DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I dated my ex for a couple of years, including him moving in with me. He seemed like a nice, affable, kind of dorky guy, though with some severe flakiness issues and a distressing tendency to lie when he thought the truth would upset me.
He didn’t move out until the end of last year, around a year after we stopped dating (he was in my spare room, including while we were actually dating). I pretty much had to kick him out, I was tired of him barely paying rent, eating my food without asking, breaking things without apologizing or offering to fix/pay for them, et cetera, et cetera.
We broke up because of a bunch of things–the aforementioned breakage and non-rent-payment, his lying, his stupidity about money, sexual incompatibility, his whining, and probably other things that aren’t coming to mind at the moment.
I think he thinks… we could still get back together. It ain’t happening, and I have told him so, multiple times. But he still does things like randomly (without calling) showing up at my house. He gave me an inappropriately large number of board games (most of which I don’t especially want) for Christmas/my birthday. He recently, for no reason that I could determine, bought me a (nearly $50) ticket to a play–just me, he couldn’t afford 2 tickets. Frankly, if he’s going to give me something, I’d rather he give me a check to pay for some of his unpaid rent (to the tune of nearly $1000, even though I was charging him well below market rates even after we stopped dating). I’ve told him that, too, to no apparent effect.
I’m not sure how to get through to him that we’re not getting back together, no matter how many unexpected (and unreciprocated) presents he gives me, no matter how much he whines at me, no matter how many times he shows up at my door, whatever. And that if he wants to be neutral, non-romantic friends, he’d get a lot further by giving me a check for back rent and a sincere apology than by showering me with a bunch of presents I don’t really want.
I am… hesitant to be, shall we say, unnecessarily harsh about cutting off all contact, partly because I have at least some slim hopes of getting some of the money back (I’m pretty poor myself). But he’s seriously getting on my nerves, and my mom (who is… well, I have Asperger’s, so I’m not the best judge of character sometimes, she is afaik neurotypical) is legitimately afraid that he’ll do something like, oh, lay in wait to ambush me, or break into my house while I’m gone, or something.
(if it makes a difference, both of us are in our 40s, and I don’t presently have a roommate–or, unfortunately, a boyfriend)
Do you think my mom’s overreacting? Do you think there’s any way I can get through to him about the “No, really, back rent, please”? Should I be refusing his gifts? (one of the games was one I really wanted, and the play ticket would have gone to waste if I didn’t go, it was non-refundable)? Do you think he might be a legitimate danger to me? Is there anything else you think I should be doing, or shouldn’t be doing, or should be doing differently?
Damsel In Dis Dress
DEAR DAMSEL IN DIS DRESS: While I understand worrying about the potential for violence from an ex… this doesn’t sound like the behavior of someone who’s dangerous, DiDD. This sounds more like someone who took all the wrong lessons from Say Anything and other rom-coms and is trying to find some way to stay in your life and work his way back into your good graces. He’s trying to basically buy your affection back.
Now, it’s understandable that his tendency to show up unannounced can be unnerving, it doesn’t sound like he’s compounding this with other more threatening behaviors or escalating in ways that might raise red flags. So I don’t think you’re really at risk here outside of him having a sad at you. Which, to be fair, can be a little embarrassing but not really dangerous.
However, I don’t think you’re doing yourself any favors by accepting his gifts. You know that you can’t be bought, but to him, accepting them means that he’s one step closer to winning your love back, so he’s going to keep at it.
It’s time to throw up some big fuck-off boundaries. I think your best bet here is to just put your foot down and have a come-to-Jesus talk with him the next time he tries to bribe you with stuff. He needs to hear more than just “We are never getting back together,” he needs to hear “Stop coming to my house, stop giving me presents and stop acting like this is going to fix things because it is not.” I’d possibly also throw in a “if you have the money to buy me boardgames, you have the money to pay the rent you owe me,” but I suspect he may see that as the opening to negotiations, not “..And you also owe me a thousand dollars on top of this.”
And then hold firm. If he brings you anything other than a check for the rent and an apology, then tell him to get lost. Don’t answer his calls. Don’t open his emails. Block him on social media and tell your friends not to give him access to you too. He has burned through your good-will. If you feel like it would make a difference, you can return the boardgames. Personally, I’d consider them an inconvenience tax. Sell the ones you don’t intend to keep and call it interest on the money he owes you.
And if he does scrape the rent together… well, he doesn’t need to deliver that in person either. Dropping it in the mail works just fine.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve been a fan of your work for a long time. You introduced me to Feminism at a critical time in my life, you helped me value therapy and emotional intelligence, and you inspired me to take my earliest baby steps toward being a functioning adult. Along the way, I’ve stumbled, and I’ve been spiraling down a deep and depressing years-long regression. Finally realizing this, I’m going back to my roots to realign myself on the path of improvement, reading your work in New Game +.
But the specific point that I’m emailing you is for some advice on practicing positivity. In New Game + on page 21, you recommend exercising positive thinking by spending, “seven consecutive days consciously not thinking anything negative about anyone.”
I see the practical benefits of trying this, and I want to. But in the moment, I feel my enthusiasm dwarfed by the terrible reality of our current government. Maybe this is another case of self-limiting beliefs mixed with blaming the government for my personal problems. But ever since the results of the election, I’ve been getting sadder and angrier by the day. I have to avoid keeping up-to-date with all of the events of the day, or I spiral into recurring thoughts of applying some final solutions to people in the public sector. Every moment I’m reminded of the people in power, I can’t focus and become irrational. And very recently, my daily talk-myself-out-of-suicides are getting more difficult, because it isn’t so much an overwhelming emotional urge, which I typically argue myself out of with rational thinking. Now, it seems increasingly like the most rational course of action for me is to just drop everything and walk over to the nearest bridge. (Lot of these things in Charleston.)
This new series of stresses from our government rests atop a mountain of other problems that would take too long to delve into, and the very idea of trying to maintain seven consecutive days of positive thinking sounds like the most daunting task. My gut doesn’t want to do it, my heart needs to do it, and my brain wants to die. How do, Doc?
Thank you for reading, I hope you’re well.
Long Time Reader
DEAR LONG TIME READER: Dude, I’m gonna stop you right there: you don’t need to practice positivity so much as get help RIGHT THE F
Trust me: I’ve dealt with depression most of my life including some really dark points and once suicidal thoughts enters the picture it’s time to to talk to a professional not a loud-mouth with a blog. I have been there, I have done that and I will tell you from personal experience that the best thing for you is to find a counselor or therapist and start unpacking this with them. The always awesome Captain Awkward has a great post on how to find mental health care on her site, especially if money is a factor.
So I want you to put down my book, close your browser pick up the phone and make an appointment right goddamn now. I mean it: I want you to talk to a professional before you do ANYTHING else.
After you do that… write back and let me know how you’re doing.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)