DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: A little background, I’m a nice/easy going person and tend to be on friendly terms with most of my exes. I’m in a happy, committed relationship and my boyfriend and I tend to be on the same page with understanding that you can be friends with people you dated in the past.
However I have an ex that is really pushing the boundaries. We broke up about four years ago. I initiated because she was toxic/overbearing and I wasn’t feeling the relationship anymore.
She’s always been kind of chatty/intense, but it’s been the biggest obstacle toward me being completely being cool with being her friend again. She always sends a million texts/dms and seems like she finds any reason possible to chat with me. I’m usually polite and respond, but it’s turning into a thing where I feel like she’s haunting my inbox which would make me feel weird even if we hadn’t dated. It’s gotten to the point where I started using the ‘close friends’ function on Instagram just so she won’t see my stories/reply to them anymore. However this hasn’t worked because she’s just started dming me about random topics now.
She moved out to the suburbs/came out as a woman a year or two ago, so part of me feels like she’s just lonely and wants friends. However part of me also feels like she’s veering into crush territory with the way she’s constantly trying to communicate. I don’t want to make assumptions, but at the same time regardless of her intentions she’s making me uncomfortable. The way she behaves has already sucked the air out of a lot of my college friendships. For example if a college friend invites me to a party on Facebook I never say if I’m attending anymore because I know if I do she’ll immediately text me and ask if I’m going/show up if I say I am.
Besides that she’s kind of annoying. I don’t really enjoy talking to her all that much if we’re being honest. She’s always been this way, but she’s kind of a braggy narcissist and likes to editorialize everything that is happening around her. Which leads me to my next part.
Last time I asked her to cool it on the texting (about two years ago) she told all of our mutual friends that I had ‘stopped talking to her’ and was really dramatic about it and spread a story about us getting into a big fight, instead of it being I just need her to not be constantly contacting me.
What is a nice way to tell her she needs to cool it on the communication? She’s not a bad person or anything, I just feel like I would want a chill friendship with her where we catch up every once in a while, not feeling like I can never escape her because I’m not straight up rude to her.
Another layer is that we went to the same college and she’s really well liked/connected to everyone at my college. I felt this when I broke up with her and I feel this now, but I feel like if I’m rude or cut off communication completely she’s going to black ball me or spread rumors about me to our industry (which we both still work in).
Let me know what you think
A Little Less Conversation
DEAR A LITTLE LESS CONVERSATION: This is clearly a situation that’s been bothering you, ALLC; you’ve put a lot of time explaining and justifying why you don’t want to talk with your ex any more. And in fairness, it’s entirely understandable. It sounds like your ex is the exact mix of clueless and self-absorbed that can drive people up the goddamn wall.
However, the thing is: you don’t need to justify why you don’t want to talk to her. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to not want to talk to her just because you don’t like her. It’s not like there’s a Council of Friendship that’s going to veto your decision if your reason isn’t good enough; you can’t be forced into letting her into your life because your only reason for wanting her out of it is “she’s annoying as hell”.
This is, for example, why it doesn’t matter that she may be lonely and looking for friends. Yes, it’s understandable that post-move and post-transition, she’s in a place where she feels a little lost and lonely and is reaching out to people. That doesn’t change the fact that she’s annoying the piss out of you, she’s ignoring your boundaries and she’s causing drama in order to get her way. She may not be intending to be so annoying but intent ain’t magic. These are issues you had with her when you’re dating and it’s pretty clear that nothing’s changed even after you’ve broken up. You don’t need to justify or explain your reasoning or excuse her behavior; you can just decide that you don’t want her contacting you that often.
Which, ultimately is what you should say to her: she’s exhausting you with how much attention she’s demanding from you and you want her to dial it back. She’s at a 10 and you need her at a two. She doesn’t give you room to breathe and it’s getting to the point where you’re going to have to actively avoid her or block her. If she doesn’t want that, then she needs to cut back on things and let you make the next move. You two can catch up every once in a while at your pace.
And if she doesn’t listen? That’s when you start muting her on Facebook and Messenger and WhatsApp or, if necessary, blocking her. The nice thing about muting someone is that most of the time, they never know that they’re shouting into the void; it just seems like you’re choosing to not say anything. But if she won’t take “no reply” for an answer, then it’s time to drop the hammer and start limiting where and how she can contact you with the block function. If you feel the need, you can leave her ONE venue where she can get in contact with you — possibly one you rarely use, so you aren’t stuck with a thousand notifications — but cutting off her access is an effective way of enforcing your boundaries.
As for her propensity for manufacturing drama and trying to cast you as the villain in the piece? Well, you can do a certain amount of prep work and let people know you’re having to cut things off with her because she just. Won’t. Leave. You. Alone. You can drop how exhausting it’s getting dealing with her, about how she won’t take “no” for an answer and how this has been a pattern since when you two were dating.
But there’s only so much you can do; people are going to believe what they’re going to believe and there’s a certain societal expectation to err on the side of “being nice”. If folks hear her story and think you’re the offending party here… well, that’s going to have to be part of the cost of enforcing your boundaries. It sucks… but maintaining those boundaries means doing so even when other people disapprove. You can let them know why, but their agreement or disagreement with your reasons are ultimately irrelevant; your boundaries are not a democracy and you should tell them that, if necessary.
Hopefully, they’ll realize what’s going on and recognize that all that drama doesn’t make her a queen.
But for now: lay it out for her, in no uncertain terms. If she doesn’t respect that? Then that’s on her. You told her how it was gonna be and now it’s time to cut her off.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org