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June 4

Psycho Hose Beast

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 9:21 am

A real classic from March 30, 1998

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.

— Scythe

Dear Scythe,

Breakup Mom, in case you’re reading, “psycho hose beast” is bad.

Okay, now I can get started. Here are some things that are allowed.

  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 manipulations.

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 over.

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!”

Breakup Girl


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