"It's over." (If only.)
June 10, 2010 8:09 AM   Subscribe

Sadly, I think I'm preparing to break up with someone who might refuse to accept the breakup. Help me plan as well as I can to discourage him from fixating on contact and/or coming to my new home.

Our recent attempts at communication (weeks of intensive last attempts to salvage the relationship) have involved him refusing to accept some of my most explicit, direct statements -- and him insisting on more communication than I possibly have time for, calling/texting incessantly.

So I'm concerned he might refuse to be broken up with and might keep calling/texting me at the same high frequency, still trying to get me to change my mind.

I'd also like to think about how to discourage him from coming to where I now live. I've never, in all the years I've known him, seen him have any impulses toward physical violence (and he barely touches alcohol and never touches drugs, so I'm not concerned about him being not-himself chemically either). I'm just concerned about non-physical harrassment, possibly including trying to visit me to insist that I talk to him. He is a good guy -- he does have an obsessive personality but not at all a violent one.

I've been living in another state and I haven't been to his place or seen him for a few months. He does know my current address, although he's never been here or been invited here. It would be next to impossible for me and my family to go elsewhere (this is my family home and I'm caring for a family member long-term). It's just a regular little house in a low-crime neighborhood, so it has no particular protections against anything.

I'm starting to have irrational thoughts and also some nightmares about him coming here (I say irrational since there's no historical indication whatsoever that he'd be a physical threat toward any of us). I'm just feeling unusually concerned and protective because there's a baby in the house, and because his interactions with me have had so much insistence to them.

I'm working hard on tying up logistical loose ends (like the few things I still have at his place). This week he has started asking me over and over again whether I have certain things of his (like clothing) that I absolutely don't have, and I don't know what to do about that if he won't believe me.

Thank you for your thoughts. I'm in the U.S. (and I'm female, btw, in case you know any organizations or resources that are just for females).
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A restraining/no-contact order is what you get when you are worried someone is going to invade your home or privacy or personal space.

The things of yours that he has? That's break-up tax. Their dollar or emotional value is the price you are paying to get him out of your life.

As for all the calls that's the value of the no contact order. neither of you can break it. so there is no contact. Either way you should not take his calls, block his texts, and send his emails automatically to the trash.
posted by French Fry at 8:33 AM on June 10, 2010

OK, first, get everything of yours out of his place and everything of his out of your place. This absolutely needs to happen before you break up with him.

When you break up with him, say "I need to have no contact with you. I will not accept your calls." And then... DON'T. Seriously, just don't. Don't ask him to stop, don't say "I said I wouldn't talk to you," just refuse at any point to acknowledge his existence.

I know this isn't at the point of stalking yet, but the advice for stalkers is don't answer the phone after he calls 29 times to tell him to stop, because that will just teach him that it takes 29 tries to get you to respond.

If he starts threatening or anything -- document, document document. Write down every time he calls, every email he sends, everything he says. Keep every record you can.

Of course, this may not be an issue, but you sound like you want to be more safe than sorry.
posted by brainmouse at 8:34 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I once broke up with someone who had a hard time accepting it. She continued to call my house at all hours, including the middle of the night when drunk (fun!), and when I refused to take her calls and told my housemates not to take them either, she would do things like have her roommate call and ask for me, so they wouldn't recognize her voice, and then when I picked up it would be her on the line. I do remember one time being alone in the house with her banging on the door and demanding to talk to me. She eventually went away. I wasn't worried about physical violence on her part but the harassment lasted for awhile.

So, in your shoes, if you're really worried, I would start with changing my phone numbers and setting up my e-mail program to shunt anything from him directly to the trash. If he has a key to the house you're living in (it sounds like not), change the locks. If you're friends on social networks like Facebook, de-friend him.

Tell him one time (by phone or e-mail), "It's over. I don't have the things you're asking about and will not have any more conversations about that with you. I don't want to see you again." (Or whatever version of that works for you--though I'd recommend being very clear and direct and not saying anything that suggests even the remote possibility that there might still be a door open somewhere--no "I hope you can be friends," or "I'm sorry it didn't work out," or anything like that. Just focus on the message you want him to hear.) Probably the sooner you do this the better. Loose ends like a few things still at his house, if you haven't collected them, may be better let go of rather than continuing to talk with him.

Then, don't have any more conversations with him. At that point, you've said everything you need to say to him and if he didn't hear it that time, he's not going to hear it if you say it again. Don't take calls, don't read e-mails, just move on.

If he shows up at your house, don't open the door and tell the folks you're living with to do the same. Tell him through the door to go away or you will call the police. If he does not go away, call the police.
posted by not that girl at 8:39 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

For some personalities, letting them see the impact of the harrassment on you is useful. "Your refusal to stop calling me is scaring me. I am having nightmares. I need you to ___."
posted by salvia at 8:45 AM on June 10, 2010

I'd suggest reading perennial MetaFilter favorite The Gift of Fear. It's not just about protecting yourself from violence; it also has a lot of great insights about people with obsessive personalities and how to insulate yourself from them.
posted by decathecting at 8:45 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

1. A clean break is absolutely necessary. No lingering friendships or promises of such.
2. Delete/block/unfriend/spam folder -- these are your best tools.
3. Try these words, they worked for me: "I don't consider us a couple any more."
4. I ended up having to call the police and a battered-woman hotline, but only once -- and SHE got the message (yep, this was a same-sex relationship).
5. Consider moving, because you will always feel watched until you do. The same goes for your online homes.
and finally:
6. YMMV, but I found out after the fact that she was already trolling for her next victim before we broke up. They're still together, and I pity the fool (just like Mr. T)!
posted by kidelo at 8:56 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm guessing by the way you phrased your question that he already knows where you live. That's too bad. It would be a lot cooler if he didn't.
Get a new phone number.
Don't engage. At all. Ever.
Do you have a lot of common friends? Be aware that you might have to cut some of them off, for your own sake.
Most importantly, if you do decide to do this, don't dither. It's a lot more painful, not to mention a waste of everyone's time, to break up, then reconcile, only to break up again.
Best of luck.
posted by Gilbert at 8:57 AM on June 10, 2010

Based on a similar experience in my own relationship history, the giving-back-of-possessions can be dragged out for an insane length of time. In my case, the definition of ownership evolved. I foolishly did not get my locks changed and came home from work one day to find that he'd been in my apartment and cleared out everything that he or his family and friends had ever given me. I'd go out to my car in my workplace parking lot and find that he'd left random crap of mine on the hood, (like a lone sock). Just call it even and tell him he can throw your stuff away.

You have to be blunt and assertive and loud. Tell him it's over and he needs to leave you alone. You cannot be friends with him. Cut all internet connection you have with him. Do not talk to him on the phone or text.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:03 AM on June 10, 2010

I'm going to discourage the "you're dead to me" treatment unless you feel like it's the only way ( though it might be ). Simple breakups can be big blows to someone's self-image. Giving someone reason to feel that you have not only fallen out of love, but now also see no reason to acknowledge their existence... well, that can make even level-headed people a little obsessive.

So weigh the need for the nuclear option carefully. A little awkwardness and respect for the relationship that was may avoid fanning the flames of rejection unnecessarily.
posted by the jam at 9:26 AM on June 10, 2010 [9 favorites]

setting up my e-mail program to shunt anything from him directly to the trash

sorry, but this is a really, really bad idea—in the event that you need to get a restraining order against someone, the more evidence you have, the better things are for you. by all means set up your email so that it filters email from someone into a folder that you never ever go into, or forwards the messages to a backup email account you don't read, or to a friend that can read them and keep them, but DON'T DELETE THEM.
posted by lia at 9:57 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're having nightmares about things he might possibly do, and even though you don't think he's a threat to the baby in the house, you're in fear about that too.

You may need to do a lot of things regarding him, but let's be clear: he hasn't stalked you yet, you're not even broken up yet. What's got you churning right now is your own imagination. You need, first, to figure out how to not get yourself so wound up, so you can deal calmly with whatever comes next.
posted by orthogonality at 10:42 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm starting to have irrational thoughts and also some nightmares about him coming here

*knock knock*
You: I do not wish to see you. Leave my property now. Do not come back.
*knock knock*
You: You are trespassing, and I am going to call the police.
*knock knock*
You: [move away from door, call police]
posted by mikepop at 11:01 AM on June 10, 2010

I had an ex who did not stop calling, was leaving weird messages, started threatening to come to my office, called from different numbers so I wouldn't know it was him, etc. One time my then-bf/future husband picked up my phone when he called and just talked to him. He was really calm and I'm afraid that I don't know what he said but that was the end of it. I don't know if this is an option but if you have a mutual friend it might work.

Also, I think the way you break up with him will have a huge impact on how this goes. Do not leave any open doors and say anything like "this just isn't a good time in my life" because he hears, well, maybe in 10 minutes it will be a better time. It's a time to be pretty blunt. Don't cushion the blow by saying you care about him or love him because that sounds a lot like there might still be a chance. You two are done. You will not get back together. The relationship is over.

And I second those who have said that the stuff you've left at his place is the break-up tax. If he's a good guy, he'll get it back to you (an ex literally left some of my stuff on my porch one afternoon). You can do the right thing by returning his stuff to him. But if you don't get your stuff back, that's just too bad. It's a crappy lesson but it's a lesson you (hopefully) only have to learn once.
posted by kat518 at 11:22 AM on June 10, 2010

My first piece of advice is TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. Don't let anyone talk you into feeling as though you're being irrational or that you have no basis in fact - you are getting the early warning now that most people ignore.

You have to let go of the stuff. He will hold you hostage emotionally for as long as it takes. Please let it go.

Put his stuff in a box and mail it to him. Don't agree to meet up for an exchange. If you can't do that for some reason like it's too big, then have a third-party do it. Let them deal with it for you. Most friends will be happy to assist.

On that note, take every email he sends and forward it to either a trusted friend who can screen it for creepiness and then save it. Or have it auto forward to another Gmail or similar account that you DO NOT CHECK. Tell someone it exists, though and give them the login credentials. Or at least write it down somewhere.

The second piece of advice is the hardest: you need to tell people - family, neighbors, friends - that this person is not welcome despite being your ex. Because that way, if there is trouble, they don't get thrown off by him showing up and them remembering him as a nice guy and "But he was always so nice, and he seemed so much to want to get back together, I didnt think it was a problem to give him your new phone number." You have to do this no matter how humiliating it might seem.

Doing this last thing probably saved my life - I'll never know for certain. It certainly disarmed the other individual from being able to exert power over me - he couldn't turn up at work and make a scene when the receptionist, the janitor/handyman and my boss' boss knew I was "going through a tough time" and would call the police if he showed up. Once he knew I had told other people at work, it removed that card.

I know he is "a nice guy" but I think you are having nightmares for a reason.

Be firm. Be decisive. Have people around when you do anything. Call the police if you have to.
posted by micawber at 11:57 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

There is lots of good advice here. I once went through a scary situation with an ex who just couldn't accept our change in status: he secretly made a copy of the house key for the house I looked after, came into the house without my knowledge, sat in front of the house watching the windows, showed up at the crack of dawn to "take me to breakfast" (he was really checking up on me to see if I was alone). It was all very scary, and didn't stop until I became very firm and aggressive about the whole thing.

I changed my phone number. I didn't tell him anything about it, just one day, went out and changed my entire cell plan. Knowing he wouldn't be able to call or text was a great relief, and it sent a pretty clear message to him. I told several people who I was close to what was going on, and they helped me keep my boundaries clear. It was helpful to know that if he showed up or something, I could speed dial a friend and they'd be there right away.

One BIG mistake that I made was returning his items to him in person. Just don't do it. Definitely mail it, or have someone else take it to him. DO NOT put any kind of personal note in the box. That kind of thing just opens up the doors of communication again. I learned the hard way not to give him anything to go on.

Best of luck! And again, be firm and decisive, and yes, bring in the police if you have to.
posted by I_love_the_rain at 12:18 PM on June 10, 2010

I had so many stalker exes in my early 20s that my friends still laugh at me over it. Please learn from my mistakes.

First- as soon as the official break up is done, appoint your best friend as your representative. They can handle getting your stuff back if you really need it. They can also handle any phone calls. They should also help you make plans every weekend to be as far from your normal hang out spots/house as possible.

My biggest mistake was always arriving at my house alone- at a predictable time, and I had no one waiting for me in the house, but Mc. Creepo would be standing in the driveway. For the first few days (or weeks, feel out the situation) have someone with you. And if said creepo shows up, don't act surprised, don't get dramatic- just tell them you do not want to speak with them and go inside. If they stay around, call the police.

Don't give them "one more chance to talk to you," or just be a friend, or fall into the trap where the person starts making you feel guilty or telling you that you are acting like a horrible/immature/bitchy/whatever.

Lastly, do not even bother reading any emails/notes/poems/skywritings that come from Mc. Creepo. Delete or destroy them before opening.
posted by haplesschild at 9:59 PM on June 10, 2010

It's hard to know what's really happening with this guy in terms of whether he's a stalker or simply a needy guy when it comes to relationships. Since you don't give specific examples other then the fact that he seems to want excessive communication, it appears that this guy is probably more along the lines of just really "needy", and not so much a stalker. The fact that you say he's a good guy further suggests that we're not dealing with a psycho. The truth is sometimes men(women to), get very insecure in their relationships. They're afraid you're gonna leave them, they're afraid you're cheating on them, they're even afraid you're just not happy about things in the relationship. Often there's fears are not warranted and it leaves the other person in a relationship feeling smothered, turned off. Especially for a woman...since it's very unattractive when a guy isn't confident. A good friend of mine is like this in his relationships. I've seen him text girls upwards of 20 times in a hour. He's showed up at their door steps uninvited. I would often tell him he needs to just back off....but he never would.

It's obvious that you need to get out of this relationship. Needy people are impossible to deal with. You can never call them enough, never see them enough, never tell them I love you enough...nothing is enough. So you need to end this relationship.

That being said, you still need to end it with class, and yes respect towards this guy. I think the break will be much easier if you do a few things:

1. Break up in person(i know this is hard). But it will give him the opportunity for some closure. And I think you're better off doing that then just calling or texting saying we're done...don't call or show up at my place...ect. That will result in the opposite. Tell him exactly why you're ending things.

2. When you break up, be nice but firm. Tell him you need to move on from this relationship and having any contact with him will make this impossible. So express that it will be better if he doesn't contact you in any way for at least the next six months. Saying no contact ever again will not go well. It will make him even more desperate.

3. If this guy truly is a good guy, don't go for the restraining order unless it's absolutely necessary. And if you do, look in to doing something that won't put any major problem on his record. And please...warn him first before you get the restraining order.

4. You may need to change your phone numbers, emails, ect. But wait and see what happens.
posted by ljs30 at 11:16 AM on June 11, 2010

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