How Do I Let Him Down Gently Without Breaking His Heart?

I am newly single, and have just started playing the online dating game. So far, I’ve been having a blast. I love dating in my 40s, as I am older and wiser, and can weed out the drama so much better than when I was in my 20s.

I’ve been talking to several guys, and I’m actually making connections with some of them. Overall, it’s been a great experience. But I have one guy that I’m just not sure what to do with, and I’m looking for feedback.

Puppylove (my nickname for him) is completely infatuated with me. He’s 46, military, and from what I can tell, is the sweetest guy in the world. There is nothing that he says that I don’t think is genuine. But, he feels a chemistry that I don’t.He’s only had one sexual partner, who died from cancer a few years ago. I’m the only girl from the dating site he’s talked to. He flat out told me he’s never been hurt before, and asked me not to hurt his feelings. I know this isn’t my responsibility, but I really don’t want to be the first one to hurt him. On the second day of conversation (mostly me just answering his questions, which I answered honestly but in no way suggestively or affectionately), he asked me to let him give me his heart and delete my profile. I sent him a long, nice message saying that I was flattered, but I need to take things slowly, develop a friendship, that I’m enjoying dating and not ready for a commitment. I keep telling him that this is too much, too soon, but he just keeps asking what have I done to him, why does he feel this way.

The advice I’m looking for is how do I let him down gently without breaking his heart? Perhaps I should have tried shutting him down sooner, but I’m a) new enough to dating that I don’t have that experience behind me, b) a soft touch and don’t want to feel like I’m kicking a puppy (hence the nickname). I know it’s not my responsibility, and in looking through our conversations, I honestly can’t see anything that indicates there’s anything more than just back and forth conversation. I don’t want to lead him on, which may mean completely cutting him off, but I’m wondering if there are other ways before I have to resort to that?

– Hates Being a Puppy Kicker

Dear Hates Being a Puppy Kicker,

First of all: he is not a puppy. He’s a man.

A manipulative, manipulative, MANIPULATIVE man.

The line “what have you done to me; why do I feel this way?” Sounds like a romantic over-the-top bit of hyperbole, but it is blaming you (you, by your very nature, or by your words, or by your femaleness, have cast a SPELL on him. He is not responsible for his feelings. YOU have done something to HIM) for his totally inappropriate communication.

He’s blaming you for his deeply creepy infatuation. And make no mistake: this is creepy as FUCK. He hasn’t even met you in person, yet. He wants a person who has never met him to forgo all others for him. He has turned your non-sexual and non-romantic communication into luuuuuurve. He has no interest whatsoever in how you are feeling. All he cares about is how HE is feeling.

It is a very very short step from thinking someone else has controlled his feelings and actions to thinking that it’s YOUR fault he is driving across the country to your house. YOUR fault he’s pounding on the door in the middle of the night. YOUR fault he’s sobbing on your doorstep. YOUR fault he’s smashed through the window with a brick. What have you done to him?

Maybe, in addition to being a manipulative, manipulative, MANIPULATIVE man, he is also naive and honest and all that stuff. Maybe he truly doesn’t get how completely out-of-bounds his request is and how over-the-top his communication is and how DEEPLY non-consensual and disrespectful of your feelings and preferences this is.

But anyone who has reached 46 years old without learning these lessons is  NOT RELATIONSHIP MATERIAL. I don’t even mean romantic relationship material. I mean FRIEND material. I mean fleeting online flirting/chatting material. You need to back away from this person with such bad boundaries and who makes such bad decisions as fast as you can.

I think, to be honest, that YOU are a bit of a puppy. When you haven’t been on the dating scene in a while and you are so obviously open and kind and concerned about others, this makes you a huge target for guys like this who either think their intense feelings trump all of your words saying no (rape culture rape culture RED FLAG RED FLAG) or who are just lying assholes (again, RED FLAG RED FLAG).

I think whether this guy is honestly as naive and selfish as a 12-year-old or whether he’s a lying cheater who wants to manipulate and control you, the way to deal with him is the same: don’t worry about HIS feelings. Worry about YOUR safety. Do not give him your real name. Do not give him any information. Block that fucker and run run run.

This letter originally appeared in bitterempire.com on August 25, 2016.

How Do I Deal With My Crazy Bitch Ex?

I spent eight terrible years in a relationship with a crazy person. I mean she is certifiably batshit crazy. (I was in a bad place, what can I say?) We’ve been apart for four years now. I have a wonderful new partner who is perfectly sane. I often get threatening texts from the crazy ex-girlfriend. She even texted my new gal a few times. It’s very upsetting for me. I have a child with this crazy person, so I can’t make a total break from her, no matter how much I want to. Do you have any advice on how to deal with my crazy bitch ex?

– Baffled Boi

Dear Baffled Boi,

You don’t sound baffled to me.

You sound really, really, really angry.

In a 110-word paragraph, you used the word ‘crazy’ five times, and the utterly, helplessly dismissive phrase ‘crazy bitch.’ I have to admit that as a woman who hates the ‘b’ word and as a mentally ill person, I took a step back from you upon first reading.

But then I read again. You are using these words, I think, because you feel helpless in dealing with someone who is threatening you and your partner (and possibly your child?), furious that you can’t just cut ties with her, and probably terrified by how her unpredictable behavior will affect your kid.

So let’s break down this language and see what we can do.

I think that we, colloquially, use the word ‘crazy’ when someone is acting in unpleasant ways that we simply cannot fathom– that seem utterly illogical. If someone cuts you off in traffic because he’s in a hurry, he’s an asshole. If someone goes careening across traffic to cut you off and then slows down in front of you antagonistically, he’s ‘crazy.’

There is a certain level of helplessness we reach when dealing with someone who has a measure of power over us behaves in what seem to be irrational, hateful ways that often leads to name-calling like this.

And you are clearly there.

What you need to do is take back some power so you can feel calmer, more in control, and less helpless in dealing with her. And to recognize that some of her power over you is illusory.

To get started, I have a few questions for you.

You said she sends threatening texts. Is she threatening to hurt you? Your child? Your ex? Herself? If so, you probably need to get the police involved. I know that is a huge horrible pain in the ass and can lead to drama. But credible threats are illegal, and if she’s truly as illogical and nasty as you say, she perhaps is not in a good place to raise a child right now. You might be able to get more custody of your kid until she gets help or stops being an asshole, which is best for everyone. If she’s just threatening to tell people bad things or something, delete her texts. And for goodness sakes have your partner block her number! There is no reason why she has to ever have any contact with her whatsoever.

You also said she is ‘certifiable.’ Does this mean she is diagnosed with a mental illness or personality disorder? Which one? Researching this illness or disorder might help you to understand how to deal with this person. Stop Walking on Eggshells is a wonderful book that can help you deal with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder. If she is bipolar there are resources for that. If she has PTSD. Narcissism. If she has substance abuse problems, Al-Anon can bring you a measure of peace. Looking closely at her issues instead of using the generic, frantic word ‘crazy’ will help you to understand her better and know better which techniques are best for dealing with whatever is going on with her.

How about yourself? It sounds like you may benefit from talking this through with a therapist of some kind. Someone who might know about what is going on and might help you to deal with your rage. I always share the bitter joke that there are two kinds of people: those who get therapy, and those who cause others to NEED therapy. Talking through this issue with someone knowledgeable in mental illness, anger management, and family dynamics could really help you to deal with your anger, which might be controlling you a bit right now.

Anger is an important emotion. It tells us there is something terribly wrong and something must change. It tells us when we are in danger. It tells us when we need to fight. It tells us when there has been injustice or harm and motivates us to do something about it.

But when anger sinks into helpless bitterness, which I’m afraid your letter just REEKS of, it can cloud our judgment, cause us to make bad decisions, and lead us into venting rather than changing what needs to be changed.

And I think that you have some serious rage right now for what sound like really good reasons, and sorting out how to control that emotion can really help you to see your ex with clearer eyes.

If there was no kid in the mix, you wouldn’t have to do all of this work. But there is, and as a parent you know that you need to do what is best for your kid. That means figuring out how to get hold of yourself and figure some shit out.

Regardless of what approach you take, I would suggest you minimize contact. Discuss only information regarding your child, not feelings or any other topic. Use email or text if possible, and make those points of contacts as brief as possible. Drain all emotion from these contacts. Do not reply to threatening messages (unless you need to call the cops, and then that’s reply enough) at all.

Google the phrase ‘parallel parenting’ for advice on how to have as little contact as humanly possible with her while still being a parent.

When you begin being able to control or even remove your emotions regarding her terrible treatment of you, you will probably see that she has a lot less control over you than you initially thought.

Good luck.

This letter first appeared in bitterempire.com on August 11, 2016.