Going no contact without burning bridges... impossible?
November 25, 2017 4:37 AM   Subscribe

I had a very painful falling out with a friend I'll refer to as Ted. For more than year, I've kept it all a secret from the rest of our friend group. I've come to the point where I want to unfriend Ted, unfollow him, un-everything him on social media, but I'm worried about how this will look to our friends, and how it could impact the entire group. How do I do this while minimizing damage?

Ted and I started out as friends, and then had a very intense secret fling. I ended it, but only because he wasn't interested in a more serious relationship with me and I had to move on for my own good. The whole thing left me completely brokenhearted. Ted and our friends have no idea of the pain I was in. For the sake of harmony, and not wanting to cause any rifts among our friends, I kept all of it to myself.

I forced myself to date other people and luckily met someone really wonderful. We've been together for almost a year, and he's everything Ted wasn't to me: honest, giving, responsible, attentive, caring, genuine. I came to realize that I was in love with a version of Ted that was phony. The real Ted is selfish, manipulative, shallow, immature, and emotionally stunted. He is not the kind of person I should want. The only reason I fell so hard for Ted was the intensity with which he pursued me. It was exhilarating, and in that rush, I overlooked a ton of red flags and bad gut feelings.

Yet I still have nightmares about Ted, I still wake up in the mornings sad and angry, and every time I go on social media, I'm fearful of seeing posts of him and his new girlfriend. Ted is apparently head over heels in love with someone else, and either he became a better man for her, or she has yet to see beneath his facade (it's a long distance relationship). Our friends are all happy for him, but I don't want him to be happy. I want him to suffer even just a little of what I did. I wish people knew the truth about him and how he treated me.

I know all of the above is not healthy, and all the breakup advice I've ever read has said that maintaining social media contact is a huge don't. I need to stop being spiteful and jealous about his new relationship. I just need to stop caring about him at all, and it would be so much easier to do that without frequent reminders of him. Therapy has only been able to take me so far, and I think this is the last key to me getting over him.

But I'm fearful of the fallout. Ted would not see it coming. As far as he knows, things between us are a little strained but still friendly. He views my Snapchat stories on a daily basis, and regularly "likes" or responds to my posts on other social media. Though I have long stopped reciprocating that contact, I think he would be taken aback by me cutting him out of my life completely. I don't want to be thought of as "causing drama," or being petty or jealous, or all the other negative judgments that could come with it. I don't want to make things awkward for our friends...and yes, part of me is afraid that they will side with him.

Is there any way to mitigate the damage, or do I just need to grit my teeth and deal with it as it comes? Is there any other way for me to achieve what I'm trying to do? Would anyone have personal experiences to share, and what you would have done differently or what I should watch out for? Thank you, any and all thoughts and advice are appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Unfriending/unfollowing is not causing drama. Just do it, and if he asks/notices, just say "oh I'm on a social media diet lately". Tons of people do that (and it's true--it's just that your diet is from him!)

If he starts pressing you on it, asking around to other friends about you, getting anyone else to ask you "what's wrong", he'd be the one creating drama--and if you refuse to engage, the drama ends because drama only exists for an audience. You can do this!
posted by msbubbaclees at 5:16 AM on November 25, 2017 [21 favorites]

I'd be surprised if people, or Ted for that matter, notice or even care (apparently I have been unfriended on Facebook by a few people according to the number of friends I now have but I couldn't tell you who they are, I just don't pay that much attention to it to know!).

Having said that, if you are concerned, you can hide his posts so they don't come up on your feed so on paper, you're still friends as far as he concerned but you'll never see anything of his. Then you can set up a friend group of everyone BUT him for things you post, so he never sees you. But, again, you haven't actively defriended him, he'll just think you don't post much anymore. No social fallout, he's too wrapped up in new girl and you in your guy, life goes on.

So far as your friends, they aren't invested in your old relationship. They won't care. Why would they, they never even knew you were together! Don't overthink this, just hide him on Facebook and move on.
posted by Jubey at 5:18 AM on November 25, 2017 [13 favorites]

Personally, I would unfriend him and not mention it to him or anyone. When and if he and others notice, they may ask about it and they may not. If someone does, I'd just give a polite excuse. I know this isn't satisfying because you say a part of you wants everyone to know, and you want to hurt him, and have it all out. That might feel good for a minute but think about the long term.

I have been unfriended by exes before. I didn't hold it against them. Anyone worthwhile should understand that it's sometimes part of moving on.
posted by amodelcitizen at 5:34 AM on November 25, 2017 [14 favorites]

Just another voice to say that unriending Ted will be invisible to Ted and your other friends. Hi *might* notice that he doesn't see any news from you on fb, snapchat, or twitter. There's a hint in your story that part of you might hope for some drama. Drama can be briefly satisfying, but long term, it makes life more difficult.
posted by theora55 at 5:45 AM on November 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

I'm sorry you're dealing with this and I know how much it sucks. I don't think it's necessary to turn this into a thing where your friends need to take sides. Plus, if they all think he's a great guy you'll have a hard time convincing them otherwise. Your need is to not be around him, you don't need them to all promise to hate him forever - satisfying though that might be.

So - block and unfriend him. I once told an ex up-front that I would need to unfriend him for a while after we ended things and that was fine, but I've also blocked and unfriended people with no explanation and that works too.

Don't show up at events where he'll be present. If he's pretty much consistently at every friend event, well, people fall off the map all the time for all kinds of reasons - health stuff, work, personal projects, started running and can't stay out late anymore, caught up in new relationship, etc. Pick one that's close enough to the truth.

If this group is your primary source of social interaction, spread your net a little wider. Get together one-on-one with your favorite people from the group and avoid group hangouts. In the meantime, pursue other friendships.

If you still find yourself having nightmares and ruminating after a month or so, maybe seek therapy to help yourself heal. I know how it is to have this kind of difficulty moving on. I've found it helpful to talk it out with a caring professional, and they can suggest techniques to counter the rumination.
posted by bunderful at 5:47 AM on November 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Have you talked through what happened with Ted with anybody? Keeping everything all to yourself may be making this more painful and drawn out for you. Talking through it with one friend or your current boyfriend may help relieve some of the stress.

I also think unfriending and unfollowing is a good idea. You might also let one person you trust know why and that you would appreciate some outings or events that involve a smaller group that just happens to not include Ted. Just to get a little support for moving on in your own way.
posted by ewok_academy at 6:35 AM on November 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

You seem unhappy with yourself for getting mixed up with Ted and the secrecy with which you surrounded this fling is isolating you and making you unhappy. Let's extract Ted from this for a moment and ignore his feelings and think about your own

- you think you'd feel better if you didn't follow his social media
- you feel weird because you've never talked about this and your friends don't know what happened
- you're enjoying social media less because you worry about what you might see

Your narrative is all about you caring more about what other people think (your friends, Ted) and that feeling "forcing" you into a place of great unhappiness where you feel set upon by other people. I think it might help to flip the script a little and be like "That fling wasn't good for me. I ended it because I knew it wasn't good for me. I am in a good relationship now." and skip the "Ted is a jerk. I want Ted to suffer. I worry my friends will choose Ted."

In this view, it makes 100% sense for you to block Ted on social media. And maybe have a simple vague explanation if people ask "We had a short intense thing a long time ago and I'm realizing it's better for me any my relationship to have less contact with him" and maybe tell someone so it's not some weird secret shame.

I've been in those relationships, the ones that are terrible for you but also very intense and somehow captivating. It's normal. It's also normal to feel petty, jealous, whatever. But those are just feelings. They don't have to turn into actions. Your goal is to move on from Ted which means you need to stop having this one-sided hate-relationship with him that you are currently cultivating and nurturing. Block him. Tell a friend or two why, so it's not your weird shameful secret. I bet you'll get more support than you think.
posted by jessamyn at 7:02 AM on November 25, 2017 [29 favorites]

I agree that keeping this secret is likely a big part of why it's continuing to fester. Is there someone you can talk to about what happened, to at least process a bit of the emotions that are still there for you?

Unfriending/unfollowing/blocking all sound perfectly reasonable to me, but I don't think they'll solve the overall issue. Talking to someone (inside or outside this group; even a therapist for a session or two) and not actively hiding it from the group would likely be more helpful.
posted by lazuli at 7:37 AM on November 25, 2017

Is it possible, if you're honest with yourself, that the angst you're feeling is really about not wanting to let go of Ted? That somehow if you stay "in contact" with him, the outcome will be different and he'll change his mind about wanting to be in a relationship with you?
posted by strelitzia at 7:54 AM on November 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

This is a bridge you actually *want* to burn. Go ahead - it doesn't matter to the rest of the group, in fact they probably won't even notice.

It didn't seem to bother Ted to have a secret fling with you - just get rid of him and let that wound heal.
posted by 41swans at 8:56 AM on November 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

You can mute people on Facebook if you're tired of their posts but don't want to defriend.
posted by kingdead at 9:01 AM on November 25, 2017

I have a Ted. The only thing that truly worked for me was no contact. I unfollowed him on fb but didn't unfriend, because I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of thinking I cared and also because of our hundreds of mutual friends. I certainly didn't want to stir anything up, though I fantasized about it often. Revenge fantasies are healthy, as long as they play out in your imagination. I even wrote a terribly mean letter to his new, beloved girlfriend (but didn't send it). I am happily married now. But I was intertwined with "Ted" for 10 years. It's been an entire year of no contact, and things are great! I do sometimes still succumb to anger, but it's so faded that I don't care. I had to stop hanging out socially with him and that group, but I still stay in touch with people, I just started a new chapter in my life so it made sense to my friend group that I was moving on for organic reasons, not for drama heartbreak reasons. I feel bad for myself that I cared so deeply about this man who never really wanted me, but just liked the ego gratification of me being there. It makes me feel better that other people in the world have been through what I have. You'll get through it. But seriously, no contact is magic.
posted by katypickle at 9:45 AM on November 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

I agree with blocking, muting, unfollowing, etc. It will likely not even be apparent that you have made changes - it will just look like you’re not very active on social media right now to him.

I also agree about talking to a trusted friend about what happened. It’s not clear why the fling was secret- if there is a cheating aspect or something that would cause people to be judgey. But absent that there’s no reason this needs to be secret.

However, I would prepare myself for the possibility that you’re not the only one in your friend group that has had this kind of experience with Ted.
posted by jeoc at 10:14 AM on November 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I vote for unfollowing or unfriending, rather than blocking, so you can still see if he is invited to events you would otherwise want to attend.

If you just unfollow, yes, you’ll still see notifications where he’s liked or commented (if you don’t custom-filter your posts), but in a way that will be satisfying: you’re still newsworthy to him, but he isn’t newsworthy to you.

I would not advise this if he had been the one to break things off, but you were. The fact that you could recognize the imbalance in your relationship, and could make a healthy decision about it, speaks VOLUMES about your strength here. I know a lot of people who would have just clung to what they had and tried to convince themselves “this is enough” or “I can change his mind” or “if I cut down my needs until they’re microscopic, then he will see what a great partner I am!” It is an extremely seductive line of thinking, and you actively resisted it! Give yourself a hand! (And a treat!)

Finally, this is a good time to take stock of your friend group. Is there someone you trust enough to confide in about this? If there is, start with that person. If not, consider whether “making drama” would really be such a crime here. If you’re mostly worried about the consequences for yourself, that’s totally valid! But if you’re worried others might have to see their golden boy for who he is...well, you can teach them how to be strong, I suppose.

Baggage Reclaim is a great resource for situations like this, though as I said, you’re ahead of the game on recovering already.
posted by armeowda at 11:32 AM on November 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't worry about what the mutual friends might think about going no contact. I recently reconnected with a social group I had to gracefully disconnect from because I needed to go no contact with someone, and it's been fine. There are no hard feelings. The people I'm happy to see are happy to see me. Interestingly, the "Ted" in that situation is long gone, even though he was integral to the group when I was last there. It appears that they eventually saw through the facade, which IME does often happen in these situations (eventually).

So chances are really good that going no contact won't be an issue. However, if your "Ted" does notice that you have gone no contact, gets offended, and tries to create a rift between you and the other group members, well, that's an opportunity for them to see behind the facade to who he really is. If they can't see that BS for what it is, they are not worthwhile friends. You are better off casting a wider net and making some new ones elsewhere.
posted by jazzbaby at 11:33 AM on November 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Unfriend him and if other people feel like its causing drama, that's on them. Ted sounds like a jerk and an oblivious one at that. He probably keeps contacting you because he's used to staying "friends" with exes. A lot of people do that and can make it work but no need to put yourself through the drama for no reason.

If Ted asks what's up, you can tell him you're cutting back on social media or you can be honest and tell him you two are not cool anymore. You can flat out say, "I really don't like how things ended between us and think it's best we end contact". Say it matter of factly and calmly and just leave it at that.

I know it manly seem kind of awkward but in my personal experience it's not as awkward as you think and usually gets the desired result.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 1:43 PM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Blocking: A+++ would block again!

A few months ago I blocked someone, X, under not entirely dissimilar circumstances, and it's caused no fallout whatsoever.

I didn't bring up to anyone except extremely close friends that I had done it and why. The only time it's come up with someone else was when they were trying to reach X -- incidentally revealing to me that X was co-hosting a Facebook event (private party) I was about to leave for -- and sent me a message to see if I could help with the matter. I wrote back that I had blocked X (not going into details).

This lead to some venting from that person about a few of their own encounters with X. They didn't ask for any details about my own interactions with X.

I went to the party as I had planned, figuring X could have talked to the main host and had them not invite me if X wished to do that (Or maybe they did and main host wasn't willing -- too bad for X then). X made a point of "cleaning up" near me at the party, and I said hello in a distant way but didn't otherwise interact with X.

I didn't mention anything about this to the main host of the party. Main host did bring up to me about some things they didn't care for about X.

Things that I think really worked well for me: having some trusted people to vent to, not bringing up the topic of X with others, being very direct and brief about blocking X when it's directly relevant to the matter at hand, and not caring how X feels about all of this. A caution: you'll be more likely to bump into the blocked person without knowing in advance because you can't see if they have accepted invites to things -- I recommend deciding in advance how you will react.

It's been so, so wonderful to not see anything, anything at all about X. I continue to be very pleased with that decision.
posted by yohko at 12:26 AM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

If your friends are true friends they should really understand you, both of you. If you need closure, so be it. You cannot mentally torture yourself everytime you see his name pop up. The choice is in your hands and it's a lot easier than you think.
posted by Sarah.z at 3:38 AM on January 2, 2018

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