Ex has ‘creepy’ interest in my life. Carolyn Hax readers give advice. – Lifotravel

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We asked readers to channel their inner Carolyn Hax and answer this question. Some of the best responses are below.

Hi Carolyn, I have an ex-boyfriend of about two years who continues to behave in a way that suggests an unhealthy level of interest in my life. I’m very happily dating someone who I met six months after breaking up with my ex. At the time, my current boyfriend was separated (for reasons having absolutely nothing to do with me), and the divorce was pending. After seeing a photo of me with my boyfriend on a friend’s social media account, my ex sent several “follow” requests to my boyfriend through social media which he ignored. Then, he tracked down my boyfriend’s ex-wife to reach out to her. After that, he contacted me with (demonstrably false) claims about my boyfriend’s past. This all seemed unhinged, and I dismissed it with one very curt response that I was doing fine and wanted no further contact.

Over a year later, my ex saw another social media post showing that my boyfriend and I had bought a house, and he emailed this information to my boyfriend’s ex-wife (they are now fully divorced). I’m disturbed by this level of fixation two years after we broke up, but I’m not sure what to do about it. This seems designed to provoke a response from me, and I think a response would be rewarding bad behavior. At the same time, someone should point out that this is deeply creepy and tell him to knock it off. What would you suggest?

Back Off: I would be keeping careful records of all of this, with as much detail as possible, including dates. This is in case you need to get a future restraining order or file stalker charges. I’d also see if someone from your local police department (ours has a non-emergency number with a community liaison officer who is nice about answering all manner of questions) can talk to you about state and local stalking laws and when you might have grounds for a restraining order. This guy is indeed unhinged and has veered into stalker territory.

Back Off: As someone who has dealt with an attention-seeking and poorly behaved family member, I can tell you that ignoring is your absolute best plan. Not just ignoring it but also finding a way to remove all connections to the ex. Filter emails directly to the trash, block all phone numbers, etc. It lets you to clear head space and not allow your ex in — or much less frequently. Any engagement with your ex not only rewards his bad behavior but also encourages more of the same.

I don’t know if there are avenues to involve police because this doesn’t seem to fit the case for cyberstalking. It’s one step removed from you — going to the boyfriend’s ex and not you — although it is, of course, super creepy. If your boyfriend is on good (enough?) terms with his ex, he can ask her to block your ex, too. In addition, anyone who your ex reaches out to can hopefully shut it down.

If each person your ex’s reaches out to then reaches out to you, it can trigger you again. So perhaps, “I’m completely over Ex’s shenanigans. Please ignore him, and for my own mental health, don’t let me know if he’s reaches out again.” Your ex is looking for either a way in or just to get back at you and make you mad or anxious. Rally your troops to deny him any points of entry.

— Darmen from Nashville

Back Off: Yes, your ex is trying to provoke a response from you. Any response is a reward that gives him incentive to keep provoking. If having his deeply creepy behavior pointed out to him would prompt him to stop, he would probably be self-aware and healthy enough not to engage in the first place. As counterintuitive (and unfair) as it feels, not responding in any way is your best option.

This practice is discussed at length in Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear,” an excellent resource to equip one’s self to handle this and other types of unwanted attention. In my own experience, I did two things to reclaim a sense of control that made “Do Not Respond” an easier rule to follow: (1) I limited how the person could contact me or find personal updates — I blocked them on all social media and blocked all communication except for email, allowing a minimally invasive way to monitor any correspondence for escalation; and (2) I asked the other people in my life this person was likely to contact to also block and not respond to them. We kept each other informed of any correspondence or signs of escalation any of us received. If you cannot coordinate like this immediately with everybody you want to, start with yourself and your boyfriend, limit what others can share about either of you on social media, and expand the circle of trust as you’re able. I’m sorry you have to deal with this. Good luck.

Every week, we ask readers to answer a question submitted to Carolyn Hax’s live chat or email. Read last week’s installment here. New questions are typically posted on Fridays, with a Monday deadline for submissions. Responses are anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself and are edited for length and clarity.

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