How can I get my ex to leave me alone?
January 21, 2009 8:47 AM   Subscribe

My ex is still contacting me and begging for another chance more than a year after the breakup. A restraining order is apparently not an option. I can't become unreachable. What can I do?

My ex of 3+ years broke up with me very suddenly over a year ago. We had about two and a half months of dissecting the relationship into itty bitty “why this happened” pieces which drove me batty, and I finally ended all communication very abruptly. I met someone a few weeks later and fell head over heels, and we happened to run into my ex on our third or fourth date—well, happened to, in that my ex showed up at my apartment unannounced just as we were arriving there.

My ex flipped out. He started calling me multiple times a day, stopping by my apartment and ringing my buzzer late at night, sending flowers to me at work, writing long drunken emails—basically, he only realized he’d “made a mistake” after he saw me with someone else. I responded only for about a week, trying to gently and then firmly tell him he’d missed the boat. Then I started ignoring his efforts altogether. But they didn’t stop. After a month, I threatened him with a restraining order. He didn’t stop. I went to the police and filed a harassment complaint, but since he’s never been threatening (only whining and begging for another chance) the police wouldn’t/couldn’t help me with a restraining order (I am in NYC). They closed the complaint in front of me. I got in touch with my ex’s mother and asked her to intervene, and she said she would talk to him.

After a few months, it died down to one contact every few weeks, during which time he moved to my neighborhood with his new girlfriend (which he left me a message about). But then this morning, more than a year after the breakup, he sent me another email begging for a chance at friendship if nothing more, and telling me that he has to confess he still loves me.

I should explain here that there’s no way for me to avoid him altogether—he knows my work number, my personal and work email addresses, where I live. I haven’t changed my cell phone number since it’s used for work (I’m an independent contractor and it would be a huge hassle to get a new number to all my clients). I simply can’t become completely unreachable. And while I can ignore every message, I’m still not able to avoid him entirely (he sometimes uses different numbers/throwaway email addresses, I guess suspecting I’ve set up filters to send emails right in the trash). And apparently the police here will not help me. Threatening a restraining order without the ability to follow through clearly didn’t work.

I realize I can’t control someone else’s behavior, but...this is exhausting and irritating. I’ve thought of threatening to start forwarding all messages to the new girlfriend, since I assume she doesn’t know this is going on, and I also assume that since they recently signed a lease, he doesn’t want an uncomfortable living situation, but I’m not sure whether that would work and don’t want to appear vengeful against her. As far as I know, she’s an innocent bystander and I would rather not hurt her feelings, but on the other hand, she might deserve to know what’s going on (I believe he was doing the same thing at the beginning of our relationship, and I would like to have known; I probably wouldn’t have stayed with him for three years).

But the main point is, I don’t want revenge. I don’t want to talk to him. I don’t want to argue or fight or hear how wonderful I am and how much he loves me. I don’t want to dread checking my email, I don’t want to screen all calls from unknown numbers. I just want him to Leave. Me. Alone.

I should add, he is 30. He knows that I don't want him to contact me (every message begins with "I know you don't want to hear from me, but..."). I am a little afraid of him, although he has never threatened me and never hit me during our relationship. But his behavior over the last year clearly indicates that he has no self-control.

What can I do? What would you do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
That would scare me. I would go to the police again. You said you went after a month but they might take a year of harrassment more seriously. If they don't, I would consider contacting the police ombud.

Honestly, I know it's not fair that you're not doing anything wrong and yet you're the one who has to suffer for it, but I would make myself as uncontactable as possible: Move. Change your phone number. Change your email address. Change your work number, hassle or not. Yes, it sucks, but so does this, right?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:53 AM on January 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

1) get a therapist to help you deal with emotional stuff related to this
2) keep ignoring the stuff.. no matter what.. 1) will help with this. it could take years, but it will work.
3) don't tell the girlfriend. If there is a third party who could do this, OF HER OWN ACCORD, maybe - but even a negative response from you will reinforce your ex's behaviour.
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:54 AM on January 21, 2009

The Gift of Fear gets recommended a lot on Ask and it is a good book. You should probably read it.

Anyway, its advice in this situation is to ignore him. It's hard, but you have to do it. You are the one with control over whether you talk to him. Don't threaten to do anything. Don't contact him, directly or indirectly, don't try to take legal action against him, don't talk to his friends or family. Don't change your contact info. Anything you do in reaction to him will encourage him.
posted by phoenixy at 8:57 AM on January 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Oh, here's an involves your spending some money, but would certainly make your life more pleasant. Hire a virtual receptionist for your business. As far as I can tell from their ads, these are companies that have call centres where people act as (telephone) receptionists for multiple companies. When the phone rings they get something on their screen telling them what company they're answering for and info about what they do/say for that company. For example, they could give info about your services, make appointments for you, and take messages. And if instructed, they could just not pass along messages from your ex. You'd never even know that he had called, if he called. Plus, knowing that you were never even getting his messages might discourage him from calling.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:57 AM on January 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would still report to the police as harassment-and see if they have any advice for you. Since this is ongoing they may have some suggestions.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:58 AM on January 21, 2009

Don't trust what the police tell you about getting a restraining order. I was once in a situation similar to yours where the police said I had no grounds for a restraining order, but the judge who actually issued the restraining order did so promptly. Talk to someone other than the police about the process.
posted by betterton at 9:02 AM on January 21, 2009 [9 favorites]

And while I can ignore every message, I’m still not able to avoid him entirely (he sometimes uses different numbers/throwaway email addresses, I guess suspecting I’ve set up filters to send emails right in the trash).

You have to ignore every.single.message. Do not respond, do not contact him, do not tell him to stop contacting you. If you see him on the street, you ignore him or walk to the other side. If he uses a throwaway address, and open the email, block that account. You'll get frustrated, of course, but you can't contact him at all.

Change your work number. Sure it's a hassle but you need to understand that your ex is thriving off any contact whatsoever. A "stop talking to me" does not register with him. Rather, in his head, it's a sign that you're still willing to work things out since you responded at all. That's the thing - response is what matters to him, not content.

You need to move as well. Change your work email address as well. Will this be a nightmare? Yes. But it is a nightmare of your control rather than letting your ex inflict this nightmare on you. You've had 1 year of harassment - the cops will listen. If they won't, then contact 311 or your local city councilman/woman.

There is nothing that you can say that will get him to go away. The only thing you can do is to do what you can to avoid him. And since you know his pattern (he went after an ex when he had just started dating you), you also do know that he'll either stop or back down quite a bit at some point. All you can do is keep control over yourself and do not respond or react to him. That is what he wants and that is what you need to avoid giving him.
posted by Stynxno at 9:08 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Having been there, my only advice is don't play into it at ALL. Not even to tell him to stop.
posted by sunshinesky at 9:09 AM on January 21, 2009

Talk to the people at the Family Violence program in NYC. From, "If you are a victim of domestic violence, call 311 and ask for the NYC Domestic Violence Hotline (800-621-4673; TDD 866-604-5350)." or use this site. They are the experts in this area.
posted by theora55 at 9:09 AM on January 21, 2009

I would second maybe asking a lawyer about a restraining order. Just because someone isn't threatening doesn't mean they aren't causing psychological distress.

I would normally agree with the "ignore him totally", because this usually works when they're not getting the attention from the behaviour. However you shouldn't have to wait years for this to work.

On the other hand, would it help if you told him you were marrying the guy? Or maybe pregnant and getting married? While I realize this would be lying, it might stop him from thinking there is any chance of you two getting back together.

On the other hand, it could push him over the edge. Depends on his personality, I guess.
posted by Breo at 9:13 AM on January 21, 2009

Talk to a lawyer. In California, as I understand it, you could probably get a civil harassment restraining order. The wiser course is to bite the bullet, move and change telephone numbers.

I got to middle age before I ran into anyone like your ex. The situation is slightly different in that I'm male so the implicit threat is less physical violence than it is the crazy ex attempting to tear my life apart by whatever means she could. The best I could do was block her e-mails and IMs and repeat "please don't contact me" whenever she forced contact. After two years she seems to have calmed down apart from the sporadic e-mail from a non-black listed address. I also had to learn to let go of my anger at myself for inviting this crazy into my life and at her for being a nut case.
posted by rdr at 9:13 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Forget trying to get a restraining order right now. Even if you get it, which doesn't seem likely, it could turn Mr. Whiny into Mr. Bitter and Vindictive. If you haven't already read Gavin DeBecker's The Gift of Fear, get a copy from the library and read his chapter on stalkers.

Continue to ignore him. Ignore him COMPLETELY. Don't go to his mother, friends or family to ask them to intervene. And for God's sake, don't give into the temptation to drag his new girlfriend into it. You are not her best friend, and it's foolish for you to tell yourself that she deserves to know what's going on is, or to hope that she will fix things for you. I think you are understandably angry and frustrated, and you might be slightly more motivated by the thought of getting him into trouble with her.

If he is able to send you the occasional email that slips past your filters, dump it into a special folder without reading it. Let someone you trust look over the messages on a regular basis in case there is anything developing that should concern you, but otherwise, don't give him any of your attention.

Screen your phone calls if he starts phoning you instead of emailing. (That virtual receptionist mentioned above sounds great!) Let everything you don't recognize go to voicemail, then call back the people you want to talk to. Don't change your phone numbers: it's not just a hassle for you, it's evidence to him that you're paying attention and that he can control your behaviour.

I know you don't want to have to screen your calls, among other things, but the most likely way you'll get this guy to stop is if you stop giving him any attention at all, positive or negative. But this isn't an instant fix: you may need to ignore him for weeks or months longer. You may actually be in a pretty good spot, relatively speaking. He has tried to get back in touch by email, which is easily ignored. Resist all temptation to DO SOMETHING and let his behaviour extinguish.

One more thing: keep in mind that while the possibility of your ex getting weird or violent is small, it could still happen. If you keep ignoring him by mail and phone, and he escalates things to the point where he's now trying to see you at work or home -- I can't confidently offer you any advice. Read de Becker thoroughly, discuss your options with professionals and your family and friends, and be safe.
posted by maudlin at 9:19 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would not take Breo's advice, since jealousy caused your ex to escalate his behavior initially.
posted by Herkimer at 9:23 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Starting right now, document every single contact he has with you. Save and print the emails, take pictures of the flowers, scan the notes he's sent you. Keep a log of when you run into him on the street. This will help when you go to the police.

Contact a domestic violence hotline or women's shelter. I don't know where you are in NYC, but I am sure there are plenty. Although this isn't abuse *yet,* there will be advocates who will help you navigate the police and courts.

Get the restraining order. It won't physically protect you, but it's an extra arrow in your quiver. Redouble your efforts to change your contact information, and even your location. Moving sucks, but so does being stalked and harassed.

Take a self-defense class. This could be helpful should it turn physical, but it's more of a way to tell yourself that you will no longer allow yourself to be victimized in this way, and that you are taking real steps to protect yourself. The instructor also may be a resource for helping you.

As you know, this is not normal and it is not ok. You are certainly in psychological, if not physical, danger.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:24 AM on January 21, 2009

Experts suggest that in cases where the offender is known, victims should send the stalker a clear written warning. Specifically, victims should communicate that the contact is unwanted, and ask the perpetrator to cease sending communications of any kind. Victims should do this only once. Then, no matter the response, victims should under no circumstances ever communicate with the stalker again. Victims should save copies of this communication in both electronic and hard copy form.

If the harassment continues, the victim may wish to file a complaint with the stalker’s Internet service provider, as well as with their own service provider. Many Internet service providers offer tools that filter or block communications from specific individuals. (link)
posted by ND¢ at 9:24 AM on January 21, 2009

You want to do what IS effective--not what sounds effective---to get this guy to leave you alone.

Please get "The Gift of Fear" as recommended by Phoenixy.
The writer is a long-time and brilliant professional who deals with just these sorts of things.

Often what intuitively seems like the thing to do, isn't.
posted by mumstheword at 9:24 AM on January 21, 2009

Is there anyone who you know that he respects and trusts? If so, have them talk to him on your accord. If that 3rd party doesn't already know, fill them in on your side of the story, and see if they'll talk to him for you. If not, everyone has covered it all (except keep away from his current girlfriend).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:35 AM on January 21, 2009

IANYL. Save all correspondence and voicemail messages your ex sends, and carefully chronicle his communication attempts. Resist the temptation to respond, no matter how histrionic he may seem.

Here are three New York's Penal Code sections for review: § 120.45 relating to fourth degree stalking; New York Penal Code § 240.26 relating to second degree harassment; and New York Penal Code § 240.30 relating to second degree aggravated harassment.
posted by terranova at 9:38 AM on January 21, 2009

"A restraining order is apparently not an option."


I spent my three years of law school (in Indiana, ymmv) volunteering for an organization that helped victims of DV get restraining orders. IANAL and IANYL, but you're the kind of person we would definitely help out.

First thing to understand: the police have only one job when it comes to restraining orders: enforcing them. They don't get to decide who gets one, they don't set the requirements for getting one, and they don't really have any influence on the process. We discovered pretty quickly that most police officers had no idea what the requirements even were. Do not listen to the police about this particular issue.

Second, all of the states with which I am familiar allow restraining orders for harassment. Some require that you have a (reasonable) fear of the person.

A lot of states are trying to streamline the process for getting a protective order / restraining order and make it more friendly to non-lawyers. You can call the courthouse and see if they have the forms you need.

You might also live near a law school, it would be worth calling them to see what sort of resources they have (or know of) that could help you. Most women's shelters will have a similar list of resources.

If all else fails, talk to a lawyer. A lawyer versed in family law would probably have a great deal of experience with these.

Also? "The wiser course is to bite the bullet, move and change telephone numbers."

Yeah, no. You don't have to let this person control your life. There are a lot of resources out there for you, should you choose to take advantage of them.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:40 AM on January 21, 2009 [16 favorites]

I am not an expert, or a therapist, but had my own experiences with a stalker that wound up as a fair bit of condensed (personal) insights on a Web page.

That wisdom is condensed here as The Big Red Button, and basically is a useful analogy that helped me (and may help you) see the logic behind the "do not communicate with him at all" strategy.

I'm sure "The Gift Of Fear" is a much better thing to read, but hopefully this will be of some small use.

Good luck.
posted by Shepherd at 9:43 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

follow-up from the OP
Some additional information:

1. I have read The Gift of Fear several times, which is why I began ignoring his attempts to contact me. The book is great and I’ve been steadfast in following its advice to ignore contact, but...I really don’t think I can handle waiting months or years more for him to stop. If it’s not legal for him to be doing what he’s doing, I want to take full advantage of the protection of the law.
2. I have been documenting everything since the beginning. I’ve set up filters for email addresses he uses that I recognize so they go into a folder and are marked read, but I don’t have to see them but have them on file if I need them. I have call logs that show the dates and times he’s called, from numbers known to be his and numbers I suspect were him. I have the complaint I made at the police station. I have a few close friends who know about every contact who also have HIS contact information, so in case anything happened to me, they could bring it all to the police.
3. He has been told, verbally and via email, that I do not want to hear from him again. Clearly, as in “Do not contact me again in any way ever”.
4. My father is a lawyer, but not in New York. He’s asked me several times to let him write my ex a cease-and-desist letter but I have not given him permission since a) it would be a reaction to my ex’s contact, and b) I feel like a letter from a dad (even a lawyer dad) would not carry the weight of a letter from a local lawyer, which I can’t afford.
5. I will not contact the girlfriend. It was sort of a gratifying fantasy, but I can imagine it causing a shitstorm I can’t see my way out of, and what I want more than anything is for it all to go away.

I am going to call one of these agencies tonight and see what my options are. Thank you for the links to specific penal codes I can refer to. I’m really hoping that I can just file some paperwork and someone will serve him notice that legally there will be consequences if he contacts me again. I hope I don’t have to go to court.

For anyone who’s gotten a restraining order, how does that part work?
posted by jessamyn at 9:48 AM on January 21, 2009

Nthing what others have said, this situation sounds dangerous. Talk to a lawyer immediately about your concerns, tell him/her you want a restraining order and they will get you one. Don't feel any pity or concern or embarrassment--it's not your fault that the guy is obsessed, even if you have permitted it in the past. Just put a stop to it now by getting help and not trying to handle it alone. As toomuchpete said, the police don't decide about restraining orders, the courts do. Talk to a women's organization, maybe they can get you some free legal counsel. If you're posting about it here, you're probably more concerned than you even realize.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:49 AM on January 21, 2009

I know you don't want to have to screen your calls, among other things, but the most likely way you'll get this guy to stop is if you stop giving him any attention at all, positive or negative.

For what it's worth, I went through a very similar experience. Got dumped. Moved on. Ex wouldn't leave me alone. I told him never to contact me again and ignored everything I got from him thereafter, but it didn't work. He continued to contact me for YEARS despite the lack of acknowledgment from me. When I changed my contact info, I'm sure it told him I was paying attention - and that bugged me on a pride level - but it made it impossible for him to do anything else. So, I say you should definitely give one firm warning and ignore him after that, but don't be afraid to take action. There comes a point when it doesn't matter if he thinks you're paying attention or not. He'll try anyway. So, save everything and go to the police if you need to.
posted by katillathehun at 9:53 AM on January 21, 2009

Anonymous: After a month, I threatened him with a restraining order. He didn’t stop. I went to the police and filed a harassment complaint, but since he’s never been threatening (only whining and begging for another chance) the police wouldn’t/couldn’t help me with a restraining order (I am in NYC). They closed the complaint in front of me.

The police were wrong, at least to large degree. Maybe it made sense to them that they didn't view just one month of phone calls as harassment yet, but it can be. Also, it certainly is now. Please see this handy chart of the stalking and harassment definitions in all 50 states.

Here's what to do:

(1) Read a little about Harassment Restraining Orders.

(2) Fill out this form. You'll see there are options for you: you were in an intimate relationship, and he is harassing you.

(3) Find your local courthouse here and deliver the form.

The court will be able to tell you what you can do from there, though I don't think you'll have to do much; the court will probably notify him for you.

Really, I'm pushing you to do this because you make it clear at the end of your question that he's not only a bother; you worry about where the hell this will end up. Remember this, please: even if he never does anything else, he's already harassing you, and that's against the law.
posted by koeselitz at 9:54 AM on January 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

and IANAL, but it seems like you've made enough attempts to avoid contact and let this work itself out. Tell your dad you can't afford a regular lawyer's note but you definitely want one. Accept his offer to pay for a local lawyer to write one. Use all of koeselitz's advice above. Think about it in a risk/reward balance logical way:

You risk = some money, some embarrassment if you're over-reacting, some small chance that the legal communication could initially make him more disruptive, though without knowing if that would have happened anyway.

You gain = a recognizable safety net if the situation escalates, and a much bigger piece of mind even if it doesn't.

Seems eminently worth it to me.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:57 AM on January 21, 2009

Also, on preview, I know you're worried about "having to go to court," but you're certainly not at the stage of having to hire a lawyer or defend your case. Also, please keep this in mind: I'm not a lawyer, but I'm sure your father can tell you that the laws in most states are set up in order to make it easy to get a restraining order when you need one; the people who need them shouldn't be made to jump through hoops, and everyone knows it. If you fill out that form (which is a State of New York request for a Harassment Protection Order) and bring it to the court, I'm certain that the clerk will be able to tell you what to do from there; likely you'll just have to have a judge grant it or refuse it, and since you've got documentation and have clearly been harassed, I imagine he'll grant it.
posted by koeselitz at 10:02 AM on January 21, 2009

Nthing the advice to ignore every single contact. Don't answer the phone. Don't pick it up and slam it down. Don't e-mail. Don't reach out to anyone to contact him on your behalf. You must do your best to cease to exist for him. Each time he gets you to react, even if it's just to provoke an angry phone slam, he gets confirmation that you're still there, are still engaged in some way and it allows him to entertain the possibility of changing your mind.

Phone calls that you don't recognize need to go to voice mail. I'd say don't even read his e-mails so that you won't be tempted to respond, but it could be useful in monitoring where his head is, and could certainly be evidence of threatening behavior. So, read and file away.

No matter what you do, please don't allow him to provoke you to react. If he calls 20 times and you pick up on the 21st to angrily tell him to leave you alone, he just learns that he has to keep trying until he reaches your breaking point.

And yes, retry with the police. He is harassing you.
posted by contrariwise at 10:14 AM on January 21, 2009

My college roommates and I had to get a restraining order against the other roommate's boyfriend. The abuse had escalated into threats of physical violence one really horrible night, so we called the police. The police came, listened to all of us, and escorted the boyfriend and the roommate out of the apartment. Per the officers' instructions, we called the landlord the next day and had the locks changed. Eviction proceedings started and we also started the restraining order process. The details are kind of fuzzy, but I know we had a public defender and we went to court. Neither of them showed up for the proceedings, which meant an automatic restraining order being issued. They were not to come to the apartment without police escorts, and they moved out while we were all at classes.

I remember things moving really quickly once the ball got moving. Everyone took us seriously and the public defender was really quite nice and understanding and helpful.

Good luck.
posted by cooker girl at 10:20 AM on January 21, 2009

If totally avoiding contact with the person hasn't worked, then I think it's time to look in what the police and the law can do for you.
posted by chunking express at 10:25 AM on January 21, 2009

Oh dear, I have gone through almost the exact same experience. I am so sorry.

Here is my last post about the matter.

I nth the advice that you file for a Protective Order. There must be a family crisis center of domestic violence advocate who you could contact. They will walk you through it, and some will even help you fill out the paperwork and go to court with you.

I opted to get a lawyer, because as in your case, as mine was not a case of him physically assaulting me, or using clear cut threats, but rather constant harassment. One thing that helped was to save every text message, email, note left on my car, phone messages to my family (I did change my number), and scary online posts.

And yes, ignore, ignore, ignore. He'll be served with the paperwork and he'll have to go to court and he'll be very worked up about that (so be sure to be extra careful during this period of time). As suggested above, don't read his emails, but have someone else look at them and save them for you.

I got the Order and every time he violated the Order, I went to the police and filed a report. Sometimes they said "You don't have a case." (And I found it varied depending on the police person and/or the town in which I filed). But when it was cut and dry harassment, the police were great about it.

He finally went to court this summer and now has to go to lots of counseling. Is it working? I don't know. I feel safer, but I still lose sleep over the fact that my Order against him expires in a few months I still look over my shoulder. I still barely leave my house. He still emails my friend and via local newspapers has let it be known that he's creating "art" about me.

And it has been hell. But not nearly as bad as putting up with his constant unwanted contact.

Now he knows that I mean business. I am not going to respond to him. I am not going to play his game. I am not going to get back together with him. I will put his ass in jail, and if need be, I will put his ass in prison.

Noone should have to put up with this. Please feel free to send me a mefi message if you have any other questions.
posted by uh126 at 10:45 AM on January 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

"The Gift of Fear gets recommended a lot on Ask and it is a good book. You should probably read it." I agree with Phoenixy. This book does rock.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 11:22 AM on January 21, 2009

What you are doing is not working.

Do something else.

Quit making excuses.

Specifics: Your dad is a lawyer, presumably adult. Borrow $300 from him. Use it to hire a local lawyer. Give him your contact logs. Get a restraining order. Pay back your dad eventually. It's a start and it's a change of strategy. R/O is a big fucking black eye to ex and should put his ass on notice. He's in the system.

Doing the same thing would be this:

Anonymously whining to internet strangers about your yeah-but attitude and doing nothing and expecting it to change.

Sorry to be harsh, but 'yeah-but' is not my favorite game.
posted by FauxScot at 11:28 AM on January 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

The people above have given excellent advice about restraining orders and maintaining "no contact." I would like to add that you should tell your neighbors, landlord, receptionist/coworkers/boss, and anyone else who might be around when he shows up. Make sure that they understand the situation - they are your first line of defense if things get violent. I would also like to add that you should not assume that this will not escalate - and you should take it very seriously.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:12 PM on January 21, 2009

Again, I can't speak to the process in New York, but in Indiana (as of a year or so ago) it worked like this:

1. You fill out the form. Either by yourself or with the help of an attorney.
2. You file the form with the court.
3. A hearing is scheduled.
4. If certain circumstances dictate it, a temporary order can be issued until a hearing can be held. Typically this is in the case of imminent violence (or violence already done)
5. At the hearing, the judge will try to sort out whether or not you meet the qualifications for the PO/RO and then either grant or deny your petition.

The thing that I will point out that has been mentioned and alluded to above: the PO doesn't physically restrain him. With more obviously violent people, there is always that latent fear that this will be the thing that really sends them over the edge. It's possible, and it happens, but it is not particularly frequent. You also have no idea whether or not your current course of action is just a few steps from that same result.

The huge benefit of the PO, especially in a case like yours, is that it really draws a bright line for you. No contact. No emails. No phone calls. No letters. Nothing. If he violates that PO (and you turn him in), he's going to be dealing with one ticked off judge, as well as whatever sanctions arise from it. If he shows up at your apartment, he gets arrested. In short, it sorta nips this in the bud before he can really escalate it too much further.

Might you have to go to court for it? Yeah. You probably will. But that's because those are the people that can help you out. Quit using your apprehension about court as an excuse to keep from solving the problem.
posted by toomuchpete at 12:32 PM on January 21, 2009

Write him an email including this text:

But the main point is, I don’t want revenge. I don’t want to talk to him. I don’t want to argue or fight or hear how wonderful I am and how much he loves me. I don’t want to dread checking my email, I don’t want to screen all calls from unknown numbers. I just want him to Leave. Me. Alone.

And also let him know that if you hear from him again, you will forward the emails/texts/whatever directly to his girlfriend. And be prepared to follow through.
posted by number9dream at 1:13 PM on January 21, 2009

number9dream, that is terrible advice. She's already told him not to contact her. If she responds, he will now know that she's willing to engage, if only he is persistent enough. Also, dragging his new gf into this is just going to create more drama and may cause him to escalate beyond harassment to violent behavior.
posted by chiababe at 2:09 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

No advice here, just an observation: doubtless from his perspective, where he knows his intentions and he's no danger to anyone, this all looks entirely different. He knows you don't want him to contact you, yes. Have you said to him as you have above, that he's scaring you with his obvious inability to exercise self-control? Hearing that he's scary might provoke/might have provoked* an entirely different response in him than that very generic "Please don't contact me again".

Quite possibly he'll feel surprised to be served up a restraining order because the power imbalance here seems to him, if anything, reversed. To you he's a guy and you're a girl and he's acting crazy which of course = scary. To him you're a person he dated once, to whom he's never been violent or anything scary, and he wants to keep in his life -- for all-bad reasons, but he doesn't know you know that -- and since it is, technically and according to popular opinion, possible to remain friends with exes after a certain amount of time or after you've started a new relationship, then you could be seen by him to be acting a little bit over-the-top too by resorting to unqualified orders like, "Do not contact me any more, ever," rather than stating, as equal to equal (as he presumably still sees you two), why you want him to bugger off and leave you alone.

I'm of course assuming what you have and haven't said to him, so take with as many grains of salt as required. But it could be worth noting anyway, because I imagine a restraining order has some bearing on one's permanent record, and certainly on one's personal self-view, and for that reason I wouldn't like to pull one on somebody without having communicated why, to my eyes, it's the logical next step if they don't quit it.

Good luck man, I hope it works out for you.

* I'm not suggesting you contact him again or that you not -- just noting.
posted by springbound at 4:18 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

springbound: But it could be worth noting anyway, because I imagine a restraining order has some bearing on one's permanent record, and certainly on one's personal self-view, and for that reason I wouldn't like to pull one on somebody without having communicated why, to my eyes, it's the logical next step if they don't quit it.

It's tempting to think in that way; it's tempting to think about how much suffering a restraining order might cause him. It's also beside the point. I can assure you from experience (I haven't had it happen to me, but I've know guys who have) that restraining orders might be a brief blow to your confidence and a bit of a left hook, but they aren't an eternal black mark legally, and he will get over it. Especially considering the fact that anon has warned him repeatedly that she will do this, and told him very clearly why.

A year from now, Anon will barely think about the crazy guy, and the crazy guy will (hopefully) have moved on. And when the subject comes up at parties ('hey, Joe, remember that time that girl got a restraining order against you?') the crazy guy will shake his head, take a swig of beer, and say, "yeah, wasn't that nuts? She sure was over the top." He's entitled. He can go tell everybody he knows how annoyed he is, he can find the whole thing ridiculous, and he can say she was a crazy, overreacting bat for the rest of his life if that helps him work it out, so long as he doesn't bug Anon about it. If that's what happens, then everybody will be fine, and the mild, temporary embarrassment he feels will pass pretty quickly.

So I don't believe Anon should worry too much about causing him suffering; a restraining order isn't a big deal unless you turn it into one by violating it.
posted by koeselitz at 4:38 PM on January 21, 2009

Springbound: Quite possibly he'll feel surprised to be served up a restraining order

Perhaps you didn't see this in the original post:

"After a month, I threatened him with a restraining order. He didn’t stop. "
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:00 PM on January 21, 2009

The Light Fantastic, no, I saw it. The restraining order didn't appear when last she mentioned it. If his response to that threat (to her, or just in his own head) was, "Pshaw, I'm not the kind of person for which restraining orders were invented!" then, if anything, the fact that one didn't eventuate last time might only have confirmed that position for him -- ergo he'd still be surprised. Ya dig? I'm not talking about surprise for lack of a warning, I'm talking about surprise if he doesn't understand the effect his actions are having on the OP and that they should fall under the heading "scary-making".
posted by springbound at 12:44 AM on January 22, 2009

A freind of mine was obsessed with a woman, and long before it got to where you are at, he arrived home from work one night, there was a knock on his door, and he was served a restraining order. It blew him out of his shoes, it stopped him cold. He's a citizen, he's never really been on the other side of the law or even played around close to the line, he truly never thought this would happen to him. Did he ever cool his jets -- whoa! At that time we lived in the same condo complex, I ran into him later that night, he was sortof shocky, jangly, scared. Set in his place. All of the sudden he was able to see that he'd gone over the line.

He left her alone completely.

Maybe your ex is a bit rougher around the edges, in which case it might cause him to flare when he's served. But it surely did calm my friend down, and fast.

Do get a restraining order. Don't change your numbers or email or move; do accept that he's really nutty right now, it is what it is. Be glad you're not nutty right now.

I wish you had brothers. They are a huge annoyance probably but they'd be great in this, three hulking, unshaven mopes show up at his place on Sunday morning and say hello.

I've been on both sides of this scenerio, I truly was heartbroken when my marriage broke up lo those long years gone by, heartbroke and green to boot, it took me months to get it, and accept it, fortunately she'd moved on, another state, I sent pleading letters, etc and etc. Humbling, for sure. The gal who pulled it on me was/is truly a pscyho, and lives two buildings down from me to this day, it was my very own Fatal Attraction sort of thing. It waa interesting, and educational, I generally walk much slower anymore, take time to see who people are underneath the shiny paper.

You could actually get a laugh out of this, like "Holy shit, this guy is nuts! Ha ha ha!" If he were to understand that he's a laughingstock, he'd slink off like a scalded dog.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:11 AM on January 22, 2009

Nthing restraining order. I have a relative who tends to get a bit... fixated... on people she feels has rejected her affections or have otherwise spurned her. Sometimes it's someone she barely knows, but unfortunately, most of the time, it's an ex or a friend she's known for a while.

If he contacts you again, get a protective order. Or, you can do what one stalking victim of my relative did. They called the local sheriffs dept, explained what was going on, and asked for options. The officers offered to come out to speak to the offending relative on their way back in to the office from their next call in the area. Cop car pulled up, two officers came and spoke, pretty gently, to my relative, asking her if she understood how serious harassment of the sort she was dishing out could be.

I'm not going to say that this stopped my relative from ever doing something like that again, but she stopped cold on her harassment and contact of the particular person who'd gone to the cops. And when she did do it again, it was more along the random anonymous card sort of thing... nothing like what she'd done before.

You could wait it out, but if he's still doing this after a year, you need to bring in the big guns (figuratively and literally).

Any chance you could have your dad ask a lawyer friend at a different practice to put something on their letterhead? Meaning, if you didn't want Psycho Ex to have your dad's info (place of business, etc).
posted by Grrlscout at 2:11 AM on January 22, 2009

follow-up form the OP
I spoke with someone at the hotline theora recommended and they confirmed that I have a case and that I should bring the form and any supporting paperwork to the courthouse in my borough, which I will do next week. I have text logs, call logs, and email printouts which include the clear message I gave him to stop contacting me, and every subsequent message which says “I know you don’t want to hear from me, but...” I am waiting on my local precinct to provide the complaint number I filed. Thank you all for giving me the courage and information to do this. I will post an update, if I can, about how things turn out.

Springboard, you are right that this is going to come out of left field to him, but it’s due to his refusal to listen to me. Before I even mentioned the restraining order, I told him he was scaring me, which he brushed aside with “Oh, come on, you KNOW me”. I told his mother he was scaring me, and I’m sure she passed that on. He definitely sees this as one of those “If he could only explain it well enough, I’d get it”. He really doesn’t see his behavior as scary and inappropriate, and that’s what makes me nervous about how he’ll react when he does get served the papers.

He has always been adamant that exes can and SHOULD remain friends, so my desire to first, not be friends for a while, and now, not be friends at all ever, has been a very sore point with him. He almost certainly does not see the downward spiral he’s caught in. The progression went something like this over a matter of six weeks or so:

I’m sorry you’re hurt, but you broke up with me and I’ve moved on.

There’s no chance we’ll get back together. Stop calling me.

I told you to stop calling me. You’re scaring me. I don’t want to be friends with you.


From his mom: Anonymous had to get in touch with me because you’re out of control! What the hell is wrong with you?! I raised you better than that! Leave her alone!


And then radio silence on my part (and no restraining order forthcoming, and the police didn’t even notify him about the harassment complaint I DID file). He’s had plenty of warnings. And yet you’re exactly right—he’s going to be shocked by this, because he really doesn’t see it coming. Even his email yesterday said “There are things left unsaid, and I can’t live with myself unless I try to reach out to you.” And then the rest of the email said all the things he’s been saying for the last year. So, to your point, yes, it’s been communicated to him clearly and in a logical progression, but he’s not being logical so he will see it as coming out of left field and will feel like this is unfair and unwarranted. As of yesterday, however, I no longer feel like that’s my problem.
posted by jessamyn at 6:51 AM on January 22, 2009

As one who has had an ex go crazy on me, I would suggest you document everything. I had to fight the court system to get my order of protection, but whether or not he is being violent, it is STILL harassment. And depending on what state you live in, anything over a couple of months is worthy of an argument for your protection. Do NOT ever underestimate that this will not escalate physically. A mental break happens to certain people and it makes them capable of doing certain things you would never suspect. Document everything, keep emails, save your caller id on your phone and cell to show the judge how frequently he is attempting to contact you.
posted by penguingrl at 3:37 AM on January 23, 2009

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