really anything.

          The guys who either ghosted me or gave a completely bland ‘it was nice to meet you but I don’t think I want to meet again, best of luck to you’, were the ones I remembered the least painfully afterward!

  14. slmatgravatar said:

    This is just me, but responding to a guy who has persisted in the face of total silence for 3 years seems not a good idea. To me, it is saying, “Persist long enough and I am yours!” which is NOT the message you want to send. I understand that you feel bad about how you did not respond perfectly last time, but he has thoughtfully shown you his real nature. He doesn’t take 3 YEARS of silence for a no or a hint to move on. What will it take?

    I would just block and move on.

  15. enplaned said:

    I rarely differ with the Captain, but I do in this instance.

    You are potentially training this guy that if he tries hard enough he will get a reply from whoever he is obsessing about. You’re training him to believe that his obsession can pay off.

    And one thing you do know is he is obsessive. I see no reason to voluntarily reconnect with someone who has a potentially dangerous personality trait. His issues are his issues – do not put yourself even slightly at risk.

    • Liz said:

      It’s not LW’s job to “train” this guy to do or not do anything. If it will make LW feel better to respond once and then block I think LW should do that. How this dude interprets that or uses it inform his future actions is his responsibility.

      • MsMildew said:

        This.

  16. UncontrolledVocab said:

    That line of his “the thing I regret most in life is not spending more time with you” comes across as decidedly self-absorbed and inconsiderate of the fact that the LW clearly did not want that.

    • Nebula Ersatz said:

      Yeah, it’s like he’s rewritten it in his mind that she was eager to see him again and he’s the one who walked away, and oh, how he regrets it now… Creepy.

  17. Shakti said:

    Yes, it sounds like the guy projected a whole bunch. :/

    I’m confused at what “ghosting” is though.

    Is it “ghosting” if you’ve never met in person but had several phone calls/text conversations over a period of months (think long distance dating that starts out as long distance, as in “someone needs to get on a plane or this meeting isn’t happening.”)

    I’m trying to decide how much of a jerk I am. Because I’ve done that A LOT and my mother thinks I’m an asshole. [FTR, the only LD relationships I’ve had were “driveable within a day.”]

    Does it change into ghosting if you’ve had video calls (but again, not met in person?)

    • JenniferP said:

      Your mom is wrong. Letting a brief online conversation peter out is not a jerky thing to do.

    • MsMildew said:

      Captain is right. You owe them nothing.

  18. Please cut and run. I’ve dealt with a lot of guys like this over the years, and believe me, there is no way you can find to say “no” that he will accept and hear. Whatever way you find to say “no” will be not enough for him.

    One of the messages women get is that it is our job to manage men’s emotions, so if a man is having an unpleasant emotion in connection to us, it must be our fault and we must fix it. I see it in your letter: because this man has been carrying some ridiculous torch for a purely mental version of you, it must be because you didn’t say no in the right way, so now you feel obligated to fix it. But no. You said no. You said no during the date–you weren’t interested in a relationship; you were moving out of the country. Maybe it wasn’t bookended by “and this is why I specifically am not going to return text messages,” but your communication wasn’t unclear or difficult. He just didn’t like it, so he ignored it, for three years. And three years of radio silence is also a very clear “no.”

    This is not on you. If you want to send that final “knock it off” message for yourself, you know, do. But be prepared for more messages, and more blocking, and (if you have any acquaintances in common) a whole lot of “she’s just playing hard to get” and “will you talk to her for me” and so forth.

  19. onamission5 said:

    Just a caution that responding in any way* may be interpreted by him as a potential “in” so if you do go the route CA suggests, LW, please do remember to unfriend and block. I’d also suggest to maybe give friends and family a head’s up not to friend this guy, as he could decide to look for other avenues for LW-info gathering.

    *Once had a phone stalker interpret a cease and fucking desist already visit by police as not “I should stop calling oam5 night and day” but “I should pretend I wasn’t the one doing those things and call her one last time at a decent hour to casually ask her on a date.” My response was basically “I let the cops tap my phone to get you to stop calling and you are calling again are you kidding me with this shit wtaf.”

    • JenniferP said:

      Responding can be interpreted as a potential “in”, NOT-responding can be interpreted as a potential “in” – he’s going to do what he’s going to do. If she blocks, he’ll look for ways around the block filter, friend her friends & family, find other ways to contact her – it can be like a challenge for them.

      I suggested possibly responding once (and then never again) for two reasons: It might feel good for the LW to say something and also it removes plausible deniability from the situation. Up until now he’s taken no answer to mean that there is a chance. Removing the chance by saying a clear, unambiguous no is something that the LW can use to document things if he does escalate.

      From the LW’s update it looks like she went with “Nope” and then the block, in which case, good work!

      • MsMildew said:

        I have an ex that I dumped in 89, & last spoke to in ‘92, who has spent the ensuing years stalking me from a different state 1000s of miles away, even after marrying & having three kids. It started with trying to pump mutual friends for info about me (all of which thought it was creepy & refuses to tell him anything, most of whom eventually cut him off), keeping in touch with my parents, including visiting them & staying at their house in vacations (luckily I lived in yet another state at the time) by playing on their kindness & compassion (“oh [Mildew’s dad], you were like a second father to me when I was dating Mildew, you know I lost mine at a young age to alcoholism, mental illness, and suicide…You were so good to me, I loved you both so much” etc- they were NOT close when I was dating him) and So.MUCH.MORE!!

        After the THIRD time he made a ne FB profile to try and friend me on (getting blocked *twice* didn’t teach him anything?), I finally responded to his accompanying message (where he told me that his wife “hates [me]” because he can’t STFU about our wonderful times together {he was an abusive POS who refused to treat his mental illness or past trauma} so much that his daughter wants to be “just like [me]”, I feel so bad for his wife),
        I was fed TF up and FINALLY responded- three words in all caps – LEAVE ME ALONE.
        I haven’t heard anything since, so hopefully it worked, but I do know that as recently as four years ago he was still trolling people for info, wondering if I am still married and why I am still “mad at [him]” after all these years JESUS H. TAPDANCING CRIST ON A RUBBER CRACKER GET A GODDAM CLUE DOOD!

  20. Heffalumps said:

    I have been here and done this, on both sides of the coin. I was the “feelings receptacle in absentia,” but when contacted I gave the poor pining creep a second chance, and regret. SUCH REGRET. after that I had no regret whatsoever about never interacting with them ever again. on the other hand, I have also *been* the poor pining creep, who was given a second chance, and on that second chance took my own turn in being a regretful mistake who was never contacted again. in my defense in both cases, I had severe self-esteem issues and a raging depressive disorder. I’m Much Better Now and can clearly see the mistakes that were made and will never make them again, and I can laugh a little at my role in both scenarios–there was much Heartbreak and Angst but no scary stalkering or threats or anything, which helps. but I am not proud, I should not have done what I did on either side. I hope that the lessons I learned will help you to understand, deeply and truly, that poor pining creep is not even one tiny splinter your responsibility. if it wasn’t you, he’d probably have found somebody else to pine about. and I would bet you a very large pile of cash that your instincts that led you to ghost on him three years ago have done nothing but save you a whole lot of weird creepiness in the interim.

    • Smellanie17 said:

      I think this is a really valuable comment because we’ve all done things we aren’t proud of. LW is not A Monster for ghosting a guy, and while I get creepy vibes from Guy for the year’s worth of messages, he is likely not a A Monster either. People go through rough patches in life and do weird things. LW doesn’t owe the guy anything but personally I’d probably go with CA’s reply and be done with it.

      • MsMildew said:

        And it’s also valuable in showing that it’s fully possible to learn from one’s mistakes, grow past them, and move on.
        Thank you Heffalumps. This is a great comment on many levels 💙

  21. Thanksforallthefish said:

    The Captain nailed it as always. You can even do the message sans apology, then block.

    Have a great life being awesome without this guy in it.

  22. Laura said:

    I actually do not think you ghosted him, LW. It sounds like you were very clear at the time this was a ONS, that you were literally leaving the country, and that nothing further would come of it.

    It sounds more like you just didn’t respond to a few texts, which is not the same as ghosting. Ghosting is an inexplicable and sudden disappearance from someone’s life; this was neither sudden, nor inexplicable, nor were you ever a part of his life (one less than 24 hour casual date doesn’t count as “life).

    So, in my book, this wasn’t a ghosting at all. This was the was the expected and informed ending to a single date. I don’t see that you’ve behaved badly. Yes, it would have been kinder to respond to his original texts, but that doesn’t make the non-response a bad one. I don’t think you owe him anything other than what would make YOU feel better about this situation.

    • MsMildew said:

      100% this! I couldn’t have said it better even from the perspective of having had many mutually enjoyable ONS, where it was fully understood that’s all it was.
      The few times those morphed into more, it wasn’t because someone chased & hunted down the other, but because we both agreed *at the time* that we’d like to repeat the experience. It’s not that difficult, people!

  23. Jerseys mom said:

    Whoa! He started messaging you a year ago (two years after you last saw him), with the most recent message sent Last Week!!!!

    Your brain is telling you to be a “nice person”, and to provide him with “some closure”. Nope. A nice guy would have figured out a couple of years ago that there was no relationship, and to move on. This guy still thinks he has a relationship with you!! Do not contact him. These emails of his have a weird stalkery vibe (so she WILL answer me, I just have to keep bugging her for a year).

    If it helps your inner nice person, write a lovely apology letter on paper, read it out loud, then burn it to ashes. Please, don’t contact him and block him on your devices (and, as others have mentioned, save the emails just in case he escalates bad behavior). Hopefully, he will fade into the sunset.

  24. the815 said:

    When I read the letter again, I realized I’d missed the part where she made it clear to him from the start she’d be moving the following week. Yeesh.

    Anyway, originally I was thinking, “Don’t contact him EVER, even if you immediately block,” but other folks made a good point that it might make her feel better AND would be something she could potential share with police, if it comes to that (hopefully it won’t, but always a good idea to cover your ass).

  25. RNL said:

    There are two problems here, which I think you might be conflating a bit: one, your feelings about your somewhat less-than-standup behaviour three years ago. Two, Mr. ImaginaryPenPal.

    I think trying to fix problem one right now will not help problem two at all. It won’t help you, it won’t help him. Although apologizing for past wrongs can be a powerful step in life, sometimes it’s impossible to do, and sometimes being a grown up means you have to accept that you were shitty in the past and can’t correct it, and try to learn from it. In this case trying to correct your minor ghosting sin is not likely to have the effect that you want it to have. If you’re going to just block him forever, an apology message might not cause too much trouble, but given his behaviour to date, I wouldn’t count on it. If you have a googleable presence in any way (professional, etc), his ability to escalate by contacting you in other ways is pretty high, and hearing from you may trigger a shit storm.

    Captain’s message is perfect, if you want to send one, but you certainly don’t *have* to, and I think your desire to try to be a better dater doesn’t have to include attempts to right all of the minor wrongs of the past, and may cause both you and him more pain than necessary.

  26. you could power a small city with his wishful thinking

    Some scientist needs to get on this, pronto.
    Much more self-renewing and reliable than solar or wind power.

    • Jadelyn said:

      Finally, we’ve found a use for Sad Nice Guys!

  27. Anandatic said:

    Ugh, I’m sorry LW, that sounds really creepy and weird! You do not deserve this!

    I would be wary that these could be red flags for more stalker-like behaviour, though. I don’t think responding to and blocking him is a bad idea for the reasons mentioned above, just be wary that this could lead him to either escalate or keep at it for another 3 years, since he may think that’s how long it takes to get a response. Block and document if necessary!

    Of course this is just worst-case, and hopefully it doesn’t come to this. Good luck, LW!

  28. BigDogLittleCat said:

    Three years ago, you had one sexy times date, and he knew you were moving the next week. Then, two years later he starts messaging you, and keeps at it for over a year? I was climbing backwards out of my seat at that.

    You owe this guy zero. He should have *expected* to never hear from you again. A fun evening and that’s all it was. Maybe it would have been “polite” to respond to his texts before you moved, but you were moving and your intention was obvious from the start, so No, you don’t owe him anything.

    Whether you should respond, I would say go with your gut as to whether you think he’s “safe” (block) or if you might need evidence you told him to leave you alone (respond & block).
    If what’s really bothering you is your own conscience for “ghosting” him (scare quotes coz not responding after one sexy times date a week before you move doesn’t count as ghosting in my book), then go the tried and true draft-and-delete method. Write it, but don’t send it.
    No matter what, your conscience should be clear. You did nothing wrong, and even if you had, his behavior has vindicated you. He’s a few straws short of a haystack

  29. JMegan said:

    Wait, am I reading this right?

    “A bit over three years ago…I went out with a guy”
    “Messages…dated from last year to last week”

    So not only is he sending you a bunch of creepy weird messages after your one night stand, but he didn’t even start sending them until two years *after* your date? Is that correct? If so, that raises the creepy level by quite a bit, and I say deploy the block button immediately.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      Right? I’m wondering what happened at the “second anniversary” of the date, or will LW stumble across a forgotten account somewhere and discover a hidden treasure trove of two years’ of messages?

  30. alldesiring said:

    Everyone’s making good points and I have nothing to add there besides – OP, that must have been a real freak-out moment. Remember to take care of yourself around that shock & not try to minimize your feelings. It’s scary to realize someone’s been Looking At You like that, and in my experience it helps to show someone close and have that IRL check-in.

  31. Annalee said:

    I read the title of this post and my first thought was “fuck all. You owe him fuck all.” And then I read the letter and was like “yeah nope nada zilch.”

    I’m sure there are people who have watched too many bad romcoms and will tell you to ‘give him another chaaaance’ because that’s what would happen in a romcom. But you are not the love interest in this dude’s tale of shooting his shot. You owe him not a goddamn single solitary mote of a thing.

    • Fishmongers' Daughters said:

      It amazes me that I still find it so liberating to come to this site, read the title of a letter like that, and be pretty sure the answer will be a resounding “ZILCH.” I always think I’ve internalized this shit about boundaries, but it must still gnaw at me because it’s still so personally validating to read situation after situation where the advice is to take care of yourself and let others do the same. It’s like a cool shower on a hot day.

  32. Violet said:

    I’d block him without replying, on the very possible chance that he will be like, ‘okay, I hear you,’ and then ignore all boundaries and keep trying to contact you. You owe him NOTHING. You were clear that you were only interested in a casual meeting with him and that you would not be around for future contact. He has showed that he wasn’t interested in respecting those parameters by throwing wistful statements at you for the last year with no encouragement from you at all. And I’d block him because it isn’t your responsibility to make him feel better or anything at all. You were clear.

  33. Amy said:

    You don’t have a relationship with this guy. You went on a few casual dates several years ago, and haven’t spoken to or thought about him since. You owe him nothing.

    And his messages are creepy! Seriously, he’s been messaging you for over a year, and more importantly, he’s been continuing despite a total lack of response from you–which tells me he doesn’t care what you think, he only cares about his own feelings on the matter. That makes me think that he’ll see any response from you (even a “Not interested, cut it out”) as encouragement. Since he doesn’t seem to care about whether you reciprocate, the ‘not interested’ part isn’t likely to phase him. And since he wants to talk to you, his messages getting any response may unfortunately encourage him to keep messaging, even if you ask him not to.

    If you choose to say anything at all, stick to something blunt and explicit that will be undeniable evidence that you told him to stop. “Do not contact me again” would be my wording of choice.

    (Is this a little paranoid? maybe. Is it possible that he’s not a potential stalker, just a lovelorn guy with some poor social skills? sure. But considering you don’t have or want a relationship with him either way, I think it’s safer to take steps now to protect yourself from the worst-case scenario. It’s not worth it to risk your safety to soothe a dude’s feelings, even if he’s only a vaguely potential creep.)

  34. Noopnope said:

    LW, I think the fact that he knew you were moving away caused all those wistful and sweet feelings for three years. I’m not saying it’s your fault. I’m saying that the circumstances removed both pressure and reality. Instead of a hook up that led to a normal relationship with a flawed regular woman, he could envision this as a Before Sunrise star-crossed encounter with a Dream Girl. It’s something tragic he could muse on whenever his life seemed lonely, and when he saw you on facebook and you didn’t respond to him, he could pour those musings out whenever he chose to.

    This is to say, don’t feel too bad about any of this emotional excess. It most likely has nothing to do with you.

  35. CommanderBanana said:

    I have been off the dating scene for nearly two years and still get random “WYD” messages from dudes (we call them zombie messages).

    That being said, getting a series of messages for A YEAR from someone you have not seen or spoken to for THREE YEARS is really not normal. A year?! Of messages with no reply? Who has that kind of time and/or attention span?

    If this was a single recent message I’d say, sure, maybe message him back before blocking him, but I don’t think that someone who has spent a year messaging you with no response is someone you want to engage with.

    • Now I’m imagining a zombie moaning “DOWN TO FUUUUUCK” into your voicemail. So much giggling.

      • Drew said:

        It’s a very short distance from walkers to wankers.

      • CommanderBanana said:

        It amazes me how many guys have ghosted and then zombied me. One guy I went on ONE date with messaged me over two years later.

        One of my sweetest karmic stories from online dating was going on a few amazing dates with this guy I really liked, who then disappeared…only to have his best friend message my best friend on the same dating site nearly a year later. She saw my ghost in that guy’s photos and sent him a message telling him that his friend sucked and she’d only agree to meet him if his friend apologized to me for being a cowardly wanker.

        The last word is sweet.

        • vanadiumoxide said:

          It took me way too long to parse “she saw my ghost in that guy’s photos”–definitely thought there was something supernatural going on for a minute!

        • I’ve told this story before, but there’s a guy from my past referred to as “Sean the Foot-Eating Accountant” with whom I never even had a date because he flaked out on meeting up, who texted me “WYD” every 6-8 weeks for TWO YEARS with no response until one night I texted back “new phone who dis” and he said “Oh sorry dude my bad” and stopped.

    • Snickerdoodle said:

      A few months ago, I hooked up with a guy I predicted would ghost me and then reappear. He did, and after his initial apology for disappearing and some casual conversation, he began hinting at sexytime. I didn’t respond at first but then, when he wouldn’t back off, I told him outright it wasn’t happening. Naturally, he claimed he’d never insinuated any such thing (lol), and I finally blocked him and then rooted through my phone to find and block his number before the flood of “but whyyyy” texts started.

      I learned from my mistake. Do not reward thirsty guys. Disengage immediately and permanently.

  36. queenbeemimi said:

    Between Feb 2012 and September 2013 (not a typo) I went on 3 dates with a man I met online. I hadn’t discovered CA yet and felt ~bad~ for not wanting to date him, because he seemed generally nice, so although I kept trying to decline further entanglement, he’d wear me down with persistence and I felt so dang guilty for wasting his time talking to him that I felt like I ~had to~ say yes. (I would not respond this way now, because I feel much more empowered to drop strangers from my time, especially strange men who want to date me.)

    The culmination of which was: after we went on the third date, which was generally nice although punctuated with kissing I didn’t want to do, I realized the pattern: I wasn’t into him, but if we stayed in any kind of contact I would, eventually, go on a fourth date I didn’t want to have. So I did the only thing I felt emotionally capable of doing: I blocked him on social media without saying anything to him first.

    Later, he sent me an email (to which I never responded) stating that he’d noticed he hadn’t heard from me in a while (lies; he’d realized I’d blocked him, because he’d sent a friend of his to friend request me on recon) (I blocked her too), and saying he hoped he hadn’t done anything to upset me.

    And I felt bad, because, again: I was young, and he seemed very nice, and he just LIKED me, god, why was that such a crime.

    But my guy: it took us 18 months to go on 3 dates. It can’t have been a surprise that I was not exactly eager to participate in a relationship with you. After the first date, I said I “wasn’t ready” to date after my recent breakup; after the second date, it was an entire year before we went out again, and during the kissing you, I kept breaking away and giggling nervously, and you felt like you needed to comment that it was cute that I was shy, that we’d have to get me over that, that you couldn’t help yourself because I was so cute.

    It was yucky, and I didn’t like it! I don’t think that man is a rapist, but I think my discomfort, although mishandled, was legitimate; I think he was willfully blind to the earlier, more subtle signs that I didn’t want to date. I think going nuclear (full block) was unnecessary but understandable.

    LW, I think YOUR discomfort with this is legitimate; I think you can forgive yourself for withdrawing completely from this man, for not having communicated more clearly first. He wasn’t someone you wanted more from when you went out, and that was THREE YEARS ago; he has had ample opportunity to get the message and leave you alone to go about your him-free life.

    • vanadiumoxide said:

      “that we’d have to get me over that, that you couldn’t help yourself because I was so cute”

      ALL OF THE NOPES

      • Snickerdoodle said:

        NAILS ON A CHALKBOARD to that one. Ew ew ew.

        Reminds me of a guy who wanted to date me and I insisted I only wanted to be friends (I didn’t want that either but had no idea how to just not answer him) who kept trying to hug me. I told him I didn’t like to be touched (not by him!), and he later tried brushing my hair out of my eyes and then did the “Oops; I forgot you said you don’t like to be touched” thing. No. So much no. I left and blocked him.

  37. LilyP said:

    I’m so morbidly curious what has been going through his head this whole time! Did he think you were ignoring him but that the 300th emoji was going to change your mind? Did he realize you weren’t getting the messages but kept using the conversation as some sort of feelings confessional/shrine to his ideas about What Could Have Been? Were they all from times he was drunk/lonely/horny? Doesn’t matter to the LW at all, just, wut.

    For the LW, this is so clearly disconnected from reality I think you should just mentally remove yourself from this story entirely, since this guy wasn’t ever actually talking to the real you at all. Think of it as though you accidentally stumbled upon this guy’s secret blog where he talks to his imaginary friend or something. Not something you want to be involved with? Not your responsibility or anything you need to apologize for!

  38. HelloIt'sMe said:

    This reminds me of a book I read called Obsessive Love by Susan Foward PhD. Good stuff. It talks about stalkers–what predisposes someone to stalking, what triggers stalking, and what both stalkers and their victims can do to move forward. One thing I remember from the book is that stalkers tend to believe that One Magic Person will change their life for the better, they have a sexual experience with said person, and then said person rejects them, which is the catalyst for stalking. Obviously, we don’t know this guy well enough to know what expectations were in his head before all this, but he did have a sexual experience and was ghosted, which is a form of rejection. And no, neither I nor this book blame anyone who has ever been stalked. This is simply an explanation for what can trigger stalking and does not excuse/justify this behavior in any way. Both I and the book I recommend believe stalking is harmful.

    Also, LW, are you still in a different country than this guy? The fact that he managed to find you online and is sending you all of these messages years later scares me.

  39. ashbet said:

    Usually, I have a lot of Feelings about ghosting vs. using words, but I think “I’m moving out of the country next week” IS using your words, and the subsequent no-contact should have been clear… also, THREE YEARS.

    This guy is a creeper, and I would send a single no-contact message (to forestall future stalking), and then block immediately without waiting for a response.

    (I agree that accepting the message request inadvertently reset the extinction clock, and therefore a no-contact reply is a good idea.)

  40. Ugh. That is so creepy. And flashbacky.

    I have to admit that when guys like this did stuff like that to me (mind you, that would be back when I was a teenager), I would respond with, “Do I know you? I think you have the wrong person. No, I’m sorry, I don’t recognize you.” My flight instinct is pretty strong and I used to attract guys who couldn’t take no for an answer or let go. Letting down gently never ever seemed to work.

    I never ended up being in any danger, to my knowledge, but I think I might have just been lucky.

  41. endless said:

    “when someone else’s weirdness means I don’t have to own up to my own”

    I don’t think someone else’s weirdness precludes owning up to your own — it just informs how you go about doing that. In this case, we readers of this site now have a lot of information that the guy isn’t privy to, and that is much easier to handle emotionally than a ghosting, even though you don’t reciprocate his feelings. I think the respectful thing to do is a do-over, replacing your initial ghosting response with ONE kind, clear, mature, boundaried communication. Acknowledge that you enjoyed the evening, express that you have no interest in anything further or in continued contact, and apologize for not communicating that directly at the time and for any hurt that may have caused. Wish him well in his life and sign off.

    • “Respectful?” Yeah, no.

      Why do you think the LW owes respect to some guy she banged three years ago?

      Three years ago she told him she was leaving town in a week. He should have recognized that for the brush off it was

    • piny1 said:

      She does not have to be the concierge of her crotch. This is not a Regency-era jilting. She can just not answer his messages. They fucked during the Obama administration one time. She doesn’t have to formally resign from further sexual contact.

      • “She does not have to be the concierge of her crotch.” I’ll definitely remember amazing turn of phrase that next time someone demands the “concierge service.”

    • MsMildew said:

      NOPING the hell out of this- she owes him NOTHING.

  42. tabbykat said:

    Reminds me soooo much of a ghosting I did as a sophomore in college. I met and hooked up with a guy at a conference over the summer. It was a two day conference–that’s it! At first we remained in touch for a few months, and I was okay with it, calling and emailing back. I ghosted him when he started signing his emails with “Love,”. Perhaps I shouldn’t have ghosted him. I was really young! He wouldn’t let it go and messaged and called me for months afterwords.Sometimes he left voicemails sounding drunk. I was contacted by him over FB years later…I wanna say it was more than five years later. I proceeded to block him. Like I said, today I would probably, communicate better, but I didn’t want to reengage, because I was disturbed by his behavior years earlier.

    I don’t think people are required to communicate the “why” after a date or two. Last year I was ghosted by a dude I really clicked with (or so I thought!) after two dates. It was disappointing. I let it go, because it was only two dates, he didn’t owe me an explanation.

  43. Bearpelt said:

    Oh that is definitely creepy. If I’m reading this right, LW saw this guy 3 years ago and then 2 years later started trying to message her Facebook or whatever? SO CREEPY

  44. Ainsley said:

    I strongly agree you owe him nothing! I also think it’s worth considering that he may not be putting a ton of thought into these messages at all—it might be something that’s become a wistful habit which he thinks is harmless because he KNOWS you owe him nothing and he figures you can just delete them if they bother you. In other words he may just be underestimating the distress that uninvited texts can cause peopleespeciallywomen, not overestimating his entitlement to your time. Which is a good argument for thinking of it as little as he is, and either not replying or just saying “please don’t message me anymore” instead of a big serious paragraph.

  45. epi said:

    I have been in the OP’s place a few times– ranging from years of ignorable emails all the way to full-blown stalking– always with people who really held on to brief or casual, fairly inconsequential relationships. I know it sucks to feel like maybe you encouraged someone to get that invested, and it’s jarring to switch from “this is someone I tried/am trying to be kind to” to “this person scares me”. I don’t think it happens immediately for any of us.

    The OP doesn’t owe this guy any further communication of any kind. What they are describing– not following up after one date where the guy knew she was moving– barely qualifies as “ghosting”. Even if it did, it wouldn’t justify years of messages that a reasonable person would realize were probably unwelcome.

    The one thing I will say is, sometimes saying “no” really clearly one time is good for *you*. Maybe it will help this guy to realize he was being inappropriate, maybe it won’t. You’re not his life coach. But it’s clarifying, if you get more messages, not to have to wonder if you should have said something more or different or if he’s just really awkward. Something not good is already happening– you can give yourself the gift of knowing it’s not OK, and permission to block or ignore him without guilt. I hope it never comes to that, but if you do ever need to escalate this to the site administrators or the police, you’ll be giving your future self a gift too of having a documented “no”.

    I think the OP sounds really cool and thoughtful. I hope they can be safe and make their peace with this incident. Wanting to be more kind and direct is great, but it never means you have to negotiate your boundaries or that you take on obligations to be in contact with people who make you uncomfortable.

  46. Feminist BI-tch said:

    Ok LW, I’ll come out and say that I have been the person to keep sending the occasional email to an ex even after he stopped replying. I am SO not proud of this, but I can say that in my case, when a final “hey sorry for not saying so at the time but I’d rather not keep in touch” email came from him, it did give me peace. Well, by that time I had already stopped sending anything, but it still helped. It offered zero explanations, yet it was still a turning point for me. I know I shouldn’t have needed that, and it wasn’t his responsibility at all and I should have heard the “enough” in the silence a long time before he came to this (since he had previously agreed to “be friends” and it had been a very amicable breakup, I saw no reason why he couldn’t tell me at once he’d rather not… Yeah it sounds mean and entitled now). Point being: it is 100% not your responsibility to write to this person, do it if it’s good for you, but if it helps you can also know that it might help him, too, to hear it (still block him straight after, though – this is not a discussion), in case it helps you feel better (about this thing that is still 100% not your job to fix)

    • Snickerdoodle said:

      I have been in your shoes. I went out a few times with somebody who just wasn’t feeling it and said so, but he said he liked me as a person and we could be friends. I took that at face value and messaged him without response a few times (including a cringey “I really am okay with just being friends!”) before I took the hint and backed off. At least it was only about four brief messages over a couple of weeks, not a slew of wistful romantic longing over three years. Eep. I don’t think it’s mean and entitled to think somebody means it when they say they want to be friends after a breakup–just naive, probably.

  47. Feminist BI-tch said:

    Ps I may be projecting hard here, but in my case, the reason why I focused so much on my ex had precious little to do with him. It was a lot of other stuff that was just… Easy to project on him as The One Who Got Away (even though I had left him…well), My One True Companion That Was Now Lost and the One Thing That’d Fix All of My Life If He Only Were Here , which just… No. So in case you’re wondering why this guy is so hung up on you, chances are, it has very little to do with actual you ===> not your problem, really.

  48. Did you move to Canada? Maybe you’re his “girlfriend who lives in Canada”. He can tell his friends you’re really, really real!

    Seriously, though, block, ignore.

  49. Kitty said:

    WOW. From the title I thought this had been an actual relationship, but one date?! He continued to message you for THREE YEARS with no response after ONE DATE????! That is not just misguided, it’s stalker levels of creepy. BLOOOOOCK

    • Kitty said:

      Just wanted to add: even if his tone was “nice” it’s still super creepy. Someone doesn’t have to use threatening language or tone to make you feel super uncomfortable. The fact that he is so unable or unwilling to read social cues like being ignored for three years does not speak well for his ability to respect other boundaries.

      • Inahc said:

        Very true. Heck, I recently told a friend something I knew he didn’t want to hear, and even though I knew the worst that would happen was feelingsmail, my body has been reacting as if it’s a life-and-death situation. :/

  50. Hey Anonnynonny said:

    LW, if this was the movies, you’d be expected to swoon at his persistence, get married and have babies ever after. Thankfully this is not the movies and you get to dodge that whole scenario… and dodge it you must.

    Forgive yourself for the ghosting. Give yourself permission to move on and close the book on this guy and the past.

    You don’t live anywhere near this creeper, so you’re not likely to bump into him and have an awkward public display going on, I think I would ignore and block his account pronto and not bother with the farewell message. Let him deal with the weirdness of you seeing his messages to you spanning years and then bailing quickly. He may be embarrassed into stopping his behaviour by the realisation that you’ve seen his offerings and got on your nopetopus poste haste rather than respond with your own missives.

  51. LW said:

    LW here: PHEW, THANK YOU INTERNET! I think that getting this guy’s messages felt like being visited by the Ghost of Dates I Wasn’t Great To, but I’m very grateful for the collective gut-check and relieved to go back to forgetting him forevermore. Sent a short “nope” and blocked.

    • Good choice! Congrats.

    • piny1 said:

      Yay! On to the rest of your life!

    • PintsizeBro said:

      Always nice to see a story get a happy ending. Thanks for letting us know. 🙂

    • Sounds perfect. Glad you’re feeling better about this.

    • MsMildew said:

      Good for you! And I hope he leaves you alone for forever and a day!

  52. fancifulscientist said:

    Yup, no feeling bad here and definitely encourage the re-block! You’re his imaginary path-not-taken partner, and you feeling bad is 100% you doing his feelings-work for him, in the way that women and femmes are culturally encouraged to take responsibility for dudes’ feelings. Like, you weren’t particularly rude! You don’t owe him reassurance and responses! Ghosting is not a crime! And any sadness/difficulty/loneliness he experienced over your non-responsiveness is his to address.

    Once, I quasi-dated a guy for a few weeks… and then for a decade in his head. Like, we watched movies and got ice cream. We never had any physical contact, at all. I moved and we drifted apart. I get a couple sweet messages saying thing like, “Just want to make it clear, I was asking you out that time” or “I think you’re beautiful” or “You look amazing in that picture your friend posted.” Okay, thanks dude!

    Two years later, I cut my hair. He messages me: “If we’d gotten married, it would have been in our prenup that you wore your hair long.”
    A little while after that, I start dating a cute girl. He messages me for reassurance: “You ARE into men, right?”
    Periodically, he’d post “what about men?!” or “women can be jerks too!” on my social media posts. Indicates he is listening to my responses, but keeps it up the next time around.
    And, seven years after “dating,” I get a sigh-y message when I get married: “At least someone is making you happy.”

    Like, what the actual fuck? I spent years replying politely to low-grade misogyny and reassuring his feelings about a relationship we never really had, and then, when I’m celebrating my joyful life-changing love, it’s all about his feelings.

    So, block. End your participation in the imaginary relationship.

    • MsMildew said:

      I want to respond to this coherently but when my jaw hit the floor at the line about the pre-nup I think it opened a gate and all the words fell out of my brain right after it.
      I would hit the freaking ROOF if someone I was Actually Dating For Reals said something like that, even in jest…but someone I never actually dated at all?
      DFGHJGSLJTEYB!

      What a jackass, and I’m SO glad you are rid of him!

  53. atheistorganist said:

    I think a lot of people have had those “what if?” crushes and fantasies with people they’ve only met a few times, but the idea of acting on it is mortifying. He’s definitely a creep if he can’t differentiate between reality and his imagination that way.

    • Chris said:

      Agree completely. Crushes and fantasies are fine by themselves, but leave them in your head where they belong. The guy in this case sounds pretty delusional. At the very least, he’s tried to make the LW an unwilling participant in his fantasy.

  54. HelloIt'sMe said:

    This letter made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Honestly, I’d just block him. If you live in different countries, hopefully you’ll never see him again.

  55. Fishmongers' Daughters said:

    Yeah, a person who honestly believes that his greatest mistake is not spending more time with a person he had one date with is a person who lives in a fantasy.

    Ever see Good Will Hunting? There’s a great line in there when Will’s describing his one date with a girl who was “beautiful, smart, and fun” and that he wasn’t going to call her. “Why, so I can find out that she’s not that smart? That’s she’s fucking boring?” This girl is fucking perfect right now, I don’t want to ruin that.”

    His therapist responds “I think that’s a fantastic philosophy, Will. This way you can go through the rest of your whole life without ever really knowing anyone.”

    That’s what this guy is doing, at least where you’re concerned. He gets to have The One That Got Away. She’s safely out of the country and he can think dreamily of you and how different all the things in his life that dissatisfy him would be if only You were around.

    Yeah, block. I like the Captain’s advice and it’s probably the wiser thing to do, but honestly… in your situation I’d probably just skip it and block. Even thinking about him reading my final words over and over and looking for a way around them or some exploitable weakness in them would creep me out.

  56. ashbet said:

    Usually, I have a lot of Feelings about ghosting vs. using words, but I think “I’m moving out of the country next week” IS using your words, and the subsequent no-contact should have been clear… also, THREE YEARS.

    This guy is a creeper, and I would send a single no-contact message (to forestall future stalking), and then block immediately without waiting for a response.

    (I agree that accepting the message request inadvertently reset the extinction clock, and therefore a no-contact reply is a good idea.)

  57. Liz said:

    I think you can do a number of things here that would be fine. But one thing you should really do is release the guilt. You have nothing to feel guilty about. You had a one-night stand. One night stands come with certain obligations (e.g. disclose STDs, don’t do anything shitty to the other person like steal a single shoe on the way out the door, don’t trash their place) but it is a very short list of obligations and most of them only last 18ish hours at most. You told him up front you weren’t up for a relationship but I think some men are conditioned to think if they want a relationship, of course the woman who just got some of his magical dick will feel that way too. And well, that’s just his problem and his alone. You haven’t talked to him in 3 years and he had to use subterfuge to get any sort of response (had he been more clear about who he was, you’d have declined the request) so you may not have been super direct but your actions were really clear. He just doesn’t want to hear the message.

    • Lilly of the valley said:

      Magical dick 🙂 I like that! and would probably consider a relationship if his dick was in fact magical ROTFL

    • AnnieBN said:

      Query: is it worse to steal a single shoe than a pair of shoes? 😀

      • MAC said:

        YES! 🙂

        If someone stole a pair of shoes from me, I would either a) not even realize it (I have a LOT of shoes) or b) resign myself to their loss, because out of sight = out of mind.

        If someone took a single shoe, I would either a) not realize it and spend WAY too much time searching for it because the mate was still there, so I would assume it was just buried somewhere in the depths of my shoe hoard; or b) those would immediately become my most favorite pair of shoes EVER and I would obsess about finding an exact replacement.

        (See also: a lost earring in Las Vegas that turned into six month of Poshmarking; now I have 3 of that style, which is good if I ever lose one again.)

        • BigDogLittleCat said:

          Thank you for suggesting this to me. I shall file away for reference if I ever need to eff with someone’s head.

          On the same OT, in the days before I learned to put all shoes in a closet with a firmly latching door and a doorstop just in case, my dogs often made me wonder about the usefulness of a resource for people who need one shoe.

  58. flrpwll said:

    Good grief, that’s messed up. I probably wouldn’t even bother with the apology message, out of fear that it would encourage him. Seriously! He was sending messages and getting no response for how long? And he kept on going regardless. Nope. That’s scary.

  59. oh GOD this guy is creepy. yeah, block him. you can send the suggested message if you’re up for it, shorten it to “please stop contacting me,” or send that same message nonverbally through blocking him. he’s been typing into the void at you for three years. with feelings that are not usually attributed to somebody you had a casual one-night stand with except by extremely worrying people. i wonder why you got the impulse just then to accept that particular request?

    i had a somewhat similar experience as a younger el, but luckily didn’t have too many issues with it. right after i graduated high school, so i was barely seventeen, a guy from one of my classes asked me to hang out sometime. i’m autistic and awful at social cues, and nobody had ever even hinted they were attracted to me in a non-creepy sense, so i was like yay! friend! and then i found out we were on a date when he kissed me in my basement.
    i went into freeze mode immediately and just, like, tried to get it over with and him out of my house. i then ran upstairs to talk to an older friend, and texted the guy that actually i did not want to continue to go out with him and i was very sorry about that. the next day he came to my house at 8am (in summer. when we were teenagers. i wasn’t even awake.) i used to have facebook as a site i regularly went to — i don’t touch it now, out of habit, but the habit was set in stone because every. single. time. i got on facebook he’d message me. every! single! time! so i just avoided it using el’s patented ostrich method, aka “if you can’t see it it’s not happening.”
    eventually he did kind of get, when i chose to talk to him once a year or two later, that i was never actually interested in dating him, and then he left me alone. it could have gone waaaaay worse, though, and i got lucky. he knew where my house was, how to contact me, who my parents were, etc. he could have kept constantly coming by for months, at least until we both went off to college. i am so glad he was just another kid with boundary issues. i would definitely err on the side of caution with your dude who essentially wrote a dating sim with you as the main route in his head, and clearly wants you to respond in a certain way.

  60. arkadyrose said:

    Wow. I had an ex stalk me online and continue to send me messages by any possible form of social media possible (texts, emails, PMs on FB, comments on my FB artist page, Flickr, even LinkdIn and he recorded 5 YouTube videos about me) for ten years. But we’d been together for three and a half years. This guy hasn’t seen you in three years after ONE DATE?? You owe him nothing. And far from what others have said, you don’t always have to tell them to go away; go to the police with this and tell them it was one date and they would agree that your complete lack of response conveys a “no”. Do not respond; save copies of everything, but then block him everywhere. Any response – even to say “no” – tells him that if he is persistent enough, he will get a reaction from you, even if it’s not the one he wants. This guy has problems, evidently – but that doesn’t make him YOUR problem.

    • camel said:

      I agree with everything to say.

      Mostly commenting to say that your ex and my ex apparently went to the same school of internet stalking. I almost made my instagram public a few months ago because I was like ‘no way he’s still trying to access me, it’s been over two years.’ Then I got another follow request from him (I think instagram is the only media he has access to of mine that he’s not blocked on–in retrospect maybe he’s been emailing me but I blockity-blocked that awhile ago). Soooooo keeping that locked down.

      So solidarity with you and LW. Stay safe.

  61. Saraquill said:

    One guy I had a relationship with was also super persistent and insisting I was an ideal mate. He spent a lot and a lot of time punishing me for not matching the Pygmalion in his head.

    I don’t think it would end well if LW’s creep has a chance to compare his own Pygmalion to Actual Letter Writer.

      • And nobody sang in that play!

  62. Pippi said:

    Definitely no apology! Whether or not it would make you feel better, I think it would be a bad move on practical grounds. If you engage with him emotionally at all, he will try to use it as the thin edge of the wedge.

    I can see a case for sending a message that says “DO NOT CONTACT ME ANYMORE.”

  63. Not judging the LW at all for feeling guilty (I’m prone to this, too), but… why does the LW feel so guilty? It’s fairly easy to determine that LW doesn’t owe anything in this situation and it’s fairly easy to move on at this point (just block), yet this guilt is driving LW to consider putting herself in a very vulnerable spot in spite of that. So it’s worth LW looking into the reasons just so she can be aware of her weaknesses/blind spots in the future. It could be that the guy’s letters are very guilt-trip-y but she’s missing it and seeing it as flattering/wistful; in that case it’s super useful to take a moment to look back over the communications, identify the manipulation and understand how it worked on her, then move on. On the other hand if the guilt is being generated purely from the LW, a bit of self-help (or therapy if she’s already seeing someone and it’s convenient) might be really useful. Lots of people struggle with useless, sort of ambient guilt, so practical strategies for dealing with it do exist if the LW feels up to finding out more about that.

    • Rae said:

      That’s one of the most helpful things I’ve read recently. I struggle with feeling guilty & then spend a lot of energy trying to figure out if I have anything TO feel guilty about.
      Thanks, tortillachipmonster!

      p.s. I notice you are not a salsa, queso, or guac monster…just the chips, huh?

      • Glad it was helpful!

        That’s a tough question! Who can choose between tortillas, salsa, queso or guac. I made the screen name after moving overseas and desperately missing tex-mex food; I could make my own salsa, queso, guac, but I’m not really willing or capable of making enormous amounts of good tortilla chips in my kitchen. If only.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      Great comment! The question appears to be such a no-brainer (for those on the outside) that LW’s feelings of guilt are an issue worthy of her review. “But why do I feel so guilty about this” is a question many people can ask themselves. Myself included.

      • My answer to this question in these circumstances has always 100% been “The Patriarchy”.

      • J said:

        Bc women have been socialized to think that we need to feel sorry for some poor guy bc he’s interested. ‘But he’s sad you never responded!’ ‘But he clearly thinks so much of you!’ ‘But he’s just in love with you!’ ‘He’s a nice guy, give him a chance!’ ‘You’re so cold, why don’t you just sit down for coffee with the guy?’ These barely scratch the surface of the number of times i’ve been told to spend my precious time on this earth with some guy i don’t want to be involved with, for the simple reason that HE wants to be involved with ME. I have to feel sorry for the boner. Don’t feel sorry for the boner. Realize you’re doing the boner a favor by getting rid of the guy post haste bc the boner has exactly zero chance of getting near you.

        • This is SO true. I struggle with illogical guilt around plenty of non-gendered situations, too, but if I’m honest it really does come back to socialization. Lots of people, especially women, are socialized to never return awkwardness to sender or otherwise reflect an upset back onto others in any way, instead we’re just supposed to internalize everything and digest the full amount of upset quietly within ourselves somehow. That, for me, is feeling completely baseless, illogical guilt whenever a situation is upsetting.

          • Inahc said:

            the other day I was wondering, how did we end up with a culture where it’s considered rude to *not* suffer in silence? and thanks to the comments here, I suspect the answer is (again) The Patriarchy.

        • MsMildew said:

          I am SO glad that my particular combination of Neurodevelpmental disabilities and executive function issues leaves me with ZERO patience for this kind of shit (or anything/anyone else that causes me pain, distress, discomfort etc)
          It’s a FAR more powerful motivator than any sort of social conditioning and has led me to instinctively RUN from a lot of shady situations & toxic people and never look back.

  64. JerryLarryTerryGary said:

    So, ignore/block is valid, but the LW already accepted the friend request- which is a form of contact. Writing a ‘leave me alone’ letter isn’t resetting a clock or anything. It done been reset. Do what works best for you.

  65. Clarry said:

    One way to interpret the guy’s constant contact: He misunderstood the clear communication that no further relationship was possible and therefore began hounding the LW for more. His feelings are hurt, and LW, while not responsible for his misunderstanding, is sympathetic that she hurt his feelings.

    Another way to interpret the guy’s constant contact: Having gotten sex for minimal effort once, there’s no harm in trying for more sex again. He thinks about sex, and he sends messages to all the places he’s gotten sex in the past. It’s the equivalent of an anonymous dickpic. “I regret not spending more time with you” = “I want sex with anyone.”

    I recommend proceeding straight to blocking.

  66. Vicki said:

    You owe this guy nothing. Send that one “don’t contact me” and then block him, or just block him, but you didn’t ghost him. You told him you were going away, you didn’t agree to or even discuss any kind of long-distance relationship, and you didn’t stand him up for a date and then never speak to him again. That might have been ghosting. (When and whether ghosting is appropriate is a separate question, because that;s not what happened here.)

    • AnonBee said:

      She never told him she was going away. She did ghost him and admitted as such – it’s in the title.

      • Read more closely:

        our date was very casual, I made it clear that I was not looking for a relationship, and he knew I was moving out of town the next week.

      • TO_Ont said:

        She told him from the start that she was leaving, and that she didn’t want a relationship. There was nothing to break up _from_.

      • Traffic_Spiral said:

        She both told him she was moving AND ghosted him.

        • MsMildew said:

          Not contacting a one night stand isn’t ghosting, it’s an inherent part of it being a one night stand.

  67. HindsightGraduate said:

    LW, girls (cis and trans*) and femme genderfluid/nonbinary kids are programmed to prioritize the feelings of cishet men, so your guilt is normal, but you have my Official Permission to throw your guilt in the trash. It’s compelling to feel like you owe him a conversation because of his interest- especially because you let him in a few years ago and then ghosted. But, sweet LW, it is not okay for him to keep spamming you with messages when your years (years!) of silence was a clear enough “no” for him to stop. He. Should. Have. Stopped. It doesn’t matter that your “no” was unintentional- what matters is that he kept ignoring your “no,” and that is a sign of things to come if you open up the door to a conversation with him.

    And now, for a personal anecdote: A FoF (friend-of-friend) periodically messaged me over the last few years, despite us barely having contact with each other, to tell me that:

    -He loves me
    -He’s so into me, but it seems like I’m “waiting” for him to say something terrible
    -He “still thinks” I’m beautiful

    I made the mistake of replying to the first message, and the last two I left alone. We do not have the foundation where it’s appropriate for him to talk to me like that, and I have no intention of reactivating his extinction burst (especially since I see him at the occasional large party).

    It’s okay to send him a “Hey, didn’t see these, also please stop sending me these messages” for your own closure, but that needs to be followed with a block to give your words extra weight. He is going to blithely ignore every “no” you give unless his access to you is removed. You have the right to spend your emotional energy on people you are actually invested in, LW. If you’d like, you can redirect your guilt and funnel it into a friendship you actually want to cultivate. Maybe a high school bestie fell through the cracks and you always regret not grabbing that cuppa with them? Go do that! ❤

    • piny1 said:

      Hey, can we not use language like “girls (cis and trans*) and femme genderfluid/nonbinary kids” please? It is clearly an attempt to be inclusive, but it is actually transphobic and hostile to nonbinary and gendernonconforming people. It is also deeply inaccurate wrt the way sexist social programming functions. Thank you.

      • HindsightGraduate said:

        Thanks for letting me know! Will definitely avoid this language going forward.

      • johann7 said:

        If CA doesn’t want to host a debate on linguistic norms for discussing gender systems, that’s cool, and we can move elsewhere, but in case that’s not too much of a derail, could you explain your reasoning? If you’d like – you’re under no obligation, of course. I’m curious because I’m non-binary-identified now, was ambiguously gendered as a child (boy-gendered by most of my family, neutral-gendered as much as possible by my mother, and girl-gendered by most strangers), and studied gender theory for my undergrad degree program, and I don’t read that as transphobic, NB-hostile, nor inaccurate. What language do you think would be better while still describing the group in question?

        I interpret the attempt as describing the group of young humans socialized as girls to some extent, since that’s the group trained to prioritize the feelings of men above their (our) own. People who are read as girls by other members of society are actively socialized (direct intervention/coercion to normatively gender behavior, reinforcement/recognition/praise for “girl” qualities exhibited and punishment/ignorance/condemnation for not-“girl” qualities exhibited, etc.) by those other members of society to prioritize men’s feelings, and people who perceive themselves as feminine/girls/women but who are not read that way by other members of society are also passively socialized (observation of how people perceived as girls are actively socialized, girl archetypes constructed in media, intentional self-adoption and eventual internalization of normative elements of the girl gender archetype, etc.) with that same value. So the included description seems accurate to me, and the language used isn’t anti-trans or anti-NB/genderfluid slurs as far as I’m aware, which has me wondering where you’re seeing trans- or NB-hostility.

        “Girls” alone would be less accurate IMO and would presumably read as hostile to some people who consider gender an innate, essential characteristic (becasue they never actually were girls, despite being subjected to girl socialization; I’ve seen plenty of people say so in similar contexts). I obviously prefer “people socialized as girls to some extent”, since that’s what I used for that group. I’d love a less-unwieldy option if you have a suggestion!

        • piny1 said:

          Yeah, I don’t want to derail either, so. The problem is that this framing limits the negative impact of sexist socialization to (a) girls/women and (b) femme-identified nonbinary/trans people. The latter category is much too narrow, and the compound category (women + femmes) is actively misogynist and transphobic.

          It is not appropriate to either limit the class of “people impacted by misogyny” to nonbinary people who identify as femme, or to imply that affiliation or affinity with womanhood is tied to one’s status as femme.

          And “femme” is ostensibly more complex than simply “feminine” but…that’s not how it’s being used here. In most instances, where it’s used to refer to “nonbinary people who are aligned with womanhood or seen as aligned with womanhood such that they are impacted by misogyny” or something similar, it’s used in really reductive ways: more or less to imply that all of this can be reduced to people who are or seem feminine or “like women” in some way. By definition, this idea implies some really regressive things about women who are “masculine” or “non-feminine.” To the extent that sexual orientation is gendered, this framing also implies some really problematic things about lesbians and their status as women or people who are “like women.”

          No offense, but you’re doing the same thing – you swap out “femme” for “feminine.” This is a good example of the way “femme” is often used – to substitute gendered presentation cues for gender identity. That is also a problem.

          All of those elisions and oversimplifications aside, lots of nonbinary cis and trans people do not identify as/with “femme” and find the term very alienating. Some cis men identify as/with “femme.” Their acceptance/rejection of the term doesn’t necessarily reflect affinity or alignment with womanhood, or track with the likelihood that they will be subjected to misogyny. It’s not really a term you can use to include this larger group. It definitely isn’t a synonym for these broader categories and it does not function to sufficiently broaden the category of people impacted by sexist socialization.

          And like speaking as a gnc/gq butch dyke, I am really not remotely comfortable with the idea that being un-femme exempts me in any way shape or form from misogyny or sexist social programming. I am not remotely comfortable with the idea that being a femme nonbinary person would connect me to women, whereas being a non-femme nonbinary person distances me from womanhood. I note that this phrase strongly implies that identifying as genderqueer means that I am not subjected to misogyny. It strongly implies that Hannah Gadsby, by virtue of being butch, is shielded from misogyny in a way that a conventionally feminine woman is not.

          In all, it represents a really messed up and regressive set of ideas about what gender is and how people of various genders present and identify, and how misogyny and homophobic misogyny and transphobic misogyny function with respect to people like me. Or, heck, my butch dyke trans woman counterparts. I’m honestly really bothered by the level of uncritical acceptance it has achieved in LGBTQ+ circles. It’s like we figured out that assigned sex taxonomy = bad but then turned around and started reinscribing the same sexist binary crap onto gender presentation. It needs unpacking.

        • Helen Damnation said:

          I think “people who are socialised as female” or something like that would have worked better in this context, as it takes into account current and occasional social interactions, not just assignment at birth. I.E. the way that trans people are treated differently and expected to act differently when read as female than when read as male. Which I believe is what HindsightGraduate was trying to get at.

          • I’m not a fan of ‘socalised female’ because it implies that trans girls experience male socialisation growing up, which is used against them in transmisogyny especially when it is coming from ‘progressive’ circles. I can see why AFAB people who aren’t women and need a way of talking about their experiences use it, but when being used for people outside of yourself I think it must be used with extreme care.

            I’ve fallen back on the admittedly clunky ‘people oppressed under the patriachy’.

          • HindsightGraduate said:

            “People oppressed under the patriarchy” is much more concise/appropriate than the words I used, so I will absolutely add it to my cognitive toolbelt. Thanks, piny1 and mossyone!

          • piny1 said:

            I think clunkiness is a sign of good working order. Our language is structured to be sexist, cissexist, and heterosexist down to its roots – even at the level of denotation, never mind the cluster of meanings associated with words like “wife” and “sex.” Being concise more or less entails relying on those existing conceptual frameworks for status, identity, difference, affiliation, and validity. As a rule, that means admitting a bunch of precepts that are fundamentally sexist, cissexist, and heterosexist. So it’s not great to have to use a mouthful to describe any given category, but that is pretty much the only rhetorical workaround for our obsolete and inadequate terminology. In order to resist these harmful preconceptions, we need to use language in disruptive ways. That means phrasing these categories in ways that seem, well, awkward.

  68. smallcatharine said:

    The Captain’s advice is great. In my neck of the woods, I’ve seen recommendations to add something like “This is a notification under article z of the antistalking law of 19xx”.

    Such a phrase would obviously make your position stronger when dealing with law enforcement – they can’t deny you’ve made the right type of request, because you’ve cited the law.
    I also think it might scare of some beginning stalkers, especially the kinds who like to consider themselves lawful good.

    At the same time, it seems like it might anger stalkers who have escalated. What do people think about using something like this in various situations?

  69. This is just a moment in time said:

    Dear LW,

    Advice from a police officer when I had a similar situation:

    1. Do not respond. Even to say stop. He is not a reasonable person. lf he was reasonable, he would have stopped messaging you years ago. You cannot expect a reasonable action like saying stop to deter him.
    2. Screen shot all of his messages and your lack of response.
    3. Block him and screen shot blocking him with the date and time.
    4. Tell your friends about him in case he tries to contact them to get to you. In your case, save your email to CA as further evidence for what he has done.
    5. Know that he is either doing this to other women or has done this to other women before. You are not alone.

    You owe him absolutely nothing. I cannot stress enough how important number one is. I had been concerned for my safety beforehand but the amount of times that cop repeated to me advice number one was terrifying. In his words, “There is only one good outcome to responding with a stop, and that is he stops. There are numerous negative outcomes to responding with a stop. Several of which involve you being physically harmed.” The benefit does not outweigh the risks.

  70. Convallaria majalis said:

    Oh, dear LW, I have been there, too – though my experience predates the era of social media. I will share my story shortly.

    Back in the 90’s in high school there was this young man. Since I did not pay much attention to him then I never realized that he had a serious crush on me. I just did not find him that interesting back then. We have this prom like event in here and he asked me to go with him; I did not think much of it, I was just relieved that someone had asked me. So we went there and danced together and that was it – until we had graduated and he asked me out. I really did not want to go but my mother made me. If it had been just two friends meeting it would not have been bad at all but my mother pressuring me felt it so very awkward so I decided to behave in a way which made him feel like an outsider: I talked about my friends all the time. Finally he told me that he did not feel included and we did not have to date anymore which was a relief.

    Years passed. I found a boyfriend and gave birth to my first child – and then I received a postcard from him saying that he wanted to meet me. I still have trouble grasping it: the guy had thought of me for 8 years or so – and he clearly knew where I lived which felt quite creepy.

    There was not really anything badly wrong with him, we just did not really click. I never replied to the postcard.

  71. The guy in the Ask a Manager letter a few months ago (or last year? my sense of time sucks) who, after having been in a relationship with a woman for 3 years which included 2 years living together, left and took a job in another country while she was away for the weekend, without leaving any kind of note or giving her any explanation, just disappearing. HE is a ghost-er. LW, *you* are not a ghost-er. I agree with everyone who says you owe him nothing. Send him a clear ‘no’ message if it helps *you*, then block, block, block! No guilt.

  72. J said:

    LW don’t apologize. Why? Bc he knew you were leaving the country in a week. Please. Most folks know that this scenario is a hookup. This guy has felt entitled to persistently refuse to take no for an answer and that’s what ghosting is. Read ‘gift of fear.’ The part esp about how when you answer to say ‘go away please’ after 100 messages, the stalker knows that it will take 100 messages to get a response. 3 years? Hoo boy. Please. Please. Don’t apologize. To be honest i’d be scared even to say ‘go away please’ because then you’re actually talking to him. I’m usually spot on with the Cap but i’ve been stalked by folks who viewed my requests for cease and desist as ‘she’s still talking to me… so there’s a chance’. He’s already demonstrated he will go 3 years like this with zero engagement on your part. Just imagine how many years he will pursue with a single reply. Please block this guy on all forms of social media.

  73. JenniferP said:

    LOL at the influx of “spellcaster can help you get someone back” spam on this post. Once again I ask, where are the spells that make these dudes GO AWAY and STAY THERE.

    • MsMildew said:

      Now THAT’S magic I’d invest in!

  74. F said:

    I think the main benefit of giving one clear “Hey, it’s over, please stop” communication is mostly you have a documentation trail if something comes up in the future. If you do go that route, LW, do not send another communication after that, and do save everything somewhere. Then if they continue/escalate it’s insanely clear, from a legal perspective, that they are being the aggressive. If they just continue with these non threatening but wistful messages, it’s probably safe to ignore and reblock or send all the messages to some filter that keeps things recorded but that you never have to look at if you don’t want to.

  75. As someone who has severe ghosting guilt (I did it to someone I was in a long distance relationship with), I’m still in camp “do not reply and block”. I really, totally get that you feel bad about it but that short acquaintance should have been a blip on the radar of dude’s life. You owe him nothing.

  76. FlyingKal said:

    I have nothing to add to the excellent advice given by the Captain.

    Just a comment on the Using Your Words vs. Social Cues “dilemma” that’s been raised in some of the comments.
    A long time ago, somewhere in my late 20’s I dated a woman for a couple of weeks, including a couple of sessions in her bed. She seemed content and wanted to pursue a relationship, but eventually something about her made me feel uncomfortable (I was always vigilante about using condoms, so the “Hi, I’m pregnant!” mail she sent me, as a joke, didn’t instill a lot of a sense of comfort either.)
    Anyway, I kind of felt sorry for her (for falling for a klutz like me, not the least). But I Used My Words and went the “This isn’t working for me and I don’t think we should continue to see each other” road. Which, with my limited exerience I thought was clear enough.
    But for a couple of weeks she continued to mail, text and call me almost daily, because hey, that way you’re not literally SEEING each other!
    Until I told her both on the phone and in mail to “STOP calling/mailing me or contacting me in any other way”. I then stopped taking her calls and replying to her mails, and eventually her efforts petered out over the following weeks.

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