Not Petty to Me.
January 26, 2012 8:09 AM   Subscribe

Am I over analyzing or should my SO have handled this differently?

My SO and I have been together for over half a year it's so far has been a very loving relationship. We also live together.

Two months ago an ex boyfriend contacted me through phone calls and texts. It's been months since our break up and since I'm happily in my current relationship I wasn't adverse to the contact. The moment he'd reached me my SO knew because the conversations were completely benign and my bf was comfortable with the idea. My ex and I didn't part on bad terms and we were always friendly so it was nice to catch up. Pretty much just standard "what's new, how's life treating you" chit chat about once every two weeks. Somehow over the past week my ex's attitude turned sleazy; he sent off a few inappropriate messages and even asked if I'd be interested in sleeping with him. It was pretty upsetting but I didn't respond and just figured we'd never talk again. Just this morning I'd received another text from my ex saying that he saw my parents at dinner the night before and he made a point to introduce himself. That got to me because my ex has never actually been introduced to my family and he did that just to make my skin crawl. It worked. After telling my SO what my ex did and about the inappropriate texts I said that my ex is making me extremely uncomfortable and I really want him to back off. I asked if he would call my ex and request that he stop contacting me because he's out of line etc.
Well he was hesitant but then flatly refused because he didn't want to be involved. This is a guy who barks at the pizza guy if he's five minutes late. I'm not bothered that he didn't want to do it because maybe it is too confrontational but instead his reasons bothered me.

He didn't say, "Hey it sucks your ex is being a creep but instead of either of us talking let's just block his number."
I got "Hey this is your ex and therefore your drama, you deal with it."

It was pretty surprising he wouldn't do that for me because nothing like this has ever happened between us and he knew how uncomfortable I was. It's understandable that he didn't want "drama" but I wasn't asking him to threaten the guy in any way. I was hoping my SO would tell my ex to back off and leave me and my family alone.

I'm not sure if my SO is right for not making the gesture or if I'm reading too much into this. It really would've been appreciated on my part and knowing my ex it really would've resonated with him. It kind of made me feel unprotected or like it would be a stretch to get my guy to defend me. It's not as if he usually non-confrontational and this is just too much to ask. He purposefully chose not to do anything and didnt even offer any helpful solution. There was no possibility of an incident because we live hundreds of miles away from this ex.
My ex was still sending more inappropriate texts until I blocked his number this evening, but I'm still half worried he'll bother my family near him again if given the opportunity. Bf knows how I feel and seems indifferent.

Is if it's normal for a guy who's in love or cares about their wife/girlfriend to brush aside an issue like this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (64 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well, if your ex and SO have never met, I'd find it fairly weird to call up some guy and yell at him for talking to my current girlfriend. Unless she has already contacted the guy and said to cut it out. Which it doesn't sound like you have done.

Him calling the guy can escalate into alot of things that may get out of hand. If you saying 'leave me alone once, and then blocking doesn't stop it, then he should get involved, but sorta on the SO's side on this one.
posted by rich at 8:13 AM on January 26, 2012 [13 favorites]

You're an adult. Your SO earns points for treating you like an adult. Your SO has no relation to this guy. He's there to provide emotional support to you, but you need to step up and assert yourself.
posted by DetriusXii at 8:14 AM on January 26, 2012 [146 favorites]

Sorry, I think your SO was right. Unless you are in some kind of actual danger, this was your mess to clean up. You being female and his being male has no bearing on this, you need to take care of it yourself, it's not your SO's disagreement, it's yours. You are presumably a grown up woman, you can handle it.
posted by biscotti at 8:16 AM on January 26, 2012 [16 favorites]

Yeah no, setting boundaries with your ex is your responsibility, and I don't think your current boyfriend is obligated to pick it up for you.
posted by trunk muffins at 8:16 AM on January 26, 2012 [11 favorites]

I agree that a better response from your SO would have been along the lines of "Just block his number and ignore him and let's hope it goes away," but it's completely understandable why he wants to avoid involving himself in this situation. I think he called it correctly when he used the word "drama." There's very little upside to your SO getting in the middle of all of this.

I'd evaluate your SO by his actions on this one--flat out refusal to get involved--rather than his somewhat clumsy explanation for that refusal. I think you should cut your SO a little slack, and follow his lead by not getting caught up in any ex-bf drama here.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:16 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I asked if he would call my ex and request that he stop contacting me because he's out of line etc.

You're lucky - I would have dumped you for asking. It's your problem to solve.

(Also, if an ex's new SO called me with threats, that would be a surefire way to vastly escalate any situation.)
posted by coolguymichael at 8:17 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can't even imagine asking my husband to call and ex and ask him to back off.

You asked him for a favor, and instead he proposed an alternative and common-sense approach. Your boyfriend's reaction to your request makes a lot of sense to me, and it surprises me to see you framing this as a "he would've done it if he really loved me" issue.

It is your drama, you do need to deal with it, your boyfriend not wanting to get in the middle doesn't mean he doesn't live you.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:17 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

This guy is your problem barring doing something particularly awful. Your SO calling this guy will only make things worse, in all ways. He was right to not do so. You should evaluate why you can't just sever contact with this guy without involving your SO.
posted by wrok at 8:17 AM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

One thing that's not clear to me:

Why do you think it is your 6-month-SO's responsibility to draw your boundaries for you when it comes to an ex-boyfriend? Your SO doesn't know your ex, correct?

To me, this reads like a clash of expectations about your relationship. You expect your boyfriend to stand up and perhaps 'be the man' and defend you/claim ownership over you (not that i think that's a bad expectation - some people want this kind of relationship). It sounds to me like your boyfriend expects you to stand up for yourself (again, no value judgement of this - some people expect this kind of relationship).

Personally, I would be more concerned by the fact that (it sounds like) he's not being very supportive outside the fact that he doesn't want to intervene. He can still provide a loving ear and support you without intervening.
posted by muddgirl at 8:17 AM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

It kind of made me feel unprotected or like it would be a stretch to get my guy to defend me.

You watch too many movies. If my girlfriend made such a ridiculous request of me I *might* do it (but probably not) but either way I'd think less of her.
posted by atrazine at 8:18 AM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's a weird, drama-making thing that you asked of your boyfriend... especially a fairly new relationship. "Over half a year" is not very long. Even if you live together. This is your stuff to deal with, and as far as I can tell from your post, YOU haven't even asked you ex to stop, why should your boyfriend. This smacks of some princess/rescue stuff that's just weird.
posted by kimdog at 8:18 AM on January 26, 2012 [26 favorites]

He's not brushing aside an issue, he's deciding not to add layers of complication to a problem which already involves a guy who's got trouble with boundaries. This situation might have played out differently if you'd already told your ex that his overtures are inappropriate and asked him to stop, and if you had made clear to your SO that this is bothering you.

As it is, your SO feels like you're asking him to deliver a message and he can't really see why you can't at least deliver it yourself the first time. If you see it as his job to protect or defend you, then you need to make that clear to him.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:19 AM on January 26, 2012

It seems like there are a couple of different issues here. The first is the question of whether your SO's actions are reasonable. I agree with rich above and say yes. His getting involved could escallate an already bad situation and also sends a message to you and the ex that you are not capable of handling this yourself. Again, this might escalate things because it lets the ex know that you are shaken by what he's done and that you are not resolute enough to say stop on your own. You say that you don't want to threaten him, but really what other effect does it have to have your new gruff SO butt in and tell him to back off. It's an implicit threat.

The second issue is one about communication and needs getting met in a relationship. You asked him to do something and he said no. Simple on it's face, but you both might read things into it that aren't there. You are feeling vulnerable and like you are not as important to your SO as a pizza (to use your example). We don't know what he's feeling, because you haven't talked about it. Maybe he doesn't care, but maybe he wanted to show you you can handle it, or maybe he didn't want to take a bad situation and make it worse. So talk to him about this. Use non-confrontational language "When you did this, I felt like this." And tell him exactly what you need in the future. But you also have to listen to what he has to say. "When you asked me to do this, I didn't want to because ..."
posted by goggie at 8:21 AM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Let's separate it out. It sounds like you're hurt that he's not being protective of you. I can't speak to whether this is true or not, but I don't believe that was his intent.

Particularly if you haven't spoken to your ex first, your SO calling and telling him to scram would be interpreted as a hostile act. "Stay away from mah woman" is the classic primal signal. Imagining myself as either the sender and recipient of such a call, it would be tense.

Second, it's tough for anybody to get involved like that with anybody's ex. Unless you were there the whole time, you just don't know the emotional terrain. It's a minefield for the most diplomatic of souls.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:21 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not your current partner's responsibility to monitor your relationships with other people, especially ex-lovers. He does not want to know that guy!
posted by heyho at 8:22 AM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've been with my husband for more than half my life (22 years now) and have been married to him for nearly 19 of those years. I would never, ever think to ask him to "defend" me in any way, unless there was an armed intruder and he was closer or something. As a matter of fact, things have come up over the years with exes and friends who cross lines and I have taken care of those things all on my own. It's what adults do.

I don't mean to sound harsh, I really don't. I think you have unrealistic expectations of what your significant other is "supposed" to do when it comes to former relationships. It seems like you want him to be all "ROAR STAY AWAY FROM MY WOMAN!!! GRRR!!" but that's just not how adults comport themselves.
posted by cooker girl at 8:26 AM on January 26, 2012 [9 favorites]

I'm sorry, but getting your SO involved would escalate the situation in a way that is not appropriate for dealing with creepy, stalkerish behavior. It would not protect you or your family.

As far as your ex is concerned, from now on, do not ever respond to his attempts to contact you. Tell your parents that your ex is persona non grata from here on out.

As for your SO's response, the wording could have been more sensitive, but he's basically right.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:27 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

He purposefully chose not to do anything and didnt even offer any helpful solution.

Which is the right thing to do. I've been with my husband for 7.5 years and he wouldn't interfere in any (hypothetical) drama with friends, family or exes. He would listen to me vent and then encourage me to deal with it myself. The only exception would be if someone was about to physically attack me. Otherwise, it's really none of his business. He doesn't and shouldn't want to have to set boundaries for you. It's a really dangerous precedent and would quickly become exhausting for him.
posted by desjardins at 8:27 AM on January 26, 2012

Your feelings are valid; feelings are always valid. So explore those feelings, either with him or on your own, to understand what you need from the relationship to feel loved. Why your request felt simple, but his denial felt purposefully hurtful. From the sounds of it, your SO would not stand by and let you be in physical danger, but you feel like that was what he was saying. Maybe talk about how he can help you feel safe while Also not escalating the drama, and how he can support you in exercising the power You have to help yourself feel safe.
posted by ldthomps at 8:29 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, sorry, your SO is right.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:31 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not going to add to the pile on, I think the consensus is clear but:

It kind of made me feel unprotected or like it would be a stretch to get my guy to defend me.

if you feel you need a man to protect and defend you then this is not the man for you. He's made it clear that expects you to fight your own battles and he doesn't want to get involved in drama that doesn't concern him.
posted by missmagenta at 8:41 AM on January 26, 2012

I agree with all the above -- your SO is not out of line to ask you to deal with this.

Furthermore, put yourself in his shoes for a moment. He's been tolerating you chit-chatting with a fairly recent ex and trusting that everything is on the up and up. I wouldn't be surprised if this chit-chat was irritating to him. It sure would be irritating to me despite me totally trusting my husband. But if my SO turned to me after irritating me with friendly chit-chat with an ex and said, "Oh no! Now the ex is getting all weird and stalkery! I can't handle it -- you handle it for me!" I'd be even more pissed off and maybe not say the nicest most supportive thing.

Take a deep breath and step back. Having your SO get involved at this point increases the drama ten-fold. I'm not sure why you want to go there. Your ex is acting totally creepy and I think you should first state in no uncertain terms that he is over the line and needs to back off and that you are very happy in your current relationship and wish him the best in his. And then cut off communication entirely. This guy is no good.
posted by amanda at 8:42 AM on January 26, 2012 [22 favorites]

He suggested a different course of action. He didn't say he wouldn't defend you.

If you have concerns, discuss them with the SO.

But blocking the Ex is the right move. Ex is looking for evidence you are upset. Blocking him makes contact impossible. Its the move to make.

The key is not to react at all, just cut off contact.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:47 AM on January 26, 2012

Your SO is right. Think of it this way: what your ex did is inappropriate regardless of your current relationship status. Your new guy has nothing to do with it and thus shouldn't be expected to handle it.

If your SO was brusque or unsympathetic in his refusal, you can bring up that his tone hurt your feelings. It's okay for you to feel upset if he acts dismissive of something that you find upsetting. But he doesn't have to fix it for you.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:50 AM on January 26, 2012

You're over thinking it. I'd be a lot more worried about him barking at the pizza guy for being five minutes late.
posted by cmoj at 8:58 AM on January 26, 2012 [35 favorites]

Here's the deal, IMO, on asking a guy to defend you: If there's no other option, you do what you need to do to keep yourself safe. If you're dealing with someone (creepy asshole on the street, for example) who will only back off if a dude says something, or you're in a situation where you need really big people in the short term (like retrieving your stuff from a scary housemate situation) you ask your big dude friends to step in. If you had reason to believe that your ex was more than a creepy nuisance and you for some reason knew that he would back off if he heard from a dude but not from you, it would be reasonable to ask your boyfriend as a special-circumstances favor. Otherwise, things will go better if you settle this yourself - and the more we women-type-people rely on dudes to grar for us, the more creepy guys will believe that they only have to back off when a dude is talking - that only when a dude is involved does "no" really mean no.

Also, your creepy ex will probably tell himself "she doesn't really want me to back off, it's just her boyfriend talking" - he'll make some excuse to ignore what he hears.
posted by Frowner at 9:00 AM on January 26, 2012 [15 favorites]

I think the issue is that he seems to be totally cool with "drama" and creating drama and dusting up with random people, so his reasoning rung very hollow. Is that it?

I don't see anything inherently wrong with new boyfriend helping you out in this way; nor do I see anything wrong with him refusing to do so. What does seem wrong is him being temperamental and/or confrontational when you feel it's unwarranted or embarrassing, and then refusing to be confrontational when you actually want him to be. That is sucky and sounds like a pretty serious incompatibility.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:07 AM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Not his responsibility, especially since you haven't established your boundaries with your ex yourself. Sleazy messages (does he know you're in a relationship?) means he should get a stern message from you that you aren't interested in anything more than occasional chit-chat and that his recent behavior has you reconsidering your friendship.

You may want to deliver that via voice, as text makes it too easy for him to misread you (which may explain where he got the idea you're still interested in him from).

You may also be projecting intentions for him ("he did that just to make my skin crawl") - do you know that, or did he just tell you factually? It may creep you out, but unless he made it a point to crow that "now your parents know me!", you are imbuing his actions with motivations from your own perception.

If you can't set your own boundaries - firmly and clearly - you'll have a boundary problem throughout your life. He cannot be the one to step in every time, and he's starting now.

Seconding cmoj, I'd be pretty mad at a SO that yells at pizza delivery guys for being 5 minutes late when the delay is likely out of their control - traffic, cooking time, finding a house, etc. You can often tell peoples' character by how they treat waitstaff and people "beneath" them.
posted by bookdragoness at 9:16 AM on January 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

I agree with the young rope rider here. He's I'm no way obliged to do this, though in some cases (longer relationships, say) he might. I have traded occasional "convenient alibi" help with partners before, and also told them to deal with their own messes.

It's not the choice of behaviour per se, but the inconsistency with other acts that's odd.

And, well, yelling at a pizza guy? That's some cold business. I'd be having the "wtf?" talk with my SO at that event, not this one.
posted by ead at 9:32 AM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Unlike most of the other responses, I think your request of your SO was reasonable, and that his response was lame.

I imagine you wanted him to confront your ex for a few reasons:

1) You were uncomfortable doing so yourself.
2) You thought that the message would be more effective coming from him, BECAUSE he is a stranger to your ex. And don't forget the obvious, classic My-boyfriend's-back-and-you're-gonna-be-in-trouble effect.
3) You saw it as an opportunity for him to demonstrate his love by doing something for you that you were uncomfortable doing yourself.

There's nothing wrong with any of those reasons. If you're like me, you see your relationship as a partnership, and there's nothing wrong with asking your partner to simply Do Something For You. If you habitually shirk social responsibilities and pass unpleasant tasks on to him, that could be a problem. But this sounds like a normal request and not part of a habit.

Bf knows how I feel and seems indifferent.

You have a problem, you asked him to help, he doesn't care.

So often relationship issues seem vague and mushy. But if I were your SO I would have jumped at the opportunity to do something so straightforward and concrete for you.
posted by General Tonic at 9:38 AM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Anecdotally, I have a girl friend who is a perfectly normal humanoid until she gets a boyfriend, and it drives me nuts. Her voice gets little-girl-ier when he's around, and she gets stupidly helpless about things, for lack of a better term. Notably, we recently helped her move into her new apartment, and when she tried her mailbox key it didn't fit properly, and instead of just rolling her eyes and dealing with it by knocking on the door of the building superintendent fifteen feet away, she actually made little whimpering noises and puppy-eyes at her boyfriend, who immediately jumped in and took care of the situation. For like the fiftieth time that day. While she stood there smiling, stroking him, and saying, out loud, "Awww, I have the best boyfriend!" Honest to god—and she's a good friend—but I wanted to shove that fucking key up her nose when I witnessed that.

And you know, fine, good, he helped her out, great. And no, she didn't set the women's movement back 50 years or anything, but I have to tell you, that little incident was the last straw and forever changed how I see her. Thing is, she never does this with anyone else except her boyfriends. I met her because she was pushing some neighbor guy's car out of a snow bank, and I jumped in to assist. Afterward, we sort of bonded over what tough chicks we were. Arrrgh!

I'm not saying you're just like my friend, but I am giving you the heads-up that you're showing the warning signs. Just watch out for that sort of thing, is all I'm saying.
posted by heyho at 9:38 AM on January 26, 2012 [22 favorites]

Before we get into everything, I would ask WHY the ex decided to reach out to you. People don't contact other people out of the blue without wanting something. My first instinct was that the ex probably wanted to set you up as a booty call. Lo and behold, his txt messages turn sleazy and he asks to have sex.

Question: Did you not deter him in any way when things started getting weird? You had every right to tell him cut that shit out! before dropping contact.

Anyway, so you ignored him and left things in an ambiguous/awkward zone. I bet he said Hi to your parents as an excuse to talk you again and force contact from you. Holy Super Manipulative Move, Batman!

In the end, you can't really blame your boyfriend for backing out this once instance, because it's really not his responsibility to settle crap with a dude he never met (pardon my language). I'm sure he would leap at the chance to physically protect you if you were being pushed around/yelled at/manhandled by some stranger. Your problem is purely a social one, and it's something you need to clear up on your own.

Perhaps use this as an opportunity to stand up for yourself? Don't be non-confrontational again and let it slide. The ex is being creepy & manipulative and there's probably a reason why you broke up with him in the first place.
posted by hellomina at 9:47 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe he is wondering if you are really over the guy and is doing this to see if you really are and can break it off yourself. Mostly I see his point, if he contacts the guy then testosterone can take over and all sorts of weird male proving themselves shit can happen and things can escalate fast, it's a bit like calling in a tactical missile strike to kill a mosquito. Tell your ex to stop it and break all contact with him, you now have extra reasons to add to the why he's your ex, ie he's a controlling creep, and let it go.
posted by wwax at 9:53 AM on January 26, 2012

Your SO is in the right. Any message telling the ex to back off should come from you: the ex is not going to take anyone else's word for it (and might not take yours, for that matter). A message from the SO might be viewed as an invitation to a fight, or dismissed as not really representing your desires.
posted by adamrice at 10:01 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your plan was a very, very bad plan. Very bad. Awe-inspiringly bad, really. Now that that's out of the way:

Your current boyfriend could have handled his objections in a kinder way, or more carefully explained why your plan was a very, very bad plan, rather than simply declaring it your problem to deal with. He could have said he didn't think it was a good idea and worked with you to come up with a better plan.

So, the two of you probably both need to work on your communication skills in this relationship, in order to support each other in a more helpful, substantial way.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:15 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Retell your story by replacing male characters with female characters. Would you call your boyfriend's ex girlfriend to tell her to stop bothering him?
posted by sciencegeek at 10:25 AM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

He didn't say, "Hey it sucks your ex is being a creep but instead of either of us talking let's just block his number."

And if he had, how would you have responded? I'm not at all sure why you're so upset about this - just because he takes out his frustrations on the poor pizza guy doesn't make him your personal hero or even a confrontational person. And how is that above, different from this below:

I got "Hey this is your ex and therefore your drama, you deal with it."
Because it is, and it is, and you should, instead of ramping up the drama by involving other people in it.
Not comfortable confronting the ex? Block. Or even, "don't contact me or my family again," then block. Let your family handle any interactions on their end.

Also this: It kind of made me feel unprotected or like it would be a stretch to get my guy to defend me.
and this: There was no possibility of an incident because we live hundreds of miles away from this ex.

Don't match - it can't be a big enough deal that you require help but simultaneously not a big enough deal that it would cause a problem.

The fact is that you're making this a bigger issue than it has to be, creating friction in your relationship, which was pretty much what your ex intended in the first place.
posted by sm1tten at 10:45 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

"It kind of made me feel unprotected or like it would be a stretch to get my guy to defend me."

You do not - or should not, in any case - need "your guy" to defend you. You are an adult and you need to learn to handle things like an adult. There is a vast difference between an SO defending you when it's appropriate versus engaging in yes, drama. I have the feeling that this is more about insecurities and immaturity on your part, but you didn't come here to be excoriated, so I'll leave it at that.

If your ex continues to behave inappropriately, if he begins to escalate the situation, or if he ever so much as hints at "dropping by," regardless of his current distance, you need to escalate appropriately. This means contacting the police, getting a restraining order, etc, not having your boyfriend call him, because that will not help.

I'm shocked it hasn't been linked yet, but you should purchase and read The Gift of Fear. Just in case.
posted by a_girl_irl at 11:02 AM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

It kind of made me feel unprotected or like it would be a stretch to get my guy to defend me.

If you're in a car and someone else is driving, are you the type of person who looks out the window and daydreams, or pays attention to street signs, stop lights, etc.? Your answer might influence how this situation panned out.

I don't know how old you are, but if you're in your 20's, this is the perfect opportunity to learn a critical lesson: it is not the role of men to save you from whatever issues you may face, and such an expectation is unhealthy and robs you of your agency. Barring an anxiety disorder which you didn't state and I can't assume you have, you need to stand up for yourself and establish boundaries on your own. Are there other areas in your life where you seek protection of some sort? If so, this is an excellent opportunity to examine those closely...and then work on your ability to assert yourself. Your first step should be telling your ex to bugger off and to spare your family of his presence. Firmly, and with gusto.

Your SO is demonstrating a great degree of maturity and patience in his reaction to this situation. That's something worth noting and remembering.
posted by Ashen at 11:09 AM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

I don't completely agree with others saying that you didn't tell him to get lost. Not responding to a suggestive text is pretty much telling someone to get lost. So I can see how you'd be really worried when he texted you about your parents after his previous overtures were met with silence. He does seem to be pressing your boundaries.

It doesn't seem like your boyfriend's place to step in, though, because it's not the most effective solution and also because, at this point, it really isn't his problem. While it does seem creepy and not very bright of your ex to talk to your parents, I don't know if it is the same as a real threat. So asking your boyfriend to talk to him seems out of proportion with what really happened. Also, the most effective solution in my eyes is saying, "Please stop doing that," to your ex because it involves less effort and drama on everyone's part. If your ex doesn't stop, call the police. They have more authority than your boyfriend and it's their job to help you with stuff like this,
posted by amodelcitizen at 11:10 AM on January 26, 2012

I also don't see how your boyfriend is acting with a ton of maturity, either. You're uncomfortable, and I can see why you're uncomfortable. You didn't answer his flirtatious texts and so then his response is to unilaterally introduce himself to your parents? Might be harmless, possibly real creepy. Your boyfriend is definitely not obligated to help you, but I don't think he is a paragon of a partner here, either.
posted by amodelcitizen at 11:14 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

What bothers me so much about this request is the timing.

You've been with SO for six months, but you had only broken it off with your ex 'months ago' implying a small gap between relationships. You already live with him, which implies that maybe one of you isn't financially secure or extremely eager to settle down. And both can be true without it being a stain on the relationship, but it also creates a tiny voice that says "It doesn't have to be you, she'd settle down with any willing person".

Sending the new boyfriend to sever things with the old boyfriend sends the following message: "The only reason she won't sleep with you is because she's sleeping with me. When I am out of the picture, you're totally back in the running."

I'm not saying this is the reality of the situation. Only you would know that. But it is a readily available interpretation that a person could make. Whether that person is an ex-boyfriend who clearly doesn't understand/respect boundaries or a new boyfriend who is still trying to navigate boundaries in a fairly new and quickly evolving relationship.

By handling your own drama that interferes with the relationship, you aren't going it alone. You are sending a clear message that this relationship is important to you. Both to your partner and the world.
posted by politikitty at 11:21 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Like General Tonic, I hold the minority opinion here.

While I understand people’s responses, I would be a hypocrite if I gave you the same advice. I’m a woman, and I’ve had multiple boyfriends do this sort of thing with exes, multiple times. I’ll try to justify why, to the best of my ability- I agree it’s not something to be proud of and indulge in casually, but I’m forced to admit through experience that it often works. And I guess part of my philosophy is, if it works, it can’t be all bad.

Here’s a recent example that might help put things in perspective: I got a new phone six months ago. I got a few calls from a number I didn’t recognize, and it turned out it was a male stranger calling for “Becky” who I assume was his ex. He was rambling, incoherent, and probably drunk, and left messages which were very hard to understand. I assumed she had given him the wrong number on purpose, or the phone number was previously in use, or something. I ignored them.

Until Christmas. I was expecting a call from family, and I answered the phone quickly without looking at the number. It was the guy- I recognized his distinctive voice and rambling, and the asking for “Becky.” I told him, in a fairly neutral and businesslike tone, “I’m sorry, you must have the wrong number. I don’t know any Becky. Goodbye.” He could hear my voice, he knew I was not her.

Over Christmas day and the next few days, my phone exploded. The guy called, literally, about 25 times in rapid succession, every thirty minutes to an hour. I answered again and said, “Look, I’m sorry but someone gave you the wrong number. I don’t know any Becky at all.” He kept calling. The messages changed to “Hey you. Call me. I want to talk to you. Not Becky, you. I’m lonely. I want to talk to you. Hey lady.” On and on and on, thirty plus messages, and I couldn’t answer my phone because it was fucking Christmas and this fucking guy was harassing me, literally for no other reason than that he heard a female voice on the other end of the line. I changed my personal voice message to the standard “we’re sorry, the number is unavailable…blah” because I suspected he was getting off on the sound of voice on the answering message.

I finally picked up and said, very clearly, “Do not call me again. I don’t know you. You’re a stranger to me. Stop calling me. STOP CALLING ME.” It made no difference. He kept calling, if anything, it escalated.

It was Christmas, so my (very sweet) 6’3” uncle with a deep, booming voice was visiting. I explained the situation to him. I even felt shame that some guy was harassing me, because it sounded so unbelievable, like I had done something to invite it when I literally had done nothing other than have a female voice. I hate that I felt that. But the next time the phone rang, my uncle picked up. “Who is this? Stop calling this number.” That’s it, that’s all he said. Male voice.

No more calls, ever.

It works.

I have other examples but in the interest of brevity I’ll stop here. But with actual ex-boyfriends, the same principle has applied. Yes, I could have called the police. I thought about doing that. But then I would have my name and the strangers name on record somewhere, and it seemed like a more complicated and worse solution. To my credit, I have actually done that before, so I know the process. Yes, I’ve had a lot of this sort of thing happen to me.

I agree with others that:

1. You must first tell your ex, clearly, that you do not want him to harass you anymore.
2. Your boyfriend should not initiate contact with him, but rather respond in lieu of you, to phone calls, etc. It’s much less hostile and you can honestly say “he started it” (the ex) that way. You might even make it seem accidental.
3. This is a last resort sort of thing.
4. You should cut your boyfriend some slack, and understand that this is something he should be hesitant about. If he doesn’t want to do it, he doesn’t have to. But if you feel less positive towards him as a result, that’s a natural consequence. If you’re stressed about blocking the number, calling the police, or expecting escalation in harassment towards your parents, he will have to deal with the consequences of your stress and the effect on your mood and however much that will bleed over into your relationship. It is a real, existing problem that will take a real, concrete toll on you, and he should be able to recognize that without minimizing it, however you end up solving it. Not dealing with it is not an option. Pretending it’s nothing is not an option. If he stonewalls you, he’s wrong. If he blame-shifts to you (for inviting this behavior, for having an ex, for not choosing better men, etc.) he’s even wronger. Much wronger!
5. You can always block the number, involve the police, or simply not respond. Know that you have those options, which you may or may not take for whatever reason. In this situation, those options might even be better. But know that mental stress will arise for you from this kind of situation no matter what, which is natural and should be anticipated and dealt with- by you, and by extension, your boyfriend.

I’ll disagree with nearly everyone else and add:

6. It’s not something that you should feel ashamed of for asking.
posted by stockpuppet at 11:23 AM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Your boyfriend can't help you enforce your boundaries until you set the boundaries.
posted by spaltavian at 11:51 AM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Your ex and your current boyfriend both display poor boundaries, poor empathy and poor impulse control. Your current SO aims his outbursts at the pizza guy. Your ex just decided to aim his outbursts at you. That's why several commenters have suggested that they would have nipped the current SO in the bud for such rudeness towards strangers, because they know intrinsically that poor impulses, empathy and boudaries eventually get turned towards our intimates as well.

Cutting contact is the right call, although one (1!) final, short, direct conversation to explain that he has crossed a line and you do not want him to contact you again may be helpful. No explanation required. Your family and friends back home need to know that the ex is persona non grata. If this escalates and he turns out to be a stalker-type, people need to know that he may try to obtain personal information about you from them.

Having your current guy call would have been a conflict escalating move. The usual twisted stalker logic there is, "OMG, he is controlling her life. I must save the damsel because we are meant to be."
posted by Skwirl at 12:14 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Retell your story by replacing male characters with female characters. Would you call your boyfriend's ex girlfriend to tell her to stop bothering him?

If he asked her to, why wouldn't she? I think there's a lot more problematic sexism to be found in the negative responses here than in the original post.

There's nothing wrong with a woman asking her boyfriend to stand up for her.

There's nothing wrong with a man asking his girlfriend to stand up for him.

There's no reason that a sane, healthy adult should not ask for help from their loved ones when they are having trouble dealing with unwanted attention from others. One of the reasons we pair-up is to add the strength of another to our own. We can present as a unit--a couple.

Personal responsibility is critical to being a well-adjusted adult. Asking your partner to be the message bearer in a situation like this is not necessarily a failure to take responsibility. It is normal, and can even build intimacy and trust between two people.
posted by General Tonic at 12:37 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he asked her to, why wouldn't she?

Don't most people avoid calling up strangers and telling them how they can and cannot behave towards some third party? I certainly wouldn't do this for a close friend or a family member, why a significant other?

If Anonymous' partner generally would call up strangers for a close friend, but doesn't choose to do so for Anonymous, then I suppose that would be a good sign that Anonymous' fears are right.
posted by muddgirl at 12:46 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

if you didn't currently have a boyfriend and your ex was doing this, what would you do? the only expedient and drama-free answer would be that you would have your ex's number blocked. why you wouldn't just do this instead of trying to drag your bf—and now a bunch of ppl on the internet—into a situation that could have been taken care of in five minutes is not something i can comprehend except for maybe your wanting some kind of validation from your bf of how much he loves you.
posted by violetk at 12:51 PM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Maybe he is wondering if you are really over the guy and is doing this to see if you really are and can break it off yourself.

I think this is a possibility. It would probably reassure your boyfriend to know he doesn't have to keep other guys off of you with a whip and a chair; that you can set your own boundaries and stay loyal to him.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:53 PM on January 26, 2012

How did your parents react to the ex introducing himself? I'm not sure I see anything creepy or stalkerish here. You say "My ex and I didn't part on bad terms and we were always friendly so it was nice to catch up" so there was no drama before, and you've been chatting amiably for a while. Him testing the waters and asking if sleeping together is possible doesn't *necessarily* sound creepy to me. If inappropriate, then the right response then would have been "No way dude, I'm happy with new bf!" But since you didn't say that, I'm not sure how he's crossing a line.

And if I was out somewhere and learned that a friendly ex's family member was there too, I would probably introduce myself. Now, if an ex had already said to me "hey you've crossed a line" or "cut that out" or "I don't think I want to chit-chat with you anymore" then cozying up to family members would be creepy. But if I think it's all casual & friendly, I would.

It was pretty upsetting but I didn't respond and just figured we'd never talk again. ... my ex has never actually been introduced to my family and he did that just to make my skin crawl. ... He purposefully chose not to do anything and didnt even offer any helpful solution. ... Bf knows how I feel and seems indifferent.

All of these things are you making assumptions without doing the work of communicating. You can't read their minds, and you can't expect them to read yours.

Your question is "am I overanalyzing?" and I think the answer is definitely yes.
posted by headnsouth at 12:59 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Someone says that you can be right or you can be happy. That someone was the happiest man alive.

I don't think that you are right. But even if you were, what would that get you? Don't worry so much about being right, try for more of happy.
posted by notned at 1:00 PM on January 26, 2012

Sounds like a case of Let's You and Him Fight, where he refused to play.

"As a maneuver it is romantic. The woman maneuver or challenges two men into fighting, with the implication or promise that she will surrender herself to the winner. After the competition is decided, she fulfils her bargain. This is an honest transaction, and the presumption is that her and her mate live happily ever after."
posted by alphanerd at 1:08 PM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

And thinking about it more, the problem might be that he was dismissive and "meh" for something that a reasonable person could easily find genuinely frightening. Your anger, hurt, fear? Dismissed as "drama".

His frustration at the pizza guy? TOTALLY IMPORTANT AND SERIOUS!!!

It smacks of a bit of sexism, a bit of lack of empathy, a bit of self-centerdness, and a lot of lack of perspective.

Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:30 PM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

A man grabbed my ass while I was at a museum with my (then) boyfriend. I turned around to firmly tell the guy to stop and that I was now going to call security. He promptly started yelling sexually inappropriate things at me until a security guard ran over.

My boyfriend? He watched us for a second, then walked away and looked at another exhibit. Later, when I asked him about his actions, he stated that he didn't want to escalate the issue and add to the drama, besides, I had it "under control". At the time I absorbed the "don't be a poor lil girl, be a strong adult" message and never discussed it again. After all, his reasoning was rational and logical. It took years for me to understand why his actions had hurt me so much.

When you are in a relationship, you are a team. To me personally, that means that when one member of the team is in trouble, the other member should, at least, offer to assist. From your post, I get the feeling that you were saying "I would like help in the form of protection" and he said "No, I will not help you, but I will suggest a logical alternative that you can take (just block him)".

His reasoning was totally rational and logical, however, he still refused to assist his teammate. For some people, "backing up your partner" is more important then "the most logical and rational response".

This can turn into a fundamental incompatibility. Neither of you are necessarily "wrong", but just not see relationship roles the same way.
posted by Shouraku at 3:06 PM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yes, an unexpected male voice can make a difference when it comes to phone harassment. Hell, I did it when I was just a kid and some guy kept repeatedly calling our home and my mother would answer and he said ... something... which kept making her cry (my father wasn't home), so eventually I answered it and said (in my approx 15 year old boy voice) "Who is this? Stop calling!". And it stopped.

But I think in this case, the poster needs to send a clear message to the alleged stalker to back off. If he persists, then decide whether to ask the current-SO for assistance (which I can't blame him for not wanting to do), or call the cops.
posted by Diag at 4:00 PM on January 26, 2012

N-thing you telling the ex to bug off first. Had you done that, and had it not worked, your stance is 100% justified. However, I can tell you don't want you ex to think less of you (even if he creeped you out), you don't personally want to "do the deed," you want to pass the buck.

If I am correct, (and I hope I'm not) you should be mortified.
posted by irishcoffee at 4:27 PM on January 26, 2012

I think if he showed up the apartment, it would be bad if your boyfriend didn't tell him to go. But here, you encouraged contact until you did not respond to one of his text. If I were your boyfriend, I think I would be uncomfortable stepping until until at least once you had attempted to communicate some kind of boundary to your ex. Tell him to stop contacting you, once, yourself.

Like headnsouth said above, yes, you are doing a lot of thinking about what a lot of people are thinking and what they should be thinking about what you are thinking without communicating any of it -- so, yes, you are overanalyzing, in my opinion.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:38 PM on January 26, 2012

If I were 14, and some guy I didn't like kept bothering me, I would really, really want my dad to call that guy up and yell at him. But, I'm an adult now, and my boyfriend is not my dad.

Our society has this standard where the guy is meant to speak for his woman, metaphorically and literally. Notice the term there: his woman. Traditionally, the husband is responsible for his wife, and she is seen as appropriately under his control. (Consider how a man's home is his castle -- how "wearing the pants" means having power -- how Ricky Ricardo would spank Lucy). The husband really takes on a role not so different from that of a father figure (consider how, in a wedding ceremony, the father gives over the woman to her new husband). In such a system, if the woman gets in trouble, who should fix it? Well, the woman isn't expected to be rational or responsible. Instead, she's like a ward of her husband's -- just like, if my cat goes and destroys your petunias, I'm the one who has to do something about it. And since the woman is seen to be under the man's control, a man is expected to "look after" his wife in much the same way that one looks after one's property. If a man's wife is getting pestered by some strange guy, it's the man's duty to deal with the situation because it's his way of affirming 'ownership' over the woman.

Yeah, I'm throwing some heavy feminist critique of family structure at you. If you doubt any of this, seriously: just go watch some I Love Lucy episodes.

This is the sick model of heterosexual love we have: men love women by taking over responsibility for them. It seems like this is what you're trying to get your boyfriend to model. You want your boyfriend to yell at this guy because, by doing so, he'd be affirming his commitment to you. But, the only way in which it makes sense for him yelling at the guy to be interpreted as a sign of him being committed to you is if we understand you as property that is under threat of theft.

But, you're not property. Your boyfriend, by not getting involved, is affirming that he sees you as a full-fledged human being, competent and capable, able to stand up for yourself. He's refusing to buy into the out-dated, sick model of a relationship that makes him controller and you property.

Now... I have two further comments:

1) This is context sensitive. Consider Shouraku's story. That's a situation where having someone--anyone--come to your defense is definitely important and appropriate. And I'd give you a totally different answer under these circumstances: suppose your boyfriend is considerably larger than you, suppose your ex's behavior is considerably more disturbing and erratic, and suppose your ex showed up at our house. There, it would be reasonable to suppose that you (as a human being, not specifically as his woman) could use some help protecting yourself, and him (as a human being who cares about you, not as the man) should help. But that's a different case, involving different dynamics.

2) Your emotions still matter. It matters to you that he does this because you want him to show that he is committed to you. That's significant. That's important. You may want to think deeply about what you take commitment to be, what you understand your relationship to be, and how you should expect him to express that commitment.... Given that he's the type of guy who will curse out poor, hapless pizza guys.
posted by meese at 4:56 PM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I disagree (sort of) with most of the posters upthread. I agree that this is a place where you need to set some firm boundaries (and no contact seems like a good step), but I do think it is ok for you to ask your partner to provide you love, suggestions, and assistance. It sounds like you got one out of three, which is ok, and that he set a boundary of his own about assistance, which also seems appropriate at this juncture.

But if this situation continues, I would feel very comfortable asking my partner for support and assistance. I strongly disagree with the posters upthread who say that your significant other isn't there to protect you. I feel like part of the way I love my partner is by protecting him from the parts of life he finds difficult and trying, and he does the same for me. For the most part, the ways we protect each other are quotidien in fashion: I remove the rats and mice and occasional geckos that the neighborhood cats regularly leave as tributes on our front walk, because he finds dead animals scary and disgusting. He talks to our landlord when conversations are necessary, because I find our landlord irritating and stressful.

We protect each other by using our complimentary strengths and weaknesses to make each others' lives happer and simpler. So yes, start by setting boundaries. But it isn't a bad thing to have a partner who protects you (as you protect him/her; it is reciprocal, of course, or it doesn't work) from the parts of the world that they handle better than you do.

Also: You're lucky - I would have dumped you for asking. It's your problem to solve.

posted by arnicae at 5:14 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

SIGH. I did not say:

public ass grabing = guys texts and intrudes on parents.

In magnitude or scope. What I AM saying is for some people:

Interjecting and helping a partner > The most logical, rational, efficient response.

For other people:

The most rational, drama free response > agreeing to what you believe to be your partner's illogical request.

She may think: I asked for help, and he didn't help me.
He may think: Her request was not the best option, so I didn't do it.

It comes down to differnt views on "what is more important". Helping your partner when they specify/appear to need it, regardless if it is the best option or not? Or, taking the most drama free course of action?

To me this is not a OMG GROW UP YOU ARE SO WRONG AND HE IS SO RIGHT issue, but more of they just have differnt views on what is expected as part of the team.
posted by Shouraku at 5:21 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are not his li'l sis. His response was completely reasonable, and your request was unreasonable. You should have asked him to help you figure out how to get him to stop calling without his "intervention".
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:06 AM on January 27, 2012

My husband would have offered to call the guy -- but...

1. I don't talk to my exes

2. He'd be confused that *I* wanted *him* to intervene after having talked to him for a while

3. I'd've tried doing other things first.

4. He's my husband, not my new-ish boyfriend.
posted by spunweb at 11:24 AM on January 27, 2012

hmm. i think both General Tonic and stockpuppet are correct. it took me a moment to pinpoint but the analysis that isn't being harped enough, IMO, is the fact that it doesn't appear that you've told the ex directly to stop. ever. not responding isn't the same asking someone to stop. why not ask him? i think it is a pretty unusual response to just ... what? play possum and hope it goes away, and then ask your bf to have an uncomfortable conversation for you?
posted by anthropomorphic at 2:37 PM on January 27, 2012

Your boyfriend's response was highly insensitive but not incorrect.

However, if that had been my boyfriend's response, I don't think I would be with him for much longer - I have an expectation of support within a relationship and I wouldn't classify that as supportive.
posted by mleigh at 6:45 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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