Hi Dr. NerdLove,
I could really use some insight into whether I’m justified in feeling a bit worried about my partner’s ex escalating contact with him, especially since they’ve been broken up longer than they were together at this point (about four years). And I don’t mean that I’m worried he’s cheating on me or that she presents any threat at all to our relationship. I know how he feels about her, feel secure in our connection, and he tells me when it happens. I’m more concerned she may end up escalating her behavior to a point that causes a safety concern or generates trouble among family or friends. I’m hoping you’ll tell me I’m being a bit dramatic. I had a brief experience with someone stalking me in college and have my own ex with manipulative tendencies (together seven years total), and she’s setting off the same alarm bells I felt in those situations.
Some background (from what he’s told me and my own observations): they both went to school in a major Midwestern city, she for a career as a professional that requires a doctorate degree. She was placed in a program in a Western state with a mid-size city, and he moved out here with her. I moved to the same city a year prior with my ex. They broke up after living here a year, she took all their furniture (including the shower curtain) while he was at work without telling him, and he lived with his parents until he found an apartment of his own. So, not the most amicable breakup.
Around two years ago, she started popping up on his social media, requesting to follow his private profile and liking a bunch of photos on a public one for his side business he started that year. I’m a photographer, so most of his posts were taken by me and he tagged me in all of them. She left a comment on one of them that was a simple congratulations on doing his thing, and he didn’t respond or acknowledge it.
Some months after that, she emailed his personal email, saying she was starting her own part-time weekend practice and might have some work for him (he also works in a creative field). When he didn’t respond right away, she tracked down his work email and contacted him there. He asked what kind of work she might have, and she responded that they actually already had all their creative work taken care of, but mentioned she was doing well and asked how he was. His response was basically that he was fine, but that he wasn’t interested in talking unless there was actual work. I’m not sure what his exact words were.
I proposed to him in mid-summer last year, and he posted about it a couple months later. After that, she watched several of my Instagram stories over a few months (we’re in early 2019 at this point), although she wasn’t following me and we had never communicated before. I was having an issues related to my aforementioned ex related to social media, so it felt like the right choice to go completely private. Within an hour or two of me setting my profile to private, she requested to follow me. I have no idea if she knew that I knew who she was or not, but I blocked her mostly to do her a favor. There’s not much on my feeds that would help her figure out who I am or how good our relationship is (I mostly post professional photos). But it was also for my peace of mind: I’m not incredibly interested in knowing that she or anyone else related to her or my ex or anyone that I don’t ever talk to is going through my photos and judging me in some way.
She was quiet for a few months until a couple weekends ago.
She reached out to him on Facebook, under a second profile with a partial version of her actual last name, and said something like, “it really sucks having dreams about you from time to time”. I might mention here that she’s had a baby girl since they broke up and apparently got married, although I don’t know how that relationship is going and don’t care to know. He immediately blocked her, and ask some of his family members who still chatted with her occasionally to avoid responding to her or at least not mentioning anything to do with him. I’d also note here that I’m friends with my brother’s ex-wife, and didn’t feel threatened by her having maintained contact with some of his family. It’s a hard connection to sever when you feel like you’re part of someone’s family. My partner has made it clear to me that he’s grown a lot since they broke up, it was a toxic relationship and he has no interest in incorporating her into his own life.
After that last reach from her about having dreams about him, I asked my partner if he felt worried or if he expected her to keep trying to contact him. He said he didn’t know but that he hoped not.
A couple days ago, she texted him directly and said she was hurt that he and his family blocked her, that she wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to him or his fiancé, that she was so happy he is happy, that his mom reached out about her baby a few times and she found it very nice, and “sorry if I somehow offended you or your significant other”. He asked what I thought, and I said it couldn’t hurt to outright ask her to not contact him again. So he responded that the reason she was blocked was because of the Facebook message and other attempts to reach out, he wasn’t interested in participating in his dynamic, that he had moved on and he hoped she had to, and please respect his wish for no more contact.
As far as I know, he hasn’t heard anything since then, but mentioned he got a couple of “Unknown” calls the next morning. He’s also told me he found out she had text/online relationships with other guys while he was with her, so her trying to get his attention is probably not super surprising. But the last message strikes me as being clear that she feels entitled to a response from him, at the very least. And it makes me feel squeamish and concerned, much more so than the past points of contact. Maybe it’s because it feels like she feels entitled to access? Maybe because it felt weird to me that she felt like he needed to know a boundary he set hurt her feelings? Maybe it’s because she hasn’t exactly honored implicit boundaries (i.e, blocking) at all? Maybe it’s because all that could be signs of someone who will keep pushing?
I know others have dealt with more insidious invasions from exes, and I don’t pretend this is some nuclear situation just yet, if at all. But every time I’ve asked him if she would keep trying, she has indeed kept trying. And I’m feeling a bit on guard about it. Is my (mild, at the moment) anxiety understandable? Is she exhibiting any signs she might show up on my doorstep one day soon?