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Dear Breakup Girl,
I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that I have recently been
dealing with a difficult breakup. The good news is that it's not mine...
My boyfriend's ex is, well, a psycho hose beast. Before we were dating, they
had broken up, but she was still causing him a lot of pain and suffering. He
was obsessed with her for a while, and then he finally seemed to be letting go
of her. A while after that, we started dating. Things were mostly OK. She would
come up in conversation occasionally, but I never felt seriously threatened by
her. I know that she is bipolar, and can be a very nasty person for no reason.
One of our favorite bands is playing at the college where his ex goes. She
called him up a few days ago and asked him if he was going to the concert and
he told her we'd been thinking about it. (I didn't think it was any of her
business, but that's another story) We both still want to go, but I don't know
what will happen in the event of a confrontation. My boyfriend is sweet and
sensitive, but it backfires on him sometimes. He doesn't have the courage to
stand up to her, and if he said anything to her, even "I don't want to
speak to/interact with you anymore" she would likely get really verbally
vicious and make things worse. She promised him that she wouldn't approach him
if he went to the concert, but he's not sure if he should trust that since she
used to lie to him so much. I warned him that if she did try to talk to him/us,
even if he wouldn't stand up for himself, I told him I wouldn't promise to
pretend to be nice, but would to try to avoid as much damage as possible. He
then warned me that if I was nasty, she would probably start saying things
about our relationship that I wouldn't want to hear. (By "our"
relationship, I didn't know if he meant our current relationship or their
former relationship. I didn't get a chance to ask, but both sound really
unpleasant...) I don't know what to do. I really hate being haunted by someone
else's past like this. Especially by someone I don't even know... I wish he
would just stand up to her, but that seems impossible too. The whole thing is
making me really angry and frustrated.
Breakup Mom, in case you're reading, "psycho hose
beast" is bad.
Okay, now I can get started. Here are some things that
1. If they are still smarting, exes are allowed to find out where their
heartbreaker is going to be hanging -- especially if their successor will be in
tow. They are then allowed to use this information to do what makes them feel
least uncomfortable, which probably means: don't go there.
2. People who have gone on to other relationships are allowed to be friends --
like, actual , cordial friends -- with their exes. Their current squeezes
pretty much just have to hold their heads high and deal.
3. Current squeezes are, however, allowed to be upset if what's going on is not
a cordial friendship, but a leftover entanglement of feelings and
In your case, Scythe, only #3 is happening. The PHB is
not handling the prospect of a close encounter with enlightened self-interest
(the rare case in which it would be "her business"), but with
advanced passive-aggressiveness; she is not trying to forge a friendly future;
she's sprinkling salt in old wounds. And the statute of limitations is
All of these not-very-nice things said, it's not your
place to stand between the two of them. It is, however, your place to stand
between your boyfriend and the concert listings and say, in
tacky-but-tried-and-true couples therapy speak, "When you get into these
lingering things with your ex, I feel...". It's a fine distinction,
but how he handles her is his business; how her presence affects you is your
business, as in "your," plural.
Finally, here's what you don't want to hear: if you do
see PHB at the concert, you kinda do have to be nice. You just do. Be
briefly cordial; if you can't stand it, go powder your nose and meet your
boyfriend back at your seats. Do not say, for example, "Oh! You're the
psycho hose beast I wrote to Breakup Girl about! How delightful to finally
attach the face to the nickname!"
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