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August 17, 1998   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Predicament of the Week
In which Breakup Girl addresses the situation that has, this week, brought her the most (a) amusement, (b) relief that it is happening to someone else, and/or (c) proof that she could not possibly be making this stuff up.

Dear Breakup Girl,

PLEASE help me, my ex-girlfriend is turning into a psychopath!!

Here's my story. I'm about two months out of a 7 1/2 year live-in relationship. I thought our breakup was going well, and that we would continue to be friends. Well, in the last 2 weeks, something snapped. For the first time, I started to contemplate whether I'm going to need a restraining order.

Our breakup was not mutual. I ended the relationship for a variety of personal reasons I'm comfortable with. I've also made what I feel is a Herculean effort to try to maintain our friendship after the "divorce." I've tried to support her as much as I can, while setting clear limits on what I can and can not do. Here's where it gets weird. Two weeks ago I went to the pound with her to look at a dog. She's wanted a dog all her life, so I encouraged her to get one. I thought that it would bring some stability and joy to her life. I even went with her to pick up the dog. She was nervous, but I figured she could handle it. Eight hours after she took the dog home she showed up unannounced, and uninvited at my house, hysterical about the dog (who was behaving perfectly). She claims that the dog is giving her panic attacks, but there is clearly something else going on here. To make a long story short I've been keeping the dog at my house, since she can't have the dog at her house without having a panic attack. The dog is just about perfect in every way, so it's not him (Is BG interested in a beautiful well-trained german shepherd?) I told her that I would keep the dog for a few days until she decided what to do. The dog has not spent a single night at her house yet, except the two nights I slept on her couch when she was hysterical (a mistake in hindsight). I really love the dog but can't give him a good home.

The situation shows no sign of ending. I feel like she's manipulating the situation and using my willingness to help as an excuse to continue to see me. I don't want to take the dog back to the pound, because he isn't mine. Also, I don't want him to suffer or be euthanized if no one adopts him.

BG is probably thinking, "This guy really wants advice from Canine Gal, not BG." So where's the psychopathic part, you ask? Well during these two weeks she's been getting more abusive, dredging up past history from our relationship. She is demanding more than I am able or willing to give her in terms of support. She told me she hit redial every 30 seconds for over two hours trying to call me one evening! I've also had several lovely series of progressively angrier messages on my machine when I've gotten home. I've suggested that she seek counseling, and told her various reasons why I'm not the right person to support her. (e.g. that her healing from our breakup requires separation, I'm biased, she needs to go through a period of anger with me, etc.). It's like talking to a wall. She totally ignores my limits, and lays on heavy guilt trips when I tell her I need to leave or get off the phone. This weekend I spent nearly 40 hours with her, since she was on the verge of hysteria (something I didn't really want to do). Late Sunday evening (after 11 pm) I told her that she needed to go home. She became hysterical and out of control. She told me repeatedly how much she hates me; that I'm a selfish bastard; that she gave me 8 years of unconditional support and now I won't return any support, etc. Am I missing something here?!? Am I just a typical male as she claims? After she left I walked her dog. Tonight, she showed up unannounced again (at 9:30 pm), breaking a promise to me that she would never do that again, without calling first. (This woman has practically memorized Emily Post, by the way. Miss Manners is on her top ten books of all time). After an hour or so, as she was leaving I told her softly that she should have called first. She goes ballistic and gets hysterical again.

I'm beginning to wonder if I should expect a brick through my window, or worse. There is another thing that keeps coming back to haunt me. In our final days together, during our one and only fight in seven years she told me, "If I had a gun right now I would blow your brains out." (After I told her she was manipulative.) Nothing like this had ever happened before. She apologized, but it still scared the hell out of me. Never in our relationship had there ever been any implication of violence, or even threats.

What's next? She obviously needs some help, but refuses to consider counseling. I think that she has an opportunity here to work through a lot of personal issues, most of which that have nothing to do with our relationship. The bottom line is that I'm going through a process of healing myself, albeit more gracefully. I just want to get on with my own life, too. I really want to maintain our friendship, but she's driving me over the edge. She's clearly on the edge too. I think she is close to: a) a nervous breakdown, b) a suicide attempt c) quitting her job, packing up and moving back to mommy and daddy, or d) stalking me.

It's difficult to watch someone you care about spiral out of control. I feel like she's trying to express her anger at me for breaking up with her, and at the same time latching on to me for the support I can no longer give. Whatever the case, I won't let her take me down too.

A couple of other important details: We work at the same company. We don't have a lot of contact, but I do have to be in contact with her on a professional basis. I'm just hoping she'll conduct herself professionally. The next thing is more sticky. I have a female friend coming to stay with me for a few days. (I think it's healthy for me to date and have some non-serious relationships for awhile). I'm not trying to hide anything but there are some things my ex doesn't need to know about. Given her recent behavior, the climate is ripe for a truly awful scene (especially if she shows up unannounced when my friend is visiting).

Any advice on how I can disentangle myself from this mess? Or how I can direct her into counseling? Do I cut off contact from her at a time when she's obviously on the edge of a breakdown, or do I try to help her get through it? Thanks BG, you are truly a hero.

-- Dog Tired

P.S. In case you hadn't guessed, the extreme dependence was a factor in the breakup. I also have a bit of advice for your readers. Sometimes it's easier to stay in a relationship that's not right rather than go through the pain of breaking up (and the prospect of being alone). I tried for years to force myself to be happy. It took everything I had to muster the courage to go through with the breakup. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. But now I sleep with a clear conscience, and have a new world of possibilities.


Dear Dog Tired,

I totally want the pooch. But Chris@breakupgirl.net is allergic. Oh, well.

And now, an important message for dumpers everywhere:

BEWARE OF DOGG: Dutifully Over-indulgent Good Guy.

That, Tired, would be you.

Let's go over what happened, Tired. Keep in mind that I do fully understand that a 7 1/2 year live-in relationship does make for a MAJOR breakup -- about which I am totally sorry, by the way -- and some slack must be cut for some messy behavior on everyone's part. However. You said you'd set "clear limits" on what you can and can't do in terms of supporting her through this, but as far as BG is concerned, they're so clear as to be transparent. Invisible, even.

First, the pet thing. Taking her to pick out the dog -- and taking in the dog when she flipped out -- are both very boyfriendy (or, at least, guilt-absolvingy, being-a-big-persony) things to do. No! Bad! I totally understand the Be Kind to Animals/Ex-Girlfriends impulse, and I can see why these all seemed like the right things to do at the time, but still. In my unofficial capacity as Canine Gal, I also gently question the wisdom of encouraging this pet-getting in the first place. Adding a dog to your life is a big, complicated, demanding, full-time deal. In other words, dogs -- like relationships -- are NOT something you get "in order to bring some stability." Okay? You want stability, get a fern.

Otherwise, most everything else you're doing is the human equivalent of watching the dog climb up on the couch, saying "no," letting it stay there anyway, and then wondering why the dog keeps climbing up on the couch. She shows up unannounced, you let her in, and you don't say "no" until she's leaving. Bad! Enabling! Passive-aggressive!

DT, I totally understand that you care about your ex and want to do the right thing. But you are doing a wee bit of the righteous thing, as well. In this case, you've got to be -- as they say -- cruel to be kind, in the right measure. Cut off contact. Relationship-related contact, anyway; I know you may cross paths at work. She may be on the edge of a breakdown, but you -- and that beautiful shepherd -- are exactly NOT the ones to help her get through it. Perhaps you have a mutual, more neutral, friend whom you could enlist to keep a genuinely caring, watchful eye?

And about that dog. Do not give it back to her, or I will call PETA.

Breakup Girl



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