Q: Dear Meredith,
A long time ago, I had a relationship with a man who I thought I was going to spend my life with. We were both in our mid-30s and divorced -- over a decade for me, under a year for him.
Short story: we dated for almost two years and split acrimoniously. There were lots of issues but it boiled down to him not wanting a serious commitment and both of us acting out in immature ways rather than just calling Time of Death. One night after a drunken fight (neither of our proudest moments), it was over -- HIS choice. I was devastated for a very long time but accepted it and moved on with my life.
That was three years ago. My current problem revolves around establishing healthy boundaries and what to do about his strange behavior. Since the split, he's tried force a friendship -- periodic emails, random texts, stalking my online profile, even leaving a gift at my home. I don't do the friends-with-exes thing and just ignored it all, thinking he would get the message and move on. There's been no contact or engagement on my part. Most recently: I got a text after the Boston Marathon bombing asking if I was OK. I don't appreciate this or his other weird behaviors. He broke up with me! He's in a new relationship now and I still feel a little pain over our ending even though it's been a very long time.
My questions to you and LL are: Why would an adult persist in forcing communication after all this time when he knows it is unwanted? Is it poor boundaries and/or guilt? Do I need to be forcefully direct? Moreover, what's the most mature way to convey: "You made a choice, leave me the %$@* alone?" Am I missing something that I should be more sensitive to when it comes to setting boundaries with an ex? I did love this man at one point and don't want to be cruel.
– Boundary Hunter, Boston
A: My guess is that he's contacting you because he misses your friendship, BH. And yes, maybe there's some guilt. He might also want to keep you around just in case ... but let's not go there. At the moment, he just wants you as an acquaintance. You have no use for that.
The best way to establish a boundary is to set it. Instead of just ignoring the contact and hoping that he gets the message, send one note. Something that says, "Hey, I wish you the best, but it's confusing to hear from you and I'm not interested in a friendship. I'll let you know if I ever change my mind." Then block his email address and phone number.
Don't worry about cruelty. Stating your needs isn't cruel, especially when he's been so thoughtless. There's no need to make calls and buy gifts when your ex is trying to move on.
As for the post-Marathon text, well, I give him a tiny pass for that. Many of us checked in with everyone we knew that day. That text would have bothered you less if that had been his only attempt at contact over the years.
He's not getting hint, so spell out the boundary. Then block him -- with technology and in your brain.
Readers? Does she have to tell him to stop contacting her or can she just block and ignore? Why is he reaching out? Is any of this communication forgivable? What does it mean? Advise.
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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.