Question: When we broke up, my ex-boyfriend insisted that he hated me and tried to cause trouble for me with my friends, family and coworkers. He immediately got into another relationship but now he seems to be following me. He’s been stalking my Facebook and Instagram accounts and has shown up to public places where I’m hanging out with friends. I have no feelings for him but I wondered if he still does for me. Is he following me because he feels guilty about how he treated me or is he simply trying to upset me?
Answer: As the classic Neil Sedaka song says, breaking up is hard to do. Some people have difficulty letting go, others don’t know how to manage the uncomfortable emotions a break up brings while still others discover just how challenging (to say the least) it can be to transform a romantic relationship into a platonic one. If all that wasn’t hard enough, the advent of social media has made it easy for the ex-partner to be granted access to the thoughts, whereabouts and relationships of the former love. I get a lot of questions about the motivations of the ex.
Many people make the mistake of believing that hate is the opposite of love but it isn’t. With both hate and love, the feelings are strong. Thus, the real opposite of love is indifference. If your ex-boyfriend truly was over you, then he wouldn’t have made the effort to cause trouble for you nor would he now obsess over your social media or show up at places you go with friends. Similarly, if you were truly over him, you wouldn’t care what his reasons were for following you; you’d just want him out of your life.
If you are hoping that he realizes how badly he treated you, then you’re probably going to be disappointed. People who are manipulative and engage in one conflictual relationship after another usually have very little insight or compassion. They rarely accept responsibility for their own behavior which means they don’t have the motivation for personal growth. Thus, he may apologize for certain things but only if he believes it will get him something. Consequently, a more likely explanation for his behavior is that he wants something from you, whether it’s merely attention or a resumption of your previous relationship. Don’t fall for it.
If you truly want to get away from this guy, start by putting as much distance – both physical and emotional – between the two of you as possible. Try not to be where he is. If you must be around him in public, treat him just like you would a stranger: polite but not friendly. If you believe that he is physically stalking you, take steps to ensure your safety. I’d also block him from accessing your social media sites. Talk with the local authorities about your options and make sure you are surrounded by other people whenever your ex-boyfriend is near. Do not ever be alone with him.
Leaving what probably was an incredibly unhealthy relationship takes courage and strength and you managed to do that. Use that same strength and bravery to continue moving forward. People often repeat familiar relational patterns unless they develop healthier interpersonal skills, so I hope that you have done this. Insist on better treatment from your new boyfriend. Set boundaries and be able to function without a man. Figure out what a healthy relationship looks like for you and find a partner who is willing to work toward that goal with you. If you do all these things, then it will be that much easier to put the ex-boyfriend squarely where he belongs: in your past.