Ask Natalie

DEAR NATALIE: My ex, who was married at the time, and his wife have recently divorced. I was part of that mess, but he was cheating on her with many other women, myself included. Well, we have started hooking up again. But, now he is saying to me that he wants to be in a relationship together. I don't know how to feel about that. I'm skeptical because he is clearly a cheater, but we always seem to have fun together. What do you think I should do? My girlfriends, naturally, are telling me to walk away -- for good this time. -- Bad Habit

DEAR BAD HABIT: Don't walk away. Run! Run as a fast as you can from this toxic mess. The fact that he cheated on his ex-wife with multiple women is a red flag that this man is all about himself, his own needs, and doesn't really seem to care about anything or anyone else. You seemed to have extracted yourself from him once, so before you get in too deep, lose his number. This situation has "hot mess" written all over it, and honestly, why would you want to be with someone who blatantly disrespected a woman he took serious vows with? If he was willing to do that to her, what do you think he's going to do to you? In the words of Oprah (who was quoting Maya Angelou): "When people show you who they are, believe them the first time!"

DEAR NATALIE: I recently broke up with my partner, who has some mental health issues that he addresses at times and then ignores at times. We were together several years, and I was like a member of the family. I was like a parent to my pseudo-stepchildren, who are devastated that we broke up. When I left, my partner threatened to kill himself, saying that without me he has nothing left to live for. While this is heartbreaking, I cannot be with him, and he's done this before to garner sympathy from me. But, he won't stop texting, calling, etc. What should I do? Every time I respond, he starts attacking me and trying to manipulate me to come back. I'm not sure what to do at this point. I can't just abandon him. Any suggestions? -- Sad and Single

DEAR SAD AND SINGLE: I applaud you for knowing that this situation was unhealthy for you to stay in. It can be very difficult to break up with someone you have formed deep bonds with, especially when there are children involved. The best thing you can do right now for you and your ex is to give him space. Don't return his texts or his calls. He has to lean on other people right now for support, and if you continue to respond or engage him in conversation, he will take this as a sign of hope for the relationship to bounce back. If that is not your intention (and it sounds like you are done), then you have to make that clear. Things will be tough for a while, but you will most likely see his texts and calls dissipate over time once he realizes that you aren't responding. If you really want to make sure he is OK, talk with one of his children. Over time, it will get better for you both.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Put the phone AWAY! You would be surprised how many people text while they are having a conversation with someone they have just met. It's rude to text or talk on the phone during any meeting but especially on your first. Whatever is on your Facebook page can wait. Turn your attention to the person in front of you.

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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