Ask Natalie

Mean Messages to Ex Lead to Trouble

DEAR NATALIE: I am a senior at a local university. I dated a fellow student last year for about six months. I loved her, but she did not love me back. I had suspected she was cheating on me while we dated, and a friend told me recently that she now is in a relationship with the man whom I had suspected her of cheating on me with. 

She broke up with me just days after I had accepted an internship at the same place where she had an internship. (The guy she is seeing also was an intern there. He has since graduated and moved on to work out of state, and the two are in a committed long-distance relationship.) Unfortunately, she and I sat in desks directly next to each other, and I didn't make eye contact with her or speak to her. We kept to ourselves and worked on separate assignments, and doing so, with her presence looming over me like a cloud, contributed to a slew of anxiety issues that I've been diagnosed with by my doctor. 

The night my friend informed me that she is now in a relationship, I sent her mean text messages in which I called her every clean word or phrase synonymous to "terrible person" that I could think of. I was careful to not threaten her, as my intentions were purely to make her feel terrible for cheating on me. She did not reply. 

The next day, I received a call from a detective representing the university. He would not tell me what he was calling for, but he requested to meet with me. I refused. I received an email several hours later informing me that my ex had filed a harassment complaint in my name and that a university "No Contact Order" had been placed between the two of us.

I was consequently suspended from my internship, and the department also forced me to change my work schedule to adhere to her complaint. My boss was informed that the "No Contact Order" was filed but was told nothing else. This means my boss was forced to speculate a number of possibilities, including abuse, harassment or even rape, and I'm fairly certain that my co-workers, who are friends with her and her current boyfriend, talk behind my back. 

A judicial hearing has been set. My lawyer and I are confident that we will win our case and that my permanent academic record will remain unscathed, but you never know. The text messages marked the first time I had reached out to her or said anything to her in five months, making me wonder what her motivation could have been for reporting me to the authorities. Before we dated, she was coming off a relationship with a man who, she claimed, was suicidal and threatened to kill himself after she broke up with him. 

So, here are my questions: 1. Do you think this has something to do with her decision to report me for sending the texts? 2. Why would she do it? 3. And, most importantly, was I wrong in sending her the texts in the first place? -- EX-BOYFRIEND

DEAR EX-BOYFRIEND: You should have just kept your hands off your phone. Text messaging in the digital age is what keeping a diary was for in the '90s. You could have written all about the angst you felt, and no one would have gone to court about it. Although your feelings of hurt and anger are understandable, and I sympathize with you having to sit next to this girl who broke your heart, what's done is done. Now, you have to live with the consequences.

Yes, you were wrong to send the messages. Instead of dealing with your emotions for the past six months, you let them bottle up and swell to an explosive level that came out in nasty words you can't take back. You may not have perceived them as threatening, but to her, they clearly were. You knew she had a past boyfriend who was emotionally unstable after their breakup, and yet, you sent the messages, anyway. Admit it. You wanted a response. You were hurting, and you wanted to hurt her back. Her cheating on you was wrong, and you have every right to feel hurt. But guess what? Retaliating may feel good in the moment, but look where it has landed you. Now you are the one in hot water. When you sent those messages, she probably freaked out and took action, considering her past situation. It would frighten me if an ex-boyfriend (whom I had to work next to) sent those texts to me out of the blue after not speaking to me for months.

In the future, if you are with someone and she cheats on you, the best revenge is to live a happy life with no room for her in it. Date yourself for a while. Get to know what you need from yourself and from a partner and don't settle for less. And remember that what we put out in the world often comes back to us in more ways than one, so focus on projecting all the good things you have to offer.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Don't bad-mouth your colleagues. When you are out at an event, always speak positively of others. People notice the way you speak about others and what it says about you. (Remember, if you don't have anything nice to say, just say nothing at all.)

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

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