Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Case of the Revenant Boyfriend

It’s an easy letter to answer, but, perhaps it is a bit too easy. When you read it you wonder what is the matter with the letter writer, who dubs herself Aargh. It’s an old letter to Carolyn Hax and Hax understands well what the woman should do. And yet, why is it really an issue worth addressing to an advice columnist.

Here goes:

Five years ago I started what would become a three-year relationship with a man who I now recognize was extremely controlling and emotionally abusive (and, once, physically abusive). He finally stopped calling two years ago.

Fifteen months ago, I started dating the wonderful, caring, supportive man who recently became my fiance. I couldn't be more thrilled.

Six months ago, ex emails me to say he's changed, life is good, etc. I responded that I was happy for him and was dating a great guy.

Today, he emails again and says perhaps he was too subtle before, but he's changed and wants to be with me. He proceeds to list 11 reasons I should take him back
My question is how to respond. He has been pining away for almost three years and has apparently made big changes in his life in the hope of winning me back. If I let him down harshly, he might backslide and think all his hard work was for nothing.

Clearly, this isn't technically my problem anymore, but is it so wrong for me to want him to have a nice life that doesn't involve me?

— Aargh

Of course, Hax is correct to tell Aargh to blow off her ex-boyfriend. If he has really changed, Hax says, he will graciously accept it. Of course, we would want to know where he was and what he was doing for the two years he was incommunicado. Was he in prison???

Then again, she already told him that she was dating a great guy, so why did he believe that his lust for her would cause her to  change her mind? Did he list the reasons why she should take him back because he cannot stand the thought that she is with someone else? 

More salient still, why does she think that she owes him anything? Why does she care about a man who was extremely controlling and who physically abused her? And why does she think that she should be his therapist? When she says that she is worried that he might fall back into his bad habits, she is talking like a therapist. What difference does it make to her whether he backslides or falls into a ditch?

If I had to guess, I would say that she feels threatened. And that she worries about being harsh with him because she fears that he will return the disfavor. For my part I believe that she should respond with an email to the effect that she is currently very happily engaged to be married, and thus must kindly reject his suit. And that she wishes him all the best in his future life.

Hopefully, that does not sound too harsh.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

I'd recommend her answer be NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! You, Stuart, are much too kind. (Or maybe you got me on a bad day. Nope!)