Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Should I Reach Out To My Ex?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: This is the author to the “Momma Drama” letter from a couple of years ago, and I want to start by thanking you for your response to my first post. But, here we are, two years down the line, and I have another question about the same woman: namely, should I get back in touch with my ex, S?

A few weeks after I sent my last letter, S broke up with me because she realized she wasn’t ready for a new relationship – I told her that I understood and we broke up on good terms. Soon afterwards, however, things started going downhill. S would regularly come into the bar while I was working, pull me aside, make out with me, and ask me to text her about getting drinks. We continued to text regularly, but every time I inquired about meeting up, she would ghost me. This continued for months, and eventually I tried to confront her about the making out, the ghosting, and clarifying what she wanted our relationship to be because she was sending such mixed messages. She ignored my concerns, and never gave me the opportunity to have an honest discussion.

I tried not contacting her for stretches, but eventually, she would come into the bar, stick her tongue down my throat, and ask to grab drinks again. A few months after we’d broken up, she even introduced me to her son while I was working, and between this and the persistent kissing, I hoped this meant she wanted to start dating again. Still, she never responded to my requests. The fact that she would regularly socialize where I worked without making time for us to meet up really hurt – I understood that between her job and her son, she was very busy, but she was a regular fixture at the bar even when I wasn’t working and clearly could’ve made time for me if she would’ve liked. Needless to say, I was still crazy about her and the whole situation was very confusing for me, but my attempts at clarification were consistently ignored – I didn’t know what to do.

Eventually, I got a new job, so the next time S came in, we made out, and I told her that I wouldn’t be working full-time at the bar anymore. I asked if we could talk about dating again, when she was ready – she said okay, and I told her that I’ll reach out. When I did, she never responded, and that was the last time I saw her for months. I started my new job, and we would intermittently text, usually with her reaching out to me. I heard she was still coming into the bar, but I was working there only one day a week, so I didn’t see her, and I gave up on trying to meet up. After a while, I started dating someone else, D, and S stopped texting altogether, so I thought this period of my life was over.

Then, later that year, I was at another bar, and S came in with a guy. I ignored her, but on their way out, she grabbed me and told me they were on the way to the bar where I worked. I’d had a few drinks, and was upset with how she had treated me, so I followed them to the bar. I pulled S aside and told her how much she had hurt me and that I didn’t want her coming into the bar again. She said that she was willing to get beers to talk about it, and went back to her friend. The next day, I reached out to apologize to being so angry and confronting her as I did, but said I really was hurt by her behavior and would like the opportunity to talk things over. I never heard back.

S started intermittently coming into the bar while I was working, and I felt trapped. I had blocked her on social media and stopped texting her, but when she came into where I worked, there was nothing I could do. I asked her to talk in private to reiterate that I didn’t want her there when I was working – her response was always “are you mad at me?” I just wanted her to leave me alone and she would not, so I grew increasingly frustrated.

A few months later, D and I broke up amicably, and S came into the bar again. I went to confront her, but she hugged me, and all the old attractions came rushing back. We caught up and were friendly, so I reached out later to grab a drink. We scheduled drinks, but she flaked and again started ghosting me. A while later, I texted her saying that if she didn’t want to meet up, she could’ve at least been upfront about that. She replied saying she thought we were cool, and I responded that no, we weren’t cool, because she had ignored all of my requests to meet up and to stay out of the bar. She said that if I need to say something, we could get coffee.

I was very nervous for coffee, both because I was embarrassed for my texting tirade and because I was hoping that coffee might lead to something more. I explained to S that I was upset about her leading me on, ghosting me, and ignoring my requests to stay out of the bar. She made a half-hearted apology, before asking if it was okay for her to come to the bar again. I tried to show her that I wasn’t comfortable with it, but when she pushed, I said it was fine, because I was trying to move past the situation. After that, we caught up, hugged, and she agreed that she would like to get drinks.

My next shift, she came into the bar with some friends, but we didn’t interact. The next day, I texted her to get drinks, and got no response. A few days later, I tried again. Again, no response. This upset me because I had made it clear that I didn’t want her in the bar if she was going to ghost me, so before my next shift, I told her to never talk to me or come into the bar while I was working again. She responded quickly, asking why I was doing this. I did not respond for a week and a half, when I apologized for the drama, confessed that I still really liked her, and said that I was really hurt that she was ghosting me again. These were long-winded texts, and I never got a response, but she did stop coming into the bar and I haven’t heard from her since, which was eight or nine months ago. Not seeing her has really helped me heal from this relationship, and while I’m embarrassed that I had to scare her away with crazy, I’m grateful that she has finally given me the space I needed to let go.

At this point, I am thinking about reaching out to S and apologizing. I’ve had significant developments in my life that have put me in a much better mental space, so I believe that there is little risk of me being hurt by her again. First, I am no longer working at the bar. It closed for quarantine and I do not plan on returning when it reopens. Additionally, I’ve learned a lot about relationships in the past couple of years and I know that I made a lot of mistakes dealing with S. Finally, I found out that a medication I have been taking for years has side effects of anxiety and depression. I have stopped taking this medication, and the results have been extraordinary – I feel so much more positive and mentally healthy. Overall, I am in a much better place and am ready to move past this chapter in my life.

For these reasons, I am ready to apologize to S for my idiotic behavior and clear things up. Obviously, she was not ready to date anyone while we were together, and I should have let my pain go instead of holding onto it. I also should’ve maintained stronger boundaries after we broke up and clarified that making out was off the table if we weren’t going to have an honest discussion about where we were emotionally. Additionally, I would like to clarify, this is not to get her back – last I heard, she has a boyfriend. Finally, I do not expect her to apologize. She has already apologized and me reaching out is about me making amends. Simply put, I want to make sure things are okay between us and to wish her well during this difficult time.

So, Doctor, do you think it is a good idea to reach out to S and, if so, how do you recommend going about it?

Thanks,

Momma Drama 2: More Drama

DEAR MOMMA DRAMA 2: Hoo boy.

OK, MD2, I don’t think you fully listened to me last time where I told you that this wasn’t going to be a great idea and you were signing up for things that I don’t think you were ready for. And to be perfectly frank: I still don’t think you’re getting things. So I think it’s going to be time for the Chair Leg of Truth.

Stay the hell away from S. She is no good for you and there is literally no reason for you to be in touch with her at ALL. You have learned absolutely nothing from any of this.

Let’s go to the tape, shall we?

Way back when you first started dating, she was hiding the fact that she had broken her engagement from her family for months, including the time when she was dating you. She was cool with sleeping with you and saying she was your girlfriend except when her friends and coworkers were around. At the time, she explained this as being due to complicated factors involving the father of her child, her family and not wanting her friends to know how quickly she moved on. Even at the time, I told you I was raising a highly skeptical eyebrow about this. Now I’m willing to straight-up tell you that this was a giant warning sign and, frankly, her continuing behavior has confirmed this.

You may have noticed a pattern here: she shows up randomly at your job, makes out with you, makes promises to see you, then ignores your texts whenever you bring up the topic of a date. This has happened multiple times. Once is happenstance; she had a couple drinks, horniness and nostalgia got the better of her, now she’s trying to avoid making more of a thing about it. Twice is coincidence — maybe she felt bad about the first time and repeated the same mistake because hey, she’s clearly attracted to you and booze convinces us that bad decisions are great ideas. Three times is enemy action — especially considering that not only did she continually ignore your attempts at clarifying what was going on, but she would also ignore your attempts at establishing boundaries.

I mean, she followed you to your next job to… what, exactly, not date you even more pointedly? Show off her boyfriend so you knew that her coming in to make out with you was just a lark? F

ked if I know what the hell she was thinking. But I do know this: these are not the behaviors of someone who’s worth dating. Like… at all.

Now I don’t think following her to the other bar just to tell her how pissed off you are was necessarily the best move but frankly, laying down the law and saying “put up or shut up” is something you should’ve done a while ago. I cannot express strongly enough how much you should have told her to f

k off with this hot-and-cold bulls

t, then after she’s f

ked off, she should make a point to f

k off even further because what she’s doing was not fair to you. Telling her “knock this off and stay the hell away from me” was the right thing to do.

And then you immediately turned around and undermined yourself the very next day by calling her to apologize for being angry. You had every goddamn right to be pissed at her for the s

tty way she’s been treating you — starting with when you were f

king dating — and telling her “hey, sorry I got mad” undid all of progress you made. When you establish a boundary and then immediately apologize for establishing said boundary, you’re telling them that this isn’t actually a thing that you’re going to stand firm on. You’re telling them that you’re going to make a lot of noise and then go right back to allowing her to treat you the same s

tty way she has been. Now what you’ve done is taught her that you aren’t actually serious about your protests and she’s free to keep walking all over you like laid down on her porch with the words “WELCOME” written in Sharpie on your back.

What did this performance of boundary-setting get you? Jack and s

t. And Jack left town. She ignored you entirely because why should she respond? Your protests ultimately meant nothing and you taught her that you didn’t mean it.

I hate to say it that bluntly but oh, hey, look, she started coming to your bar again, even after you told her not to. She’d give you the sad eyes and ask “are you mad at me” and then blithely continue on as she always did, treating you with about as much respect as gum on her shoe.

The appropriate answer here, by the way, was “YES. YES I’M GODDAMN ANGRY AT YOU.”  As would be telling your manager and the bouncer “hey, I really don’t want her here when I’m working.”

Your every interaction with her post-breakup has been Wile E. Coyote chasing the f

king Road Runner, MD2. You think you’re gonna get somewhere, you make plans and get dropped off a cliff, run over by cars or blown up by your own dynamite. Because Wile E. Coyote is never going to get the Road Runner and you were and will never actually have those drinks — coffee or otherwise — where either you two get back together or you clear the air and she realizes what a s

t she’s been. She ghosts or ignores you EVERY. SINGLE. GODDAMN. TIME. YOU. TRY. TO. MAKE. PLANS. AND. YOU. KEEP. TRYING. Every single time you try to establish some boundaries, she ignores them because you immediately undercut yourself over and over again. That point where you said “no, we’re NOT cool” should have been the end of the subject, not the invitation to yet another date that she has and had absolutely no f

king intention of keeping. You keep apologizing for “drama”, but telling someone who treats you like s

t that they’re treating you like s

t is not drama, it is doing what you should have done months ago.

The fact that apparently all those texts you sent are what finally made her stay the hell away is a gift from the gods. Maybe you “scared her away with all the crazy” but y’know what? If it took projectile feelings-vomiting like the director’s cut of Stand By Me to make her go the hell away, then get on your goddamn knees and thank God, Jesus, Buddha or Satan and all his minions that you had more pressure than a fire hose when you spewed because that seems to have done the trick.

All that? Literally everything I just wrote? All of that is why the fact that you’re talking about trying to get in contact with her again is making me reach for Doctor Whiskey and Nurse Tequila. I’m not entirely sure how in pluperfect hell you can have written all of that out, laying out the sheer number of times she has ignored you, ghosted you and treated you like garbage and think “hey, maybe I was the bad guy in all of this.” What — and I can’t emphasize this enough — the f

k?

No, chief, you should not reach out to her to apologize, explain or invite her to buy Girl Scout cookies from your niece. You should be blocking her on every possible way you can be contacted, up to and including the Friendster account you forgot you created back in ’02.  You should be scouring her presence off every single device you own, so that you can’t get back in touch with her. There is absolutely no good reason to contact her for any reason that doesn’t involve telling her that she might have been exposed to Zombie Rot the last time you saw her and even then I’d think twice about it.

The problem here isn’t that you need to explain yourself, the problem here is that you don’t get how much s

t she has made you eat since you broke up. You don’t need to be making amends, you need to be looking at all of your behavior here and saying “Wow, I will never let someone treat me like this ever again.” Your getting in contact with her again will only send you on the 12″ dance remix of everything you have gone through already: it’ll be the exact same song, just faster, more intense and a heavier beat.

This woman is bad for you and you need to recognize that. Getting back in contact again is only going to undermine any progress you’ve made, undercut any attempt at setting boundaries again and just leave you worse off than you were before. The thing to do here is wash your hands of the entire situation, recognize that you got done dirty and learn from it for next time.

It’s time for you to put her firmly behind you where she belongs and move forward to a future where you respect yourself enough to keep and maintain boundaries and — critically  — not let people treat you this way again. The next time someone keeps dangling hope in front of you, only to yank it away when you reach for it and then dangle it again? Drop her like fifth period French and move the hell on to someone who actually respects your time.

Good luck.

Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, doc@doctornerdlove.com