Crap emails from a dude and not even the one I dated
March 16, 2012 1:48 PM   Subscribe

My long and forgotten ex boyfriend's best friend continues to torment me years after the relationship ended. He works in the same small industry and his passive-agressive actions just make me see red. What else can I do to take the high road and not let this get to me until I can cut ties completely?

In 2007 I started dating a man who I had a 2 year relationship with. We lived together for the last year, which made it very clear that we were not compatible and did not have a future together. No hard feelings, so we dissolved the relationship and I moved out and on with my life. The ex boyfriend did not take it well, and ended up falling into a deep depression and refused to move out of the shared apartment and on with his own life for a half a year (while openly telling people how sad it made me to live there). He continuously talked to his best friend about how horrible I was for leaving him, how I had been selfish (expecting him to pick up his own laundry, not wanting to do 100% of the chores even though I made more money and contributed more, and not wanting to come support his hobbies because I was busy with my own, and just wanting a partner who I felt I had more in common with in terms of lifestyle and long term goals). His best friend was completely on his side, that I was a horrible person, conveniently ignoring the contributions of the ex to the demise of the relationship, and the fact that sometimes things just don't work out and it is nobody's fault.

At this point, 3.5 years after the breakup, the ex has moved to a different city, and we don't talk. I have completely moved on and hope that he has too. I wish him happiness.

However, while dating the ex, his best friend had encouraged me to seek work at his company. He gave me a great recommendation and I ended up getting a job there just before moving in with the ex in 2008. We have the same profession, and its a small world where everyone knows everyone. He continues to hold a grudge against me to this day. It started right after the breakup, when he would have parties etc and invite EVERY SINGLE ONE of our coworkers, and my ex boyfriend. Its not like I wanted to be invited, but previously it was that same group of people and ME, not my boyfriend. It made a lot of people uncomfortable and they would tell me they thought it was weird that he was doing that, but hey, what are you going to do. I tried to ignore it but I would feel hurt when he would purposely exclude me from a social scene that I had actively participated in before. His actions were passive-aggressive and very subtle, so he had full plausible deniability and I wanted to let it go so I never confronted him.

The relentless feeling of being treated by a pariah by somebody who had been my friend really wore my self esteem down and I grew very resentful towards him for having such a small, irritating, relentless presence in my life. I felt like I had really moved beyond the era of dating my ex and everything was great, had some great new friends, a great new boyfriend, and he was the last vestige of all of the strife and wrongness of being with the ex. I just hated him and wanted him to engage with me so I could have a turn of ignoring him, but for some reason, he just always had the upper hand which made me even more angry at being affected.

He got a new job last fall, at another agency that works closely with ours. I rejoiced! Finally free and clear! However, he continues to actively antagonize me. For example, I am looking for a new job (in a new industry because I'm ready for a change). One of my coworkers is good friends with him and tells him everything going on in our office, and anything he knows that will make this guy laugh at me (another coworker's wife won't socialize with this guy because he "secretly" calls her the wildebeest so isn't a very nice person." The best friend uses this information to write me horrible little emails. I had a mess with a contractor, the sort of little thing that comes up all the time, and I instantly got an email from him saying "having fun with ---?? lol" WTF dude. Once a job opening came up at his new agency and he emailed it to all of the other people at the office and then simultaneously wrote me an email just saying "hows the job hunt going?" WTF dude. I think he enjoys knowing things about me and having a good laugh at my expense because he hates me for hurting his friend. I'm over it and just find it irritating, just a little joy suck from life. I usually respond with something light and cheery, although one time I snapped and told him that I would have to stop talking to the coworker because "y'all are gossips!!" which was strangely effective and stopped the emails for about a month.

SO I have blocked his email from all of my accounts, blocked his facebook, and have avoided telling anything personal to the coworker who tells him about my life. Why am I still so irritated?? It seems like such a little thing, and I want to get over it. I hate having to censor myself around my coworkers and I hate how a happy family here at work still connects me to the ex I desperately want to have completely out of my life. I hate how, even if I wanted that job at his agency, he would bad mouth me to a whole group of people for no reason other than I wouldn't wash his best friend's socks. I feel like I don't deserve this kind of aftermath and it bothers me that he can't get past it and took it so personally.

Will having a new job fix this, or is it just me? What is wrong with me that this gets to me?
posted by cakebatter to Human Relations (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
ok, i can't address your whole question, but "What is wrong with me that this gets to me?"

Nothing's wrong with you. The guy sounds like a bozo and from what you're saying, this sounds terrible. More than terrible. I'm sorry that you're going through this.
posted by saraindc at 1:54 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you've blocked all his email, how are you getting his snotty little jibes? Stop reading them, don't ever respond to anything. He sounds like a troll (and a jackass), and we all know what not to do with trolls.

FWIW, I wouldn't delete/block his email, I would have it filtered to a special folder. If things ever escalate, particularly since you are in the same line of work, you will have evidence that this petty harassment has been going on for a very long time. If you're ever working at the same company again, and this persists, complain to HR using the current stuff he's doing.
posted by arnicae at 1:55 PM on March 16, 2012 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: I just blocked him. I was under the impression for a while that I should respond to maintain a good working relationship until I realized that is not a winning strategy.
posted by cakebatter at 1:58 PM on March 16, 2012

This sounds suspiciously like stalker behavior to me. No wonder you're irritated.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:00 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Blocking is a great step! And when you have to see him on professional business, kill him with kindness. That has the side benefit of making him look like an unreliable trash-talker to his colleagues.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:28 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

OK, first, try - really try - to not beat yourself up on this. You did nothing wrong and there's nothing wrong with you: an asshole is trying to get under your skin, and he's succeeding. That's not your fault - it is his fault because 1) he's an asshole and 2) he's probably good at this thing; it sounds like he has little else to do.

You're making the right moves to get him out of your life; the job chance will probably help, too. As far as him talking smack about you, I don't think you need to call him on it unless it has a major and negative effect on your reputation/work. My guess is that people know what a shithead he is and probably don't pay attention to his crap, and those who do pay attention are shitheads, too.

That said, if after all this he continues to try to contact you or pry into your affairs, you may consider filing a complaint or looking into legal action.

My suspicion is that this guy has a thing for you - and that he's too passive/ aggressive and too much of an asshole to ever say anything/act on it/get the time of day from somebody who is clearly more evolved and kinder than he'll be. Once again, this points to him having a pathological personality issue that you probably can't do much about, and so you'll likely just have to write it off and ignore him.

Once again, though, be careful. If for whatever reason his contacts with you - should they continue - start to make you feel scared or threatened, listen to your guts and consider pursuing ways to protect yourself from him.
posted by soulbarn at 2:30 PM on March 16, 2012 [14 favorites]

Seriously this has a weird stalker behavior to it. Do all the things you would do with a stalker. Block his emails, block any contact with him and move on. By reacting you are giving him what he wants, even if you react in private if you don't have contact with him you won't know what he thinks or says and that is fine.

As for his "spy" at your work treat him pretty much the same way, mention nothing to him that isn't work related, if he sends you horrid little emails email him back clearly stating that you wish to only communicate with him in a professional manner about work related topics. If he can't manage that then mention it to HR as his behavior is harassment at worst and inappropriate at best.

Give them no feedback and cut them out of your lives. Would changing jobs help? I think it would but I don't know the industry you are in or how wide their influence stretches, but much like bullies in high school I think you'd find if you found a new job and moved away from them that they are not half as important as they think they are. Let's face it anyone pissing off a superiors wife is not looking at a secure career path.
posted by wwax at 2:31 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

And by the way, even if you don't work with him, if he is sending you emails that are harassing or insensitive, especially since he's a "colleague" in the same industry, especially if he's doing so from his work account, your can still report him to HR - his, or bring it up with yours.

But ignoring him is the best strategy unless your instincts tell you that ignoring him would make it worse or put you in danger.
posted by soulbarn at 2:34 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that he (and maybe the coworker that is still friends with him) have a weird love/hate thing for you. Anyone viewing this from the outside would probably pick up on that. Specifically, when a coworker started bad mouthing another woman we worked with about how poorly she treated his friend who was also her ex, it made me think less of the badmouther and not the woman he was badmouthing. So, if this helps at all, realize that him telling people weird random stuff about your previous relationship is going to reflect very badly on him and not all that badly on you. I think a new job is a really good idea.

As everyone is saying, ignoring is the best strategy. But if someone ever asks you about him, you should be prepared. Do not get into every detail, but I think a simple explanation like, "I dated a friend of his years ago. He has been rude to me ever since we broke up," sums up the situation and makes you come off as the least dramatic, most sane person.
posted by soelo at 2:41 PM on March 16, 2012 [9 favorites]

Will having a new job fix this, or is it just me?

It might fix how much you care about it, but some people will just keep holding onto the resentment. But would it stop impacting you/your life/your job? If it's in a different industry, then probably. But you should still be prepared, just in case, to have to make some sort of statement should he randomly cross your path again in the future. Them grapes are sour, and they will likely be sour for a while, but you need not keep tasting them.

What is wrong with me that this gets to me?
There's nothing wrong with you. This is just weird as hell behavior for an adult to engage in; even if you were a heinous bitch to his best friend it'd still be weird. Especially over 3 years post breakup. I find passive aggressive behavior the most infuriating of all because the best response - no response/killin em with kindness response - isn't always the most satisfying.
posted by sm1tten at 3:42 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

there is nothing wrong with you. this guys sounds cray. i mean, it's not like he was your ex. this would irritate the fuck out of anyone. BUT. now that you have finally blocked his emails (what took you so long??)), just put him out of your mind and move on. do not engage. ever. again.
posted by violetk at 3:47 PM on March 16, 2012

WEll.. you essentially have two options. Confront or ignore.

I don't necessarily mean confront as in blow up at him, but as in talking directly and demanding answers. That is done face to face and needs to be clear, direct unrelenting and with a witness. Make your opinions and wants known and unambiguous.

Or, ignore and by that I mean completely ignore. No contact none. Don't let him force you out of situations, but no communication, no eye contact, no reading emails, no talking about him to other people. He does not exist.

Either way is likely to get idiotic responses after the fact. Personally? I would go with the first option followed with the second.

good luck
posted by edgeways at 4:30 PM on March 16, 2012

I dunno about the stalker thing. It might just be you have never asserted yourself and he thinks of you as someone to rile up.

I would just be upfront about it.

Example email.

Look (name).

I know __ and I broke up a few years ago, and you are his best friend, but please remember you have only heard his side of the the story. We were not compatible, I wanted someone who was shared the same goals as me it didn't work out. I am free to choose who I want to date. I have said goodbye to ___ and have wished him the best and I hope he is happy in his new life.

I am a busy women and since this is a work email, I would appreciate that all further communications be of a work related nature and not passive aggressive snubs because of an incident that happened over 3.5 years ago of which you only know 1/2 the story.

posted by eq21 at 7:09 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

THEN you can ignore him.
posted by eq21 at 7:10 PM on March 16, 2012

wouldn't recommend you confront him with respect to your feeling that he is being an asshole to you specifically because of what happened with your ex. if i were an a-hole passive-aggressive stalker, that would only give me something to bite on. "oh, is *that* why you're so touchy?" etc.. very, very easy to turn around on you. this guy's just a loser. block and ignore.
posted by facetious at 8:57 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

I agree with facetious -- don't confront him as it just gives him the upper hand and will show him that he is, indeed, getting to you, thus possibly encouraging him. Also, his behaviour reflects poorly on him, not you.

As for strategies for moving on, how about this: This guy, the friend of your ex-boyfriend from the distant past - not the actual boyfriend himself, but his friend - is still fired up about the breakup. Which is to say, years after the fact, this guy is losing sleep at night thinking about it - and for something he was only peripherally involved in at best.

Think about it - your very existence is keeping this guy awake at night! What power you have!

I will leave you with a cliche: Living well is the best revenge.
posted by lulu68 at 10:32 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm super sorry to read your story and that you've been going through this.

He's a damaged soul. Truly.

Can I offer something up that might help? It's a bit weird, but when I first heard it, I found it a very interesting perspective on stuff like this. Wanna hear it? OK! Here we go...

I heard a podcast interview with an older lady who had a really great attitude about the "bad" things and people that happen to us in life. (I'll google now to see if I can find a name/link - OK, can't find her. sorry!)

Her premise is that when people do "bad stuff," they truly only do it to themselves. So, let's say someone held you up by knife and wanted to rob you? They would be hurting themselves - not you. In fact, she told a story where a stranger was committing a crime against her, and she said to him, "Why would you want to do this to yourself?" - and the perpetrator stopped and ended up sobbing in her arms.

It was a believable story the way she told it. I did not do this concept justice with my explanation - but it was compelling. I'm pretty sure this lady has written a book or two, so I hope someone pops in with her name!


My point is that her concept really made me think. It's true that when I am unkind to anyone, I feel really really badly. That being true, it then is also true that when people are unkind to me, they must feel really really badly about themselves, even if they don't consciously recognize this.


Lastly, I'll leave you with some wisdom and older friend of mine shared with me...

"Happy People don't do Bad Things."


I can't speak to what you should do about this other than to continue ignoring it, because there is good evidence supporting the theory that if you continue to ignore, he'll eventually move on to a new target.

I can speak to how you should frame this to yourself to get past it. Thoroughly grok that someone who would do all you describe is completely unhinged internally, that he has a truly regrettable inner life, and see that his actions harm himself more than they have EVER affected you.

(Actually. I will add one more likely fact about the politics of your work situation... I bet that everyone knows what a doughnut this guy is, that most are fooled initially, but that his true nature eventually turns people off. I further bet that no one talks about it and just "goes with the flow" because they are either afraid of becoming his next victim, or just the types to avoid gossip and drama. In short, you likely have a lot more social support than will ever be formerly acknowledged to you, personally. You don't bring it up, as per your narrative - therefore others don't bring it up (a) out of respect for you, and (b) because gossiping is unpleasant. FWIW.)
posted by jbenben at 11:04 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

What about calling him out on it and having a face to face, in person conversation where you set out specifically the behaviors that you don't like and ask him to stop them?

Sometimes when people are pulled up on things in a well-presented, straightforward manner, they stop.

This sounds temptingly good, but is actually the wrong advice for dealing with a determined harasser, per Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear (often recommended on AskMe). He doesn't just handle direct domestic harassment, he also handles weird blackmail things and other circumstances as inchoate as this.

He does recommend a notice of cut-off, such as answering the phone and saying "Do not contact me again." But then you really, really, really need to get yourself in the mindset of not answering the phone, the e-mail, the tweet, or whatever. Just put them out of your mind. The way he puts this is that if you wait through 20 calls and then pick up, even "just once", you have taught the harasser that it takes twenty tries to get at you.

The key is to drain the interaction of the visceral drama that the harasser craves, and a face-to-face having-it-out is actually just what they want. To them, it's victory.

Anyway, this guy sounds toxic, and this sort of behavior is something that HR needs to know about. Ideally, you could even get your company or his (you're separate places now, right?) to reassign duties so you don't need to interact at all. In practice, this often means the victim gets punished as much if not more than the predator, alas. Anyway, I wouldn't have tolerated this for a year let alone three, and by doing so you essentially gave him continued permission to act like a jerk. Find ways to end that permission now.

No, it's not your fault. But you have a completely different mindset than this type of person. They won't stop at social boundaries like you, so you need to be stronger at setting them.
posted by dhartung at 11:29 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

The co-worker who's relating these things seems like the person to talk to. Most managers wouldn't be real enthused to know one of their people is doing this sort of thing.
posted by ambient2 at 12:06 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you imagine what private hell he must be in, that this is the thing he spends time on in his life? Good Lord, what a loser.

I'd contact a lawyer. IF he's harming your profile or job opportunities in your field, well, what would a court say about that? You with all the emails and messages and records of events: does he have an explanation for all this? 'For shits and giggles' might not look good in court.

I'd also call the ex and say, hey, your friend's a serious asshole. Maybe you could have a word with him?

If none of that works, I'd use the bigmouth to feed him some serious disinformation, something that will catch him flatfooted if he acts on it. He'll be forced to choose between hurting you and passing on it.

Revenge is ugly.
It's never enough.
But at the time, if it's done right?
That's all I'm gonna say...
posted by flowerofhighrank at 9:48 PM on March 18, 2012

« Older Pimp my iPad   |   Encyclopedia Green and the Case of the Perplexing... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.