I'd like to destroy his ego...but help me be a gentlelady instead!
October 15, 2012 5:42 AM   Subscribe

I have a function this upcoming weekend I have to attend. My ex, with whom I have so very many unresolved issues, will be there. Help me not talk to him?

So, I have to see an ex this Saturday night. I'd like some advice on how to deal with him when he attempts to speak to me (because he will).

Let's call the ex Brad. Brad and I "broke up" nearly a year ago. We live in a small town where everyone adores him as I did. We met when I was 15 and got together when I was 29 and he was in his early 30s. We were together over a year, talked marriage and house-building, and things were generally peachy. Everyone thought we were perfect together...

There was a situation in which some couple friends of ours were involved in massive personal drama that culminated with one of the women (who had just cheated on her husband, Brad's good friend, with Brad's best friend since childhood -- we'll call her Katie) showing up at my house at 4 am, waking me in the middle of the night, scaring the hell out of my 7 year old, and generally being creepy and immature. Brad disliked Katie immensely because she purposely put him in the middle of her affair with his best friend but still, had plans to hang out with her and her husband the next night. That morning I mentioned that I wished he'd let her know that it was not okay to show up at my house like that. He disagreed that he should say anything. This upset me.

I'll ignore here that I probably shouldn't have expected him to fight my battles because I'm a grown woman and that I should not have gotten upset when he declined to mention it to her. I get that now. When I mentioned the next day that he'd upset me and I'd like to talk it out, he ignored my texts and calls. For three days. No response or contact at all. After 6 days he finally answered his phone only to say that he was so angry at me he couldn't even talk to me. I cried a bit and hung up on him. Since then, he has not contacted me.

Basically, we broke up by default with no resolution. He obviously has a serious issue with conflict (so much so that it ended our relationship and causes multiple other issues in his life). I wrote him letters, continued to call for a couple weeks, sent texts. I never heard back. That was the end of us.

So. In short. There is a small bar in town and a band I book for is playing a show there this weekend. I have to be there; this is work for me, I can't miss it just because it will be uncomfortable. A mutual friend has said that he will definitely be there. Since it's a bar and he'll be drinking (something he has a bit of an issue with), I know him well enough to know he'll talk to me. I'd like to not have to talk to him at all...

My questions:

1. Is there something that is polite and yet forceful I can say that let's him know I'm not interested in rehashing our "breakup" or speaking to him? I don't want to come across as a bitch and cause a dramatic scene at this show as we'll both have tons of mutual friends there but I really don't want to have to talk to him at all. I'll admit, I have to urge to be petty and say something like "Please remember how easy it was for you to forget I existed 8 months ago and do that again tonight" but I recognize that serves no one, no matter how much I think he's earned a response like that.

2. Are there any coping skills you can think to recommend that might help me clamp down my anxiety about the whole thing? I need to focus on paying attention to the band that night (but they're good friends so I'm certainly allowed and encouraged to have a good damn time) and I'd like to have fun with our friends because we all rarely get to go out together but I don't want to be worrying about his presence. How can I ignore him and frankly, my urge to rake him over the coals for being such a massive dick to me back then?
posted by youandiandaflame to Human Relations (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
All of the backstory is really not necessary to this question.

You don't need to be "forceful" (that sounds like you want to take a bit of a dig at him via your tone of voice), you just need to be matter of fact. "I won't be socializing with you in any manner.", then turn and walk away. If you say ANYTHING else, you've become the problem.
If he continues to harass you, you might want to consider having him removed from the bar as they would anyone else who was disrespectful to an employee.

Talk to the owner/bouncer/whoever at the bar in advance to warn them of this situation and request their help. Knowing they will back you up might relieve the anxiety. If they state they won't be able to do that, it might be a good night to have the flu and call in sick.
posted by HuronBob at 5:52 AM on October 15, 2012

1. Just ignore him. If he tries to talk to you, say, "I'm sorry, this isn't the time," and walk away. Since friends will be there, have one of them be your "wingman" and have them deal with him if he gets more aggressive than that.

2. You already gave yourself a strategy. Pay attention to your friends and the band. You're already taking up too much time on him, and the event hasn't even started.
posted by xingcat at 5:57 AM on October 15, 2012 [10 favorites]

How can I ignore him and frankly, my urge to rake him over the coals for being such a massive dick to me back then?

Absolutely nothing positive could come from giving in to that urge. You would not convince him, you would not gain resolution, you would not feel good. You would instead be causing exactly the kind of scene you objected to when a woman came to your house at 4 a.m. dragging others into her personal drama.

I know him well enough to know he'll talk to me. I'd like to not have to talk to him at all...

Will he just talk to you? Or will he talk to you about your relationship? Because a polite hello, enjoy the show is in order if it's the former. A year has passed. Seeing him won't be pleasant but you don't have to engage, you just have to be polite and detached.

If he's trying to engage you about the relationship, make it clear that you dont' want to go there. "I'm working." "I'm here with friends and don't want to discuss this with you." "I'm not interested in continuing this conversation." "Please leave me alone."
posted by headnsouth at 6:18 AM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Just act like you've already moved on. If you do anything that suggests you are angry he will want to talk it out. Just smile, say, "Nice to see you," and be too busy to talk. Coping skills? I think "Fake it until you make it" is a good mantra to repeat in these situations. The more times you can see someone you have issues in the past with, and have everything go smoothly, the more quickly it really will be in the past.
posted by BibiRose at 6:34 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

If he's so conflict averse, this should actually be easy. Be polite but cold. If he tries to bring up something you don't want to talk about, just say, "you really don't want to have this discussion here." That hold scare him off.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:42 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't get why he's suddenly guaranteed to want to talk to you now (even if drunk at a bar) when he's absolutely stonewalled you for most of a year for no good reason. Are you 100% sure this is even going to be a problem? Because when a dude cuts you off like that, he should be able to figure out that you won't welcome him back with open arms right now.

I would just ignore him. Sit on the far side of the room, pretend you don't see him, and if he comes up to you, walk away with the barest of words ("I'm busy"). He's already stonewalled you before, it's time for him to get some back. Since he already did it to you, he should get the clue.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:47 AM on October 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Why would he rehash your relationship at a bar, when you'll be busy working, especially when he's so conflict averse? At most you should be able to brush him off with a hi/how are you/great to see you.

It's been a year - who cares? You shouldn't, and you live in a small town where it's not to your advantage to seem like you're not over him (or even worse to be nasty to everyone's favorite guy).

You don't win here if you're a jerk to him or rake him over the coals - you just don't. Your best play is to be cool and polite and small like you don't give a shit. Fake it till you make it is good advice.
posted by mrs. taters at 6:53 AM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Don't engage yourself. It's not rude to avoid talking to people who bring the drama, especially if you're working.

If he approaches you, I would just say "Hi, I am now okay with us not being in contact and would prefer it to stay that way." If he's not writing your letters or contact back, I think it's more than fair for you to enforce the same boundaries.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 6:56 AM on October 15, 2012

you will have access to areas of the club that he will not. stay in those areas and avoid contact. it's not like you've never seen the band you've booked before. if there's a vip section you can get your friends into, then all the better.
posted by elle.jeezy at 7:07 AM on October 15, 2012

If he's been too angry to talk to you for 8 months?! then why do you think he will talk to you now?
TBH, it sounds like you two really do need to talk, your year+ long relationship ended over a minor spat, you both could probably do with some closure. If he wants to talk, listen to him, if he's starts with the drama, tell him you're working and don't have time to talk right now, otherwise, be cordial, friendly even - apologise for your part in the fight and move on. If you ignore him/stonewall him or avoid him then you'll never resolve the issue and you're going to feel this same anxiety any time you see him. As much as it would probably feel really great at the time to give him hell for how he treated you, its not to your benefit in the long run. Wouldn't you rather the situation was resolved?
posted by missmagenta at 7:09 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

a band I book for is playing a show there this weekend. I have to be there; this is work for me, I can't miss it just because it will be uncomfortable.

There's your answer: "I'm working right now and don't have time to talk about personal matters. If you want to talk, send me an email or call me and I'll get back to you."
posted by googly at 7:13 AM on October 15, 2012

your strategy should be: don't fixate on the past.

it sucks to have to continually see people you have been involved with, people who hurt you, people who weren't mature enough to talk stuff out like adults and close things up nicely and with a minimum of pain. but sometimes those are the breaks and the only prize you get for being the better person is....being the better person. it's rarely gratifying in the short term but in the long term at least you can live with yourself. the other person? who knows. that's a shitty fact of life but sometimes that's the only solace you get - you have NO IDEA how much they are beating themselves up. or not.

when you feel the rage building over all the stuff that happened and was never resolved, try to have a louder internal voice than the rage that says: I am not going to think about this, it is not productive or this is not relevant now. keep it up until you're out of their physical proximity and/or you actually instinctively think that instead of fuming. the anger doesn't help you, it won't resolve the past, and it won't make him feel like it's time to make things right (or prostrate himself in front of you begging for forgiveness, or make him spontaneously evaporate, or publicly decry how awful he feels for what he did, or whatever it is the rage wants).

a guy i was with for six years lives a block away from me. it ended badly. he parks his car in front of my house regularly. i have no idea if it is a dig at me, if he is trying to get me to talk to him again, if he has forgotten i live there, if he's hoping to run into me - i don't know. sometimes i get so enraged at his shitbaggery from years ago that launching a rock through his windshield sounds like the best idea in the world. i've never so much as spat on his car. he has no idea how much the rage tears me up. he doesn't get to know, because he's not a part of my life anymore, and he never will be. letting him know i was angry would imply that i wanted to hash it out and find a place in my life for him. i don't. so he is nothing to me. i'd recommend you pursue a similar strategy if you have to see this guy on a long term basis. otherwise you will always be poking at this emotional wound, keeping it fresh in case you get a chance to 'get closure' by reaming him or whatever.
posted by par court at 7:19 AM on October 15, 2012 [22 favorites]

Ignore him until & unless he speaks to you first. Then? "Oh, hello. Excuse me, I'm a bit busy.", then walk away.
posted by easily confused at 7:45 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want to talk, send me an email or call me and I'll get back to you."

Do not say this unless you mean it.
posted by Specklet at 9:27 AM on October 15, 2012

Role-play with a friend. Practice looking a little distant over his shoulder, and saying, "Hmm? Oh, I'm working. Excuse me." As well as the many similar scripts posted above. Practice your most blasé, "What, you still exist? How droll" look. Done right, these practice sessions will be so over-the-top that you will start finding it funny and bursting into giggles. Then, if he tries to talk to you while you're working, your biggest problem will be not laughing in his face.

Because, really, it's so absurd. He was too angry to speak to you? Please. Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Like par court was getting at -- he no longer has the right to know the contents of your emotional life. He's ridiculous.
posted by endless_forms at 9:31 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do not go up to him, but be ready if he comes up to you. My suggestion would be if you can master a disdainful look up and down (think of a I smell dog poop is it on your shoe kind of look) before very politely excusing yourself as you are working. You could get the satisfaction of a cutting remark without actually doing anything that causes a scene or ruins your professional image as you are, in fact working. Be very sure you can pull this look off before using it.

Then move on.
posted by wwax at 9:57 AM on October 15, 2012

Thanks, all!

This is a small bar (I'm talking 400 square foot, one room, wherever I am, there he'll be) so therein lies some of my anxiety. And, as mentioned, there will be 20+ of our close, mutual friends in attendance, all rooting diligently for us to get back together despite my asking they tone it down. He has mentioned to at least one of them that he'll be using this opportunity to talk to me, break the ice, and attempt to get back into my good graces. My issue is that I just really want to tell him to fuck off (in those words) but I don't want to be that girl at the party.

But these are great suggestions. I'll work my ass off that night, party with friends on a rare night out, resolve to have fun despite his presence, and should he approach me, be the bigger person and excuse myself from that conversation quickly and politely.
posted by youandiandaflame at 9:59 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like the bemused/slightly confused half-smile, with a hand-wavey "excuse me." And that's it.
posted by Pax at 10:05 AM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do you have a male friend who can be your "date" for the evening?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:59 PM on October 15, 2012

And if you don't or don't want to go that route, there is always "Excuse me I have to go to the ladies' room."
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:00 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

"I have work to do and I'm not interested in talking." You don't owe him a thing. You don't owe your mutual friends anything either. If he continues talking and tries to apologize say something along the lines of, "I'm over that, but I am not interested in knowing you anymore."
posted by parakeetdog at 2:20 PM on October 15, 2012


I think your anxiety is ramping up for this obvious reason:

The whole thing that happened last year is just crazy, and your take on what happened remains unresolved because you are putting "crazy" before logic.

If you want the weirdness to go away, if you want your ex to become a total non-issue for you - then you must embrace logic.

Logically, if you want this guy in your past, you must change the subject every time your friends bring him up to you in conversation. Every. Single. Time.

Smile politely whenever this gossipy topic comes up and say, "Sorry, I've moved on. How about we see a movie tonight?"

Second, stop thinking that whatever happened was in part or total your fault for asking him to tell crazypantscheatergirl to knock off the late night drop ins. WTF?? He should have been leaping at the chance to protect your boundaries and keep you out of the mess of affairs between his friends. He lacks courage and character if he didn't see immediately how wildly inappropriate it was for crazypantscheatergirl to try and involve you in her dramaz by coming to your home uninvited and waking up your daughter. In fact, he did not see crazypantscheatergirl as wildly inappropriate. Nope! Instead, he tagged you with that role in his mind.

Listen. Hold your head up high next weekend. You can afford to be polite-yet-distant to this guy. He's not who everyone thinks he is, after all. What a sad and terrifying truth he must hide from the world every day, huh?

I'm sure you can agree with me that he's just not worth your attention (or even your pity) from here on out. You didn't really know him to begin with. Did you?

My point with all of the above is that it will be really easy to face next Saturday with the right attitude and protocols in place. Use the week to practice changing the subject and accepting that crazy is not your fault. The rest will be a snap!

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 2:22 PM on October 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

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