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Should I say something? What?
January 19, 2012 5:47 AM   Subscribe

I don't like how my ex talks to me and I want to say something. Weird/crazy/what should I say?

I live in a place where you see the same people all the time. I broke up with a guy after a short relationship about 5 months ago. I was mad about the way things went down, and I didn't really feel like talking to him, so whenever we were in large groups and I had to see him I pretended he wasn't there (mature, I know).

I'm pretty much over it, and I've started dating someone else, too. But I still can't stand to speak to him because he antagonizes me. It's very weird and kind of childish. Right after our relationship ended, I saw him at a game, we ended up on the same team, and he made a couple of quips about my sportsmanship. I don't think I could deal with thinking about that at the time, so I just didn't. I don't really remember what he said, but it was sort of mocking/sarcastic. On a few other occasions, he's said some things like that, too. Last night he showed up a friend's house and, again, we were playing a game, and he said I was a cheater and tried to call me out on not following the rules of the game (I was new, I didn't really know the rules, and it also doesn't help that I'm morbidly competitive)

The way the lines are delivered are sort of playful, not in a mean or hateful way, but it just floors me because this is how we talked when we dated. We ribbed each other sarcastically a lot. But now we're not dating, we're not even friends, and there were hurt feelings (at least on my part) for a little while. It feels disrespectful to me.

I'd like for it to not be weird anymore, meaning I'd like to be able to make eye contact and talk to him like a normal person when he is around, but the teasing pisses me off so much I can't seem to get beyond it. Is this unreasonable, and what should I say to him? I'd like it to be low key.

Thanks.
posted by amodelcitizen to Human Relations (38 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Tell him to speak to you more respectfully, or if that's too hard, maybe not at all.

If he refuses, I'd make some new friends or figure out a way to see him as little as possible.
posted by devymetal at 5:49 AM on January 19, 2012


Whatever you say has to be deadpan. No whining, and no escalation, absolutely do not raise your voice. Practice your poker face. Practice a script. Because if you let this energy bottle up inside of you, (and you're human, if you're a robot, ignore the following) you might end up getting emotional (um, crying) at the rushing release of all these months of frustration, anger, hurt, etc. So. Practice.

As for words, something along the lines of "why ever would you say such a thing?" or "Well, that's an interesting opinion," may be strong options. With regard to rule breaking, something along the lines of, "I must be missing some important information here."

Adjust the level of formality to the group and the setting. Your words should be just a notch more formal than expected. You want folks to grok that you're serious, but not to imagine that you're uptight or furious.
posted by bilabial at 5:56 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It feels disrespectful to me.

He probably doesn't know that.

The way the lines are delivered are sort of playful, not in a mean or hateful way, but it just floors me because this is how we talked when we dated. We ribbed each other sarcastically a lot.

That's how he knows how to talk to you, and it sounds like if not for the hurt feelings, you wouldn't see it as disrespectful at all. You are "morbidly competitive" but not able to take playful ribbing from one person in your social circle. Is it ok if other people playfully rib you? Do you still engage in that kind of banter with your other friends?

What you say to him depends on what you want from him. But be sure that what you want from him is fair.
posted by headnsouth at 6:04 AM on January 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Draw your bounaries clearly and in no uncertain terms. You will not accept him speaking to you this way. You will leave if he does, without a word. If you don't want to have this conversation in person (who would? He sounds like a manipulative jerk) phone or email is fine. I think sometimes the importance of face to face conversation is overrated, particularly when you're dealing with a troll like your ex. (why do i say troll? He's poking you and feeding off your emotional distress.) You need to make sure you don't get drawn into a back and forth exchange, though. That's what he wants--your attention.
posted by Lieber Frau at 6:07 AM on January 19, 2012


This seems to be a key bit:
The way the lines are delivered are sort of playful, not in a mean or hateful way, but it just floors me because this is how we talked when we dated. We ribbed each other sarcastically a lot. But now we're not dating, we're not even friends, and there were hurt feelings (at least on my part) for a little while.

I like bilabial's tone advice, but I'd start with telling him, when it's just the two of you, "yeah, you can chill with the sarcasm. It worked while we were together, but not now. Let's just not, okay?"
headnsouth has a point - the only thing that's changed is the relationship.

I disagree with the idea of leaving if he makes these comments, because as OP noted, they're not disrespectful, it's how he knows how to interact with her. Not telling him in person or at least by phone opens OP up to a lot of drama. Never try to solve a social problem by email if you don't have to. One forward or post somewhere, and you're in Drama City.

If he keep it up, a chilly glance, and a minimal comment, like, "Huh," or a shrug. Do not engage. Once he knows what you want, just reinforce it by keeping your cool, minimizing contact and response.
posted by canine epigram at 6:11 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


The way the lines are delivered are sort of playful, not in a mean or hateful way, but it just floors me because this is how we talked when we dated. We ribbed each other sarcastically a lot. But now we're not dating, we're not even friends, and there were hurt feelings (at least on my part) for a little while. It feels disrespectful to me.

So tell him this. But it doesn't sound like he's being intentionally disrespectful; it sounds like he's just interacting with you in the way he's been used to interacting with you. If you want him to change that, you have to say something like, "Look, can you cool it with the teasing? I really can't handle it right now." If he continues with it, only then is he being an ass.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:11 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why are you hanging around with your ex? Stop hanging around with your ex.
posted by empath at 6:12 AM on January 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


You blanked him for months, and now when he's trying normal (for his experience) communication, there's probably an undercurrent of resentment. Which you pick up on, and get hurt by. And also deserve, since your own behavior was immature and childish.

Suck it up and try to set an example by being polite back.
posted by jetsetlag at 6:12 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I went through something pretty much exactly like this a while back and it's one of my only real life regrets that I didn't handle it better, especially as I was the one losing his shit and doing the whole "can't even look at her" thing.

The reality is, you either have a relationship where the underlying relationship is one of mutual respect or it isn't. You either need to tell him you still think he's a nice guy and you hope you can be friends or tell him you hate his guts and that he should go fuck himself.

Anything in between is just gonna end up with one person doing drastically better than the other.

Also, do your best to accept that whatever happens, this person is now just another person, one you don't really know anymore, and that's okay. If you keep giving them power as this massive huge source of eternal judgement, you'll end up going insane.
posted by Willfull at 6:15 AM on January 19, 2012


I think he's just trying to act normal around you and probably doesn't know that he's hurting you (especially if sarcastic ribs were the norm). Take him aside the next time you're in a group situation (or better yet, ask him to talk over coffee so your friends aren't around). Tell him that while you know you teased each other while you were dating, it is no longer appropriate. Tell him it feels disrespectful to you and apologize for not letting him know sooner, because you know he didn't mean any disrespect. Tell him you'd like to have normal, polite discourse when you are in group settings with mutual friends. He will possibly have some stuff to say on his part, so be prepared to deal with any lingering emotions that he expresses. Or not.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:28 AM on January 19, 2012


It is okay if my friends playfully rib me. He isn't my friend, though. Ribbing and joking is something I feel only people who are on good terms should do. I wouldn't make sarcastic remarks to someone I didn't regularly talk to or know very well.
posted by amodelcitizen at 6:29 AM on January 19, 2012


Does he know he's not your friend? Because the way you described your relationship, he sounds like he's one of your friends.
posted by empath at 6:31 AM on January 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


Ribbing and joking is something I feel only people who are on good terms should do. I wouldn't make sarcastic remarks to someone I didn't regularly talk to or know very well.

Yes, but he's not you, and may not share your default assumptions. And as empath points out, he may assume everything's cool, because you're still around, and interacting with him again with all your friends around. Maybe not the brightest bulb, but not completely unreasonable.

You cannot expect him to mind-read how you expect him to treat you. Yes, it is completely reasonable for you to not want him to joke with you the way he did when you were dating.

The way to get there? Tell him this.
posted by canine epigram at 6:33 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


amodelcitizen: " I wouldn't make sarcastic remarks to someone I didn't regularly talk to or know very well."


But he does. And unless you tell him otherwise, he's not an asshole for doing so.

I use the word asshole because that's what I thought he was until I got to the line, quoted already by others, "this is how we talked when we dated"; many people who remain friends with exes, especially non-long term relationships (and sometimes even those who were together for a very long time), continue in the exact same vein. They keep it the same, not to be weird after the break-up, but so it won't be weird after the break-up -- especially for others in the group. If you want it to change, you have to tell him. Until then, he can't be expected to know.

It won't be easy, but neither is remaining in the same social circle with an ex. Like all relationships, it will require work, but it's very, very possible.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:35 AM on January 19, 2012


Look, this isn't about legitimating his behavior to you or not; it's just that, if the "he doesn't realize his behavior isn't okay" read is true, then the solution is really easy. People are leaning on that point because this sounds like a simple solve that doesn't need to be complex or dramatic or anything -- and which may be minimally emotionally difficult for you. It really may be that ALL you have to say is "please stop".

It's not about taking his side, but just that we're optimistic that this could have a positive outcome for you with very little effort.
posted by endless_forms at 6:43 AM on January 19, 2012


I guess the not speaking and not hanging out for five months part would indicate, to me, that we weren't friends. But I am starting to see how someone could think otherwise.

Those are good points. I guess I should have mentioned that my reaction to his sarcasm is complete non-engagement. In a lot of the cases, I've turned to another person and started talking right after his remark and completely ignored it. But I guess he wouldn't know it's because I find his sarcasm annoying, it could be many other things from his perspective.
posted by amodelcitizen at 6:45 AM on January 19, 2012


You may not even have to tell him directly if you aren't in the mood for confrontation. If you have mutual friends you can even tell them to tell him that it bothers you.
posted by empath at 6:46 AM on January 19, 2012


I would suggest a private talk and something along the lines of:

"Hey, I know this is how we've always been, and you're trying to keep things normal, but right now, I'm still finding things painful. I used to find this sort of teasing and ribbing light and fun, but in my current state, I find it hurts my feelings. Could you please not do that?"
posted by jacquilynne at 6:49 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


You not speaking to him for a few months was probably read as "normal after relationship time apart". You're around again, and he's probably just trying to act normal.

Think from his perspective, what exactly is he supposed to do? Ignore you? Talk to you in a very formal tone that will be recognized as "not normal" not only to you, but to everyone else around you? Depending on how your relationship ended, and what other people think they know, he might even by trying to act playful to signal to your mutual friends that everything is okay and they can all relax.

Given that a lot of your mutual friend group is there during your interactions, remember that this is probably just as awkward for him. If you need him to stop something, you need to tell him, because he's not sure what he wants to do, let alone what you want.
posted by spaltavian at 7:25 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would add that you need to tell him this significant, but difficult & awkward thing in private. For example, on the phone. Not in the middle of the game or while hanging out with your mutual friends
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 8:13 AM on January 19, 2012


I think you have to remember that he is also dealing with the same awkward social circumstances. And when people feel awkward or a social situation is tense, we often don't think clearly or even realize what we are saying. In fact sarcasm is often an unfortunate attempt to add levity to relieve the awkwardness. So I think it is unfair for us to label him a jerk. You are both in this social group together. He acts sarcastically when he interacts with you and you respond with passive-aggression (ignoring him). If you both want to remain in this social circle, then I agree with the others who state that the two of you must have a conversation to clarify your relationship. He just might welcome the opportunity to eliminate the awkwardness as well.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:19 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


You may not even have to tell him directly if you aren't in the mood for confrontation. If you have mutual friends you can even tell them to tell him that it bothers you.

A thousand times no. Do not drag your friends into your post-relationship contretemps. This can't be outsourced. Put on the big girl pants and do this yourself.
posted by canine epigram at 8:22 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd look up and say, with an even tone:

Have I done something to offend you?

The answer will be "no, why?"

Because you're not cutting me any slack. You're really on me all the time and i think maybe you're mad at me.

If he's a nice guy, do this in private. If he's a jerk, do it in the moment.

If he is mad at you, about the break up, you shouldn't hang near him. Or you can say "You're still mad about THAT? I thought we'd moved on. I thought I'd offended you RECENTLY. I'm really sorry. I didn't know you needed to hear that. Friends?"

Done.
posted by vitabellosi at 9:12 AM on January 19, 2012


I really value the responses here, thanks.

For me, when a relationship changes, the way those people will communicate should change, as well. I would not talk to a best friend that became an acquaintace (I realize this is not totally plausible, but it IS kind of what happened because we had been close and then we totally stopped talking) the same old way I had always talked her because obviously our dynamic has changed. There is a level of formality or distance I expect, I suppose, from people depending on their standing in my life. And to me, joking that could be taken the wrong way if you weren't close is reserved only for those I feel I have deep understanding or something with. Because, when you're close, you are secure in the idea that the person cares for you and is joking. But when you're not close, it's like, "Where does this asshole get off!" I don't think that's wrong, but I think what was wrong was I just expected him to know that. I was taking a personal view and making it everyone's reality.

It's interesting how all of this changes my view of what happened, too.

I also realized he had a very nonchalant attitude in general when we were together, so when he continued to speak the same old way, it brought up that resentment.
posted by amodelcitizen at 10:16 AM on January 19, 2012


You could say, when he gets sarky, "What?"

If he replies with [explanation of why you're wrong or whatever], give him a blank look, then carry on with what you were doing.

If he keeps doing it, start saying "Cut it out."
posted by tel3path at 10:24 AM on January 19, 2012


I don't even necessarily think he's trying to be your friend, so much as he's trying to be friendly... if you are not friends, you don't want to be friends, and you just want to be say, acquaintences, I'd just tell him to knock it off with the teasing because it annoys you. If he's that nonchalant, our reasons, to be honest, won't matter. He either will knock it off out of politeness, and/or it'll be all weird and awkward for a while again while he tries to figure out how to negotiate your non-friendship and/or he will simply decide to not engage with you at all.
posted by sm1tten at 10:43 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


X, that kind of teasing was okay when we were together, but now it's not. I'd appreciate it if you'd stop the teasing putdowns. thanks.
posted by theora55 at 11:06 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


X, that kind of teasing was okay when we were together, but now it's not. I'd appreciate it if you'd stop the teasing putdowns. thanks.

Except- did he talk that way BEFORE you were together. Does he talk that way to other people? It might just be the way he talks!
posted by small_ruminant at 11:31 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


He probably resents that he's not getting the attention from you that he got when you were together, and is being passive aggressively mean under the guise of continuing the friendship. You're picking up on that resentful aggression under his jokes, which you once tolerated.

Is it worth talking to him about (and he will likely defensively insist he meant nothing and you're overreacting, while being secretly delighted he got your attention), or do you just brush him off and move on to better things? Only you know for sure.

I have this ex that does something similar. I suspect he can't get over the fact that our relationship has changed and downgraded to friendship. He doesn't want to be "just friends" but he can't be honest about his upset over the breakup and so snips at me with the old familiarity that is no longer appropriate.

Unfortunately I have decided this person, despite our history, is not worth the effort to work out the issues (which is what he wants anyway - me paying attention to him - so I'll be rewarding bad behavior) and try to keep around as a friend. Sometimes you just outgrow a person.

(Since then I've been more aware of how communication styles set the tone for a relationship, and I don't encourage the bickering/snarking/sarcasm/what-have-you in deeper friendships/relationships. It gets old.)
posted by griselda at 11:42 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even if "that's the way he talks," there's nothing off about asking not to be teased. Ever.

One of the great things about being old, for me, is getting past the idea that I have to put up with other people's assholery just because that's how they always are.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:42 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's true you can ask him to change his communication style but in the end you don't have any control over it, just your responses.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:23 PM on January 19, 2012


He does have a sarcastic humor with everyone sometimes, but I think the hostility has been ramped up with me. It is probably because I "blacked him out", but I won't give that credit because I talked with him about how I didn't really want him to approach me. I think I said it would be fine to casually say hello, but I didn't want to interact beyond that.

Unfortunately, I didn't get the luxury of not having to see him. I didn't feel like I had a ton of options. I was not hanging out with him, but was hanging out with my friends and he would show up (this has only been a handful of times, it doesn't warrant new friends, which I don't think I'd do, anyways.) I could either not see my friends (no thanks), or I could make polite chit chat with him when I saw him (excruciating), or I could just ignore him until he went away (slightly less excruciating.) And actually, writing this, I can see I am angry because I warned him I wouldn't want to talk, and he still persisted in trying to socialize with me when we were together. I understand there is a certain amount of social nicety involved when we are with others, but I sure as hell would not make sarcastic remarks to someone who told me they weren't entirely comfortably talking with me until they gave me the "all clear" signal.

Anyways, I really appreciate all the insights here. I've gotten a few things to think about.
posted by amodelcitizen at 12:43 PM on January 19, 2012


Sounds to me like he's trying to flirt to lay the ground work for maybe getting some no strings attached ex-nookie, or he's decided breaking up was a mistake and is flirting to lay the groundwork for another go at you.
posted by spicynuts at 12:52 PM on January 19, 2012


He does have a sarcastic humor with everyone sometimes, but I think the hostility has been ramped up with me.

It's possible that where you're now seeing hostility, it's more a reflection of your anger toward him than a result of him actually pushing your buttons. In your OP you said "The way the lines are delivered are sort of playful, not in a mean or hateful way."

Of course I can only go by what you've written, but it sounds like maybe he's moved on from the relationship/breakup and you haven't yet, so his acting "normal" stings because you'd prefer him to acknowledge your "ex-ness" with mutual silence/distance.

Given that it was a short relationship, it ended 5 months ago, and you're in a new relationship now, why do you think it's still "excruciating" to be around this guy? Not to say there's a timeline for these things, but at some point it's probably better for you to not be so keyed in to how he's acting toward you, and let him fade back from the "special" (whether that's good or bad) status he has in your mind until he becomes just another person in the group.
posted by headnsouth at 1:11 PM on January 19, 2012


If what he's saying to you is truly childish, and not just your projection of hurt feelings, then tell him so. If you're expecting him to not speak with you at all beyond "hello" and are labeling him a jerk because he dares to be himself anyway, he's not the one being childish. He's a sarcastic person, he's sarcastic with you. I'm having trouble seeing how it's jerkish of him to 'ignore' your unstated expectation that he wait til you give the "all-clear." Sounds like you just don't like him anymore or your feelings are just hurt or both. Which is totally fair and understandable but also completely your own issue. It's up to your to get around it on your own if you two remain in the same friend group. Two people not speaking to each other in a social group/social outing is a huge elephant in the room for everyone else involved.
posted by Katine at 1:16 PM on January 19, 2012


I talked with him about how I didn't really want him to approach me. I think I said it would be fine to casually say hello, but I didn't want to interact beyond that.

Man, the more info you give, the more this guy does not sound like good news. He's clearly not respecting you. I think you're angry because you feel powerless to get away from him without messing up your social landscape. Well, you may have to pay that price to get away from him. Consider that it could also be worth it, in the long term.

Some people are just not going to make things easy, no matter how rational and simple the solution seems. You can sit them down and talk calmly and they will continue to defy logic by being jerks.

Like Sidhedevil said: "One of the great things about being old, for me, is getting past the idea that I have to put up with other people's assholery just because that's how they always are."

So, so true.
posted by griselda at 2:23 PM on January 19, 2012


It sounds to me that he's just being friendly, and your hostility toward him is coloring your view of these interactions.

It would be great if you could just put going away all on him. Maybe it should be all on him. But as it stands with the facts on the ground, I think you need to give yourself space and distance from him. You have mutual friends? That really sucks, but tough shit -- find some new friends he doesn't hang out with because you need to do that for you.

I don't think there's anything you can say to him that will solve your problem here.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:57 PM on January 19, 2012


An update for anyone who reads this: I wanted to clarify that the decision to not socialize was one we made mutually. It was not a unilateral demand from me. I struggled with the idea that I was projecting, but then decided it didn't matter. If he wants to be my friend, he has to speak to me politely. I sent him a short message, using some of the wording you all suggested. I got a very nice response. I saw him awhile ago and we had a sincere conversation that actually made me feel good. Thanks for all your advice, I probably wouldn't have been able to do it without your suggestions.
posted by amodelcitizen at 1:54 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


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