Tag Archives: gavin de becker

Dear Captain & Co.,

I’m in a wonderful relationship, but we’ve got a Darth Vader ex-girlfriend lurking on the sidelines. When we first started dating she behaved horribly: showing up on his lawn screaming suicide threats when she found out I was over, harassing him for months, hacking his email to get my phone number to send me threatening messages, etc. She backed off after he threatened to get a restraining order.

BF left a lot of his things at their apartment. He couldn’t face making a second trip to get everything when he initially left, and then was too afraid to ask her to send it to him. He was also just trying to get his life back together, as you do after escaping an abusive relationship. Then the whole mess above happened.

He’s joked that losing that stuff was a fair price to pay to get away from her. But lately it’s clear he wants it back. (He also has a narcissistic mother who’s gotten rid of a lot of his belongings without his permission, so I think a lot of it is about gaining control over his property and life.) The stuff in Darth’s possession is mostly memorabilia and collector’s items. We’re pretty sure she still has them because she latched on to his interests during their long-term relationship. But we are both at a loss about how to approach her about it.

Their relationship was extremely toxic. Darth has Borderline Personality Disorder. I hope she’s gotten help, but the Darth my BF knew was volatile, argumentative, irrational, manipulative, and occasionally violent. He is extremely wary about contacting her. We don’t want to trigger her or become a renewed target, especially since we’ll be at the same smallish convention in a few months. Because of her BPD, she probably still views herself as the abandoned victim. Six months ago we saw her at a concert and the way she reacted made it clear she wasn’t over him. According to the grapevine, her current boyfriend is an emotional prop she openly resents, so it’s possible she’s not over him even now. Contacting her might end up being fine… or it might make her act out in any number of ways.

What should we do? Any scripts or advice on enforcing boundaries, minimizing contact, and controlling possible fallout when attempting something like this would be really appreciated. BF doesn’t want trouble … he just wants his things back.

Is the value of the stuff such that it would be worth hiring a lawyer to deal with the entire thing from beginning to end, from sending the request to potentially taking her to court if she doesn’t comply to actually picking up the stuff? Like, it’s $50,000 worth of stuff and you think it would take $10,000 of lawyering to get it back, and you have the $10,000 lying around and you also have a free year of your life to spend on this problem?

Because my recommendation is: Buy new stuff.

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I have some practical things to add to  today’s Bibliomancer column (which I love reading, but today = eeeeeeesh).

Letter Writer, whatever you decide to do about investigating & interrogating the effect “Doug” holds on your past, there is some practical shit you can do to get the actual dude out of your actual life. You obviously wrote for literary advice, so here is a book recommendation: The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker.

1. You are not overreacting. BLOCK.

2. Ask your friends to block him without further ado. Don’t apologize. “That dude is creepy, he is messaging me and insinuating himself among my friends in violation of my express wishes, please block him. The best way is to do it without comment or prelude, just refuse all contact and don’t respond to anything from him.

3. Filter his emails so that they bypass your inbox without you even seeing them. I would tell you to block him there, too, but you may need them later in case he escalates his behavior.

4. You’ve already told him that you didn’t want to be in touch with him, and he kept writing to you and in fact, escalated his efforts to be in touch with you and make sure you’d notice him. Telling him again won’t really register or make a difference, it will just confirm that he has your attention. The only way to dispel this particular kind of ghost is to starve it of your attention.


7. You are not “bad at relationships.” You are a survivor of a relationship with a manipulative and controlling man. Here there be ghosts, and ghosts, and ghosts. But you are not doing anything wrong by wanting him out of your life forever.  give you permission to go ahead and hurt his pathetic little stalker fee-fees in preservation of your own peace. He has no right to keep intruding into your life when you have asked him not to. He needs to dispel his own ghosts on his own time.


Captain Awkward








A reader responded to yesterday’s post with this story:

…I was sitting around at 3am reading blogs when some guy knocked on my window, since mine was the only light on in the street–he’d locked his keys in his car, and wanted to borrow my phone. Then when he couldn’t reach the person he called, he wanted money for a cab ride to his mother’s. It was creepy, but he had puppy dog eyes and a plausible story, and I ended up walking to a nearby ATM and giving him the money. (Before I left, I gave a friend his full description and orders to raise hell if I didn’t come back in a timely fashion.) Then he asked if I wanted to get together for drinks when he returned the money. I made an awkward comment that I didn’t drink… but I’m going to come up with something stronger if he comes back, because my desire to spend time with a guy with boundary issues is pretty low. (Oh, and now I’m worried because he lives next door, and what if I have Angry Guy living next door and knowing where I live and seeing my car every day…)

While it’s not technically a question, I’d like to offer some suggestions for how to come up with something stronger to say if (when) he comes back, and how to deal with the possibility of Angry Guy Living Next Door.

First, I’m very glad you are safe, and I don’t want to make you feel bad about doing a kind thing for someone, and you are the best judge of your own boundaries and safety. However, since you use the words “creepy” and “boundary issues,” I am going to be honest about several things that are red flags to me about this guy’s behavior: 

  • Knocking on a strange woman’s window at 3 am = sketchy.
  • Story about keys locked in car, no phone, person not picking up, needing money and a ride to mom’s = sketchy.
  • ASKING YOU OUT when you got back from the ATM = sketchy.

I’m not saying he’s a predator, but I am comfortable saying that a person with a decent understanding of boundaries does not knock on a strange woman’s window in the middle of the night with bizarre requests.  A person who understands boundaries would be very conscious that he is making a bizarre request and that you would have legitimate reasons (being sketched out, your own safety) for not helping him.  He would understand that he is putting you out and that you are taking serious risks to help him and do everything to minimize that feeling and respect your safety.

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