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Love Letters

A toxic ex-boyfriend got in touch to ‘apologize’ during the pandemic

What's the best way to deal with such unwanted attention in these times?

Submit your questions for Meredith here.

Q. Hi Meredith! I hope this letter finds you well, despite current times.

In college, I dated a boy I loved very much, but our relationship turned emotionally abusive and toxic for me. I eventually left him after he cheated. I am so much happier now, having found closure, strength, and self-worth.

However, last week he messaged me — three years since we last spoke — to apologize for how he treated me and to wish my family well. He sent two messages, 12 hours apart. I didn’t reply. Today he sent flowers to my workplace (publicly listed), which I refused.

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His attempts to reach out are non-threatening, but gave me the final push to unfriend and block him on all platforms. My question is: How do you advise people to process unwanted attention during this time? I’ve done the practical things I can do to feel comfortable, but that shock of anxiety and sadness remains. Beyond blocking and ignoring (I’d love your advice on that, too), what can we do to distract and stay healthy?

– Blocked

A. I am a big fan of blocking and ignoring! We explore this, at least the social media part of it, in an episode of the first season of the podcast (Episode 2: “Don’t Look at the Cupcakes”). Making that episode taught me that some of us worry more about being rude than taking care of ourselves. You don’t need to consider manners when you’re contacted by someone you don’t want to see.

As for the shock, all I can say is sit with the discomfort and then move on. Your ex proved he’s still toxic. His apologies are for him. (For more on apologies and when they’re appropriate, see the new book A Good Apology by Molly Howes.)

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Sadly, this pandemic is an ongoing thing. “Normal” is not kicking in anytime soon. That means there’s going to be more downtime for people to think about the past and make phone calls to discuss. Some of those calls will be very welcome, some not. You’ve learned all you can from this guy, which means you can ignore him without guilt. If you’re stuck with bad feelings, check in with someone else. As long as you know you’re physically safe, just keep doing what you’re doing.

As for all of you exes out there who are itching to reach out, I stand by our “Should I text my ex?” Love Letters flow chart (find it on the Love Letters Instagram page). Almost all roads lead to keeping your thoughts to yourself.

— Meredith

READERS RESPOND

People do all kinds of things for their own reasons. It doesn’t mean you have to participate, or even respond in any way. --WIZEN

If I’m reading this right, someone texted you an apology three years later. That he texted you twice is what’s up for interpretation. My take is that he was impatient for forgiveness. Gross. --PINKDRINK

Flowers after three years?? You did the right thing, good for you. I hope this serves as a reminder to everyone who wants to “check in” on an ex during COVID. Chances are real good they don’t need/want the check-in and they’re doing A-OK without you. -- BOSTONSWEETS21

Catch Meredith Goldstein’s Love Letters podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen.

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