DEAR CAROLYN: I am concerned about my ex-boyfriend. He has a female co-worker we’ll call Sarah who has been his friend with benefits on and off (three times) over the past 10 years or so. My ex never wanted anything serious with her. Several months before he and I met three years ago, he completely stopped being physically intimate with her and made clear his desire for a platonic friendship only.
She continued, throughout his and my relationship, wanting him to help her sort through her feelings about their previous relationship.
I wrote her a letter telling her how disturbing and destructive her behavior is and that she was hurting herself, my boyfriend (whom she claims to be in love with) and me. Before this my ex had told her he didn’t want to communicate with her anymore at all – which he has said before – except professionally.
Obviously, my ex is partially responsible, for not sticking to boundaries and for responding to her calls and emails. He is very conflict-avoidant and doesn’t really stand up for his own needs. But she’s harassing him and I don’t know if there is anything I or anyone else can do.
Stuck in a Loop in Seattle
DEAR STUCK: You’re “stuck in a loop,” as your signature claims, only if you would define said stuckness as:
▪ spotting a loop miles off in the distance;
▪ changing the course of your life to travel there;
▪ throwing yourself into it; and
▪ deciding not to use the bright red stepladder to climb back out.
This is about your ex-boyfriend! And his ex-non-girlfriend! Any place you had in their dysfunctional entanglement is ex as well.
Yes, you can still care about him or any other ex. But properly placed concern here would be not for his victimhood at the hands of this colleague, but instead for his conflict-avoidance, which is so unhealthy that he not only chooses dominant partners to date so they can assume the burden of running his life for him (and write his cease-and-desist letters to his exes!) but also chooses dominant partners to mess around with as his physical needs demand.
You don’t have the luxury of getting involved here. That’s because you have a problem of your own to think about, one you’d only exacerbate by remaining involved in his drama. That problem is your unexamined availability to play this role of dominant partner.
Step back so you can see it: For him to be the man who sets no boundaries, his partners need to be boundary crossers. It’s a yin-yang emotional pairing, each of you essential to the transaction, and reaping equally unhealthy returns.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com