(Doctor’s Note: Today’s column includes frank discussion about abusive relationships and suicide)
I’m in a confusing, morally conflicted place and I could use an outside perspective.
For a long time, I was crushing on someone tangentially attached to my friend group. This didn’t stop me from dating other people, but I always paid attention to this woman in case my chance ever came up. Unfortunately, she was dating (in my biased opinion) a weapons grade asshole who was, at a minimum, verbally and mentally abusive to her. There was gossip he was physically abusive, with no obvious proof. Eventually, they broke up.
I waited a respectful amount of time then asked her out. We went on a few dates, things went well, we went on a few more, became exclusive, and time marches on. She tells me over and over I am the best boyfriend she’d ever had, she’s never been happier, so I thought things were going ok.
Until the ex shows up again, swearing he has changed, and he wants her back. You can probably guess what happened next. At first, she wanted nothing to do with him. Then she agreed to contact because she wanted closure. Then she agreed to continuing contact because she felt sorry for him. Then suddenly, she’s “unsure” how she feels about him. When it got to that point, I told her she had a choice; either him or me. She said was not prepared to make that choice. So, I broke up with her.
I didn’t scream or yell. The last time we spoke, I wished her well. I also told her that I seriously doubted the ex had changed, and I thought she was heading towards big trouble with him. I requested that when that trouble came, to leave me out of it. Given how betrayed I felt, I was not up for even pretending we could “still be friends” nor would I be willing to “get in touch” or “catch up” or anything like that after the you-know-what hit the fan. I unfollowed her on all social media, removed every physical reminder of her I could find, and went on with my life. I never brought her up or discussed her with any of our mutual friends and discouraged those friends from telling me about her. Nevertheless, I learned she moved in with the ex shortly after our break-up, which didn’t improve my mood.
Unfortunately, turns out the ex hadn’t changed. About a year after the break-up, I heard about things going badly for her; she had to flee their apartment, he got scary to the point the police got involved. Our friends started a collection to help her defray the costs of finding a new place and buying essentials. I was very happy to give money to that. But now, I’m hearing from our friends that she wants to “talk”.
I could not have been clearer when we broke up, and I have not changed my mind. I am not interested in that. Some have told me it would help her heal to talk with me. I don’t see her healing as my responsibility. I have been accused of being a bad ally. I have been told I am cruel for being willing to ignore what we once had. I would never say this to her, but I can’t help but notice that what we had didn’t count for much in the moment, so it isn’t clear why it should mean that much to me years later.
Other friends have said that if I really meant what I said about not being involved I never would have given that money; that by doing so, I raised an expectation that a relationship could be salvaged, and it would be cruel to take that away. If I am honest, that argument makes some sense to me. It doesn’t make me want to interact with her, but it does make me wonder if I have obliged myself to do so.
Finally, are some mutual friends that support my decision.
I read all this over and I know I must sound like a cold, unfeeling bastard. Believe me when I say the opposite is the case. It is way beyond my ability to describe my dread when the ex showed back up and she started giving him more and more of her time, or to describe the kick in the balls it was when she admitted she still had feelings for him, or how sad and lonely I felt when I was getting rid of all my reminders of her. Even now, there’s a part of me that fantasizes that we’ll meet back up and live happily ever after. But I know that isn’t going to happen. The same part of me that knew the ex was bad news (for her and for me) when he resurfaced knows that nothing good is going to come of re-engaging with her. It isn’t about punishing her, it’s about protecting me.
My preferred outcome would be to communicate back to her through our mutual friends that I am glad she is safe and well, and the best way for her to remain so is to focus on her future, not dwell on the past. If she believes aspects of our previous relationship offers some insight, she would be better served working that out with a professional. For my part, I am not interested in any sort of relationship (romantic or platonic) going forward.
So I guess my question to you is given our history and what she has been through, do I owe her anything? Am I obliged to meet her in person and hear what she has to say? Or can I go through with my preferred outcome and consider that a justifiable response? Your opinion would be appreciated.
Gluing Myself Back Together