How Should I Handle My Ex?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I have been friends with ‘Joe’ for eight years. We began dating about a year ago. He is a fun loving, wonderful person and the first several months were wonderful. Then things began to change. He started to become upset with me if I stayed late at work or didn’t call when I came home. He began to disagree with little things in how I raise my daughter, even trying to discipline her himself without consulting me. Things got worse, but it wasn’t until I planned a trip to visit a male family friend that they got out of hand. I didn’t realize that it would upset him. I was going with three other ladies, and we had never had jealousy issues in our relationship before. From there, things have deteriorated beyond what I know how to handle. Joe is a good person. I don’t consider him a monster or anything, but what he has been doing for the last few months is frightening me and my daughter. I’m so confused. One minute he is rational and the next he is cursing and calling me names. He isn’t a violent person, but he has been breaking his things. He is calling at all hours and showing up at my house. Then he’ll begin to sound rational again, so I’ll start thinking we can be friends. But when I see him, he starts all over again. One minute I’m the best thing that ever happened to him and the next I’m a lying whore. I don’t understand how he can say things like that. If he means it, why would he want to be with me? In the last two weeks, he has both threatened and attempted suicide. He has told me and his mother that he will kill himself if I don’t talk to him. She is begging me to, but I don’t feel safe. When he comes to my house, I hide until he leaves. I can’t go anywhere without constantly looking over my shoulder. I don’t understand what to feel, how to act, how to help him and protect myself and my daughter. I’m so confused because he isn’t like that. I’ve known him for years and never saw any indication. He isn’t a bad person, so what is going on? What do I do? Joe is drinking heavily now and has stopped going to work. What do I do? He is 51 years old- I thought this type of thing happened with adolescents. I have asked him to get help, but he refuses. Please help. I just don’t know what to do anymore.

A. The overall tone of your letter is worrisome. In one respect, you note how you’re frightened of “Joe” and his recent behavior but you also say that you know he is not a bad man and that he will not hurt you. Why are you so sure that he will not hurt you or your daughter? You can’t be sure of this.

All of his behaviors should be major red flags for you. The reality in this situation is that he is displaying very disturbing and dangerous signs of instability. You said that he is not violent yet he is breaking things in front of you, calling you names and yelling at you. He stalks you and in essence is holding you and your child hostage in your home as you have to hide until he leaves. You said that you cannot go out without wondering if he is following you. As of late, he started drinking, stopped attending work, is making threats of suicide and is refusing help. These are all signs of a seriously disturbed person.

Most likely he is using the threat of suicide as a way to manipulate you to continue contact with him. You need to be careful in how you respond to this situation.

The bottom line is this: “Joe” is currently dangerous, jealous and unstable. You need to protect you and your daughter. You should contact the police about this situation especially if he continues to come to your home uninvited (this includes sitting outside of your home) or if you think he is following you.

I would also challenge you to reevaluate the way in which you think about this situation. In your letter, you repeatedly allude to your belief that “Joe” might not hurt you or that his behavior is uncharacteristic of how he has behaved in the past. You also say that “Joe is a good person.” All of that may have been true in the past but these beliefs do not seem to be in line with the behavior he is currently displaying. Pay attention to how he is presently behaving. Right now he is unstable and may be a danger to you and your daughter. Don’t be blind to this reality and consider going to the police.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Jun 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). How Should I Handle My Ex?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/06/23/how-should-i-handle-my-ex/

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