How do I get my engaged ex to leave me alone?
July 1, 2011 9:56 PM   Subscribe

My engaged, passive-aggressive ex continues to contact me, and I continue to let him. Help me cut him off for good.

Long-time reader, first-time caller here. I'm almost 25 and have had one serious relationship, with my first and only love. We dated for a year late in my college career; there was instant and overwhelming chemistry, but I was inexperienced and he was dealing with a lot of unresolved childhood traumas that led to a lot of passive-aggressive behavior. We formally split in 2007, but were on and off for three years after that. Last fall, he started seeing someone new; last weekend (during my sister's wedding, ugh), he told me that they are engaged to be married next year.

Here's the thing: in all of this time, there have been periods (the longest have been about three months) where we have gone without contact. But for the most part, he contacts me at least a few times a week if not everyday. It's always in the form of text messages or e-mails. Most of the time, they're in the same "language" that we used when we were dating, and they're in regards to some common interest we have. We didn't speak from February until May, when he started e-mailing me at least once a day about my favorite baseball team. When I asked him if he was going to keep doing this, his response was "Probably."

I try to ignore them. I send all of his texts and e-mails to trash... and then I check the trash to see if he's written. Sometimes I reply, sometimes I don't, but the messages keep on coming. It used to be kind of cute and would often be a way for us to rekindle whatever was between us. Now it's just skeezy. He's engaged and he's e-mailing me four times a day? It makes me uncomfortable.

So, MeFi:
1) What the heck does this guy get out of sending me these things?
2) More importantly, how do I make them stop for good and/or how do I get myself to ignore them for good? In the past, I've gotten angry and told him to stop; they resume months later. I've ignored them; they resume months later. For awhile I resigned myself to the fact that he and I will stay in touch forever. Now with this engagement that doesn't sit well with me at all. I just keep thinking of his poor fiancee who has no idea that her betrothed is e-mailing his ex several times a day, for whatever reason.

Bonus skeeze factor: she went to the same small college that I did, and we were all at an alumni event last fall. The ex talked to me before his new girlfriend arrived and then he didn't even introduce me to her!
posted by anotheraccount to Human Relations (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
1) What the heck does this guy get out of sending me these things?

And I quote, "Sometimes I reply". That's what he gets- he still gets to communicate with you, because you are still communicating with him. You have to tell him flat out, I do not wish to e-mail/text with you anymore, stop contacting me, I will be ceasing to communicate with you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:02 PM on July 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

He still has some unresolved feelings for you and he exercises them by having you, even non-sexually, as a vent for when he isn't feeling particularly (insert whatever need he has that isn't beiing fulfilled by his fiancee at the moment)

How do you stop them? Well, you're not powerless here. You have to be a grown-up and exercise some will-power. But ask yourself if you really do want to not be in contact with him anymore. Maybe you do, just not feeling the slimy feeling you have by being the "other woman". Talk to him. Lay it all out. Tell him he's making your uncomfortable and you want it to stop because you don't want to get in the way of his upcoming marriage. It weirds you out.

Then stick with it. No tricks. You can have what you want...if you really want it.
posted by inturnaround at 10:04 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

This might be one part of it: So you mentioned he was still dealing with some childhood issues when he dated you, and so he was passive-aggressive towards you. It took you three years to break up. Now he's engaged to a (presumably) nice lady, and you're (subconsciously) thinking, "He's over everything! He's fixed! Maybe he's so fixed he is into me for real this time!"

Honey, I'm sorry, but no. He's into the idea that he has a fiance and he has you on speed-dial. He is not fixed. He is still, despite his other wonderful qualities that made you date him in the first place, a passive-aggressive jerk.

Block his email address, full-stop. Same with his phone number; call your carrier so that it may be done. Defriend him on Facebook, too.

Some day soon, you are going to meet a very excellent dude who you will be way into. When he asks if you're single, do you want to say, "WHY YES I AM, YOU HUNKA HUNKA BURNING LOVE!" or "Well, I mean, yeah, I am, but I dated this guy, and I mean, we just email, he's, like, engaged and she went to the same SCHOOL as us and-"?

Be done with this guy, you're too excellent for this.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:12 PM on July 1, 2011 [27 favorites]

In turnaround is right. The question isn't why does he keep emailing, but why do you keep responding to someone whose behavior you describe as skeevy. Spam/emails from people you don't want can be instantly forwarded to the trash, and you'd never know. Phone numbers can be blocked. But you seem to want him to control his behavior (you stop first, no, you stop first!) rather than just controlling yours.

Maybe contacting you is his way of weaning himself onto marriage,like he's just checking in to see if he's still kind of got you, and still has options. And then he feels better and can go back to her. Maybe he just wants to be your friend, but doesn't know how in these new times. But whatever it is, decide what you want from him, and from yourself. Request it from him, but require it from yourself, even if what you require from yourself is to make the decision not get sucked in to a situation where you feel like you are getting dicked around emotionally by someone who is not reaching out to you to make you feel good, but because he doesn't want to feel bad.

Because you sound kind of hooked. Like you're in some sort of holding pattern. Seriously, respect yourself, and his girlfriend, and just stop. It takes two to tango, but only one to end the dance.
posted by anitanita at 10:27 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

1) Try not to make assumptions about what the emails mean to him ("it's great we've stayed good friends").

2) Send a clear email asking him to stop with "I" statements explaining what they mean to you. ("I" statements often feel both hard to put into words and uncomfortably obvious.)

Dear Jake,
I am writing to ask you to please permanently stop sending me chatty emails and texts. Because they include words that we used when we were dating, they remind me of our past together. I feel uncomfortable about this. I value my memories of our time together [cut if not true], and I would not mind hearing from you about major news, or with holiday greetings. But I believe that we should have more distance and formality, particularly now that you are engaged. In the past, I asked that you stop with these little notes; the contacts resumed months later. I ask now that you stop contacting me in this way for good. I wish you and Barbara all the best. - Anon

3) I would be prepared to follow up once more with a very terse email if necessary, since it sounds like he'll test your boundary. I would do it right when he does it. Txt: "I asked you not to text me. Please stop texting me." Txt 2: "I have blocked your number." Email: "Jake, I asked you to stop emailing me like this and I meant it. I do not want to receive chatty emails from you. Please email me only with emergencies, major news, happy holidays, that sort of thing. I would like to leave the lines of communication open, but I will block your email address if I have to."
posted by salvia at 10:31 PM on July 1, 2011 [7 favorites]

I am answering briefly now, even though I would love to go in depth. Time prevents me right now. Memail or I will write you privately.

I had this happen. He, 20 years later, turned into a stalker which I have posted about previously on AsMe.

Do whatever you can now to cut this guy off. Can you change your phone number? Do that. I used a software program that played a message on my cell to my guy's incoming number that said, "This number is no longer in service" after changing all my landline numbers. That helped create a lot of distance. Finally.'

In short - get the fuck away from this person as fast as you can. Again, Memail if you want more details than I can/will provide here.

He is not contacting you because he has "unresolved feelings" or because he might be in love with you. He's engaged to someone else and using you for emotional validation. He's a POS. He's using using you. Normal people DO NOT engage in this behavior. I saw it as charming or validating once, that's why my situation went on for so long (with breaks 3 months to 3 or 4 years in between contact.)

I wish I could instantly download my insights into you.

Often, the book The Book of Fear is recommended her on the Green - for very good reason. Even if you wait for 10 contacts to respond - you've taught him it takes ten entreaties to get you to give in. You need to stop that cycle.

I'd love to talk about the fact that you still have good feelings towards him, and how to deal with that, but I don't know enough about your personal situation.

If it is enough to hear from AskMe that this guy is WAY over the line and not worth your energy - you have that.
posted by jbenben at 10:33 PM on July 1, 2011 [7 favorites]

>my first and only love

Your first, yes. Your only ... not even hardly. Put the kibosh on this ass gracefully (or harshly). There is plenty of love left in the world.
posted by cyndigo at 10:40 PM on July 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

It doesn't matter why he's doing it. I haven't had a situation this f'd up, but I have had times when guys would seem to try to leave me hanging on and I'd try to figure out the behavior, but it just does not matter. If you want the behavior to stop, stop responding, follow the great advice above from jbenben, tell yourself the "why" doesn't matter and move on.
posted by sweetkid at 10:46 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

"I really don't think you should be writing me anymore. Any emails/texts you send from here on out I'm going to forward to your fiancee."
posted by hungrytiger at 11:34 PM on July 1, 2011 [13 favorites]

I actually like salvia's answer above....but applied to a very different guy than your e-treasure seems to be. Being what he is, I like jbenben's a lot better. I too have had creepy guys do similar things (not identical, but similar), and here is my answer:

There was a study done about, I think, rats, or maybe birds, and the behavior that the, I think it was birds now, would perform to get food. The researchers divided the birds (let's just assume) into 3 groups: One group got food every time the bird would press the button. Guaranteed reward. The second group got food like every 3rd or 4th time the button was pressed. The reward wasn't inevitable, but it came at PREDICTABLE intervals. Like, the bird would be a little dejected that he didn't get any food the first three times, but would keep pushing the button because he knew he'd get it at regular intervals. Then, they had a third group that got food at RANDOM INTERVALS. once, the bird might press the button twice and get food. The next time, the bird might have to press it 20 times to get food. They then took away the reward system and watched how many times the birds pressed the button. You want to know what they found?

The first bird quit right away. The second bird quit shortly thereafter. The third bird? NEVER EVER QUIT. In fact, he's still trying to peck a button somewhere, you can bet on it.

This guy is the third bird. Do not EVER respond to ANYTHING that he does/says/sends again. Just don't. Even if it's to say "Fuck off I hate you!" DO NOT do it. Because, even though you and I wouldn't consider that to be "attention," he does. Trust me on this, please. My divorce lawyer told me the story, and frankly, better advice than his I have never yet come across.

(By the way, for the curious, my ex-husband is now in jail for the next at-least-9 years for armed robbery. This was the ex-husband that my lawyer told me to just ignore, and MAN, I've never ever been given better advice).
posted by deep thought sunstar at 11:35 PM on July 1, 2011 [13 favorites]

Agreeing with most above that this guy needs to be cut off quickly. If he's sending you Gmail, you can simply filter his messages to go straight to trash. Otherwise, figure out a way to block him out. If possible, you should get a new phone number ASAP. I don't know if he knows where you live or work, but you should make efforts to secure that as well. No "don't contact me anymore" messages or "screw you, asshole" e-mails; just silence.

It sounds to me like he's looking for a little insurance on the side, and he figures you're a good bet. That should not fly.
posted by Gilbert at 11:57 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

This guy is a douche and is making my skin crawl. Especially this: When I asked him if he was going to keep doing this, his response was "Probably." This demonstrates perfectly that his continued contact is not about you, it's all about him. He probably gets a little thrill every time you respond, because it feeds his internal story about how an ex still contacts him even though he's engaged. His internal story completely omits the part where he texted you four times first.

I have learned (thanks to AskMe) to take a hard line when I want a guy to leave me alone. Reply to his next email like this: "I do not want to be in contact with you anymore. Please don't call, email or text me again and I will likewise not contact you."

THEN start the ignore campaign. Ignore, ignore, ignore and DO NOT RESPOND, ever. Route the incoming crap to a friend to monitor in case he starts doing crazy shit like saying he's going to come by your house to "check" on you or that he wants you to read a poem at his wedding. PPO as necessary, but this guy mostly just sounds like an annoying egocentric prick who will wander away when you stop giving him attention.

posted by motsque at 6:02 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

There's some great advice above. I was in a similar situation for quite a long time until I told my ex-boyfriend in no uncertain terms that he was not to contact me ever again. I added that I would have to call the police if he came to my house, because months of ignoring his calls just led to him appearing at my door late at night "to make sure I was OK." Being clear about what I needed him to do and then following through on it was the only thing that worked.

Clear this ass from your life so you have room for someone who makes you happy.
posted by corey flood at 6:08 AM on July 2, 2011

Send 1 email, saying simply "Please stop contacting me. I do not want to have any contact with you." Then, do not respond in a any way whatsoever. Every time you delete a text without reading, remind yourself that this is someone who is engaged, and that there is no option for a healthy relationship. This guy's communication probably prevents you from moving on, and you deserve a real relationship.
posted by theora55 at 6:46 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Other posters have provided some speculation about 1), but I came to help with 2). I was in a vaguely similar situation (nowhere near as serious or longstanding as yours), but the common theme is: I could *not* make myself "ignore" the guy, or simply "not respond" to his communications; my willpower was/is simply not at that place yet. Yours isn't either. So you need a technical hack to get to the place where you don't need to think about responding to his emails and texts, because you *never see them in the first place.*

Block him from Gmail (this is easy to do) or whatever email service you use. And set up your phone to block his texts and calls -- no need to consider digging through the trash for them, just block that sh*t. Instructions on how to do so here.

I'm sorry you're going through this right now. It is very painful, but it will get better.
posted by sideofwry at 6:52 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Absolutely sever, don't make any contact with him. Things don't get better by you maintaining contact with him. This only makes it worse in the long run. If you want to read a huge, indepth thread about it, go here . It is filled with people who have maintained contact after breakup (usually from the dumpee's perspective, but still) and it always ends up just being more painful.

Change your number, change your email, no facebook friends, nothing. Know that you are doing the right thing not just for you, but for him too.*

*I am better at giving advice then living by it.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 7:14 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow. Thanks to everyone for your amazing and insightful responses.

A few things:
1) I currently do have a filter set up so that his e-mails go directly to my trash in Gmail. I have a similar filter set up on my smartphone for his texts. The problem is that when I'm bored, or when I know it's a time of day that he's going to message, I check the trash. Or if I go into the trash to permanently delete things, I see them, and read them. This is all on me and my willpower.

2) I do want to say that this is the most detached that I've ever been from him. Given the intensity of the relationship and the fact that he was my "first love," I was extraordinarily attached to him for a long time (and he was to me, frankly). The idea of not speaking to him again is 1000% easier now than it was even a year or two ago. And I harbor absolutely no illusions that we are going to get back together or he wants to be with me. He is engaged, I respect that, and I would never want to be with him again, given some of the terrible things that have happened between us. That said: yes, there are parts of it that are tough. I'll be honest and admit that when he told he was engaged, it was because I had asked. I had just been broken up with for the second time with another guy, and I was feeling vulnerable and upset being at a wedding on my own. So I messaged him during the wedding and, after a few drinks, asked when he was getting married.. and that was the response that I got.

3) Some of suggested that I lay my feelings about this whole scenario out for him. He's not interested in that. I've told my therapist about a billion times (I started seeing her immediately after the original break-up, and have been with her since) that I wish I could be friends with him - the healthy kind of friends that are exes, that meet a few times a year for a beer and catch up. But he's just incapable of that. When he was single, it always turned to sex. Now that he's not, it just turns into multiple messages a day.

Phew. I don't think that changes anyone's advice, but that's what I'm thinking over here. I need to be ready to get rid of him completely.
posted by anotheraccount at 7:28 AM on July 2, 2011

You need some help with your willpower. There's nothing wrong with that; admitting it is the first step to cutting him off completely. As others have mentioned, there are technological solutions so that you don't have the OPTION of going back and reading his messages. He needs to be either shouting into a total vacuum, or into an archive that YOU CAN'T ACCESS. (For example, forward emails to an address that a friend sets up for which you don't have the password, or only half the password, like missile keys.) Very very occasionally that comes in handy for future legal reasons.

I wouldn't even let him know that you're cutting off contact, unless you think he'll show up in person to "make sure you're okay".

Good luck- you're doing the right thing.
posted by supercres at 7:55 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

This douchebag needs a wake-up slap to get him out of your life permanently. You're not going to be friends with him, and he's being emotionally manipulative and unfair to both you and his intended.

"Do not contact me any more. Any contact you send to me I am sending to your fiancee unedited, starting with the last one I just sent to her. This is the last word you're going to hear from me. Have a nice life".

What he's doing is so many kinds of wrong. He's not interested in your feelings. Whatever he's getting out of this is all about his selfishness, and probably control issues.

Until he understands there are consequences to his actions, he won't change. Consequences start right now. Srsly, send his his fiancee the emails/TXTs THEN tell him. Don't make it a threat, make sure the train is already rolling out of the station when you hand him his ticket.

Best of luck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:58 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hi. It's me again. I just re-read your question and thought I might add so more to my first comment.

First of all, I know you're kinda hooked into this guy, but I'm going to open your eyes here and I want you to be OK with that. It's going to hurt a bit, but the truth will eventually set you free.


By now you've probably realized this guy is not who you thought he was, right? As I read your question again, I want you to realize that you and he have been engaging in an emotional affair behind the fiancé's back. YOU have been doing this, too. You have to accept your part in this. Not only is he a lying sack of shit, but slowly, he's making you guilty of same.

Since we both know you are not a dirty cheater, I expect that you will filter all emails to purge, not just the trash, that you will block his calls and texts or change your number entirely. Do this so that you land on the right side of things and can look yourself in the eye, ok.

Now. About this guy not being who you think he was/is....

My version of this dude lived a posh life for quite a while and was married to someone he had been dating before he met me (they were broken up while he and I dated and she lived in another state, except they were still together and I didn't know.) Over the years, dishonesties and financial scams came to light, he lost EVERYTHING eventually. If myself and others had known better, we would never have befriended this man or gone into business with him or whatever.

Among other things, this guy had been sleeping with his wife's childhood best friend. That started well before I ever met him. He slept with a business partner's wife, a roommate he was living with while we were dating, other friends of his wife, random patrons at the restaurant he owned, etc. I never saw him leave a contract without owing money or sticking it to the other party in some way. Over the years, one lie led to another, cheating emotionally then included cheating for material and financial gain. In another version mentioned by another MeFite, her dude ended up in jail for bank robbery!

Do you see what I am getting at here? What your version of this guy is trying to make you complicit in is inherently DISHONEST. It's couched in emotional intimacy, but really, it is deviant and hurtful behavior. Likely, because where there is smoke there is fire, there are other things going on with him that you would never want to be associated with in a hundred million years.

Take it on face value that someone who would continue contact with you in this manner has other dark dirty things going on that you do not want any part of. I'm so sorry. I think you finally have to face facts and grieve this relationship. It's over.


If you re-frame your impression of this fellow to reflect the reality of who he really is, you will change your feelings towards him.

The person you broke up with in 2007 is gone, and despite the spark and deep connection, that guy didn't treat you well. You are better off without that guy, for sure. I'm pretty sure you skipped a step after that relationship ended, so go ahead and grieve now. It's over. Grieve your loss.

As for this mutation of your ex who is skeeving on you behind his fiancé's back -RUN. This creature is foul and will harm you. RUN.


I think you should stay out of whatever is between the fiancé and this guy. She's on her own journey.

If you can really make a case for it, you might forward her all his emails explaining that he keeps contacting you yadda yadda, but likely, he'll talk his way out of it and you'll be the bad guy.

You've got to trust the fiancé is on her own journey, if she is meant to dodge a bullet here, she will.

Stay out of her business and her man's life. That's more than enough kindness towards her from you.
posted by jbenben at 8:02 AM on July 2, 2011 [6 favorites]

Dude, you are being a first-class sucker here. The guy is engaged; it's super likely he's secretly (and oh-so-commonly) conflicted about the enormity of this commitment. By playing pen pals with you, he's able to tell himself he's still got pull on the open market, he's not really giving anything up, he can have a wife and a low-key semi-secret girlfriend, he's such a hot property he can make you respond to his dog whistle even though he's got a wife.

This is also probably working for your ego in exactly the same way but reversed. It's skeevy of both of you.

You cannot be friends with this guy because he's a douche. It really doesn't matter if you see him that way; it's how he's behaving. Stop enabling someone to be shitty to you. Go make other friends because what you get out of this "friendship" isn't worth the cost of admission.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:03 AM on July 2, 2011 [9 favorites]

Oh, and because there is a non-zero chance that this guy will go off the rails and become a violent stalker if his will is defied, YES read Gift of Fear. I also recommend Marc MacYoung's No-Nonsense Self-Defense page on stalkers and how to deal with them.

If you can keep copies of his contacts without responding or getting emotionally involved with them, that will be the beginning of the paper trail you use against him when it comes time to get a restraining order/the police involved.

If you have a trusted friend who can hold onto them and not read them for you, forward them there.

A guy who acts like this around his ex when he's engaged can't be trusted to be reasonable. I smell predator off this guy through the tubes. If he's just an immature, self-centered schmuck, then fine.

But if he's the I decide when it's over, and nobody tells me otherwise kind, have that paper trail ready.

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:09 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just saw your update.

- You can not be friends with this guy because he's not who you think he is. We're clear on that, right?

- My email filter has an auto-delete option. Yours does, too. Set your filters to auto-DELETE. There solved that for you.

Oh, honey. You've got to be scrupulous with yourself from now on. You're following him down a dishonest and ugly path. He's taught you behaviors and attitudes (likely based on his shitty upbringing) that do not fly in the company of Good, Honest, and Descent People.

One last thing. I don't think your therapist is helping you much since you've gone as far as you have down the Skeevey Path. Dump her and find a better one.

Sorry to be so tough. I really feel for you. I hope we have helped you get your heart back. When you find the right guy, they add to your blessings. It's the wrong men that steal hearts and lead us to do bad things we normally wouldn't. Learn the difference and you'll be ok in your next relationship. I guarantee it.
posted by jbenben at 8:18 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

OP, I respect the advice to treat this guy like a stalker and fwd his emails to document everything, etc. My problem with that advice is that it keeps you playing a game with this guy, it's just on a different level.

If you completely disconnect your energy from his, you can nip this before it turns into stalking. Keeping track of him, on any level, will keep you involved. IMHO, he's not coming after you (unless you left out details that would convince me he's dangerous) so he's only doing what he's been doing because you've been participating. If you stop, he'll stop.

Stop participating and the WHOLE problem goes away.

If he did step it up, then you could take that new evidence to a judge for a restraining order. Right now, you don't need to keep emails or involve friends in this drama. Drop this Tar Baby and move on with your life.
posted by jbenben at 8:34 AM on July 2, 2011

Stop responding to his emails. Stop asking him about his relationship status. Stop trying to be friends with him.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:40 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

You don't have a problem here. You have a relationship where he texts you and you sometimes text back. That's it. You can ignore the window dressing about him having a fiance, him being your first love, and ranting about how much of a douche the guy is. As long as you're replying to the guy you're still in a relationship with him. It's a pretty fucked up relationship but until you stop participating you're still part of it.
posted by rdr at 8:44 AM on July 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

a bit of technical assistance:

Gmail has several settings when it comes to filtering away email. The one you're using now, auto-trash, basically archives the email from 30 days after receipt. You need to change the filtering settings for his email address to "automatically delete forever". It will be as if the email never arrived.

Regardless of whether your smartphone allows you to autodelete or not, you can call your carrier and tell them you are receiving unsolicited texts from this number and you want it blocked. They will do this because you are charged when you receive a text, with no way to refuse the charge as you might for an unsolicited phone call.
posted by lesli212 at 8:57 AM on July 2, 2011

I had the same problem with checking my Gmail trash for e-mails from someone I no longer wanted to hear from, and couldn't figure out how to auto-delete them.

Here are some solutions: I went with the option of deleting the e-mail addresses he knew about. This is way drastic and I only did it because I knew I'd keep checking/replying otherwise.

Make a separate e-mail account and set up a filter so that all e-mails from him go to that one. Pick a password you know you'll never remember, or just pick a random string of letters.
posted by biochemist at 9:17 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Hey, Ex's Fiancee, your husband-to-be won't stop sending me emails and texts. I think it's kind of creepy, and it's obviously not about me. How about you guys have a talk where you discuss your boundaries? Thanks in advance!"

(The bridge will burn.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:26 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Would it be easier to ignore the emails if you thought of them as, in fact, not that big of a deal? The only information you have given us about the content is that they're about baseball.


I mean, maybe he just likes to send emails to people with whom he shares a common interest and doesn't think of them as anything beyond that, at this point? In this age of social media/texting/Internets everywhere, there are lots of people who constantly send tons of short, mundane communications to people they know every single day because they are bored at work and have a short attention span. Maybe if you looked on them that way it would be easier to not worry about it and ignore/delete.
posted by citron at 11:28 AM on July 2, 2011

"the healthy kind of friends that are exes, that meet a few times a year for a beer and catch up."

This is a lie perpetuated by romantic comedies and hearsay and maybe one or two super-extraordinary IRL exceptions that prove the following rule: The vast majority of people cannot be healthy friends with exes.

The few that can did not start their friendship from a situation of emotional manipulation and other messiness. I'm sorry, but the moment you guys became 'on again, off again,' the "healthy friends" train left the station.
posted by sideofwry at 12:25 PM on July 2, 2011 [6 favorites]

Give him something to lose. I agree with telling him you will forward all future contact to his fiancee.
posted by Vaike at 1:03 PM on July 2, 2011

Warning: contains mild Bible-bashing

Listen to jbenben. I met an instance of this class of guy and I cut him off when I realized it wasn't all in my head.

When I prayed for guidance on this matter, I got the following: "Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals." Or, in the King James version: "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners." (1 Corinthians 15:33) Apposite, no?

Speaking of nastiness you want nothing to do with: I have an IM conversation in which he makes a cryptic nonsensical remark. Much much later on, I saw one of his Facebook friends use the same keywords talking about one of their best nights out evar. Turned out the remark was an allusion to recreational cruelty to animals.

It really is not possible to be too alarmist about what these guys are capable of. Hopefully he's just an egomaniacal schmoe, but in any case, cutting contact with him will most likely do the job.
posted by tel3path at 1:06 PM on July 2, 2011

Re: your follow up comments. When you're bored, you check your gmail trash. One way to solve this is not be bored. Get busy with your life so that you just won't have time to check your gmail trash; you'll be busy with checking emails that go to your inbox, or you're occupied with your social life, and you're so engrossed in a book or something. You get your mind off something by getting it on to something else, not wondering why you can't get your mind off it. Your behaviours indicate to me that you haven't really moved on. Never mind about him. You've got to move on. He is totally setting you up to be the fallback girl. If you're not careful, and given the timing and right conditions, you WILL become the fallback girl (similar to the situation in the blog post that I linked). And that is a much harder hole to climb out of than the place you're in right now. Get ahead of the game. You could potentially have a lot to lose if you don't put efforts into preventing being the fallback girl. He's also probably keeping you as potential fallback girl in case he wants to not go through with the wedding or have a good reason to get divorced, or blame you for any strife he has in his marriage. You need to flush this guy now. Sure, it's all nice and good to be friends with your ex, but it's not happening. I was in a similar situation to you in that I thought it'd be nice to be friends, but the things he was doing was not indicative of someone that I wanted to be friends with. Your ex is not being a friend and is disrespecting your wishes for no contact (or hm, maybe he isn't disrespecting those wishes…).

People have suggested you talk to him one last time to tell him not to contact you anymore. You can do that, to also make it clear to yourself that you do not want to hear from him anymore, and that any contact attempts he makes you will not respond to. Or you may not want to do that because in telling him to buzz off, you're still talking to him. And that's what he wants, right? The longest time where you didn't have contact was 3 months - make it a goal to do no contact for 6 months. Ignore emails, texts, calls for 6 months. At the end of the 6 months, I hope you'll be sufficiently moved on with your life that you'll think "ex who?" Also, if for whatever reason he sends you a wedding invitation, shred it! Don't go!

I'm also thinking maybe you should get a different therapist. You've been with her since 2007… Do you think you've made progress in the last 4 years?
posted by foxjacket at 1:46 PM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks again all.

I think we're getting to the (pretty obvious) crux of the situation here, which is that I'm still not completely over him. I have an obsessive personality and abandonment issues, which means that sometimes I hold on to things for far too long, even though they're hurting me. Short history: my parents split when I was 8; divorce was extraordinarily messy. Dad was a recovering alcoholic who left mom for another woman whom he is still married to today. Mom was borderline. Had a lot of resentment for dad for leaving my sister and I with my mother, whose mental illness has made my life miserable on many occasions.

Since I dated the guy in this post, I have dated two others. The first had an emotional affair with his ex and I ended things after two months. The second dated me twice, both times for a few months, and then decided to tell me that he didn't want a relationship. I don't talk to either of them and don't plan to.

As far as having a fulfilling life so that I can not even worry about this loser, I think I do. I have a great circle of friends that I hang out with in some combination a few nights a week. I have a mostly fulfilling job, and am starting grad school part-time in the fall. I'm closer with my father and my sister than I have ever been. I read voraciously and have been dating fairly regularly. But yes, when I am bored of have time to myself, I think of him more often.

So what else do I need to do (besides cut him off, obviously) to get over this completely?

By the by, to those suggesting I dump my therapist: it's definitely something to consider. While I absolutely adore her, I have been feeling stagnant in terms of progress over the last six months or so. I feel like a lot of the progress I've made in terms of getting over him have to do with time, not her.
posted by anotheraccount at 4:26 PM on July 2, 2011

I strongly suspect this is driving his behavior: he was dealing with a lot of unresolved childhood traumas that led to a lot of passive-aggressive behavior. I think he talks to you because he's still dealing with this stuff, and you were probably one of the few people who helped him make progress on this front. It sounds like he is lacking this core intimacy in his current relationship, and so he keeps coming back to the one place he used to get it: you.

This is probably what keeps you feeling attached too: the idea that he was one person who understood and loved you + your sh*t too. In other words, [ex = love(you + yoursh*t)]. Each communication with him is a fleeting promise that someone else in the universe understands you for you, damage and all. I bet after all this time you'd still feel more comfortable talking to him about your deep dark skeletons than the therapist you're seeing right now. Pretty hard to ignore the feeling of genuine understanding like that.

To get over him? Continue paying attention to his behavior: it's all about him regardless of what effect it may have on you. He's contacting you to selfishly help himself; not the other way around. He's not going to be able to help you or even be a real friend until he figures out how to help himself. He might understand some core things about you, but he cannot help you. Not now. Maybe not ever.

IMO he needs someone tell him to take his sh*t seriously for himself. You've already got a lot of internal sh*t you're dealing with (on your own, like an adult). It sounds like he needs someone to tell him to do the same. That person should be the woman he's chosen to marry; not you. Though if you do decide to contact him one last time to draw that boundary, maybe point it out for him, and then have faith that you've done your part as a friend.

In the meantime, make it a habit to believe this: one day someone new will love you, "damage" and all. It will really and genuinely happen again. The more you work on yourself, the brighter you'll shine, and the easier it'll be for love to find you again. Even better, maybe by then you'll have figured out how to turn all your damages to strengths. Memories/issues of your alcoholic abandonee father? Borderline personality mother? All that sh*t can still be composted up inside rather than just left to rot; you can still thrive in spite of it.
posted by human ecologist at 10:43 AM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, if you need a lot of time and patience to get over someone with whom you had been very, very close - isn't that OK? We are not programmable robots who can always stop feeling a certain way within a predetermined time frame, no matter what the self-help industry may tell us. I mean, if you think about him when you have nothing to do, OK then, you think about him. The only rule I would suggest is to not contact him. That could be a helpful rule. So that the next time you are tempted to drunk-text him, you won't. Don't do that.

And if he's dealing with unresolved childhood trauma.. it wouldn't hurt for folks to have some compassion for the guy. I'm sure he's not a bad person and total loser. He probably just doesn't understand boundaries or healthy behavior as well as those who grew up with a supportive and normal family. He probably has a hard time thinking about how his behavior affects others, which isn't all that uncommon of a problem in my experience... It's just not your job to help him figure it out.

The other thing I am thinking is, when that part of yourself from your messed-up, damaged family environment shows up and you want to talk to someone about it, either talk to a trusted friend or relative who understands, or find a better therapist and talk to him/her. Your ex might "get" how you feel at these times, but nevertheless, don't contact him.. and don't let him use you as the person to complain to/dump on when he's feeling this way.
posted by citron at 10:53 AM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Per some suggestions here, I've revived an old Gmail account and had everything from him forward directly there. I changed the password to something unintelligible and even changed the answer for the password recovery question to something unintelligible, though because the address is tied to my regular personal e-mail account, I could have the password sent there easily. No matter. I have no interest in doing so.

I'm feeling really good about this. I've agonized over this guy and this situation for so, so long. Every time that I say I'm going to give him up, it gets easier, but I always go back. I'm not going to this time.
posted by anotheraccount at 1:37 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

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