Help me stand my ground against my ex.
June 22, 2012 12:15 AM   Subscribe

I may have to see my abusive ex soon. Help me cope.

My ex dumped me after months of bad times and emotional abuse. I successfully disengaged and realized I'd dodged a bullet when a few weeks ago he contacted me to tell me he is engaged to a girl he'd met while we were still together last December. This is obviously upsetting for a variety of reasons, but now I have to deal with the prospect of possibly seeing them together at a big event he had decided he is now coming to so I "can meet her". I did not respond to his announcement and am flabbergasted by his desire to do this.

I have been looking forward to this event for a year and spent a lot of money to go to it, so I want to do right by myself and not ditch it in fear of seeing him again.

In the event that I see him and her and he approaches me (something he is sure to do since he did this to his last girlfriend after we became a couple), what can I do to communicate my dislike for him as well as my desire for him to leave me alone? A friend suggested that if the two of them try to talk to me in passing, I should feign that I've never met him before and that I'm disgusted by the suggestion that we are even remotely acquainted. I want to leave feeling happy and empowered, not anxious and nauseated like I do right now whenever I think of seeing him. I don't know that the aforementioned strategy will achieve that.

How would you gracefully but pointedly handle this kind of situation?
posted by These Birds of a Feather to Human Relations (66 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Additional point: I do not want to talk to him. I just want to be able to say something to stop him in his tracks and then make my exit.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:26 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Make the meeting on your terms. Instead of waiting for him to approach you, approach him first. Be friendly and open. "Oh John, how lovely to see you. And this must be the next ex Mrs. Smith - Darling, this man was a nightmare with me, but I wish you both the best of luck."

Then you get to walk away smiling and confident and enjoy the rest of your evening, knowing that if he tries to approach you after that, he just looks desperate and pathetic.
posted by empatterson at 12:27 AM on June 22, 2012 [33 favorites]

what can I do to communicate my dislike for him ... I don't know that the aforementioned strategy will achieve that.

I'd suggest dropping this requirement.

The stuff that's narratively satisfying and good daydream fodder normally doesn't work out as well in real life. Go for something that doesn't involve you being rude or nasty to someone else, regardless of how deserving and unpleasant they are.

Try "Pleased to meet you. I'm very happy for you. Our previous history means I don't think this conversation will really be very fun for either of us. Please excuse me." Now walk away. Be prepared to say "Leave me alone." if they persist.

If this doesn't pan out, you can always be cutting, rude, and unpleasant to them later. If you think that would leave you feeling happy and empowered ...
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:29 AM on June 22, 2012 [32 favorites]

If you have to be a bit snide, address her: "Pleased to meet you. He likes to introduce new girlfriends to ex girlfriends. He did it it me ... and I don't think it is very good form. Good to meet you. Excuse me. " Then shrug, and walk away.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:33 AM on June 22, 2012 [9 favorites]

I would try to communicate to him ahead of the event that you are not interested in meeting him and his new fiancée, that you would prefer to let bygones be bygones, and ask him please not to approach you at the event.

Trying to say something rude, snarky, angry, etc. will probably not make you feel as empowered as you think, because he will probably say something upsetting back and escalate. Instead, avoid this entirely.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:43 AM on June 22, 2012 [23 favorites]

He clearly gets a feeling of power from being able to elicit strong emotions from you. It flatters his ego that he can get you to feel disappointed or upset, just by speaking a few words to you. Otherwise he would just focus on his new life with his new fiance, and you would never hear from him.

If you feed this cycle by acting angry / upset / rude, it's going to give him fodder. He can tell his new fiance, "Ha, look at how obsessed my ex is! I said two words to her, and she's acting like I ruined her whole day! She's still so into me. I can't help the powerful effect I have on women."

The best way that works for me is to get myself to genuinely not care, by fighting fire with a stronger fire. For example, run 15 miles earlier that day, or have the difficult confrontation that I've been putting off, or email someone I've always had a crush on. The emotional high from that activity trumps the emotions from encountering the ex.

Keep in mind that when you act uncaring, he's going to at first redouble his efforts. When he starts trying harder and harder to provoke you, you'll see that he's going out of control, and it's your cue to feel empowered. Eventually he'll be the one getting really upset and then eventually giving up.
posted by cheesecake at 12:44 AM on June 22, 2012 [54 favorites]

How would you gracefully but pointedly handle this kind of situation?

You say, "how nice to meet you" and let your tone convey the rest.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:00 AM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

What if you contact him beforehand and tell him that you have no desire to meet him or his new girlfriend, he's not any part of your life anymore(I assume)?

If he approaches you after that just smile, say you told him you didn't want to see him, ask him to leave you alone and walk away, keep it polite, if he tries to argue on any point or make a scene tell him you're not interested and carry on walking.
posted by purplemonkeydishwasher at 1:08 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds like he feeds off your negative reactions. He would probably enjoy it if you were rude or snide to him. If you think he would respect a request that he leave you alone, then tell him you would prefer not to be in contact with him.

Otherwise, I would employ the strategy I used with bullies as a kid. I would be as boring as possible. If he brought it up, I would acknowledge that the relationship happened, but not give any opinions about it. I would let him run on about whatever he needed to run on about and be very vague and polite in my responses. If he was openly rude, I would tell him he was being rude and leave the conversation early. Otherwise, the conversation should grind to a halt pretty quickly and you can say goodbye knowing that you denied him the satisfaction of seeing you squirm.

I would also suit up, a little. Don't wear anything that would make you feel self-conscious. Nothing too tight, nothing that causes blisters, and nothing that wrinkles or stains easily. If you have an outfit that makes you feel really attractive and happy, wear that.

Good luck (and kudos to you for having the confidence required to get away from this asshole).
posted by rhythm and booze at 1:23 AM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

Remember, if you're publicly nasty to them, you'll play into his narrative and narcistic he's-the-victim-in-all-this: "See, I had to leave her, see what she's like?"

Pick a course of action that doesn't give him an opportunity to act up or spin it. Being polite won't give him an opening. Don't engage him.

I would try to communicate to him ahead of the event that you are not interested in meeting him and his new fiancée, that you would prefer to let bygones be bygones, and ask him please not to approach you at the event.

I agree. It's unpleasant to deal with him, and I'd hide under my desk under such circumstances, but you have the choice of sending him a note now, or dealing with him in public later.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:54 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

The best way to handle this is to "kill" with kindness. Don't try to be rude explicitly. Say something like "it looks like you found a good match for you. I wish you well."

This is brief, but it's saying a lot without making a scene. It will leave him feeling like a deer lost in headlights. He wants you to make a scene that's why he's introduced previous exes to current girlfriends.

So, dress nicely and "kill" with kindness and a hint of sarcasm.
posted by livinglearning at 2:26 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ick. I've known people like your ex (I'm sure many of us have). I've always assumed their currency is the attention and the feeling of importance they get by being the focus of all this emotional turmoil. You want to feel empowered? Don't play into it. Refuse to feed his craving for delicious drama. Be cool, politely uninterested, brief, detached. It will deflate his bloated ego much, much more than any righteous outburst or biting snark ever could.

Long ago a friend of mine was in a similar situation, and the major lesson I learned from her is that the opposite of drama is dignity. I still think she was a total badass.
posted by sively at 2:35 AM on June 22, 2012 [24 favorites]

Don't correspond with him ahead of time, it will let him know you are wrought up over this. Take someone with you to the event and them stick to you like glue - when you see him be pleasant, be pleasant to her and then leave. You can do it and this will leave you feeling so much better than any other option. Good luck.
posted by yogalemon at 3:23 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've got to disagree with the folks suggesting you contact him now and tell him you don't want to do this: do NOT contact him in advance, because you can bet that that would make him VERY happy, and he's hoping that forcing you to meet New Girlfriend will create drama. He WANTS to get a rise out of you, so try to maintain as bland a facade as possible. (If you're attending this event with a friend, perhaps they could help run interference for you.)

Sebastienballard has it right: some version of "Hello, he likes to shove new girlfriends in old girlfriends' faces.... isn't it tacky?!?" Optional: adding something about "I hope you have better luck than all of his OTHER ex-girlfriends!"
posted by easily confused at 3:40 AM on June 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

I wouldn't contact him beforehand because it's going to show him that just merely telling you his plans is getting under your skin.

There's a couple of possible behind the scenes scenarios: He has told his new girlfriend lots of lies about you and wants to give her a show or told her nothing and he's just playing some fucked up mind game.

So, if he tries to introduce you guys at the event, stare at him with a blank face for like 2 seconds - as if you can't quite remember who this guy is - and then focus your attention on the poor girl with just a very quick, "Hi, nice to meet you. I need to refill my drink. Excuse me." and walk away (don't look back!).

If he's been talking about you to her he'll look stupid because it's totally no drama and very dignified. If he hasn't, well he'll feel stupid because he thought he could get to you and he hasn't and he looks like a foolish nut to his girlfriend.
posted by like_neon at 3:49 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

He is going to this event for the sole purpose of upsetting you. He's known about it for a year. You have the option to just not go and pretend you did. You may not relish that idea on principle, but it is a choice that you have. He may in fact not want to take the trouble and expense of actually going, and may be bluffing.

You do not have to reply to him at all, and you do not have to interact with him at all. Since he was abusive to you, you are free to give him the cut direct. That may cause him to go "yum delicious dramaz" but who cares, because he is going to get as much as he can out of *any* way you respond. Since he's out of your life, it doesn't matter what he does.

You could give him the cut indirect, by pretending not to see him.

You could say, oh, hi, Abusive Bruce, I really would prefer that we not interact any more, thanks. Hello, Innocent Victim, best of luck for the future, 'bye now. He might respond to that by insisting on putting himself in your sight lines throughout the event, but that will make an impression on Innocent Victim so even that has an upside.

Or you could reply to his email saying, "so glad you found a match, however, I think it's best that we not interact so I am asking you not to approach me at the event and not to contact me again." Then you have a record of it, and when he comes smirking up to you you can say, "Hi, Abusive Bruce, I asked you not to approach me or contact me again," and when he says "I didn't get your email," you can say "well in case it wasn't clear, I'm asking you not to approach me or contact me again. Hello, Innocent Victim, sorry we had to meet under these unfortunate circumstances, best of luck for the future, 'bye."

I really recommend against saying anything a) at all, if you can help it; b) negative, if you can help it; c) negative in a way that goes beyond a request to please leave you alone, thanks.

Other than that, look your best, stress-test all your outfits and hair before you go, and remember that you really have more options and freedom than you feel you have. It doesn't matter what Abusive Bruce does or says, because he's not in your life. The End.
posted by tel3path at 3:52 AM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

Another thing you could do is the completely unexpected: go "Really? You're going to ExpensiveCon?!?! And bringing Innocent Victim too! No way! Fantastic, I just cannot wait to meet you both!!!! It'll be so so so great to see you again after all this time! Hey, bring those RobotMan comics from your collection, me and Innocent can totally spend the afternoon archive-binging on them and really get to know each other while you watch the main stage!"

This could backfire, of course.
posted by tel3path at 3:57 AM on June 22, 2012

"Hello, [new girlfriend], nice to meet you. I hope you understand why I'm not staying to chat. Excuse me."
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:00 AM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Are you attending the event with anyone (even a female friend, or more than one at different times) who you can designate to run interference for you? All they have to do is stay with you and stay deep in conversation whenever your ex is nearby, so that he doesn't have a conversational "in" to speak with you without rudely interrupting. And if he does butt in, they can also be the one to say "Why would she want to talk with you / meet X / waste her time here like that?" so that you don't have to.

Me, I would probably go with looking newlady in the eye after the introduction as if it's a surprise, and saying "Ha! This is just how he introduced me to his ex girlfriend when we started dating! Sorry to see he still thinks that's a cool move...!" then roll my eyes and walk away. No need to talk to him at all, but tipping the other chick off to his douchebaggery in an almost friendly way is certainly a way to make his plan backfire..
posted by Mchelly at 4:27 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

The very best way, I've found, is always to be as polite as possible, because it disarms people more than anything. If he approaches you, smile say hello and introduce yourself to the new fiancee, wish them happiness in their marriage and then excuse yourself.

Emotionally abusive people love drama. There is no drama in being friendly, polite, and a bit detached, so being so you can take all the wind out of his sails.
posted by xingcat at 4:34 AM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Contacting him ahead of time is the way to go here. But don't act wrought, just be detached, saying something negative but coolly detached such as "I'm not interested in interacting with you over email or at this event."

It doesn't matter if he gets off on thinking that he's under your skin. His reaction is no longer any of your concern. Your main goal is to avoid drama at this event, right?

After sending the above email, have a plan for if he approaches you anyway. I recommend treating him how you'd treat a panhandler or salesperson who comes to your house: Be polite on the surface, say something that briefly communicates your disinterest, and then leave the area and enjoy yourself elsewhere. Even if it's just smiling wanly and saying "Oh, no thanks, I'm not interested" and walking away.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:39 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

When you're introduced to her: "Oh hi, how nice to meet you!" ... then assume a mildly frowny/sympathetic face, and ask her "How are you?", as if she's recovering from an illness. Throw in a few sympathetic nods as she speaks. As you swiftly depart with an "Excuse me, I have to be going.", pat her on the arm and say "take care, dear". Make sure you include the "dear".

As for him, I would just look blank and mildly bored/irritated when he speaks. Don't respond or engage or reveal anything about your life, good or bad. Keep your focus on her. Frame it to yourself as if he is introducing you to some poor hapless person who is in for a tough time, because that's pretty much what's happening.

You're not actually saying anything impolite, or conveying any emotion other than pity, which I'm sure is the last thing he's looking for.
posted by guessthis at 4:39 AM on June 22, 2012 [10 favorites]

Emotionally abusive people love drama. There is no drama in being friendly, polite, and a bit detached, so being so you can take all the wind out of his sails.

This is it. nthing all the people who say to be polite but DETACHED. I wouldn't call beforehand, because if he was bluffing beforehand, it might spur him to follow through. I wouldn't say anything to ex like "this is how he introduced me to his ex..." I wouldn't NOT talk to exBF while talking to his gf.

just polite, "pleased to meat you." with absolutely NO expression. then force him to continue conversation. if he asks how are you? "Good." If he says "sorry for all the drama, hope you are still not hurt" with a big smile, you reply, "Huh? I am sorry I don't follow." still WITH NO EXPRESSION.

The awkward silence that ensues is what you are after. Then you can take your leave and have a great time.

THe third paragraph from ImproviseOrDie is the way to handle yourself at event.
posted by xetere at 4:53 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I also agree with everyone saying to go the boring route, which can in fact come across as confidently blasé.

I've been in this situation myself, with my abusive ex (we spent 8 years together). Having also grown up in an emotionally (and occasionally physically) abusive family, I learned one very, very precious and freeing lesson from dealing with them: abusive, emotionally manipulative jerks are EXPERTS at being abusive, emotionally manipulative jerks. Are you an abusive, emotionally manipulative jerk? No. Thus, any ideas you have about getting back at him would be like a kid with a rubber-band pea-shooter going, "muahaha! I'll get you back for your nonsense! I'll show you, you can't get to me!" at a machine-gun-carrying mafioso.

Trust me. When I went through hopeless spells realizing that my abusive, manipulative mother was going to make me pay for my existence for as long as I sucked in air, I tried "getting back" at her by "being smart." Ahahaha. Oh yes, I was smart. And I got my ass kicked. The only satisfaction I got from it was that I had said my peace concerning how she made me feel, and her utterly hypocritical, dishonest parenting. (We're talking stuff like getting punished for things that I not only didn't do, but that didn't happen. Classic gaslighting, with a sadistic twist in that I was punished for her made-up events.) It's really only worth it if you're in a situation like that, where you can't escape and there's no hope whatsoever until you grow up, get a job, etc. Thankfully, as an adult, it is a huge relief just to stare at an abusive twit and think, "ha. Abusive twit. Thou shalt not pass. My emotions are beyond your puny attempts to fish for them."

Then live your life. From time to time, you will indeed think, "Hm, I wonder what abusive twit is up to." And then, "HAHAHAHA NO I DON'T" because you've proven it to yourself. :)
posted by fraula at 5:08 AM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Dress up, accent all the things you know he liked about you, look amazing but classy, as this sounds like it might be a dressing event that should be no trouble, but either way look great, get a new hairstyle/colour, new clothes what ever it takes for you to feel too good for him, because you are. Now think of it as your suit of armor, nothing he says can touch you because you look amazing.

When he comes up to you with his new gf. Smile politely, say Hi, nice to meet you/see you again. And then stand there and say nothing more, let a big fat awkward silence hang over the meeting, but say nothing. Make him do all the conversational heavy lifting if he wants to talk to you. He will fill it will small talk about how great his life is, stare off into the middle distance and let your eyes glaze over, watch something across the room, basically the same sort of body language you'd use if you were stuck in a conversation with any boring blowhard. Your responses need to be short and along the line of "oh really how nice" in a vague distracted kind of tone.

If you can see anyone you know in the distance all the better, keep glancing towards them like you can't wait to go and talk to them but you have to do this boring social obligation first. The first break in the conversation just say something like "Well its been real." and head off to talk to said friend/acquaintance/cute guy across the room you want to chat up
posted by wwax at 5:11 AM on June 22, 2012

Whatever you say, you'll think of something better moments afterward.

Whatever you plan, wont happen.

I understand your desire for revenge, but introducing a spike of nastiness into an event you want to enjoy could sour it all for you. Personally I'd just try not to let it dominate things; it's all part of the past. Best thing for you, it sounds, is to move on.

Ironically; that's probably the thing which will wind him up most.
posted by BadMiker at 5:12 AM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

You're never going to win with an abuser. I probably don't need to tell you that. You likely know by now that abusers are constantly re-writing the rules of the game or the history of relationships to cast themselves as either the victim or the winner, depending on which role momentarily soothes their extremely fragile ego.

If you go to this event and allow yourself to get sucked into this teacup-tempest little drama he's salivating over creating, you're going to play right into his revising of the actual, factual history currently known as How He Abused You into How These Birds of a Feather is a Crazy Bitch Who Thinks I Abused Her, That Crazy Bitch. Personally, I'd avoid doing this to myself at all costs, because you've fought very hard to begin the process of divesting yourself of abusive relationships altogether, and this abuser would like nothing more than to derail you by taking a nice big bloody chunk out of your self-esteem, in public, in front of this new person he's conned into marrying him. (Think about the sort of person who would expose their supposed fiance, let alone someone they used to date, to potential drama in this fashion. This is a very warped person, it goes without saying.)

The rule of thumb with abusers, as you know, is Do Not Engage. Were I in your position, I would not be playing at having normal relations with this guy, because, in so doing, you are willingly enmeshing yourself in a warped power dynamic with a person who has little insight into their own abusive tendencies and accepts zero responsibility for their part in interpersonal conflict. This is why attempting to be "normal" in public with him, or appealing to his sense of propriety or decency beforehand in an e-mail will not work; he is sick, and sick people do not respond to the requests of healthy people. He did this to his former girlfriend with you. Be the healthier person here and refuse to do that with his fiance, and refuse to do this to yourself. Because ultimately, if you engage in drama with him by being snarky or back-biting or participating in any embarrassing public display, he wins. And you know it.

Go to this event. Look great, hold your head up high, bring along with you a date that makes you feel calm, relaxed and completely yourself. Enjoy the event. When he approaches you - and he will, as you know, because he would rather play head games than be decent - be detached and unemotional. Offer nothing; do not speak first. Paste a pleasant yet inscrutable look on your face. When he says, "Hello, These Birds of a Feather." respond with a simple, unadorned, "Hello." When he introduces you to his fiance, say a simple, "Congratulations to you both. You'll have to excuse me now," and then walk away.

In the alternative, ignore him altogether. In any event, let this be your last interaction with him forever. You're done being abused. That means you're done associating with abusers or playing a role in their head games. Best of luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 5:13 AM on June 22, 2012 [12 favorites]

Whatever you say, you'll think of something better moments afterward.

Whatever you plan, wont happen.

So true.

I have been faced with similar situations, and I realized that I usually create a far worse scenario than anyone can bring to the table. That said, the bonus is that my worst fears have already been realized emotionally, by my own brain, and you know what? I'm still alive, and able to move on. The only words of advice I can give you is:

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and expect neither.
posted by Debaser626 at 5:23 AM on June 22, 2012

How about not answering or acknowledging him at all, just staring blankly without saying a word? Make it awkward as possible and put the onus on him to deal with it. Then turn around and go about your night, secure in the notion that you just threw a wrench in his plans.

Him: (tapping your shoulder) Hey Birds, good to see you (oily sneer)
You: (turning around slowly, fixing him with a blank, glassy eyed stare.)
Three uncomfortable seconds later
Him: This is Rhonda, I met her last December.
Rhonda: (starting to get freaked out) Uh, hi Birds! (extending hand to you)
You: (staring at her as if she were a housecat that spontaneously learned to talk, ignoring offered hand)
Him: (panic at loss of control creeping into his voice) Aren't you going to say something?!
You: (mannequin-like vacant expression)
Him: (butthurt) Oh KAY, if you're just going to be a freak we're leaving!
You: (mission accomplished)
posted by Lieber Frau at 5:28 AM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

I would try to communicate to him ahead of the event that you are not interested in meeting him and ask him please not to approach you at the event.

I don't like this approach or a lot of the others outlined above. He's going to a Con or whatever that you're going to just to rub your nose in the new girlfriend. He's trying to bother you. He is not going to respect your wish to not be bothered, for a lot of reasons. I also do not like the suggestion to just ignore him, because again, this illustrates that he already successfully bothering you.

Personally, I would go to the event with an envelope kept in my handbag, and when I meet them I would hand it to the new GF and say "Cynthia! I'm so glad to meet you! Congratulations on your engagement. I have this envelope for you, it's an article on emotional abuse and a list of domestic violence shelters. I really wish you guys all the best!"

Then walk away.

If you don't think you'll be able to do that, then just prepare the envelope and give it to her in a normal brief "It's so nice to meet you, congratulations on your engagement, this is for you" conversation. Be super cheerful and very brief. In many ways this is the safer option because it will feel less risky to you and still have a big impact that will undermine his intent with this meeting. He also can't confront or argue with you in front of her, which you don't want to get into with him anyway.

May the force be with you.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:53 AM on June 22, 2012 [8 favorites]

Spotting someone in the distance: of course you can. They don't actually have to be there.

Ignoring Rhonda's offered hand: don't ignore a putative offered handshake from *her*, that is flagrantly insulting. Just take her hand with a glazed look in your eye as though you had been offered a cold, limp fish and press it as though you cannot quite remember what your association with these people is supposed to be.

But if he offers his hand to shake you can just give the hand a puzzled stare.
posted by tel3path at 5:54 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I hope you feel empowered by the very fact that you are still attending this event. I think that's amazing.

He is still trying to hurt you–with the email, with getting in your space, with shamelessly setting up a situation that puts you in a very weird spot of suddenly having to worry about your behavior so as to both a) not feed his ego while b) maintaining your dignity, when all you really want is for him to leave you alone. My advice is to focus on that. Become incredulous. Focus on the audacity of his actions. He's attempting to hurt you, make a fool of you, make you uncomfortable, to use you–to control you. How dare he? Take all the pressure off of yourself. Shake it off. There's nothing you need to do to prepare for this event other than whatever you would normally do. I say be brazen and do nothing to prepare for this event. The less you do the more you will drive the point home to yourself that he doesn't control you anymore. Go. Have nothing planned. React however you react. Good, bad, indifferent–it doesn't matter as long as you are happy with yourself.
posted by marimeko at 5:56 AM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

Being passive-aggressive, denying you've ever met him, patronizing the new girlfriend? Not at all cool. That's the kind of stuff he did to YOU. You're better than that. Keeping your dignity says more than a witty remark ever can.

And please, whatever you do, don't take it out on the new GF. This isn't her fault and she won't be having a good time either. Campsite rule: leave things better than you found it.
posted by moammargaret at 6:03 AM on June 22, 2012 [10 favorites]

"Nice to meet you. Good luck with him. Good bye."

If he persists, in increasing loudness repeat: "Please stop. I'm bored."
posted by tilde at 6:14 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

One of my early heros was the wife of an officer of our company. Our officer was carrying on a heated affair with one of his subordinates. For some reason the girlfriend decided to visit the wife. She rang the doorbell and started off with, "Hi, I don't know if you know who I am." The wife responded, "Of course I do, you're the bitch who gave me crabs." How could you not love this response?

First of all, do not give this person power to ruin this event for you. Think about the folks you're going to connect with, the fun you're going to have and the yummy food you're going to eat. That is what the evening is about.

As for your ex, clearly he's getting something out of planning this meeting and introduction. What do you think he wants to get out of it? Does he want you to make a scene, does he want you to eat your heart out, what's he after here?

Whatever it is, and I don't suggest that you ponder it at all, don't give it to him, don't let him live rent-free in your brain another second. I'm liking the whole, "I can't believe he's still wanting to introduce his ex-girlfriends to his current victim" line. It's perfect actually. You seem un-affected, you get to point out that your Ex is being a douche, and you get to turn the knife, all while being perfectly cordial to his new girlfriend.

Now it's entirely possible that his new girl is on board with this plan. She may want to show you what kind of woman it takes to win the heart of such an awesome dude. In which case the appropriate reaction is pity.

Be dignified, be involved with other people at the event, keep in mind that your discussion with your ex and his new "special lady" will last, maybe 30 seconds if you do it correctly.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:16 AM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Do you have a friend you can take to the event for moral support?

I'm with TryTheTilapia. I would just be the bare minimum of polite to him and not engage other than that (Hello, ex. Nice to meet you, fiancee. I think I'm going to go get another drink now/need to use the bathroom/think I see my friend over there).

Many of the answers suggest engaging with him, either by pointedly ignoring him, engaging him rudely, or contacting him in advance. I think people like these ideas, and to some extent they're good for you to read, because they're entertaining and satisfying as a way of imagining revenge. But if you actually did those things, you would be putting yourself on his level, and you've already shown you're much better than that.
posted by mlle valentine at 6:17 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

My abusive ex pulled a similar stunt, except it was because he knew I would be attending an event with my new bf. He had been going around telling people I was cheating on him and we were still together (we weren't--he was just still manipulating me), so his motivation in going must have been to create a scene in which I was mean to him and he could play the victim.

But I was so happy with the new guy (and still am), and so glad to finally be getting to the end of the ordeal, that when he was standing in front of the exit, forcing a confrontation, I just smiled a genuinely happy smile and waved.

He went home shortly thereafter, telling mutual friends he got sick (and canceling the dinner plans he'd made with them, no doubt intending to regale them with the story of me being a bitch to him).

The Gift of Fear is a wonderful book for dealing with abusive people. There's a line in it which says, "at the core, men are afraid that women will laugh at them, while at the core, women are afraid that men will kill them." It was so true for my case, I lived in fear of his shaming, his humiliations, his outbursts, and that they would escalate to violence. Even when New Guy and I got married, I still feared the ex would show up and become violent. But that was giving him power, and the only way to take it back was to laugh at him, to truly believe the fact that he is a pathetic nobody and not worth wasting time or emotional stress, because that's what he is afraid of.
posted by lily_bart at 6:17 AM on June 22, 2012 [9 favorites]

I like the approach of not running away but not volunteering anything. So, I'm in the camp that says don't contact him beforehand. xeter has in my mind the best approach at all. Don't volunteer any reaction that he can use. Let him drive the awkward conversation in circles while you stand on the periphery with a serene expression. You give him nothing to work with. I almost wish I was in the same situation so I can do this very thing (I don't really, it sounds horrible and I feel for you).

Good luck, the most important thing is getting that interaction over with so you can enjoy yourself.
posted by mooza at 6:23 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

You mention emotional abuse, so that at least makes the situation a little less stressful for you, I hope.

I assume it's a larger event that is outside of the "contact the host with a 'it's him or me' thing", so my suggestion is to not approach him/them, and if they approach you then only address her. You don't have to ever see this guy again in your life so to say something like "your new fiance used to abuse me, so I have no desire to talk to him, but I suggest you leave before it's too late" and walking away will end the conversation, will keep either of them from approaching you again, and might make them leave if she starts asking him questions about his abuse towards you.

Keep the interaction short, if it happens at all.

And if he contacts you again ignore it.

Good luck.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:36 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, there's always the Jenna Marbles approach. Which might actually be hilariously appropriate in this instance.

I agree with the people who say that you shouldn't contact him ahead of time, and that your goal should be to make the exchange short and not actively unpleasant.

Don't over-rehearse scripts in your head, because he's likely to be the one who says the first line, and if it's not one of the things you've prepared for, it'll throw you off, and you might freeze up in the moment. Just have a general sense that all you want to say in the conversation is bland social pleasantries. Hello, how are you, nice to meet you, it's been nice talking to you, but I have to go...
posted by jacquilynne at 6:38 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's not passive aggressive to ignore his aggression. My point is, you don't owe this guy anything. Not even a hello.
posted by Lieber Frau at 6:43 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes, the cut direct is a polite way to really, really, really, really insult someone with a nuclear capability. It is authorized by the World Etiquette Council.

You are allowed to use it against someone who killed your puppy, or your mother; or somebody who abused you on an ongoing basis and has announced his intention to arrive at your long-anticipated event for the sole purpose of triangulating you with another woman who probably doesn't know what she was brought there for.

You may not choose to use it, but using it would not bring you down to his level.
posted by tel3path at 6:47 AM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

A couple of my exes are exactly this dude. I am sorry you have to deal with this, and I am glad you are still going to something you looked forward to. You're a strong person & you will make it through this.

Try to bring a friend if you can.

Try to spot them early so you don't spend the entire time on edge waiting for them to appear.

Is there a security presence you can inform ahead of time to be on the look out? In case he escalates anything because you're not willing to engage him. You don't want him or his ill-informed companion causing needless drama.

If they approach you, there is little you can say, a way to pretend to act, or completely ignoring them that isn't going to take the situation out of your control. You're going to be nervous, so coming across as Fakey Mc Smiles will look like you're pandering.

If approached, I would simply ask, "Why would you think this would be a good idea?" Don't let him answer. Then say, "Please stop this tradition of introducing your new girlfriend to your ex, it is awkward and juvenile. We're not friends, and I don't care who you're seeing. Please find somewhere else to stand."

If he says anything else, call security.
posted by haplesschild at 7:30 AM on June 22, 2012 [13 favorites]

Your best bet here is just to look amazing, be with someone fun, and act bored and vague to him if he does come over. But it might be fun to be very, very nice to her - "concerned" nice - and "good luck, dear" with a press of the arm, as you leave them, as suggested upthread, is perfect.

I would not do the cut direct. He has introduced you into their story as a supporting character, "My Crazy Bitch Ex." Anything you do to play into this narrative is helping him out.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:30 AM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

In the event that I see him and her and he approaches me (something he is sure to do since he did this to his last girlfriend after we became a couple), what can I do to communicate my dislike for him as well as my desire for him to leave me alone?

Why do you need to communicate your dislike for him? That just sounds like you're engaging with him on a level that isn't good for you and why bother? You're at an event you've been looking to all year and have spent a lot of money on. Enjoy that. Sure, you might come across him, but at any event there are always going to be jerks. You don't waste you precious time dealing with them or worrying about how they'll act towards you. You can't control anyone or anything except yourself, so there's no need to fret about dealing with him.

Go have fun. Wave and say "Hey, hope you guys are having fun" if you must and then keep on moving and enjoying yourself. You dodged a bullet, right? Keep dodging it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:33 AM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

And I have to disagree with those saying she should go out of her way to not come across as "the crazy ex"

.... there is no reason she needs to work to give some stranger a good opinion of her, especially when that person is either knowing or unknowingly assisting someone who abused her. She owes these people nothing, and their opinion of her means nothing. The idea here is shutting him down, getting them away from her, and getting on with enjoying the event.
posted by haplesschild at 7:36 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Cut Direct:
For one person to look directly at another and not acknowledge the other’s bow is such a breach of civility that only an unforgivable misdemeanor can warrant the rebuke. Nor without the gravest cause may a lady “cut” a gentleman. But there are no circumstances under which a gentleman may “cut” any woman who, even by courtesy, can be called a lady.
On the other hand, one must not confuse absent-mindedness, or a forgetful memory with an intentional “cut.” Anyone who is preoccupied is apt to pass others without being aware of them, and without the least want of friendly regard. Others who have bad memories forget even those by whom they were much attracted. This does not excuse the bad memory, but it explains the seeming rudeness.
A “cut” is very different. It is a direct stare of blank refusal, and is not only insulting to its victim but embarrassing to every witness. Happily it is practically unknown in polite society.
This guy trying to fuck with you at a public event is already stepping outside the realm of "polite", so I say sharpen up and start cutting.

Rude to the girlfriend? Here's where I score jerk points, but so what? She's not going to be a part of your life and has signed on with your abusive ex. You owe her nothing.

Just silently stare them down until they leave. Refuse to exchange pleasantries while looking him straight in the eye. Say not a word. At all. ALL WEEKEND. Any time he tries to interact with you, just stare silently and coldly.

No matter what he says, how he tries to wind you up, get under your skin, complete silence the moment they come into speaking range and try to engage you. Do nothing but stare silently until they leave. Offer no comment, no hostility, not warmth, no human contact, just the cold, emotionless gaze of "I want nothing to do with you and will have nothing to do with you."

Absolute silence. Complete and utter. He is dead to you and his GF is nothing to you.

Best of luck
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:46 AM on June 22, 2012 [12 favorites]

well he contacted you and told you that he was coming- so i think its ok to follow the suggestion of some others to write to him and request that he not say anything to you during the event. after all, he initiated the contact, not you.

but what I really like about this idea is that, if he then proceeds to bother you at the event, you can look at him in say in a stern legalistic voice that "I wrote to you requesting that you not communicate with me further. it is upsetting that you disregarded this directive- please note that this is your last warning"

if i were his fiance, i would now think he's a crazy stalker obsessed with you :) she doesn't know that your language is a bit extreme given the actual e-mail that you sent- regardless, he would have disregarded your request so he was warned.
posted by saraindc at 8:15 AM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

I had a relationship with a guy like the womanizing character in this movie. In the movie-- and in real life-- it's hard to see why all these attractive women are falling all over this particular man. He knows how to work it, somehow. And he loves watching his exes run up against each other. Anyway, an early scene in the movie shows one of the exes meeting the new one, and her curious, bemused but mostly generous demeanor is something I also encountered when I met the guy's exes. Sort of like, "Oooh, so you're the new one. Let me know how that goes."
posted by BibiRose at 8:32 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

You don't owe this guy shit. Who cares if his new girlfriend is nice? You don't owe her shit, either. You know who you owe it to be good to? Yourself. Take care of yourself, first and foremost. Know that while you have the right to tell him to get lost, you also have the right not to speak to him at all. Consider which is better for your mental health, when just him emailing you has had this effect.

If you're feeling anxious, it might help you to run through a few scenarios or role play what kind of things you might say to him, just so you're prepared. And then you can forget about them unless you need them. Sort of a way to acknowledge your desire without actually having to speak to him.

To be safe, take a friend to run interference as necessary. If he does approach you, do what feels right in the moment, whether it be ignoring him or telling him to get lost.

Don't reply to his email, that will only encourage him to further harass you once he knows that he can get you to respond. He knows he shouldn't be contacting you, and yet he is. (If you're up to it, you can create a fake email bounce message and send it to him every time he tries to contact you so that he thinks your you deleted your email account.)
posted by i feel possessed at 8:39 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'd suggest that you should figure out whether your first priority is communicating your dislike for him or communicating that you never want to see him again. Based only on the language in your question ("abusive," "fear," "anxious and nauseated") I'd argue that your priority should be to never see him again. Also, I think communicating this is communicating your dislike for him. I agree with posters upthread who say that executing some kind of put down or disdainful remark may not go as well as you like and even if it does may not lead you to feeling empowered.

Don't respond to his communication. Block his emails and texts. It's very possible that if you don't respond, he may not even go. If this is an expensive event, he may not bother to go unless he knows for sure that you'll be there. So refusing to communicate with him lessens the probability that he goes, I think.

If you do see him when you are there, my suggestion is to say, "Hello Ex, hello new fiancee. Nice to meet you new fiancee. Good luck. Bye," and leave. You don't have to be snide or snappy or jerky about it. You just need to say two or three sentences and walk off and do something else.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:41 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do not turn this into a soap opera. Your goal is the elimination of drama. Be adult, be firm, be polite, and be confident. You are the grown-up that no puling child can offend. Say hello, say how do you do, say pleased to meet you, say congratulations, and say have a lovely day. Say I'm fine thanks, say doing quite well, say thanks for your interest. Say kindly excuse me, and walk away.

Let the waves of his drama crash upon your reefs of calm. Smile and move on.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:06 AM on June 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

A “cut” is very different. It is a direct stare of blank refusal, and is not only insulting to its victim but embarrassing to every witness.

Nthing the cut direct, rather than indirect, but with practical advice on how to pull it off.

First, as another poster has said, "Suit up!" Be at your best - well dressed, with whatever you need to make you feel good about yourself.

Secondly, make sure to bring a friend, so you have someone to talk to while you're doing this.

When he approaches, you turn your gaze towards him. Make sure he knows that you see him. Stare blankly, as though you've seen absolutely nothing interesting. You are bored, bored, bored. After five or ten seconds, whether or not he is coming towards you, turn your gaze away. Start talking to your friend. If he calls your name, don't even turn. If he maneuvers in front of you, stare again, then turn away, with your friend.

Most people have very little experience with dealing with this, and so consequentially it's very effective.
posted by corb at 9:13 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Rude to the girlfriend? Here's where I score jerk points, but so what? She's not going to be a part of your life and has signed on with your abusive ex. You owe her nothing.

I agree. I don't know in what situation you were when you agreed to meet his ex before, but were a guy I am dating arrange such a thing, I would refuse and reconsider the relationship. You owe his new girlfriend nothing. She is at best trying to meet you to see how she measures up, at worst, planing to do a pile-on on you.

And in the future, let that be your lesson. A guy who cannot respect his ex enough to not shame her in front of a stranger is not a guy you want in your life. Grown-ups know how to end relationships without being childish.
posted by Tarumba at 9:37 AM on June 22, 2012

I rather like the idea of warning him that he's breaking the terms of the restraining order you have against him, telling him you'll call the police if he comes near you again, and then walking away.
posted by corvine at 9:43 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Oh hi, nice to meet you." Shake hand. "Excuse me, I've got to go now."

He would love to manipulate you into staking a lot of emotion on your reaction, thereby making it all about him. Try to grant it no more power than any other forgettable fleeting encounter, even if you have to fake it.

(And even if it doesn't go the way you want, well, why care? I know -- easier said than done, but he sounds like a prick, so let him think whatever he wants so long as he does it elsewhere.)
posted by bunji at 9:45 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have to deal with someone who's like your ex, someone who enjoyed ruining major events to punish me or assert their control, who really enjoyed humiliating me, trying to cause me emotional pain, and trying to get emotion outbursts out of me (my mom, yay!). I think a lot of the above answers are really awesome, even though what I learned to do contradicts a lot of them, but it worked for me.

What works for me is to just calmly make requests of the abusive person, state simply and truthfully what they're doing when they're being abusive, and, when they invariably try to turn it into a debate, just keep stating the truth.

So, to give a minor example, since there's not a ton she can do at this point in my life - say I'm at a family event feeling really ill, not wearing makeup, looking like something the cat dragged in, etc., I've asked my mom not to take photos of me, and I see her continuing to sneak candids for posting on Facebook. For me it would go something like this:

Me: "Mom, I've repeatedly asked you not to take photos of me today, please stop."
Mom: "How dare you tell me what to do, and this is a free country!"
Me: "You are deliberately trying to embarrass me and I would like you to cut it out."
Mom: "Well you have a very vivid imagination if that's what you think."
Me: "Mom, stop trying to embarrass me."
Mom: "Why should the world stop just because YOU are embarrassed! If you don't want your photo taken stay home!"
Me: "Stop trying to embarrass me."
Mom: "I'm your mother and I can do whatever I want!"
Me: "Stop trying to embarrass me."
Mom: "Oh just stop bullying me and leave me alone." Then it's over and she won't do it anymore, at least that day.

So for your ex, I personally would reply to the email and say, "I'm not interested in speaking with you. Please do not approach me and please leave me alone." He will anyway, but that's not the point. When approached at the conference, I would say, "Hi Edgar. I asked you previously not to approach me and to leave me alone. I'm now asking you for the second time, to please leave me alone." Then I would walk away. If he approached again, I would probably say something like, "Edgar, I understand that you are hoping to cause me emotional pain. I'm asking you for the third time to leave me alone." After that I would talk to event security.

The reason that I like this so much is that emotional abusers really feed off of gaslighting. Twisting things around so that people don't feel like they can speak the plain reality of going on. And so that people feel if they object to things they will be labeled as the crazy one and have their words twisted. And that they can't ASK for respectful treatment (even if they know they won't get it) because that will be twisted around too.Steadfast, repeated assertion of the blunt truth and clear requests for respectful and reasonable treatment feel incredibly freeing and empowering for me when faced with people like that. YMMV.
posted by cairdeas at 9:55 AM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

She is at best trying to meet you to see how she measures up, at worst, planing to do a pile-on on you.

Unless you know that she knows who you are, and also that she knows that Abusive Bruce is planning to meet you at this event, it is possible that she will be walking into this totally unawares.

Unless you get it from the horse's mouth - even if she does know, he may have turned it around to make it look like "she's begging to see us there, because she's stalking me, let's deal with it by quickly saying hi to her and be done with it" - you know how guys like this set stuff up.

You don't owe her anything but decent behaviour, which should a) include assuming her innocence until proven guilty, and b) not crossing the line into abusing her yourself, since Bruce already has that covered.
posted by tel3path at 10:15 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

You know what the best thing is about breaking up with him? You don't have to spend another minute thinking about what this asshole thinks about anything. Apart from issues related to your personal safety, you don't have to give the contents of his head another thought. So stop worrying about the sort of impression you're going to make, or about putting him in his place or making him feel bad. Beware any line of reasoning that contains the phrase "give him the satisfaction." Who cares if he's satisfied? Fuck that guy. He's out of your life, so get out of his head, and do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable at this event, irrespective of how it makes him feel.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:28 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Have a friend with you who will tell him to go away and fuck off when/if he approaches you, while you say nothing and look away.

Stick with your friend at all times. Enjoy your event.

Similarly, I suppose you could hire a bodyguard for the event. That might be pretty funny, actually!

- Having someone help you out and run interference will feel awesome. You deserve that sort of buffer and protection. Also, it'll make him look like the weirdo he is.
posted by jbenben at 1:11 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

I don't think you should worry about your impact to him. Whether he walks away thinking "Oh, she hates me" or "I guess I was a bit of a jerk" or "She still wants me" doesn't really matter to you, and your actions have only minimal impact on it anyway. Give up on making him feel or think any particular way.

I like the ideas for being polite and detached and getting away after two sentences.

This may be incorrect but - it seems like this is an event you have been looking forward to for a long time, and Dude's intention to attend is turning this from "Enjoyable event I am excited about" to "Event where I will encounter Dude."

If you can, plan as much of your activity for this event as possible. At 7.45 you'll be at the cocktail bar, or the Tea House booth. At 8.00 you'll be in line for Bob's autograph signing, or taking your seat for the opening act. Pack it with things you are excited about. Whenever you encounter Dude, it will be a minor event because you will be on your way to have your photo taken with Brad Pitt, or late to the flower arranging workshop. If for any reason he's hovering near your planned activity, switch it for another that's as far away from him as possible. You can't get caught up in chat with him, you have places to go. People to see. You are going to this event to have a good time and do things you enjoy. Keep that in the front of your mind.

Also, if you can go with a posse of friends, that would be great. Especially if they are aware that he's trying to bug you by showing up and that you are determined to stand your ground by having fun and now allowing his presence to overshadow the rest of the event.

And when you do encounter him, if it helps to imagine him naked, ludicrously posed, wearing a tinfoil hat and covered with guano, go for it.
posted by bunderful at 2:36 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lots of good advise here!!! I

Make the encounter as quick as possible, and be happy. Bring friends, look fantastic, smile big and be pleasant, then get out before he takes control of the conversation. If possible have someone tap you on the shoulder and then smile and be sure to smile when you say it's a pleasure to meet you. Seriously, give him 15 seconds or less.

I love it when I see an awful ex and I am happy, I think it burns them to see you happy.

You are lucky to be rid of this bad apple! What a creep. He has no power over you, you determine what is important to you. He is not important.
posted by ibakecake at 5:36 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is an occasion. This is a celebration and can potentially be the best party of your life! When you see him, remind yourself: I didn't have to show up here with him, I don't have to be here with him, and most importantly - I don't have to go home with him.

I'm free and this is my release party!

Should he want to shake your hand in greeting, do it. Mentally return to him all the baggage and hurt he tried to leave with you. If his girlfriend wants to shake your hand, think of it as passing the torch.

You no longer have to worry about what he does, how he thinks or how to arrange your life to accommodate his abuse.

You're free. Congratulations!
posted by Space Kitty at 6:53 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Vague, slightly confused but polite smile and "excuse me" and walk away.
posted by Pax at 7:22 AM on June 25, 2012

Well, he lied. He lied about being engaged, and he lied about coming to the event. Went anyway, looked fantastic, saw a mutual friend, and the mutual friend spilled the beans. Apparently he's hated now at work and by most of the people we used to hang out with. I'm well and truly free.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:14 PM on July 17, 2012 [14 favorites]

Just saw your update. I'm smiling :-D

Good to know that the principle of reaping what you sow applies to everyone, innit?
posted by tel3path at 5:28 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Some people want to be liked, whereas others want...   |   Decorating Sliding Doors Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.