Statute of Limitations on Saying Nasty Things After a Bad Breakup
June 20, 2016 7:10 PM   Subscribe

Long story lots of snowflake details to follow. First girlfriend and I broke up about 10 years ago. Haven't spoken since. I made the mistake of looking at her social media accounts recently out of curiosity, and uh...she has been saying some pretty mean things about me.

Mistake number one was looking at an ex's social media. I know I shouldn't have even gone there. But now I'm not sure what to do?

She has written really mean things about me on her public social media accounts fairly recently (multiple times in the past 6 months). She talks about hating me, wanting to throw things at me, encouraging people in my city to throw drinks in my face, accused me of being abusive, and lots of identifying personal, private information about me. I'm not sure why she would do this and I was honestly really shaken at the intensity of these tweets considering we haven't spoken in almost 10 years.

Long Background Story

I was an awkward gay girl in high school with zero romantic experience when I got to college. Met this really awesome queer girl during orientation and make-outs ensued. I had major low-self esteem and romantic insecurity as a shy inexperienced 18-year-old, and I was so excited to finally meet another queer person. However, we were just not very compatible and the relationship was pretty turbulent.

It was very much the kind of unhealthy polyamory where one person feels like they should be able to do whatever they want, but if their partner is interested in someone else it's horrible. So, after a few weeks of us making out and hanging out a lot she hooked up with one of our male friends right in front of me. For my already low self-esteem, this was pretty crushing. After this, she said she wanted to be my girlfriend, and I really liked her so we continued dating for a couple of years.

She was also just not very nice to me. For example, she did things like telling me that she wasn't really attracted to me and often put me down in front of our friends. I found out years later that she lied to me about having sex with guys she met on dating sites while we were together. At the time, I didn't now how to reconcile having really intense feelings for someone who clearly did not respect me. We also had all the same friends and I was worried about rocking the boat socially. She left for a year abroad and that to me was the natural breaking point for our relationship.

After she left for a year, I met other people and realized that I wasn't doomed to being alone for the rest of my life. Other people not only wanted to date me, but were actually really nice to me! I stopped returning her emails. I unfriended her on Facebook. She got the message but sent me long letters that I never responded to. Basically, I just ghosted without any explanation. I know that wasn't the most mature response, but I was just so over dealing with this relationship by that point. I just didn't want anything else do to with her.

The next year when she came back, the friend thing was rocky. I told our mutual friends that I needed space. I asked people to not bring her to my house (which they did anyway a few times when I threw parties). There was definitely some Geek Social Fallacies situation going on with our friends thinking I was being "mean" by simply asking that my ex not come to my house. I never said that other people couldn't hang out with her or that it was her or me. And of course, even though she knew that I wasn't comfortable with her there, my ex came to my house anyway.

I never thought we would be friends, but I also do not hate her and I'm surprised that she feels so negatively about me. I'm not really sure what the best thing to do is?

It makes me upset and anxious that she might honestly want to hurt me or humiliate me, even though we don't live in the same part of the country at all. But, there are always the possible future run-ins at friends' weddings or other big social events. On the one hand, I feel like maybe sending a short email in an attempt to bury the hatchet. On the other hand, I'm worried reaching out in any way would backfire and possibly make the situation worse. I haven't discussed much with our mutual friends because at this point there aren't really any people we both keep in touch with. My gut reaction is to just ignore this, but wanted to see if the hivemind had any experience with a similar situation.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You should ignore her and block her social media presence.
posted by saeculorum at 7:12 PM on June 20, 2016 [27 favorites]

Not a romantic situation, but I have a former friend who is still talking shit about me even though it's been twenty years since I've last seen her. I know it's not true, it hasn't made a difference to most of our mutual friends, so I don't care. She actually blocked me on Facebook, and honestly, it's been such a relief. Not seeing her name pop up on my friends' posts means I never have to think about her. Ignore, block, and don't give her free rent in your head.
posted by Ruki at 7:17 PM on June 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Ignore her.
posted by lazuli at 7:18 PM on June 20, 2016

I can see her throwing shade after a few months, but - ten years?

I think the fact that she is saying anything at all after so long is actually saying way more about her than about you. This is honestly an "enough rope" situation, where the longer she talks smack about you, the better you look, becuase everyone is eventually going to start to wonder 'why the hell isn't she getting over her beef against anonymous yet? That's really weird."

If she starts getting stalker-y or says anything libelous, that's different, but if it's just Facebook nonsense, then just write her off as being an immature dweebstick and go on with your life.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:22 PM on June 20, 2016 [38 favorites]

This has happened to me before, although the person wasn't making physical threats. I just blocked it and forgot about it after awhile. There's nothing you can really do, and it just shows that that person's life isn't going very well, or they would have moved on.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:26 PM on June 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Ignore her, block her, don't think about it, if anyone brings it up with you (like, if she says nasty enough stuff that it spills over into your online life somehow) repeat a shorter, more neutral version of what you wrote here.

Best case scenario is that something brought up bad memories for her recently, she does not really bear you sustained ill will and will drop it on her own and feel vaguely guilty later.

Worst case scenario - she is someone who is always doing shit like this to other people even now and trashing you is a way to shore up her self-confidence and sense of rightness. Worst case scenario is that old story of the person who projects onto others what they themselves do.

I have observed that this type of thing on youngish-queer-person social media rarely says anything good about the person doing it. It's gotten to the point, unfortunately, where I am a little skeptical when people start saying "so and so was abusive" or particularly "emotionally abusive" because I've seen so many genuinely creepy people use that framing when I have had inside information about the actual, real abuse they perpetrated and when their victim has been keeping quiet out of fear.

Block, don't think about it, if pressed stick to a simple, truthful account of what really happened.
posted by Frowner at 7:26 PM on June 20, 2016 [7 favorites]

I'm surprised that she feels so negatively about me.

Hi. She's a CRAZY PERSON. You're surprised... because she's CRAZY.

I'm not really sure what the best thing to do is?

Block and move on—but sure, carefully report it if there's really violent-seeming threats. (I say "carefully" because sometimes social media places notify people who complained about them.)

You should also screenshot some of it. And you should probably tell a few trusted friends that you might get stabbed by your CRAZY ex.

But she mostly wants drama, and she wants you to get involved, and she can't BELIEVE you're existing without paying her attention. She'll only get MUCH, much, much worse if you give her any.

I know we don't like to stigmatize mental health issues by calling people crazies etc. etc. but just speaking from one crazy to another here... this person is a LOON.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:33 PM on June 20, 2016 [18 favorites]

If I had a friend who was telling me to go find their 10-years-ago college ex at a local bar and throw a drink in their face for her, I would seriously consider blocking her from my social media feed. I don't need that kind of obviously unhinged crazy talk wafting past me.

If she talks shit about you, she probably talks shit about other people, and is probably known for talking shit about pretty much everybody who's ever done her wrong, which is probably a lot of people. Yes, it's hurtful to have your name attached to that, but anyone who knows her well enough to take offense on her behalf, probably knows her well enough not to actually take her word for everything.

Absolutely 100% do not contact her. Anything you say at this point is fuel for her fire of crazy. She has a special bonfire of crazy that can spark any of your genuine apology and attempt honest conversation into flames of emotional abuse and demonstration of how awful you are. Don't do it.
posted by aimedwander at 7:41 PM on June 20, 2016 [10 favorites]

If I had a friend who was telling me to go find their 10-years-ago college ex at a local bar and throw a drink in their face for her, I would seriously consider blocking her from my social media feed.


Her "friends" on facebook that are seeing her rail against someone from a relationship that ended 10 years ago are either writing her off as the dramabat that she is, or are crazy drama hounds themselves and you don't need them in your life.

Even if you had been cruel and abusive towards her, still bitching about it and dragging your name through the mud ten years later is not a healthy way of dealing with it. I mean, it's one thing to pine for lost loves, or even to express the lingering effects of trauma from abuse a decade later -- but healthy people don't act the way that she is acting.

Feel smug that she obviously spends way more time thinking about you than you do about her. I'd tell you to block her and delete her but this kind of stuff: "encouraging people in my city to throw drinks in my face" is legit scary and maybe you want to have a record of that just in case something does happen. So, take some screenshots, print them, put them in a folder, and then block her and delete her. Don't go looking for more "threats" or anything -- if things escalate to the point that they are actually affecting your life you'll know where to find them again.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:18 PM on June 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Many of us have That Friend on Facebook. Don't worry about it. Her Facebook friends most likely see these posts about you and cringe, mutter "yikes what a trainwreck" and then move on to reading random Buzzfeed articles or whatever. Don't do anything or you will become part of her trainwreck. My friends who posts crazy overly-personal rants after RECENT breakups get eyerolls from everyone irl, I can't even imagine the gossip if they posted crap from a decade ago.
posted by gatorae at 8:18 PM on June 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Your question is written as if you think this is a sane person you can reason with.

No. You do not 'bury the hatchet' with a person like this unless you want it to wind up buried in your neck.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:19 PM on June 20, 2016 [18 favorites]

This person is absolutely not someone you can reason with and anyone who is still friends with her is equally as unsavory. As other folks have said, no one reading her posts about you would think that you are the bad one in this situation—her posts are saying loud and clear: "hey everyone, I have serious issues with twisting situations in my mind and I enjoy drama, come gawk at the trainwreck that is me and maybe next time I'll be posting about you!" So, I agree 100% that if I saw someone posting things about their ex from TEN YEARS AGO in this fashion, especially encouraging violence, I would drop that person from my social circle immediately and let everyone know why.

Also, I'm really sorry this is happening to you. It is such a shock when you stumble across something like this. Just reading your question, I can tell you that people know that you are a worthwhile, thoughtful person; it's impossible to miss. The pathetic posts about you from this girl won't make anyone think differently. But just because it's easy for us to all see and reassure you that she is bad news and frankly an asshole, don't feel bad that it affected you. Anyone in your situation is going to have a sick feeling in their gut for awhile and do some soul searching, and I hope you can be kind to yourself and put her behind you again. Don't feel ashamed and avoid talking about this with friends, let them support you through this. (And I agree that documenting this is smart.)
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:55 PM on June 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Mistake number one was looking at an ex's social media. I know I shouldn't have even gone there. But now I'm not sure what to do?

Well, you went a decade ignoring her entirely. I suggest you rack up another few decades of ignoring her entirely.

Definitely do not email her, she is clearly unstable.

At most, report her twitter account for harassment (if she is doxxing you or encouraging violence against you). But even that has the risk that she will double down on it. Consider that fact that, until you went looking, you had no idea she was still obsessing about you. Obviously, all her bizarre tweet storming has no discernible effect on your life. You can walk away from this and never look back or think about her ever again.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:21 PM on June 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have an ex, who over ten years later, still badmouths me and tells lies about me all the time, without hesitation. I don't follow or read anything on social media that he or his wife do because it invariably ends in my feeling furious and sick and sad. I don't know why these people cannot let things go, but they can't. I take the highroad myself, and it's not very satisfying, but what on earth else can you possibly do about someone so clearly wrong headed?
posted by glitter at 10:44 PM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been in a somewhat similar situation, and i've had friends in very similar situations. I talked to older friends, family members, and folks whose opinions i really respected wondering what to do.

There is no better move than utterly and completely ignoring it. Engaging with them is pointless and will only make it worse. And engaging with other people about it gives it legitimacy and makes it seem like there's something to it.

Once or twice, even in like five years someone who knows you both will probably bring it up. Other than that, it'll blow over.

It's really REALLY hard to not engage with. I know. It's like almost irresistible. But everything besides flat out ignoring it is a losing game.

Especially with all the below the fold details just... yea, don't engage.

99% of people wont care. The people who do, especially if they know the history here, are total shitstirring dramlords anyways.

Also, speaking from experience, if you do run in to this person they will likely act totally normal around you and your friends... which is even more maddening, but totally what seems to happen. It makes public gathering less tiresome though
posted by emptythought at 10:51 PM on June 20, 2016

Perhaps you can think of this discovery as a blessing. You inspected your ex's social media to see if, perhaps, you might include them at some very low level in your life. You have discovered that, apparently, you are already included in their life! And furthermore, they are nearly as shitty and horrible to you now, when you are only the ghost of a memory to them, as they were when you were together!

Whatever role you hoped to play in your ex's life by resuming contact is already being played by your abused ghost, who doesn't have feelings and doesn't suffer. This is because your ex has serious problems which have nothing to do with you --- which you knew, because it was part of the reason you ended your relationship. You are free now to let your ex resume her previous role in your own life: an unpleasant yardstick against which you measure the better relationships you have now to admire how far you've come.

Don't interact with this person again. You've outgrown her.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 1:01 AM on June 21, 2016 [14 favorites]

People who spend any time with her will know what she's like and know she's unreasonable rather than think you're terrible. I wouldn't worry about that even though it must have been so upsetting to see her badmouth you.

If I were you, I'd google myself & try to limit the amount of information she can get about you. Yes, keep a record & block her but still check what else is out there. Lots of things become visible to her again if she signs up for a new account or even just signs out of the one you've blocked.

I had a scare recently so I googled myself to see what the other person might see. All I googled was the name of my high school and my current job title. No name. My LinkedIn profile came up on the first page. In fact, there were a few listings for my employer then it was me, I was the first person & only person on that first page.
posted by stellathon at 4:18 AM on June 21, 2016

People like her are usually drama-fueled tornados of chaos and misery. I guarantee you that if she's talking shit about you after 10 years, she is a thoroughly unhappy person. Pity her. Block her. Forget about her.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:48 AM on June 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm pretty mad at my most recent ex, and will probably be talking occasional shit about her in 10 years, but the only thing I've said about her on social media in the year since we broke up was nice. I sometimes speak negatively about my first/high school girlfriend decades out, because that relationship was both formative and not great for me in a lot of ways, but we're social media friends and I wish her well. So I agree with a lot of what other people are saying here: even with reasons for being upset, this is pretty grudgy crazy behavior and staying the hell away from the buzzing hornet's nest of that drama is a perfectly sensible thing to do.

But since you're asking for advice, I'm going to present another idea.

Basically, I just ghosted without any explanation. I know that wasn't the most mature response, but I was just so over dealing with this relationship by that point.

Two things about this are true at the same time:

1) Being over treated like you're describing is legit.
2) Ghosting can *really* mess with some people. If your ex wrote you long letters, she's probably one of them.

Since we've been over this before, I'm aware there's a strain of response to #2 which is basically "Make your own closure like a grownup, you're not my problem anymore." There are times when that's the right thing to do. This may be one of them.

Here's a question, though. How much would it really cost you to drop her a line that said something like this:

"Hey - I thought about you the other day, I checked in by looking you up on SocialMediaSite™ and saw... well, some things that indicate you don't hold a high opinion of me these days. I've never thought we would be friends after how our relationship went (the infidelities and other forms of disrespect were hard for me and part of the reason why I cut it off), but I didn't expect to see you holding or airing feelings like this, especially after 10 years. This reinforces my belief that it isn't a good idea for us to be any part of each other's lives again, and I can't do your work of more healthily processing the fact that our relationship didn't go well and that it's over. But maybe it doesn't help that we never had a wind-down conversation, and for what it's worth, I'm sorry for X, Y, and Z, and for not better shutting the door on my way out. I hope that better days that help you forget those things are coming for you soon."

Maybe she's a crazy person who will plaster that all over the internet and it will only incite the further proliferation of nasty things. If you really just don't want to handle how it could go wrong, then do nothing. Like I said earlier, that's sensible.

Or maybe she's just another human being who's part of the walking wounded hit by the shrapnel that rolls out of a lot of human interaction, and you have the chance to make a nice gesture that might be a balm. And if it turns into drama, you can block and walk, same as people have been saying you should now.
posted by wildblueyonder at 9:02 AM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

No, no, do not engage this person. It's a nice idea, that you could somehow calm her, or acknowledge her feelings and it would bring her healing and closure. If this were three months after you ghosted her, it might even be a possible outcome. But ten years? No, this lady is bonkers, and nothing you do is going to have a calming effect on her. You just need to block and ignore, feeling compassion in your heart, because that is one unhappy person.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:23 AM on June 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

Don't call, write, or reach out in any way. Sure, she had a legitimate grievance about being ghosted, but someone balanced would have gotten over that after 10 years. There is very little chance communication with her will result in anything positive.

I had a bad college girlfriend. She was really cruel to me at the end. Constantly putting me down. I had such low self-esteem after she finally moved out (on my birthday, and with the benefit of hindsight it was the best present she could have given me) and it took me a long time to recover. I've never said a word about her on social media and I stopped talking about her long ago. At first, I stopped talking about her because I was embarrassed that I wasn't over her yet and didn't want people to realize what a mess I still was (I wasn't fooling anyone, but it was still a good step for me to take) and then I really was over her and just didn't care enough to talk about her.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 11:35 AM on June 21, 2016

If you check someone's facebook page, you show in the list of "people she might know". The last thing you want is for facebook to remind her of you, or worse, her realizing that you checked her page.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:10 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised that she feels so negatively about me.

Don't be surprised. Feel delighted.

Ten years on, and you've just had a quick check and though 'eww, that's peculiar'. She's like finding a weird shirt in the back of the closet and thinking 'huh, I used to wear that?'

But ten years on for her, and you feature large in her thoughts and words. She hasn't stopped thinking about you. She speaks passionately of causing you harm. She entreats others to her cause. Her heart is on all of her sleeves, pounding, bleeding, strangling itself.

How many people make that sort of impact? You must be pretty awesome! Think that for a bit, feel a nice warm glow of smug, then maybe a little bit of pity, then forget about her.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:53 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

You're probably right that reaching out could backfire. My guess is it's nearly guaranteed to.

There is something seriously not right about someone hanging on to these things (I don't think I even dislike anyone I've ever dated) and going on about it publicly ten years later sounds like something diagnosable.

I love obiwanwasabi's "I used to wear that?" I hope you've moved on from such people. Just know that she is likely far beyond any attention from you doing her any good. She appears permanently stuck. Aren't you glad that's over?
posted by seldom seen at 8:07 PM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

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