Toxic Break-Ups (Stalking)

Hey Alessia,

I dated this guy for about 6 months — about 6 months ago now. But he continues to call me — at home, at work, on my cell. I’ve told him in no uncertain terms to bug off, but every time he calls or leaves messages (because I avoid his calls if I can see it is him), he acts like I’ve never said such a thing. Worse, he’ll leave me messages to meet him somewhere and when I naturally have not done so (I avoid — like the plague — any bars, restaurants, etc. where we ever went just so I won’t even accidentally be where he wants me to be at any given point in time), he calls back ranting like a lunatic, asking why I stood him up.

Yesterday I came home late from work (I had stopped by my mom’s house for dinner), and I found a note from him on my door — a “where are you, you should be home by now!” note that sounded pissy. Granted I could be reading said pissy-ness into that note — but only because of his angry voice mails.

What am I supposed to do to lose this guy for real?

Sneaking-into-my-own-apartment Susan

Susan, you should not have to slink & sneak your way into your apartment or anywhere else. No means no means no means no.

You’ve made it clear you’re done, avoided him, and six moths later he’s still around?! That’s not him having a tough time with the break-up; that’s stalking.

Gather all harassing evidence you have saved from him — voice mails, texts, notes, emails, etc. — and present it to the police. (And, should the police do nothing, continue this every day, week, that it occurs until the police take action.)

Do the same with your employer. Regardless of whether or not the police take action, your employer needs to know you will not accept contact with this jerk.

Notify all landlord and your neighbors. Show them a photo & let them know he is not a friend of yours; they should call the police &/or alert you if they see him about the building, parking lot etc.

Tell all your family & friends about the situation. Especially those who have met him &/or those who he would be able to contact or visit.

Never be alone in public — easier said than done, sometimes, I know; but try to avoid arriving or leaving any place alone. And, even when out in a group, be sure to let someone who is not out with you know when and where you are going as well as when you are expected to return. (Remember to let them know when you are safely home!) Tell them who to call if you are — heaven forbid — missing or unable to speak for yourself.

Every time he even attempts to make contact with you, is spotted by neighbors, friends etc., contact the authorities.

Do not cut corners on any of this. Yes, it places a burden on you and those who care for you; but the alternative is simply no alternative at all.

Walking The Line Of Bad Relationships

Kari wrote in:

I was so glad to read your post on bad relationship signs – I saw myself in number 10.

My husband has been two-timing me for at least 5 years of our 11 year marriage. When I confront him, he is always sorry — but mainly for himself in his “inability to choose” He says he can’t break off his relationship with the other woman, but that he will in time, that I make him stronger and when he is strong enough he will end it with her. I want to believe him because I love him… But my heart knows better; he’s having his cake and eating it too. How do I get him to break it off and have a healthy relationship, the marriage I signed-up for?

Kari, I’m afraid you don’t get to make him to break it off.

No one can make anyone do anything. (Well, literally, it can be done. But then it’s controlling and abusive; Guantánamo Bay detention camp is no model for good relationships.)

The only person you control in your relationships is you.

But that doesn’t leave you powerless. Far from it.

Gregory Peck & Tuesday Weld in I Walk The Line (1970)

1) You can draw the line for yourself. If your marriage was agreed to and built upon the notion of fidelity and his actions to the contrary hurt you, then do not accept anything else but his fidelity.


2) Communicate that line. Tell him in no uncertain terms that his infidelity is not just upsetting to you, but a breach of contract. Let him know that if he does not end his extra curricular activities that the marriage is over. Or, if you don’t want to bother working on this relationship any more, tell him that since he did not end his affairs the marriage is over. (You should know if you want to continue this relationship or not before you communicate your line; it does no good to demand he toe the line when you just want out.)

Don’t let him cry & claim that you are giving him an unfair ultimatum; he has committed a breach so fundamental that he has terminated the contract. It’s not you; it is him.

3) Walk the line. Should he not cease his affairs with women, you must then take a walk: leave & sue for divorce. Almost all states are no “no fault” divorce states, so you should be able to get divorced without a problem; few states allow fault divorces, so you may not be allowed to actually sue for damages. Even if you live in a place as ridiculously difficult to divorce in as New York, you should be able to find another location or get thee to Guam. In any case you will get your clean slate and the opportunity to find a healthy relationship.

You probably figured out that these three steps, draw the line, communicate the line, and walk the line, can all be used for any relationship, any circumstance (though in cases of domestic violence, greater care must be taken in dealing with the abuser — for instance, communicating the line is not only an irrelevant step, but a dangerous one).

But no matter what your partner does or doesn’t do, you must know what you want/need, set the boundaries & enforce them for yourself. Draw your lines, communicate them (if only to yourself and your support system), and then walk the expectations — even if that means walking away. You will never have a healthy relationship until you do.

Image info: Movie poster from I Walk the Line.

If You’re Lonely & Wistful This Valentine’s Day…

If the holiday of romance has you looking backwards, remembering a love you once had, a first love, instead of celebrating a romance of today or eagerly looking for the romance of the future, I ask you to limit your indulgent trip down memory lane to just this one day…

Anything longer, anything more than a fond remembrance over a carton of ice cream (shedding of tears optional) is putting your romantic future at risk.

See, we have this tendency to remember the relationships of the past through rose-colored glasses or an emotional layer of sepia tones, glossing over the reasons why it didn’t work out. And the further away in time those relationships were, the worse it gets.

Like the cultural recalling of the “good old days,” we tend to forget that those easy-peasy, lemon-squeezey relationships of yesteryear seem so easy largely because we were younger, our problems smaller. Especially when seen with the older & wiser (and somewhat world-weary) eyes of today.

But the danger of living even remotely in past romance isn’t just that we might be missing the moments of today; it’s that we are seeking simpler times, simpler relationships, setting up unrealistic standards for the relationships of tomorrow.

So feel free to enjoy or even wallow in the romantic past for the day. A day. But don’t try to live there.

Or you won’t ever be happy where you are now.

Image via Since She Left.

How Rude!

An “Emmy Award Winning Talk Show” has placed the following casting call: I May Break-up With You…Because You’re TOO Rude!

Is it just me, or is the person who responds to this equally — if not more — rude as the person they are complaining about?

Even if the casting call insists, “Don’t write in unless both of you are willing to appear on a national TV show,” can you imagine that conversation?

“Uh, honey, we need to talk…”

Sighs as they silently think, “Oh crap!” — but replies, with a tentative, “Now what?” (Or maybe because they are in fact rude, they reply with “Crap, now what?”)

She continues, “We need to talk… On national television.”


“About how rude you are.”

“How rude I am? How rude I am?! What the f***?! Can you even spell irony?”

Health Reader Survey: What’s Sexy Now?

In this month’s issue of Health, reader survey results on the subject of sex.


Some survey results (and my comments):

75% believe that it is cheating to have a secret e-mail relationship with an old flame

I do believe the “secret” part is a problem, as it connotes an attempt to cover-up. My husband never asks me who I email… If I would be emailing with a former boyfriend or lover, would that mean I would be lying or keeping a secret by omission? Or does his not asking just mean he doesn’t care about my endless emailing? *wink*

34% are friends with an old boyfriend on Facebook or another social networking site

Please note that this apparently includes being friended by one’s 8th grade boyfriend; call me old fashioned, or just plain old, but one’s 8th grade boyfriend is a rather harmless — near forget-able relationship, online or off.)

33% are keeping the social network friending of old boyfriends a secret

If it’s the 8th grade or high school varieties, it isn’t the fear of a “wildly jealous husband” that keeps you mum, it’s the embarrassment, dears.

64% say they “absolutely do not” mention their sex lives via Twitter or other social media site, saying it’s “a perfect example of TMI” — yet 29% “might” read someone else’s “sex tweets”

I suspect this has more to do with people “marketing” aka spamming themselves via Twitter et all and therefore aren’t showing any real aspects of themselves to begin with. But how can your sex live be any more ridiculous than discussing your love or reality television? And perhaps more importantly, how can tweeting about your sex life be any less alienating, personal and off-putting then disclosing your politics or religious preaching? Now that’s too much information.


(As always, click the pics for larger scans.)

Now this next one (the last one I’ll cover today) is very interesting…

The questions was: Whose affair would be more likely to end your relationship?

The response: 41% said their own affair; 59% said his affair.

Naturally, this discloses that Health has limited it’s questioning to heterosexual couples; uncool. But the question itself, the apparent answer options, and the answers themselves are sort of confusing — not because of the nearly 50-50 split, but because I’m not sure how the respondents interpreted the question… Were they answering that his affair would mean he was ready to move on, so their relationship would end? Or did they mean that they would, selfishly, be (albeit slightly) less tolerant of his affair then they expect him to be of their own?

I’m not sure how I would interpret the Q & A, so I’m completely unclear as to my own answer.

There’s more from this survey, but I’m saving it for later.

Sexism Alert: “The Great Male Survey” Results

Last month, (50,000 readers) & Shine (19,000 respondents over a four week period) conducted its second annual online survey, where real women and men answered questions on such topics as online dating, money, careers, soul mates, marriage, romance, cheating, etc.

One area where men really weighed-in differently was the matter of weight gain. Seems fatty-fatty-two-by-four will be kicked out of the couple’s door — by (surprise!) males.

An overwhelming 70% of women responded to “Would you dump a boyfriend if he became fat?” with “No, his appearance does not affect my love for him.” But 48% of men said they would dump their girlfriend. Shocking? No. Superficial? Yes.

While 75% of US men (just a few points off of their male counterparts in the UK, Canada & Australia) and 63% of the women believe marriage “is a necessary institution, and one that I will participate in to help preserve,” there’s something funky going on… I guess marriage as an “institution to preserve” only applies to skinny folks — for men, anyway.

But perhaps most upsetting to me were the results regarding divorce (as in “she’s too fat to remain with me”). When asked, “Do men get screwed by the courts in divorce?” 83% of the men said “Yes.” I guess I’m not surprised to hear men continue to whine about their victimization (as if!), but the women? While the 44% who said, “No, men and women generally get fair and equal treatment,” may seem comforting, look closer and you’ll see that 40% also said “Yes” — 40% of women believe that men are victimized by divorce courts.


I guess these women aren’t really listening to their friends’ divorce stories.

Yet 35% of these whining & irrational men who believed they are treated unfairly by divorce courts say prenups are “Not at all important.” Isn’t that a dumb reaction, to not protect yourself from what you (irrationally) fear?

But that’s only part of the story, really; just look at the questions & results:

For Men:

How important is it to you for your future wife to sign a prenup?

35% Not at all important

33% Not very important

22% Somewhat important

10% Very important

For Women:

Do you want your future husband to sign a prenup?

73% No, I will marry a man who I trust enough to not need a prenup

11% Yes, but I won’t risk jeopardizing our relationship by asking him to sign one

9% Yes, I won’t marry him unless she does

7% No, I’m out to steal his money

And that sexist difference in the survey questions & responses may be the most telling thing of all.

Women too insecure to ask for a prenup? But not the big strong he-man. (He’s just too dumb not to ask, even when he thinks the male created & controlled courts are out to get him because he has a penis. A-duh.) Women asked a question in which they are offered the golden opportunity to self-identify as gold diggers? Where are the men’s sugar daddy responses? And that confusing typo (see 9% female response) — for a minute there I thought they were actually including lesbians. Yeah. Right.

If such sexism was ignored or thought “cute” by the female respondents, then no wonder they themselves are sexist enough in their thinking to believe that men have it bad in divorces.

I do believe now we know why this is called The Great Male Survey; Long Live The Great Male.


Married? Wanna “Throw Down” On TV?

I spotted this casting call at RealityWanted:

Looking for married couples to throw down on a nationally syndicated court show!

We give you a $500 appearance fee each, airfare, hotel & $70 each for food.

Now I ask you, what married couple is going to “throw down” (whatever that means — I hope it’s not violent!) for a grand? I mean, there’s not even the pretense of help.

All they say is that it’s for a “syndicated court show,” so is the “throw down” a divorce? Or what? …With such little information, I think it’s safe to say that whether it was your intention or not, simply suggesting you & your spouse “audition” is probably going to result in the end of your marriage.

When You Are Surprised To Find A Relationship Deal Breaker After Three Years Of Dating

Ashley writes in with a personal problem stemming from the Steve Ward/Vh1 mess:

Hi Alessia,

I’ve been following along with the Steve Ward fiasco (what a piece of work that jerk is!) and I wonder what you think of the situation that I now find myself in…

While I was drafting my letters of outrage, my boyfriend of 3 years (you can call him Bob lol) came on over. Because I was feeling pretty intense about things, when he greeted me with the casual, “Whatcha doin’?” I actually answered him. I told him of Ward’s hurtful stupidity, the lack of concern on the parts of show producers etc., and my overwhelming grief to discover (via reading all the comments etc.) just how widely held & deeply rooted such irrational beliefs are in our world.

At first I thought Bob’s lack of concern over the situation was because he hadn’t seen the show and maybe he thought I twisted the words… So I sat him at the computer and ordered him to read. But when he read, he wasn’t as outraged as I had thought he would be.

Not only did he not share my opinions, but he started to argue Ward’s side!

Now, after years of dating I was shocked! I mean we’ve discussed rape and violence towards women (and children too) and he’s always seemed educated, concerned for women’s safety and nearly apologetic in that male way of like “I can’t believe there are men who would do that.” So I was flabbergasted that Bob would hold Arian or any women accountable for what a man or men do.

I want to rant on & on about this, but you’ve covered the issue really well and I know I’m preaching to the choir, so I’ll get to the problem here. ;)

After three years of dating we’ve been talking marriage. (The only reason we aren’t officially engaged is the money thing — until I get to the next level at work, I’m still not able to afford an apartment of my own which is something I insist upon doing before I marry.) But now that I see that Bob is holding onto some archaic, dangerous, misogynistic and mean victim blaming beliefs, I just don’t know…

I sent him away that day and our conversations since then have mostly been short. Anytime the elephant on the phone line is mentioned, we just end up debating at best, arguing at worst.

Bob thinks I’m over reacting; I should know after three years that he’s a good guy. But I can’t get past the fact that good guys don’t ever excuse the behavior of bad guys — let alone hold the victims responsible for what the bad guys do.

I still love him… Otherwise this wouldn’t hurt so much. But I don’t trust him the way I used to — and I’ve lost some respect for him. I think, as hard as it will be, that I need to end things with him.

Am I being overly sensitive? Am I irrational or otherwise sabotaging a good relationship for a small thing?

Biting my nails with anxiety & heartache while I await your reply,

Dear Ashley,

I probably should say that I’m sorry my blogging has disrupted your relationship with Bob — but I can’t honestly say that.

I’m sorry to hear that Bob’s not the good guy you thought he was, but,see, from where I sit, I think you are better off for making this discovery now. Even three years of dating in is better than making this discovery after three years of marriage & building a family. That’s what dating is for, to learn all you can about one another.

I don’t think I even have anything to tell you that you don’t already know…

You know that if trust and respect for your partner diminishes you are faced with two choices: Work it out, with compromise & communication (maybe some counseling), or walk away safely.*

And there are some things we just can’t compromise on.

This situation is not purely one of political difference, like say gun control, where you might compromise by owning a gun but keeping it in a locked gun safe in the garage or something– and by knowing that each of your votes cancels-out the other’s vote.

This is far more than theory, philosophy, or ideals; this is a fundamental framework of every day living. It’s a matter of freedom, equality & safety because, as you know, even if Bob is not personally a threat to you or others, he insists upon perpetuating an environment which places women with the responsibility to control male behaviors — and when that (obviously & maddeningly ridiculously) doesn’t work, he leaves victims to suffer the guilt & blame.

Heaven forbid any violence should ever befall you or someone you love, Ashley (knocking wood!) — but given the odds… How would you cope or assist another survivor in their recovery with Bob at your side? Even if his mouth never uttered a blaming sentence, you’d see it, feel it.

Whether or not you & Bob should have children of your own, building a family between yourselves involves each of your extended families and you community of friends. Can you live with Bob passing along his views about the responsibilities women (or potential victims) have to control the behaviors of rapists and abusers to your nieces & nephews, your friends’ children?

You know Bob’s views help shape our world; and you’ve clearly said that his views help shape a world you don’t want to (continue to) live in. So you know what the math is: If Bob can’t be educated out of this, you’re better off living without him. There’s no sense in living in a toxic relationship.

This is definitely a relationship deal breaker.

In the interest of fairness to your relationship with Bob, and your heart, you owe it to yourselves to communicate this as plainly as you can to Bob.

Wherever the chips fall, I wish you well.


* Note how when a human being has less respect for another human being, that the first human is not entitled to hurt, abuse or force the less-respected human to do whatever they want.

Alone Today? Valentine’s Day For Singles

You didn’t think I’d ignore you today, did you my lovelies? Of course not. Real friends don’t ignore their friends just because they are one part of a couple, and years of being alone on Valentine’s Day, my birthday, and other holidays has left me ever-sensitive to the needs of my single friends on such days.

The folks at Lifetime also must have spent a few holidays alone because they’ve put together a collection of 13 “worst breakup stories” — two-minute videos of women (and a few men) telling their once-heartbreaking-now-funny breakup stories. The series, called The Breakup Diaries, has classics — and some scenarios that might make Paul Simon want to revise the count in 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.

One of my favorites is the story of Beth’s break up — it involves maple syrup, but that doesn’t make the story any sweeter. Her story combines three of the classics: The No-Show, The Walk-In-On, and He Comes Bearing Gifts.

Lauren’s story involves “Shmen” making — and sharing with her — a list of reasons why he was breaking up with her. This one is probably my favorite one. Not just because it’s funny, but because Lauren found the silver lining, which is what we all need to do when we’ve lost a lover.

Reassured by Lauren’s story and remaining ever hopeful, you will now download the free Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye MP3 from Amazon. You can mock its smarmy sex-fest mentality with your bitterness today, and then save it for play again on another day when you’ve got a partner to groove in the bedroom with. And yes, dear, that day will come.

Mind Over Relationship Matter

Sonia ponders her breakup and discovers that while it may be hard to do, the light at the end of the tunnel just might be her glorious self:

I am analyzing my relationships again. I am free from being in love with m, and my heart is flung open like a door to everything and everyone around me. It’s astounding how I was so unhappy for what seemed to be forever, now the days just pass me by. There aren’t enough hours in the day it seems. Every second is so pleasurable and I treasure every moment. I told myself that new years eve would be the last day for me to think about m in a loving manner- miss him, miss what we had, and I had to be done with it. I awoke new years day feeling like maybe it wasn’t real. A few days passed, and it became a reality. Those feelings were gone. I wanted with all of my heart for those feelings to pass and they did. Mind over matter. Putting good vibes out into the universe has finally paid off for me and I am the real me again. Looking back on the past year, I really do not know how I did it. Every day seemed like an absolute struggle, and I dreaded what the next day had in store for me. I felt so hopeless at times, but knew that life is so much better than that. I believed. Bad things happened, and I went on with my life. I opened myself up to change, and opened myself up again to being vulnerable to people, and allowing myself to love regardless of the consequences. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as it seemed. My life is considerably different than it was just 5 short months ago.

Jewelry For When It’s Really Over

Teacups and Couture shows us the striking divorce jewelry by Gisele Ganne.

The jewelry, which many are calling “Gothic” and “morbid” really stems from the historical tradition of mourning:

Mourning or memorial jewellery has been worn for centuries, especially during the Victorian era where funerals and the events attached to burying, immortalizing, and remembering the dead were of much importance. Common symbols used in mourning jewellery included forget-me-nots, flowers, hair of a loved one, hearts, crosses, ivy leaves, and more macabre symbols such as skulls, coffins and gravestones.

I refer to these and expound upon them, glamorizing death to the level of Haute Couture Catwalk. I refer as well to other old or ethnic customs such as the Andaman (it is a little community in Bengal where the widow takes the skull of their husband after the burial to wear it as a necklace), urban legends as the Black Widow who kills her husbands for their money and historical events such as crimes, serial killers, and suicides.

OK, so it’s a macabre… and so perhaps Gothic and morbid fit too. But it’s also beautiful!

And her art has both spiritual and practical messages too.

But mourning is not just about dead people; it is also about dead relationships and decaying marriages. Today, 42% of marriages finish in divorce in the UK and 38% in France. My divorce jewellery refers to old and contemporary wedding customs to illustrate this sort of mourning. Being French, most of these customs come from France, such as the Bride Globe which is a present to the bride to put her bouquet and her crown after the wedding. All the decorations inside symbolize the union and give luck to the marriage. I use union and marriage symbols and subvert them to show the inevitability of the breakup, but also show that from these ashes may raise a new life.

Images via the designer’s Flickr account.

Museum of Broken Relationships

Did you know there was a Museum of Broken Relationships? Me neither.

The museum, founded in Croatia, was an art concept by Olinka Vištica and Drazen Grubišić who decided to set up the museum dedicated to broken hearts after consoling friends over their failed romances.

The Museum of Broken Relationships is an art concept which proceeds from the assumption that objects possess integrated fields – holograms of memories and emotions – and intends with its layout to create a space of secure memory or protected remembrance in order to preserve the material and nonmaterial heritage of broken relationships.

Unlike the destructive self-help instructions for recovery from failed loves, the Museum offers every individual the chance to overcome the emotional collapse through creation, i.e., by contributing to the holdings of the Museum. The individual gets rid of controversial objects , triggers of momentarily undesirable emotions, by turning them into museum exhibits, i.e., artefacts and thereby participating in the creation of a preserved collective emotional history.

One of the most interesting & unusual object in the museum is this prosthetic limb:

In a Zagreb hospital I met a beautiful, young and ambitious social worker from the Ministry of Defense. When she helped me to get certain materials, which I, as a war invalid, needed for my under-knee prosthesis, the love was born. The prosthesis endured longer than our love. It was made of better material!