Miss Information

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My ex-boyfriend won't stop calling me — what should I do?

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Dear Miss Information,

This morning I woke up and realized that my boyfriend was playing with my bum. I was confused, so I pretended to keep sleeping. I'm a heavy sleeper and this has happened before — once I woke up and he was fingering me quite aggressively actually, and another time I thought he was trying to initiate sex, but when I woke up he just said, "Shhh, go back to sleep." That time, I was so sleepy I just went back to sleep, but this time I'm not sure what to do about it.

Is this normal? How do I tell him I'm not totally comfortable with this, since he's never asked if he could do that to me while I was sleeping? For the record, I'm twenty-two and he's twenty-eight, and we've been dating about four months.


Dear WTF?,

Nope, this is not normal. If your boyfriend was sixteen and didn't understand sexual activity, he might get off with a warning and probation. But he's twenty-eight, so he has no excuse. 

If you're asleep or unconscious in any way, sexual activity is not consensual. Sometimes awkward fumblings do happen in attempts to initiate sex, but your letter nixed that possibility — he seems to be using you particularly while you are asleep. Unsettling on many levels. Not only do you have a right to bring it up, you have an obligation to. 

I'm not terribly optimistic about what a conversation could do, though. Based on a very limited data set, he sounds like a creep. This situation is worth a stern talk, but more importantly, a hard look at whether you should be with someone you don't feel safe sleeping next to.

Dear Miss Information,

Several years ago I began a lukewarm relationship with someone who lived a few hours away. We hit it off great as friends, had a lot in common, and spent a few years in not particularly sexual monogamy. Eventually I realized that I didn't feel what I needed to feel to continue it. When he had to move back to his home state, I wanted to break up with him.

He begged me to stay with him, so we compromised on a more open relationship. I got to have a fuck-buddy, and he was welcome to do the same. That worked out for about a year, but his tone over the phone always seemed laced with jealousy — he couldn't stop asking about the fuck-buddy. I grew the balls to just break up with him, which he seemed to take okay, and we remained good friends.

Many months later I acquired another boyfriend (not the fuck-buddy.) When my ex found out about that, he began calling, IMing, and texting more. His texting and calling began interrupting my dates, and he'd ask way too many personal questions about who I was with, even asking about the old fuck-buddy occasionally. I'd put my foot down and tell him to knock that crap off. He'd retreat from the subject for a while, then he'd start back up weeks later.

I finally told him to stop speaking to me when it became obvious he couldn't keep his nose out of my personal affairs, and I cut him off entirely from my life. I told him I would no longer communicate with him for any reason. I couldn't make this any clearer to him without tattooing it on his hands.

Since then, he's called and emailed me every few months later asking if I'm still mad at him. I don't reply. My contact info remains the same three years later. I won't hear anything from him for three to six months, and then he'll barrage me with phone calls and/or text messages for a few days (at one point for up to a week), which I ignore.

Is this stalking? Should I just pick up the phone? I know it won't be good for me, and I don't want him back in my life. Would a restraining order stop him? Should I go one step further and call his mother about this? What are some alternative actions that don't require me to change two phone numbers and my name?

— 867-5309

Dear 867-5309,

When dealing with someone who has so thoroughly surrendered their grasp on reality, I sometimes find it helpful to imagine them as a particularly ill-behaved puppy. This makes them seem more pitiable and less threatening. It also makes me be more explicit when dealing with them. You can't expect a puppy to understand cause-and-effect relationships, so you have to make sure to keep messages simple and clear. You also need to be firm, or else that puppy will decorate its bed with your mangled sweaters.

To strengthen your boundaries, try calling your ex out of the blue, rather than answering one of his calls. (Picking up the phone when he's calling you would reinforce bad behavior.) Tell him he is making you very uncomfortable, and that the calls and texts need to stop, period. Do not have a conversation, and do not indulge any possible "what-ifs." Deliver your message and get out.

The fair warning is important: even though you already said it, you're emphasizing for him the fact that nothing has changed, and that his actions have repeatedly crossed the line. Then give it a few days for the message to settle. If he does not go quietly into the sunset, contact mutual friends who may be able to help him get perspective. It's likely that his friends don't realize he is doing this, and possible that the shame of having to defend his actions will get him to stop. If you are close with his mother and think she can be trusted, you can work that angle, too.

Be sensitive when talking to friends or family, though. Stick to the facts, and avoid emotionally loaded statements. You are not trying to start a witch hunt; you just want the calls to stop. A simple, "Hey, [Ex] has been calling me multiple times a day for the last few years, and it is really difficult for me to handle," would suffice. No name-calling, no "and he destroyed my favorite pair of loafers!" Keep it firm and polite, and hopefully the constant contact will taper and stop.

If the harassment gets worse — or if he ever shows up at your house or office, or threatens you — then get the law involved and change your contact information. But as long as his calls are "annoying" rather than "creepy," a little peer pressure can go a long way.

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