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The ex is reaching out...
December 13, 2013 2:41 PM   Subscribe

A few years ago, my ex started avoiding me due to his new girlfriend not being okay with us hanging out. We have a lot of mutual friends, and this created a very awkward social dynamic for the last three years. He recently reached out to me via email and I'm not sure how to respond...

I had a good friendship with an ex-boyfriend of mine until about three years ago. I broke up with him because he was very codependant on myself and his parents (he was around 30), and had difficulty coping with common life situations like an adult. (Mom took care of his finances, he frequently reached out to his parents so they could reassure him that “everything is going to be okay”, could not even bear to go on short business trips because he missed his loved ones too much, went into insecurity spirals every time I -- a major introvert -- needed alone time to recharge my batteries). These qualities were very emotionally draining for me, and even though he's a good guy, I had to separate myself from the relationship because it was exhausting. After we broke up, and after a period of cooling off without contact, we managed to go back to being friends, like we had been for years before we ended up together. This lasted for a good year.

Then he met someone, and cut ties with me in an incredibly cold-hearted way, citing his girlfriend’s insecurities as the reason. He had never told me that he was seeing someone, so that came as a bit of a shock, but okay. He’s the friendliest guy ever who is known for staying good friends with all his exes, so him wanting to sever all ties was a bit surprising to me. Before I could even say “okay, I understand”, he blocked me in all ways that I could get in contact with him (not that I would have hounded him anyway, but he blocked me on gtalk, Facebook, imessage, everything). I was a bit hurt (platonically), but I got the hint and stopped trying to contact him immediately.

We have tons of mutual friends, and the fact that he was no longer talking to me created a really unpleasant dynamic between all of us. He made it clear to everyone that he would not be attending any event that I was also invited to and forced our friends to act as middle-men who had to manage who got invited to what. They couldn't believe that he would cut contact because he's friends with all his other exes. A lot of people asked me “what did you do to him?!” like I had done something unspeakable to incite this level of avoidance.

This has been going on for the last three years, and even though I have had no contact with him whatsoever during this time, I still end up having to smooth over the weirdness that arises when we’re both invited to the same event. I struggle to understand why I still have to deal with awkwardness created by someone I haven’t spoken to for years. I resent that this still comes up and that I’m somehow held responsible for something that I had nothing to do with and I’d love nothing more than to just be rid of this problem.

Until he started to avoid me, I had a very high opinion of this guy. Unfortunately after all this silliness, I just feel like he’s a burden. I recognize that he has issues that he really needs to sort through, and I do hope he works through them. I just don’t really want him to be in my consciousness anymore.

Last week, he emailed me out of the blue. It was a really fluffy self-serving email that basically went along the lines of “Hey! Thought about you the other day and thought I’d say hi. Things are going really well for me. I’m still with my girlfriend, and I just got a promotion and I’ve been in therapy for a year learning how to take control of my life as an adult. Hope you’re great!”

I almost didn’t respond, but since we have mutual friends, I figured I’d send back a cordial response so as not to seem petty - something that wouldn't encourage further communication. "Thanks for the life update, seems like things are looking up for you. Can’t complain on my end, life is treating me well. Good luck with everything."

I was pretty sure he wouldn’t respond, but he did.

"I’m sorry for the way we stopped talking. I acted like a child, not like a friend, I avoided the confrontation and it wasn’t a straight forward way of dealing with things. I wasn’t really straight forward with anyone back then, or myself. You don’t really have to accept my apology, I think I just wanted you to know that I look at myself a different way now and I think that that way I acted years ago was pretty gutless and selfish and certainly wasn’t acceptable. I didn’t deal with difficult situations like a man, I’m working to stop those patterns. I’m happy you’re doing well"

Do I have to respond to this? I mean, my first impressions are that the apology doesn’t really mean anything to me, and that seems like it might be a therapy exercise. I’m not sure I know what he wants to accomplish with this message... whether he’s trying to re-establish communication, or if he just wants to absolve himself of some kind of guilt that he feels. If it is a therapy exercise, then I think it’s a very positive thing that he’s seeing someone because he definitely has some things to work through, but if he’s trying to get me to be a part of his healing, I’m not sure I want a part of it.

I initially felt like firing off an angry response, because he never gave me the chance to communicate to him how uncomfortable he was making my social life, among other things.

I won’t do that, but I did have that impulse.

Holy moly, this is long! I guess my questions are... would it be mean to not enter this conversation with him? What do you think he’s trying to accomplish? Do I owe it to my friend group to try to “make things right” (even though I don’t think it’s my responsibility)? If I do respond to this, how can I do it without getting dragged down and without being defensive or angry? Should I just run the other direction? Etc etc.
posted by ohmy to Human Relations (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You don't owe him anything. If you don't want to engage with this kid, it is no one else's decision.
posted by oceanjesse at 2:53 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


You are never obligated to communicate with someone you don't want to. That holds true for people that you've been in relationships and otherwise. It's odd to me that in your entire post here, you have not indicated what you want to do.

If you don't want to talk with him, don't.

If you want to talk with him, figure out what you want to get out of him. An apology? That seems possible, although I have no idea how likely. You won't, however, get your social life changed over the past three years. That's sounds like what you want, which isn't actually possible.
posted by saeculorum at 2:55 PM on December 13, 2013


Do I have to respond to this?

Nope, you don't have to do anything about this, and you certainly don't owe it to him to make things right, given that it was his series of choices that led to all of this. He hurt you a lot, and while it's great that he apologized and that he's taking steps to try to work out why he felt the need to make that choice, that doesn't obligate you to instantly forgive him or to enter into that process with him. Your hurt was (is) real and you have every right to take some time to let this sit with you for awhile. It's fine if you feel anger, confusion, sadness, or indifference right now about it. It's also fine if your feelings change down the road.

Maybe one day you'll feel open to resuming a friendship with him; maybe you won't. But it's up to you every bit as much as it is to him if the two of you can be friends again one day. He doesn't get to wipe the slate clean and tell you to start over.
posted by scody at 2:57 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


From the totality of your post, I think the only thing you want or need from this man is for an end to the stupidity and weirdness around his inability to be in the same place as you at the same time: nothing more. Therefore, what about responding with something like... "Thanks for letting me know that you're re-evaluating your approach to difficult situations. I will presume, then, that you will make it clear that it is no longer necessary for our mutual friends to jump through hoops to ensure that we don't inadvertently wind up at the same events and that neither you nor Girlfriend will make a scene. Have a nice holiday."
posted by carmicha at 2:57 PM on December 13, 2013 [54 favorites]


In my opinion, it wouldn't be mean of you not to respond. The first email seems unexceptionable to me but the second seems manipulative. My guess is he's counting on the fact that you'll respond, because accepting an apology is after all taking the high road. In your shoes I'd probably accept the apology, but not let it go any further.
posted by BibiRose at 2:57 PM on December 13, 2013


What do you need? Do you want or need to engage in a conversation with him - for example, about possibly talking to some of your mutual friends and taking responsibility? Is there something he could do to make things better for you right now?

If you have things that you really want to say, I would take a few days to think about exactly what those things are, collect your thoughts, and email him back.

If you don't have things you want to say, you do not have to reply.
posted by k8lin at 2:57 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


What an awesome question! Not everyone gets a chance to address past weirdnesses like you are right now.

- It's acceptable to not reply.

- It's acceptable to give a SHORT reply acknowledging his apology.

- It's acceptable to give a short reply acknowledging his apology AND directing him to clear up any weirdnesses his past choices created for mutual friends (if there is anyone imparticular hosting an event who was put out over his refusal to be in the same room as you - name them!)

- It's acceptable to say whatever the hell you want to this guy, long or short.



I like the third option best, but that's me.

Upon Edit: I like exactly what carmiche wrote!
posted by jbenben at 2:59 PM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's not mean to not enter the conversation. It sounds like he's simply trying to apologize for his behavior. The only thing you might say is that you accept his apology (if you do).
posted by marimeko at 3:00 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It might be about his own healing as you suggest, but maybe he cares about you and wants to help you heal? If so, he would probably believe you are owed an explanation and an acknowledgement of how shitty he has been to you, and thus he is giving you that -- without asking for anything in return, either implicitly or explicitly. It reads as pretty sincere and open to me. In which case you can do whatever you want with it. If you don't answer and he pressures you to engage, you will know that it is more about him than you. But I would be surprised if you hear from him again, unless you write back.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:10 PM on December 13, 2013


His first email was just an 'opener' for his second email. It's the second email that matters — which is his apology. It is for you to accept, or not. Nothing more.
posted by Kruger5 at 3:10 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Thanks for letting me know that you're re-evaluating your approach to difficult situations. I will presume, then, that it is no longer necessary for our mutual friends to jump through hoops to ensure that we don't inadvertently wind up at the same events and that neither you nor Girlfriend will make a scene. Have a nice holiday."

I like the spirit of this, but (somewhat unfortunately) I think it needs to be 10-20% nicer if you actually want to achieve the goal of non-awkwardness at future social gatherings. This advice assumes that you simply want to be able to attend a gathering with these people and that you are not interested in being friends or even, really, friendly but are interested in being civil and attending parties etc. with them-this is where I think you're at with regard to this matter. Anyway, here is my pass:

"Thanks for your thoughts. I hope that it will be easier for you, me, and Girlfriend to attend the same events now and in the future-I know that has caused some difficulty for our mutual friends. I appreciate you reaching out, but to be honest, I've moved on and I'm comfortable with our lack of communication"

Do not reply to further communication. At mutual gatherings, greet them pleasantly and interact with civility in the context of larger groups, but don't engage them in smaller groups-find someone else to talk to or something else to do.

-----------

If, on the other hand, you aren't interested in even really being civil or having any response or communication, but still attending the same events, that's harder but possible. Do not reply to the email, or any other communication. At the next event where you are both present, expect to be asked about it. Say brightly, "Oh, I didn't really have any thoughts about that" and excuse yourself. I would expect to be eventually cornered, though-when that happens, I don't have any good advice but to be pleasant and firm and direct about ending that conversation as quickly as possible.
posted by Kwine at 3:20 PM on December 13, 2013 [18 favorites]


Do I have to respond to this?

Well, based on everything you've shared, it appears he was totally and completely in the wrong, and through therapy is discovering that he was totally and completely in the wrong, so is apologizing to you (explicitly saying that he understands if you don't accept it, given his behavior.)

In short, he's learning to take the high road. It's a good thing. You don't have to acknowledge it or support it, but if you want to take the high road -- and were I in your shoes, I would -- I'd just say "Thank you for sharing that, and I truly do wish you well" or somesuch. Basically acknowledging that you appreciate his effort, even though you may or may not actually accept his apology.

As for what he's trying to accomplish, he's probably just trying to find a way to acknowledge that he realizes it was all him, without putting you in a position where you feel put-upon. That's probably a good thing. Whether you respond or not, you're not obligated to do anything, and if you encounter him at parties or whatnot in the future you can be polite but distant.
posted by davejay at 3:53 PM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, and on Carmicha's reply, which would feel reeeeeeeeally good to send: the high road truly is the best road, in my opinion. As Kwine says, nicer is better, and in the spirit of you not feeling particularly nice, consider assuming he's going to do all the things Carmicha spells out, give him the benefit of the doubt, and basically say "thanks for sharing, good luck" (which is of course really "thanks for admitting you fucked up, I'm not going to validate you, but I'm taking the high road and not saying anything at all because I can't say anything nice.")
posted by davejay at 3:55 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eh, I've got a little holiday spirit in me this year so I say forgive and forget.

Yeah, he was a total ass, but according to his second email he is acknowledging his douchebag behavior and is apologizing. If you care for him in any way, be a positive force in his life - the kind of adult he is trying to be - and just accept the apology and let the whole thing go - providing he will too and he won't cause anymore weirdness between your friends.

Think about it, there are two choices. Accept the apology or don't. Like it or not, the ball to stop the awkwardness is now in your court. If you want to put this thing to rest and stop wasting time and being stressed thinking about it, just forgive and get back to normal with your friends. In 10 years you'll hardly give it a thought. If you don't accept, then that weirdness will always be there. Always. 10 years from now you will still be stressed about him at parties - is continuing to make all future get-togethers with friends awkward worth not letting this go?

Aside from accepting the apology, you don't really have to do anything. Just be cool with him and things will get better in time.

I'd reply with: Hey guy, Thank you for your apology. You hurt me pretty badly 3 years ago pulling the rug of our friendship out from under me without allowing me any response and it has really sucked having to navigate things with our common friends because of your sole decision. [these are your major beefs boiled down - get them off your chest].

It was a shame to lose our friendship, but it will be nice to not have to be awkward with our friends anymore. [This is what you want, nothing more].

Wishing you well on your endeavors and a happy holiday too. [This gives it a kind of finality, like, 'ok, we're done here, I don't want a bestie'.]

Good luck.
posted by NoraCharles at 4:04 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like what carmicha and Kwine said -- getting your social space right seems like the big thing here.

I will also say, though, that if you think it could work for you, giving a little space in the conversation for both the apology and your feelings to breathe may not be a bad thing.

Maybe something like:

"I appreciate you reaching out, and I think it's important that you're thinking about how your actions may have hurt me and others -- though I think I've mostly moved on, it really did suck and cause some heartache for me. I hope this is about real empathy as well as therapy."

I say this because this situation sounds familiar to me. I had a close friend do something like this to me once, not quite as drastic, but definitely putting a studied distance between us for reasons I thought were pretty ridiculous. At some point, he came back to me and apologized. The apology was part of a "a searching and fearless moral inventory"... which is to say, he was participating in a 12 step program.

I'm familiar with the impulse for an angry response. And the impulse to never re-engage, whether by not responding at all or by only speaking superficially. Instead, I took a risk and told him that, yes, it sure did hurt to be shut out like that, it sucked, glad you're taking responsibility.

I'm glad I acknowledged what happened, how it felt to me, and the apology. I assume it was probably helpful to him on his personal journey, but I'm talking about it here because getting it off my chest made it easier for *me* to not fret about any of that at subsequent social gatherings.

This may not be the right thing for you (in fact, it hasn't always been the right thing for *me*), but it's a possibility to consider.
posted by weston at 4:08 PM on December 13, 2013


I’m not sure I know what he wants to accomplish with this message... but if he’s trying to get me to be a part of his healing, I’m not sure I want a part of it.

You've got it. What he is trying to accomplish is exactly the same thing you describe him doing when he constantly needed support from his parents and refused to give you alone time without freaking out at you. He wants reassurance and validation and this email is an attempt to get it from you. It's shitty of him to try to manipulate you into giving it to him despite the possible emotional ramifications to you, and without any kind of concrete assurance that he will make reparations (ie with your social circle). My guess is that if this was part of a 12-step healing process he would have done that, rather than just sending you a list of his sins.

I'm also glad to see that you know you're not responsible for making things OK with your shared social circle. You are not responsible for this guy's feelings and it's not cool for him to send you a manipulative email trying to wring reassurances out of you.

If I were you I'd freeze him out with something really short and polite, like "Glad to hear you're doing better. Happy holidays." and then not reply to any subsequent emails, or just not reply at all, because honestly, he is trying to drag you back into his drama and it's not "mean" of you to not want to go there.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 5:03 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


What do you think he’s trying to accomplish?

If I'd read his last email to you without knowing your side of the story, I'd have assumed he had broken up with you and treated you badly, and was now making a clumsy attempt to apologize.

But since I know you initiated the breakup, I can only conclude that he's trying to rewrite the history of your relationship because he (still) can't stand the idea that anyone would dare to break up with him since that would make him the victim and violate his image of himself as the desired one and invulnerable.

You could test this by writing something to the effect of 'I really felt I had to get away back then and I'm sorry I hurt you; I am glad to hear you've moved on and are doing well.'

I predict that would upset him, and I think he deserves it-- but then you might have to contend with a renewed outburst of anger.
posted by jamjam at 5:07 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree with the answers above... not engaging is not "mean," but it would be more effective to be nice, a little distant, and emphasize that you want the awkwardness with mutual friends to end.

Just wanted to add that this:
I acted like a child
I avoided the confrontation
I wasn’t really straight forward with anyone back then, or myself.
I look at myself a different way now
I didn’t deal with difficult situations like a man,
I’m working to stop those patterns.


is not really an apology. The only "you" in there is "you don't really have to accept my apology" and the thrown-in "happy you're doing well." He's just trying to make himself feel better, like he's progressed as a person.

So I wouldn't stress too much about what you owe him here.
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:51 PM on December 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


He's been making things difficult for you with your circle of friends for three years. I like carmicha's response, although I would probably be even more direct (and less willing to put up with his games): "Great. I assume this means you'll stop being such a drama-monger and making things difficult when one of our friends is planning something? Because you were way out of line there, and you've caused awkwardness for far more people than just me."

(I have very little patience for the "you can't invite us both to the same event!!!" kind of drama. Oh my dear, are you saying that he/she was abusive/stole from you/? No? So they behaved reasonably overall, but it was a breakup, and breakups suck and you'd prefer not to spend time around him/her? That's for the two of you to deal with. Not my problem, and I'm not going to edit my guest list because of it. </heartless>)
posted by Lexica at 5:56 PM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I personally do not see the need to tread lightly with your response. There's no need to get nasty about it but you should really be forthright about how much he has inconvenienced you for the past 3 fucking years for absolutely no reason other than childish bullshit.

Also, as an aside, the fact that your friends still comment on it after 3 years doesn't paint them in the best light either. (Presumably you have told them that their constant mentioning of how uncomfortable the situation is only serves to make it more uncomfortable?)
posted by elizardbits at 6:05 PM on December 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


You owe this self-absorbed twerp exactly nothing. "Me, me, me, and more about me..." What an annoying creature he is.

I think your initial response was just right -- you didn't engage or escalate, and you didn't trip all over yourself to accept his dopey pseudo-apology.

I might be inclined to write back something like, "The people you really should be apologizing to our all our mutual friends. It's their opinion of you that you should be concerned with. Your thoughts and feelings about me are no longer any of my business, and haven't been for three years." Stick the knife in and give it a little twist. But I'm not-so-nice, so you may want to skip that step and just go on merrily with your life, without giving this guy another thought.
posted by nacho fries at 6:42 PM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


This reminds me of an A.A. apology, or of someone trying to use you as a source of validation. It also reminds me that i have an ex who pulls this shit every time his current relationship starts to get rocky- then a few months later, they're broken up and he wants me in his life again paying attention to him and making him feel important. I would just send back a message that said "ok" and carry on like this guy didn't exist. Who needs this crap?
posted by windykites at 6:44 PM on December 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


windykites' "ok" would be a hilarious and deadly come-back. The brevity says it all.
posted by nacho fries at 6:45 PM on December 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


would it be mean to not enter this conversation with him? What do you think he’s trying to accomplish? Do I owe it to my friend group to try to “make things right” (even though I don’t think it’s my responsibility)?

This is all about him and your friends, and I at least don't think you owe anything to him or your friends in this situation. (Yes, he was a dick to your mutual friends, but that's on him, not you.)

What do you want? In your perfect world, how would this non-relationship play out? Do you want him to stop being a dick to your mutual friends? Do you want him to stay out of your life, full stop? Do you want him to acknowledge what a dick he was being by throwing drama around your friends group? (All of the above?)

I'd figure out what you want, and then ask him for that. He may or may not be capable of it, but you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you gave him the chance to make things better.

I don't think you owe him anything, though. If you want to ignore him, or delete his email and block him, or reply with a random fact about bears and a picture of Dwight Schrute, I think you would be fully within your rights.
posted by pie ninja at 7:04 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have to admit a certain fondness for "ok", although it does give him a potential (invented in his own head) axe to grind with you, because he can interpret it as you being difficult and perpetuating the conflict (i.e. lets him feel like maybe it was you, not him, all along.) Still, I kind of like it.
posted by davejay at 9:16 PM on December 13, 2013


"okie dokie" might be even better, actually. the sheer dismissiveness, omg.
posted by elizardbits at 10:13 PM on December 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm a fan of "okey dokey" or "ok". But mefi's favourite, "Bless you heart" would TRULY reflect my feelings towards him.
posted by taff at 10:29 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


would it be mean to not enter this conversation with him?

He didn't put any questions in that second note he sent you, and I think that was on purpose. So no, I don't think so, and I actually think he doesn't expect you to write back. Which...lucky you!

If you do write back, I would guess that he'd see it as a signal that you're open to communicating with him again, and to receive more emails from him. He's needy, he's going to try to wring as much attention and validation out of every scenario as possible, so of course he's not going to stop trying to wring that out of this one as long as there's even a semblance of you playing along.

I would guess that he friend-dumped you and tried to turn your friends against you when things had finally cooled into chill platonic friendship between you guys the last time around, because he needs attention and validation, and a chill platonic friendship wasn't going to to give his drama lama self enough of that. So he had to re-frame the situation as his current girlfriend and his ex fighting it out over him and drag all your friends into the mix as spectators/Greek chorus.

He's the spoon that stirs the pot.

What do you think he’s trying to accomplish?

I agree with the previous posters that it's an attempt at getting some validation from you, but as attempts at getting validation go, I think it's actually not *too* bad. Self-involved and awkward, yes, but at least he doesn't shift the blame and he uses the word "apology."

Of course you're angry and kind of hate the man -- even putting aside all the holdover issues that you guys might have had from your romantic relationship, he still friend-dumped you, dinged your reputation with your friends, and then made your life just that little bit shittier and more complicated than it had to be for years. But this apology actually sounds like a relative high point of maturity and calm for him, even if that high point isn't all that impressive in an absolute sense, so I don't think that it's something to let yourself get upset about if you can help it. Trying to force your friends to choose him over you is something to hold a grudge over, but an overly self-involved apology? That just seems like peanuts to me in comparison. So, personally, I'd try to take it as much on face value as possible and try to get it out of my mind.

Do I owe it to my friend group to try to “make things right” (even though I don’t think it’s my responsibility)?

No, don't drag even more drama with this guy into your friend group. That's just going to become a classic case of "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice..." I mean, the first time you tried to be friends with him and have everything be cool, he pull the friend-dump, her-or-me crap. It sounds like that's finally resolved, so just let it stay resolved.

If I do respond to this, how can I do it without getting dragged down and without being defensive or angry? Should I just run the other direction? Etc etc.

I honestly would ignore this guy as much as possible, because if you open the door even a crack, he's going to be right back to communicating with you and screwing up things with your friends and...why go through that?

Also, he says that things are good with his girlfriend now but...when self-esteem-challenged exes have slunk back into my life like this, it almost always leads to them contacting me like I'm their new crush when they (of course) get dumped by their current girlfriend a few months later. If he's as needy as you say, I wouldn't rule it out that he's trying to back-burner you right now because he can sense things turning sour with his current girlfriend.

Don't let yourself get dragged into that mess, the deeper you go, the harder it is to claw back out.
posted by rue72 at 2:07 AM on December 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, he says that things are good with his girlfriend now but...when self-esteem-challenged exes have slunk back into my life like this, it almost always leads to them contacting me like I'm their new crush when they (of course) get dumped by their current girlfriend a few months later.

This is a very good point and a very good reason to guard your boundaries right now.
posted by BibiRose at 4:57 AM on December 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


You've gotten a ton of high-quality advice here. I'd like to focus on the friend group piece of your question: "Do I owe it to my friend group to try to “make things right” (even though I don’t think it’s my responsibility)?"

You wrote: "He made it clear to everyone that he would not be attending any event that I was also invited to and forced our friends to act as middle-men who had to manage who got invited to what."

You say he "forced" them, but there was no gun pointed at their heads: your friends voluntarily agreed. This suggests to me your ex has far more social power in this group than you do, and they chose to go along with him. These folks seem like followers. Give that some thought.

"They couldn't believe that he would cut contact because he's friends with all his other exes. A lot of people asked me “what did you do to him?!” like I had done something unspeakable to incite this level of avoidance."

Did you answer them honestly? Does anyone in the group know the truth? That question so many friends asked you certainly suggests to me they incorrectly saw you as the aggressor and him as the victim. (Classic.)

Who "owns" the problem of normalizing your friend relations with every single friend in your circle? Well, clearly, not your ex. Expecting him to repair the damage he used his social power to willfully inflict upon your reputation seems misguided. And acting as if he has the responsibility for repairing the damage risks giving him even more power and attention. Although if he is powerful enough, he could easily reach out to the right people in your group and basically admit he lied about your character. How likely is that to actually happen though? So I must conclude, OP, that if this is to be, it is up to you.

OP, I confess I'm having a hard time even imagining what a one-sided way to "make things right" in this web of many intersecting friendships would look like. What exactly do you want your friends to stop doing? And then start doing?

Some of these folks are always going to have the "drama" mis-label in the backs of their minds with regard to gatherings with you and your ex. It's probably naive to expect everyone to just forget how it's been and start acting naturally.

In your shoes I'd wonder, for 3 years, who among them has really had my back?

The elephant in the room is they collectively don't really want to see how manipulative your ex has been and possibly continues to be. They are loyal to him and meet his demands, but who is really in your corner? Do you have an ally in the group who has some power, and who understands exactly what you're dealing with? Who could you show his email to and get some wise, confidential counsel? Certainly there has got to be at least one member of this friend group who cares enough about you to give you some honest feedback and assistance.
posted by hush at 5:40 AM on December 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


> He made it clear to everyone that he would not be attending any event that I was also invited to and forced our friends to act as middle-men who had to manage who got invited to what

No, he didn't force them to. They chose to -- they could have just laughed at his immature drama and and invited whoever they wanted to whatever event. So as far as any obligation you mention to make things right with your friends, you're totally in the clear.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:56 AM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


In terms of how to handle it with your group of friends, I don't think you need to do anything. Don't mention the ex's email. If he wants to approach them on bended knee and apologize, that's his deal. I would say if it comes up -- if one of your friends mentions the new detente -- you could just calmly remind the friend that the Cold War wasn't your choice in the first place, but you are glad for everyone's sake that it's over. But I'd otherwise just stay cool and aloof from any possible ex-incited drama in the group.
posted by nacho fries at 10:04 AM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


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