Three years ago, I met and fell in love with a guy whom I assumed I'd marry eventually. But as the relationship went on, particularly in the last year of the relationship, warning signs started to crop up: his drinking and cocaine use went from recreational to dangerous, his license was revoked for drinking and driving (yet he kept on driving), and worst of all I found transvestite porn around the house and in his computer's history.
Here's the thing, in the year that most of the "bad stuff" took place, we had purchased a condo pre-sale and were bound by contract to close on it when it was complete. I had invested my heart and savings into this relationship, so I wasn't about to let it go without a fight.
I confronted him. We fought. He gave in, shortly after we moved into our new apartment, and sought therapy with me. He begged for my forgiveness. He made me breakfast. He listened when I talked and I thought, "You know what? Everything is going to be all right."
And then I found them: e-mail after e-mail wherein he had been propositioning transvestites on Craigslist during our "healing process." Everything he was saying to me in therapy, all of his gestures -- they were lies.
I immediately ended the relationship and we put the apartment up for sale. Knowing that he had no conscience and was capable of hurting me in many ways while he still had keys to the apartment, I played nice to protect myself. I also bought a new apartment in the same building with my brother -- it was easily the best investment in town. I let the ex know this the day I signed the papers, to which he responded that he would buy in the same building as well. I was livid, but, still not wanting to rock the boat while he still had keys, I kept my emotions to myself. In fact, I said something along the lines of, "Good for you."
Well, now he's the proud owner of a condo in this same building, and he's developed other disturbing habits like calling and cornering our mutual friends for my whereabouts and threatening to not uphold financial agreements we've made in regard to the proceeds from the sale. I lashed out at him via text/e-mail, telling him how much I resent everything he's done, and I've begged him over and over to not move into this new suite. His response is, "Leave me alone." Leave him alone?
I just want to be rid of him and start fresh, but now I have to see his face every day in the elevator and live in fear that he'll take a key to my car if he doesn't like something I've said. And I don't want to sell my home. Not only will my brother and I be penalized financially, I'll be heartbroken. It's the idea of this new home that has kept me motivated through the heartbreak of my situation. It represents a new life.
I need a coping strategy that doesn't involve a sale. Please help me, Cary. We'll be neighbors in two weeks.
Can't Escape the Ex
Dear Can't Escape the Ex,
This is an emotional problem, a financial problem and possibly a legal problem. Emotionally, you are dealing with a threatening person with whom you have a traumatic past. Every time you see him, it triggers upsetting memories and feelings. You say somewhat casually that he has no conscience. This may be literally true. He may truly be "The Sociopath Next Door." So take your emotions seriously; they may be telling you that he is dangerous and means you harm.
It is a financial problem in that your financial ties with him require communication with him. Wouldn't it be great if he could just be gone from your life? But that is not possible without first cutting your remaining financial ties.
And depending on the facts, it may be or may become a legal problem. So I do recommend you consult a lawyer. Ask him what legal remedies you have if this man's behavior escalates. You may have no legal recourse now, but grounds may arise. Knowing your options will give you peace of mind as you contemplate the future.
Next, conclude your financial arrangements with him, even if you must take a small loss. It will be worth it to have the thing done. If that means settling the proceeds from the sale of the condo you bought jointly, take whatever you can get from him and consider it finished. As long as he owes you money, he is in your life. You want him out of your life. You want to give him no reason to contact you.
Logically speaking, you want zero contact. As long as you live in the same building, that's nearly impossible. If this were a novel or a movie, you might arrange a job for him in Bahrain, or an attractive heiress might sweep him away to Paraguay. But real life contains too many moving parts, and our attempts to stage-manage such eventualities often backfire.
So if you cannot make him leave, avoid him.
Learn his schedule. Avoid coming and going when he is coming and going. Of course, he may learn your schedule and deliberately run into you. If this is the case, randomize your schedule. When you do see him, do not speak with him. Maintain control of your breathing. Remain calm and distant. Do not engage.
Explain the situation and ask your friends and your brother for their support. Be careful not to slander him. Just say that you cannot bear any contact with him and to please not give him any information about you. Make sure your brother knows how you feel; he may be able to take certain protective steps. If the building has a doorman or a security firm, tell them your concerns and have these concerns documented.
Take these steps and see how it goes. Keep in mind that even though you don't want to, you always can sell your place and move. If he is persistent, it may be a sign that he is dangerous. If selling is your only option, it might be a lifesaving one. So do not rule it out, painful as it might be.
Whatever it takes, you must put him out of your life.
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