Should we warn a girl that her new bf is a deceptive jerk?
January 2, 2008 7:55 PM   Subscribe

My friend's ex-boyfriend is a manipulative, lying scumbag. Should I warn his new girlfriend what she's getting into?

My friend Natalie had a 6-month relationship with a guy we'll call Lee. He's wonderful at the beginning of a relationship, although there were some oddities about it. After a month or so it became clear to Natalie that Lee was lying about a few things here and there, but Lee was very skilled at offering good explanations or giving reasons for his little deceptions. After a few more months it became clear that there were more than little lies, that he was covering up huge deceptions and had been very manipulative.

Lee also went through periods of depression and anger, and would lash out at everyone close to him. He was very skilled at saying just the right thing to most hurt those who cared about him, and then pull them back under his influence when they started backing away.

Natalie has moved on, and after some contact and discussion with another of Lee's ex-girlfriends (call her Kenna), discovered that this is a pattern that has been repeated many times. We also discovered that Lee has a new girlfriend. Kenna also told us that Lee has a new girlfriend, and that the pattern is being repeated again. Lee is going to propose to this girl, and wants to have children with her. He's been dating her about 2 months, which is just about the time he proposed to Natalie, so he's right on schedule with his pattern.

We know the new girlfriend's email address. I'm thinking of registering an anonymous gmail account and sending her a warning email. I would probably say something like "In my experience Lee is a very deceptive and manipulative person. Maybe he has changed, I hope so, but if you have any concerns or nagging doubts about him right now, I would suggest you take a good hard look at them before getting more involved with him."

What do you think? I doubt anyone who's directly connected with Lee would approach her about it in person, for fear of Lee's wrath. I don't know if he'd be violent, but I don't want to find out. I am certain he'd do everything he could to smear the person in any social circles they shared. I think he'd suspect who sent the message, but I don't think he'd be sure. There is always the chance that he would arbitrarily decide it was me or Natalie (or Kenna) and try to get revenge.

Followup questions to:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (65 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's none of your business. Do not send that email.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:59 PM on January 2, 2008

If you received such an email, would it impact your choices? Really? Assuming it made it past a spam filter.

Your empathy is admirable, but rarely can friends tell friends things like this that they don't want to hear. Total strangers? Forget it.
posted by phearlez at 8:00 PM on January 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Do not do this. If the new girlfriend comes to you or your friend and inquires about her potential fiance, that's one thing, but as it is now, it's not your business to meddle.
posted by junesix at 8:04 PM on January 2, 2008

Nope!! People get to make their own mistakes. It's what keeps the world going round. This asshole will get what's coming to him.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:04 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

The damage trail he blazes behind him is entering entropy as experiences and stories stack up, I'm sure. New girlfriends need no warning of impending storm–they've got eyes and ears, and if they've never smelt bullshit before, well, this will be a pretty good benchmark experience for this sort of thing. Besides, guys like this start looking a mess from further and further away. Pretty soon he'll have to advance his proposals to third dates to distract from the cacophony of drama that swirls around his head.

Really, there is absolutely nothing you need to do here.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:06 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nthing keeping the lip zipped (or the Gmail). People rarely listen to well-meaning strangers offering advice. Chances are the new girlfriend would blow you off (at best) or get actively defensive. Iamkimiam is right in that karma will eventually bite Lee in the butt, because it's going to get harder and harder for him to cover his trail.

I know it's tough and the temptation to warn New Girlfriend is immense, but it probably will do little good.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:09 PM on January 2, 2008

Should I warn his new girlfriend what she's getting into?

No. You can bet she already knows on some level or another.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:14 PM on January 2, 2008

It's none of your business. Do not send that email.

This is your answer.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:19 PM on January 2, 2008

Fuckit. Tell the new girl. Mention that he's proposed to the last three girls he's dated at two months, as well. Give concrete examples. Do not be nasty, just very specific and very thorough.

It may not do a damn bit of good. It may be the straw that breaks her mind of his spell.

Your conscience will be clean, if nothing else.
posted by notsnot at 8:23 PM on January 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

I got an e-mail from the ex. It made her look crazy, but it was really very interesting.
posted by melissam at 8:24 PM on January 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

As soon as I read your question, I knew what the collective answer would be: a resounding no. And I have a lot of sympathy with that, but I'm not convinced. To my mind, a simple message saying something like "Hey, your circumstances may be different and your relationship is your own, but here's a recent experience with Lee that you may not know about" wouldn't be so bad.

It's true that she may well ignore it -- but she might not, and even if you consider that she might react to the advice by acting defensively, that is really much more her own problem than yours . . . you've given her the information, not attempted to control her behavior. (On the assumption that's your objective, rather than screwing Lee by killing his relationship.)

It's true that karma may get Lee, but it might not in sufficient time. The point, I am again assuming, is not to right the universe with respect to Lee, but to help someone.

Finally, it may be true that the GF is likely to figure out that he's a scumbag all on her own. But frankly, lots of people make such discoveries well after they should . . . and they have been at this a couple of months.

I think the advice to stay the hell away from interfering in relationships works awfully well when you've got a stake in maintaining one with one party or the other. And it shouldn't be done just to give somebody the shaft. But I'm not sure that there's a good reason to steer clear here, if it's well motivated.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:30 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sending an anonymous e-mail is weak. If what you have to say is important, you should sign your name to it. Or call her, or tell her in person. But you shouldn't say it, because this woman is a grownup and not a child. Plus, you're not doing it because you care about her, you're doing it to get back at this guy. Which she'll be able to smell in about 2 seconds.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:32 PM on January 2, 2008 [5 favorites]

A close relative was in an abusive relationship such as you describe. When it finally ended, she really really REALLY wished someone (i.e., any one of her ex's previous gf's or wives) would have said something to her in the beginning and spared her a lot of grief.

Would you feel comfortable with your decision not to contact her, if his manipulative and abusive behavior became physical abuse, or worse?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:33 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Are you going to do this for EVERY future relationship of Lee's? Isn't there a "Hate my exboyfriend" site somewhere on the net for you to slander him for once and for all? Don't you think that Lee will be able to explain away any such email by offering good explanations or giving reasons .

Don't do it, unless the new girl asks. Then you can spill your guts.
posted by b33j at 8:48 PM on January 2, 2008

I would absolutely appreciate the anonymous e-mail.
posted by Eringatang at 8:59 PM on January 2, 2008 [4 favorites]

Plus, you're not doing it because you care about her, you're doing it to get back at this guy.

I don't see any evidence that she is looking for revenge. It seems that she wants to warn a potential "victim".

That being said, the rest of my comments below have been made under the assumption that this guy is a dangerous person (i.e. violent, drug addict, criminal). Then again, even if he was a adulterer/cheater, I think the comments would still apply. But I must admit, I don't know exactly what it is that makes this person so terrible in the eyes of the OP:
I also have to disagree with all the comments that advise the OP not to do anything because this new g/f needs to figure things out on her own. Yikes, that is a bit scary.

If I saw you in a kayak unknowingly heading for a waterfall, would you want me to warn you or would you rather figure it out on your own?

If I see that you are about to burn your hand on a hot stove, would you want me to warn you or would you rather figure it out on your own?

I do agree that it is possible that she will ignore the OP's warning; perhaps you are all correct in that she will need to make mistakes on her own, but she deserves fair warning.

A friend and I knew a girl who was being abused by her b/f. They eventually broke up and this guy went on to another victim. We quickly told this new g/f our opinion of this guy and although she didn't believe us immediately, remembered our advice when he started to hit her. I feel that she broke it off sooner because of what we told her.

Where I worked, I found out that two of my colleagues were stealing property from the company. I sent an anonymous e-mail to my employer telling him of the situation. He chose to ignore the e-mail, but that was his perogative. But I felt it was my duty to tell him. Would you have not done the same?


All that to say: If you feel that this person is a danger to the new g/f, do send the e-mail! State the facts. Don't be emotional, calling him names. But state the facts, if they are as terrible as you make them out to be.
posted by bitteroldman at 9:09 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

your perspective is wholly subjective
posted by Salvatorparadise at 9:11 PM on January 2, 2008

So you would send emails to every girlfriend this guy ever has for the rest of his life? And destroy every relationship he ever has? Hmm.
posted by markovich at 9:14 PM on January 2, 2008

b33j, markovich:

I don't think this stands or falls on the OP's willingness to do this for the rest of her life. This seems proximate to his bad relationships -- Lee may evolve in time, in theory -- and she may have greater knowledge of this one than any that follows.

One thing I wasn't focusing on was the risk that Lee would retaliate against the OP or her friend, on a hunch. I don't know how to evaluate that at all, or how to compare it to the value added by informing on Lee. If that's what Salvatorparadise meant by "your perspective is wholly subjective," well, yes.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:24 PM on January 2, 2008

posted by chrisamiller at 9:53 PM on January 2, 2008

Sounds like my sister's ex, and we all wish we'd spoken up earlier about his caddish record when she started dating him. However, in our case everyone involved was part of the same social group and knew each other, while you don't seem to know the new girlfriend as well. I don't think an anonymous email from a stranger is the best way to do this, but I do think one way or another she should get some outside views of her relationship.
posted by casarkos at 10:08 PM on January 2, 2008

I think a one-off email, carefully phrased to stay away from the passive-aggressive disaster that it could very easily become, would at worst do nothing and might bring a little bit of reality into the fabrication that manipulative people can create.

With one proviso: Make it very clear that you're not interested in further contact. Don't check for a reply, make it clear you won't be doing so and then for god's sake don't go poking. If you're not the type of person who can just drop something and not be curious, please just walk away.

If you can keep it businesslike enough, stick to the facts (especially specific ones that can be verified reasonably easily by third (fourth?) parties), and stay away from the vengeful ex schtick you might get through the haze of his reality distortion field.
posted by Skorgu at 10:16 PM on January 2, 2008

Seconding b33j: find one of those "hate my ex-boyfriend" sites, post it there from an untraceable IP and email address, and leave it be.
posted by limeonaire at 10:32 PM on January 2, 2008

Leave it alone. For all you know, Lee may even be making an honest effort to turn things around.
posted by EatTheWeek at 11:04 PM on January 2, 2008

I think a one-off email, carefully phrased to stay away from the passive-aggressive disaster that it could very easily become ...

Unpossible. That email is an example of passive aggression.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 11:17 PM on January 2, 2008

I once (2002 or thereabouts) finagled a date with a chick that was prominent in Seattle's online community (which I was not a part of). A couple days after our first date I got an unsolicited, anonymous email linking to some blog posts about her. The relationship never caught fire (she was a bitch, turns out I'm really awesome). While the email had nothing to do with the courtship's expiration date, I was always vaguely appreciative that some anonymous person took the time to do me such a solid.
posted by vito90 at 12:22 AM on January 3, 2008

Note: I used to be a lot like Lee, but I grew out of it, and I'm speaking from that perspective.

Eventually, mounting relationship failures will pressure Lee to change. You need to give him the chance to mature emotionally over the course of successive future relationships. The girls he dates are responsible for their own lives, including getting themselves out of an emotionally toxic situation.

If you do this, and especially if you keep doing this, you only guarantee that Lee won't grow out of it. It's best for everyone, in the long run, if you let this situation resolve itself.

It certainly did in my case.
posted by Ryvar at 1:14 AM on January 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've been in a relationship I was warned about, and although I paid little heed at the time, it certainly gave a fair bit of impetus to my exit once I worked out things really wouldn't be different with me. So I say, send one email, leave it at that and walk away.

This question reminded me a lot of this blog entry by the accordion guy. It seemed to help him a lot that someone let him know that he was involved with a piece of work.
posted by arha at 2:40 AM on January 3, 2008

You should totally send an email. We should all be looking out for each other, rather than shrugging our shoulders and saying "Hey, not my business!". All you're trying to do is help someone, they're a grownup, they can decide whether they want to take your advice.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:36 AM on January 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

He clearly isn't that good at lying or deception: hence the trail of ex-girlfriends who figured him out. So whatever you eventually decide to do, don't base it on some idea that he's incredibly cunning and that you're in a unique position to expose him.

I would take a very different approach if you had any serious reason to suspect physical abuse of course.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 3:42 AM on January 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

yes, people do make their own mistakes, but you know what? i'd want that email. it matters to me what a person's exes think of them--and if the juju is bad, whether they are just bitter or disillusioned, versus genuinely hurt.

so i'm gonna go against the flow and say go ahead and email her. the worst thing that happens is that it doesn't make it through the spam filter anyway; the second worst thing that happens is that she ignores it.

for the best chance of success, you need to be clinical about it--don't pass judgment on her, just say, "i happen to know two of his exes, and this was their experience. it was unpleasant enough that we thought it was worth sharing with you. you'll have to judge for yourself what it means for you, if anything."
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:43 AM on January 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

I'd send it. He wants children with this girl. What if he gets her pregnant before she realises who she's dealing with? She'll never get him out of her life.

Also, a really skilled manipulator makes you doubt your judgment - you shoo away the questions and worries. Having a third party input is invaluable if she's in that place. I'd lead with the 2-month proposal thing - it's concrete, and a huge red flag.
posted by tiny crocodile at 4:51 AM on January 3, 2008

You wrote: "After a few more months it became clear that there were more than little lies, that he was covering up huge deceptions and had been very manipulative."

To me, the key is what the "huge deceptions" are. If someone lies small and large and is good at covering it up and if someone has a pattern of proposing after two months and has an anger problem, etc., etc...then I tend to say that someone you don't know dating them, well they can learn.
If that person is abusive, tell the other person.
If the huge deceptions are say...a destructive drug addiction, tell the person.
If he's just a lieing loser and good at covering up, maybe tell the person.

Oh yes, and unless you're concerned about your physical safety or the opinion of a loser, don't send an anon email if you're going to do it.
posted by Furious Fitness at 5:09 AM on January 3, 2008

No. Not unless he's physically dangerous. If it's really that serious, it is, as others have said, worth an in-person talk. Otherwise, people make their own mistakes, and I realize this is crazy-talk, but people also change. A long time ago, someone chose to insert herself though these kinds of means into a relationship of mine, and it pissed me off. This girl is (theoretically) an adult who is free to make her own mistakes. It's not your job to save her from this guy, and odds are at best 50/50 that she would appreciate it. Mind. Your. Own. Business.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:36 AM on January 3, 2008

I would say to tell, because we don't all have to live our lives without any help from other people, and it is somewhat silly to say that in relationships we should be left completely alone to make mistakes. And learning from the mistakes of others is also a good trait of most living things. The worst that could happen to her is that she ignores the advice and is no better off than if you hadn't sent it. If you are afraid that Lee may hurt you, your friend, or the current girlfriend for telling, that's a reason for not doing it.

I think the ask.metafilter majority will always be "mind your own business", but there do also exist a lot of people who are grateful for warnings and assistance from others, and I certainly believe that in this case, the potential benefits could greatly outweigh the bad points.
posted by that girl at 5:53 AM on January 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by OmieWise at 6:13 AM on January 3, 2008

A friend and I knew a girl who was being abused by her b/f. They eventually broke up and this guy went on to another victim. We quickly told this new g/f our opinion of this guy and although she didn't believe us immediately, remembered our advice when he started to hit her. I feel that she broke it off sooner because of what we told her.

That is a very good point. There is nothing wrong with sending someone a factual note. Remember that people who abuse their spouses often get away with it because it starts slowly, gradually erodes a person's self esteem, and the recipient of the abuse begins to believe that it is somehow their fault.

If you do the current gf the favour of sending a short note, conceding that people can and do change -- and you hope Lee has -- she may be able to recognise certain situations as warning signs, and realise that HE is the problem rather than blaming herself.

PS I don't understand this prevailing logic that because the current gf probably won't listen to the advice, you shouldn't send the email. That's silly. If she reads it, and doesn't take the advice, no harm done. You'll all forget about it. But there is a chance it will help her.
posted by mjao at 6:29 AM on January 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

I too was reminded of the accordion-guy story.

I'd send it, but not anonymously. In fact, if you can convince the other ex (Kenna) to sign her name to it as well, so much the better.

The message should not be accusatory. Simply state "these were our experiences, and we feel it's a big enough problem that we are letting you know."
posted by adamrice at 6:55 AM on January 3, 2008

I was warned about a girl once before I started seeing her regularly, and I'm still grateful for that. If you do go ahead, don't do it anonymously, and make it a short heads up: "Have a good time with this guy, but be careful because he can be intentionally hurtful and manipulative."
posted by yeti at 7:02 AM on January 3, 2008

I would want you to tell me.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:06 AM on January 3, 2008

Is he abusive? If not, just a lesson learned.

Everyone should have at least one manipulative sig oth. It makes them really appreciate the nice person they'll finally end up with.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:12 AM on January 3, 2008

I wish someone had warned me about my last girl friend. I think if somebody disinterested (thats is, not interested in her) contacted me I would have taken them seriously. The thing to consider is that its one more piece of information in the relationship scale. People weigh their feelings and trust for a person with the signs they pick up, other information from their environment and their level of love/need/optimism/cynicism. So I don't think you would lose much by telling them on some level. I guess its also a matter of degree- Some people are just bad for a particular person, but could do well with someone else, in which case a warning is inappropriate. Some people are just bad news period, which it sounds like this guy is.
posted by blueyellow at 7:44 AM on January 3, 2008

I take good advice from any quarter, and if I were this girl, I would want you to warn me. I wouldn't necessarily dump the guy straight away, but I would be on guard for whatever you said his flaws were and therefore quicker to recognize the bad behaviour as a pattern instead of a one-off.
posted by orange swan at 8:31 AM on January 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, send it. The worst thing that can happen is that she reads it and dismisses it. But at least you'll know you've done what you can. I agree with all of the people who liken this to watching someone about to walk off a cliff. Wouldn't you tell them, "Hey, there's a cliff in front of you! Better step carefully!"?
posted by chowflap at 9:02 AM on January 3, 2008

I would send it as long as you were careful to make it strictly fair -- only filled with facts that you knew to be true, and not filled with lots of subjectivity and opinion except maybe one sentence at the end al la "i have been around this guy for ___ months and believe him to be manipulative and a bad deal for his girlfriends -- I have never been his girlfriend and don't have a particular ax to grind myself, but saw his influence on a friend and wanted you to know some of what I knew. Good luck."

I mean, if it were me, or you, we'd want to know, right?

And, good luck.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:26 AM on January 3, 2008

Stay out of it. I was in a relationship where my boyfriend's ex-girlfriend made up an entirely fictitious MySpace account and then started sending me crazy emails about my boyfriend supposedly to warn me about all his bad qualities. I figured it out pretty quickly and outed the ex as a jilted lover pretending to be someone else just to get back at my boyfriend because she was upset about being dumped. It was NOT a pretty situation and in the end only made me closer to my boyfriend. In the end, though, my boyfriend did turn out to be a bit of a jerk but it had nothing to do with what his ex was accusing him of. The whole thing was a big mess and we would all have been better off without the "anonymous" tip. I dug my heels in, my boyfriend felt insecure, the ex looked like a freak. Just don't do it.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:02 AM on January 3, 2008

Well, this is different, though, otherwordlyglow. Obviously if this poster's question had been, "I am the jealous ex of a great guy and would like to break up him and the new girl; should I send her an anonymous email / make up a fictitious webpage" etc., then clearly the advice would be no. But the person who is posting here is actually a somewhat disinterested observer who has seen this guy act in a definite pattern of destructive behavior with more than one woman, and wants to know whether someone else might appreciate knowing that info. I do think it would be helpful. Even if the new girlfriend doesn't trust the stranger and leave immediately, as she probably shouldn't, she can keep her eyes open for this behavior and it may "click" if the guy starts acting in the same destructive pattern again. It could potentially save her alot of hurt.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:32 AM on January 3, 2008

Well, this is different, though, otherwordlyglow.
I understand the difference but it's still meddling and were it me, I'd be just as suspicious of an anonymous email that came to me warning me about my new boyfriend. You don't really know how "disinterested" anyone is.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:39 AM on January 3, 2008

But the person who is posting here is actually a somewhat disinterested observer who has seen this guy act in a definite pattern of destructive manipulative behavior with more than one woman, and wants to know whether someone else might appreciate knowing that info.

It's none of the OP's business and passes judgment on a situation about which she knows nothing (the new relationship). On top of that, if you read the post thinking "this might not all be true," rather than thinking "this is all true," it's awfully vague and fails to list any particularly egregious behavior by Lee that might not be explained in some other (more sympathetic) way. What we know is that Lee has a couple of exes, and that they think he's a jerk. (Not abusive, not destructive, just a jerk.) We also know that they're considering trying to sabotage his current relationship.

I have no idea what kind of guy Lee is, but this seems like a bad idea. Let's assume a 10 point scale:

1(world's greatest guy)----------------5(decent guy)------------------10(worst guy in the world)

As described Lee comes out about a 7, maybe an 8 (although that only leaves 9 for serial cheaters and 10 for murderers). What kind of adjustment do we have to make toward the center for the description of him being written by his ex's friend? At least a point, right? Maybe two? So we're left with a guy that's a bit jerkier than average, on the evidence we have before us. Is that really reason enough to suggest that the OP try to stop his current relationship, in which she has no stake whatsoever? Remember that even Dick Cheney has people who actually love him, who think he's a great guy. Maybe the new gf is his Lynne.
posted by OmieWise at 11:54 AM on January 3, 2008

If I were about to marry Dick Cheney, I'd sure as hell appreciate a head's up. Especially if he wanted to make babies with me.

There's kind of a war of values here that probably only the OP can resolve -- weighing "don't meddle"/"none of your business" versus "help/inform others so they can help themselves" doesn't easily admit of an answer, though I admit I'm finding it more difficult to unpack what the former means (apart from the skepticism that it will change the recipient's behavior, which seems to me secondary).

One thing that occurs to me, though, is that you'd certainly want to discuss this move with Natalie and maybe Kenna, since it is not unlikely that they would be falsely accused of sending the email.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 12:14 PM on January 3, 2008

What we know is that Lee has a couple of exes, and that they think he's a jerk.

Um, no. As you acknowledge, the poster is not an ex, she is just the friend of an ex. And frankly, I've been friends with women where there have been breakups and my friend thought the guy was a jerk and I thought she was entitled to her opinion and it might even deserve more weight than mine but the guy seemed pretty okay to me. Read the note the poster thinks about sending -- it sounds pretty objective, really, and not filled with alot of venom. It also sounds like the poster has first person experience in observing the guy's behavior, and is not getting fed everything through her girlfriend who had the relationship with him. The post reads as though the poster has observed some of the arguments between the couple firsthand, or heard some of the lies, or had seen the guy in action when he whipped out some of his really hurtful zingers.

You edited my comment to replace my judgment that he was destructive with the word manipulative. I know the poster used the word manipulative, but I don't think it's exaggeration to call the following behavior destructive:

-- Telling lies to the person you love. Not just small lies, but lies that are actually really huge deceptions. When girlfriend begins to discover some of these lies, lie harder to cover them up.
-- Act like a wonderful person during the first month of the relationship, although (see above) this is just an act and is not your true self. Propose after two months before girlfriend can figure things out and run.
-- Take out your anger and depression on your girlfriend and others who you are close to. Hurt them in the ways that only people who know someone well really can. Realize that if you keep being a jerk they will leave you, and act contrite. Start cycle again.

This last step, by the way, is the classic "hearts and flowers - abuse - hearts and flowers" cycle that is rampant in relationships where there is domestic violence.

You think that is not destructive behavior? I think that sort of behavior would destroy any otherwise healthy relationship. So, yeah, I stand by destructive.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:26 PM on January 3, 2008

follow-up from the OP
Followup on this anonymous thread.
People are asking why the guy is such a jerk, and what kind of deceptions he's guilty of. I didn't want to get too specific because I didn't want to make it easy to figure out specifically who this thread is about, but some of his actions include:
* Borrowing thousands of dollars and not paying them back
* Charging thousands of dollars to credit cards without the owner's knowledge
* Isolating people by telling lies about them to each other so they don't trust each other, where if they had talked they would have uncovered a lot of his deceptions

There's a lot of other assholish and emotionally abusive behavior in his history, but these are the main things that I feel would be worth letting someone know about if they were entering a relationship. The new gf has probably already loaned him a large wad of cash.

And as a few posters pointed out, one of my major concerns is that he is planning on having children with her. I know she has been looking for someone to start a family with. If it were just a matter of having her feelings hurt and losing a few thousand dollars, I probably wouldn't worry about it so much.
posted by jessamyn at 12:52 PM on January 3, 2008

Um, no. As you acknowledge, the poster is not an ex, she is just the friend of an ex.

Sure, whose knowledge also comes from angry exes. There isn't anything wrong with that, but it's not objective. I think "somewhat disinterested" fails to capture the main source of the information.

You edited my comment to replace my judgment that he was destructive with the word manipulative.

Well, before the update that jess just posted, all of your list of "destructive" behavior was really unsupported and vague allegation by an interested party. There are very very few specifics listed in the OP. Before jessamyn's recent post, there's really no reason to assume that unspecified "huge deceptions" should be taken at face value as really bad. My point with my editing, and the rest of my comment, is that your judgment is predicated on giving all of the benefit of the doubt to Lees' exes and their friend, and none to Lee, even though there are scant details about what his crimes might have been. That's a valid reading, but no more valid than one which discounts Lee's vague behavior to general assholishness and recommends that this lady stay the hell out of it.

Anybody who has listened equitably to a couple whose relationship is in deep distress realizes that the story is seldom as one-sided as the one presented here (in the original post), especially when the complaints are loaded with value judgments but short on facts. I think it probably contributes to a charitable reading of the OP's story that we're talking about an asshole of a guy and a couple of ex-girlfriends. Despite the fact that there is absolutely no indication of abuse in the original post, many people seem to have at least read it as some sort of coded description of at least proto-abuse.

That said, the proposed email seems shockingly lacking in detail given the new information provided by the OP. If the guy's such a major thief, that seems pretty relevant.
posted by OmieWise at 1:27 PM on January 3, 2008

Well, before the update that jess just posted, all of your list of "destructive" behavior was really unsupported and vague allegation by an interested party.

You are correct that I took the post at face value, and not as some coded Henry James Turn of the Screw mindf*ck by an unreliable first person narrator. I understand that you were trying to keep an open mind and basically not do any harm in a situation that could be different than what it seemed, and maybe in some situations -- I would say a different situation than this one -- you might be right. I think I'm coming from something closer to a shoot from the hip place, where we have to make our best effort to treat one another as we'd want to be treated and help one another out.

Honestly, it looks like the guy has a pattern of wooing women to run up their credit cards before they break up with him or he runs. The whole two month proposal pattern seems weird and strange until connected to the money, which makes it start to sound like he uses his relationships as a source of income. He actually seems like a scammer. In which case, I really think an email with the particular advice regarding specific experiences with him and debt and credit cards would be a good idea, and sooner rather than later.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:00 PM on January 3, 2008

not as some coded Henry James Turn of the Screw mindf*ck by an unreliable first person narrator.

Do you really think I would have to think this was like Turn of the Screw to not give credence to the vague allusions presented by a very interested party in cohoots with two pissed-off ex-girlfriends? While you're giving out benefit of the doubt, I could use some over here.
posted by OmieWise at 2:39 PM on January 3, 2008


Fair enough -- once articulated beyond your initial, oracular "No" -- but I think think it's a far closer case than you credit.

Suppose it's the case that the OP's warning email is short on specifics (though it should not be, I'd agree, so vague as to create the potential for false inferences about physical abuse or whatever -- and, while at it, avoid libel). You say, and many would agree, that there are always often two sides to a story, and that an account that's short on facts will be discounted accordingly . . . indeed, a lot seem to think this will go nowhere for that reason. Is it so obvious that this assessment should be taken out of the present GF's hands? Are we to believe that AskMe is better at assessing the strength of the case against Lee, as it is germane to his present relationship, than his present GF?

There's a decent chance that an anonymous email will simply cause emotional distress without adding insight or clarity, and might get the OP and her friends in trouble. But I think you're unduly discounting the value to having a pattern of conduct revealed, if it's something replicated in the present relationship. I tend to think the better advice is to try to be as specific and concrete as possible so that the GF can make her own assessment, subject to the caveats above.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 3:22 PM on January 3, 2008

Do you really think I would have to think this was like Turn of the Screw to not give credence to the vague allusions presented by a very interested party in cohoots with two pissed-off ex-girlfriends?

Omie, I was just saying (albeit in a colorful way) that I was answering the question as written whereas you seemed to be answering something else. And I admitted later in that same paragraph that your approach might be the right one for a different fact pattern, so I was/am trying to be fair. But to me, in this case, the poster came off as a reasonably disinterested person, and now that we know that the facts* involve allegedly mooching/taking thousands of dollars off of girlfriends that have been quickly wooed and won, I sure do think the poster sounds reasonable. And not out to get revenge, or "a very interested party in cohoots with two pissed-off ex-girlfriends" as you describe her. I think the poster is employing only her own hoots, and looking to save the hoots of the new girlfriend, which seems reasonable and admirable to me, and frankly I would be happier if I lived in a world where total strangers who thought my hoots might be in trouble told me so and let me do with that information what I would.

* Assuming that the information re the thousands of dollars in debt in credit cards and unrepaid loans is true, which I do assume; however if you don't we seem to get into unreliable narrarator territory again here.
posted by onlyconnect at 6:20 PM on January 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Absolutely, I think this is something that reasonable people can disagree about.

(Although, and I hate to say this (seriously), but I don't really believe the update about Lee. The lesser reason is that there's no reason that the information couldn't have been included in the OP, since it would have explained the concerns a lot more clearly. The larger reason, though, is that the information in the update (thousands of dollars stolen! in two different ways) is inconsistent with the tone of the first post, in which the guy is just called a deceptive jerk and the email warning is understated and prosaic. But I can understand why one might believe it and might think it was a good idea to warn a new gf.)
posted by OmieWise at 6:59 PM on January 3, 2008

I understand why you'd want to keep the details private, but without specifics I can't tell what this person is like. Is he a con man or a blowhard who's bad with money? What was he lying about? Is he still lying about it? If this guy is a thief, why isn't he in jail? If he's such a sleaze, why don't more people know about him? Maybe this guy is a pure psychopath, or maybe this story isn't adding up - we don't know the other side. It's hard to tell. If there's something so concretely awful about this guy, why can't you include specifics at least in the email to her, notifying either her or the police department? Or, you could anonymously email HIM, warning him not to do whatever it is he does. Wanting to have kids doesn't sound like a prelude to him running off again, although I guess that can happen.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:00 PM on January 3, 2008

Chewing on the question some more: if this guy is lying and taking money, then clearly his problem is the money. He's not cheating, and if it's neither that nor money, I don't know what else of importance he could be lying about. Unless he's just generally a pathological liar, which sounds more annoying than horrifying, but what do I know.

Let me guess - he lies about his financial situation and borrows cash to cover expenses, while they wait for his ship to come in, which it never does, and the cycle keeps on spinning. If he's that broke and insecure, then that explains the depression and anger - he's probably sad about living a double life, or living beyond his means, or whatever it is that he does, and he's probably sad about lying, and something is clearly preventing him from getting past that. That's pretty shitty, in a jerky-but-more-pathetic-than-mean way, but it's also easily foiled with facts - if he has stolen or otherwise inappropriately taken money, then you have concrete proof of malfeasance.

He probably genuinely wants his relationships to work out, and as the truth festers inside of him, he starts getting nasty, projecting his anger onto those who take care of him, while at the same time keeping the relationship up through being contrite and all the other things you do when you fuck up. Most importantly, you have to ask yourself: is he doing that now? Has he grown? Has he reverted? What do you know? Or am I way off base about this guy?

Maybe he really is something quite sinister, in which case you're going to have to decide to either stay away for your own safety or break out the big guns. Anonymous emails aren't going to work, in that case - it's too direct for him to ignore, but it's too indirect to have much of a positive effect.

I don't get the fear surrounding Lee, either. If he's not violent and lies are his only weapons, then what could he possibly do? Do people actually fear him, like you say - if so, why, and if they do, then why would they listen to his bullshit? Why the fear of the email's source being discovered? How would he smear you in your social circle - if this guy lies about people to keep them apart, why couldn't you disclose the truth to those people so that they don't buy his aforementioned bullshit? Does this guy blackmail people or something? What's more, if you are one of a limited number of people who could know something about him, and you actually are considering doing this, then it's hardly arbitrary if you're targeted after you torpedo his marriage. Even if you are actually saving a girl from a thieving liar - this is all the more reason why being direct and accountable is better, to avoid needless drama about what is hopefully a correct reading of this person*. The vague anonymity is suspicious - again, I understand that anonymity breeds vagueness by its very nature, and I certainly understand that you'd want to fudge the details for the web, but I feel like it would have been easy to bring up some kind of money angle, which is the salient bit, for the initial question. The shaky communication hints that the case is not black and white. We're even supposedly a neutral audience, to whom you are stating a case about a person we haven't met, and people are mostly head-scratchy - how would a supposedly loving girlfriend/fiancée react to a vague anonymous email about not trusting her boyfriend?

If you're going to contact the new girlfriend, which I still don't recommend, you'll need to be as specific as possible in what you know. It would be a shame to ruin someone's life - hers, his, or both - because you assumed something. I think we all know that rash decisions about the character of others are not always accurate. I've done plenty of jerky things myself, but I'd hate to suffer in excess of my karma because someone misinterpreted something.

And to repeat myself: if you're going to send an anonymous email, then maybe it's Lee who needs the warning. Maybe an anonymous email reading "don't lie about x/y/z and mooch off your girlfriend" could work. If he's already mended his ways, then he can shiver with guilt and shrug it off (or continue making progress or whatever). If he has not, then you've let him know that he's not as convincing as he thinks he is. And if he wants to spread stories, his hands are tied, because the only thing he could possibly have on you is that you called him on his huge lies.

Either way, it's not your business and this does not sound like the right thing to do, unless there's something very big which you're not telling us.

* Technically, I'd rather hope that you're wrong, but you get the idea.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:31 PM on January 3, 2008

I think women need to stop being scared to name names. The only result is that people (Omniwise) don't believe us when we do. "Women lie." "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Etc etc. These attitudes only protect men. Please, name names. Name names for physical abuse, emotional abuse, and criminal abuse. (He *stole* from her, that's a crime). I believe that women, even exes, are generally reasonable people. That means that I also trust a woman to figure out exaggeration or scornful lies (which I would never presume as the default status of a woman's speech) from truth. Yes, the new GF may not be ready to hear what you're saying, but don't let that stop you from saying it.

If this guy IS trying to turn over a new leaf, then he should accept that it means facing up to his past and discussing it, and the changes he's making, with the people he wants to be intimate with.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:01 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

You're right, I questioned the motives and presentation of the anonymous poster. I also showed my work and made it clear that, as far as I'm concerned, disagreeing with me was a reasonable response to this thread and my argument. When Salamandrous extends me the same courtesy I'll take that into account, but right now her mention of my username simply seems like a suggestion that disagreement per se, with her interpretation, can only be based in misogyny. She could have written her comment without the gratuitous jab at me quite easily.
posted by OmieWise at 11:31 AM on January 4, 2008

The reason people are disinclined to get behind the OP is the vagueness of the presented details. It's more than understandable that you wouldn't want to cite specifics on a public forum (sure would suck to get sued for libel, even if you're right), but if the OP's email to the new girlfriend is going to be as vague as it was presented here, then it's a bad idea to send it, because it won't work.

I don't know what Lee does, but if he really is a deceptive, calculating, manipulative thief, your email should read more along the lines of, "Lee lied to some people about x/y/z. Is he telling you x/y/z? Because the truth is a/b/c. Is he borrowing money from you? In the experience of two of his ex-girlfriends, he has a tendency to get close to women, lie about x/y/z, take money under false pretenses, propose after 2 months, grow hostile, and either leave or become so hostile that they leave him."

If he really does lie about specific things, propose like clockwork, and take money under false pretenses, then this email should be relatively easy to write, and if he really does prey on these women in that fashion, then you're not off-base in wanting to do something about it. If it's hard to write an email saying specifically what he does wrong, then you should reconsider some things. I don't think the OP is lying, but it is easy to misinterpret people. A con man who manipulates women into loving him, paying him, and leaving him is a menace; a jerky guy who's bad with money is par for the course.

I understand as well that emotional abuse can be even worse than physical abuse, but without specifics, it's hard to judge, and most people are going to err on the side of caution. Again, I understand the need for secrecy in this forum, but if he is truly abusive (and not just a jerk), then you need to be specific to the person you wish to send this email to. For all I know, this guy really is a monster and you have a detailed litany of offenses, in which case you should act accordingly, but armed only with the information I see here, it's hard to get behind that plan just yet. The OP should only move if she can express certainty.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:28 PM on January 4, 2008

I do agree with Salamandrous that it was kind of weird how alot of people in here immediately assumed that anonymous must be extremely biased could not just be trying to be a good samaritan. I guess those folks have got their reasons, but I'd rather live in my world.

Did we read the same question?

My friend's ex-boyfriend is a manipulative, lying scumbag.

That doesn't sound like the beginning of an even-handed presentation to me.

I'm not up to the point of flat-out not believing some things anonymous is saying, where OmieWise appears to be, but I'd up my sodium intake when reading this question.
posted by oaf at 2:21 PM on January 4, 2008

Mod note: a few comments removed - stop poking other commenters and focus on yourselves please or take this right to metatalk.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:25 PM on January 4, 2008

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