Let well enough alone?
April 13, 2012 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Should I call my abuser on his behavior, even though it's been over twenty years since we've last spoken?

My first boyfriend was very intelligent, very charming, and an abusive narcissistic psychopath. I was utterly engulfed by his manipulations and psychological bullying. It took me a couple years after we'd broken up for me to realize that our relationship had been a textbook example of an abusive situation (mentally, emotionally, and physically, even up to and including what I consider rape), and I have consistently ignored his attempts to get in touch with me.

Our year-and-a-half relationship was a horrible life-changing event for me. (Possibly pertinent: when we started dating, I'd just turned 16, and I'd literally never been kissed. He was 19 and had had eleven previous sexual partners. I am female.) It colored my interactions with men for many years, and left me traumatized and angry and scared. I'm not angry or scared anymore, however, and am happily married to a wonderful man. But I've written a letter to him, and don't know if I should send it or not.

He's tried to contact me a few times over the past twenty years. It might have been a little stalkery in the first couple years (he once showed up at a friend's mother's house at 7.00 AM asking after me, knocking on the door but refusing to identify himself), but no red flags in recent times. He last contacted me via Facebook about four or five months ago, calling me "old friend" and asking if we could get in touch. I ignored the message, but three days later I received a friend request (I promptly blocked him). I was incredulous. It was clear that he does not remember our involvement in the same way I do, and thinks a friendship might be possible between us.

My mother recently told me he'd also approached her via Facebook. She actually replied to him and said no, they were not going to ever be friends. When he asked her why, she said simply "You abused my daughter." He did not contact her again after that. He lives in the same town as she, but thankfully he's never gone to her house, called her, or approached her in person.

A twist: I've kept track of his whereabouts periodically, mostly because if he ever showed up in my city, I'd really want to know. I must explain that I think he's... slightly off mentally, and although I doubt he would harm me, I think there's a distinct possibility of some unpredictable behavior if we lived in the same area. I genuinely think he may be psychopathic to some degree (lack of empathy, grandiose sense of self-worth, extremely manipulative), but aside from that he's got a peculiar brand of spirituality. For example: when we were together he told me he was probably the messiah or perhaps some other spiritual leader of equal significance. He also believed that the band Rush were prophets and regarded their music/lyrics as a message from god. He's had at least two websites that read like garbled spiritual/religious tracts, sprinkled with some pretty odd claims. Perhaps most significantly, he attributed some mysterious significance to my presence in his life as well. So, yeah, there's that.

Anyway, the appeal of sending the letter is that he would hear from his abuse victim that he was undeniably abusive, a fact which I don't think has really occurred to him. Part of me really, really wants him to read it. And I think it would be therapeutic for me to finally say to my rapist: "You raped me." I also want to make it crystal clear to him that there is no possibility of friendship, and to again make the request that he not contact me or my family again. I am not looking for any particular reaction from him, and I have no intent to make him feel bad. But I want to have my say.

I would contact him via Facebook, since I have no email address for him, but keep him blocked. My husband wonders if I'd be opening up a can of worms, but there's really no way for him to contact me, and the fact that he lives 3,000 miles away is comforting. I would tell my mother I was sending him a letter beforehand, and let her know that if he does anything odd to tell him she'll call the police if she needs to. I don't think this would be necessary, though.

In the letter, I link to an abusive behavior checklist and point out about 25 items that apply to his behavior during our relationship. I also list several things that I remember about the relationship that were particularly inappropriate or horrible, stated as fact. Content examples:

- He told me that he wanted me to be his disciple, and that he saw himself as my instructor; he wanted to mold me into his submissive counterpart. This manifested in him withholding affection and compliments unless he deemed me "worthy", and giving me the silent treatment.

- I walked on eggshells constantly; and I lived in fear that I would say something wrong, do something wrong, think something wrong.

- He used to question me about basic beliefs I held, then ridicule me until I reversed my position and was begging him to forgive me. He was far more verbally skilled than I was, and used this to his advantage.

- He threw things at me, physically restrained me, once made me sit in the bathroom while he shat, removed the condom when he didn't feel like wearing one (including the night I lost my virginity), and psychologically bullied and manipulated me into having sex with him. Once I had sex with him because I was pretty sure he would have hit me if I didn't.

- He had little to no empathy or compassion towards me for the majority of our involvement, and he did not have basic respect for me or who I was.

As I say, I have no intent to make him feel bad unnecessarily, and in the letter I tried to omit inflammatory or accusatory language. I tried to simply present my recollection of things while leaving out as much emotion as possible.

Should I send the letter or not?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (75 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
He's perfectly aware of what he's done. Writing a letter like this can be cathartic. Sending it, however, is pointless and only serves to notify your abuser that he's able to continue to inflict pain on you. Don't give him that. Write it, burn it, block him everywhere and take yourself out to dinner or something to celebrate the awesome life you have now.
posted by gracedissolved at 5:28 PM on April 13, 2012 [38 favorites]

Do you think he has the capacity to fully comprehend and take in your message, and empathise with you as a result?

Are you certain it won't enrage him and incite retaliation?

Most importantly, what response will satisfy you? Will you get that? If so, send the letter.
posted by tel3path at 5:29 PM on April 13, 2012

I know you say you are not looking for any particular reaction from him. But when you say, Anyway, the appeal of sending the letter is that he would hear from his abuse victim that he was undeniably abusive, a fact which I don't think has really occurred to him. I get a little nervous. Because it seems like part of the appeal may be that you want it to dawn on him in the slightest way that he was abusive.

I just get worried because so often what happens is instead, you will get one of the following:

"None of those things ever happened. In fact you abused me."
"You have a wonderful imagination."
"You are just a very vindictive person. You need help. I feel sorry for you. I will pray for you."
"You are horrible for saying those awful things to me. You really hurt me. You are a vicious person and a liar."

I would just say, go back, and really really be honest with yourself about whether you are hoping for ANY kind of apology or acknowledgement or realization from him at all. And whether it would not set you back at all if he said any of the above things I listed, in response.
posted by cairdeas at 5:30 PM on April 13, 2012 [45 favorites]

If he really was a narcissistic psychopath then he would probably get a great deal of satisfaction from learning that his effect on you was so profound that 20+ years later you're still thinking about him. Block him, stop keeping track of him, and ask your mother to stop talking to him as well.

And I think it would be therapeutic ...

There are other, much more healthy, ways of taking care of yourself than this. Take the letter you've written to your therapist and focus on your healing, not the person/relationship that caused you harm.
posted by headnsouth at 5:30 PM on April 13, 2012 [24 favorites]

What he did was horrible. However, you need to move on and put this behind you, and the best way to do that is to forgive him, yes forgive him, even despite the bad things he did to you. You do not need to forgive him to his face, and it is best not to. You do not need to get sucked back into his maelstrom. While you hold onto this pain he still controls you. He still hurts you. How do you forgive such a person? Pray for him, or if that is not you gig just silently wish for him to find enlightenment enough to change his ways. Contacting him to revisit the harm he caused will only open the wound further, put you further away from forgiveness and putting this into the past. Every time you replay this in your head he harms you one more time. Let it go. Today is a new day, that was the past.
posted by caddis at 5:32 PM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

In all honesty, having dealt with abusive people (but not something of this sort, with a person who seems to have some really disturbing things happening in his brain in regards to himself as a person), I wouldn't send the letter. I understand the urge, I genuinely do, but the minor amount of relief you will feel at finally having told him how you feel about what he did to you will not compare to what he could do should he chose to go full-on crazy. I'd seriously consider sending it if your mother is close to him, geographically.

I would ask yourself if you're prepared to deal with the worst case scenario in terms of his reaction to your letter. And then I would weigh that against any relief you might get from sending it. If those two things are even close to be equal and not tipped more towards the abatement of the anger you have for him, I'd let it lie.

On preview, headnsouth and gracedissolved have it: You're going to give him satisfaction he doesn't deserve. If he's truly the narcissist you believe him to be, you're ignoring him does far more to show him how you feel than does a letter.
posted by youandiandaflame at 5:32 PM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

From your description, he doesn't sound like a man who could believe himself in the wrong no matter how strong and righteous and awesome a letter you produced. He sounds like a guy I used to know, actually, who had similar delusions and was very manipulative. Years after I was out of his circle, I bumped into him at a store and realized he was the same person and had simply found new people to manipulate. He's reaching out to see if he can still pull your strings, just as my weird culty guy attempted once I saw him again.

I think no contact is probably the best way to go here.
posted by PussKillian at 5:33 PM on April 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Anyway, the appeal of sending the letter is that he would hear from his abuse victim that he was undeniably abusive, a fact which I don't think has really occurred to him.

It may not actually occur to him even if he hears this from you. If he's as narcissistic and abusive as you say -- and good for you for surviving and thriving after everything he did to you -- then one of the ways he shields his own ego is that he must reflexively decide that all criticism is invalid and that all people who voice said criticism are worthless.

In other words, he may read the words, but he almost certainly won't believe the message your words are actually conveying. (And he certainly won't respect what you're saying, nor feel shame or remorse for what he did -- if anything, he will blame you, and may very well lash out at you with new abusive behaviors.)

Someone who is this broken can't be forced into seeing the error of their ways. On some level, you are expecting empathy and self-awareness from someone whose pathology stems from precisely the fact that he does not possess those qualities.
posted by scody at 5:34 PM on April 13, 2012 [26 favorites]

You know he has been trying to contact you, so he'd leap at this opportunity to get into a conversation with you. He might remember events from 20 years ago differently and want to explain this to you. Do you really want to get involved with this?
posted by John Cohen at 5:35 PM on April 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

The message you will send by writing him is that he still has the power to make you react. He is already probing your boundaries by contacting you after so many years to see if he can get under your skin. Hearing that he hurt you is what he WANTS because it places him at the center of your world. It's the fuel that drives his behavior. He knows where your mother lives. Do you really want to engage with this person?
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:37 PM on April 13, 2012 [41 favorites]

I wouldn't send it. If he is slightly off mentally and you expect unpredictable behavior, do not contact him. I agree with your husband. You are opening a can of worms if you send it.

Abuse is never okay. This happened a long time ago and that still doesn't make it okay but... I would work on understanding, possibly forgiveness, or simply letting it go. You say he is a narcissist. He won't apologize and sending it may make you feel worse. Take it for what it was and let it go -- after you have dealt with your anger because it seems like this is still affecting your life 20 years later. Or, maybe these feelings resurfaced for some reason. You are not hurting now because of something that happened that long ago. You are hurting now for how you feel about what happened way back then. He can't help you with these feelings. Only you can.

The man allegedly has no compassion or empathy, the best thing you can do for yourself is to have compassion for him from afar. Sounds crazy but is true. You will find more peace and contentment when you accept and forgive. You absolutely do not need to contact him, whether you come to a place of forgiveness or not. I am sorry these things happened to you. Concentrate on the good things you have now and don't engage in any drama with this guy. A letter listing your grievances, valid or not, will not go over well and is drama.
posted by Fairchild at 5:39 PM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I disagree that you need to forgive him. Sometimes holding on to anger is key to self-preservation. He behaved shittily, and he doesn't deserve even the angriest of letters from you, in my opinion. My advice would be to keep your phasers set to "shun".
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:39 PM on April 13, 2012 [9 favorites]

It seems like there is no good that could come out of sending this letter. There is no good, but there is potential harm. Read the letter to your husband, your best friend, your therapist, and consider it done.
posted by namesarehard at 5:48 PM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, man, this sounds terrible. It sucks that he keeps trying to get in touch with you, so maybe you feel like, "I am never going to get to end this relationship on my terms unless I tell him to shove right off."

So, I think it would be helpful if you ended your interactions with him in some symbolic way, maybe involving the letter, to mentally tell yourself, "This hurtful interaction from my past is over. I will not think about this person anymore." I would seriously do a big old ritual, maybe at a state park, involving water and fire, like you read the letter, then you burn it in a big bonfire, then you take a cleansing swim in a lake or park. Ask your mom to come and maybe a couple other people who remember how wacked out he was. The bigger the negative effect on your life, the bigger you need to go to say firmly to yourself, "This is done."

After that, I would start thinking of him as a crazy but sad person with a small life who for some odd reason has imprinted on you as a way to deal with his mental health problems (which are clearly severe) and so must be ignored and never acknowledged by you or anyone connected with you ever again, lest his illness continue to negatively affect your life.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:53 PM on April 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

Oh my god -- NO.

He's been low-level harassing you for 20 years, and you don't seem to get that. Also, that you must keep tabs on his whereabouts means he stays on your mind. It's like the abuse never ended.

Burn the letter in a ritual of some sort, and then seek therapy for this. You need to work through this and put this in the past.

Every time you put your attention on this person... Well, let's just say your quality of life will improve dramatically when you stop thinking about this guy, and instead put your attention on more pleasant and positive people and endeavors.

Do not send this letter. Seek professional help.

I wish you health and peace. Good luck moving forward.
posted by jbenben at 5:59 PM on April 13, 2012 [14 favorites]

In twelve-step programs, there's a concept of "making amends," and even they state that if getting in contact with someone to rectify the errors of the past will hurt that person or other people, you shouldn't do it. I think this definitely falls into that category. If you get in touch with him, you put both yourself and people you love at risk...and you might empower him to hurt even more people.

As a fellow abuse survivor, I can say that this is really normal. The impulse to Make Things Right, the fantasy of the apology that really gets it, the myth of the reset button...these things are really seductive. They're also unattainable. I'd suggest redirecting these emotions. If you put even a quarter of the energy you are putting into deciding whether to contact this miserable, abusive person into improving your world or the world of others, you could actually change the world. Trying to change him (or learn that he has changed) is pouring yourself down an empty hole with no bottom.

I'm so sorry you're going through this. Feel free to contact me via MeFi Mail if you need to talk.
posted by mynameisluka at 6:00 PM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

No. Don't open any contact with this person.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:01 PM on April 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

He sounds like a complete nut, a David Koresh-style megalomaniac, and thus worthy of some pity and compassion.

Don't send the letter. Move on with your life.
posted by jayder at 6:01 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, he's demonstrably unwell, and you have no idea if he is dangerous or not.

Also, contacting him, even with an accusatory letter, will be perceived as a sweet sweet reward for his years of persistence.

Stay safe.
posted by jbenben at 6:03 PM on April 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

Write as many letters as you want and then burn them. Think of it as letting the universe know what he did.

Do not, under any circumstances, send those letters. Don't allow any contact of any kind. It won't do you any good and it will just give him the chance to inflict more damage.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:03 PM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just also want to say --

In the letter, I link to an abusive behavior checklist and point out about 25 items that apply to his behavior during our relationship. I also list several things that I remember about the relationship that were particularly inappropriate or horrible, stated as fact.

Including the checklist and the statements of fact about what he did seems like proof. Like in court, how prosecutors have to prove elements of an offense. Say they're prosecuting someone for a DUI, they get out the statute and go through the elements they have to prove. Did this person drive a vehicle? At the same time, were they under the influence? Yes, yes. We've checked off those things. We have shown evidence that the defendant did them. We have proven the elements of this offense.

So that's what the checklist and your statements of fact evoke to me. I just want you to consider who you are presenting your proof to. You're presenting it to HIM. As if he's the judge, rather than the defendant. As if his opinion is the one that matters or it's all meaningless, as if he is the one who needs convincing.

The only person you need to present the evidence to is yourself. You are the one who gets to make this decision. You don't have to prove anything to him. What he thinks doesn't matter.
posted by cairdeas at 6:04 PM on April 13, 2012 [60 favorites]

I agree with everyone else: I don't think you should invite this person back into your life in any way whatsoever. He already knows what he did to you. He's not sorry. No amount of you explaining anything to him is going to change anything, except open a door to him.
posted by thylacinthine at 6:05 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with the consensus above - therapy yes, send the letter no.

You may also want to give your mom basic necessary information on obtaining restraining orders (relevant to her jurisdiction.) Print out whatever stuff you've had to keep track of him - his weird websites, notes he's sent, etc. - and give them to someone trustworthy to keep out of your sight. You're letting him keep way too much power over you, and his condition more or less means you'll never be able to get any power over him. Don't just block him on Facebook - make it so your router blocks access to his websites. Seriously.

I also agree you should copy the letter and bring it to the therapist. Burn the original if you want, or put it with the rest of your evidence. Either way, don't keep it around to look at, and don't send it to him.

(He's like one of those schoolyard bullies whose primary interest is in seeing you cry - it's not possible to beat him up and make him mend his ways in this case; the only way to "win" is to deny him any access to your brain.)
posted by SMPA at 6:07 PM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

You have done very well in refusing any and all contact with him. Keep up the good work.

Protect yourself. Share the letter with someone who is safe.
posted by heatherann at 6:11 PM on April 13, 2012

Has anyone recommended The Gift of Fear yet? You shouldn't contact him even if he was a run of the mill bad ex - but it sounds like he actually has mental problems and may be a threat to you.
posted by yarly at 6:11 PM on April 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

The message you will send by writing him is that he still has the power to make you react.

Exactly. The fact is this guy has no power over you and you know that. When you think about it, worry about it, hate him, and have this intense anger, it gives him so much power that he does not have. What happened to you was traumatic, no doubt about it but it's over now. He can't hurt you and the best thing you can do is move on and don't give these past events your attention. Holding onto anger causes depression. You know what they say: Depression is anger turned inward. Holding onto this can affect current relationships and how you view your world.

As cairdeas states the checklist is a dead giveaway that you are trying to convince him. You want him to see the error of his ways as if this will give you some peace. I have sent a letter. I also enclosed in the letter a list of characteristics I was afflicted with when XYZ is done to a person. It made me feel so much worse. In hindsight I was behaving as a victim. I wanted to remain in that angry, victim state because it served me. It allowed me to make excuses for my life. Sending a letter is not the right way to go about it and I am so glad you are asking this question instead of not thinking and sending something you may regret.

Good luck to you and I hope you find some peace. Therapy helped me tremendously with my anger and letting go and it can help you.
posted by Fairchild at 6:15 PM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

You know what your intentions are, but you cannot control his (or any other person's) response. Are you willing to risk his continued engagement even after you have the relief you seek by sending the letter?
posted by anya32 at 6:16 PM on April 13, 2012

I think you may be right, he may have no idea. He may also not really have cogent memories of that time in his life.
As a victim of abuse, there are reasons and stages in which one confronts one's abuser, and if this is pertinent to you, you should do it--
if this person has no idea that this was the case, it would be a logical response to want to talk to you about it rather insistently and you don't know if he is capable of a logical response.
There is something that happens once someone comes to a full conclusion of some kind of understanding, in which they want to "testify," as if presenting someone with the facts actually will matter, when in most cases, even if the person you are telling can't do anything with the information but bear witness.
If admissions of guilt were an easy process, they would mean nothing. For him to fully acknowledge his guilt and the consequence of his actions is probably far more effort and time consumption than it is worth, not to mention exposure to this person. You would actually have to care about this person that he is, whoever that may be, and he probably isn't the person that he was. If he is, he's probably come to the attention of some authorities by now.

Will this give you some kind of closure? You're the only one who knows.
posted by provoliminal at 6:27 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think your mother had the right idea when she tersely and concisely rejected his "friend" request with a witness statement: "you abused my daughter" - no long screeds of angst, no trawling over the proof or appeals to any other authority like psychological profiles online. I think that you could have responded in the same way when he made his friend request to you, but your definitive act of rejection was/is through ignoring him and blocking him. You've already done something, you've already taken a stand. (High fives)

I get that you've been really wobbled by his re-emergence - I would suggest writing a letter to yourself about your strength in leaving this asshole behind you; your gratitude for the loving, caring and supportive family/husband you have, and celebrating your ability to survive such a harrowing introduction to the world of relationships.

I agree with Cairdeas above - you don't need to send him a letter pleading your view; you need to say to yourself: *I* know what this person did was wrong, and I have rejected him. He has no power to intrude upon my life. I am safe and loved.

Good luck on your recovery.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:43 PM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I actually said "FUCK NO" out loud when I read your question.
posted by desjardins at 6:44 PM on April 13, 2012 [24 favorites]


He sounds off balance and that would make him unpredictable. Everyone above has good advice, so I will just add another thought: What if he reaches out and hurts the closest thing to him that is connected to you, your mother?

Just not worth it. Spend that time in extra therapy, using the letter to help heal further.
posted by Vaike at 6:49 PM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

NOOOOOO. Based on this:

I think he's... slightly off mentally, and although I doubt he would harm me, I think there's a distinct possibility of some unpredictable behavior if we lived in the same area.... Perhaps most significantly, he attributed some mysterious significance to my presence in his life as well.

He's probably fine, but who knows, right? There ARE people who are so out of touch with reality that it is dangerous. There ARE potential downsides to reopening a connection with this person, ranging from emotional vulnerability to triggering some complete craziness. You mention he is 3000 miles away, but depending on which 3000 miles that is, it could just be a 6 hour plane flight.

Meanwhile, the upsides are slim. You want him to hear that he abused you. Well, he has had 2 decades to realize that. Your mom already told him so. He has been given opportunities to learn, and if he hasn't taken those, he is unlikely to take this one.

None of his attempts to contact you show signs of change or thought on his part. If he contacts you with a thoughtfulness that makes clear he has thought about what wasn't right, THEN maybe consider it. While he still wants you back in his life on the old terms, no dice. Though I can really understand wanting to heal that part of your past, there's too much risk and too little chance of success.
posted by salvia at 6:49 PM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I actually said "FUCK NO" out loud when I read your question.
posted by desjardins at 8:44 PM on April 13 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]

I did too (as a survivor of an abusive marriage). PLEASE don't send this. I know I am just an internet stranger, but I know who this kind of guy is and you will get no satisfaction from him and there is avery high likelihood of getting much worse.
posted by murrey at 6:52 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Narcissists are vampires.

Despite the original myth of Narcissus, narcissists cannot see themselves in a mirror. They refuse to. So don't try holding one up.

Inviting a narcissist into your house, literally or figuratively, is a really bad idea. In the same vein, writing a letter to a narcissist is not a good plan.

Narcissists enthrall people. At first they enthrall you by by being charming. When the charm wears off, they enthrall you by making you doubt yourself. If you snap out of that, they settle for making you so angry at them that you can't get them out of your head. Narcissists don't like losing their thralls. Not even the ones that hate them. Because hatred is attention, and attention is what they live on. They are always looking for a way to recapture your attention.

You've read books. You've watched movies. You know how to deal with a genuine monster. You don't try to get the creature to change. You stake through the heart, or you kill it with fire.

You already hammered that stake in, years ago, when you cut off contact with him. You are a vampire slayer. You are strong. You are awesome. You do not need the validation of his remorse or his apology.
posted by BlueJae at 7:09 PM on April 13, 2012 [44 favorites]

You already hammered that stake in, years ago, when you cut off contact with him. You are a vampire slayer. You are strong. You are awesome. You do not need the validation of his remorse or his apology.

Exactly. This person wants attention. Do not give him what he wants because he is also an abusive asshole. The next time another person tells you that he's contacted them, tell them that you do not want that emotional vampire back in your life. Do not respond to him. Responses to him tell him that you will eventually break down and talk to him. Not. Worth. It.

You are living well. Keep doing so. Ignore his stalker thing. I would say to make sure your husband is aware of what this freak show ex is doing, I can't tell if you've done that already.
posted by kellyblah at 7:33 PM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Please do not. It won't do any good, and could stir him up and make him try contact you even harder.
posted by meepmeow at 7:43 PM on April 13, 2012

It's not important that HE knows he did something wrong and unexcusable.

It's only important that YOU know.

he's... slightly off mentally, and although I doubt he would harm me, I think there's a distinct possibility of some unpredictable behavior if we lived in the same area.

This is the description of a person toward whom you don't want to show the least little glimmer of interest or even recognition.

Talk to a pro! Don't get in touch with the abuser - he sounds like he has or at the very least has had some pretty serious mental health issues. You may need some help to truly deal with this, finally, and then let it all go.
posted by Miko at 8:13 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am being harassed by someone right at this very moment, literally. She has sent about 15 phone calls, 4 emails, and 12 texts in the last hour. And I know it's not going to stop for at least the rest of the night. Why? Because I engaged her the first few times. (I was actually trying to be sympathetic) But it does support the point that interacting with them, even once, will open the door to them in a way that you might not be able to close again. I can tell this person is not in the 'right' frame of mind, and that there is absolutely no way to communicate with her. For my situation right now, this is not dangerous, but if this was coming from someone who had possible power to hurt me, I would be really scared right now.

Don't open this floodgate.
posted by Vaike at 8:29 PM on April 13, 2012

Good rule of thumb for dealing with abusive nutjobs: "Don't engage, don't enrage."
posted by HotToddy at 8:31 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your ex inflicted so much pain onto you, a fellow human being. And, for that reason alone, you shouldn't contact him.

At this point, acknowledgement and apologies wouldn't change anything. You would both go your separate ways. You would still have this remain a part of your history. He can't take back his actions regardless of whether or not he is aware of them or has regret towards his actions. You cannot remove this from your story.

And while the idea of sending the letter makes you believe that you can find closure. The reality is that these experiences are now a part of your story despite how painful and traumatic they were. Sending the letter to someone unstable is going to lead to results that you do not want. It might also create emotional feelings of an unsafe environment for yourself.

Get therapy to work on this past relationship in order to move forward and develop healthy coping techniques. Give back to the community by helping at shelter's for abused individuals, donate your time and resources, write this letter as a journal entry that you keep between yourself and your husband (if you want to share it), but do not send any letter to your ex or attempt to communicate at all with your ex. Your life is better without him.
posted by livinglearning at 8:38 PM on April 13, 2012

Twenty years later? Block him, block his mother and get on with your life. Everyone makes mistakes, fucks up, dates/sleeps with the wrong people. He sounds like a jerk. Forgive yourself and scamper along to have fun with your honey.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:56 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The man is batshit insane, and he's had 20 years to become more insane. You don't know what he might be capable of doing. Any contact from you will be seen as encouragement and will only cause him to renew his efforts to contact you. Type the email up and save it as a draft, but please don't send it.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:14 PM on April 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

This sounds very familiar. I dated that guy (or, as I fear, one of a cadre of That Guy) when I was about that age. Mine wasn't quite as bad, but still bad enough, and the thought of him tracking me down makes my stomach hurt.

Do not engage. If it's 20 years and he is still trying to push your buttons, any response will only encourage him. Whatever he is - psychotic, obsessed, it does not matter, it is not your problem unless you allow him back into your life.

Again. He is not your problem. His behavior is not your problem. He is his own big fucked-up problem, walking around spinning off other problems like tornadoes off a thunderstorm, but it is not your fault, it is not because if you, and the best thing to do is keep things that way.

Write the letter. Write all the letters. Burn photos of him, if you have any left, or kill him in the Sims, or whatever it takes. Bring it up in therapy, definitely.

But do not engage. If you absolutely have to send him a message, make it concise and to the point: do not contact me again, for any reason, in any way. You're worth better. You are.
posted by cmyk at 9:35 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I often give the same advice to women friends who have been in similar situations to yours; don't send the letter, and don't engage in any way, not even to say "I won't engage." In this type of situation, any contact from you will simply reassure him that he's an important and powerful figure in your life, and will made him feel better about himself. I am absolutely certain that this is not the message you're trying to send.
posted by davejay at 9:39 PM on April 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Anyway, the appeal of sending the letter is that he would hear from his abuse victim that he was undeniably abusive, a fact which I don't think has really occurred to him.

Just to reiterate and maybe elaborate a little on scody's comment, it hasn't dawned on him that what he did was abusive because it's literally not possible for him to have that thought or for it to register the same way it does to people with empathy.

There's enough in the way of information about abuse out there, the responses he's probably gotten from what are almost certainly his other victims, and messages from society in general about what good behavior looks like for you to be certain that you won't be the first person to point out to him that what he did to you was seriously fucked up.

You can also count on the fact that, since the behavior from him has been consistent for so long, that there's something in his psychology that makes him incapable of receiving this information. His potential personality disorders are all egosyntonic--that's what's allowed whatever it is that's up with him to persist.
posted by alphanerd at 9:53 PM on April 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

In this type of situation, any contact from you will simply reassure him that he's an important and powerful figure in your life, and will made him feel better about himself. I am absolutely certain that this is not the message you're trying to send.

Davejay nailed it. Disengage completely from this guy.
posted by pianoboy at 9:54 PM on April 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Hi, OP.

I really feel for you on this. Have we spoken to your concerns, perhaps some that are deeper and unstated in your Askme?

If there is more, please feel free to update through the mods.

My thought is that this must really be eating away at you, for you to have been seriously considering sending this letter you doubtless took hours to write.

I'm sure the resounding, "Don't send the letter!" pulled you back from falling off that giant cliff you didn't see, but I imagine there's heaps more going on here for you.

(Yes you will address this with a professional! Yes you will read The Gift of Fear and other resources about stalkers and emotional vampires, etc., just to get a handle on what the last 20 years have meant and why it happened. Of course!)

What I'm thinking is there are plenty of Mefites who weighed in that can share stories of how they dealt with similar. Or just search the database for similar questions and read relevant comments.

I keep imagining you reading all of these answers and thinking, "But if I can't send the letter, where do I start??"

A good therapist is GREAT. Most are hit and miss, until you find a good one.

Maybe someone here can provide you a road map or a loose idea of your destination before you start this journey down the path of finally extricating your psyche from this trauma?

That's my hope, anyway. If you need this, give a shout out. And keep reading similar past questions!

I'd love to tell you this situation you're in right now is unique, but personal experience and participating here on Askme since 2009 tells me - eh, sadly not so much unique - just really really upsetting when it is happening to you.

posted by jbenben at 10:13 PM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

But I've written a letter to him, and don't know if I should send it or not.

You should not.

A letter is an invitation to have a conversation. You don't want to see or hear from this person.

Sending them a letter, no matter what the message, says that you do in fact want to interact with them.

Don't send the letter.
posted by zippy at 12:00 AM on April 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Could you build NOT sending the letter into a ritual of closure? Like, you could take the letter, and some other objects you have that remind you of him, get a clean cloth bag, put them in it, and tie it with salt, and leave it there for a week. You could then remove the objects, make a fire in some place safe, and burn them.

In a similar situation to yours, I actually got a floating candle bowl from Yankee Candle, set up the candles, and laid the letter and pcitures on top of the candles so that as they burned, the ashes fell into the water. To close the ritual I poured the water with the ashes into fertile earth, and the salt I poured into a stream.

Anyways, I know that for me, I knew he'd never be able to hear what I had to say. But I still needed to say it, so I had to say it/share it with the universe, and have the universe listen.
posted by spunweb at 12:14 AM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

*fill the bag with salt, I mean
posted by spunweb at 12:15 AM on April 14, 2012

Nope, you do not send that letter. Unfortunately it sounds like he has a significant mental illness that he may or may not have had treatment for. You cannot save him and nor is it your role to. You can only save yourself - you save yourself by not having any further contact with him ever again.
posted by mleigh at 1:32 AM on April 14, 2012

Please step back from the idea that some interaction with him would be therapeutic for you. This amounts to giving him a kind of power over you, because you're associating your well-being and growth on producing some kind of result in him, and that just doesn't work. Really, you should assume that this will backfire on you. No matter how you frame it, it will seem to him like you're opening up your psyche to him, and this will validate him in all the wrong ways.

You seem to have come a long way emotionally; a remarkable and impressive achievement. I suspect it's natural at this stage to want to turn around and face the abuser, but in effect you'd just be making him a gift of something you really don't want him to have. And I guarantee, the one thing it won't make him want to do is leave you alone.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:40 AM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Terrible idea. He's not "slightly off." All of that messianic/religious delusional stuff is indicative of untreated (or poorly controlled) psychosis.

A letter with a checklist is not going to convince a mentally I'll person--who does not live in your same reality--that you are right and he was wrong. It's most likely to be used as fodder in a way that you can't anticipate.

I'm really sorry you experienced abuse during your formative years at the hands of a mentally ill person. I did too, and I'm here to tell you you cannot make that person have an epiphany about anything. He's simply not capable. It would be like trying to train a cat to ride a bicycle. The requirements just aren't there.

It would be kinder to yourself to resolve never to ever contact him for any reason whatsoever.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:13 AM on April 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Echoing those who have said 'Please don't allow this man back into your life'. I can understand the need for closure, but it is possible to get on with your life 'never-knowing'.

I let that person back into my life after 20 years and he was more violent, narcissistic, angry and depressed than I had ever known when I was a young'un. I ended up with a concussion and a black eye as a result of his temper, which was upsetting for me and everyone around who had to see me in that state.

Just leave well alone, thank your lucky stars you escaped, and enjoy your time on this planet with your nearest and dearest.
posted by veebs at 3:20 AM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

He was an energy/emotional vampire in your life. Once you have gotten a vampire out of your life you never ever invite it back in no matter how many garlic bulbs and crosses you think you've stockpiled.
posted by wwax at 8:42 AM on April 14, 2012

The Gift of Fear would say no, absolutely do not send this letter. Do not respond to this man in any way, for if he is as narcissistic as you describe him, then any contact will only encourage further boundary breaking behaviour from him as he seeks to re-assert his control over you.

You've written the letter: Make that your catharsis & burn it. Leave this man and everything he did to you to blow in the wind with its ashes.
posted by pharm at 9:04 AM on April 14, 2012

I wrote you a big giant response and tried to make it smaller but just couldn't figure out how to turn an essay into a paragraph-- so starting over the main points I have are:

1. It is not your fault this guy was able to manipulate you.
2. It is not your fault that you happened to care about someone harmful.
3. Loving people does not make you deserve abuse.
4. You are not wrong for loving someone harmful and you are not responsable for their actions, only your own.
5. You are not wrong for wanting to forgive and continue to love someone doing things that are wrong. We are encouraged to do this all the time and it's in fact a principle in a lot of faiths, religions and childhood TV shows.
6. You are not wrong for failing to know the best thing to do was to leave the moment you could tell he did something harmful to you.
7. You are not wrong for being concerned about his well being-- or your well being-- in being able to handle a break up.
8. You were 16 and you got involved with a broken person who is exploding misery on everyone around them. It is probably not even his fault. Either he is evil or his capacity to love is deeply broken through no fault of his own-- possibly some of both. It's not up to you to know what was or was not his fault. It's not up to you to forgive things that may have been the result of faulty brain functioning, terrible life experience, trauma or any number of factors that shaped his personality and behavior. You have a fundamental choice about whether or not the worst human beings deserve compassion. Does EVERYONE deserve compassion? Rapists, child abusers, murderers? People who tell you to forgive may not realize what they are asking as to offer compassion to abusers can be part of enabling terrible abuse itself. People who find it easy to tell you to forgive and move on, may themselves believe there are humans who are so horrible they don't deserve forgivness. It's a concept that, like God, some people make black and white decisions about and stick with their whole lives and many of us wrestle with and wind up facing there are some things we may not have answers to. Perhaps science and research, supporting families, understanding brain health and personality development and the variables that affect these things-- might enable us as a society to create healthier people that don't abuse others just because they can.
9. No one deserves to be abused even if they allow it to happen.
10. You can learn to understand your own vulnerabilities with compassion and understanding for why you got caught up in such a mess. Therapy can help, but it's your own journey to uncover your own wisdom and strength and self knowledge and self compassion.
posted by xarnop at 9:09 AM on April 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

Oh yes, 11. Don't send the letter.
posted by xarnop at 9:11 AM on April 14, 2012

But I've written a letter to him, and don't know if I should send it or not.

He's tried to contact me a few times over the past twenty years.

All it would do is try to make him contact you more. Don't do this, for your own sake.
posted by spaltavian at 9:22 AM on April 14, 2012

And also, I've been through something similar, also starting at 16. If you (or anyone dealing with this) would like a rambling essay about this or shared company to talk about it, you can feel free to memail me any time.
posted by xarnop at 9:25 AM on April 14, 2012

Sorry you are going through this, OP.

Echoing posters above not to send the letter, and as Miko said, that it's important for *you* to know what he did was wrong, but not him.

Abusive, boundary-disrespecting people like him will view any contact as an invitation to continue interaction, and you don't want to be involved with someone who hasn't gotten over you for 20 years, and may be violent. Read the Gift of Fear and stay safe with your loved ones. Do not contact him, and tell your mom also.

It's important to remember that in situations like this, where a stalking, unstable person who may be dangerous is involved, that it's not important to prove that you are right (that he abused you), but that it's important for you to be safe. Be safe, not right.

See if therapy can help, too. Take care.
posted by timespacewheredoifit at 9:26 AM on April 14, 2012

Echoing those who have said 'Please don't allow this man back into your life'. I can understand the need for closure, but it is possible to get on with your life 'never-knowing'.

Yes. Sometimes "Fuck you!" is the best closure of all. Or, if you're a less angry person than I (which is statistically highly likely), "Whatever."

I would really encourage you to do some work with a therapist on recalibrating your boundaries, though. It's troubling to see you describe this man's behavior as "not really stalking" and "slightly off" because what you're telling us here is the story of someone who's pretty stalkery and extremely out of control.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:44 AM on April 14, 2012

[Folks, don't do the "hey I can google this guy and learn who he is" stuff in this thread, please just email us if you think that sort of thing needs to be dealt with. Some identifying details in the question removed.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:02 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The only way such a letter would have a meaningful impact upon him would be if he were a reasonable person, and if he were a reasonable person he would not be the person to whom you would wish to write such a letter. Trying to make him realize that he hurt you is would be like trying to explain to a bear that it has terrible table manners. Not only is the bear completely incapable of understanding what you mean, but the act of explaining requires you to get close to something dangerous. There are only downsides here.
posted by KathrynT at 10:40 AM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

There's already a ton of great advice here, but I figured I'd throw in my relevant experience as well. I agree with the idea that people like this are in so much denial, or cognitive dissonance, or whatever you want to call it that they are literally unable to accept the reality that they did this to you. They need to believe that they are in the right somehow, but that's not enough. They need to convince you and everyone else that they didn't actually mistreat or abuse you: It didn't happen that way. You're remembering it wrong. Okay, well, maybe that one thing happened but you're misunderstanding the intentions behind it. Maybe that other thing happened, but was okay because of some extenuating circumstance. It was okay because he made it up to you in other ways. You're overreacting. You're being dramatic and exaggerating for attention. And so on.

The danger here is not simply the fact that he won't believe you. The problem is, telling him all this could very well cause him to become obsessed with proving you wrong. My ex harassed me because he INSISTED that he DESERVED a chance to tell "his side of the story." He wanted to talk about it even when I told him it was over and there was nothing more to say. He was enraged that I refused to listen to his attempts to tell me why I was wrong about him. I believe that if you send that letter, he could just become consumed with the idea of how to get you to see you're wrong, like my ex did. He won't be able to relax until he feels that you've heard and believe his side of the story, and like him again. Since you probably won't be interested in hearing it, it's the perfect situation for harassment to develop and potentially escalate. Do not engage.

For what it's worth, I know how hard it is to let it go. I also spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get my ex to genuinely understand and own up to what he did to me. I finally had to just realize I can't because he's not receptive to hearing or truly understanding it. All I can do is live an amazing and awesome life without him in it, and maybe if he asks his friends or family why I refuse to engage with him, they'll be able to tell him. I know they know. I believe that subconsciously, he knows too but is afraid to face it. The mind is incredibly powerful and denial and cognitive dissonance are real. Pity him and move on with your life.
posted by Argyle_Sock_Puppet at 11:38 AM on April 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

So it's mostly unanimous, don't send the letter. Now guess what happens next.

As many have said, writing him a letter telling him how terrible he is merely confirms for him that you are attached to him, that your identity is part of him. The content is irrelevant, he doesn't see content, he only sees energy, affect, emotion, and you are giving him a lot: hence, he is satisfied. By analogy, a two year old wants you to love him, but if you won't, he'll get that same amount of affect in other ways, i.e. by getting you to yell at him, i.e. "acting out."

Not sending the letter, however, means you're life is entirely separate from his: a narcissistic injury. The next step after that isn't to give up on you, it's rage.

So you have to not send the letter in a way that he is not expecting you to send a letter. Your mom already contacted him, which means he is aware that you know about his contact. So now he is free to interpret your sending, or not sending, the letter, as about him.

Which it is, as evidenced by this thread.

So here's what you have to do: YOU have to stop keeping tabs on him. YOU have to disengage. YOU have to stop thinking about him, wondering what he's up to- even if it is under the guise of your own safety. All of that is poison, and it is keeping you in the same mental state you were 20 years ago, in the same way that children who were abused still respond to current stressors using childlike defenses-- you're stuck back there.

You have to enter that mental place where "I can't even believe I was with him, I barely remember it, it seems like it was another person dating him." This may be hard, but that's where you have to go. There are ways to do that (a different topic) but that this must happen is certain.

Your problem isn't that he is stalking you-- that's an easy problem to fix. Your problem is that you are stalking him.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 2:21 PM on April 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

TLP, I disagree with your last paragraph, and in fact think it's unfair. One of the things Gavin de Becker makes clear in The Gift of Fear and his other works is that the policy of total disengagement from stalkers feels counterintuitive to most people, because the conventional wisdom is more along the lines of "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."

The OP would be better served by a policy of total disengagement, I agree, but one of the reasons de Becker wrote his books is that that doesn't seem like an obvious solution without the benefit of de Becker's explanation (and supporting data) as to why it really is the gold standard.

And accusing her of "stalking him" is way out of line.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:55 PM on April 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

How is she stalking him by keeping tabs on, and not initating contact with, someone that's been stalking and harassing her over the course of two decades?
posted by spunweb at 11:25 PM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Keeping tabs on someone over the years is a mild form of stalking and certainly is not helping anon move past this. Sidhedevil brings up a good point about the difficulty of moving on in this type of situation given some continuing danger from wackos like this. We can't know for sure in a thread like this the level of that threat, but unless it is palpable I would submit that the known, real and continuing harm to anon's psyche from holding on to this painful situation mostly likely outweighs the unknown and hopefully improbable harm that could be prevented by keeping tabs on him. Only anon can judge the level of risk and even for anon that is but a wild guess.
posted by caddis at 9:27 AM on April 15, 2012

Omg no, this guy is nutso! He shows up at 7am at your friend's house. He tried to get to you by going through your MOTHER.

ANY communication from you to him is going to be seen as an invitation to talk to you more, or to bother your friends or loved ones about you. It would almost be dangerous to send the letter, because (1) you know he was physically abusive before and (2) you don't know how much worse he's gotten in the last 20 years - potentially a lot worse!!

If he was a mentally sane person with a conscience whom you had a healthy relationship and a difficult but fair breakup, then maybe, maybe I could see how sending a letter to get some closure about whatever happened might be OK. And even then, probably a bad idea. But to someone who is NOT mentally sane, a letter like that might actually make him feel GOOD about all the things he's done to you, might give him PLEASURE think about it, and might ENCOURAGE him to seek you out either in person (scary!) or through online abuse (also scary!), or through your family or friends (again, scary!). Sending it is a terrible terrible idea. Also, sending it through facebook? Where it can be forwarded to people and mocked on the internet forever! Terrible. This is not a person you should trust with your feelings, as you found out 20 years earlier, so don't trust him with your deepest feelings about how you were hurt, don't give him the satisfaction of knowing how badly he hurt you.

It sounds like you have a supportive husband, so don't make your relationship with him worse by making him wonder why you are spending so much energy on this guy. Of course, he sounds understanding and it is OK to want to spend energy on this, but it should be spent on healing yourself, on your current healthy relationship, and not on trying to talk sense into a crazy abusive ex.

If after reading all this advice you still feel like your letter has to go somewhere, like your words and thoughts need to be heard more, then maybe talk about it with a therapist. Get it fully out there, work through it, but don't contact the ex, because that will not do you any good, and will not change him for the better.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 10:13 AM on April 15, 2012

Silently keeping an eye on the city of residence of a dangerous person may be a bad idea tactically, but it is not stalking.

Wanting to send him an accusatory letter explaining why she wants him to stop contacting her may be an extremely bad idea tactically, but again, it's not stalking.

It is of no help to tell someone who is being abused and harassed (in this case by stalking) that they're engaging in abuse and harassment themselves, when they're actually just tempted to defend themselves in ineffective ways.

OP, it's very true that you need to disengage mentally from this guy. I can guess you probably haven't been in any abusive relationships since him, because you're harbouring the fantasy that you can explain to him why he's in the wrong. More experience would teach you why that doesn't work, but I strongly suggest that you not attempt to get that experience with this guy, because he's even further beyond rational discourse than your average abusive schmuck.

However, you are not guilty of anything, let alone "stalking", simply because of your anxious preoccupation with him. Oftentimes, people talk about "sending him your psychic energy" or that people like this can "telepathically sense" when you're getting your life back together so they can reappear to fuck it up again. Telepathically? O rly? Through the magic of what, Facebook? Make your profile ultra-private, but don't let anyone convict you of thoughtcrime. Likewise, if this guy had maintained a pornographic shrine to you made entirely out of earwax over the past 20 years, but kept it hidden in his sekrit attic hideout and never said a word to you or about you again - you wouldn't be asking this question. It's his showing up on your mother's doorstep and trying to friend you on Facebook that makes him a stalker.

Your preoccupation with him is hurting you, not him. It does seem as though you haven't read The Gift of Fear, so, read it. Remember this line: "It isn't in his nature to recognise that [banning him is a good idea], no matter what the evidence." Closure can't come from him, it has to come from you. You have to take the lead. You say he was abusive, it doesn't matter what he says or thinks. You say it's over, it doesn't matter what he says or thinks.
posted by tel3path at 12:54 PM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

In the past I've tried to gain closure from an abusive ex both in the immediate days/weeks after breaking up with him as well as years later when his occasional contact finally started to upset me. What I've learned is what others have already said above: there is nothing to be gained from contacting or responding to an abusive person. In fact, there is much to be lost. For me that meant that whatever progress I had made in terms of getting over the abuse--whatever insight, knowledge, perspective, healing etc that had occurred--would be undone by my attempts to get him to hear me (finally hear or understand what he had done to hurt me). He took those attempts of mine as an opportunity to hurt me again--only this time I was the one who had 'invited' it. He would expertly use that against me and the cycle of abuse would continue. Even if from a greater distance or over greater lengths of time--the result for me was the same.

I wanted him to be sorry or, at minimum, simply sound or appear to be sorry. I wanted to believe that even though he denied me any evidence to support that he empathized with me or regretted what he had done that, at least privately, he felt remorse. Even though you state that sending the letter isn't meant to get a response from him, I imagine you are seeking some change to occur or for you to be able to imagine that he finally gets it. That he might finally leave you alone after reading your letter. But, instead you might not only find that this ramps up his contact (potentially) but that now you get to hear concretely (in some fashion, possibly directly) that he wholly denies he ever did anything abusive to you. And that could be very damaging to you. As well, that would be just another form of abuse--now in the present tense (along with his stalking you).

I read your post and my instincts tell me that in your heart of hearts you want to believe that he knows he did something wrong--otherwise writing him a letter would not even occur to you. Despite the step of bullet pointing reason/checklist of why he's abusive--the notion that he's at all sympathetic is what makes this letter seem logical. Human beings normally feel remorse when they have hurt someone else. It's hard to wrap your head around the idea that some people just don't. Focus on yourself. On your life. And take steps to accept that he does not care and will never understand or admit he did anything wrong. He doesn't even know he's done anything wrong. It's possible that his mind won't allow him to know he's done anything wrong. It might be best for you to convince yourself that this is true. It takes the burden of righting this wrong out of the equation. There is no righting it. And you won't get him to leave you alone is you send this letter. No contact is the only measure that will be effective and it's the only measure that protects you from more harm from this person.

Good luck.
posted by marimeko at 2:16 PM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm just going to say pretty much what others have said: get all your feeling out on paper, but DO NOT SEND THE LETTER.

I strongly believe that this person would very much enjoy the fact that he's still got a hold on you and that he still has the ability to stir up bad feeling in your being. Don't give him the satisfaction. He doesn't deserve it. YOU KNOW THAT HE DOESN'T DESERVE IT.

Get all your feelings on paper, look it over and learn from it. Share it will a dear friend of yours. This will help. Don't share it with him. He DOES NOT DESERVE IT. Even a bitchy, angry, hateful message to this person is no good going to him. He might just enjoy it. . . If you were to launch all the thermal nuclear devises on this planet at the sun, then sun would just giggle at the fact that you were trying to hurt it. The sun would just say thank you for the extra energy.

If you believe that he knows that he did something wrong to you, then go with that.

Be good to yourself...

Good luck.
posted by WestChester22 at 2:46 PM on April 15, 2012

I don't think anyone has posted this caution, which I'm summarizing from The Gift of Fear: if you answer him, you'll demonstrate to him that if he is persistent enough, you'll engage with him eventually. The next time you want him to stop contacting you, you will have to ignore many contact attempts before he goes away. This time, let's say you ignored him eight times before replying. After you send this letter, he'll probably try to be in touch with you, and you'll probably try to ignore him. But this time, he won't try to contact you just eight times, but maybe twelve, or twenty, or who knows, before finally beginning to believe that this time you're really REALLY not going to respond.
posted by salvia at 3:44 PM on April 15, 2012

re: my use of "stalking." Fair enough: you're not "stalking" him, you have no intention of harming him, etc. Of course that's not what I meant.

However, I disagree with everything else: keeping tabs on him isn't actually keeping you safe, it gives you the impression that you are safer. Knowing he moved to California doesn't mean he isn't in your driveway. It's the very same argument with terrorism, you must be prepared in general, have safety in place in general, you'll never be ready for the myriad of ways he can get you-- which is bad enough, but worse you will think you are prepared.

But keeping tabs on him does keep a link between you alive. A real link, a tangible link, that he will know has been maintained the minute he makes contact with you and you respond in a certain way-- whether less surprised, or more frightened, or less frightened... "oh, I can tell you've been thinking about me."

You can't underestimate the power of a narcissist to feel this, his intuition about you is set to max.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 1:28 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

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