catharsis or waste of time?
November 11, 2018 5:19 PM   Subscribe

Is there value in confronting someone who has done me wrong, or should I just let it go?

Hi everyone - this is a follow-up to my last question here in a way.

I've been to three Al-Anon meetings so far, and I've found it very helpful.

Last night I caught the guy I have been seeing (the alcoholic that prompted me to start attending Al-Anon meetings) in a huge, massive lie. It's certainly not the first time I've caught him in a lie, but it was far worse than anything that's come before, and it came about because he was so drunk that he didn't realize he was saying incriminating things; he basically admitted that ever since I took him back he has been seeing another woman behind my back. Again, I wasn't necessarily surprised given our history, but it still sucked and hurt and made me angry. We got into a fight, during which he gaslit me (he denied that he had ever told me he loved me/was in love with me/wanted to marry me - which he has in fact done hundreds of times, starting on our second date) and tried to turn it back on me, saying that I was yelling at him because I was actually angry at my ex-boyfriend (who I have been split from for over two years) and was projecting on him. Baffling and infuriating.

I stormed into the bathroom to calm down, and then when I emerged, I found that he had passed out on the couch, full-on drunk coma-style. This is not the first time he has passed out in this way. I shook him awake and told him I was leaving but that I wanted to have a conversation with him when he was sober about what he has put me through and I'm not going to let him off the hook and pretend none of this happened. He was so disoriented and drunk that at first he could not remember why I was angry; he actually said "Wait, what's going on, what just happened in the last 10 minutes?" I told him that he was a liar and a cruel person who exploited my love for him to use me for sex/comfort object, and that just because he's going through an acrimonius divorce does not give him a free pass to treat me as if I'm not a real person in this situation. He got very angry then and literally threw me out of his apartment.

Ok, so we're done. DTMFA and all that. This has been insane and bad and extremely unhealthy for me. But, I am 100% certain that he was so drunk that he woke up this morning not remembering what happened last night, and it's infuriating to me that he may just continue on his merry way in his life with no conception or acknowledgement of how badly he hurt and disrespected me.

That's the back story. The question is, what do I do now? I have written several drafts of a scathing email or text message, including screenshots of a text that he sent me two months ago denying that he was seeing the very woman he admitted to seeing last night and getting angry at him for accusing him of such. I want to tell him that to me the lie is worse than the two-timing; I deserved to know if he was sleeping with someone else for my own safety. I want to tell him that denying that he told me he loved me is bullshit, and those words mean something, and it was cruel of him to deploy those words when he knew how I felt about him just to keep stringing me along. I want to tell him that divorce doesn't give him a free pass to fuck with others' lives. I want to tell him to think how he would feel had I or someone else done this to him without consideration of his humanity.

A couple of Al-Anon friends have suggested that sending the message might be good for me - even if he doesn't acknowledge having received the message, it will provide me some definitive catharsis and closure, which will help me as I try to move on and heal from the chaos of the past three months.

Most of my non Al-Anon friends - some of which are people who know him, and some of which only know him based on what I have described about the "relationship" are saying not to send the message because he is not worth the time or energy. Or if I do send him a message, it should simply say that I don't want him to contact me or speak to me ever again - any more would be giving him more importance than he deserves.

I can easily see how both points of view are valid. A small part of me kind of loves the idea that he might honestly never understand why I no longer want to speak with him because he was too drunk to remember what set off this last fight and will take great joy in his befuddlement (whenever he senses me pulling away he tries to reel me back in - and thus far has succeeded - so I'm sure he'll try again and it will be fun to ignore him #staypetty).

But even though this "relationship" was a garbage fire and he himself is also a garbage fire of a person, it did go on for three extremely emotionally intense months, and we were friends before all this went down. And it's that last part - the part where we were friends before this - is what makes me want to let him know how badly he has hurt me. I don't hope to change the situation by telling him that; he's an addict and he's a mess and there's nothing I can do about that. I know he won't change and I'm not hoping that he'll dump this other woman and beg me to marry him again. But I want him to understand that he destroyed our friendship with this behavior, and we can't walk that back, and I want him to own up to his behavior.

I know that neither option will make me feel better, and neither option will "fix" or undo the damage he has done to me. But I am genuinely curious to know from the hive mind which approach makes more sense. It's interesting to me that the Al-Anon community is advocating for me to speak my piece even if it goes over poorly or unacknowledged and my friends are telling me to just write him off without a word. I'm still getting a handle on the Al-Anon philosophy and I have found it to be very helpful so far in terms of codifying what my boundaries are, but I'm puzzled by the split in consensus on what my approach should be.

What would you, my fellow Mefites who have helped me with such kind advice throughout what has been a horrible year bfor me, suggest I do in this situation? Which approach would you choose, and why?
posted by thereemix to Human Relations (39 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't hope to change the situation by telling him that; he's an addict and he's a mess and there's nothing I can do about that. I know he won't change and I'm not hoping that he'll dump this other woman and beg me to marry him again. But I want him to understand that he destroyed our friendship with this behavior, and we can't walk that back, and I want him to own up to his behavior.

If you’re hoping he can own up to his behavior, you ARE hoping to change the situation. He is not capable of doing that right now. Send a scathing email or don’t, but I agree with the general idea that after one missive you need to separate yourself completely from him and this drama. Further engagement is not going to do you any good.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:27 PM on November 11, 2018 [11 favorites]

Don't. Very little of what's in that email will be news to him - it's just variations on what he's done before. It will provide ammunition for him to try to manipulate you into staying (he can't come back apologizing for horrible behaviors if he doesn't remember them). I don't think it'll make you feel any better -- walking away and ending the relationship is a much bigger and more impactful F you than any email or text dump.

Walk away, let him sort out his own deal. Don't engage.

I'm proud of you for getting this far! Keep on! (also, im going through something similar, memail me if you ever want to commiserate)
posted by Fig at 5:40 PM on November 11, 2018 [10 favorites]

If it will help you move past this, Write the letter, read it out loud to a friend who knows your situation, then burn it. He’s not worth another iota of your time & effort. It’s not going to do him any good to read it now. Maybe in 10/20 years when he sobers up, he’ll look back in horror at the way he treated you, but right now it will bounce off like a tennis ball. Just wave your “Jerkbegone” wand & trouble with him no more.

if you go with the burning option, please do it outside & don’t catch anything else on fire.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:42 PM on November 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

Oh, girl. (I'm assuming you're a girl.) To riff on the "You've had sex, but..." meme: NOTHING feels better than going dark and getting on with your merry life. He is not going to change, but if he does, it's not going to be because of your emotionally laborious email. Just breeze.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 5:42 PM on November 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

he might not remember this particular incident, but he knows full well he's been treating you like shit. nthing printing out the message and burning.
posted by brujita at 5:45 PM on November 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

I agree with ThePinkSuperhero. Send the email if you wish, but then block him everywhere and refuse to have anything to do with him. If you give him a chance to communicate with you he's just going to spew more bullshit and you don't need that. Do what you need to do to move on, but don't expect anything good or helpful from him or allow any two-way communication to happen.
posted by orange swan at 5:46 PM on November 11, 2018

I'm honesty surprised that even a couple of Al-Anon people are suggesting you send the message, and I would encourage you not to conflate that with "the Al-Anon community" urging you to do so. That seems quite at odds with the idea of not trying to control a situation, even if it's being framed as a way to make you feel better. Personally, all I can see coming out of it is you giving him an opportunity to argue with you further - potentially with the intent of trying to reel you back in again.

Think through what would happen after you sent him this message. Could you wipe your hands and walk off, totally unmoved by thoughts of whether or not he's going to respond? Would you be able to read any response he provides with peace and detachment? If he doesn't respond, how long will it be before every new incoming message stops bringing you a tiny bit of discomfort as you prepare for the possibility that it is/is not from him?

Sending him a message is only going to let him continue having real estate in your head. This guy knows that cheating is wrong. He knows that lying to the person you're dating is wrong. There's nothing you can say that is going to have an impact on him here. Take care of yourself by recognizing that he isn't worth your time or energy.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:47 PM on November 11, 2018 [14 favorites]

But even though this "relationship" was a garbage fire and he himself is also a garbage fire of a person, it did go on for three extremely emotionally intense months, and we were friends before all this went down.

If there's one good thing I learned from Al-Anon it's that these relationships are emotionally intense BECAUSE they're also garbage fires. I've certainly had my share of them. But there really is a way that someone who is an addict can seem to be being so vulnerable, so honest, so true, so REAL (more than other people), while at the same time doing shit like seeing other people at the exact same time. They're just not... internally consistent. He is not, right now or maybe ever, in a position to learn anything. So tell him what you want if that helps you get some sort of closure, but this is, again, a really well-known aspect of being in relationships with addicts. They seem impervious to understanding the hurt that is directly caused by them and they do not learn lessons, for the most part. In some very real way other people aren't real to them, or not as real of their own web of lies that allows them to keep using/smoking/drinking.

It's a bummer and I'm sorry this happened to you,. Congrats on cutting and running in whatever way you choose to do. I am totally on Team #StayPetty and I wish you luck moving on.
posted by jessamyn at 5:55 PM on November 11, 2018 [26 favorites]

Boil down what you want to tell him to a few sentences, no more than a paragraph. Don’t get bogged down in details - no screenshot where he said one thing and then you caught him in a lie. Just tell him that his actions hurt you and you want nothing else to do with him. Sure, throw in a sentence about how he’s a piece of shit. Then send it to him and block his number.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:04 PM on November 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

Sending him the message, especially a long one, seems more likely to result in further engagement than not sending the message. I suspect it will be better for you to not send it - write it out, read it and burn it. Or, if you must send a message, keep it short short and block him, as pintapicasso suggests.
posted by bunderful at 6:08 PM on November 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Is there any answer he could give you that would make you feel better? If not, it's not worth the confrontation. I once weighed confronting someone very important to me and demanding answers about their behavior, but upon thinking it over, I realized that no matter what the answer was, I would still be incredibly pissed off. There was no excuse for their terrible behavior, a groveling apology wouldn't have healed the relationship (too much water under the bridge; we could never be friendly again after what they did), and chances were DARN good they would blame me for the whole thing anyway, which would just send me to new heights of frustration and fury.

So instead I just walked away, and having realized that no answer from THEM could make me feel better actually gave me a lot of peace in and of itself. A childish part of me felt like if I could just make them apologize and see what they'd done, I'd feel whole again, but adult me understood that I'd been wounded by their actions and only I could heal those wounds and nothing could erase them. I'm still sad when I think of them, but I'm at peace about it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:33 PM on November 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

If you do send a letter, I would put on paper and send it via USPS (or your local snail mail equivalent). That will make a clear to yourself, as well as to him, that you are not trying to open up a channel of communication and you are not inviting any response, feedback or argument on his part.
posted by metahawk at 6:35 PM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

As long as you're still engaging in the communication, you're still engaging in the relationship on some level and he still has you. Trust me, there's nothing that will infuriate him more than complete silence from you and the idea that you've moved on from him so fully that he can't even get a reply back. That, plus if you ever bump into him again, muster up a blank expression, look right through him like he's a complete stranger and go on with your life. One that's fabulous and hopefully includes a new person who treats you like gold.
posted by Jubey at 6:42 PM on November 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

I know he won't change and I'm not hoping that he'll dump this other woman and beg me to marry him again. But I want him to understand that he destroyed our friendship with this behavior, and we can't walk that back, and I want him to own up to his behavior.

And I want a unicorn.

You have no control over this fool's behaviour. He's already shown you as clearly as you could possibly be shown that owning up to his shittiness is simply not in his repertoire. You've spent the last how many months? wanting things from this guy that he's simply not capable of giving you. He has shown you who he is. There is nothing he actually has that you actually need. There are many things that you need that he ought to have, but he doesn't have them. The best thing you can do about him at this point is cut him out of your life and begin the intense internal work of disconnecting him in your head from all the things you need from a partner.

The things you need are completely reasonable things for a person to need. Hold onto those. The trick is to break the connection between those things and this completely inadequate excuse for a man.

If you'd been bitten by a rattlesnake, you'd be more cautious when you hear rattling. Demanding personal satisfaction from the snake that bit you would serve no useful purpose.

Block, delete, ignore, starting right now.
posted by flabdablet at 6:42 PM on November 11, 2018 [18 favorites]

He got very angry then and literally threw me out of his apartment.

I’m guessing this means he shoved you or otherwise got rough with you to make you leave. This guy sounds dangerous and I wouldn’t do anything that might provoke his rage. Cut off contact.
posted by delight at 6:43 PM on November 11, 2018 [9 favorites]

even if he doesn't acknowledge having received the message, it will provide me some definitive catharsis and closure

Closure is not actually a thing. Some scriptwriter somewhere made it up once and now everybody chases it, but nobody ever gets any.

Catharsis is another thing entirely. Catharsis is a good thing. I recommend finding somewhere where large waves driven by howling freezing winds are breaking and smashing onto big rocks, and roaring and screaming into the salt spray until you're hoarse. This will work much better than making yourself miserable writing to some petty drunken arsehole you used to think you knew.
posted by flabdablet at 6:51 PM on November 11, 2018 [14 favorites]

Do anything you want that concerns you having the last word, setting a missive free, screaming into the void because you need to let it go. Do nothing that expects a response, a change in behavior, or justice for you and your feelings/sacrifices.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:59 PM on November 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Speaking from personal experience with a loved one who would get blackout drunk and not remember major things: he is not currently at a place where anything you might say or do is going to have a lasting impact on him. Whatever momentary sting he might feel, or impulse to do something better next time or make amends this time, it will be buried under a new wave of booze very soon.

If you want to send the letter then send the letter, for yourself, but your best result is going to be the same as if you just burned the letter. Worse case, you get dragged into some emotional back and forth that ultimately changes nothing for him because he’s likely not capable of that right now, and you set back your own movement toward healing and a life free of this entire situation.

I think if you were my friend I’d advise you to write this all down for your own healing, then stick it in a drawer somewhere. If your friend ever gets to a sober enough place to do some of his own work and then contact you to apologize, you might then want to share the letter at that time. Or not, by then you might no longer need it.

Whatever you do, do it for yourself and don’t expect any response or action to come of it.
posted by Stacey at 7:10 PM on November 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

I promise you that nothing good will come out of you sending him the letter. He won't read it, and if he does, he won't see any of it. He will either ignore it or respond with bullshit. And you'll wind up feeling worse either way.

Write the letter, for yourself. Take it to your therapist. Burn it. But for the love of what's healthy, do not give him another opening to mess with your head.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:18 PM on November 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Breaking news: he just sent me a text apologizing for last night going wrong and hoping I'm ok.

I will NOT be responding to this message. Just reading it has infuriated me. I will write the angry letter and email it to a friend for catharsis (hey anyone here wanna be my catharsis pen pal?) and I will ignore him forever because it will drive him insane #staypetty and because I refuse to let him drag me back in.

Thank you to all for your responses and support and kindness, as always. AskMe has saved me this year, over and over and over again. I am so grateful to you all.
posted by thereemix at 7:44 PM on November 11, 2018 [18 favorites]

Am I right in assuming that he clearly doesn't remember what happened and how I caught him in the lie? Ughhh
posted by thereemix at 7:45 PM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Stop. Just stop.

Nothing that you think or assume or guess about what's in this guy's mind will ever do you the slightest bit of good. Block, delete, ignore. Starting right here right now inside your own head.
posted by flabdablet at 7:47 PM on November 11, 2018 [25 favorites]

Sending the letter is just an excuse to prolong contact and keep the drama going. You're using a lot of rhetoric to disguise from yourself that that's what you want to do, but that's what you want to do. Even writing this long a post about him is a way to ruminate on the drama and get other people to affirm it for you. This kind of self-deception is common in this situation and doesn't mean you're a bad person or lying to Mefi or anything, but you need to get that insight or you'll find some other way to do it. The vast majority of people who've ever had this kind of "bad boyfriend" can tell you that.

Write the letter out and trash it. Then...honestly...get back into therapy of some kind to figure out why you would allow yourself to be into this position with a person who you knew was so blatantly inappropriate from the very beginning. I've been hesitating whether to write this paragraph, but...people are giving you (good, as far as it goes) advice based on the idea that this is a one-off crisis, and it's just not. Your life is very chaotic right now, for a number of reasons that aren't really in your control. But you are seeking out ways to intensify that chaos; you've been doing it for months, according to what you've been telling us. I've known a fair number of people who've struggled in this way with adult living in the shadow of childhood abuse and/or substance dependence and I feel like I could write the next ten of your Ask Mefis. If you follow the usual course, you will continue going from crisis to crisis until you can learn how to stabilize and regulate your emotional life. This is not a thing to be ashamed about (in fact, part of the problem is that you're resorting to maladaptive coping mechanisms to cope with the shame, which leads to more shame, which leads to...). I'm sure there are powerful underlying reasons for your behavior. It's just that you're not likely to get off this merry-go-round without getting some help.
posted by praemunire at 8:06 PM on November 11, 2018 [41 favorites]

Thank you praemunire. There is a lot there that resonates with me and you are absolutely correct about the chaotic state of my life in general.

I was in therapy but was not happy with the progress I was making with my therapist, plus we just never really clicked personality wise. I have two appointments this week with new therapists (and I had one on Friday with a third). I hope to find someone who I click with before the end of the month so I don't have to go into the holidays in this current mental state.
posted by thereemix at 8:25 PM on November 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

Short term - what can you do to take your mind off of this asap?

Long term - please seek support because you should have walked out when he started drinking, and failing that, left without a word once he told you he was cheating.

You are failing to understand deep in your bones that this guy is not not not who you think he is + he will not ever ever change. You are not putting your wellbeing first. Find someone who can roll back and forth over this whole thing with you a few times, including pointing out healthy relationship responses vs unhealthy relationship responses. There’s nothing wrong with you some time with an expert relationship counselor can’t fix, but you need that sort of good advice. The dramas you see in movies and tv shows are HIGHLY dysfunctional. I feel like that’s kinda what you are emulating here, and those types never lead to happiness.

For fun, check out the podcast Hate it, But Love It. Maybe start with the episode about Good Will Hunting? Although, you’ll find pretty much any ep super funny and casually informative in terms of the views on relationship dynamics you seem unfamiliar with. In short, if you do it right you won’t care about this guy two weeks from now + you won’t make these types of relationship choices again.
posted by jbenben at 8:45 PM on November 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

The absolute best thing to do to send a message to him is never, ever speak to him again. No recriminations, no drama, just move on. This is also the best thing you can do for yourself.
posted by thereader at 8:50 PM on November 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

To answer your last question, that text to you is so vague, he has no idea what happened last night. Stay silent. It will be more painful to him to wonder than to know and then rationalize his behavior.
posted by AugustWest at 9:53 PM on November 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

I had a shitty situation with a guy who turned out to be somewhat similar to yours, ie an alcoholic with a raging lying problem and a tendency to let things slip when blacked out.

I walked away one day- the advice that people are giving you- rather than engaging with the shitty situation. I also spent a lot of time reading everything I could find about manipulators, pathological liars, psychopaths, and addiction. Then a couple of months later for community-related Reasons I re-engaged with the lying sack of shit and got to observe him as a 'friend' for a while (this was a very not-recommended path, and I was doing this mostly to figure out who else his victims were/whether he was engaged in certain serious criminal activity I was concerned about which would have affected a community I had brought him into). In the process I got to learn a tremendous amount about what his reaction to my original 'walking away' was.

Couple things I learned from this experience:

-the kind of lying/promiscuity thing you're describing is probably not related to alcoholism, it's probably it's own problem (actually it's probably a symptom of several different kinds of disorders such as personality disorders, but it's a social problem regardless of it's cause). I suspect that recovery communities will be making a very big deal out of lying being a symptom of alcoholism. Resist this, and view these two things as separate. One can get over alcoholism. One is less likely to become honest if one is prone to extreme dishonesty. I think the evidence isn't good for some of the major personality disorders being fixable.

Since you're upset that your friendship, not just romantic relationship, was betrayed- it may be important to steel yourself against future situations where his alcoholism comes under control and it's tempting to be friends again with the "new him". Don't. The lying is it's own problem and there's little evidence that people who do a lot of that manage to get it under control, alcoholism or not.

If someone's a manipulative personality, and you're both in recovery communities, they're likely to play the 'that awful old me wasn't actually me, it was the drugs/alcohol talking' card. It is tempting to re-engage with them once they're in recovery, under the theory that the drugs/drinking was the issue. It's not.

-I am certain that walking away from a lying/presumably manipulative sack of feces will hurt said sack of feces far more than Yet Another Argument will. People who play dirty, lie, use gaslighting, use the 'barrage of accusations' techniques during conflicts are probably people with a lifetime of experience in having Yet Another Argument. you presenting a good argument during Yet Another Argument won't hurt them permanently. You walking away from them will.

some books I found extremely helpful:
-Why Does He Do That is about abusive men, and it discusses the way that manipulators abuse recovery groups/mandated anger management programs/substance abuse programs. It is a very cynical look at the poor chances that manipulators will actually improve with group therapy.
I know a number of people, including men who considered themselves manipulative, who have found this book good and useful, and none of those people had a violence problem in their problematic relationships (which is mostly what this book deals with). I didn't deal with a violence problem myself. I found some of the insights very useful regardless of the fact that the book largely talks about violent abusers.

-In Sheep's Clothing - I can't recommend this book enough
posted by twoplussix at 10:12 PM on November 11, 2018 [9 favorites]

He is an addict. He is dishonest. He will continue to lie, manipulate, exploit women, and your words will not affect this. Short of tattooing him when he's blacked out, you cannot affect the fact that he is doing this to another woman, and will keep doing it.

What you can do is learn. When someone's words and actions don't match, believe the actions. Words are easy and cheap, he might believe then when he says them. Behavior is difficult to change. You may feel broken-hearted, but marriage would have been a nightmare. You deserve someone who treats you better.
posted by theora55 at 11:44 PM on November 11, 2018 [9 favorites]

Re: his text, I used to send texts like that when I was an alcoholic. They always meant "hey, I remember something bad went down last night but I have literally no idea what it is, can you a) remind me what happened, b) make me feel better about it (even if it was 100% my fault), also c) no guarantees I won't do exactly the same thing next time I'm drinking".

It doesn't mean he remembers any of the specifics - he almost certainly actively doesn't and now he wants to lean on you to fill in the details and make him feel okay about whatever he doesn't remember doing or saying to you. Ignore ignore ignore.
posted by terretu at 1:11 AM on November 12, 2018 [8 favorites]

I suspect that writing a long and detailed letter would be cathartic for you. All the churning bits of emotion inside you can be set down, organized. They won't go away but you'll have created a context for them, which can be quite freeing.

Afterwards keep it or burn it as you like, but as everyone else has said don't engage with him at all. You're processing your emotions, not his.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:29 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have had the displeasure of knowing a number of liars, and one of the craziest things about them is that they actually think they're getting away with it - if they can tell the lie, and don't get called out or caught in the moment, their lies are now somehow your truth. Confronting them about the specifics of a particular lie is just another avenue for them to justify their own lies to themselves. it's madness. All I'd say in your shoes is "I know you have been lying, never contact me again" they know exactly what they have been lying about, you don't need to spell it out. The thing they don't know yet is that you don't believe their lies anymore, so that's the only bit of information that you need to get across. And then block the hell out of them.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:11 AM on November 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

What everyone else has said.

I’d like to add another reason why you will want to stay silent: keep your mouth shut and no flies will go into it.


Recently there was an issue where three of us, Leader, Airhead and me, got ripped off in a professional situation and our plans ruined. Months of work down the drain.

Airhead did not hold back in expressing her indignation when the situation came to light, which I appreciated. It was Airhead who pushed for us to seek restitution instead of just moving on, as Leader was inclined to do; and she was quite right.

However, Airhead then followed this up with several written rants in which she completely negated my sympathy, even though I was a wronged party too and even though 90 percent of what she wrote was fair comment.

But the way she wrote it - going into far too much detail, kitchen sinking everything she didn’t like about the project - showed complete contempt for everyone involved, including me. So it was the WAY she said it.

It made me glad that I had resisted the temptation to write to people who had wronged me in the past, not because it would have been unreasonable, but because it would have been so cringe to look back on.


Not only that but she went further than fair comment and said a number of objectionable things that were not fair, including blaming others for problems caused solely by Airhead’s own basic negligence. She also muddied the waters legally such that there was no longer any point trying to pursue compensation. This also made me glad I’d taken the silent option in the past, because although I like to think Airhead is way more obnoxious and problematic than me, we all say things when we’re angry that we wouldn’t say if we took time to reflect.

So this was someone who was 90 percent right, that I was firsthand the wronged party alongside her, who was advocating for justice for us, and I still ended up hating her guts because she said too much when she was angry. Trust me: discretion is the better part of valour.


As for me, I wrote to the person who ripped us off: “We had a contract to do X, and I incurred Y costs as a result. Please reimburse me for Y.”

Of course I didn’t get Y and, following Airhead’s contribution to the dispute I can’t pursue it any more. But that’s all I needed to say and all I will say. Ripoff Person is a fraud and nothing I write is going to change that. Instead, it will only give them more material to use against me. Likewise, Drunk Guy is a drunk guy and the more you say, the more he knows how to spin it back at you.


Could I write to Airhead and point out that which was unfair about her response? Yes, but it wouldn’t help because the attitude she was displaying in her writing is the same attitude that would make her unable to see my point. And why make this the occasion to confront her about her shoddy work, when the actual immediate issue was not her fault and she was one of the wronged parties.

That would only have turned into a multi-storey bunfight. Likewise, pointing out Drunk Guy’s unreasonableness in the moment is not going to solve anything because he’s a drunk and possibly a lifelong manipulator with whom any worthwhile discussion is unfeasible. If you must say something, follow the script of “I know you’re lying, and I want none of it. Don’t contact me again.” Only this, and nothing more.

I don’t write this to Airhead partly because it’s a more complex situation, but mainly because the only solution is not to work with Airhead again, which I hope I never have to do.

Similarly, the only solution for you is to stop dating this or any other drunk, or any person with problems so severe that you have to seek mental health support in order to date them. If you’re having a hard time yourself, dating someone with problems is a good way to project those problems outwards, but it’s not going to help you. Address your problems directly, don’t use a proxy.
posted by tel3path at 4:34 AM on November 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

I had a similar, but much lower-level, "should I pursue this or let it go" question several years back, and wrote into an advice column about it. (The last letter on this page if you want the whole story.) Ultimately, the advice I got was to let it go - and the way she phrased this was:
You sort of enjoy this aspect of it, because it lets you feel smugly superior after he [did you wrong], but [...] you’ve got “superior” locked up here. He’s a gutless twizzerp [...]. You win. More importantly? Zitbrain’s [issues]? No longer your problem. He’s not yours to fix anymore; he’s not yours to show up anymore. He’s out of your life, which is a net gain, and you have to stop caring whether he Gets It [...] There’s a lot that dude doesn’t get, and none of it is your job.
It was also couched in a lot of other commiseration about what a Zitbrain the dude was, which also helped me see that I was deep-down seeking something that he was never going to give me - a validation that I was right and he was wrong - but it was BLINDINGLY AND WHUMPINGLY OBVIOUS TO EVERYONE ELSE that I was right and he was wrong.

At the same time, there's probably a lot of rage in your head right now. And shoving it down there and trying to swallow it isn't going to help you either; that shit has to come out.

So I propose instead one of the following:

* Write a letter to him, on paper, in which you pour out all of the stuff you want to tell him in gory and vivid detail. Call him every nasty name in the book, insult him to the absolute full and with serpentine venom. Then - get a small barbecue grill, get something really tasty to grill over it, and use the letter as a firestarter and make yourself a really tasty dinner.

* The same as above, but instead of making a barbecue just for yourself, invite some friends over for everyone to trade horror stories about the worst exes you ever had. You don't need to tell them all the gory details, but you may want to....because their horrified gasps of shock and "OMIGOD WHAT A DICK HE IS" will be amazingly validating. And then you can ALL roast hot dogs or make S'mores or grill steaks over the resulting fire you've started and have a hilarious party.

You'll have poured out your anger in a healthy way, you'll have had validation that you were right, and you'll end on a celebratory note.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have tried both things, and in my admittedly limited experience, it's only in low-stakes situations that telling someone what they did wrong worked for me.

Once when I was moving away from a city I had tried very hard to live in, a friend ("friend") pulled some stupid bullshit the last time I was seeing them. I wrote them a postcard saying "I see you, you pulled [this specific bullshit] and it was super shitty" and then I didn't really ever see them again. It felt good to write it out and send it, although I think their instinct for self-protection probably let them read it without really hearing what I was saying. It helped me re-contextualize my whole "friendship" with them, too.

On the other hand, I no longer speak to a close family member because they are infuriating, abusive, relentlessly argumentative, addicted, monomaniac, and just really all around an unpleasant person. They are also my sibling and suffered abuse and childhood trauma while in the same family space as me, and I didn't. This is complicated, and while I don't exactly feel responsible for them, I sometimes weep for them - it is just so sad that they are so hurt. But it was impossible to be close to them (and I tried for years) and finally I felt so unsafe that I cut them off. I have never told them why. It feels like the right call.

I offer these two instances from my life and leave it to you to tell which end of the emotional intensity spectrum your current situation falls on.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:15 AM on November 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

He's done it before. He's been confronted before. He's not oblivious; he knows what he's doing. He's been told by other people in his past, over and over and overandoverandover.

Think on that, because it can help you, by internalizing the reality that
A. It's not the first or only time he's treated someone this way;
B. It's not about you. Which means there's nothing you can do that'll change him/this situation.

It's easy for us to hope the light will dawn when we tell this person what s/he did. Or to hope that maybe, if we change, that'll somehow fix the situation. It's easier to accept the fruitlessness of that when you see it as a life pattern, and not a single-relationship problem.

You gave this relationship your best shot; he's the one who didn't. He's not worth another nanosecond of your time. Walk away with your head held high.
posted by Lunaloon at 9:38 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Al-Anon is about relationships, period. The question is, why did you pick this person to get involved with? I have done the same thing over and over, and I had to admit that I was the one who picked the crappy partners.

I would hold off on making any move, and wait until you calm down a little. And then ask yourself some questions. Doing an inventory on yourself when you have a mess on you hands is perfect and you should learn some things about yourself.

And the next time, make a better choice.
posted by chocolatetiara at 12:24 PM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

“'s infuriating to me that he may just continue on his merry way in his life...”

If he routinely blacks out drunk and has made a “garbage fire” out of his own personality, I am sure he is absolutely miserable and hates himself. He may not be willing to identify exactly how he contributes to his failures, or be willing to change, but you can bet that he’s not using you or this situation as some kind of launching pad to a new level of merriment. It’s more likely that you (and the other woman) are moments of stability that he’s desperately grabbing on his way down. One day (in the distant future) you may even come to have compassion for him.
posted by cranberrymonger at 4:26 PM on November 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'd be so tempted to gaslight him back - say by showing gratitude and telling him you were so glad he explained and now everything is resolved and you can look back at the relationship with composure and it was so brave of him to admit it, and some people would think less of him, but you understand how impossible it was for him to go forward in the relationship. And that you understand why he felt he could never tell anyone about it before. In fact, in his shoes, you wouldn't dare tell a therapist, let alone an ex-partner. His courage and kindness in admitting the truth goes a long way to making up for it. And you'll never tell anyone unless you have to.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:21 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

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