#1236: “My ex keeps gnawing at the edges of my work and social life.”

Behind a cut for mention of consent violations.

Hi Captain,

I (she/her) divorced my ex (he/him) a year ago. There were a lot of reasons, but one reason was constant sexual pressure to perform and do things I don’t enjoy. This pressure usually took the form of guilt trips, but once escalated to a situation in which I felt I couldn’t safely say no.

With a few exceptions, I told everyone that we grew apart, he’s a great guy but we just didn’t work out, etc.

I haven’t talked to him about this post-divorce. It seemed stupid to fight about it when I was done with the relationship. We sometimes exchange brief texts and very occasionally get together so he can see our pet. I’m always polite, so he probably thinks we’re fine. He thinks of himself as this great feminist guy who was very patient with my low libido.

Unfortunately, the ex keeps gnawing at the edges of my life. He attempted to befriend basically all my local friends in the months following our divorce: I got really mad about that and he said he’d stop, even though it was unreasonable. Then he became a regular at a place I used to work and befriended everyone I know there.

I’ve learned to live with this low-level awkwardness, but now I am considering returning to that old job. The job is of a sexual nature (I strip) and I do NOT want to run into him there or talk about him with our now-mutual friends. I have asked him to find a different place to go (there are many options) and he said he’d stop temporarily but not permanently. He also told a friend that he’d like to help me out by buying lap dances from me, which makes me want to puke.

Any ok-ness we might have had is officially gone. The obvious answer is to go work somewhere else, but I don’t want to keep shrinking my life to avoid him. I want to tell him how angry I am about the way he treated me and the way he’s treating me now, but maybe that’s foolish too. I’m tired of pretending he’s fine to the people we know, but if I don’t tell him it feels like gossip. I hate how much of me he’s still consuming, and I hate that he’s still making me feel like a piece of meat one year later.


-Not Cool

Dear You Are Obviously Cool But Your Ex Is Not,

Your ex is showing incredibly poor boundaries – which is now about to follow you to work – and I think it’s time for a few steps:

1) Stop replying to communications from him and stop the pet visits.

You don’t have to explain or notify him that this is what you are doing, just stop replying when he contacts you. Be perpetually too busy and unavailable to even check your texts. You’re not friends, you’re not going to be friends, you tried to be civil and friendly, but it’s not working. So stop giving him attention and access to your life in a way that you can control.

I recommend this above trying to explain anything to him or somehow “make him understand.” He understands fine, he just doesn’t think your “nope” means anything if it’s in the way of what he wants. So withdraw your attention from him and let him go find someone else to bother. Hopefully time will do its work and he will get bored and fade away if he doesn’t get the little nuggets of attention from you anymore.

If he tries to force an explanation for your lack of response, I suggest texting one time (so there’s a written record), “Look, being friends just isn’t working for me. Let’s give ourselves a clean break and a fresh start for 2020. I wish you well, but I don’t want to text or hang out anymore, so please stop.”

Once you’ve made that clear, do not reply to anything he says or sends, even to ask him to stop again, to not come by work, etc. He might escalate his efforts, try to get at you through mutual friends, show up at your work, make it seem like an emergency, try to get at you through the pet, or insist that you meet face to face and provide “closure.” Get ready for him also to demand a reason “why,” when, he knows exactly why, he just wants to push you to either say it (so he can punish you and blame you for it) or strategically refuse to say it (which is a power trip for him, it lets him keep his idea of himself of a cool sex positive feminist guy who doesn’t violate women).

This is all depressingly predictable, it’s not uncommon for people to have what’s called an “extinction burst” when their object of obsession cuts off contact. If you can anticipate it, the hope is that you can hold fast when it happens. No answer is an answer. Silence is an answer. “Don’t text me anymore” is an answer. Your signed divorce papers are an answer. “Don’t show up at the club where I work,” is an answer. These are not arcane hieroglyphs which can be read only by wizards. He knows you don’t want to talk to him or see him, especially at work, so why is he being difficult? It’s not because you explained it wrong.

Additionally, lock down your social media accounts, change your important passwords, and think about the security of your home and car – are you sure he doesn’t have keys (“for the pet”), do people in your building know not to buzz him in anymore, etc.

I would 10,000 times rather have you take what feels like extreme measures and not need them than find out after the fact that you needed them. This guy is creepy. He is creepy wrapped up in “nice” and “affable” but he’s still creepy as hell.

2) Tell some trusted people what’s up so they can support you.

You don’t owe your ex a story about what happened between you that makes him look good. You don’t owe everyone in your life all the details, either, so it’s up to you what you share.

Does this ring true as a version of events you could share with people that doesn’t necessarily reveal details you are not comfortable sharing?

“Ex could get very pushy when we were together, it’s one of the reasons we got divorced. He’s not good at taking no for an answer, at least not when it comes to me, and we’ve had to have several talks since the divorce like, ‘no, you can’t keep hanging out everywhere I hang out, or make all my friends your friends, it’s over, please give me space.’ Every time I think he gets the message he shows me he doesn’t, so for my own peace of mind I’ve asked for a clean break, which means no texting, no calling, no visiting [Pet], and definitely not showing up and asking for lap dances when I go back to work, which he has described as ‘helping me out,’ can you even believe it.” 

(Important Note: If you are comfortable sharing, and the person is okay hearing the details, IT IS OKAY TO TELL PEOPLE WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU. You are not being mean or unfair by relating true experiences from your life. I can think of 11,000 reasons not to disclose because our culture is so bad at believing sexual assault survivors and it can add a whole fog of other people’s issues to something that is already painful enough. But you do not owe him, or anyone, your circumspection or your silence about this. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ <3)

Sometimes people get real nosy and like, offended that you haven’t shared every detail of your troubled marriage with them before now. I direct you here, with a script like “Listen, when we were still trying to keep the marriage together it felt wrong to tell the world our private business, and by the time we split up I was ready to leave the past in the past and give everyone a chance to start fresh. I’m telling you now because you know him, too, and I need a little help making this a clean break.” 

Let’s talk about what that help looks like, specifically:

What you don’t need: Your mutual friends to “talk to him for you,” threaten him to back off, or otherwise intervene in the situation. You’re telling them this in confidence because you need them and trust them, not so they can be ambassadors or life-bouncers. This kind of “back off from my friend or else” behavior, while a tempting instinct of righteous fury, can escalate an already troubling situation. You want to give this dude overall less attention, and de-escalate a situation, so make sure your friends get that and treat you like the absolute boss of what you need.

What you DO need: Your friends and family to know how it is between you, so they can not invite you to the same events, warn you in advance if he will be somewhere, and help support you (especially if he shows up unannounced). You also need them to be mindful of what they share about you publicly on social media and to not give out information about you to your ex (or anyone, really, since you’re going back to work), even if they think it’s a reasonable request or seemingly innocuous. Some people really love to be self-appointed peacemakers, and harassers and stalkers expertly manipulate this instinct with a lot of “But if she would just tallllllllllk o me I know I could make it right, you’re so good at understanding her and she trusts you, can’t you help me?”  flimflam. But  you did “talk to him.” There were legal documents and everything. You need your people to know not to give out info about you and to be inoculated against “There is a Middle Path Where No One Is The Bad Guy and I am the one who can find it!” temptation.

3) Take concrete steps to minimize your risks at work. 

Your boundary-pushing loser creep of an ex husband is absolutely not allowed to purchase lap dances from you or otherwise bother you at work. Can he still come to that club? Technically, he can. When he does eventually show, would I believe his aggrieved “It’s a free country, I’m not here to see you specifically, so get over yourself” act for a hot second? What is a hot second minus a hot second? Showing up places where he’s likely to encounter you and knows that it bothers you is kind of his whole pathetic deal since the divorce, so his benefit-of-the-doubt meter is fixed at zero. Hopefully he will do the right thing and stop hanging out there as you requested. If he bothers you, use whatever powers you have with your employer to get him barred, permanently and absolutely.

My information about strip clubs comes primarily from watching Hustlers and Magic Mike and the background of every single HBO show so forgive me if this is naive, but it seems to me strip club management the world over discourages partners and exes of dancers from hanging about the place and doing weird possessive power play tricks, and “I asked my ex to stop hanging around here so much and he made it clear that he plans to not only stick around but also to buy lap dances from me, which is 100% not happening, so, how do we make it so I can do my job without hassle from him?” will not be a brand new conversation to anyone at the venue. Yes? I hope fiction matches truth here.

Additionally, put in place whatever safety measures you use with potentially rowdy clients with him, make sure someone walks you to and from your car, make a policy of watching each other’s backs with your fellow dancers, and otherwise do all the safety things you doubtless already know from working in the industry. Hopefully you won’t need them specifically for him and this will die down once he stops getting attention from you, but if it doesn’t, let’s be like Girl Scouts, i.e., prepared. 

If management is unsupportive, that is a strong sign that you should look for somewhere else to work. That’s not just him pushing you out of one more space, that’s your employer saying, we don’t give a single shit about you, so find somewhere that does the basics right.

If management, etc. try to give you the “but he’s such a nice guy, I just can’t think that he would be a problem” talk, maybe tell them this:

“I get why you’d say that, he can be a really nice guy, but ‘nice to you’ and ‘respectful to me’ aren’t the same thing at all. The good news is that if he is really that nice guy you know and I used to know, none of this will be necessary, because he won’t show up to bother me at my job. Believe me, I’d love that to be the case, nothing would make me happier than to know he’s moved on and that I can relax at work and make us all lots of money.

But you know that in this business we can’t bet on everyone being nice, and I need to know that if he follows through on making things awkward for me, you have my back the way I’d have your back or the back of any of my fellow dancers in the same situation. We lose nothing by being careful about safety and potentially a whole lot if he’s allowed to come in here and harass me, so can I count on you?”

I’m so sorry you are having to deal with this, I think you tried to do a kind thing by being basically friendly to your ex and telling a face-saving “we just grew apart” story about your divorce. The same dynamic exists now as it did when you first split up: 1) He obviously doesn’t deserve you 2) If he could just be cool for once everything will be cool, he will never know that you told the club to keep an eye out or have your friends on alert and will get to keep on thinking of himself as a “nice guy.” The best way to show someone you are a good, cool, nice, safe person, etc. is to take no for an answer the first time they ask you. If he keeps failing this basic test? That’s not on you. 3) Since he usually refuses to be cool, you get to take steps to minimize the impact he has on your life. In the past you bent over backwards to be nice, and just because you can doesn’t mean you have to do it forever for this pushy chucklefuck.

❤ ❤ ❤

Comments are open. I want to hear from:

  • Adult industry/entertainment workers and sex workers who feel comfortable sharing thoughts about the best way to ask for backup from employers in situations like this and reality checks on what the Letter Writer can and should reasonably expect there.
  • People who have successfully defused a situation where an ex who can’t let go keeps showing up places, especially work. What worked for you?

Comments concern-trolling about the Letter Writer’s profession will be sent to the trash and possibly the sea, as in, “Get In The Sea (and take your judgy comments with you).”


122 thoughts on “#1236: “My ex keeps gnawing at the edges of my work and social life.”

  1. That’s a terrible situation to be in. I went through something similar. The major difference is I have two kids with my ex, so I’m legally not allowed to cut off all contact with him, but I did as much as I could. So, let me offer you some hope: It will get better. After the “extinction event,” he will eventually lose interest.

    I ended up blocking my ex on my phone. He can no longer call or text me. I had a brief moment where I felt guilty about that, since we are supposed to be co-parenting our kids, but he was only using the phone to harass me, not to plan for the care of our children. My kids are teenagers, so they can talk to their father on the phone whenever they want/need to. If they were younger, I might not have been able to do that. Blocking him instantly made life better. I no longer got the constant texts or calls that were interrupting my day at work or the toxic messages reducing my self-esteem to nothing.

    He can still email me. If there’s something critical he needs to communicate to me, he can do so that way. Most of the toxic messages ended up in my email inbox. I didn’t respond to any of them. After a month or so, he tired of sending them.

    I ended up moving to an apartment with a security door. He can no longer barge into my home and lie in wait. I had the uncomfortable conversation with my kids that they are not allowed to let him into our apartment. If he would like to spend time with them, he can do so at his home or at a restaurant, the library, etc. (They are safe enough with him. I am not.)

    Some friends and family did not respect my requests about how I wanted to conduct my life after the divorce, which included not having to spend time in his company or having my every move reported back to him. It sucked, but I ended up cutting ties with them as well and made new friends.

    I’ve changed jobs a few times since the divorce so I’m not sure he’d even know where to find me now, but if he did, there’s a receptionist out front who’d let me know who was here, and if I didn’t want to deal with him, could have him escorted out of the building. I hope there’s someone in a similar position who could do the same for you. A bouncer, perhaps?

  2. I have a stalker, for the last 30 years. He is a complete ass, but is able to charm (I’m ready to vomit over that) many people. You might get the “but he is such a nice/great/etc.” person, you must be exaggerating. Nope. My advice is to be very clear on what this is from the start (he is doing “-“, I need you to do “-“). And keep a record of it somewhere, you would be surprised how knowing the date, time, place and having it written down helps you if you need to take it to the police.

  3. I wonder if a protection order (like, he can’t come to her place of work or home or approach within however many feet of her or contact her in any way) is an option if he fails to respect the boundaries (which it unfortunately feels like he may). He’s violated consent before and shown a pattern, and he’s said he will come to her place of work and put her on the spot in public at work to be forced to be intimate with him when she doesn’t want him anywhere near her.

    1. I’m not saying yes or no to this suggestion, but when I had a friend who was being stalked by an ex-FWB I asked a friend who is a domestic violence prosecutor if he would recommend getting a restraining order. My friend pointed out that some stalkers just see that as an opportunity to see their target in court.

      1. “an opportunity to see their ex in court” This is true. But in my line of work, we were able to use a victim’s history of court-documented evidence (including her three restraining orders over 4 years) as justification for prohibiting the guy from using our workplace toi continue to harm her. Seeing him one more time in court is sometimes worth it if ti helps you establish a credible paper trail.

        1. Ugh. What a complete and total dickface. I’m so sorry that you have to deal with his bullshit.

          CW again for sexual assault:

          I don’t know if this is helpful in any way, but a good friend of mine had a very similar situation with her ex, down to the lots-of-things-she-wasn’t-okay-with sex and visits post-divorce with Pet. She tried very very hard to make it friendly and amicable and much like he didn’t respect her boundaries in their marriage, he also didn’t respect them once they were separated and getting divorced. She finally had to do what the Captain is suggesting – cut contact, cold turkey. He had spent their marriage making her life hell, so she reached a point where she wouldn’t allow him to also do that in their divorce. She also spent a huge amount of mental and physical energy the first year or so telling a polite-but-untrue version of their marriage and its breakup because she felt like being honest would be badmouthing him. And then at some point she came to the conclusion that she was okay telling safe people what had happened. Because it *had* happened. She wasn’t imagining the times he badgered her into sex she didn’t want. She wasn’t exaggerating. It was also her marriage, just as much as his, and if her experience of it wasn’t very nice for him, well, the marriage wasn’t very nice for her. YMMV, obviously, but giving herself permission to tell the truth ended up being incredibly freeing. People at parties: “Oh, S called me the other day. He sounds so down. I’m so sad it didn’t work out for you two!” Her: “I’m sure he is, but it’s probably more because he no longer has the green light to sexually abuse me like he did our entire marriage than actual unhappiness.” People at bars: “I heard you and S split up! You were the reason I still believed in love!” Her: “People telling me that was part of the reason I stayed with him despite the fact that I was having sex I didn’t want for the better part of a decade.”

          This is also your story. You don’t owe anyone the truth, but you also don’t owe him the polite lie, even if he were currently respecting all your boundaries, but especially not now that he isn’t. You don’t have to smile through clenched teeth anymore and pretend everything is lovely when it isn’t. I hope you get a new normal where you can go out and see friends and go to work without being haunted by your shitty ex.

          1. Hi OP, I am SO sorry that you’re going through this. I went through a similar situation and hope that I can at least give you an example of what not to do? CW for sexual assault.

            I bartended for 10 years. I was sexually assaulted by a regular who used to come in to watch his college football team every Saturday. He was a good tipper, someone who reliably showed up, and usually brought a group of friends, so I never told any of my coworkers what happened. I was worried that if I said anything, the only options were 1) They’d believe me and support me in asking him not to come in anymore, hurting everyone’s tips (we pooled between the bartenders); 2) Not believe me, discount my story, and/or change their opinions of me; or 3) management would choose the sales over me and fire me. I saw it as a lose-lose. He continued to text me and show up for years after this happened. Just thinking about how I used to feel when I saw him walk in the door and up to my bar is causing a physical reaction in my body right now.

            I think my best advice to you, in addition to the Captain’s advice to cut off contact, would be to find a different place to work. I know it sucks to think that he ran you out of the place that “belongs” to you, but it sounds like there are many options in your area where you can work.

            If you start working there again and decide to tell him not to come there anymore, I think you should make sure that every other employee, manager, and bouncer is on board first. One thing to think about — if you cut off contact with him and he knows where you work, he WILL show up there. If you’re working somewhere else, he might still find out where you are and show up anyway, but at least you’ll be in a place where the other employees aren’t friends with him and you can lay the groundwork that you have a shady ex and will need some help dealing with him.

            One thing I would tell other readers here who haven’t worked in the service industry (especially one that’s run by men where the women are supposed to be pretty and compliant and always helpful and somehow always seem replaceable) is the amount of power that the customer has in that relationship. At least in my experience, it would not be realistic to expect that I could outright refuse someone who tried to order a drink from me, or in the LW’s case, wanted to buy a lap dance, even if there was a bad history there. The power dynamic there is real, especially for tipped workers, and especially those who are women. I have definitely worked for managers who, if they had to choose between someone who spent $200/week vs. protecting their employee and losing the sales, would choose to fire the employee.

            I hope this helps — I know bartending isn’t the adult industry, so Captain, if you decide to delete I understand, but I think a lot of the logistics and power dynamics and patriarchy are really similar. Best of luck LW, and please stay safe!

      2. Caveat that I have no experience with difficult exes or the adult industry, but I wanted to add that Gavin De Becker says the same thing in his book about violence “The Gift of Fear”. He says that in his experience, a restraining order can potentially escalate the situation.

      3. On the other hand, further legal action usually can’t be escalated without a paper trail, so there’s the trade off.

    2. So, I’m a social and health scientist who was stalked at work. Stalking and violence against women are not my area of expertise– that would be cancer– but I spent the time during the investigation reviewing a lot of the research literature on this topic. My comment draws on that and on my experience.

      The OP could consider a protection order, but she should speak to a lawyer, or else a counselor or advocate with experience in intimate partner violence, before going through with it. Protection orders can help but they can also harm victims if they are not properly enforced, or actions taken in response to them aren’t recorded by police as part of an ongoing campaign of harassment. This is very common. In general in English speaking countries, stalking is under-reported, investigated inappropriately, and under-charged or not charged at all. Orders of protection sometimes help stalkers by giving them opportunities to see their victim, to harass them using the court system, or to get additional information about them (e.g. getting the victim’s home or work address, ostensibly so they can stay away from it). The OP needs to know what types of protection orders are available in her jurisdiction, how long they would take to get and what is involved, whether they would protect her everywhere (e.g. if she works in a different city or county from where she lives), and her advocate’s opinion of whether violations are handled appropriately by local police.

      Then, the OP should pretty much go with her gut. No one on earth understands this specific situation better than she does– not even her ex, who thinks his behavior is justified. I’d like the OP to know that victims are good at predicting what the people harassing them will do next. “You’re the expert on your situation” is not just a nice thing feminist people say– research backs it up. If, after she hears what it would take for her to get an order of protection, she thinks, “Ex would respect/ignore/feel provoked by this”, she’s probably right. A big part of the effectiveness of an order of protection is the harasser’s response to it.

      The definition of stalking varies by jurisdiction, but in general it can be summed up as something like, “A course of conduct, directed at another person, that would cause a reasonable person to feel distress or to fear for her safety or the safety of a family member”. If the OP ever needs to convince others that her ex is stalking or harassing her– even if not in court– it will be helpful for her to be able to show, not only that she told him clearly to stop, but that this behavior distressed her. If she does things like: change her locks; ask her boss to ban her ex from her club; change her routine; move to avoid him; add special instructions to her accounts not to answer questions over the phone; then it would be a good idea for her to keep the receipts. Save them somewhere you can get to them but don’t have to look at them, scan some backups, and keep on depriving him of contact and attention. She should keep unwanted notes and gifts, or photos of them, for similar reasons.

      Finally, OP should tell people. It can be really hard to come up with a short, sweet, and factual description of behavior that often seems to subtly cross boundaries or need a lot of context to show why it could have been appropriate, but wasn’t. A supportive friend can help with that. So many otherwise nice people just fail at this universe of issues. I would suggest the OP consider who has shown her they are an actual ally in this area, and talk to that person first, rather than necessarily going to someone she feels close to but whose beliefs about sexual violence are untested or unknown. I wouldn’t go first to someone Ex has already managed to befriend. OP, find someone who will be 100% loyal to you and your version of events from Day 1. Conversely, someone does not need to be a close friend or receive a lot of details to be told, “this guy knows he shouldn’t be here, please let me know if you see him hanging around.” As the OP has found, a lot of stalking behavior is stuff that’s legal and maybe even nice– except for the context. People can’t know they’re seeing something inappropriate without that context. If the OP continues to see him in the future, the people she has told can help her build a body of evidence. She can text them when she sees him at work so there’s a paper trail. She can tell them close to incidents of unwanted contact so they can say, “She didn’t make this up, she told me as soon as it happened.” Most importantly, it is the only way for the OP to get the love and support she deserves until this person finally stops trying or is prevented from hurting her anymore. It’s scary but it will grow her world rather than continually shrinking it. Only people who can accept her expertise and follow her directions deserve to stay.

      OP, you deserve safety and respect without compromise. You shouldn’t have to go out there and get it, but I hope that you choose to. Wishing you all the good things, from the bottom of my heart. I know how hard this is.

  4. I (she/her) have been in the situation of an ex (he/him) who I parted from because “wanting to leave is enough”, he was nice enough but I no longer wanted to be with him. At the time I left, I tried to be the cool ex and stay friends, and it turned out that he Would Not Leave Me Alone. Turned up at every social event going and found an excuse to talk to me about WHYYYYY woudn’t I come back to him, until I refused to talk to him at all. Online chat ditto until I blocked him. Emails to say it was mean of me to block him. Joined the same hobby group [I had joined to do Hobby away from our mutual social circle where he Always Was] and when I asked him to not, got a lot of “but it’s a free world and I’ve just as much right to join Group”. I started asking mutual friends to only invite one of us to things, and got a fair bit of pushback for “making it awkward”.

    I am afraid that what de-escalated it was me publicly dating another man, (and it probably didn’t hurt that new man had rather higher social capital among our circle), and sometime after that, he dated another woman. About a year later he got a job in my workplace (eek!) but it was after both of us had new partners. His behaviour at workhas always been very professional towards me, and our roles only interact a couple of times a year at most.

    I wish I had a less bullshit answer than “be seen dating another (more important) man”. I wish I had blocked him out of my life much harder and much sooner and taken less shit from the mutual friends about making things haaaaard for them.

    1. I’m glad you’re in a better place now, but damn, I’m sorry you had to deal with not only a shitty guy but shitty behavior from people who should’ve had your back. Internet hugs if wanted.

    2. I was in a similar situation when I (she/her) broke up with my abusive ex (he/him). He would text me, drunk call me, show up in a different city where I was visiting mutual friends to talk about how mean and backstabbing I was. He befriended a close friend of mine to get at me and have someone to talk shit with about me and come to places I was at. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was really scared of him because he wasn’t stopped by the usual rules. He didn’t care about a no.
      When I realized that what he’d done to me during our relationship was wrong, I made a bunch of gut decisions that turned out to be the right ones I needed to make. I told our mutual friends what had happened, and they believed me and had my back. I don’t think they ever spoke to him again. They made it clear to me that they wanted nothing to do with him, even while I myself was still trying to be “fair to everyone”. The next thing I did was to call him and tell him flat out that he was a rapist, and that if he called me again or came near me again, I would call his parents and tell them what he had done. This could have gone incredibly wrong for another person, but it is what made him keep his distance.
      I think what stopped him was showing that I wasn’t trying to be nice and fair and accomodating anymore, and that bullying me in the future would be a lot harder.
      I read in a comment above that the victims of abuse know best what the abuser is going to do, and I think that’s really good advice. There is so much victim blaming going on (why didn’t you say something, why didn’t you stand up for yourself,…), only you know what is and isn’t safe to do. I wish you the best and hope you can soon feel safe again at work and among your friends.

  5. I am one of those people who has had exes hang around (twice, both times with the ones who were bad about boundaries and consent when we were together, what a surprise). Here is my winning formula: Sever ties clearly once (with a script something like Cap’s) + make it very boring to be around you or contact you. Ignore digital contact, walk away from them if they find you in person, and give bland and noncommittal replies if they do try to speak to you. There is a flavor of Ex-Follower who is in it because they miss you, they want to keep tabs on you, and they like the drama of your Story Together. If you can make the drama go away, they get bored. In the case of my exes, what finally made them both go away was that they came to find me in person and asked me why I didn’t want to speak to them anymore and I said something to the effect of “I don’t know, my life is just better this way.” Nothing concrete for them to argue with! No assessment of any specific thing they did that might make them mad! Just “it’s better this way.” BIG CAVEAT: if we are talking about a truly committed stalker who makes you feel threatened, feel free to approach the authorities about it, yell, make some noise, etc. This advice is more for your garden variety creep who thinks he’s a good feminist guy and just wants to understaaaand.

    1. “My life is better this way.” I shall save this script for the next time my Toxic Family Member shows up on my front porch to “talk about things.”

  6. Mine stalked me for a while. It was not an amicable breakup; I moved out while he was at work and he still managed to come back in the middle of it “for lunch”. These guys with their radar. He moved into a house with one of my (distant) classmates, who asked me about him and how he was as a roommate beforehand, but clearly was only sent to see what I was telling people. He continued to contact my friends.

    He finally called me at work about this great book he’d found for me, and that was it. I stated flatly, Do not call me again. I don’t want to hear from you.

    I was lucky enough that he didn’t call my work again. I don’t think I ever saw him after that. I was really lucky. It sounds like this guy is the wolf in New Age feminist clothing, and if you flat out state that you don’t want to hear from him again, ever, his self-image may not be able to handle it if he runs roughshod over that type of an ultimatum.

    Mine was the same kind of cajoling, kind to people, supportive of women’s issues, jerkface rapist, and I was lucky enough that when I said knock it off uncategorically OUTSIDE of the relationship, he quit harassing me directly.

  7. Mine stalked me for a while. It was not an amicable breakup; I moved out while he was at work and he still managed to come back in the middle of it “for lunch”. These guys with their radar. He moved into a house with one of my (distant) classmates, who asked me about him and how he was as a roommate beforehand, but clearly was only sent to see what I was telling people. He continued to contact my friends.

    He finally called me at work about this great book he’d found for me, and that was it. I stated flatly, Do not call me again. I don’t want to hear from you.

    I was lucky enough that he didn’t call my work again. I don’t think I ever saw him after that. I was really lucky. It sounds like this guy is the wolf in New Age feminist clothing, and if you flat out state that you don’t want to hear from him again, ever, his self-image may not be able to handle it if he runs roughshod over that type of an ultimatum.

    Mine was the same kind of cajoling, kind to people, supportive of women’s issues, jerkface rapist, and I was lucky enough that when I said knock it off uncategorically OUTSIDE of the relationship, he quit harassing me directly.

  8. I had an ex that did a lot of the similar things. He would shower me in presents to cover his abuse, so to everyone else, he was “such a good guy” and just loved me SO much… *cringe*. When I finally ended it, his behavior went off the rails. It was incredibly hard. I surrounded myself with a supportive crew who knew general details (Ex = not a good guy for ME. I need distance, lots of it). My boss at the time understood this person was not to be in the establishment I worked, and I fortunately had coworkers that enforced that for me when he would show up. They helped provide a buffer. Like CA said, I had to resist texting back or lashing out, no matter how mad I was. I blocked all forms of communication and social media (And continue to this day, 10 years later). I hope to goodness your old/new place of employment would give you the same respect. If they don’t…. Are there other places? You mentioned there were a few other choices in the area.

    When it came to a protective order… that isn’t easy. Unfortunately, you need EVIDENCE of a threatening and repeated behavior. Keep your texts telling him you don’t want contact. Write down any attempts he makes at reaching out to you or those around you, no matter how seemingly innocent. It establishes that pattern. I truly hope you do what is best for you and protect yourself like CA suggested. Hopefully you won’t need it. It sounds like he is already assaulting your mental health.

    Good luck, VERY COOL individual. SO much love sent your way. My heart aches for you, but you are strong. You are capable of more than you know.

    1. I had a similar situation, but I was more fortunate than you in the sense that my state does not require repeated and threatening contact. The threshold is repeated, **unwanted** contact. (I think it also had to be 2 forms of communication for some situations like cyber stalking, but I’m not sure, because my stalker had graduated to IRL by that time.)

      So, for example, if you told someone “please never contact me again” and they 1) sent you some emails saying that they would never stop loving you and 2) showed up at your work with flowers, you could theoretically get a restraining order. Very effective system, as so many of these guys operate exactly like that. I’m not sure how well it works in practice because again, my stalker had become very threatening, but it’s nice to know someone thought to close that loophole in the law.

      I share this to reinforce the advice that OP should not only document threatening contact, but any contact! Even if OP’s state is less like mine and more like OllieOllie’s, it’s still really valuable to be able to prove a pattern.

  9. Your personal safety paramount, and sharing a few tidbits from my all-too-recent past.

    Asking for keys back didn’t make me feel safe… but changing the locks sure did! I had my locks changed on my apartment, changed the locks on my car, and got the key-fob frequency changed too. About a month after going no contact, while alone in my apartment, I actually heard “someone” attempting to open my front door… I was quiet as a church-mouse, then high-fived myself for trusting my gut.

    Other coupley-things to think of are the mailbox, car insurance, Costco, utilities, internet, gym, and any other shared memberships. Sometimes a simple phone-call to their customer service reps can remove a person from an account (and in some cases, I even put a note on the account to not provide ANY information to anyone over the phone).

    Girl Scout protection measures for you and your beloved pet! Support from the entire Awkward family! You absolutely deserve to feel safe at home and at work! Go forth and be your very best you Obviously Cool Warrior!

    1. Big +1 to your first suggestion. Change the locks, send him any paperwork you have that he needs instead of asking if/when he wants to pick it up.

      I have been in this situation twice with crappy exes I left and obviously wanted the keys to my apartment back and they wanted stuff they left at my place back. They would play this game about setting a time to come over and do the exchange and then not show up or cancel last minute because something came up, or showing up and “forgetting” the keys but with my favorite beer.

      It was all a laughably transparent power move. I didn’t want to just change the locks because I was embarrassed to ask my landlord to change the locks. Like obviously I was stupid for giving my spare key to my boyfriend now that it didn’t work out. If I could do it again, I would not worry about that.

      1. I don’t know if this is true everywhere, but when I was detaching from a stalker I set up a mail forward so that anything going to my previous/his current address with my name on it would be forwarded to my new address without him ever seeing it – then got him to mail my documents to himself, so I could get them without giving my new address.

        I think he knew there would be worse trouble from withholding them, or perhaps didn’t understand how it would work, but he did end up complying. It might be an option if you need it.

        1. Some states have a program for this as well! In my state your official, legal address is a PO Box – like, that’s what’s on your DL/State ID, what you use to vote, etc. Your mail is forwarded from the PO Box to your actual physical address in a timely manner.

          If that would be something helpful try searching for “address confidentiality [your state]”. Obviously details and how to qualify will be specific to your area.

  10. No advice here, but Jedi hugs for you, LW. May I also just say how fucking gross and hypocritical it is that your ex is positioning himself as some sort of feminist saint for “being patient with your low libido” when he violated your boundaries anyways? And *continues* to do so? I hope he gets the message and you can find the peace you’ve been looking for.

    1. I doubt it’s hypocritical – it’s tactical. Even if it’s unconscious on his part. If I had a nickel for every dude I have ever met who claims to be a feminist and gets super! indignant! on my behalf regarding gender issues – and is a creepy flaming arsehole – Id be a very rich woman. They’re using “feminism” and pretty words as a smoke screen to get women to trust them.

      Plus, every guy I’ve slept with who claimed his ex girlfriend had a low libido, was either terrible in bed or terrible at boundaries. . .

  11. I was once stalked by an ex. He too tried to befriend my friends and places I frequented, he tried to get to me through friends (his and mine), he sent mail to my house and sent gifts, he showed up at my local haunts only to be tossed out by protective staff, etc. until finally I got an order of protection against him. It took him threatening the safety of my home to do it, but he did and that’s what helped push the case beyond “he’s just a pest” turf. If the LW has anything to use for that kind of ammo, I suggest she use it and get the order in place. In my city, I was able to list several addresses where the order would be in effect (home, work, even my local pub). It worked. He stopped.

    I have friends who have been doormen for clubs and I’m under the impression they work with the dancers and staff to protect people. Can the LW’s coworkers protect her from him and prevent him from entering her place of work? Legally they may not be able to without the order in place, but they can definitely make the attempt, let him know people are onto him and willing to protect her.

    Was he obsessed with LW’s sexuality and body before or after he knew she was a dancer? If he sees her as an object only, he’s a danger to her person and I hope the order of protection helps.

  12. I can’t speak to the adult industry. But starting when my ex-husband and I first separated and all the way through until months after the divorce was final, he kept progressing through every available means of communication until I got him down to Just Email and Only Email. We had teen kids at the time, so a total cut-off wasn’t an option. But he would pester and emotionally abuse me on Every Available Channel as I shut him off of them one by one. He would use “But what if there is an emergency with the kids?” as his rationale for keeping channels open – and there were fewer blocking and muting options at the time.

    Before it finally stopped I had to cut him off from calling my cell, texting my cell, Facebook, work email, home landline, and two Gchat accounts. I finally got to where he agreed to only contact me by email unless it was an emergency. Then, I had to spell out what constituted an emergency as “the kids are with you and hospitals and/or police are involved.” And then one day he just rang the doorbell at the house because he “wanted to talk” and he didn’t call first because “you told me not to call you.” Clever little workaround, right? (I should note that our oldest could drive and did all visitation transportation himself, so there were no kid drop-off/pick-up reasons to come to the house.)

    There seemed to be a few motives. 1) To argue about the terms of the divorce. 2) To just vent vitriol at me. 3) To scratch the itch of missing me. 4) And because he was very needy and dependent and couldn’t break the habit of me being Solver of All Problems.

    The tactics I used varied by channel but they included:
    – If I could simply block him from a non-critical channel, then do that (Facebook)
    – If I could change my contact info without much pain on my end, do that (landline phone at the house – got a new number while moving the bill into my name)
    – If there was a cost to me to make a change, I would threaten to hold him responsible for the cost. During our separation I had the financial upper hand and he knew it. And he has money paranoia so I used that “If you don’t give me back all of the house-keys, you will have to cover the cost of me changing the locks.” “If you don’t stop calling my cell phone you will need to pay for me to change my number.” (NOTE: Honesty is not one of his issues. If it were I would have changed the locks no matter what.)
    – If it were interfering with my work then I could hold that over him. We still had a financial relationship, and he was still partially dependent on my income, so that worked in our case. (“I’m up for a promotion, but you’re making me look bad when you interrupt me during the work day”)
    – I left him with only personal email or pre-scheduled phone calls as acceptable channels, and then I set a filter so his emails would go into a folder. Similar to the tactic CA now recommends – it really works! I could check it at night after work so if it were full of hate mail I wouldn’t accidentally read it at my desk.
    – Sometimes I could appeal to reason because he’s not a total monster. When he showed up unannounced I pointed out the flaw in that logic and he agreed to not do it again.

    And then he suddenly got very quiet and only contacted me about practical matters and then wanted to wrap everything up. And did so, which I realized later mapped to the timeline of his meeting, then getting serious with the woman who became his second wife. We interacted by email when the kids had to travel for his father’s funeral, and I saw him very briefly at each high school graduation, and once when he picked up the kids for a road trip. He just needed a woman to cling to and as soon as he got another one he could leave me alone.

    LW I am not sure what of this might be relevant to your situation but I hope there is something useful there! In any case I feel for you. And I really believe that over time he will move past it, even if he moves on to his next object of fuckery. Good luck!

  13. Has anyone here successfully navigated a “uses mutually owned pet to stay in control” situations? LW mentioned they had a pet together and that this pet is the excuse behind his visits.

    I’ve seen abusive/controlling/manipulative exes use, “She won’t let me see OUR pet! He’s my dog/cat, too! It’s unfair! She’s trying to get revenge via an innocent animal” excuse to garner sympathy and get other people on their side. And then they often get their victim to perform a complicated dance of visitation rights and scheduled visits for the “sake of the pet.” Often, mutual friends are dragged into this dance and agree to transport the pe to visitation, which makes the victim feel more isolated and “unreasonable.”

    I’ve seen this more than a handful of times.

    1. I seriously hope, LW, that it doesn’t come to this, but in addition to listening to your fear and taking ALL the safety precautions, consider talking to an attorney not about your pet. Reading your letter made me very curious because I know in my state pets are personal or marital property. I did some googling and according to this recent article from the American Bar Association journal that is the case in all but three states. Reading your letter made me very curious because I know in my state pets are personal or marital property. I did some googling and according to this recent article (http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/pets-assets-family-divorce-custody)from the American Bar Association Journal that is the case in all but three states. There’s a good chance you live in a state where you could get advice on how to preemptively shut down any attempts to get to you through your pet. It varies state to state but I know in the state where I live every county has a walk-in clinic or any resident can speak to a volunteer attorney for free about civil matters two days a week. If your state does not have something similar they may have some sort of legal advice hotline or a legal aid firm if you can’t afford to talk to someone who is in private practice.

      1. Consulting an attorney who knows the laws in your area would be best in case there are legal ramifications to cutting off your ex’s access to the pet and whether there are laws regarding shared property that would come into play here. If this won’t put you at legal risk, one of the places you should notify regarding the ex is your vet’s office. Assuming the attorney gives the go-ahead, you should contact the vet’s office and make sure they have removed your ex as a contact on your pet’s records. Let them know that they should not give out information about your pet’s vet appointments. Given your ex’s tendency to represent himself as “a good guy,” he might try to show up at a veterinary appointment “for support” or otherwise try to get information about you from the vet’s office. You may want to consult a lawyer before taking this step to make sure it doesn’t put you in dicey legal territory, though.

    2. Yes, my ex and I had 3 dogs when we divorced because of his cheating and constant lying. (It’s worth mentioning that I adopted the dogs long before my ex and I even started dating. That said, my ex lived with the dogs for 6 years, and was a big part of their world.)

      My ex also wouldn’t respect ANY boundary of mine while we were married and that stayed true after we split. Similar issues with OP: we had a shared circle of friends and one big activity, and I tried not telling people what really happened as to not bad mouth him. After we split, I stayed in our house with the dogs, and I caught him driving past the house at night and checking up on me. Along with lots of other problematic behaviors, texts, emails, conversations in person, he started also demanding to know where I was and who I was with from mutual friends.

      It was pretty bad. I went no contact, changed the locks, had to block him on all social media, the whole shebang. Somehow, even though I had done all of that, he called me the night before I was having a major surgery essentially to brag about the fact he knew about said surgery. I was so incredibly upset and that still pisses me off to this day.

      I did eventually break my own no contact rule because one of our dogs got cancer, and it was aggressive and not treatable. This happened about a year after we split, and I called him to let him know. I also allowed him to come over to see the dog the day before she died, and my ex was also at the vet with us when she passed.

      Then again, only 4 months later, my 9 year old dog also got cancer. Again, similar deal. Super aggressive and no treatment. I was devastated by this point, and let me ex know again.

      In hindsight, I wish I wouldn’t have contacted my ex. I did what I thought was best for the dogs at the time – both of them got sick so fast, and I thought them seeing their dad would help them in some way. And maybe it did. But now, it just gave my ex another chance to try to worm back into my life, and I had to go through the whole no contact process again.

      Plus, my ex loves to put on a show of what a great person he is, and all of this was just another chance to show everyone how amazing he is, and how the divorce must be my fault if he is fantastic enough to come see my dying dogs. My 3rd dog just passed at the end of September and this time I didn’t contact my ex. As far as I know, he’s not aware that dog has passed. One one hand, it breaks my heart because that dog probably would have loved seeing ex again, and because I wish things could have been different.

      The reality is though, they’re not different. We got divorced because he refused to stop cheating. He refused to respect any boundary of mine at all. He refused to see me as a human being, and not just some object for his amusement. He was well aware the potential consequence for his actions was divorce long before we actually got to that point, and part of divorce is a separation of lives. It sucks, and I would have preferred to have a more civil post divorce relationship with my ex which could have included occasional visits with my dogs. He had plenty of opportunities to earn that right, but he blew every chance he got.

    3. Can’t really speak about the shared pet angle but I have a child with my malicious narc of an ex and he definitely used our child as an excuse to berate/ harrass/ pursue and otherwise abuse me.
      If your ex is anything like mine then his wanting to see your pet has little or nothing to do with actually caring about the animal and everything to do with wanting to continue being able to contact and control you and if it stops enabling him to do this or it becomes too much trouble he’ll lose interest.
      (After dragging me through the courts for access my ex lost interest in actually seeing our child within a matter of months – sad but true.)
      I would urge you to consult a lawyer about this whole situation and specifically about shutting that shit down – as in, tell your ex he can’t see the pet anymore. I mean seriously, does his right see this pet trump your right to personal safety in the eyes of the law? I’d hope that the legal establishment would see it for what it is – a bullshit excuse to keep abuse channels open.

    4. Pets are so very in the moment, every moment. Yes, they would be delighted to see people, but if they have other objects of affection, regular food and attention, they’re fine. They do not need to see ex’s. The ‘need to see’ is us projecting how we would feel about parental figures disappearing. I love my dog and cat, but they’d be ok after a bit if I disappeared, as long as they were still with the rest of the pack.

      Focus on the human needs, the animals are all right.

    5. Meeeeeee. Yes. I have. Being comfortable “being mean” is what works. Also I was super duper open about what happened, his behavior, and did not abide anybodys bs about his sads.

      Pets are considered property the vast majority of the time. In my case, my name was on his adoption paperwork so there was a clear trail that I “owned” my dog.

      I also have the benefit that I have family an hour away that my dogs could stay with while I worked on securing my apartment and getting him off the lease.

      But yes this is a HUGE issue and bonded pet people tend to project how miserable THEY would be if THEY lost access to their pet. For me, this rancid turd forfeited that right with his behavior. Focus on their behavior not the feelings behind it. I had to argue against myself and his “but you prooooomised” AND deal with a counselor who was all “it’s a dog not a baby”. This isn’t something we’re “doing to them”. It’s the reasonable consequence of their own behavior.

      I struggled with second guessing my decisions and behaviors and what “led to this”. Unbeknownst to me (at the time), my phone actually had a separately saved cache of messages from blocked numbers. I found it one day and when feeling particularly miserable after the election went “well I can’t feel any more miserable right now may as well see”…

      It was AMAZING. Gaslighting and abuse is this slow insidious thing and these were left over the course of six months that I listed to in an a few hours. They went from apologizing, to frustrated, to “I have a puppy maybe we could socialize the puppy together” to “I’m sick of this shit” to “I’m not going to stand for this” threats. It was totally validating and much more obvious with six months condensed into one night. I wish I had it still so I could gift it to the internet as a Perfect Example.

    6. Pets make it extra-hard. I finally decided to leave my sociopath ex after an incident of physical abuse that could easily have killed me (he choked me until I lost consciousness). Of all my regrets, I most regret not leaving him way sooner.

      He happened to have custody of our dog after that incident. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I just left her (the dog) too. I never even tried to get her. I knew he would use her to control me forever.

      As it turned out, it took 5 YEARS for him to stop calling/texting/emailing. And my ex knew how to manipulate me, telling me how depressed the dog was without me. Begging me to come over for her sake. Telling me he was going to have to rehome her unless I came and got her.

      I’ve never abandoned or re-homed a pet before or since, and it broke my heart but I ignored all those messages. I don’t know what ever happened to our dog. I just knew, deep down, that it was never going to end, the abuse would get worse. The reality is, I loved her, but she was just a dog. She wasn’t worth any more of that abuse. I’m very grateful we never had children though.

      I think what made it easier, or possible, was that he had almost killed me. If it hadn’t been that bad I don’t think I could have left her. But I should have left long before that. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s ok to put yourself first. It’s ok to put your own well-being ahead of an animal, even a pet you love.

    7. I was in a situation where I adopted a pet from a recently divorced mother of two tweens. They only had the dog for a few months before she decided she could not care for him. It was her first dog and I think she didn’t know what puppies are like when they are not being adorable.

      She wanted to continue to visit the dog. I allowed one visit for the sake of the kids: so that they could see the dog was happy and comfy and loved. When she wanted a second visit, I had the terrible feeling I get when, I’ve now realized, someone is violating my boundaries but I don’t feel like I can do anything about it. It was very hard, but I had the burning desire to get this woman out of our lives. I didn’t want to take on emotional labor or responsibility for a woman and her children who were strangers, and I got the sense that the woman was very disoriented by her divorce and grasping.

      I finally told her that we could have the visit, but it had to be the last one because it wasn’t good for the dog or for her and her kids. She agreed with me and ended up cancelling the visit.

      I felt for those kids as a child of divorce myself, but it felt wrong in a lot of ways. In a very real way, I think they needed to move forward with their new reality instead of clinging to things that were now over. The dog was just one symbol of that. I just knew that I could not adopt these people too, I did not have the emotional bandwidth. But more simply they also were not my responsibility whatsoever. Maintaining the visits would have communicated that I was accepting that responsibility. I definitely did not have these words for all this at that time.

      Hope something in there is helpful. Best wishes, OP.

  14. LW, you are so brave. Leaving someone who disrespects your boundaries is hard, but you did it. I just want to echo that you don’t have to go along with his narrative, and allow people to think he’s a great feminist. A great feminist doesn’t guilt a woman into performing acts she’s not into. You are working so hard to be the chill ex-wife, but he’s doing everything to make that impossible, so, maybe you don’t need to be chill anymore.

  15. I know that instinct to minimise his behaviour well, especially to other people. But the problem with minimising his behaviour is that people won’t understand why it’s not ok to talk to him, pass on information about you etc. Of course a Please Don’t from you should be enough, but generally it won’t be. The Captain gave you some good scripts for talking to other people about him, I would add that sometimes you do need to share some of the more personal details before people really get what you are dealing with. I had an ex stalk me after I ended the relationship, at first my male roommates kept letting him into our flat because they thought he was a nice guy trying to win me back. It wasn’t until I showed them some threatening texts that they got it, and after that they 100% had my back. In a perfect world my asking them to not let him in should have been enough, but unfortunately as a society we’ve been fed stories of how persistence use how you show love. You have the added obstacle that your social circle think he’s a nice guy who did nothing wrong, they will want to believe that he’s just being supportive of you when he turns up at your work. Don’t feel like you need to protect his reputation, you aren’t talking behind his back, you are doing what you need to do to protect yourself. Good luck, I hope you need none of this advice in the end.

    1. It can be really useful to choose one or two anecdotes from your history together that you’re comfortable sharing and which illustrate the boundary-crossing issues. Sophie is right that people often don’t understand the severity of it without some detail and that’s completely unfair, but if you can come up with a “well, he seems nice, but he did mail me a severed head,” kind of example, people are more likely to be your staunch defenders and you don’t have to go through the process of trying to audition your full trauma for their consideration.

  16. LW this guy is 100% doing this to get at you. He is skating by under the radar of plausible deniability so that if you object to this he can tell everyone that you are being crazy or paranoid. I had an emotionally abusive, gaslighty friend once upon a time. He was unfortunately in my friend group and it took me until I was older to realize the extent of how bad it was. When I was around 35 I read some stuff I wrote when I was 22 about what happened with him, pretty fresh from it all going down during (mostly) early college and I wanted to puke. I rejected him romantically and he turned on me and yet tried to keep his hooks in me by doing so many weird things, stalking me, trying to get in the way of my romantic relationships, telling me all the rest of my friends hated me, etc., that your description triggers for me. (I have since moved far away/lost touch with that group. I do not miss them.)

    I hope you can tell some of your friend group about his actual upsetting actions and boundary violations. With other friends, to the extent you are able, the ones you don’t want to be fully open with about the upsetting stuff, can you tell them “The split did not have a lot of animosity, but it was actually also not amicable.” Add something about how he’s been hanging around your friends and usual haunts, which he didn’t do before you divorced him, and it makes you uncomfortable. Or something? Again, if you feel able. Give the friends you feel you can trust a chance to side with you, and the ones who will not put him at arms length or hear this and go to bat for him or say “well he never did anything to me” (shout out to that whole friend group I had) are on information diet ASAP. Again, he will tell you or anyone else he can that he’s just behaving like normal and you are being paranoid. YOU ARE NOT. It is not normal to immediately reach out to your ex’s work and regular friends. That is not the behavior of someone who respects you and will leave you alone.

    I would embrace your paranoia for awhile. Not because I think you’re in imminent danger, but because you don’t know how he is going to react to you cutting him off communication and maybe your friends being cooler to him (at least) if not blowing him off entirely (the hope). Motion lights? Maybe. My neighbor had them and they would come on at weird times — I don’t know for sure but my parents think my creep friend used to stalk around our backyard. Security cameras are cheaper now than they’ve ever been. Be careful of your pet. I am so sorry if anything I said freaks you out. Maybe I have been reading too many Spooktober stories, but it’s funny how big a percentage of them are guys being creeps. There are people who will make you feel silly for taking reasonable precautions. I’ve even mentioned some that probably sound over the top. It’s okay for now. This is happening. He does not want you to feel safe, so you should take what measures you can to make you feel that way.

    I am so angry at him right now. I feel the memory of how this made me fee in my marrow.

    1. Your advice is good – especially embracing the paranoia. Listen to that part of your brain that whispers (or screams!) danger. I also think that making peace with the fact that you’re bound to lose friends in all of this. Be wary of friends who say they won’t pick a side. Many times, they’re the ones who share the most info because they want everyone to get along.

        1. What do you mean by that regarding Switzerland? WW2 cause the Swiss didn’t join the Allies? Genuinely asking.

          Switzerland would have been decimated if they joined either side. It was self preservation and they provided safe harbour for so many Jews.

          Swiss forces were no match. Nazis said they would take Switzerland on their way back after taking over the rest. The Swiss rigged major bridges with explosives in case this ever eventuated.

          My grandad grew up along the border and had to hide in his basement as Allied forces sometimes missed the border accidentally and bombed the Swiss.

          So if this is an underhanded way of saying the Swiss supported the Nazis, that is completely false.

    2. Seconded on “be wary and protective of your pet.”

      I too had an ex friend who stalked me, to the extent he was able (grades 5 through senior year of high school, and thank god he’d mostly quit by the time he could have gotten a drivers’ license). He continually threatened my pet and my younger brother, and joined every club I was in to either bother me or get me to leave them.

      It won’t count as paranoia until he’s actually no longer trying to get to you! Right now it’s a perfectly adaptive response to a threatening person.

  17. When I had a stalker-at-work situation (not an ex, just a random dude who decided to spend his days unsubtly following me around the library and leering at me), my supervisor was initially no help at all, but my coworkers immediately stepped in to help. For as long as the situation lasted, I almost never had to work without someone within eyeshot or speaking distance, and they helped me monitor where Random Dude was at all times. It was in no way fun, but it let me keep working and not worry for my safety. And when Random Dude did finally cross a line, when I submitted my report, every single one of my coworkers backed me up, so the manager and Board knew that this man was known trouble. Making sure your work knows the situation will be extremely helpful.

    Also, “buying a lap dance from my ex” sounds a whole lot like “sexual pressure to do something you don’t enjoy”. He’s not a cool guy, and he clearly hasn’t improved since your divorce. Confide in your friends and coworkers, change your locks and passwords, and leave him in the dust.

  18. Something I haven’t seen brought up yet but which is probably worth thinking about: LW, are you planning on dating again anytime soon?

    I had an ex who spent six or so months constantly pinging me, trying to talk, asking if I could please take him back or at least be juuuuuuuuuuuuust frieeeeeeeeeeends (which, since we’d been “just friends” for a while before he started trying to coerce me back into a relationship, I didn’t exactly trust that) who, upon finding out that I’d started dating someone else, totally dropped off the face of the planet. No more communication, wouldn’t even look at me if we happened to be in the same room. (This was a relief! His harassment had made me want to never see him again!)

    On the other hand, there have been a lot of other guys (both exes and dudes who’d decided I was Their Property or some such shit on the basis of a few conversations and the fact that they found me attractive) who found out I was dating someone else and went off like a ton of dynamite. Following me home, verbal abuse at both me and my boyfriend, trying to get me kicked out of my friend group/school programs/dorm, and overall making me fear for my health and safety. In the end, BF and I both ended up having to lock down social media, cut off friends who “didn’t want to pick sides” even though they knew what happened (SRSLY DO THIS, YOU WILL SAVE YOURSELF SO MUCH HEADACHE), and change up our routines so that no one could find us.

    Good luck and a speedy recovery from the horror of it!

  19. LW, big huge hugs for you! I’ve been on the receiving end of this behaviour several times over my lifetime and it is not okay.

    I agree with the Captain, safety is key. I hope that all safety efforts are overkill and not required, but I have had exes who escalated things. Change the locks, cut off his access to you, and have a great support system who will keep you safe. Hopefully he’ll just go away. But ultimately you are the boss of your life.

    Also, chucklefuck is now my word of the day!

  20. My abusive ex drunk called me repeatedly after I finally gave him my contact info after we sold the house and he moved away. An appeal to authority was sufficient to make him stop–in this case, I was renting a room in a house, and I told him my landlord didn’t want these calls coming in anymore. He wouldn’t respect my no, but he would respect the no of an authority figure.

    He also called an assortment of mutual friends for years and tried to triangulate. But they were good friends to me who quickly learned to shut down his attempts to talk about me. Again, he might not listen to no from me, his target, but he would listen to others who set boundaries. Or else they would change their numbers when they moved at some point and enforce the boundary that way.

    So yes, talk to your boss, your coworkers, your friends and get the management and your social circle in general on board and use their authority to get him to respect your no. It sucks that he might listen to others and not you, but that’s the root of the problem right there. You deserve better, and you deserve to work safely free from harassment and stalking.

    Frankly, consider calling a domestic violence hotline to talk through what kind of safety plan you can develop moving forward and what kind of anti-stalking resources they can point you to. Because you’ve divorced this dude, but he clearly is not letting you go.

    Also, given that you’ve previously had an “amicable” post-divorce arrangement of pet visitations, consider looking up laws or possibly getting legal counsel because if your ex can weaponize your pet in his attempts to get your attention once you start shutting down direct channels, he could well threaten to sue you for pet custody. Not one but two friends of mine lost beloved pets to toxic exes who walked away from the animals but then showed up a year later and threatened legal action to take custody. You want to be prepared to handle that kind of bullshit before it happens.

  21. Opening up to friends about how bad my ex had been, and how he’d been low-to-mid-key stalking me since the breakup, actually really helped. And I didn’t even have to go into a bunch of detail. They started shutting him down when he mentioned me, they no longer ever brought me up, and they refused to pass on messages from him.

    And sadly, the biggest effect was that he started to realize he was jeopardizing his “I’m the gentle understanding feminist” persona. The idea of his friends thinking less of him scared him off.

    I’m sending lots of hopeful energy your way, LW — I know how awful it is to feel like you’re slowly being cornered but not allowed to make a big deal of it.

    1. I’ve been on the other side of this, in a friend group where two people have what just looks like a mildly messy break-up with lots of feelings on both sides, but they’re Pretending That Everything Is Fine… and then it comes out that no, one of them was a total fucking howler monkey.

      I have ALWAYS wished I knew earlier about the howler monkey. ALWAYS. There have been so many situations where I could have run interference or made things less painful if I knew, and I would have been happy to do it. But when the person seems bound and determined to Pretend That Everything Is Fine, I feel like I don’t have permission to use my full howler monkey interference-running powers.

      1. Yes exactly! I wish I had been honest earlier on and let them make decisions with the full knowledge of what was happening. I know not all friend groups will react well but sometimes you can’t get the support you need without opening up.

        Also, lol at “total fucking howler monkey”

  22. Please tell me that the OP’s workplace is different, but the last time I had an ex decide to stir up drama (and I even had a restraining order!) my employer came down on ME to “fix this situation.”

    I fear that if the OP brings it up, her employer might decide that she’s “too much drama” and decide they would rather lose her as an employee than alienate a customer.

    But again, please tell me I’m wrong, that clubs run into this all the time, and that they generally have a policy of protecting their employees.

    1. Not a sex worker per se, but I have done bookkeeping for SWs as a side hustle and was generously tipped in the form of work stories over coffee. What Cap said was 1000% true: most businesses of that nature recognize that the pushy, plausible-deniability stalkers are not actually customers in any real sense. The one case where this wasn’t true was super-toxic (and I ended up learning a lot about collection work trying to get my independent contractor client paid by them).

  23. I sewed for dancers before, beautiful stuff with rocks and feathers and glam. (I am a librarian now and we have a bit of bling too!~). Make sure he can’t buy anything you’ve worn is what I’m thinking. Hopefully not relevant at all, but you know, close your locker and such. If he stops visiting that’s cool, but if he makes friends with your co-workers, he will be best friends with the worst one. also, if you have to shake hands with him, consider spitting on them first. (or worse!) but better to disconnect. Grey Rock technique (be very boring); or also if you are a reader, read “the gift of fear” everybody is giving such good tips here tho. Wishing you rest and peace and deep safety.

  24. Ugh, LW, it seems like it never pays to be nice! I have friends who have been in the “industry” and any good strip club has solid security that has no problem dealing with sleazy people who cause issues with the staff. If you have a regular customer base, and you enjoy where you work, I really hope you can enlist the help of your coworkers and the people who are literally PAID to keep you safe to keep your ex away from you and your lap (and for him to position buying dances from you as “helping” just shows how delusional he really is).

    1. Yeah, like Cap, I have no real real life experience other than a casual friend who had worked in the industry, but I’d imagine most strip clubs have some sort of mechanism for when some rando patron becomes super and overly obsessed with a particular dancer/worker, and just because this guy used to be married to LW, it’s really no different. He’s just some dude overly obsessed with her interfering with her work and safety.

    2. I don’t know how hiring works in strip clubs, but with other work it is appropriate at the offer stage to talk about accommodations you need (thanks to askamanager.com for lots of scripts and help with this). I think if you do get an offer to come work at the club, it would be good to ask generally about how security and unruly customers work at the least, and maybe (probably) specifically say you have a difficult situation with an ex that you want support with. If the management is unwilling to back you up and keep you safe, it seems like a place you wouldn’t want to be working. And if none of this really applies to this industry, apologies, please ignore, and I hope you are able to get away from this guy!

      1. Yikes. Yikes. No. Do not specifically mention you have a stalkery ex when you are interviewing for a new job but do not have the job yet. There is literally no industry where this is a good idea. Your interviewers don’t know you and this isn’t a normal thing to do, so they are just going to see this as a massive red flag.

        If it’s in an industry where they have to deal with a lot of unruly customers (like OP’s current job) then general questions about how they deal with that situation are fine. See if they seem supportive/have good policies in place. Maybe ask potential coworkers what the security is like. But wait until you have the job to share anything personal.

          1. @Leah yeah, that’s what I was referring to, thanks. Definitely shouldn’t mention it in the interview process, but it would be appropriate once LW has an offer.

    3. I don’t know how hiring works in strip clubs, but with other work it is appropriate at the offer stage to talk about accommodations you need (thanks to askamanager.com for lots of scripts and help with this). I think if you do get an offer to come work at the club, it would be good to ask generally about how security and unruly customers work at the least, and maybe (probably) specifically say you have a difficult situation with an ex that you want support with. If the management is unwilling to back you up and keep you safe, it seems like a place you wouldn’t want to be working. And if none of this really applies to this industry, apologies, please ignore, and I hope you are able to get away from this guy!

  25. Former DV counselor here. 1) Super hugs to you! You do not deserve this, and he is not being nice/cool/in any way reasonable. You did not bring this on, at all, and I’m sorry you’re going through this. 2) One addition to the (very good) updating your passwords advice — I knew of an abuser who was able to access changed passwords via security questions. As you were married, he probably knows your mother’s maiden name, or the street you grew up on. Instead of trying to keep track of untruths that you could use, you can use the truthful answer, and just add numbers/punctuation to it. It’s helpful to have one more roadblock to tracking your personal information. Good luck!! ❤ ❤ ❤

    1. Hopping in to add: possibly change the email address to all your accounts to one that he does not know about. In case it’s possible to recover passwords without security questions or via 2 factor authorization with a shared cell phone plan that only requires you to input the number, not read it off your phone.

    2. I like to choose a security question that’s not really germaine to me, such as “What’s the name of your oldest niece” when I don’t have any nieces or “what was your childhood nickname” when I didn’t have one. And then I truthfully answer “none” or “N/A”.

      That way, it’s much harder for people to guess your answers based on your social media profiles, or what they know about you.

  26. I can only comment on a limited part of your experience. After my mom divorced my dad, he just didn’t get why she was upset, acted and believed he was the totally reasonable one, and pushed her boundaries until she broke off contact entirely. She was able to move on much faster once she took that step, though it still took time and effort.

    Good luck to you, OP.

  27. My bestie from way back used to work at a strip club. I remember her making a point to be friends with the bouncers, and they were on point about keeping an eye out for her. Maybe you could talk with the bouncers at your job?

    Sending Jedi hugs if you want them, LW!

  28. My best friend is going through something similar right now. She’s in the middle of a divorce and it’s gotten scary. Her ex doesn’t want to let go and he’s said and done some pretty scary things recently. She’s discovered that any friend she made while married (20+ years) all seem to love stirring the pot – I guess drama is fun when you have no emotional stakes in the game. She had to end a lot of friendships because people were talking and giving him details. She decided her safety was more important than jut about everything: she moved into a slightly more expensive area because of a security door and increased police presence, she transferred to another location and drives more than 90 minutes one way to work just to be far from where he is, she won’t let her 20 something year old special needs daughter visit her home because she cannot keep secrets and would reveal her address. She says that she has no regrets leaving him though. She has discovered who her true support team is, what works and doesn’t (she used to try to reason with her ex – it doesn’t work), and she also discovered that sharing the truth (or like Cap said, a version she’s okay sharing) has made things easier. The people in her life and at work definitely have their guard up about him.

  29. LW, depending on where you live in the U.S., you may have rights against retaliation in the workplace in the DV context. That is, your state may have made it illegal for your work to fire you or reduce your hours because of a stalker, or because you need to take a day to move, or you have to make changes to childcare arrangements, etc.

    Also, it can vary quite a lot, depending on your local courts and police, whether it’s a good idea or a terrible idea to pursue a protection from abuse order (or whatever it’s called in your jurisdiction).

    Of course a lawyer is saying this, but you’d do well to get legal advice from a lawyer. You don’t necessarily have to hire a lawyer. There are a number of regional women’s legal rights organizations that produce pamphlets or provide online resources talking about workplace protections, court orders, etc. If you don’t know of one of these organizations offhand where you live, you can probably get information about resources from your state’s ACLU affiliate, or the National Women’s Law Center, or by using search terms like: women’s law project STATENAME

      1. Impossible to say without knowing more details about the situation. LW should call a DV hotline or check out the other resources I suggested, to get some direction.

  30. OP may want to consider taking the pet to doggie or kittie day care (assuming it’s some sort of traditional pet). I feel like I can see ex breaking in to get the pet back. Not because he wants it but because that will be another way to force OP to deal with him. I can say from personal experience that law enforcement does not usually treat the theft of a pet as a serious crime. (Others MMV with this but in my case I felt like no one cared about “just a cat”.)

    1. I am also worried about what he might throw into the yard if it’s a dog. Not that I got the vibe but I’m paranoid. This letter has me shook. I’d pull things pretty close to the chest.

  31. People who have successfully defused a situation where an ex who can’t let go keeps showing up places, especially work. What worked for you?

    For me it was a guy at church. We’d never dated, but we were friends from bible study, until the first time I tried to set a boundary with him. And then he got very scary, very fast, and I cut him out of my life. So he started acting like it was his spiritual mission to minster to me. Barf.

    Like the LW’s shitty ex, he was very good at being nice to the right people, and playing into the whole “we grew apart” story. He put himself forward as the Good Christian Guy Who Just Wanted To Embrace Everyone and Didn’t Understand Why I Wouldn’t Talk To Him About Our Disagreement.

    And as the LW needs to be able to rely on the bouncers and staff at her workplace, I needed to be able to rely on Church elders. And I couldn’t. They didn’t understand why I refused to engage with this person.

    What worked is, I stopped being cool. I stopped being afraid to gossip. I named the behavior. I stopped saying “we had a disagreement” and “I don’t want his ministry” and started saying “he scares me,” and “he threatened me,” and “he continues to contact me after I’ve told him to leave me alone.” This was an annoying and exhausting process in which elders wanted to know why he scares me and what exactly he said/did. I responded by telling them to read The Gift of Fear, and quoted it, and told them that they were allowing a serial abuser to hijack their good will. I told them that they didn’t need to understand why his behavior was terrifying; they only needed to believe the women (because of course I wasn’t the only one) who told them it was terrifying.

    I’d love to say that fixed it right away–it probably would have been a lot more gruelling and tiresome conversations with people who just couldn’t stop extending the benefit of the doubt to an utter creep. But it convinced them enough to start trying to set some basic boundaries, including removing him from church leadership positions. And he reacted to that with such sudden, violent rage that I no longer had to make my case.

    Will your ex react the same way, LW? Probably not. Probably he’ll try to play the “but whyyyyy” card to his close personal friends, your work colleagues. Probably he has already gone out of his way to establish a rapport with the bouncers, because he knows they have power to remove him, and so he wants them on his side. Before Shitty Dude at Church flew into a rage and told the deacon he’d rape the deacon’s daughter, he was doing exactly that. He was relying on getting the benefit of the doubt, because he’s a white dude in a white dude’s world and Good Allies Like Him would Never Threaten A Woman.

    What naming the behavior did was remove any middle ground between us. It gave the people with the power to protect me from him a simple choice: they could believe a victim of abuse, or they could believe an abuser. I left no room for the possibility that it was an innocent disagreement. They could either believe me, or they could believe him–but they could not do both.

    I can’t guarantee that the same will work for your colleagues. It’s truly exhausting how far people will go to see abuse as “an innocent disagreement” even when the victim is saying it was definitely not. But as the Captain says, you don’t want to work anywhere that won’t back you up when you’re dealing with an abuser. So if you name the behavior and they still refuse to back you up, they’re telling you who they are. That is an awful thing to deal with from friends and colleagues you trusted; I’m not going to pretend it’s easy. But better to know you can’t trust them and grieve the people you thought they were rather than making yourself small so that they can live comfortably in a grey area that doesn’t exist. Take up that grey area. Fill it with your humanity. They can choose to believe you or they can choose not to, but they cannot do both.

    1. “It’s truly exhausting how far people will go to see abuse as “an innocent disagreement” even when the victim is saying it was definitely not.”

      This is SO true. The day after my abuser tried to murder me, I posted a public, detailed, explicit description of everything that happened the previous night, including photos of my injuries that had been taken by the police.

      The number of people who chose to turn that into, “Working Hypothesis and C broke up and now WH is badmouthing C and making a big fuss out of it all” was truly astonishing. But it told me information I really needed to know about who these people were and what they thought of me (or were willing to think of me if it helped them maintain their illusions).

      Out of our entire social circle, only two people supported me 100%, immediately and unequivocally. One of them, I later married; the other was my chosen brother, whom we live with. It’s no accident that the people who showed me with their actions that they believed me fully and were willing to face the truth of what that meant became my closest family members in the years to follow. They are the ones I know I can trust — they showed me.

      Much later, I started getting a lot more people who quietly admitted that they believed me all along but were afraid of my ex and keeping their own heads out of the line of fire. I’ve accepted their apologies for not having supported me at the time, and we’re friends again, but I’ll never be as close to them as I can be to the ones who believed me openly from the start and supported me accordingly.

    2. Wow. Good work, you. And your willingness to name the behavior sounds like it saved other past and future targets of this person’s wildly inappropriate conduct and led to him exposing what a real creep he was. Sorry you had to deal with it but way to go.

  32. I’ll throw in my two cents, because I have an unfortunate tendency to attract people who harass and stalk me after breakups. Here are some things I have said that actually worked (after a lot of fruitless attempts at being reasonable):

    “I never want to see you here again.” (To an ex who kept showing up at a restaurant where I worked.)
    “What are you doing here? Go away.” (To an ex who kept showing up at my house, whom I did not consider dangerous, only annoying.)
    “If I see you around here again, I’m calling the police.” (To an ex who kept showing up at my house and whom I DID consider dangerous.)

    In all three cases, these people pestered me afterward with an occasional email or friend request, but being firm, direct and *angry* with them put an end to them showing up in person.

    I think the key here is being direct and making it clear that you are royally pissed off and not kidding around. Don’t try to reason with them or talk about your feelings. A person who ignores your boundaries doesn’t care about reasons or feelings. If you’re angry, don’t be afraid to sound angry. Anger is an emotion that aggressive people understand. (I don’t recommend yelling or screaming, unless you’re really faced with an emergency, but a firm “DON’T FUCK WITH ME FELLAS” tone of voice is good.) Then tell the relevant people, in equally no-nonsense terms, that you are not on good terms with this person, and they make you feel unsafe.

    Of course this won’t work on someone who’s a very persistent/dangerous/delusional stalker, but experience has taught me that it will work on a lot of people.

    1. This was about the same as my experience – I told That Guy that if he contacted me again, I’d call the police for a restraining order. That I considered X and Y to be sexual assault, now that I had some experience and perspective. It was over email, and I asked for one opinion on my response. I got ‘it seems harsh’, and I thought ‘ok, that’s about right then.’ I saw him once afterwards at a local grocery store and walked past as if he didn’t exist.

      Name it, even if just to yourself. Be angry, even if you don’t show it. He did you wrong, and continues to do you wrong. He sucks.

      This only works on the guys who are manipulative, not on guys who might be violent. As Cap said, trust your assessment, you know best.

      I hope the job choices go however you want them to go.

    2. Reminds me of the dude who, in college, wanted to date me, and then turned up in the middle of a campus-closing snowstorm the day after christmas break because “he missed me so much”.

      Without a coat, because… some combination of strategic incompetence and actual incompetence.

      Fortunately my brain was functioning at the time and my roommate was even more reasonable: we told him he’d have to hang out in the lounge because SOME people had thesises to write (us, not him) and I couldn’t spare him any time until probably graduation.

  33. Lots of good advice in this thread.

    Unfortunately, I had a more extreme case of this. I broke up with my physically and emotionally abusive ex-partner earlier this year and had to get an Order of Protection (restraining order) after he started stalking me and harassing me in any way he could. The process of getting the OoP is emotionally exhausting and did give my ex legal avenues by which to abuse me through his awful attorney and the clause that allowed him to contact me about our (formerly shared) apartment. But it was worth it to feel safe and to prevent him from coming to my place of work or home (we both worked at the same institution unfortunately – but he is banned from entering buildings where I work). I had the locks changed on my apartment (my landlord paid for this and some advocacy centres will also help you with this).

    NEVER reply to his attempts at contact but document everything in case you need to file for an OoP – texts, emails, write down incidents of abuse/coercion/stalking/appearing uninvited to events you will be at, even if these happened in the past and try and record the dates of specific incidents. Ask friends if they are willing to be witnesses. If you move house/apartment, you can ask for the details of your address to be kept private on the legal documents. I was represented pro bono and there are ways of doing that even if you don’t qualify for state provided legal representation.

    Set up an auto direct for your email so you don’t have to read any of them but have a record. This way you can check them when you’re feeing emotionally able.

    Speak to your friends! I’m so sick of abusers calling themselves “feminists” as my ex did. It’s bullshit and your ex knows it, whether or not he’ll ever admit it to himself. Captain is 100% correct, he has lost any opportunity for a “saving face” story. If the behaviour continues, you’ll need a solid network of people around you. I shared information about my ex’s behaviour with our employer and they were helpful (although I don’t know how common this is). Also, women’s domestic violence charities are fantastic. If there is one near you, utilise it! You will be assigned an advocate who will talk you through your options, regardless of whether you need/decide to pursue legal action. They can also give you access to low-cost or sometimes free therapy and group therapy. If you have the means to pursue therapy, 100% do it.

    Most of my advice is worst case scenario. Hopefully you won’t need an OoP. I never thought in a million years I would have to, but there you go. Most people drop it once an OoP is served. Sadly, my ex used it as an opportunity to have a drawn out court battle. But he lost, wasting tens of thousands of dollars in the process.

    Best of luck. You deserve to be able to live and work without this asshole making you feel unsafe.

  34. I endured 24 years of sexual and emotional abuse by my husband before I finally fled in the night to the apartment I had rented in secret. I told my family and a few close friends the highlights of my decades of abuse, but to everyone else I said the divorce was “amicable.” People would come up to me and say they heard about the divorce from my ex and how sad the news was and how devastated I must be. I would be freaking out on the inside but would just try to end the conversation quickly. Over time, I realized that by not telling people what happened to me, I was continuing to protect my ex, just like I had for 24 years of abuse. I wrote an email in which I briefly established the behavior I endured (without any detail) then explained how my ex had attempted to harm me by manipulating my son and stalking me. I can’t tell you how liberating it was to share that with people! The amount of love and understanding I experienced from friends and co-workers was astounding. And people don’t tell me I must be sad that my marriage ended. Now they congratulate me and tell me how proud they are of me. And he has lost his ability to spin tall tales about how he “just didn’t appreciate me” or “I didn’t even give him a chance to go to counseling.”

    The second part of my post has to do with suggestions for how to successfully deal with the stalking ex: As soon as I fled, my ex, who worked from home, started spending the entire day in the coffee shop right across from the college I worked at and 20 minutes away from his home. He would try to talk to all of my friends and co-workers, sending many sad tales about his depression that resulted from my cruel treatment of him. Many of my friends refused to go to the coffee shop because he was so creepy. I was terrified to go there ever again. As summer progressed, he started taking long walks on the campus (which he had never done before). It all seemed stalkerish to me, but others would say he just “wanted closure.” Sure.

    As I worked through the PTSD and trauma of the marriage, I finally felt ready to take back my campus coffee shop. I set up a meeting with a dear colleague at the coffee shop, warning him that I may encounter my abusive ex. Within moments of entering the coffee shop, my ex marched up to me and sneered, “do you have something you want to say to me?!” I LOUDLY said, “I have nothing to say to the man who emotionally and sexually abused me.” He exploded. I yelled “leave me alone! Go away! I will call the police!” The entire coffee shop stopped. He went back to his seat. Then came back a second time! I YELLED for him to leave me alone. He left me alone after that. And my son reported that he was so embarrassed that I had said that he emotionally and sexually abused me loud enough for others to hear, that he vowed to never go back there. And he didn’t! So I think speaking the truth helped me see that I had power. And in case you are wondering, I was told I didn’t have a case for a protection order because I hadn’t told him to leave me alone before.

    LW, congratulations for breaking free from the abuse. I found Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence by McCraig and Kubany invaluable as I worked through the trauma and PTSD–maybe you will find it useful as well.

    1. Pamilyn, congratulations on getting yourself out. I am giving you a virtual standing ovation for the way you took back the coffee shop. A lot of the most manipulative people I’ve known have relied heavily on other people’s unwillingness to “make a scene” (like my abusive ex), and it’s beautiful that you showed your ex JUST how much of “a scene” you could make when you chose to. I am so sorry for what you went through, but I want you to know that your story of taking back power really meant a lot to this abuse survivor today. Thank you for this.

      1. What coffeespoons said! Pamilyn, I feel empowered just reading your story. Thanks for sharing.

  35. Just want to say that I really appreciate the reminder to friends and family that “Stay away from her OR ELSE >:E ” usually only makes things worse.

  36. ( ♡ * Side note to other commenters who are guessing at how clubs work / adjacent vaguely to the industry and guessing from there: your advice comes from a good and kind place, but if you don’t know something for sure it’s ok to step back and let people with SW experience catch this ball! )

    LW. You can definitely tell some variety of the “acts nice but has no respect for boundaries in private” story to your co-workers & should if you can. Nobody I’ve ever met in this industry has been surprised to find out that men can lie for days if it gets them laid / makes them look less like the rapist they are. You know them better than I do, but there’s an incredibly high chance that they’ll all understand it and help you freeze him out.

    Refuse to talk to him, and definitely corner anyone who may have a final say on who you dance for to make it clear he’ll never be on that list unless they’re prepared to call in security moments later. Maybe he won’t immediately cross every boundary and become an open threat for the club itself, but maybe he will – and if you divorced him for doing so before, that’s a really solid basis not to risk a repeat. If you liked working there you hopefully trust the people running it to look out for you, or at *least* not to cater to such an obvious money sink. This isn’t fast food – you know the bar for “shit we’ll let you do” is a lot lower than more muggle work.

    Good luck & keep safe. Don’t let this loser trap you in a second, stalky, shittier marriage after you so bravely got out of the legal one.

  37. As a former sex industry worker (brothels and massage parlours primarily, but also briefly as a stripper) there is no club, brothel, parlour, etc. in the world that hasn’t dealt with this. There is always at LEAST one worker being followed to work inappropriately. Sometimes that’s an ex. Sometimes that’s a current partner. Sometimes that’s members of a local church who are coming for everyone in the building. Sometimes that’s an actor who’s decided they really desperately need to know everything about the place for a role. Sometimes, especially in brothels, that’s a client who’s gotten inappropriately emotionally attached and needs a hard reset on their boundaries.

    Whatever it is: be open and direct with whoever is managing the floor, or (if the staffing structure allows it) consider going directly to whoever is manning the door/acting as a bouncer. You can give as much or as little detail as you like. “Hey, this guy crossed a bunch of boundaries with me privately and he won’t leave me alone” is perfectly acceptable. “Hey, this guy sexually assaulted me outside of work and I can’t deal with seeing him here” is also perfectly acceptable.

    As the good Captain says, if whoever you speak to isn’t on board with banning the guy for life, you don’t really want to work in that club.

    I would also strongly suggest that you consider a professional rebranding, if it’s feasible. I know that it can be a colossal pain in the ass, especially if you have any kind of significant self-advertising component to your business, but rebranding under a new name and/or with new photos and/or in a new location can be just what you need – not to much to shake the guy (if he’s determined to be a douchecanoe he’s gonna find you and keep turning up), but rather, to free yourself of that past association and put your best foot forward as the newly freed, newly empowered you.

    1. Oh, the other thing that worked – in the event that you can’t avoid interacting with him, be INCREDIBLY BORING. Be the most boring person alive. I personally recommend finding a particular historical period or species of plant and reciting facts about it, Captain Holt from Brooklyn 99 style, as a method of making people both bored AND uncomfortable and making them leave me alone if I have mandatory interactions with them. This is how I navigate my relationship with a blood family member who I love but do not agree with or get along with at all; as soon as they try to go out of bounds of the topics we can navigate safely, I start telling them about how people used to think scurvy was contagious, and tried to develop a vaccine against it. This also works for clients who are bad at boundaries and want to be your friend. Obviously use your judgement about which topics you can cover without them getting interested in them!

    2. Sometimes that’s an actor who’s decided they really desperately need to know everything about the place for a role. – Is there a story behind this, or does that actually happen a lot? That sounds WILD.

  38. LW, speaking from direct experience here. Any club you would want to work at will:

    -be very strict about kicking out/banning unwanted exes and unwanted fans
    -understand that creep customers are a problem for their business as well as the dancers, and will kick them out pronto
    -not require you to give lap dances or pay attention to any customer you don’t want to
    -employ security (bouncers) who take their jobs seriously, especially the part where they have to swiftly remove creeps
    -will believe you when you say a customer is a creep, and act swiftly

    Any club that does NOT do this things is somewhere you should run out of like your high heels are on fire. Those are not only shitty clubs to work for, they are shitty clubs that are poorly run and will not be good for your income. Professional clubs, no matter how sexist or cold-hearted the owners, understand that a good atmosphere means they need happy dancers and customers who are comfortable. That’s what makes the money flow.

    “Here is a description of my ex, do not let him in this club” is something that is so universally normal and accepted as a reasonable request that any club that makes noises about ‘drama’ or ‘but what if he has money’ should be crossed off your list of places to work immediately.

  39. I left the country (but it was already planned) when my first ex-boyfriend, who turned super-stalkery as all heck when I ended the relationship (because he was overbearing, negging, et al. and I was only in the relationship to rebel against my parents anyway. Youthful error, but still regret it). That worked really well for me, but I hope you won’t have to take such extreme measures. The Captain is right about saying “Stop contacting me” one time and then not responding. Respond even once, and the cycle will start all over again. You have to resist, despite the fact that he’s going to pull out all the stops to get you to respond! I did have to lock down social media and my address. I had two creepy incidents where he managed to get my address and started sending me long, creepy letters, but I moved and it stopped. Still keep my social media on lockdown 10 years later, but I figure that’s just smart to do in general…

    I hope that you can make a clean break from your ex, LW!

  40. Although not an ex, I was stalked by a guy whom I had known for a long time and made out with once. What worked for me: Telling everyone close to me, especially people who know him, too, what’s going on. Depending on the person, in more or less vague terms. I asked everyone to let me know if he contacted them about me, document it and send the documentation to me, then ignore him.
    After he DMed pretty much everyone he could link to me via social media – and no one responded, he eventually showed up at my home. I called a loved one who was in the loop to come over and make him go away, as I didn’t want to confront him face-to-face by myself. Then, I went to the police to report his behavior. In hindsight, I would have called them right away when he showed up at my house and rant the doorbell for more than 2 hours.
    Shortly after, I moved. I let all my roommates know to NEVER let anyone in unless I specifically told them I’m expecting company. Because I felt save with my (male) roommates, I didn’t feel the need to inform other residents in the house. But I would have told them to not buzz him in if I suspected he knew my new address.
    Thankfully, that was enough to get rid of him. My main advice is: Don’t feel bad for him. Just don’t! He’s an adult and he’s behaving inappropriately. That’s not on you! He can totally stop, right now, and things won’t be awkward anymore! But if he doesn’t, you need to protect yourself and it’s absolutely, completely justified to loop in whomever you need to do so.

  41. I had a stalker a few years ago. I had to move far away, fend off his expensive private investigator when moving didn’t work, get an OoP, the whole nine yards.

    I don’t see enough comments about domestic violence nonprofits. They are a godsend! Unless you live in an isolated area, you probably have one within driving distance. Regardless of whether you categorize yourself as a victim of abuse, they are the resource you need, because they are trained to help people cut ties with guys like your ex as effectively and safely as possible.

    Here is my advice to you:

    1. Give the National Domestic Violence Hotline a call, to ask them for resources.
    (I’m assuming you’re in the US, but if not, adjust the hotline for your location. Ideally it should be a hotline that deals with domestic violence/intimate partner violence. You can google this.)

    2. When talking to the hotline, explain your situation. Specifically, tell them that you want to find an organization near you that can give you advice on how to make a safety plan when cutting contact with your ex-husband. “Safety plan” is the key term here. A lot of these organizations offer safety planning services. It’s exactly what it sounds like: plans to help people safely cut ties with someone that makes them feel unsafe (usually partners/exes).
    The hotline will ask for your city or zip code. Then they’ll give you the name of an organization near you, probably something for preventing domestic violence. If you’re in a populated area, I recommend asking for a couple of different ones so you can google them and decide which one looks like the best fit for your needs, or just which one gives you a good vibe or whatever.

    3. Call that organization during business hours and explain what you would like help with. They will direct you to someone who can help you make a safety plan. They may talk to you over the phone or you may have to schedule a meeting, this really depends.

    Here are some other useful things the person you meet with might be able to do:
    –Help you make a plan for talking to your employer about this. People in domestic violence prevention orgs are excellent at helping people plan and practice difficult conversations.
    –Help you understand local laws about stalking. (ie. how is it defined where you live?)
    –Direct you to a support group
    –Direct you to free or reduced-cost mental health resources for people dealing with stalking/abuse/etc
    –Help you find tax prep resources for abuse/stalking survivors. This may be useful if your divorce was finalized in early 2019.

    If any of these things sound cool, you can ask about them.

    4. If you have to schedule a meeting with someone from the organization, bring a list of questions. It can be mentally draining.

    Note: the hotline person may offer to help you make a safety plan on their own. If they do, that’s cool and it’s a great idea to take them up on that if you feel up for it. However, I heartily recommend getting the name of a local domestic violence prevention org, too. They are the people who understand the legal landscape where you live, and as you can see from the comments, laws about stalking vary a lot. Local nonprofits can also connect you to a wealth of free local resources for people in your situation. Even if you decide not to use them, it feels great to know they’re available.

    Jedi hugs! Be safe, take care of yourself.

  42. This is a small thing, but a little bit of script that’s sometimes useful is “I shouldn’t be forced to include him in my life if I don’t want to.” Just that.

    There’s something about framing it that way that sometimes seems to help people flip the situation around and see it in perspective. There’s this tendency for people to think that choosing to *exclude* someone from your life is a Huge Big Nuclear Option, but actually, this guy is your *ex*. You don’t have a relationship. It’s weird for you to be forced to *include* him in your daily life in ways you don’t want.

    Sometimes that framing helps people to let go of the idea that this is a referendum on whether or not Ex is Officially A Bad Person and so are they by extension. You just want to be allowed to choose who you have in your life.

    (I mean, I think your ex is a bad person, honestly, but I’m just looking at how best to get you what you need from people who might not want to accept that).

    If you can get that perspective across, it’s harder for people to act like you’re being unreasonable or dramatic, and easier for them to make the choice to back you up.

  43. I haven’t seen this mentioned in the comments already, so commenting to add to self-protection measures you can take.

    Check any laptops, mobile phones and tech he had access to for spyware. A friend of mine went through a horrendous time during and after her divorce because her ex had installed a keystroke logger on her laptop so he had access to all her passwords, private emails, etc. And that was pre-smartphone days; there are a lot more avenues for the stalker to keep tabs on their target now and it’s something domestic violence orgs in my location are seeing a lot more of.

    Also, she had to block mutual friends from social media as well as her ex, as some of them were actively sharing her posts with him *and his lawyer* without her knowledge, even though she had him blocked already.

    Wishing you supportive friends and a supportive workplace, LW!

    1. It might be worth doing a hard reset/wipe of your electronic devices, if that’s feasible.

      There’s some interesting/depressing reading in the #spouseware (it’s so gross that it’s called that) and #stalkerware (more honest name) tags on Twitter.

    2. This is a really good point. Honestly, in these situations, the best approach to social media is “don’t post anything you wouldn’t want him to see.”

      Also, OP should turn off location services in her devices/apps if she hasn’t already.

  44. “This guy is creepy. He is creepy wrapped up in ‘nice’ and ‘affable’ but he’s still creepy as hell.”

    I think wrapping your creepiness in “nice” makes you even more creepy. LW, I have no advice to add on top the captain’s, but I’m commenting to offer support. Your uneasiness is understandable; your ex is the “not cool” one here. You deserve a safe, comfortable life, and you are not being “mean” or “unfair” to your ex to take steps to achieve it. (I use the quote marks because these words are often levelled against women who stand up for themselves, but they are not true.)

    Ignore anyone who tries to convince you that your ex is fundamentally nice person and you must keep playing nice and giving him endless benefits of the doubt. You were married to him. You know him in a way no one else does. Trust your gut.

    I hope your employer takes your concerns seriously and your friends rally around you.

  45. (CW for mild sexual coercion.)

    I’m coming up on a year since my divorce too, OP, and one of my many reasons for the split was low-intensity sexual coercion. Instead of talking, asking, or making sex fun for me, he’d perv on me while I was sleeping-or-trying-to. For some reason or other, that didn’t make me more eager for sex.

    Anyway, during the separation process, I asked for one thing. Just one: “please let me know before you show up to pick up your things.” We lived a carless lifestyle, so I knew this would be a matter of repeated contact, and I wasn’t against that — I just wanted to know beforehand. But guess who showed up unannounced! So I knew — as you absolutely also know by now — that no matter what he said about staying friends, he wasn’t capable of respecting me or anything I said or asked for.

    So I gray-rocked him from that moment on. I did not respond to his “friendly” overtures (which, as throughout our relationship, were really his self-important feelingsdumps). Of course I didn’t accept his offer of a loan on the house to pay him his half of it, but I said a calm “thank you, but that won’t be necessary” instead of anything more emotion-laden. I told him nothing about my life (not that he asked or cared). I allowed him to interact with the cats when he showed up, but ignored his suggestion that he have regular visits to see them. Oh, and about that, here’s a thing — the cats gradually forgot who he was after he moved out, and even before that happened, their behavior when he showed up made clear that I was the one they owned and loved. Your pet may do similarly!

    What helped me during this stressful time was keeping my eye on the endgame — “at some point this will all be over, and he won’t be able to jerk me around any more.” I hope that helps you too, OP, and I sure hope it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When my divorce was finally final, I changed locks (I kept the house) and message-blocked him, leaving email available (as others in this thread have done). His behavior at the meeting where I signed mortgage papers and he got his house-half payout was actually hilarious — he tried his standard feelingsdump about his workplace at me and was utterly bewildered at (and unable to find a way around, despite his repeated attempts) my gray-rock refusal to engage.

    It worked, but admittedly my ex wasn’t anywhere near as escalating as yours. I hope you, your friends, and your workplace swiftly convince your ex to leave you alone.

  46. A what worked story: This was a non-dangerous but incredibly intrusive and selectively obtuse person. Had tried every way to Sunday to get him to back off, including kind, straightforward explanations and never answering phone calls, but this resulted only in him dropping by my house every day. When I didn’t answer the door, he helped himself to searching for me in the back yard and outbuildings. I wrote a note and sent it through the mail that said, “I don’t want you to stop by.” That, surprisingly, did everything. He never spoke to me or acknowledged my presence again.

  47. I’m sorry that your ex is using your pet and your kindness as tools to continue being a part of your life after your divorce. You may want to look into protecting your digital privacy so that your ex can’t use your info to harass/stalk you. Project Hackblossom has advice for keeping your info secure here: https://hackblossom.org/domestic-violence/ . It sounds like the harassment has been mostly in-person so far but I am concerned that your ex might use the internet if you cut off ways for him to contact you at work/home.

    1. Thank you for posting this. I’m in the process of finalizing a divorce with a probable covert narcissist. He’s not the type to stalk me in person, but he definitely has the technical expertise to hack into my tech, dox me, and otherwise make my life a living hell from a privacy-invasion/identity theft standpoint. I’ve had a really hard time finding resources that go any deeper than “change all your passwords”.

      1. I don’t know if this will be helpful or not, but in addition to changing your passwords, take a look at all your security questions and answers. Most of these answers are things someone close to you (like an ex) will know: your mother’s maiden name, the town you were born in, your first pet’s name, etc. To make sure my ex couldn’t hack into any of my accounts, I went through all my security questions and came up with made-up answers. I keep a physical list of the made up answers in a lock box in my house so I don’t forget what I made up. But this keeps him from hacking into any of my accounts and changing the password (which he had done before).

  48. A What Worked story, which I almost never share because it makes people uneasy.

    There was a guy I dated for four months. We broke up. I told him to stop contacting me. Seven months later, he was still chasing me round every online platform, me blocking him in an unfun game of Whackamole. I’d seen him around my neighbourhood a couple of times, and weird things were happening. (“Someone” stole underwear off my clothesline while I was out. “Someone” honest to god left a bunch of dead fish on my front lawn overnight.)

    A couple of my friend were all “Go to the cops”, but I found myself trapped in the “If you have the messages why didn’t you block him/If you don’t have the messages you can’t prove the harassment” Catch22. So I did this.

    On the same day, at the same time, so none of them were singled out, about 25 of my friends, whittled down to those I totally trusted, emailed him, telling him they knew what he was doing, and he needed to stop. The points were twofold: to make sure he’d know I wasn’t isolated, that people knew, and so he’d know what it felt like to get inundated with unwanted emails.

    The contact stopped, immediately. I have never heard from him again.

  49. My experience with sex industry employers is that they care about the well-being of their employees just enough to avoid causing trouble for themselves. It’s also true that some places are better than others. I’m probably not telling you anything you didn’t know here, but since I was a sex worker for 3 years maybe I have some insight (although I did full service rather than striping so I’m not sure how much difference that makes).

    Since your employer’s first priority is probably their business, it may help to emphasise the ways in which allowing him to continue coming by are a bad business decision. Some factors which impacted whether I could get problem clients banned or not where I worked:

    *Does he usually spend a lot of money when he comes? If he’s there all the time but not spending much money, they’ll probably be happy for an excuse to boot him out and get him to stop wasting everyone’s time. If he’s a big spender it might be trickier, and you might have to lean harder on the risks and problems he could cause.

    *Does he cause problems for the other workers too? One person complaining might get told “you don’t have to see him but we’re not kicking him out,” but multiple complaints would get the guy labelled as a liability way faster. That said, the nature of full service work at a parlour is that a client could come in and book someone without ever knowing you were there if you waited out the back, so I’m not sure how this element would play out in your case. I don’t have high hopes that it would be better, but I’d love to be wrong.

    * The nature of people’s complaints would also matter (“he’s got really terrible breath” would be the kind of thing where you don’t have to see him but he won’t get booted, “he tried to take the condom off without me noticing” would be significantly more alarming and much more likely to result in banning; I assume stripping has similar degrees of offences).

    *I hate that this is a factor, but the amount of money you bring in will probably matter too. It’s other things too, like if you’re reliable and don’t usually cause trouble and are a known quantity, that can help, but if he’s a big spender and you’re not bringing in as much money, they might decide it’s easier to cut you loose than him, especially since you’re returning rather than continuing. It’s still worth trying but I’d just be prepared for that possibility (if other workers have complaints too this will matter less).

    In my experience, management is a resource that you can and should use, but you’re more likely to get genuine support from your colleagues. Ask about other people’s experiences with him (to find out if above elements of him being a problem for others apply) and if you’re comfortable, talk about the things he’s doing that make you concerned. If the people you work with are anything like the people I worked with, who made my job such an amazing experience, then they’ll rally around you and probably freeze this guy out. At my job we would share stories of problem clients to inform and protect each other, and if management was being useless then we could sometimes push for change ourselves (eg even if he hadn’t caused direct problems for me, if someone I worked with said he was her ex who was hanging around when she’d asked him not to, I’d refuse to see him and encourage others to do the same, until management had no choice but to ban him or he stopped coming on his own).

    I will say, though, that sometimes the close quarters can breed drama so especially if you ask around and people seem genuinely positive about him rather than neutral/negative, make sure you’re really factual and be explicit about what you want from the conversation – it’s harder to spin “He’s been doing [behaviour] so I was hoping you’d help me with [reasonable request]” into gossip than if you’re vague about what he’s doing and what you want to happen. I’d really like to think you wouldn’t get any pushback and most of the time I’ve only seen workers supporting each other, but the nature of the industry is that it’s got a high turnover rate, which means there might be new people there who are unknowns in terms of whether they’re trustworthy or not. Mainly lean on your friends and your “team you” at work, plus anyone sensible who’s been in the game for a while.

  50. Don’t know if this helps, but my brother’s crappy ex did a similar amount of sniffing around post-breakup, including sending me several social media requests after the relationship ended. I was always politely distant from Crappy Ex (partially because I knew about some of the problems in the relationship that Little Bro had not widely disclosed), and it was widely known that I wasn’t a big fan of Crappy Ex even before she was an Ex.
    Therefore, Little Bro and I talked it over and chose to build a narrative of “We’re keeping well away from Crappy Ex because she and Sol don’t get along” that moved the impetus from Little Bro having to talk about relationship things he’d rather not discuss to me being the somewhat overprotective big sister. We were telling the truth about everything — that Crappy Ex and I didn’t get along, that I’d blocked Crappy Ex on Facebook, that the whole family and friend-group needed to go no-contact with Crappy Ex — but it also allowed Little Bro to control the narrative more and to keep most of the details of their relationship between me, him, and his therapist.

    I don’t know if you have a similar situation where you can place the weight on a trusted close other, but it can keep people from trying to diagnose or explain your relationship after the fact. Many relationship things are your business and yours alone, and one way that helped hammer that message home in this particular situation was offloading the “nope”ness onto someone who wasn’t in the relationship in question.

  51. I changed my locks after an ex never returned my key. 9 months later, after complete silence, he showed up at my house unannounced. He barely missed running into my new partner and it very easily could’ve been very violent. I had felt dramatic for changing the locks without good enough reason but, lemme tell ya, so grateful I had that little faith in him.

  52. Working at a different club is not the answer. He’ll be showing up there within days. You’re better off working at the place where they already know you and him (unless, of course, they’re jerks about it, in which case, go be safe somewhere else).

  53. Other suggestions from the My Ex’s Main Hobby is Stalking Me club: change your in case of emergency contacts if it’s him (work, doctor, dentist, etc). If your pets are chipped, remove him from the registry. Do not get bangs. Tell your friends the truth and see who shows up for you and drop the rest. Make new friends. Follow CAs advice and then go no contact. Block him from everything and pretend like he doesn’t exist. He sounds like the type to find a new object of obsession when your well runs dry. Unless you’re worried for your safety, that’s another issue.

    Also, now is the time to get a therapist and maybe try a boxing gym. Having a space to process your feelings about this (therapy) and another space to release your anger (boxing/shooting range/whatever appeals to you) plus access a feeling of physical power, can be super invaluable.

  54. I actually wrote to Captain Awkward once about a similar problem: an abusive ex was trying to make “friendly” contact a few years later, and I had zero desire to communicate with her and even less trust than that in her innocence of motive. She was also showing up to every local event in our mutual social circle, and getting her fanatical circle of friends to ostentatiously behave unwelcoming toward me at those events, making me afraid that I was going to have to “shrink my life” as the LW put it, to avoid her.

    The Captain didn’t post the question but gave me some excellent advice in a private response and here is what happened:

    – I stopped answering anything: texts, online comments, phone calls, whatever. I didn’t block her number because I wanted to be able to keep an eye on how invested she appeared to be in this whole thing, and knowing how often she tried to reach me was one way to do that. But I never, ever answered no matter what.

    – I continued going to events where I knew it expected that she’d be, but I brought *my* tight circle of friends and family I could trust. They were all filled in on the situation and they didn’t let me go anywhere in public alone for the first few events. When I left my hotel room, I was surrounded by a group of chattering, friendly people who stuck close to me or swapped themselves out for others when they needed to be elsewhere. This had two purposes: first, it kept me safe from bullying by showing her and her friends that I had backup; and second, it made me*feel* much less solitary and vulnerable. It didn’t feel anymore as if my ex was gathering the whole convention against me; it felt as if she had her first and I had my people and it was all right.

    – I began deliberately reaching out to people at the social events who weren’t in *either* her group or mine. This was hard for me at first, becauseI don’t typically make friends easily. But I wasn’t trying to make new soulmates here… I was trying to show the bystander population that I was a friendly, sane, likeable person, so that if they heard horrible things about me said by my ex or her allies, they would already know me decently well for themselves, and could evaluate what they heard against what they saw.

    The upshot of all this was that, within a year, I was having a blast at my social events again, with a few new friends and a lot of old ones; I had built good, friendly connections with a lot of people who aren’t close to me but think positively about me… and my ex and her allies were starting to look like a tiny, isolated circle of fanatics. She didn’t like that much, and tried a couple of extinction-burst behaviors that only made the rest of the community more certain they didn’t trust her. After she saw those weren’t working, however, she dropped back all at once and left me alone. She stopped trying to contact my directly at all, and she stopped showing up to most of the community events. When she did go to one, she stayed with her little bunch of allies off by themselves, while I flitted around greeting everyone happily.

    That’s the way it still is. It’s not perfect — there were rumors for a while that she intended to move to Colorado, which would’ve made me delighted; alas, she didn’t go — but I rarely have to deal with her and I feel confident and supported whenever I do.

    The elements that I see that are familiar between the Captain’s advice to you, LW, and her advice to me that I took:

    1) Stop all contact. Making things comfortable for this person is officially no longer your problem.

    2) Reach for the allies you already have, and get their help. Make them aware of as much as you need to in order to explain what you want them to do. (More information than that is entirely your choice; give it or not as you wish.)

    3) Gather other allies where you can, especially in locations where the ex may try to show up. They don’t have to be your best friends, but if you can get their help interfering in any way with what your ex is trying to pull, it’s worth it. Even if all they do is recognize you as a (decent human being, co-worker, random stranger, whatever) and do what they would normally do for that category, it can still be helpful in preventing them from being inadvertently made into his allies against you.

    Good luck, LW! It does stop if you don’t give them any attention for long enough. Stay strong in the meantime, and hold your allies close.

  55. TL;DR: Tell him once not to contact you, then don’t respond. Shut down all avenues of contact you can, and enlist the help of your friends/work if needed to keep him from contacting you.

    I went through a period of about 9 months after my divorce where my ex was convinced that we were still going to be friends and refused to stop trying to contact me. Thankfully, it was all virtual since we ended up on different continents, but there was a time I was afraid he’d randomly show up at my home or job.

    I followed the Gavin deBecker method of no contact: I sent one text telling him not to contact me again, then I blocked him on every outlet I could think of. Every time he got around my blocks or found a new way to contact me, (and this is key) I did NOT respond and just (re)blocked him. He tried going through my friends once, and I told my friends that I did not want any contact from him, that I told him not to contact me, and that includes sending messages through friends. I asked my friends if he contacted them to not pass on any messages to me and not tell him about my life. Thankfully, my friends respected my boundaries, which is why they’re still my friends.

    As for physical safety, I spoke with security at my building and put a note in my profile that if he showed up he was not to be granted access to the building or my apartment. I also had a discrete conversation with my security manager at work where I let him know that I didn’t expect this to be a problem, but wanted it on record in case the ex did show up so building security would know how to handle it. In both cases, the parties involved treated this as a routine manner and, of course, they would follow my wishes and ensure I was secure at home/work. We thankfully never had to put it to the test.

    He eventually stopped around the 9 month mark or so. Either that or I finally blocked him on all available avenues of contact. Two years later, I moved cross country and am still no contact. It’s still a worry that sometimes pops into my mind that he’ll start bothering me again or try to find me, but it’s not a thing that invades my daily life anymore.

  56. I’m late to this conversation, but as somebody who has worked in various bars for years, I would definitely talk to management and then, hopefully with their approval, talk to the bouncers/security. If they are okay with 86ing him, go for that. If they aren’t okay with that direct of an approach, maybe they could start refusing him drinks and security could talk to him and let him know, shoulder hug style, that he is being inappropriate and needs to frequent a different place. You are inherently vulnerable in that type of job and management must, must must have your back. If they don’t, it really is time for a different job. But please speak up. It’s so easy to feel the need to accommodate people in this line of work, but drawing a line is okay, it’s necessary, and do not feel bad about it. Take care of yourself. You deserve safety, both physically and emotionally and this guy is being really creepy.

  57. LW I had a similar situation and we have a kid. My ex literally invited himself to a weekend work retreat, showed up, and I finally got him to leave by telling him there were no beds. I won’t regale you, but he was controlling but not sinister until he realized I really wasn’t coming back which happened when i stuck to my guns. I think a lot of folks in this situation have a sixth sense, they KNOW in their unconscious mind that things will get ugly if they stop letting the guy pretend. After he knew it was truly over he began showing up at my home, shouting and banging on the door, even demanded our coparenting therapist (which i insisted on as a condition of shared custody) order me to give him a key to my home ‘just in case’. Because he was ‘suddenly’ worried about my safety. A few court orders later I left the state. He did not physically harm me but he did a great deal of emotional harm to my kid, and to me, while trying to protect kid. CA is right. Get ready for the extinction burst. If you expect it, it’ll make it easier to bear, instead of ‘omg i can’t believe he’s getting worse’ you’ll know that ‘omg this is exactly what i expected’. Your guy may not be physically dangerous but he is definitely stalking you, trying to befriend your people so he can use the pretense they are his people too. My ex did the same. First, make sure before you set the hard boundaries, that you are safe and have a plan, not just to protect your physical safety but emotional safety. Tell friends you can trust about the plan. Try to have a few folks who are either willing to stay over, or willing to let you crash at their place. Once you’ve got team YOU in place, write him an email or text or other time-stamped communication telling him you are very uncomfortable with his refusal to stop following you and you don’t want to see or hear from him again, period. Say whatever is right for you, but don’t worry about hurting his feelings, you need to be very clear. Pretend you are doing it for a courtroom. Then never ever respond again. If he continues, call the police. Your first or 2nd RO might not get granted, but keep trying. Eventually there will be enough of a record. Anyone who tells you ‘no it’s fine he’ll stop eventually’ or any of those BS things where they tell you that you’re being too reactive? Put them in the ‘not close friends’ bucket, or the ‘not friends’ bucket, and put them on info diet. Some folks just don’t get it. They saw my ex as this affable guy. Never saw who he really was bc of course he’s not behaving that way in front of them.
    This guy has stalked you, sexually objectified you (saying he’ll pay you for lap dances to ‘help you out?’ That’s defcon 1 level abuse and control. It sounds like he’s trying to control/humiliate you because you rejected him). That sentence you wrote about the lap dances honestly scared me to a whole new level. He wants to stalk you at work, get you to do lap dances, and pretend he’s the good guy while he’s performing this awful abuse theatre? No no no no no. He’s taking advantage of your job in the entertainment industry to stalk you, and taking advantage of your role as a stripper to creep on you. There is something very wrong with him.
    I’m so sorry and I hope it works out for you. You deserve better. Worse comes to worst, starting over in a new city after ROs isn’t the worst thing, if that’s what safety requires.

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