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Is my ex reading my blog?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  January 28, 2009 10:56 AM

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Here's your letter of the day ... something to read before you shovel (again) ...

Q: I have a website and a blog, and I have a stat counter that shows me what IP addresses regularly visit my site. Over the past few months, I've suspected that my ex-boyfriend who I haven't talked to in 4 years is one of the people visiting, but I have no real way of knowing. I just happen to know that he lives in the same town in which the IP address is registered. I want to email him and ask if he's the one. We were together for nearly a decade and the break up was very sudden. I feel like I need to clear the air and see if we can be friends but I was the one who broke up with him. What do I do?
iCurious, Boston

A: iCurious, you saved the most important details for last. You dumped him? And the break-up was sudden?

It may very well be your ex's IP address. In fact, I'm willing to bet that it is.

But I live by a rule: The dumper isn't allowed to reach out to the dumped after the dumping. It's the dumped who determines whether a friendship is possible. (If you read that twice, it should make sense.) There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but they're few and far between.

As the dumper, you stay silent. If your ex is ever ready to say hello and be friends, he'll reach out.

That said, iCurious, I do wonder why Mr. IP address is still on your mind and why you're so "iCurious" about whether he's watching you. Perhaps you're just feeling bad about how things went down.

But could it be that you're second guessing your decision to let him go? Maybe when you say "I want to email him and ask if he's the one" you're really wondering whether he's "the one."

If not, please leave him alone and let him Google you in private. It's his right.

Readers? Share your thoughts here.

Also, Confused is still trying to decide whether to call off the wedding. You can help with that one here.
- Meredith

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30 comments so far...
  1. Hey, 'ex reading your blog' lady...There's a 'should I call off my wedding' guy ready to go back on the market. Be careful...he tends to have a wondering eye as things get serious. But that's no problem for you...If you dump him; he'll probably be an anonymous viewer on your blog...so you two can keep in touch...sort of.

    Posted by bloguy January 28, 09 11:40 AM
  1. IP addresses aren't "registered to towns" like zip codes. They're registered to entities like corporations and internet providers and are not tied to a physical location. An internet service provider may assign IP addresses to a group of customers who just might live in a certain geographical area, but it's not a given.

    IP addresses assigned to average customers of internet providers are mostly "dynamic", that is, you don't get to keep one for the life of your internet service. Unplug your modem, plug it back in, and you might find that have a new IP address. "Static" IP addressses, that is, ones that don't change, are usually assigned to fixed pieces of hardware on the net that need to be able to be "found" reliably, such as web servers and email servers accessed by a lot of people.

    So bottom line is, this may all be over nothing. "Mr. IP address" may be someone in another part of the world and not the ex-boyfriend.

    Posted by Gates January 28, 09 11:52 AM
  1. Your blog is on the internet. So, your life is fair game for the world to see since you put it there. You claim to have broken up with him. So, it should come as no surprise that he's interested in how you are doing.

    I suggest you write about your conundrum in your blog. If he is reading and interested in being friends, why not announce it to him?

    Posted by Daniel January 28, 09 12:02 PM
  1. If you do not want random people reading your blog then perhaps you need a private one.

    Posted by too bad January 28, 09 12:06 PM
  1. My short answer is leave him alone. My longer answer is why do you want to contact him and ask if he's the one? Are you afraid of him and want him to stop? Do you hate him and want to embarrass him? Do you miss him and want to suggest you go out again? It sort of depends what your goal is if you contact him, but still my short answer is leave him alone.

    Posted by JustAThought January 28, 09 12:08 PM
  1. You said dumper.

    Posted by Bevis January 28, 09 12:16 PM
  1. I don't get how you have connected an IP address to your ex.

    As Gates said (#2), IP addresses aren't assigned to a particular town, and they are dynamic and may not get assigned to the same subscriber each time the subscriber logs on. If you haven't talked to your ex in 4 years, how do you know where he is now?

    And what makes you think he cares enough about what's happening to you to watch your blog?

    Perhaps the connection is wishful thinking?

    Leave it alone...

    Posted by SnowedIn January 28, 09 12:21 PM
  1. Friends with a woman who dumped me all of a sudden after 10 years? Not likely.

    Posted by CFZ January 28, 09 12:22 PM
  1. Contact the hosting service of your blog. See if the address can be banned using .htaccess or some other means. If possible ban the range of the IP address. This may prevent him from accessing the site.

    Posted by Web Host provider January 28, 09 12:22 PM
  1. I agree with Daniel; you could post something about it in your blog. As much as I like Meredith's policy that only the dumped can reach out, I'm not sure that it's a widely known one. What if he would like to get back in touch, but isn't sure if you'd be receptive, since you left him? Maybe he's reading the blog for just such a hint into what's going on with you now. If you posted something, it's a safe way to send a message that could pave the way.

    Posted by nutella14 January 28, 09 12:23 PM
  1. I agree with Daniel. Write about it on the blog. I'd recommend you leave out details so that you're not directly calling him out and everyone else who reads your blog won't automatically know who you're talking about. Make it clear that you'd be interested in getting reacquainted with old friends and then let it go. If he's reading and wants to contact you, he will. If not, so be it. If it skeeves you out that he's reading -- private blog.

    Posted by DT January 28, 09 12:24 PM
  1. Sorry, I reread my own comments and really I was wishy-washy. And you do already state why you say you want to see if it's him checking your blog. I stick to my short answer: leave him alone. I don't happen to think that two people together for almost a decade can then be friends. You're just feeling lousy about what you did to him. Leave him alone.

    Posted by JustAThought January 28, 09 12:36 PM
  1. If you don't want him reading your blog. Then don't blog.

    Posted by Red-Mama January 28, 09 12:49 PM
  1. Obviously, Web Host provider, you read the article but do not get the point. Of course there are ways to block the suspect IP, but that is not what the blogger is looking for. She actually wants to possibly contact this person. How does blocking the IP address or its range make that possible. Also, censoring an IP address that may not be who she thinks it is, that has done nothing wrong or inappropriate is just wrong.

    Posted by Tony January 28, 09 01:28 PM
  1. iCurious, I'd suggest you invest some time in learning how the Internet works. For all you know, Osama bin Laden and Barack Obama are reading, too. And your mother. Not to mention your ex. Not to mention someone could be making copies of what you post, including photographs and so on.

    So if you don't want it out there, don't post it on your blog.

    Posted by J January 28, 09 01:51 PM
  1. What are you 12?

    Posted by rightminded January 28, 09 02:00 PM
  1. I read my ex's blog once in a while to see how he's doing and what he is up to without having to contact him.

    I agree with the poster that says when it's on the internet, it's fair game and you have no right to comment, no right to try and connect.

    Now I know the IP address is tracable, I won't be checking up on the ex anymore. Thanks!

    Posted by ilovedhimhelovedeveryone January 28, 09 02:56 PM
  1. It seems to me that the dumped person would be far less likely to reach out than the one who did the dumping, out of fear of rejection.
    That being said, why does everybody think their activities are worthy of blogging? I cannot fathom anyone believing their day-to-day activities are of interest to anyone else, so it probably IS the ex who's still pining for her. The only blogs I read are focused on certain subjects, like sports, gardening, etc.

    Posted by JChris January 28, 09 03:05 PM
  1. Precisely wrong. When you break up with someone, you are essentially saying that you want the relationship to change in some fashion -- you want to stop being a "couple," but the nature of that change can manifest many ways. That is why if you are breaking up with someone, it's your responsibility to be clear about where you would like the friendship to go -- if you would feel comfortable hanging out, in what fashion, how often, etc... You cannot say to someone, "I want our relationship to change. Now you must tell me how that's going to happen." You set this thing in motion, it's your responsibility now.

    Posted by Paul January 28, 09 04:03 PM
  1. ilovedhimhelovedeveryone and others -- tracing an IP address is a guess at best. You might be able to know which ISP or company it came from, but many, many people's networks are behind one single IP address, or they get an IP from their ISP. So someone could show up as coming from Comcast in Boston and it could be anyone.

    The only possible way you might be able to nail it down would be if the ex had their own IP address and domain, and the traffic was coming from there -- but that's pretty rare.

    Posted by j January 28, 09 04:10 PM
  1. First, Ms. Goldstein's "rule" of who-contacts-whom is bizarre enough; the fact that it comes from someone writing a blog as a designated advice columnist is even more bizarre. Among other things, it gives the dumper a prefab excuse to never have to take the mature step of facing up to their actions if they come to the eventual realization (as most former couples do) that perhaps they too made mistakes during their time together: "You know I was a jerk, but I have to follow this rule so there's no need to reach out and apologize!"

    JChris' observation is correct; most dumpees will not initiate contact with an ex because they have already been badly burned by that person once; why risk doing so again? I'd also add there's pretty good data that the vast majority of relationships are ended by women, so while I don't mean to harp on this and appreciate the fact she's posting my comments, Ms. Goldstein really needs to think about how she's been steadily pointing out behavior that benefits women more than men.

    Unless you're back in high school playing games of "maybe he still loves me, maybe he still loves me not" and unless you've been told by your former partner that they don't want any contact, both parties are free to act like adults and try to see if the other is amenable to contact at any time. The possibility of that turning into a friendship is based on whether or not two people want it, not some arcane and weird dating "rules."

    Don't expect too much, though. Spurned partners generally tend to want to try to "win" that last dance of a dysfunctional relationship, the breakup, and if he devoted 10 years to you before you ended things suddenly, those circumstances make me seriously doubt if he'd be amenable to having a friendship.

    What's a much more reasonable alternative is to post on your blog exactly why you've been thinking about "clearing the air" - admitting your own sins - for an anonymous someone. Maybe it'll be enough of an explanation to make him more willing to respond favorably if it's actually him.

    However, you don't go out and ask someone if "they've been reading your blog." Not your right to start off by asking about his life in any way, shape or form, and why Paul gets close but not fully there. When you end a relationship, YOU GIVE UP THE RIGHT TO BE ANY PART OF SOMEONE'S LIFE. Period. It's over. That includes asking him about what he's been doing in cyberspace. He may eventually tell you that this has been the case, but it's his decision to reveal just how much he wants to say, along with you being allowed whatever privacy you haven't given up by posting about it in your blog.

    That said, while it's true someone's posts on the web are fair game for anyone to read, the decision to read them on a consistent basis is your own. Googling someone once in a while out of curiosity is one thing; reading a blog routinely, though, is keeping tabs on someone, and that's not all that far from stalking. It's why I shook my head at Ilovedhim...'s behavior; there's a good reason why you are uncomfortable once you realized your IP can be traced, since, well, your behavior hasn't been great. And by the way, some of the observations on IP addresses are wrong: you can easily traceip down to an area of a neighborhood if you know what you're doing and the ISP is somewhat consistent. (Then again, you can also use a proxy to spoof your IP if you know what you're doing as well, but I won't get into that.)

    But bottom line: you're on the verge of not engaging in healthy behavior, and if it's him that's been reading your blog, neither has he. Think of that first before you make your next step.

    Posted by observer12 January 28, 09 04:37 PM
  1. As for the IP comments, it is possible that she is onto something. The IP address would be registered to someone like Verizon, or AT&T. These regional providers are in certain metro regions. If she knows that someone is connecting through an IP registered to a provider in Arizona, but doesn't know anyone in AZ other than her ex, I guess it might be logical to connect the dots. I must say though, you've gone through a lot of work to track down if it is him.

    That said, I agree with most comments here. Leave him alone. If you have a public blog he has a right to read it. He might miss you, or he might be pissed at you. Since you are the dumper, I'd say you would probably only confuse him if you showed up and said "I tracked down your IP ad found you were reading my blog,... want to be friends" I'd question your motves if I were him.

    Posted by cddda January 28, 09 04:49 PM
  1. Why do you even care if he is reading you blog? if you are broadcasting your life one the internet then it is there for anyone and everyone to see. This looks to me like some premise to contact him again. Just because he is reading your blog (IF he is, maybe this is wishful thinking on your part?) it does not mean he is interested in you. I sometimes check an old ex's blog for entertainment purposes...there are some REALLY godawful blogs out there. I get a laugh and go 'whew, glad that's history' and its funny. From the sounds of your letter, your likely falls in the Idiot With a Blog Thinks SHe is Interesting category...could you post that url so we can all check you out?

    Posted by Kxs January 28, 09 04:52 PM
  1. I think nearly all of the comments here are completely juvenile. If you want to reach out to the guy, reach out to the guy. Forget these inane "rules". Have the confidence and wisdom to transcend them and do what feels like the right thing to do, with whatever grace you can muster.

    And good luck.

    Posted by John from Concord January 28, 09 06:03 PM
  1. What a dingbat....good luck

    Posted by marcusa January 28, 09 06:47 PM
  1. Thanks Meredith and everyone else. The advice was objective and helpful. I am not going to contact him at all. The proverbial cyber-ball is in his proverbial cyber-court. I am, however, REALLY HOPEFUL that it is actually Osama bin Laden who is checking my blog. I gotta few things to say that jerk.

    Keep up the good work Meredith. I love your writing.

    Posted by iCurious January 29, 09 11:47 AM
  1. Why not write something in your blog about you feel about him and leave it up to him to respond. Maybe he isn't reaching for fear of being rejected again. Never give up on true love...who knows where this could lead.

    Posted by Muffin January 29, 09 01:01 PM
  1. This is terrible advice. Maybe he's reading some online columnist who says very authoritatively that the one who is supposed to reinitiate contact is the dumper--it's just obvious (no exceptions).

    People don't know the supposedly reasonable rules that you are guiding your life by so it is a mistake to listen to the advice of a columnist who declares: This is how (presumably ALL as it is unstated) broken-up relationships must proceed. These are the rules. Follow my rules.
    Contact him if you want to. Don't if you don't. Forget these supposed "rules."

    If you want

    Posted by Will February 4, 09 12:27 AM
  1. What if I don't know HOW to contact him? What if he never gave me his phone # or email? Should I just stand at the off ramp to the exit to the town where his IP address is registered and hope he notices me with my sign that says "I know you read my blog, can you spare a moment for a cup of coffee?"

    Posted by iCurious February 5, 09 11:25 AM
  1. YES Tricia, Alvin, this was me. This was six months ago when I slightly more doofusy than I am now. Like I said, I've worked on my sarcasm chops. As an update you should know I never contacted him; I never will. And I dumped him after ten years when I realized he was evading taxes, not paying rent and just generally being a "drummer" kind of guy.

    Posted by Sally August 19, 09 04:56 PM
ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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