Need help sorting out a very complicated friendship
June 4, 2014 5:52 PM   Subscribe

Just over a year ago, I met this guy, let's call him A, via email. He got in touch with me requesting some of my tutoring services and asked if I were willing to teach him via Skype. This tutoring relationship collapsed after a few months due to a number of factors but he insisted we stay in touch on a more personal level. I quickly learned that he'd gone through a lot in life: abuse, estranged family, homelessness. I wanted to learn about his life and be there for him because it became apparent that he didn't have any fixtures of support in his life whatsoever. The nature of our friendship became more and more intense. All-night phone calls became the norm and it began to have a significant effect on my ability to function in my already hectic life. After several months of this, all of the following have happened: I told him that I felt our friendship was dysfunctional and that we should cease contact, he told me that he couldn't live without me and said he was in love with me. And then made a last-minute trip to visit me. I'm so confused and lost as to how to handle this situation and desperately need perspective. Big ol' wall of text inside.

I guess none of this would make much sense without giving more background as to why our tutoring relationship broke down as it did. I'm going to spare any identifying details but, A came across my contact information because I'm well-known online for practicing a particular skill. My lack of teaching experience really came to bite me in the ass, I had no clue what I was doing. I tried to learn on the job and listen closely to A's learning needs but something clearly wasn't working. There was an air of anxiety over each tutoring session which was painful for the both of us, so I suggested he look elsewhere for someone more experienced. To my surprise, he told me that he wanted to stay in contact and become friends, which is something that had never really occurred to me before that point, I'd kept things 'professional' and every minute of tutoring was about the material on hand, not much chit-chat.

He told me about his background which involved abusive, bigoted parents, years of homelessness. And that he'd been suffering from clinical depression for several years. He'd built his life back up to where he could support himself and even afford to see a therapist. He also told me that I was his only friend. I spent many entire nights on the phone with him. Always extremely intense nights, where I would offer naive optimism in an attempt to comfort him but to no avail. These bi or tri weekly conversations left me constantly anxious (is he going to harm himself?), my grades took a dive and I felt barely capable of taking care of my own basic hygiene. It could very well be that I'm naive and willingly blind to the inherent pain of life. I grew up with a loving family and complete financial security and at 20 years old I can't say my life has been 'difficult' in any true sense. Unlike his. I know that he harbours resentment for me because of this, I can't truly understand his situation so I can't care in any real sense.

In any case, I would answer A's phone calls (or call him after receiving several frantic emails, though I very rarely called him on my own initiative) when I desperately needed to study or accomplish other tasks but his well being mattered more to me than whatever I had to do at the moment. While I tried my best to be there for him when he needed to talk, he would consistently get angry with me and tell me I was hurting him and didn't care for him when I could, say, only talk on the phone for an hour instead of three.

I decided that I needed to tell him that I thought our friendship was too dysfunctional to keep in touch, that I felt like I had done everything I could as a friend but no matter what I was told that I didn't "really give a shit". After 10 months of the most intense friendship I've ever been a part of. He responded in tears and told me that he couldn't live without me (but also said that me 'leaving' him was dangerous to him, read: self harm) and that he loved me. I didn't know how to respond but I comforted him. In ensuing conversations I told him that I didn't have feelings for him 'in that way' but that I was willing to be there for him if he really needed me that badly.

About a month from then, I learn that he'd booked a ticket to come see me. I was going to school in Europe and was only a 2 hour flight away. He had mentioned perhaps coming to visit, to which I reacted lukewarmly (felt like I needed more time to think about it). He kept bringing it up, saying that we could have a great time and that a vacation is really what he needed, that it would just be a few days.

A week later, he showed up at my front door. The first day was quite calm for the most part, I showed him the sights and we had a drink together. I took him back to the hostel he was staying at (even though I did have room at my place, I had never met him in real life before and decided to err on the side of caution as far as that's concerned) after perhaps too many beers and he kissed me. I pulled away and tried to leave but he broke out into tears due to my reaction and begged me to stay.

The next day, I had some things planned so we'd organized to meet in the evening. It was then that I learned he had vastly underestimated the costs of his trip (over tenfold) and was hungry and cold, having not been able to afford anything to eat. He was extremely frustrated and sad, telling me that the whole day was like reliving his teens on the street. I brought him back to my apartment, fed him, rebooked his flight for the next day due to the money situation and told him to get a good sleep in my bed. He woke up in the middle of the night and begged me to kiss him. It was 2am and I can barely remember how I reacted, probably strangely, dismissively. And then he left for the airport a few hours later.

We didn't talk for about 9 days after he left. I didn't feel like I could handle talking to him. I had in the meantime flown back to North America to my family home. He called my family phone number, however he acquired it, which shocked me. He tells me how much I've hurt him; he's in debt because of the trip, his psychologist kicked him out of her office because he needed to ask for an advance session fee back, how I "unceremoniously closed the door like you were letting out a neighbourhood cat who had somehow wandered into your home". Followed by paragraphs detailing how much he resents me for having a family and people around me who will always be there for me, but for him everyone is transitory. He tells me that his greatest fear is me walking away from his life and is constantly looking for reassurance that I will not.

Of course, the above story is only my own perspective and riddled with my personal biases. I feel like I've done everything I can for A but yet it's not enough. That I should have a choice over the people I have in my life if they are damaging my well being. But maybe I've been a complete asshole. I mean, I don't exactly reach out to him much at all. But I rarely reach out to anyone. And I talk to him more often than anyone else I know. He wants desperately to know what it is I "need" him for, he wants to feel needed. But the truth is I don't need him but I can't bear to see him hurt again. He tells me he loves me and I have no idea what to say because I don't feel that way for him at all. He's begging me to come visit him and I can't bring myself to say 'no' outright because I can't bear the thought of him telling me that if I'm not in his life he might as well just kill himself.

Thanks for reading this incredible wall of text, looking forward to maybe getting a little more perspective on all of this.
posted by csjc to Human Relations (42 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's pretty simple. He's made a big mistake getting so attached to you for no good reason and the longer it goes on, the worse it will be for him. Cut off contact and never talk to him again.
posted by michaelh at 6:00 PM on June 4, 2014 [18 favorites]

But maybe I've been a complete asshole.

Nope, trust your instincts. This guy violated a number of boundaries both with you and that is reason enough to cut him off. I am sorry he is in pain because being in pain sucks. That said, if the only solution to someone else's pain is to sacrifice yourself, that is very rarely a good idea.

his well being mattered more to me than whatever I had to do at the moment.

This guy preyed on you and took advantage of your good nature. You prioritized his own needs over your own, to your detriment. This isn't a healthy situation for you, and it's right for you to feel like you should step away from it.

The guy has social problems. He is dumping them on you. They are not your responsibility. You are right to walk away. If it were me, I'd no-contact this guy because it sounds like he's borderline stalking you. Again, you can be sorry that there is another human being who is hurting without feeling like you need to solve their problems on your own. If you're heading back to school you may want to talk to a counselor to assist you in getting some perspective on this, it sounds like you may have a hard time setting good boundaries that you are comfortable with around overbearing people.
posted by jessamyn at 6:00 PM on June 4, 2014 [52 favorites]

Cut. Him. Off. And read The Gift of Fear. This guy is thisclose to stalking you, if he's not already, and he's definitely being manipulative and in some cases emotionally abusive. You don't owe him anything, not one more conversation, not after the incredibly, inexcusably horrible way he's treated you. People's issues, their lives, their backstories, do not allow them to be as awful to other people as he's been to you. I know you don't want to believe this or hear it, but it is true. And the longer you stay in contact, the more dangerous this gets for you. You are not responsible for him or his actions, and you are not responsible for his decisions. Right now, decide that it's over, block him on anything you can block him on, send his emails to trash, don't answers his calls anymore, and don't listen to any voicemails he leaves for you. Please.
posted by brainmouse at 6:02 PM on June 4, 2014 [24 favorites]

Yikes! Sounds like you're in over your head when it comes to this man's issues. It's best to just cut things off and let him figure out his own life in other ways than attaching to you.
posted by xingcat at 6:03 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

You are a gem of a person to have tried to help this guy out. Hardly an asshole! But you are not responsible for him.

This man has huge problems, and I think depression is just one part of it. I worked with someone who had borderline personality disorder, and he also did not respect boundaries.

It is concerning that he is so fixated on you, but it is also not your fault.

Talk to your family about this, and any friends you might live with. Since he knows where you are, he might continue to try and contact you. They will help you enforce the boundaries and reiterate what you suspect, that you need to put yourself first and walk the hell away.

Whatever he does to himself is on him, not on you. Protect yourself, and your psyche.
posted by mitschlag at 6:06 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Some people are an endless black hole of Need. You cannot fix them, you cannot fill them, and nothing you ever give them will be enough. Like black holes, they suck light and life and energy, and will eventually be the death of the universe.

Is this guy really worth the end of your universe?
posted by Jacen at 6:06 PM on June 4, 2014 [27 favorites]

You owe this guy nothing. Any help you give him should be given freely and certainly not to the detriment of your own wellbeing. At this point any further help you give him will likely confuse his already poor sense of respect for you as a person with your own life and needs.
posted by alusru at 6:07 PM on June 4, 2014

I've said this elsewhere about romantic relationships, but it's equally true for platonic ones: you are not a public resource, obliged to share yourself with anyone who expresses an interest or a need. You have every right in the world to end a friendship no matter how badly the other person wants or needs it, especially if that friendship is detrimental to your own well-being.

He's being manipulative, demanding, and creepy, and even if he's completely in love with you, his love appears to be pretty selfish, toxic stuff.

Take care of yourself.
posted by gingerest at 6:12 PM on June 4, 2014 [35 favorites]

It sounds like this is a person with some serious illnesses-- emotional, social, possibly mental. His dealings with you are in no way a real relationship; they're him acting out various aspects of that illness. You can't fix his problems, and by continuing to allow (invite?) him to act out, you may be holding him off from getting the help he really needs.

If you can find out the number of his therapist, this might warrant a parting call to give him/her a heads-up about your friend's worsening condition. Or you could assemble some other mental-health resources to refer him to (via letter/email, not in person). But otherwise, you really need to cut contact with this person, for his sake if not for your own. Again: you can't help him with issues of this magnitude-- so you're not doing any favors by playing along with his delusion that you can.
posted by Bardolph at 6:12 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

He kind of sounds like a stalker. You've gone above and beyond, and should not be involved at all anymore.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:14 PM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Maybe I'm cynical, but it sounds like he knew exactly what he was doing when he showed up in your city without enough money. I wouldn't be surprised if his entire endgame was to end up "stranded" and "desperate" and, whoops! having to stay over at your place and sleep in your bed.

Perhaps that's harsh of me, I don't know the guy. But I got a very strong MANIPULATIVE ASSHOLE vibe from your question. Cut him off and change your number if possible. Warn your friends. Tell your family not to answer calls from him. And DON'T go to visit him.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:14 PM on June 4, 2014 [62 favorites]

He's just throwing up red flags all over the place. You aren't an asshole at all, if anything you sound very loving and giving. Don't buy into his world view and don't let him define the narrative.
posted by Carillon at 6:15 PM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

faved Jacen. this guy is a black hole of need, emotion, and trouble coming from presuming on your attention and manipulating you. you need to blast off far away from his event horizon before he sucks you in. no contact, no acknowledgements, no nothing. take care of yourself first.
posted by bruce at 6:16 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

You are now learning the painful life lesson that sometimes you have to go against every instinct you have and BE LESS NICE. (I mean that sincerely; it was hard and painful for me to learn.) This guy is taking advantage of your reluctance to be firm because you don't want to be mean.

Nothing good can come of continuing to talk to him. He will not get happier or more stable. He will get needier and more demanding and more emotionally unpredictable. Cut off contact and archive your conversations because, yeah, this is pretty close to needing police involvement.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:18 PM on June 4, 2014 [21 favorites]

Cut off all contact. There's no easier or kinder way to do this than to do a complete and total elimination of all communication. Tell your family and friends not to tolerate any contact by him as he's clearly been trying to find connections to you through various means. Shut down your social media so that only people who know you can see your activity. Block his number, his email, everything. He is very inappropriately fixated on you and has pushed way past acceptable limits. He has constructed a fantasy that focuses on you, but isn't based in reality. You do not have to play along.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, he has taken advantage of your kindness and desire to help someone who is wounded and in pain. However, you cannot fix him. You cannot be the keystone to his happiness. He needs to work with a counselor and making you responsible for his well-being and happiness is WRONG and highly manipulative.

This could easily become a very unstable and possibly dangerous situation. He has already breached a number of your very reasonable boundaries and there's no reason to believe that he won't do so again.

Furthermore, you are not responsible for his actions. You are not responsible for him harming himself if that's what he plans to do. You are not an asshole. Please listen to the responses here and make a clean break immediately. This is not a safe situation for you in any way.
posted by quince at 6:19 PM on June 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

Don't mistake "intensity" (by which I think you mean his intense neediness) with quality. A quality friendship does not leave you drained and unable to function. A quality friendship doesn't involve you providing endless support and not getting even the courtesy of a good night's sleep or not showing up on your doorstep in a boundary-busting way.

One of the best skills you can develop, that will make all your relationships improve, is the ability to say "that won't be possible" and mean it.

I had a series of friendships like this in my mid-20s and I learned first that I needed to find a way to feel good about myself without having to be Super Supportive All the Time. That was more about my need to see myself as "a nice person" than a realistic understanding of me and good relationships. But second I learned that if I let people trample my limits of time and energy and joy, then eventually I wasn't a great friend anyway. I learned to give out hotline numbers and disconnect, and after a while I found a new tribe where we are mutually supportive, generally low-drama types.

It sounds like you are learning that and had good instincts. Stick to your guns. This is not a good friendship.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:20 PM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

He is being manipulative. He is not your responsibility. And above all that, it does sound like he is stalking you and is definitely disrespecting your wishes at every turn. (Just showing up in your neck of the woods for vacay??)

How old is this man? I have the feeling there is at least some significant age gap given his litany of problems and you saying you are 20 years old. He is taking advantage of your naivety. I read the part about you letting him in to your place and giving him something to eat and I feel like you were lucky that all he had begged you to do was kiss him and that things weren't worse.

It is compassionate of you to want to do what you can to help him, but you can't save him no matter what he tries to make you believe. You're not being an asshole. You have tried kindly explaining your boundaries to him but, from what you've written, there is no amount of explaining that would ever make him understand the concept. You need to do right for yourself.

He sounds like he has a dangerously warped sense of what is appropriate and what can be expected from a virtual acquaintance/now friendship with a young woman. (And it is not your fault or your problem to fix.) This potentially dangerous person already knows where you live and other info that you did not give to him. Cut off contact and record any attempts he makes to reach you. If you ever feel threatened, call the police.
posted by sevenofspades at 6:21 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Pretty sure OP is male.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:26 PM on June 4, 2014

I agree with everything michaelh said, except for the simple part. (And maybe the "no good reason" part.)

You are not an asshole. You are good and kind and perhaps a bit naïve, and you've gotten pulled into a huge mess. Now you have to figure out how to get free of it without getting yourself into a worse mess. This guy sounds like he could be dangerous. Proceed carefully. Seriously, I fear he could turn really scary on you, in a hurry.

Years ago, I had a friend who was just so messed up, in so many ways. Eventually I got desperate and told him that he was broken in ways it wasn't my job to fix. I didn't know how else to say it. It hurt him badly, and I wish I'd found some other way. But I still don't know how I could have done it better. When somebody is that troubled and they become fixated on you, there really isn't any way for you to say goodbye that won't make them feel even worse.

But a person like that can and will take you down with them. Treat this guy like an unstable explosive, and do everything you can to protect yourself.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:26 PM on June 4, 2014

He can genuinely be in need and still be creepy, manipulative, and inappropriate. You can be an asshole and still really deserve to set and keep boundaries. None of these things are mutually exclusive.
posted by rtha at 6:27 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: He's 25. I'm 20. And we're both male.
posted by csjc at 6:28 PM on June 4, 2014

I just looked at your profile, then read your comment. I apologize for my assumptions. Your update does not make any of his behavior any less inappropriate or any less potentially dangerous though.
posted by sevenofspades at 6:34 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

This guy is an emotional vampire, a user, and a stalker (no kind of about it.)

I agree with quince and brainmouse's suggestions. Please don't feel guilty or like an asshole for trying to extricate yourself from this manipulative, so-called friendship.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:36 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nooooooo. Look, this guy is clearly in more emotional pain than you can fix - that's something you've definitely picked up on. You cannot fix him. If you kissed him, if you slept with him, if you started a relationship with him - you still could not fix him. He thinks you can fix him because that is easier and less scary and more comprehensible than the many, many things he has to do to take care of himself. Chances are, he's not actually a bad guy - he's just in a really bad place emotionally, in a lot of pain, and as a result not in full control of his behavior.

The thing is, in life if you are a compassionate person with a relatively stable life, you're going to meet people who are in bad situations and need help. Some of them are going to need no more than you can give - maybe you'll need to stretch a little, maybe you'll need to be a little bored or uncomfortable or lend them $50 that you'll never see again, but basically they don't need more than you can give. And, importantly, you really can give them something that will get them to a better place.

Other people are just going to be bottomless wells of need. And if you want to help them, you have to realize that, and either set boundaries really firmly ("I can only call you on Wednesdays and only for 45 minutes - whoops, it's time for me to hang up now!") or you need to decide, for whatever reason, that their needs do now and will always trump yours, and you have to be all in, on the theory that you are going to give and give and give until things turn around for them. It's really difficult, because you'll feel like "why shouldn't I [do this really difficult thing for this person]? After all, why is it fair that I have a good life and he does not?" And the thing is, if it's a one-time difficult thing - a kidney donation, let's say - that reasoning makes sense. Why shouldn't you do that? Life is really unfair and maybe giving a kidney is a way to even things out. But very often, it's not a kidney donation, it's more like giving someone a blood transfusion when they live with a vampire. You'll drain yourself dry and it won't work. That's when you have to be really, really tough and refuse, even though you will feel like a shitty person.

The only up side is that a reasonable percentage of the time, people are able to pick themselves up - their underlying problem was more that they were afraid to deal with the real issues facing them, and once they had no other thing (like a romance with you) to pin their hopes on, they had to get real about stuff.

It's horrible and it's not fair and it sucks. One thing I would suggest if you're bothered about this guy: when you get your grades back up and are pulling yourself together, see if you can do something to help people in his general situation - but do it structurally. Learn to tutor or mentor. Volunteer with GLBTQ youth. Do something where you can help people in some role other than "friend". Those "loving but non-friend" roles like teacher and mentor can be really powerful for people.
posted by Frowner at 6:48 PM on June 4, 2014 [20 favorites]

You would not be doing him a kindness by allowing this to continue. That's very important to remember here: this relationship is unhealthy and it is hurtful to him. By cutting him off you will be doing both of you a solid. The help he needs you can't provide.
posted by jsturgill at 6:49 PM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh, my dear, he's setting you up in an abusive relationship (romantic or not) and your empathy and caring are keeping you from seeing that.

Step away, stop all contact, block him in whatever ways he can contact you, and see if you can find a friend or therapist to help you process this.
posted by jaguar at 7:47 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

This guy is sick as fuck, and none of it is your responsibility. Take every step to protect yourself emotionally and mentally - and also I'm sorry to say but it sounds like physically as well. I'm sure if you checked (DON'T!), this dude would have a long and sorry history of very intense and unhealthy relationships with more blown up bridges than WWI Flanders.
posted by smoke at 8:35 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

He has already steamrolled his way into your life; he ignores your attempts at boundaries; he dismisses your life experiences; he undercuts any attempt you make at understanding his life; he puts himself in perilous circumstances for you to rescue him [And I do think this was deliberate...];
and you have consistently put his needs ahead of yours.

Please stop and take care of yourself for a while.

There are some very good ideas above on how to do so--I hope you read carefully and try some of these out.

When more than 20 Mefites are giving you the same answer, there's GOT to be a reason!
posted by calgirl at 9:06 PM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Protect yourself and get out. Don't look back either. As everyone has said, this is borderline stalking and harassment. Draw your real friends close and let them know what is going on, ask them to check up on you every now and then. If you let this continue in any way I have a strong sense it will get personally and physically dangerous for you.

You owe yourself security and happiness, in that order, and you owe yourself those things first, not anyone else. Especially not this guy. He is trouble.

Do it today.
posted by northtwilight at 10:47 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

When that guy came to visit you, you were actually in a very physically dangerous situation. Thank god nothing much happened. Emotional blackmail, jealousy, sense of entitlement? Stalking? All of these behaviours typically escalate into violence.

Please let your family, friends and college know not to let this guy approach you through them - this is very, very important.

It's not up to you to rescue people. I guess you're going to feel horrible for dropping this guy, but really, his behaviour towards you was manipulative (which you know) but also much more aggressive than you realise.
posted by glasseyes at 1:49 AM on June 5, 2014 [13 favorites]

You might consider, the next time you're in contact with him-- and there's almost definitely going to be a next time, and a next time, and a next time-- saying (and repeating) something very simple, like, "I'm sorry, but I can't help you further. Good-bye." And that's it.

He may want to drag you into explaining why, but the thing is, nothing you can do or say is going to be enough. No answer will convince him, no action will placate him, no friendship or love will be enough while he's in the place he's at.

He has needs you can't meet-- regardless of why he has them, or why he's behaving as he does, you can't help him.You didn't cause his situation, and you can't fix it, or him.
posted by ElaineMc at 2:12 AM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh I have known guys like this. Almost exactly like this, down to the childhood homelessness and the ability to weep when rejected. They used the threat of self-harm to manipulate and control situations, getting other people to give them time and money and energy and the forgiveness for misbehaving as much as they wanted.

Your first responsibility is your own health and safety. But even if that weren't true, there is nothing you could do that would supply these sorts of needs. Even if you were wildly in love with this guy and willing to give him everything he asked, it still wouldn't be enough. And it would wreck you trying.

I've seen this go down before. Please get yourself some distance.
posted by shattersock at 2:19 AM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

First reading your story, I'd assumed you were a woman and everything you said pinged my gift of fear alarm hardcore. The reality is, as a man, that danger you face is still very, very real. This "friend" has created an elaborate fantasy where he resents you and loves you all at once and where somehow you are responsible for his feelings. At best its unhealthy but more likely its dangerous. If a girl told her family and friends this exact story, people would freak out.

Here's the thing about you being a guy. People will not take this as seriously unless you treat this as something very serious. You need to cut this guy out of your life. You need to let everyone you know about the potential danger you face. You can't minimize this or play it for laughs because if you do, others will be more likely to not take the threat seriously. Tell your school, tell your friends, tell your family. Sadly, you will have to change some of your behaviours because this guy is a creeper so you're going to have to shut down any social media where he can follow you without you approving. You need to set all your privacy settings to the highest level. Change your email, its not enough to ignore the things he sends because he could trick you with a new email address.

The other thing to do is document. You need to keep every email, any records that you have so that way if he does escalate you have a paper trail to take to the police. Save them to a flash drive or two and make sure you update if he continues to try to make contact. You've tried to look out for him for a while now and clearly nothing you do will ever be enough so now you need to look out for yourself.
posted by GilvearSt at 4:59 AM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the much needed advice. For the moment, he is halfway across the world and not an immediate physical danger. That my own threat alarms haven't been going off all this time can solely be chalked up to my naiveté and posting this here, as well as discussions I've had with friends, have most definitely made me infinitely more aware of the gravity of the situation.

I've taken steps to cut off contact completely. He's been blocked (to the best of my ability) on all avenues of communication. I'm afraid he might call my family's landline again and even leave hysterical voicemails, as I know he uses Skype and Google Voice which aren't possible to block as far as I'm aware. But I've notified my parents of that possibility, in any case.
posted by csjc at 5:36 AM on June 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

If he does, make sure you or a family member records the voicemail somewhere before deleting it. He may be halfway across the world now but he has demonstrated a willingness to travel to you to fulfill his fantasies. Document everything and keep safe.
posted by GilvearSt at 5:52 AM on June 5, 2014

Don't be too hard on yourself, we all learn by experience. I was so much older than you when I allowed a similar situation to develop. I simply hadn't encountered anyone like that before.

Further to the excellent advice given above, I'd strongly recommend you keep a written account of all this. Summarise what has happened with dates and locations wherever possible, and if he continues to try to make contact, enter dates, times and details. It's a painful process I know, but do it anyway. If this ever did escalate the police need dates.

All the best.
posted by valetta at 6:06 AM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am glad you are taking good precautions for your safety. They are valid.

The best thing I learned in life was that it is ok to set boundaries for myself. Boundaries are not being mean and unhelpful towards others, but, rather, boundaries are for taking care of yourself.

Taking a look at how you are with your own boundaries may be helpful. You are young, and let me tell you, if you learn how to create healthy boundaries at your age, it will be awesome!
posted by Vaike at 7:08 AM on June 5, 2014

Oh my gosh, it's funny how just being nice to some people sets in motion some seriously fucked up drama. What you need to bear in mind is that all of this nutsiness is on him, not on you.

You started this off as a professional relationship, that didn't work out. You attempted to be his friend, and he pushed boundaries, laid on a guilt trip and pretty much became an albatross around your neck.

1. You are not responsible for him.

2. You don't have to be his friend.

3. Just because you had a better upbringing than he did, it doesn't mean you owe him anything.

4. Some people will never get their shit together, no matter what they do.

You tried to help, but you were inexperienced with this kind of emotional blackmail and intense, serious mental illness. Forgive yourself, and in the future, you'll know better how to deal with this kind of thing.

I'm sorry you had to go through this, it was really unfair of this person to lay this all on you. I hope he gets the help he needs.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:28 AM on June 5, 2014

He does not love you. He is likely not capable of loving anyone, including himself. He is fixated on you, envious, perhaps obsessed. He needs far more help than you could ever possibly provide. (On a side note, there's a scene in Samuel Delany's Triton where one character sends another a note ending their relationship, in which she writes something like "You say you love me. I know what love feels like: when you love someone, you want to help them any way you can. Do you want to help me? No? Then [get lost]." Which I've always liked for a baseline definition.) You are not obligated to him in any way.

He doesn't see you as a human being with equal rights and needs; you are symbolic to him in a possibly dangerous way. I would hazard that you are not the first person he has done this to, and sadly will not be the last unless he participates in intensive therapy. I'm guessing Borderline Personality Disorder; in any case you are absolutely justified in taking care or yourself first here. He must battle his own demons: you cannot help, only wish him well and close down all lines of communication.
posted by jokeefe at 8:22 AM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

While I wholeheartedly agree that this guy is emotionally and psychologically sick and that you need to stay away from him, there is something else about this post that keeps jumping out at me.

I don't doubt that you care about the well-being of this person and that you feel compassion for him. However, there is a part in this that you have played whether you see it or not. As I read your post, your behavior indicates that you also have poor boundaries and issues with codependency.

I spent many entire nights on the phone with him. Always extremely intense nights, where I would offer naive optimism in an attempt to comfort him but to no avail. These bi or tri weekly conversations left me constantly anxious (is he going to harm himself?), my grades took a dive and I felt barely capable of taking care of my own basic hygiene.

This is an example of what I'm referring to. Not healthy friendship interaction/behavior. In other words, you were not taking care of yourself in the friendship. It's wonderful that you have such a big heart to empathize with this guy's struggles, but you don't want this to work to your detriment.

So yeah, stay away from this guy. But also take a look (perhaps with a therapist) at how your own thinking and choices kept you in the situation for way longer than you needed to be.
posted by strelitzia at 8:52 AM on June 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Congrats on taking steps to take care of yourself, regain a sane life, and separate from this guy. It is sad that he has had a difficult life but that is not your fault. He managed to survive for 25 years without your help and will manage, most likely, to continue to survive.

Being kind to others is a wonderful quality. It's really difficult to say no to people like this guy. I've been there. Best of luck in regaining and maintaining your perspective without losing your innate kindness toward others.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:22 AM on June 5, 2014

You may have already done this, but make sure your family has a "Don't engage" gameplan for when he does call them. Ignore the voicemails (save a copy if possible, as suggested above) but don't return the call, no matter how desperate or threatening he's being; if they pick up and it's him, say, "Sorry, we can't help you" and hang up immediately. (Family members, especially dads, often try to "solve" the problem by engaging, and that's just going to give this guy more of the attention he's looking for.)
posted by jaguar at 9:39 AM on June 5, 2014

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