my boyfriend’s horrible ex-girlfriend got a job at my company

A reader writes:

I am a woman in my later 20’s who has been in a relationship with my boyfriend for two years now. He is my best friend, I couldn’t be happier with him! The issue does not lie with my boyfriend or our relationship, but with his ex-girlfriend.

My boyfriend and I used to work at the same place. I knew him a year before we started dating, but he was in a relationship with said ex-girlfriend. When I showed interest in him, a mutual friend and coworker of ours told me he was unhappy. He also showed interest in me, but he was in a dead-end relationship he didn’t know how to get out of. Eventually he dumped her and we started dating. We have been in a happy relationship ever since!

I was warned his ex-girlfriend is crazy, and in the beginning of our relationship she fully lived up to that expectation. It was a pretty frequent stream of calls and texts, even showing up outside his apartment to get some reaction out of him. My boyfriend told me she did have some underlying issues, depression and Behavioral Personality Disorder, and the best thing he could do was just to ignore it. He finally decided it was time to block her everywhere he could after one particular freak, even though he was nervous what she may do. Her presence was no longer an issue. Until about three weeks ago….

I was getting lunch in the cafe with my friends at work, and I thought I noticed a familiar face. It was indeed his ex-girlfriend. Within minutes she approached me, asked if I was so and so, and told me she had dated my boyfriend. She said she was working there now, in another department, but wanted me know she would be around, so it wasn’t “weird.” For someone I was told was quite shy, I felt her approaching me was quite bold of her. While she very well could have been doing a respectful thing, it made me feel she was trying to make a statement of some kind. I was too shocked to realize I was now face to face with her, so I said hello and thank you, and carried on with my lunch.

I cannot understand why out of all the places to work, she chooses her ex-boyfriend’s old job, and where his current girlfriend works. I do work at a decent sized company where a lot of people around my age work, I will give her that. But considering the history??!! Ever since she approached me I feel as though I need to make a presence of some kind. This is MY job, MY space … and now because she has invaded it, I feel so anxious. It was one thing to know she exists and was part of his past, you can put something like that away. But it is another when you have to see it at your job every day. Now I know she is there, I feel I need to make a presence of some kind. I want her to feel as uncomfortable as she has made me, and I hate that I care.

I am frustrated because I know how happy my boyfriend and I are, and I know how UNHAPPY he was with her. The issue lives solely within me, being aware this person is where I work every day. I just want to go to work without wondering if I’ll see her everywhere I go. I really just want to not care.

Definitely do not try to make her uncomfortable. That will reflect really poorly on you to anyone at work who hears about it or observes it, and it could horribly trash your reputation there. You want to be known as mature and professional, not as someone who tries to make a colleague uncomfortable because she used to date your boyfriend. Seriously, it doesn’t matter what the provocation is — it will hurt you at work to do what you’re talking about.

It’s entirely possible that the reason she’s working there has nothing to do with you (you note that it’s a big company where lots of people your age work; it would be different if it were a 10-person company). Or sure, it’s also possible that it’s some kind of weird attempt to mess with you and/or your boyfriend — but until you actually see evidence that she’s doing that, you should proceed as if it’s not.

To be clear, if she had been threatening to you in the past, that’s something you should share with your employer now. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case.

If she is trying to make some sort of point to you, the best possible point that you could make in return is to just be normal. Go about your job, be pleasant and professional, and don’t get pulled into game-playing with her.

If she targets you in some way (other than just introducing herself in the cafeteria, which is actually pretty mature), then talk to your boss and/or HR about the situation. But until and unless that happens, this is just a new coworker who happens to have a history with your boyfriend.

And for what it’s worth — all the “she’s so crazy” stuff your boyfriend has told you? Well … maybe. But it’s worth noting that your boyfriend chose to date her. He’s also told you he stayed in a bad relationship with someone he didn’t want to be with, while showing interest in someone else. Neither of those is great behavior on his part. You’re seeing “poor Fergus, who was trapped in a bad relationship with a crazy woman.” But if you’re taking him at his word, it sounds more like “Fergus engaged in really unhealthy behavior in a relationship and chose not to take the adult step of ending it when he should have.” I don’t mean to crap all over your boyfriend here — plenty of people stay in bad relationships longer than they should, and that’s not a mortal sin. But it’s important to see it for what it is, rather than thinking of the ex as the only one who messed up. (I’d also look at how he talks about other exes. If he’s kind and respectful about the others, that’s a good sign. But if he talks about them all as “crazy,” that’s awfully troubling.)

{ 513 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Murphy

    You say it’s been two years. Assuming she hasn’t been a problem all this time, I think it’s safe to assume she’s moved on.

    Reply
    1. AndersonDarling

      Yeah, she could be married with kids by now. She did the mature thing of confronting her past by acknowledging the ex instead of sneaking around the office. I’d assume she has moved on.

      Reply
    2. JokeyJules

      Exactly!
      And if for some reason she hasn’t moved on, that will all unravel itself with no assistance from you. Just keep it cordial and act as if she were anyone else.
      If she is in the same age range as you are, lets assume she was 23-25 when they broke up. That’s still fairly young, and a lot of maturing and growing up can happen in those two years.

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        Yeah, the technique here is to stay out of the way and let her implode if she’s going to, without putting your oar in (uh, sorry, mixed metaphors). You want to be a neutral third party who is calmly surprised if there’s a problem, not the person egging her on!

        Reply
      2. MerciMe

        Truly, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over my career, it’s that taking the high road is the best way to highlight someone else’s bizarre and potentially career-ending choices. It carries the additional benefit that I have not infrequently flipped “problem employees” into strong allies.

        Reply
    3. Specialk9

      Exactly. She sounds like she handled it professionally and maturely. OP, it sounds like you want to do things that are the opposite – please don’t!

      You’re falling into the ownership trap, but it’s not real – you don’t own your workplace, and you don’t own your boyfriend. She has not “invaded”, as you say, because that’s not really possible in context of work or humans. You don’t get to mentally pee on people and workspaces and expect others to stay away.

      And you want to keep an eye on the stories your boyfriend told you. I’ll bet her version is quite a bit different from his. (Esp given the not-unusual post-being-dumped-unexpectedly behaviours you described.) It’s a pretty big red flag if someone just says exes are crazy/etc and the ‘blame’ is one sided. The story you want to hear from an emotionally mature person is that both sides had a role.

      I was in an outright abusive relationship, and I tried for the both of us to make it work… so I *could* now pin the blame all on him if I were so inclined – but I don’t, I own up to the parts I had to learn from and change how I do relationships.

      So, specifically you are asking how to manage the feelings in your head. Ok, so first is recognizing you’re having feelings – which is ok – but that they are not speaking truth to you. So first, work on managing the anxiety – schedule a 5-minute meditation at the beginning of the work day (I like Bonnie Groessel), drink chamomile tea, focus on deep belly breaths, take short walks in the brisk air.

      Then speak truth to yourself to push back the untruths your emotions are trying to establish in your head.
      *Do not keep repeating your grievances to your friends, because they will reflect unhelpful things in the attempt to be loyal.
      *Talk with a therapist (what are you really worried about, 5 layers down? There is a lot to unpack here.)
      *Look around your workplace and tell yourself, “This is not mine, I do not own it, it is free for anyone to work here. I am safe and secure here, even though I do not own it.”
      *Look at pictures of your boyfriend and think similar thoughts. “I do not own him. He does not own me. He and I are both free to have pasts, and we both have grown from our experiences, both good and bad. I honor those who have taught me, and those who have taught him.”

      And lastly, my wishes for great peace for you. This is hard for all of us to untangle – good for you for reaching beyond the mental hamster wheel of anxiety to get advice.

      Reply
      1. Excel Slayer

        Oh my gosh, I was going to say something like this and I wish I could put it so well.

        Further – if the ex-girlfriend was in a bad mental health state two years ago, it doesn’t mean she hasn’t dealt with those issues (in fact, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she’s had some good therapy and is happier now). I hope you can put your anxiety to one side and act like she’s not going to be a problem until she proves you wrong – and hopefully she never will.

        Reply
      2. Chalupa Batman

        Great comment. I just read about an exercise where you ask “why,” starting with the problem, and within 5 “why’s,” you’ve usually found or gotten close to the root cause. Example:

        Why do I want ExTina to go away?
        Because I feel unhappy at the thought of being around her.
        Why am I unhappy around her?
        Because she’s a horrible person.
        Why do I think she’s horrible?
        Because of the way she acted after her breakup with Boyfriend.
        Why does that behavior make me feel that she’s horrible?
        Because it interfered with my relationship with Boyfriend.
        Why does that bother me?
        Because I’m concerned that she’ll try to interfere again.

        Not saying that this would be OP’s process, it’s just an example, but we went from the irrational and not very productive “I want her to go away” to the root worry “I’m concerned about interference in my relationship,” which is much more rational and actionable (e,g,. can’t force ExTina to leave without being pretty horrible yourself, but can limit ExTina’s access to information about your personal life or avoid bringing Boyfriend to events where ExTina would be likely to attend).

        Reply
        1. Jesca

          Yes the five why and three legged five whys for root cause analysis can be used for personal issues as well. I do it all the time!

          Reply
          1. Wintermute

            Spoken like a true tech-head! It’s so, so true though.

            Sadly my last girlfriend has not responded to my request for a RFB (reason for breakup) report and a mitigation plan. Maybe that’s better for my ego though… no man wants to be told that they can’t meet minimum uptime requirements or quality-of-service targets!

            Reply
      3. Specialk9

        Update: OP has written in below to say that the “crazy” comments were from the boyfriend’s whole friend group, not the boyfriend. He just shared that the ex had BPD, depression, and underlying issues. I still side-eye the boyfriend a bit but not as hard. (He still shared intimate and damaging secrets with a hostile stranger who likely did not safeguard those secrets… But didn’t call the ex crazy.)

        Reply
        1. Jesca

          It all subjective too. A lot of people can play games as well. I always side eye my friends when they are with “crazy” people in general. Like what thought pattern are you stuck in right now where this is OK. Where it is OK for you to not only allow yourself to be treated this way, but also subject everyone you care about in your life to it as well?

          And for all you know, when they “broke up”, he may not have made it a clean break either …

          Reply
          1. FTW

            The non- clean break up was my reaction too.

            That said, I have a friend who legitimately qualifies as doing nutty stuff… So, now I discount crazy a little less seen I hear it.

            Reply
        2. Terri

          It is really not cool for BOYFRIEND or his FRIEND GROUP to characterize his ex as crazy. ESPECIALLY if she had some underlying issues he disclosed. It’s a bit of a sexist trope frequently used by men to escape culpability of any bad behavior, dishonesty etc. in a relationship. (see also: gaslighting)

          Reply
          1. Tiny Soprano

            Yeah the fact that it’s not just coming from him but from his friend group makes it worse imo. That’s a whole group of people engaging in and condoning that frankly misogynist speech. In my experience, buying into the ‘crazy woman/crazy ex’ idea is a big ol’ toxic red flag that a dude is bad news. Please tread with caution.

            Reply
            1. Wintermute

              YMMV, I’ve known plenty of people that ARE crazy exes, objectively on the basis of their behavior– on both sides of the gender divide– that it no longer bothers me when people say that.

              Reply
        3. Akcipitrokulo

          I’m less than convinced by “boyfriend’s whole friend group” … you mean the people in whom he confided and who would have listened to him sympathetically?

          Reply
      4. Turtle Candle

        Do not keep repeating your grievances to your friends, because they will reflect unhelpful things in the attempt to be loyal.

        Ohhhhh. I had never thought about it this way, but it’s so true!

        Reply
        1. SunshineOH

          Yep. And they have no consequences to face from their “advice”. Just talked to my teenager about a co-worker who also goes to her school. The shared friends who are “helping” don’t have a job at stake.

          Reply
      5. CMDRBNA

        “And you want to keep an eye on the stories your boyfriend told you. I’ll bet her version is quite a bit different from his. (Esp given the not-unusual post-being-dumped-unexpectedly behaviours you described.) It’s a pretty big red flag if someone just says exes are crazy/etc and the ‘blame’ is one sided. The story you want to hear from an emotionally mature person is that both sides had a role.”

        Yeah, this…I mean, if I had been in a relationship with someone who spent a year developing a relationship with someone else before dumping me, I might not react all that gracefully either, FFS.

        Reply
    4. The IT Manager

      It’s been two years. She did a mature thing – even THE mature thing if you were looking at her as if you were trying to place her and she knew who you were.

      From your letter it sounds like you want to bring drama into the workplace and stake your claim to both the job and your bf. Please resist that desire. You’re the one that ends up looking bad in that situation. She’s done nothing wrong to you. It sounds like she was in an unhappy relationship with your ex and when he left her he started dating you right after. It does sound like a hurtful, emotional breakup, but she reacted maturely when she ran into you two years later.

      Reply
    5. Peter

      Indeed. I’ve seen it time and time again where people do silly things after breakups, and then within six months or a year they have lost all interest – and often found happiness with someone else. I can’t see anything in the letter to make me think this normal pattern wouldn’t apply here.

      Reply
  2. Not Tom, just Petty

    Everything Alison said, times 10.
    He told you she had a legitimate and significant mental disorder. That’s a little past, she’s crazy, always needing to be with me.
    He is probably not a bad guy, but she is probably not a bad person either.
    Let this go.
    You don’t work with her; you didn’t even know she was in your company. Talking to you was mature. Take it at face value unless you have very real and personal experience to doubt it.

    Reply
    1. Kathleen

      Exactly. OP, know it made you feel really weird and awkward, and believe me, I can understand why – it was weird and awkward, which is why it felt that way. But when the ex introduced herself to you in the cafeteria, that was actually a good thing. I mean, if you think about it a little more, I think you can see that once she started working there, she didn’t really have another mature, workable option. What was she supposed to do? Hide? Hope you didn’t recognize her?

      Let me must add that of the examples of “craziness” that you mention, the only one that sounds crazy is showing up at the apartment. Texts and so on (assuming the content wasn’t crazy) to someone who is breaking up with you when you don’t want them to aren’t crazy, in and of themselves. It’s of course possible that she said crazy things or texted at a crazy level, but it’s also possible that she just did some of the uncomfortable and awkward things that many people do when they are grieving.

      Look, you’ve got the job and the boyfriend you wanted. So unless she actually steps out of line, just let this gooooooooo.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        It’s of course possible that she said crazy things or texted at a crazy level, but it’s also possible that she just did some of the uncomfortable and awkward things that many people do when they are grieving.

        I really like this point.

        Reply
        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          ESPECIALLY since BF apparently dumped her *for* LW.

          Are you 1000% sure he actually had the break up talk with her and didn’t just try ghosting/leaving her hanging?

          Reply
          1. Forrest

            There’s the good old tactic of dating both at once.

            Maybe the ex is “crazy.” But she’s free to get a job where ever she’d like and she’s not even in your department. I would say you’d have something to worry about if she didn’t come up to you. Note she had to clarify who you were, so I doubt she’s been “stalking” you or him for a while. Also, she hasn’t done anything to you two for a year and a half. Why do you think she’ll start up again?

            Reply
        2. Amber T

          I think back to the texts I sent my first exboyfriend shortly after we broke up and cringe. Not crazy, but definitely perfect for gossip and making fun of if he was so inclined (and he probably was).

          Reply
          1. Kathleen

            *Exactly*. I haven’t broken up with anybody, or been broken up on, in a long time, thank goodness, but even though I’m one of the least depressed people you’ll ever meet, the last time I was broken up with, I cried off and on for a month. I am also very level-headed, but I nonetheless sent one or two (not more, I sincerely hope) anguished notes that I really wish, even now, that I could obliterate from the past. There was nothing crazy in any of that, but it wouldn’t have been hard for an ill-disposed ex to take these perfectly ordinary actions and see them through the lens of “crazy ex who sobbed for a month” or “crazy obsessed ex – look at this stuff she wrote!”

            Reply
          2. MashaKasha

            Oh hell yes. We have all had that breakup that we learned from. Mine messed with my head and kept in contact, saying he wanted to stay friends, but really just so he could say things that pushed my buttons. It took me months of this inane back-and-forth to finally tell him, “you know, we have failed at staying friends, because we were never friends to begin with. Have a great life.” Pretty sure the responses I sent him prior to that could be used as more than enough proof of my being crazy and irrational; as was, coincidentally, everyone he’d dated before me.

            Next man I dated, he and I made an agreement soon after we got together, that, should things end, we’d go no contact. And we did, two years later, when things did end. I still wrote all the cringey things, but in my journal, where no one could see. A much better experience.

            Reply
        3. Jesca

          Yes!! And I think it is important to note as well that it doesn’t sound like he took time after the relationship to clean things up, if you will. That is one of the reasons that advice exists about giving yourself time before moving on. Whether you think it is fair or not, you always have drama to clean up, whether with yourself or you ex, after a break up.

          Reply
        4. Anon anon anon

          Right. And we don’t know what she was responding to. We don’t know what the boyfriend said or didn’t say to her. We don’t have the full context. All OP can really do is to remain professional but also guard against any potential issues. Just meaning to keep more of an eye out for weird stuff than she usually would.

          Reply
      2. Natalie

        And even if the texts were out of line, it’s been a couple of years without apparent contact. People can go off the rails for many reasons – difficult life transition, poor coping skills, even mental illness – and recover and get back on said rails.

        Reply
        1. Kj

          And it can be scary for people who knew them when they were off the rails to see them again- but it is likely even harder for the person who went off the rails- shame, guilt, anxiety, tend to pile up. If Ex really went off the rails two years ago (although I have doubts about this), then it took A TON of courage for her to approach the OP and talk about working together. I give her tons of kudos for that.

          Reply
          1. Chalupa Batman

            Great point. I wouldn’t say I was even “off the rails” in my early 20s, but I had plenty of immature reactions to various situations, it would make me nervous to start a working relationship with someone who had seen some of that and hadn’t spoken to me since.

            Reply
            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              Yuuuuuup

              I posted a thing on FB last week about how glad I was to grow up in the 80s/90s because all of my crazy, stupid crap was before social media. We all do things we aren’t proud of, but we can learn from them and be better in the future.

              Reply
      3. Malibu Stacey

        Reminds me of a story: Many years ago I briefly a guy who would told me about his “crazy” ex who wouldn’t stop contacting him, calling him & his friends & paging him (yes, THAT many years ago). Fast forward a year or so and I happen to meet the “crazy” ex-gf’s best friend at a party. Turns out she WAS contacting him constantly – because he owed her about five grand.

        Reply
        1. Aurion

          Yeah, my good friend’s ex (“J”) had an ex (“S”) who went off the rails when J broke up with S. When my friend started dating J, S went nuts and showed up at her doorstep with a three-page handwritten letter at midnight detailing the terrible person J was. And started harassing my friend’s friends (including yours truly). We called the cops on her.

          Turns out that while she did go off the rails, J was indeed a terrible person in a myriad of ways (and hadn’t actually broken up with S yet, hence her thinking they were still in a relationship).

          OP’s boyfriend is probably a stand-up guy, and the ex doesn’t sound that off the wall, but sometimes there are explanations behind the obvious. If the ex hasn’t bothered OP and her boyfriend in a while, this is definitely something to let go.

          Reply
          1. Malibu Stacey

            I have to admit I wonder if the way the old relationship in the letter ended wasn’t a factor in the ex-girlfriend’s behavior at the time.

            Reply
            1. MashaKasha

              No kidding. I cannot imagine remaining calm and collected if an SO told me he’d been “showing interest” in someone else for a whole damn YEAR, and for me to get out of his life effective immediately.

              Reply
        2. Detective Amy Santiago

          Look at the guy who wrote in here about ‘ghosting’ his ex Sylvia! He described her as crazy when he moved out of the country after 3 years of dating/2 years of living together.

          Reply
        3. Falling Diphthong

          I’m reminded of the rule about the way your SO talks about their ex is a preview of how they will one day talk about you.

          (Everyone is allowed one terrible learning experience, but if someone tells you that all their exes are terrible, all in the exact same way–there’s a common factor there.)

          Reply
          1. JanetM

            Many years ago, someone posted to Usenet something along the lines of, “The minute I hear ‘See my shiny halo, did you know all my exes were minions of Satan,’ I am out of there before the next words are, ‘And you’re next.’”

            Reply
            1. President Porpoise

              For monogamists, the phrase I like best is: All of your romantic relationships – except one if you’re lucky – will end in death or heartbreak.

              Point is – don’t build this guy up too much in your estimation. He may be awesome, sure. But the odds are against him, and you need to be as honest with yourself as you can, and vet your relationships accordingly.

              Reply
          2. dragonzflame

            Well, it’s the same with job candidates, isn’t it – they tell you all about how terrible all their previous managers have been, you quietly cross them off the list. And on the other side – they tell you how nobody’s lived up to the position in x years, you listen for those bees, and you run.

            Reply
          3. SusanIvanova

            That happened with my paternal DNA contributor’s second ex – she called my mom up and said basically “He said all those things about you and I believed him, but now we’re having problems and he’s saying the very same things about me.” IIRC it was an apology and a request for advice on how to deal with his crazy.

            Reply
          4. Tiny Soprano

            Yeah I was even just *friends* with a guy like this once and it ended very poorly. Now I hear the word ‘crazy’ and it translates in my head to ‘run!’

            Reply
        4. CMDRBNA

          Also, while I am now in a long-term relationship, when I was doing a lot of dating, the minute someone talked about their “crazy ex” I scratched them off my list of people I would consider dating for any length of time. Especially since I have struggled with mental illness for most of my life, and I don’t need people who use that kind of crappy, ableist language in my life.

          Reply
          1. Specialk9

            And that’s the other side of the coin – not only is calling an ex-love “crazy” a sign of poor relationship skills, but also of being sincerely crappy about the struggles of people with mental illnesses of many stripes.

            Reply
          2. Tiny Soprano

            Oh man this point exactly! I didn’t choose to have my mental illness, but people in my life can definitely choose not to be a dick about it.

            Reply
      4. AndersonDarling

        Yep! If the OP is in her later 20’s, and the ex is the same age, then the break up happened in the mid 20’s. And well, I can say that I wasn’t entirely mature when it came to relationships and made a fool of myself in my 20’s. *ugh* But it was also a decade of learning and I came out much better on the other side. I’d cut some slack and see where it all goes.

        Reply
        1. Specialk9

          Yeah if there’s was one thing I could tell Young Me, it’s that Hollywood and Cosmo lie — almost everything is better after 30. Teens and twenties are full of such *turmoil* and uncertainty. We may not be as pretty as we were then, but I wouldn’t trade back for anything.

          Reply
          1. Amber T

            I’m the single 20-something in my office, and my (30+ year old married) coworkers are fascinated by single life and online/app dating. Most of them believe me when I tell them it’s not that much fun, but some of them swear I should be having the time of my life.

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          2. Totally Minnie

            Seriously. I love being over 30. I’ve outgrown most of my people-pleasing tendencies and decided I really like me.

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          3. Natalie

            I read about a survey once, where people were asked which decade of all their life so far had been the best. Almost everyone chose the decade they were currently in. I have no idea how good of a survey it was but I always found it heartening.

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          4. SusanIvanova

            I took some graduate-level classes as a senior in college, and I was so jealous of the grads – they’d gone out, earned some money, and could afford to actually have the college experience Hollywood had promised me.

            Reply
        2. Anon for This

          Hell, I’m in my 40’s and I’ve still made a fool of myself.

          Being dumped sucks. It always sucks no matter the age. And sometimes you don’t react as you wished you would. So I think cutting everyone a little slack in those situations is always a good thing.

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          1. MashaKasha

            Right. I want to share something I just remembered about the ex that I went no-contact with, when we broke up after two years together. He’d somehow managed to have had exclusive, serious relationships with at least a dozen women in the few years after his divorce. He told me he’d initiated every breakup, and had told each of the exes there would be no contact. Without fail, each one would call and text, become upset when he didn’t answer and then call and text again. One drove by his house, tossed all his stuff that she’d had at her place all over his front lawn, and left. Every single one of them. These were mature women in their late 30s and 40s, with respectable jobs and kids.

            Not gonna lie, this was probably what kept me from ever contacting him after he and I (fairly mutually) broke up. I swore to myself that I would not become another one of those stories for him to tell his next partner. It was hard.

            My point here is that I am reading comments downthread calling the ex things like a stalker or an abuser, and shake my head. This behavior is so ridiculously… not normal per se maybe… but something everybody does.

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      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Hell yes to this. OP, you’re happy and secure in your relationship and job. The ex was exceedingly mature/decent about introducing herself. Now you get to do the same in how you treat her.

        It’s been 2 years. Take her at face value and be as kind/normal with her as possible. I know it feels awkward and uncomfortable, because, well, it is. But you “won”—mister your inner awesomeness and be gracious in “victory.”

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      6. LBK

        But when the ex introduced herself to you in the cafeteria, that was actually a good thing. I mean, if you think about it a little more, I think you can see that once she started working there, she didn’t really have another mature, workable option. What was she supposed to do? Hide? Hope you didn’t recognize her?

        Agreed – I think approaching her directly and making it clear she was working there now was the right way to go. I mean, worst comes to worst, imagine if the OP had spotted her boyfriend’s “crazy” ex in the hallway randomly or something and thought she was there stalking her or even there to attack her. Scarier things have happened in workplaces.

        No part of this situation was likely to not be awkward, but I think the ex made the best move in the circumstances. If the conversation was really as straightforward as her saying she’s working there now and nothing else, I think it’s reading a little too much into it to think she was trying to make some point beyond literally “I am here now so you will see me sometimes.”

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      7. Turtle Candle

        But when the ex introduced herself to you in the cafeteria, that was actually a good thing. I mean, if you think about it a little more, I think you can see that once she started working there, she didn’t really have another mature, workable option.

        Right. If she is a shy person, it may have been very difficult for her, but it was clearly the right thing to do–think how much worse it would have been if you’d first encountered her in the middle of work (a meeting or something) and been caught completely off guard. Getting to process it during lunch is about as good as this was gonna get, and as weird as I know it must’ve been for you, it was a kindness on her part.

        Reply
    2. Kj

      What disorder? Boyfriend told the OP that Ex had “Behavioral Personality Disorder” which does not exist. And, to be honest, I take any non-medical professional talking about someone having a personality disorder of any stripe, made up or legit, with a HUGE grain of salt. They are very hard to diagnosis unless someone has been in treatment for years and are not give before 18 for many valid reasons. This feels weird to me.

      Reply
      1. RabbitRabbit

        Agreed, that’s not a thing. Borderline Personality Disorder is a difficult to treat personality disorder, but needs to be diagnosed by a qualified psychologist/etc. If he’s talking out of his ass on that one, that’s rude and improper.

        Reply
        1. Kj

          Yep. And if he was meaning BPD, it is the most stigmatizing mental health disorder in my experience. And I tend to look with a skeptical eye at anyone who pronounces their ex had it for that reason.

          Reply
          1. Natalie

            Indeed, if you were reading regularly some years back when BPD featured in a letter here, you can see all of that stigma up close and personal in the comments. It was super disappointing.

            Reply
          1. Kj

            That was not stated at the time I posted. Regardless, the point stands that OP should not be guessing at diagnosis for her BF’s ex and that she really cannot know if Ex has BPD or any other mental illness.

            Reply
      2. DA

        Hi KJ,

        This is my post and I appreciate your reply about my situation however I would like to be clear. Borderline personality disorder is absolutely a thing. I didn’t realize autocorrect messed with my words and said behavioral, but it absolutely is a thing. Reasons I care not to share, but I know for certain she has this illness. I was completely caught off guard at work one day, which spiked the anxiety on my behalf. All of this information is helpful and I appreciate your help. I just needed some perspective from another view and I certainly got it. Thank you!

        Reply
        1. AvonLady Barksdale

          I want to urge you caution; you don’t “know for certain” she has BPD unless she told you herself. Everything else is just hearsay or, worse, gossip. And even if she does have BPD, it doesn’t directly impact you until it directly impacts you, and it hasn’t. I understand the anxiety, but I think it would serve you well to step a little further back from what you’ve heard about this woman until/unless she gives you reasons to be concerned in the future. Right now, she’s just a random co-worker with whom you happen to have an intertwined romantic history.

          Reply
          1. Kj

            Agreed! Honestly, BPD is very hard to diagnosis, even for qualified mental health professionals. I really, really hope the OP will not say ANYTHING about Ex possibly having BPD at work. It would be incredibly awful and rude and damaging, both to Ex and to the OP’s reputation.

            OP, I don’t mean to be rude, but you seem to really want the Ex to be damaged or bad. Maybe she is- we can’t know- but your words make me wonder about your need for this. I hope it is just the written medium and I’m misreading you, but please check in with yourself and ask what if would mean if ex was a nice person who gave you a heads up you worked together now. Would that affect how you look at BF and your relationship?

            Reply
            1. Mb13

              I would only add that if the EX does behave inappropriately and or threatening in the future she should definitely tell HR and definitely tell that she’s she has BPD. Borderlines can be very dangerous and the company should have the appropriate information to protect its employees.

              Reply
              1. Bookworm

                I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, and it seems like you may want to do more research.

                Despite dramatic portrayals in cinema, there’s no evidence to indicate that people with BPD are any more dangerous than anyone else.

                Reply
                1. Anna

                  Yeah. My experience with the one person I knew who was diagnosed with BPD was that they were just a giant pain in everyone’s ass, not dangerous. And I’m pretty sure the pain in the ass status was mostly because they were just like that.

                2. Victorian Cowgirl

                  Yes they are. The only person who ever beat the crap out of me was BPD. I steer very, very clear of anyone exhibiting symptoms. They are unpredictable and they are dangerous because they are out of control. There is no treatment for it.

                3. Whimsy and Forest Fires

                  Victorian Cowgirl: Correlation is not causation. The only person who’s ever stolen a significant sum of money from me was Jewish. It absolutely does not follow that all Jewish people are thieves, and it’d be pretty vile and bigoted of me to claim they were. I’m sorry someone beat the crap out of you (I’m an abuse survivor myself, so I do very genuinely sympathize), but declaring that every single person with BPD is dangerous and out of control because you knew one person with BPD who was is really, really not okay.

                4. Zillah

                  @Victorian Cowgirl – I’m sorry that that happened to you. However, the fact that someone people with BPD are violent doesn’t mean that BPD makes people violent – of all the violent people in the world, you’d have to figure that some have BPD. That’s what’s so dangerous about anecdotal evidence – without facts and context, it’s very easy to conflate what’s specific to an individual person and what’s true of the disease overall, and that’s dangerous and stigmatizing for people who are suffering.

                  When I’ve researched the subject, I’ve found that BPD is not predictive of violent tendencies on its own. However, illnesses that are sometimes comorbid with BPD (e.g., substance abuse) can be, so it’s overrepresented in people who are violent. That’s not about BPD itself, though – it’s about other issues that sometimes accompany it. (And it’s important to note that many, many people with those illnesses are also not violent.)

              2. EditorInChief

                This is absolutely the wrong advice. LW has no idea what mental illness, if any, this woman may have. She has no business going around telling people this woman is mentally ill. It’s none of her business. If a problem does arise between LW and the woman she should document the incidents and escalate the issue to her supervisor, and then to HR if necessary.

                Reply
              3. Ramona Flowers

                No she should not diagnose someone else’s private medical information!

                Or perpetuate stigmatisation of an entire group of people.

                Reply
              4. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws

                Threatening behavior can and should always be reported, but you’re replying to a thread about how OP can’t know the ex has BPD by suggesting that OP should report this thirdhand information to HR as fact.

                Reply
                1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws

                  To clarify, even if OP could know securely that it were true, reporting it to HR would be grossly inappropriate. It’s not even clear to me what action you think HR could legally and practically take with that kind of information.

              5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                She could actually get in trouble for defamation for doing something like this. As the resident, “that’s not a lawsuit” killjoy, taking your advice would likely be libel per se.

                And honestly, the statements you’re making are not supported by evidence and are hugely stigmatizing. Please reconsider how you perceive mental illness and folks living with it.

                Reply
              6. Temperance

                My mom is BPD, and while I agree that BPDs can be difficult to deal with, and can cause great harm to those around them, I wouldn’t characterize all people with BPD as dangerous. Coworkers generally aren’t in danger if a BPD person is around.

                Reply
              7. McWhadden

                If she behaves inappropriately or threatening she should definitely go to HR. But she shouldn’t share a diagnosis. It isn’t productive. HR can’t take any action based on a third hand suggestion.

                People with BPD are more likely to be a threat to themselves than others.

                Reply
              8. KellyK

                I think that’s absolutely the wrong call. In addition to what Detective Amy Santiago said, it’s the (totally hypothetical at this point) inappropriate or threatening behavior that’s dangerous, not the mental health diagnosis. If she does something inappropriate, tell them what happened and why you’re concerned. Bring up history *of actual actions* if they’re relevant.

                This would be true even if you were there in the room when the doctor diagnosed her and knew for a fact it was legit. It’s doubly true when it’s hearsay *from someone’s ex.* Would you want your ex’s new sweetie running to your boss or HR, claiming that you have mental health issues based on nothing but your ex’s word?

                Reply
                1. NorCalPM

                  I agree with you. A hearsay “diagnosis” is a bad move. If anything, it would erode the LW’s credibility if she were to offer up such an assertion as a fact (when she actually does not know that it IS a fact). Stick to what you know, what you’ve heard, what you’ve seen. If it’s inappropriate, that should be compelling enough on its own.

              9. Wut?

                Wut? No, do not do this. That’s inappropriate on so many levels. The company does not need that information–if she’s making threatening comments, that’s grounds enough to take action. HR doesn’t need rumors about the woman’s mental health. That’s disgusting.

                Reply
              10. Cathleen

                “Borderlines can be very dangerous and the company should have the appropriate information to protect its employees.”

                And that’s why people with this diagnosis tend to hide it.

                Reply
              11. Annabelle

                People with BPD are just people, not “borderlines”, and they’re not predisposed to being dangerous. This is a highly stigmatized diagnosis and spreading this type of outdated information is really harmful.

                Reply
              12. Misc

                White males feeling rejected are statistically far more dangerous than any one specific mental health condition. And I know someone with BPD and they are awesome – the only noticeable negative impact to others is that they can be a bit unreliable, show emotion fairly visibly, and are not always good at self care. Which is something that can be said for a lot of people.

                Reply
              13. Forrest

                Regardless if it’s a rumor or not, the LW has no business sharing that information. If the ex threatens her in the future, the LW can share she was threatened. But she has no right to talk about anyone’s medical illnesses (even if she was threatened) to their employers unless she has permission from the ex herself.

                This kind of statement is why mental illness is stigmatized and I tell people I have depression rather than bipolar.

                Reply
              14. Observer

                She should do nothing of the sort. For one thing, as others have pointed out, BPD does not necessarily lead to dangerous behavior. For another, the likelihood that the OP actually knows this as a fact, and got this information in a legal fashion is just not all that high. If her BF told her this, it’s pure hearsay (even if he genuinely believes it.) Same for almost anyone else, except for the ex, which is not likely, to say the least. If the OP actually got a look at the ex’s paperwork and that’s how she knows, she needs to keep that from her employer – if I knew that someone were snooping in people’s medical records, I’d move to disable their access to any sensitive information.

                Reply
                1. Turtle Candle

                  Right. There are basically only four ways to find out this kind of information: direct from the diagnose-ee (which seems unlikely in this case, although possible), hearsay (and “from boyfriend” counts as hearsay, as does “from boyfriend’s friends”), accidentally found/heard an official report (stumbling on paperwork by accident), or deliberately found/heard an official report (snooping, or their therapist had loose lips, or a member of the friend group got ahold of medical documents and spread ’em around, or something).

                  In none of those cases would I have sympathy for the person spreading the information or “information”; it would immediately trend my sympathy toward the person whose diagnosis was being spread. Even purely from a pragmatic rather than moral/ethical POV, it would be a bad idea for the LW to spread this diagnosis around her workplace.

                  (Not that she ever suggested any such thing, but the idea that it should be spread because of safety is so prevalent and so wrongheaded that I feel the need to say something.)

              15. Not A Monster

                First time comment, and last if Alison leaves this incredibly wrong, hurtful and degrading comment on this board. I’ve seen you remove far less cruel and emotionally damaging comments before – this poster should be put on notice or banned.

                Not only is this NOT true, but as a person with BPD, the cruel fact is a large number of people (including myself) have BPD because of terrible childhood trauma, such as sexual, physical and emotional abuse. We are not dangerous animals, even though society treats us as such.

                Such cruelty to the already broken and damaged is heartbreaking and beyond comprehension.

                Reply
                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  I’m just seeing it now, when there are already a lot of responses to it. I agree that it’s profoundly wrong, but I actually think it’s more useful and educational to leave it up with the many responses refuting it and explaining how wrong-headed it is than to remove the thread altogether.

                  (Also please keep in mind that I don’t see every comment, so if there’s something you specifically want to flag for me, it’s better to email me.)

                2. Whimsy and Forest Fires

                  I’m so sorry you had to read that nonsense, and I hope seeing all the comments from others saying “hey, not cool” helps at least a little. You are indeed not a monster for having BPD, and anyone who tells you otherwise is acting like an ignorant jerk.

                3. Not A Monster

                  Thank you Allison, and I’m sorry my comment came across so harsh, I was in tears as I wrote it and not at all thinking clearly. Seeing your argument, I do agree with your decision to leave it up, and thank you so much for the kind words Whimsy, they really do help.

                  There really are no words to describe how painful it is to hear BPD thrown around like a venomous, parasitic diagnosis every time someone acts in a cruel or ‘crazy’ way, when most BPD suffers are just overly sensitive people who see things very black and white, and can’t cope with their emotions in adult ways because they never learned how. Oh, and the hygiene thing. 9 times out of 10, if they have excellent hygiene, they’re not BPD. Gross, I know, but true.

                4. Akcipitrokulo

                  I’m so sorry you’ve been hurt by this – I agree with everything you’ve said about the comment above. I hope that the number of people refuting the harmful and inaccurate views have helped, but it’s horrible to see that stuff appearing.

              16. Akcipitrokulo

                um… no. It’s unsubstantiated gossip. If there is threatening or in appropriate BEHAVIOUR that you see, then report that. You don’t report hearsay.

                Reply
              17. Klaxons

                What an awful and misguided thing to say. Behavior is ALWAYS a choice, full stop. I’ve been diagnosed for almost a decade now and I’ve never stalked or abused a single person. Do you know how terrible it feels to google my diagnosis and have the top ten results be articles on how people can DEAL with people like me? There is a heavy stigma associated with BPD and treating it the way you’d treat somebody with a bomb strapped to their body is cruel and injudicious.

                Reply
            2. Falling Diphthong

              I’ll second this. It is totally normal to have an initial All Weird feel on discovering that you’re going to routinely encounter your SO’s ex in the cafeteria or health club or whatever. But for the ensuing worry about all of the terrible things she might do because she’s so terrible and crazy–like Alison said, if that comes out in your behavior at work that is not going to be a good look on you professionally, at all.

              She’s doing nothing. Odds are high that she continues to do nothing. If I’m wrong and drama arrives, a calm explanatory “My boyfriend is her ex” followed by silence is going to carry you much, much farther than any confidences at work about her craziness, terribleness, etc.

              Reply
              1. Kj

                Yep. And speaking as someone who has met almost all of my husband’s exes, it is only weird if you let it be. I am friends with many of husband’s exes now, as he was still friends with them when we began dating. They are nice people. I like them. It helps that my husband was super-honest with me about past relationships so I didn’t feel like we need to talk around their having dated/slept with my husband in the past.

                Reply
                1. Specialk9

                  Seconding! I just arranged a gorgeous birthday cake for my partner’s ex-partner/current best friend. Jealousy is this cultural default for many, but it’s by no means necessary. If one’s partner dates interesting people of integrity, well then. (If they don’t, perhaps find a new partner!)

                2. Falling Diphthong

                  It’s the flip side of “all my exes are crazy in the same way… and you’re next.” “Most of my exes are people you’d probably like, since they have some traits in common with you.”

            3. Turtle Candle

              Yes. BPD is highly stigmatized–it’s sort of like schizophrenia that way, in that it makes people treat the sufferer like an unexploded bomb, even though most people with the diagnosis are not at all dangerous. Even if you are 1000% sure that you’re correct in the diagnosis, it’s something to keep very private, just because spreading it around can do so very much damage to everyone involved.

              Reply
              1. Klaxons

                It means to do some introspection. They want the OP to reconsider their thinking process with regards to her boyfriend’s ex and see if they’ve been perpetuating some logical fallacies.

                Reply
        2. CMDRBNA

          Are you her doctor? Was your ex her doctor? No?

          I can absolutely understand being caught off guard by seeing her in your workplace, but you absolutely should NOT spread anything around about whatever mental illness you *think* this woman has. That could be a pretty quick trip to Firedville for you.

          Reply
        3. Forrest

          You’re willing to share this woman’s private medical history but sharing how you know about it is too sensitive to share?

          Sorry but that’s straight up shady.

          Reply
          1. Anon55

            Yep – this whole letter gave me Drama Queen vibes. Also, I find it funny that this ex apparently wasn’t “crazy” enough to stop the current gf from pursuing her boyfriend before he’d broken up with her. Somethin’ in the milk ain’t clean here, if you ask me.

            Reply
            1. Specialk9

              Let’s take LW at their word that dating started after breakup. I’ve had a situation before with a co-worker in which we didn’t start anything – then or ever – but even though we were involved with other people, we were both very aware of each other. It wouldn’t have been weird though for it to have turned into something if we were both single. In other words, interest doesn’t mean cheating.

              Reply
              1. Anon55

                Didn’t mean it in the cheating sense – my bad for the poor wording! I meant that the bf’s actions were sketchy and the LW’s acting like this is a Fatal Attraction scenario when they haven’t heard a word from the ex in years until this.

                Reply
        4. Jessen

          I’ll be honest with you – I had a psychiatrist try to diagnose me with borderline personality disorder at one point. A lot of people complain that it ends up being a generic term for “female who doesn’t act the way the psychiatrist thinks she should.” Not that I didn’t have mental health problems, that that in my case “borderline personality disorder” ended up really meaning “a lot of trauma issues, non-standard sexuality, and a few weird medication reactions, that ended up being perfectly treatable once I got someone who was listening.

          Reply
          1. Candi

            Want to hear a fun one I read about four years ago?

            It was an article arguing that BPD may be overdiagnosed and misdiagnosed.

            One of the studies that was cited involved men and women presenting with identical symptoms to people who knew their stuff on these diagnosis. (Or were supposed to.)

            Men were more likely -by a wide margin- to be diagnosed with PTSD as their only diagnosis.

            Women were more likely -again by a wide margin- to be diagnosed with BPD as their only diagnosis.

            Unfortunately, no mention was made in the article of the margin of error. (Which should include things like race of both patient and specialist, gender of both, etc.) I couldn’t find the study online at that time.

            Reply
        5. Akcipitrokulo

          The only way that you can know that is if she has confided in you, you are her health professional or you have received the information in an illicit or unauthorised manner.

          Assuming none of the above are the case, you do not know.

          Reply
  3. Janel

    This is probably off topic, but I would really, really like to hear the ex-girlfriend’s side of the story, including the past relationship up to her getting the job at OP’s work.

    Reply
    1. JB

      Yes. It’s not as if he’s claiming she moved home from a foreign country while he was on a trip and then ghosted him or anything.

      Reply
    2. Dankar

      That just leads to people litigating a personal, private relationship. AAM has already addressed the likelihood that her boyfriend’s characterization of his ex is probably not wholly truthful. (And honestly, I rolled my eyes when I read “crazy ex-girlfriend”–it’s so often just sexist BS designed to paint the woman as the villain.)

      Other private details, from the OP or the ex, are not relevant to answering the question, though. Any desire to know the whole story just reads as wanting to take somebody’s “side,” which is totally counterproductive on this blog.

      Reply
    3. oldbiddy

      I would love to find out about this, and get a followup letter from OP, and find out that OP and ex become work buddies

      Reply
    4. Anon anon anon

      Yeah. “Assume good faith on the part of the letter writer,” but my analytical side can’t help but imagine several takes on this story. I’m curious about the transition from the first relationship to the second. So far, we know that he was in a relationship when she first expressed interest (via co-workers and maybe not knowing his relationship status). But the timeline and details surrounding the break-up and subsequent “crazy” behavior from the ex are fuzzy. And we don’t know how much OP knows about all of it. Without knowing a lot more, it’s hard to say what’s going on here.

      Reply
      1. Anon anon anon

        Meaning that she might not know all the details of how the first relationship ended and if they continued talking afterwards and if so, what that looked like. I don’t mean to place any kind of blame on her. Just pointing out that it’s hard to say if the ex just had issues or if the boyfriend / their relationship dynamics had something to do with it.

        Reply
  4. Kj

    Honestly, any man who describes an ex-girlfriend as “crazy” gets the side-eye from me. If they describe more than one ex as crazy, I’d run for the hills. As to this situation, the girlfriend’s craziness was…. she attempted to contact her ex, until he told her clearly to stop, then she stopped? Not ideal, but everyone in this story seems young, so I’d hardly call this “crazy.”

    OP, I don’t mean to sound harsh, but you need to be careful about boyfriend’s stories about ex- he broke up with her, so their relationship wasn’t good and OF COURSE his stories make her out to be the bad guy. No one likes to admit they behaved less than ideally in a relationship. But it take two to tango and your description of your boyfriend makes me suspect he had an equal part to play in things going the way they did. Please take Alison’s advice- it is really good advice.

    Reply
    1. JD

      It’s amazing how often a woman is “crazy” when, ya know a man cheats on her or lies or something. Side eye is exactly it. Also, stomping the foot “my space, my work” thing. Gesh. It isn’t like she’s the other woman, and you really don’t know for a fact or not that you weren’t. It sounds like he may have behaved a bit shadily at the end of their relationship but is not being up front with you about that, which could very well be why she seems so “crazy”. Perhaps just justifiably angry?

      Reply
      1. KHB

        Women are “crazy” whenever they want something that’s not exactly what the men in their lives want them to want, don’tcha know?

        Reply
        1. voluptuousfire

          Yep. “Crazy” is shorthand for “behavior or ideas I don’t like, understand or want to deal with at that particular moment.”

          Reply
        2. whatwhat

          For many men, the ex (or he-wants-her-to-be-ex-but-he-doesn’t-actually-communicate-that-to-her) becomes crazy the moment he decides he doesn’t want to [have sex with] her anymore. He treats her badly/cheats, she objects to being treated badly/the cheating, he characterizes all her behavior as crazy from that point on. Repeat and repeat.

          Reply
    2. AvonLady Barksdale

      Yup to all of this. My partner had a really bad breakup with his ex, and from what I’ve heard, the relationship was not great for several years. Of course I’m “on his side”, but the longer we’re together, the more I can imagine his role in some of the ways it wasn’t a great relationship. It doesn’t mean that all of a sudden she’s a victimized saint and he’s an evil troll*, it just means that he’s a human being with flaws and his own issues and they just weren’t ultimately compatible.

      *It DOES mean that I am a sparkling fairy with the patience of Job. Doesn’t it?

      Reply
      1. Fiennes

        Yes!

        And one of the first things I liked about my current partner was that his last relationship had ended badly–and his ex *had* done some seriously inappropriate things, like showing up at his workplace–yet he always spoke of her politely and even kindly. He was/is very aware of how he contributed to the unhealthy relationship dynamic. Like you say, neither of them were bad people but they made each other worse together.

        Tl;dr — not every bad breakup involves even one toxic person. And you want someone who doesn’t automatically shove the blame aside.

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          One of the wisest things I read on this was a comment about someone’s friend who divorced her husband for cheating, and then went to therapy to figure out her part in that behavior pattern. Not because it must be her fault that he cheated, but because she didn’t want to wind up in the same pattern with a new person, all by accident because these things just happen to her and there’s nothing she can do about them. No warning signs, no points where she could make other choices about what she does, it just falls from the sky like a freak meteor.

          Reply
    3. TSG

      YEP. When I was 20 I started dating a guy who had fairly recently gotten out of a bad relationship with a “crazy ex-girlfriend.” She used to call him all the time when we were hanging out and he had to block her number and all of her social media and asked me to block her, too. Said she wouldn’t leave him alone, was stalking him, trying to talk to his friends, etc.

      I found out a few years after we broke up that the reason she was so “crazy” and blowing up his phone all the time was because he hadn’t broken up with her yet when we started dating. He didn’t want to be with her anymore, but started dating me while still in that relationship and she found out. So she kept trying to reach him to figure out what was going on, get some closure, work out the logistics of them splitting and such. I never would have dated him if I knew he was still in a relationship, but I was young and just blindly bought into that “my psycho ex won’t leave me a lone” thing. (Unsurprisingly, when he and I broke up 4 years later, he immediately moved in with another woman he had started seeing behind my back shortly before we split up.)

      Not saying that’s what OP’s boyfriend did of course, I don’t know the guy or their situation. But the “crazy ex” narrative rarely comes from a logical, objective place…

      Reply
      1. JokeyJules

        a former “crazy ex” here,
        I was called crazy for trying to reach out and see if he wanted the engagement ring back. Silly me.

        Reply
            1. Louise

              I’ve always liked the rule that if the giver of the ring breaks the engagement, the receiver gets to keep it. If the receiver breaks the engagement, they give it back.

              Reply
            2. MCMonkeyBean

              I believe that in most places they are only legally considered gifts if they are given on a gift-giving occasion like Christmas or your birthday. Otherwise it is conditional and the assumption is that it only belongs to you if you go through with the marriage.

              In terms of etiquette I believe whoever gets dumped should walk away with the ring, unless it is a family heirloom in which case it should obviously stay with whichever family it originally belonged to.

              Reply
      2. seejay

        I was the “crazy ex” when I got an apartment behind his back while he was travelling and told him I was was moving out in 2 weeks when he got back. He even went to all his friends and checked with them and came back and told me they agreed that I was behaving crazy and irrationally because nothing I was doing made sense. Of course, he didn’t bother telling them that I was feeling abused and terrorized and manipulated by his behaviour for the past year, all he told them was that I was suddenly out of the blue leaving him after two years because I was unhappy and mad at him after he gave me everything and all the unhappy feelings I had were irrational.

        To this day, most of them still think I’m total kookoo bananas.

        Reply
        1. Bathed in Blue light

          Yes, this is the story my ex-husband tells. Out of the blue, no warning, I wanted out.

          Leaving out the years of therapy, the many many many detailed requests I made for change, etc.

          Reply
          1. Specialk9

            My abusive ex magnanimously volunteers the small scale errors (some made up) on his part to make me look like a monster for leaving. But if he weren’t a world class manipulator, I wouldn’t have fallen for it, and I wouldn’t have stayed when it got abusive.

            Reply
          2. Executive Assistant Barbie

            This thread is making me very curious as to what the narrative will be from my most recent ex. He rarely said anything about his exes before me (and I rarely said anything about mine, we had a mutual agreement to leave the past in the past), but he and I have a child together, our futures are entwined, I’m inevitably going to be a point of discussion. Fingers crossed for “respectful and fond while acknowledging communication shortcomings”, because that’s how I’ve been handling it.

            Reply
            1. Specialk9

              If he was classy and silent with prior exes, I’d guess that’s what you can expect.

              My abusive ex used me as an unpaid therapist for his Awful Ex issues, and it was only much later (and much therapy and many books later) that I realized that her great flaws were likely made up or embellished to manipulate me into desired behavior.

              My rule became that if I’m going to be a therapist for someone I date, they have to pay for my masters degree and then pay me $150 an hour. :D

              Reply
        2. Health Insurance Nerd

          My friend is in the process of separating from her husband (who is also a very close friend). He is intent on making sure she knows that all of the problems that led to their breakup are hers, and there is nothing he needs to fix about himself (can you imagine how peaceful it must be to feel like there is nothing about yourself that you need to change?!) while making sure most of us in their circle of friends think she is “total kookoo bananas”.

          I’m pretty sure his very close friend status will be sunsetting soon, unfortunately.

          Reply
          1. seejay

            I wound up removing all but one of our “circle of friends” after finally getting fully away from my ex. If they want to believe his side of the story without asking me mine or choosing to remain neutral (as the one friend I stayed friends with put it, he stated “there’s two sides, I don’t want to know either”, and he’s right, a lot of stuff went down, neither of us behaved well in the end and I’m willing to let my close friend stay neutral in it despite all the crap), then they can all believe I’m on the crazy train and get out of my life. I’m totally ok with that since I don’t need it in my life. I felt really good doing a big social media purge of all of them, including putting some of them on block/ignore.

            Reply
          2. JD

            Uh my bosses ex wife does this. She literally tells her kids “dad doesn’t give me money so you can’t have new shoes” or “have to go to a different school now”. Meanwhile dad already pays for all of that and she gets over 15k a month!!!! She even sends excel spreadsheets to try to make him pay half of any cent she spends. Literally “lotion….$3.95.” She just rants to everyone how crazy he is. Meanwhile his whole family just was invited on a vacation they assumed he and her planned for the kids but when all of his brothers and their family showed up it was just her, not even the kids. So, ya know, who’s crazy?

            Reply
            1. Specialk9

              You shouldn’t know these things about your boss and his ex. The fact that you do makes me think that he is contributing bad things to this relationship as well. Also that you’re strangely emotionally invested in your boss’ life.

              Reply
        3. Rainy

          I’m pretty sure there’s a guy out there who says I reacted “like a crazy person” when he reached out to me to “be friends” a few months after he broke up with me (a week *after* his magical reconciliation with his ex-fiancée) and I wasn’t interested in being friends. (Since I was pretty sure what he meant was banging him in the interstices of his on-again off-again relationship with his fiancée, which sounded like about as much fun as slamming my hand repeatedly in a car door.)

          Reply
      3. Dlique

        I could be the “crazy ex” in this scenario, like, so so easily. A guy ghosted me when I was maybe 18 and we’d been dating for a year, and I did not deal with that well. It was definitely the first time (hopefully only time?) someone spent a lot of time and energy creating an elaborate lie around me, and I had a really hard time wrapping my naive brain around it. The worst thing may have been secretly logging into his facebook and looking at his messages to try to figure out what the hell was actually happening. :[ I’m not proud! But all the lies and the being ignored was making me feel pretty unstable. Picture that episode of Mad Men where Betty wanders around the house in her party dress from the night before with a glass of wine, hair and makeup a mess, tearing through Don’s things. It would be easy to point to that and say “this girl is obviously nuts, look she hacked my facebook account!”

        There were two others directly involved in this drama-fest, and they actually reached out to me years later to apologize. The ex didn’t, but you know, either he was too embarrassed by his own behavior or he will forever remember me as that crazy ex. It doesn’t matter at this point. I’m lucky that we didn’t have many mutual friends for him to turn against me.

        Reply
      4. Anon anon anon

        Exactly. I have seen situations where the “crazy ex who keeps contacting me” was actually still in a relationship or close friendship with the person. And that person was leaving out or lying about their role in the whole thing. The “crazy” messages were in response to similarly “crazy” messages, etc.

        That sort of thing seems to be pretty common. One good reason to have firm, clear ends to relationships and to walk away when things start to get messy. You don’t want to be that person who thinks they’re trying to work things out when really their communications are being shown to other people in order to prove how “crazy” they are.

        Reply
      5. Snazzy Hat

        Is it sad that I can change a few words & phrases from your second paragraph here and tell my anecdote?

        I found out before we broke up that the reason she hated my guts was because he hadn’t broken up with her yet when we started dating. He didn’t want to be with her anymore, but started dating me while still in that relationship and she knew because we acted like a couple. So she glared at me every time I was in the same room with her. I never would have dated him if I knew he was still in a relationship, which was confirmed by our mutual friend who one day learned (and promptly informed her) I had no freaking clue they were still in a relationship.

        After the subsequent actual breakups we initiated, she and I apologized to each other and became friends. A few days ago, I found an old photo I took of her and our mutual friend hugging and smiling, which makes me smile more after recalling this incident.

        Reply
    4. Defrocksyoursocks

      Exactly. Her behavior at first doesn’t seem too off base for someone who was just broken up with, and may have been completely reasonable depending on exactly how he broke up with her. It’s unclear, and maybe OP doesn’t know how it went down either, but numerous calls and texts from someone being “ghosted” isn’t far fetched.

      If someone broke up with me that way, I’d probably be perceived as crazy, too. Not saying that he did ghost her, but the other side isn’t presented in this story. In fact, it has happened to me, with my best friend, and I’m sure she perceived me as crazy at the time, because I was heavily leaning on her for support when my parents were going through a divorce, and a bunch of other crappy stuff in my life was happening at the same time. I didn’t take it nearly as gracefully as I should have, but I was also going through a LOT of pain.

      If her intent is really not with malice, which it sounds like it isn’t, it’s incredibly mature of her to tell you she exists in your space. I would think it would be worse, if she showed up at your work, said nothing, and you just kept seeing her all of the time without any sort of explanation.

      Until she does something with any sort of malice, only time will tell how this will play out. For now, take the high road, and pretend you didn’t hear whay your BF told you about her. It’s not her story he’s telling, and while it’s entirely possible she is crazy, or has any sort of disorder, you have no evidence that you’ve witnessed with your own eyes to prove it true, so just ignore it. Keep yourself on your toes, so you’re not completely ignorant of any ill will, though.

      Reply
    5. Engineer Girl

      I saw this in one ex. He talked about his crazy ex. Then I found out there were several exes in that category. It turned out that he was a serial cheater. He was so passive-agressive he wouldn’t have serious discussion about breaking up. He just cheated and let the current woman find out about it. The “crazy” was when the women went ballistic when they found out. Then he was a poor victim of a crazy woman. There were at least 6 of us.
      I’m really greatful I got out when I did. Eventually he destroyed several marriages – his own and others.

      Reply
      1. Yomi

        I had a friend who did this to their SO’s, and sadly it took I think three of them before I realized that it wasn’t that she was breaking up with them and “they just wouldn’t leave her alone” but that she wasn’t breaking up with them, just moving on to a new guy and stringing along the previous one for whatever reason. We didn’t stay friends for long after I figured that out, and I got called insensitive for no longer supporting her with all her man troubles.

        Reply
    6. SS

      Agreed. I knew a guy that always had “crazy” exes. It was never his fault. For example, he thought they were ‘crazy’ for being upset when he 1) parked the gf’s car in front of a ‘no parking’ sign and so the car was towed away and she was angry that SHE had to foot the bill to pay to get her car back from the towing company. 2) Did house repairs for another gf and did them incorrectly which caused a fire and her house burned down. He was insistant that “wasn’t his fault so she shouldn’t be upset even though the fire department traced the start of the fire to the wiring at the point of his repair so she is crazy for being so upset at him”. 3) One gf was upset at getting an STD from him after he demanded she go on ‘the pill’ so that he didn’t need to use protection, even though he knew he had a permanent contagious one.
      One crazy ex, possibly it’s her. But if a guy has a chain of crazy exes, it is likely that HE made them crazy.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        One crazy ex, possibly it’s her. But if a guy has a chain of crazy exes, it is likely that HE made them crazy.

        Yup. There’s a common factor in the lives of all these crazy people…

        Reply
    7. SheLooksFamiliar

      I casually dated a man who told me about his recent ex-girlfriend: she was crazy, pushy, unreasonable, possessive, you name it. He had some Alpha Male traits I didn’t care for, though, and after a couple of months we both said ‘Let’s just be friends.’ We just didn’t click and neither of us wanted a serious relationship. No fighting or tears, no big deal, I thought. At some networking event, I met one of his exes – I recognized her name, introduced myself, and we got to talking. It turns out Ex recently tried to get back together with her because he’d just broken up with ‘a crazy and controlling broad.’ Yes, he was referring to me. She told me he’d cheated on her repeatedly during their year together, and accused her of being paranoid, called her names, accused her of all kinds of things, and some other Alpha Male stuff I could see him doing. She said, ‘I wasn’t at my best at the end but I wasn’t threatening him. I just wanted to know when I could come by and pick up my stuff. He’d never give me a time to do it, and I was a bitch trying to force an answer out of him.’

      So yeah, I give the side-eye to anyone who claims their ex is ‘crazy.’

      Reply
    8. Stacie

      Just here to nod vigorously at everyone pointing out that you shouldn’t take men at face value if they describe their ex as crazy!

      Reply
    9. MashaKasha

      OMG this. If I am dating a man who says he has a crazy ex, or a slew of crazy exes, then guess what? I’m in line to be his next crazy ex, according to him of course.

      Reply
    10. Jennifer Thneed

      Not disagreeing with folks here in general, but this:

      > she attempted to contact her ex, until he told her clearly to stop

      And I don’t see that in the original letter. I see this:

      > He finally decided it was time to block her everywhere he could
      > after one particular freak, even though he was nervous what she may do.

      Blocking someone is in no way the same as telling them to stop contacting you. The actions are often paired (especially by people who read good advice columnists, like AMA and CA) but they really aren’t the same.

      And I do have to agree with other folks that her behavior, as described, could easily be that of someone who never actually got broken up with, but was just expected to “figure it out”. You know, like if she was dating someone who “was in a dead-end relationship he didn’t know how to get out of”. Because saying “I want to break up with you now” apparently doesn’t occur to people?

      Reply
  5. Cathleen

    You and your boyfriend have been together for two years already? I’d just assume she has moved on and was trying to be polite and proactive instead of making things awkward. It seems incredibly unlikely that she took this job to mess with your head.

    Reply
    1. Lilac

      Yes, two years on and taking a job just to mess with someone’s head is the plot of a horror/thriller movie, and a complete fiction, to boot. This person did her best to stop all rumors and worries before they started, and I think the ex-girlfriend has been very adult.

      Reply
    2. The Tin Man

      Agreed 100%, this is precisely what I was thinking. And it would be a massive mistake to proactively mess with someone and make them want to quit based off some stories someone told you, even if it is someone you trust.

      Reply
    3. AnotherAlison

      Yes, I thought it was a little odd that the OP had the “how dare she work here, at her ex’s ex-company?” attitude. I mean, it’s not like good jobs are a dime a dozen. He doesn’t work there now. It’s been two years. Seems perfectly reasonable to me for her to work there, and she seemed mature in approaching you.

      Reply
      1. Kate

        “it’s not like good jobs are a dime a dozen”
        Yes, and it’s also not uncommon for people to date within their field, so if the ex-gf saw a job opening at Big Company in her field, I doubt, “but my ex used to work there” was a strong consideration. People are not their best selves when going through a breakup, so she’s probably aware that OP knows about her behavior during that time. It sounds like she was just trying to be proactive in alleviating long-term weirdness but having this awkward encounter up front.

        Reply
      2. Specialk9

        Especially because she’s apparently supposed to turn down a good job because someone she used to date once worked there (but doesn’t anymore, and another person who has dated that guy still works there. Egads! Horror!

        So here’s the thing about jealousy – it’s not romantic, and it doesn’t make us be good versions of ourselves. Relationships aren’t prizes, and we don’t own people. (And even if one holds this common, destructive, fallacy, guess what? You won, OP.)

        Life works better if you assume that if your partner is a decent person of worth and integrity, then the people who have been important to him have likely been too. You don’t have to be besties, but try to look at his prior partner through those lenses of respect rather than threat.

        Reply
      3. TootsNYC

        That was my thought.

        The Letter Writer wrote: “I cannot understand why out of all the places to work, she chooses her ex-boyfriend’s old job, and where his current girlfriend works.”

        Like, maybe that’s the place that offered her a job? She can’t just walk up to some OTHER workplace and demand they give her a job.

        Reply
        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          It’s also ENTIRELY LIKELY that she didn’t know LW worked there until she saw her there. What should she have done? Quit a brand new job because her ex’s current gf worked there?

          Reply
  6. Viki

    All my heckles are up when I hear someone describe their ex or their partner’s ex as crazy. That aside, you say your company is big and you don’t work with the ex? Think of it as if you’re in college/high school. Your partner’s ex goes to the same campus, but you don’t have to see her everyday and when you do, in passing at a cafe, treat her civilly.

    You’ll only look look bad if you don’t.

    Reply
    1. CL

      Once I thought I was showing my current BF how over my ex I was by running the guy down something terrible. BF got really quiet, then told me I was breaking his heart. He said that if we ever ended, he was afraid I’d then be speaking of him that way too. That advice has stuck with me all these years. , and after we did end, I tried hard to never breathe an ill word about him, or any other ex for that matter. Remember, if his ex really is so terrible, all that means is he has poor taste in partners.

      Reply
      1. kitryan

        I was visiting the city I’d previously lived in and I stayed with my ex. Neither of us were in an exclusive relationship so we slept together while I was there (we broke up because I’d moved away and we didn’t want to do long distance). He complimented me in comparison to someone he’d been with since I’d moved away and I shut that down hard. I don’t want him to do that to someone else about me. A general ‘I like this/I don’t like this’ is fine, and I figure to know whether you like it or not you did it with someone, sometime, but I don’t need names or specific references.
        As this was my first real relationship and I was still in my early twenties, I’m kind of proud that I was secure enough to do that.

        Reply
  7. AvonLady Barksdale

    I’m impressed that the ex took the initiative to approach the OP. I also think it’s good that the ex didn’t walk up to OP’s desk and announce her presence, but she chose a much more spontaneous and neutral situation. Imagine what it would have been like if they had simply run into each other at a work meeting, or if the OP had found out from someone else that the ex had taken a job at the company. Getting everything out in the open is probably the best way to go about a situation like this. OP, please take Alison’s excellent advice and continue to go about your business.

    Reply
    1. beanie beans

      I was picturing the ex writing AAM and Alison’s advice being exactly what she did.

      OP, the ex is acting respectful and professional so far. Aim for that for yourself as well. Hopefully you don’t have to interact with her too much in the future.

      Reply
    2. Anon Accountant

      Exactly. I think I she was trying to be polite and “so you don’t get too surprised to hear I’m working here”. And she approached in the cafeteria which sounds reasonable.

      Reply
  8. NCKat

    Props to her for coming up and introducing herself to you. For what it’s worth, she probably was nervous about it in the first place. Let it lie and act professionally. It’s not worth the damage to your work reputation to create drama.

    Reply
    1. Candy

      Agree. The ex didn’t go out of her way to track the OP down, she saw her randomly in the cafe. Ignoring the OP would be the weird thing to do, I think. It would come across as though she was still hung up on the ex and had bad feelings towards the OP.

      But she was up front and professional about it essentially just acknowledging “I know who you are and I know you know who I am.” I wouldn’t read anything more into it than her trying to mitigate there being any weirdness between you two in the future

      Reply
  9. BlueWolf

    It sounds to me like the ex handled the situation in a mature way, and simply wanted to acknowledge the elephant in the room and then move on in order to avoid awkwardness or weirdness like she said. If she has indeed had mental health issues maybe she has been working on them and is in a better place now. I know you have a history with her so it is a bit more difficult in this situation to overcome your past experiences with her (or your boyfriend’s descriptions of his past experiences with her), but I always think it is best to give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think that this particular interaction is a red flag. Like Alison said, unless she does something actually harmful or inappropriate to you, I don’t think this is anything to worry about, especially since she is in a completely different department.

    Reply
  10. Amber Rose

    In two years, she could have received significant help for any disorders she has. And as someone who is shy, that doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t have awkward, weird conversations with people if I think they need to happen.

    OP, just pretend she is a total stranger, since she basically is. You’ll never know all the nuances of someone else’s relationships. You only have one perspective on what happened.

    Reply
  11. Susana

    LW, I tend to sympathize with the person who writes in, but… imagine looking at this from the other perspective. First, you BF refers to his ex as “crazy,” which should give you pause about how he sees his intimate partners, and how he sees women (that “crazy ex-girlfriend” thing is an alarm bell). Sure, maybe she behaved badly during or after the relationship, but maybe he did, too. And he did choose to be with her. You weren’t there.
    Except .. you *were* there, in her mind. He basically dumped her for you, with maybe a little overlap. Look, that happens, especially when you’re young. Breakups are rarely clean. So imagine her working in the same place as someone she *might* think lured her boyfriend away from her. Not that that is fair – he’s a person, not a stray cat, and made his own decisions. But that may be how it feels. If anyone is going to feel bad, seeing the other woman in this drama from time to time at work, it’s her. Not you.
    It’s pretty impressive to me that she approached you calmly and maturely to let you know she was there so you would not be blindsided. She did not invade YOUR space. You do not own the space of the company where you work. You know who she is now, so can stay out of her way if you like. Kudos to her for making that easier on you.
    The question is – if your boyfriend is so over her and head over heels for you, why do you still feel threatened by her?

    Reply
    1. JokeyJules

      I can actually understand the threatened part. I don’t think OP feels threatened that the ex is going to try to get the boyfriend back. I think she’s more threatened personally because she’s only ever known this person to be “crazy”. The personal space thing I understand as well. I’m aware that the office isn’t MINE, but if my partners ex started to work here I would be like she was an intruder on my life and my comfort zone. Regardless of how they broke up.

      Reply
      1. Susana

        Well, Jokey… I find that a little startling. We’re talking TWO YEARS, for one thing. And it’s not like the ex started working at BF’s place of employment. I think it’s not reasonable, and a little immature, to see one’s workplace as a personal fiefdom whose residents you get to control. I also think it’s more than a tad self-centered to imagine the ex is there just to mess with her. And if she indeed went to the trouble of applying for, competing for, and securing a job just to make things uncomfortable for the current GF, why would she approach her, tactfully, and give her a heads-up? More likely she’d ambush her in some way.
        I’m sorry, but this LW’s letter reeks of immaturity and insecurity. You’re not going to be able to control the members of your workplace your whole life. There will be people who make you uncomfortable, annoyed or even angry. Adulthood means learning to deal with it. The fact that LW was even thinking about making things tough for the ex – mind you, the person who behaved maturely and professionally here by letting GF know who she was before someone else told her — suggests it is the LW, not the ex, who could end up being the problem employee.

        Reply
      2. hbc

        I can understand feeling uncomfortable, awkward, and annoyed–your life would be better without that person around, no questioned. But the territoriality around words like “threatened” and “intruder” squicks me out way more than a couple of weeks of post-breakup flailing.

        And as I said below, the kind of mindset that says “This [thing that isn’t mine] is mine!” is pretty much what leads straight to standing outside someone’s window demanding that they give you answers.

        Reply
        1. Specialk9

          Agreed. The possessiveness is troubling. “This is MY job, MY space, and now because she has invaded it, I feel so anxious… Now I know she is here, I feel I need to make a presence of some kind. I want her to feel as uncomfortable as she has made me.”

          The only possibilities that are coming to mind are eye-wideningly bad ones. Ones that get the term “crazy co-worker” attached to it. Don’t do it, OP! Whatever you’re thinking, don’t do it.

          Reply
        2. TootsNYC

          yeah, I’m wondering–with the “this [thing that isn’t mine] is mine” attitude, if the LW’s boyfriend broke up with her, would she be blowing up his phone with texts?4

          Reply
      3. Fiennes

        It’s one thing to feel that way–we’re often uncomfortable about things that rationally shouldn’t bother us. But *taking action* on those feelings is right out. LW should work through the emotional reaction and definitely not act upon it.

        Reply
        1. seejay

          This this this. I’d love to emphasize this comment.

          OP, for all the comments, there’s *nothing wrong with your FEELINGS*. It’s ok to feel a certain way. Feelings are human and good and bad feelings are *totally normal*. It’s what you *do* with them in the end that counts.

          Take those feelings of jealousy and possessiveness and deal with them in a healthy, non-destructive way. Anything you do towards this girl, whether she really is a crazy ex or not, is going to blow up in your face and reflect poorly on you. If she actually has problems and is going to stir the pot at work? Then let that be on her had and let her do it, not you. Let her cause the drama and the trouble and then let the repercussions fall on her head, not yours. If she’s not going to cause problems? Then great! Everyone comes out smelling like roses in the end!

          If you’re having a hard time handling the negative troublesome feelings, there’s lots of places where you can go (online and offline) to process them. Just don’t let them eat you up inside, don’t make them your boyfriend’s problem to shoulder, don’t dump them on someone who can’t handle it, and don’t make a big explosion at work where you’re going to wind up not as the crazy ex, but maybe the crazy coworker.

          Reply
  12. Patty

    There are some ways in which the OP taking actions to make her boyfriend’s ex could be seen as sexual harassment. She would be being harassed because of her former sexual relationship.

    Reply
    1. Fiennes

      I don’t think this would fall under sexual harassment. But harassing a fellow employee for any reason is a pretty serious offense and will make any good manager wonder whether the harasser should remain employed there.

      Reply
    2. Specialk9

      No, that’s the wrong interpretation of “sex” – sexual harassment is gender based harassment, not intercourse based harassment. (Though of course, gender based harassment can often take the route of required intercourse, but that’s method of harassment not reason.)

      Non sequitur… interestingly enough, current cases before the Supreme Court are making the case that discrimination based on sexual orientation (LGB) is inherently gender based discrimination because it assumes this people must act on gender based heteronormative stereotypes.

      Reply
    3. Susana

      No, because sexual harassment isn’t harassment van issue where sex was once involved. The harassment itself has to have a sexual (or gender) aspect to it. But of course it could be (and probably would be) office bullying or harassment, which could get OP fired, a sting talking-to, or just diminished credibility at work.

      Reply
  13. Not Australian

    It sounds like the ex approached you in a sensible and respectful manner, OP, so I think you have to take her at face value for now – although I do agree that the fact that she’s actually joined your place of work feels a little odd. Just steer clear of her for the time being; if she’s got anything odd planned it’ll happen soon enough, and you don’t need to run towards it.

    Reply
    1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws

      I don’t think it’s so odd. She’s in a different department, at a company that OP grants is “decent sized” and employs a lot of people in their age group. Ex ran into her at the lunch spot, it’s not like she sought her out, and her language was neutral, even if there was no getting around the awkwardness. OP probably weighs a lot less on the ex’s mind than the ex does on hers.

      Reply
    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      I know that when I consider where I should submit job applications, whether or not my ex used to work there or their current SO works there is part of my decision making process.

      I mean, come on. It’s been 2 years. If it was 2 weeks or 2 months, maybe it would be odd. But OP says she works at a large company where a lot of people her age work.

      Reply
  14. Dan

    Sort of a tangent, but also on point.

    I had a breakup with an ex-GF that didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. Fast forward five years after the breakup, and we now work for the same company. Is me getting a job here some “sneaky” way of getting back together with her? Nope. I work here because for the work that I do, this employer is one of the best in the industry.

    Does OP *really* see this person at her job every day? My company is big — even for those of us on the same work program, the only people I run into regularly, let alone every day, are those in my department.

    Reply
    1. Still Lurking

      Dan, I too work for a large employer and people have met here, got married and some divorced all while continuing to work here. I don’t think relationships should dictate one partner not working for an employer as long as the parties involved are mature and keep their drama at home. For good pay and benefits, I can stomach seeing my ex daily working at the same company and being 100% professional.

      Reply
    2. EddieSherbert

      Well, she said the cafeteria conversation happened three weeks ago and didn’t actually mention any other situations where she’s seen this woman since… so yeah, probably doesn’t actually see her very much (if at all).

      Reply
    3. Star

      Yeah, I guess it depends on how big the company is. My best friend works at the same company as me, and we have to actively plan to see one another because our paths never cross otherwise.

      Reply
      1. Aurion

        I work in an 18-person company and there are about 2-3 people whom I almost never see. Just because the ex is there doesn’t mean she has nefarious intentions.

        Reply
    4. Antilles

      Is me getting a job here some “sneaky” way of getting back together with her? Nope. I work here because for the work that I do, this employer is one of the best in the industry.
      Correct, and that’s probably the same deal with the Ex in OP’s story too – she was just looking for a new job and picked a company that would be good for her career.
      Blunt truth time: If you’re going to date someone who’s in your industry, you need to accept that part of the deal is that you very well might end up working together in the future. On a local level, most industries just aren’t big enough to legitimately expect that your paths won’t cross again.

      Reply
  15. Dee-Nice

    “The issue lives solely within me, being aware this person is where I work every day. I just want to go to work without wondering if I’ll see her everywhere I go. I really just want to not care.”

    I get why you’re uncomfortable, but I think you need to take the ex GF at her word, at least for now. She said she doesn’t want things to be weird, so just go with that. As of right now, nothing actually weird has happened and your anxiety is based on hypotheticals. Let these go. Hopefully, as time passes, nothing else will happen and your anxiety will diminish. Until then, hold tight and don’t act on your anxiety. Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Susanne

      OP – you don’t get to craft the world based on who you want to see and not to see. Suppose the exGF took a new job and took public transportation and was on your bus or train every morning. Or suppose she didn’t work for your company, but your company and hers were in a building where there was a coffee shop at the bottom level and you ran into her periodically while getting coffee. So? You have no right to say that someone, who at the present moment, isn’t remotely bothering you or your boyfriend, “should” do anything.

      I agree – take the exGF at her word. She was acting mature by giving you the heads-up that she was working there. If you need to interact with her from a work perspective, you’ll just need to treat her professionally and cordially like you would any other employee of your company.

      Reply
  16. Akcipitrokulo

    Perhaps it might help to think that she approached you so it wouldn’t be weird – whether that was a good thing to do or not might be up for discussion – but that was 3 weeks ago. There has been nothing since.

    I think you can be reassured that there have been no issues in those 3 weeks, that she seems to be going about her business and is letting you go about yours.

    Unless anything else happens; it’s a bit of an odd feeling, but you will be able to handle it.

    Reply
    1. JessaB

      Yeh, this is where I am on this. I think her getting it out in the open is the right thing to do. Can you imagine the letter otherwise? OMG my partner’s ex is working here, weird, weird and she doesn’t even acknowledge I exist. Why is she here? What does she want? OMG nerves, thinking worst case scenarios. This gets it out in the open and YES to everyone who said if the ex had written Alison would have said to do exactly what happened. In fact she HAS said on prior letters “Just go talk to them.”

      Reply
      1. AnotherAlison

        I haven’t worked with any exes, but I have worked with people I’ve known from past lives who never said hello & then things felt awkward. (Should I say hello? Do they want to avoid me for some unknown reason?)

        I’ve worked at my company 12 yrs, and one of my groomsmen worked here for a few years as a contractor. . .we never spoke, although I did see him in the stairwell once. Another acquaintance of mine from elementary-high school worked here, too, and I did go to her cube & say hello.

        Reply
  17. Wannabe Disney Princess

    Also people can bring out the worst in each other. I am normally a sane, rational individual. I was in a TOXIC relationship. We made each other crazy and both acted in ways neither is proud of. (This was also in my early 20’s) I’ve since moved on and last I heard, a few years ago, so had he. By all accounts we’re both happy and settled.

    If I ended up working in the same place as him? I’d do the same thing so he wasn’t blindsided. And then go about my business.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      This is true, sometimes an otherwise reasonable person can go off the rails in the context of a specific relationship. Two years later I wouldn’t assume they’re still in that same place emotionally.

      Reply
    2. paul

      Yep.

      I haven’t kept touch with everyone I knew in my early 20s but I definitely saw some of that in my circle at the time–the one couple like that I kinda keep touch with seem to be doing OK (one’s single, one’s married with a kid, both seem happy?), but as a couple they were horribly dysfunctional. They really could kind of each truthfully describe the other as a crazy ex because they *were* mutually toxic to each other. Never understood that couple’s relationship.

      Reply
    3. CMDRBNA

      THIS.

      I dated a guy for about two years and it was just a mess…he was a verbally, emotionally, and financially abusive alcoholic (the only reason he wasn’t physically abusive, I am convinced, is that he is a very small person and we were about the same size), I was struggling with undiagnosed mental illness, and I was on a medication that was absolutely throwing my hormone levels out of whack without realizing it. We just brought out the worst in each other and it was horrible.

      Reply
  18. BadPlanning

    Since this is boyfriend’s old job — that might have simply been a good place for Ex to work. A place she’s probably familiar with through him, but he’s not there. Except at some point (possibly after being hired) discovered that oops, you work there. (Unless you are quite sure she knew you worked there and had no reason to believe you left). But again, if it was a big place, maybe it was the best place for her and she couldn’t turn it down because you two might pass in the hallway.

    Not to say that you can’t feel weird or even a bit paranoid! But until signs point elsewhere, I would try to stick with cautiously optimistic that this won’t be a big deal.

    Reply
  19. Beatrice

    I don’t think Alison or the comments are giving enough weight to some of the behaviors the ex did, specifically: “even showing up outside his apartment to get some reaction out of him”. To me, this crosses over the line of normal break up behavior.

    I don’t think that the LW should take any action based on this yet, especially as it has been 2 years and I agree that the ex approaching the LW appears to be a mature and not a stalkery action, but I do think it would be reasonable for the LW to be wary until the ex has proved herself more.

    Reply
    1. EddieSherbert

      Being wary is one thing, and fine if she feels that way (though the conversation with the ex was three weeks ago and it sounds like nothing else has happened?), but she still has to be professional. It’s the “This is MY job, MY space” marking-my-territory reaction that concerns me!

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        When you date, you often go to their place daily. If they’re not responding to calls or texts, then trying in-person isn’t weird, especially with box of “here’s your crap, jerk-face” in tow. It gets weird if they *keep on* showing up in person, but one time? Meh, that’s not at all weird. (Especially if BF broke up badly, which I’m kind of assuming, if he did it at all.)

        Reply
    2. Still Lurking

      Really trying not to be “that” poster…..but that was the version he gave to the OP. Sure it sounds bad, but we don’t know the context and full story. This is a major issue I have with dating a guy who still has “issues” with an ex. He’s going to tell me whatever to keep me around for the most part – which means calling the ex crazy, omitting his transgressions before and after the break up, and even possibly lying. I am totally not trying to criticize the OP, however, I, like other posters, tend to raise a brow at the way “crazy” gets thrown around after break ups to describe the woman.

      Reply
      1. Kj

        Agreed. This just smells ‘off.’ I think the OP is taking boyfriend’s side, which is normal, but she doesn’t seem aware of how biased things can get when you only hear from one person about a past relationship.

        Reply
      2. JessaB

        Yes and not even maliciously. Relationships get crazy, we either were part of the crazy or not, and as time goes by we omit or embellish our good parts of it and their bad ones. It’s not even always done deliberately, we’re trying to place things in a narrative that makes our lives feel better.

        Memory is fluid and malleable. Sometimes we don’t even remember the way it actually happened. Maybe the ex WAS crazy acting. Maybe they did have problems. Maybe they didn’t. But right now, they’re acting like a reasonable person.

        Two years is a looooong time in someone’s 20s. A lot of science says people’s brains don’t completely start being adult til in the mid twenties. This means you get a lot of random all over the road behaviour from people who are not yet fully mature, rounded, human adult beings. Whether there’s a psych component to it or not, people in their 20s are still growing up.

        Even if she was bat guano over the top in her behaviour before or during the break up or just after. She’s different in the now than back then. I’d give her the benefit of pretending you just met someone and absent new information that you see yourself, forgetting about the past. You got the guy. He’s good to you and you love him. That’s living well. Live well.

        Reply
    3. JenB.

      I have a friend who is very, very down-to-earth and level-headed. After a bad breakup, she showed up at her ex-bf’s house one day to talk to him “one last time” and try to get some closure, then left when he didn’t answer the door. She admits it was totally out of line and inappropriate. I’m not saying the behavior is okay – it isn’t – but if it stopped there, well… sometimes breakups bring out the worst in us.

      I’ve also done some really stupid, inappropriate things. Like emailing my ex a huge wall of text about All My Feelings And Why We Really Should Get Back Together after he’d asked me to stop contacting him. Again, that was wrong, but I’m also not a dangerous stalker or anything. I let my feelings get the best of me once.

      On the other hand, calling the ex-girlfriend “crazy,” getting territorial about her workplace, stigmatizing the ex for having a mental illness (supposedly? “behavioral personality disorder” isn’t actually a thing – typo?), wanting a coworker to feel uncomfortable because of her dating history…. these behaviors really are not okay, either. If the boyfriend is supportive of these actions, he’s behavior JUST as badly, if nto worse, than his ex-gf.

      Reply
    4. Kathleen

      What does “showing up outside his apartment to get some reaction out of him” even mean? Did she shriek curses into the still night air? Inscribe voodoo symbols on the sidewalk in front of his apartment? Walk past his apartment to see if there were any lights on? Walk past on her way to somewhere else? Knock on the door in the middle of the night? Try to crash his family Thanksgiving? Show up there to get her important stuff because he hadn’t responded to her texts?

      Some of this is not normal healthy breakup behavior, some of it is in a grey area, and some of it is actually fine.

      Reply
    5. palomar

      Unfortunately, all those acts that you’re eager to bring up are things that we as the readers are having filtered through multiple people: we’re hearing it from the LW, who heard it from her boyfriend, who has labeled her as “crazy”. And as many other commenters have mentioned throughout the comments on this post, men calling ex-girlfriends crazy is such a crappy-dude trope that it’s immediately suspicious. One commenter above said she was labeled crazy by her ex for trying to make contact to arrange her returning the engagement ring to him; another commenter was labeled crazy by her ex because she had to take the drastic step of moving out in secret so that she could escape his abuse. And when you strip out the emotional language from LW’s letter, it seems pretty clear that the ex tried to make contact during a time period when it’s not clear that she actually WAS an ex yet, as LW and the boyfriend were starting to get romantic prior to boyfriend officially ending his previous relationship. Per the LW, she and boyfriend had not heard a peep from this woman since she was finally told to go away, and aside from the ex making the extremely mature contact to let LW know that she now works at the same company, they continue to not hear from her.

      To be honest, when I read the way that LW describes the start of her relationship and how it coincided with the end of her boyfriend’s previous relationship, and from how she described the way the ex behaved back then and now… it truly does read like the boyfriend didn’t exactly make a clean break of things with his ex before leaping into the newness with LW, and the ex didn’t know she’d been dumped. It’s unfortunate that women who are treated like this are labeled crazy by the men that do this avoidant, emotionally immature crap, but it happens with depressing regularity. I have yet to meet a man who describes any ex as crazy who also didn’t pull some serious horseshit on said ex. Frequently, when men say their ex is crazy, what they mean is that they did not want to deal with the negative emotions generated from mistreatment they doled out to their former sweetheart.

      If the LW needs to be wary of anything, it’s of her own jealousy and possessiveness. From her own letter, it sounds like this chance meeting at work was actually the first time she’s ever even spoken to the ex, and she’s already champing at the bit to sink this woman’s career opportunities at her company? WHOA. That’s a seriously disproportionate reaction, and if LW does undertake some sort of plan to drive this woman out of the company, it’s only going to reflect badly on her and possibly even get her fired for harassing a coworker.

      Reply
    6. Zillah

      OP, I hope I’m not rehashing stuff that’s already been said elsewhere in the comments, but:

      The guy I dated through most of college was a fundamentally good person, as am I. Toward the end of our relationship, things were very tense, because we were two people who had stopped being compatible but still cared about each other. We fought a lot, and everything was messy, and we definitely needed to break up.

      When we did, we were both pretty relieved by it. We spent a couple months doing some mild badmouthing about each other, and then we became friends again. We were both pretty explicit about how glad we were that it was over, because it was just such a bad situation. When he started dating someone new a few months later, she was super, super cold to me – whenever I bumped into them on campus or visited a friend of mine that she happened to live with, she barely acknowledged my presence. I barely knew her and had never been anything but friendly, and while I don’t know what my ex told her, I doubt it was anything groundbreaking – based on how their relationship ended and on the fact that he and I are still friends seven years later, I think she was just insecure about their relationship. That was about her, not me, and I knew that at the time – but it still really hurt to have someone I had never done anything to wrong treat me so coldly.

      That’s not exactly the same situation as the one you’re in, and I know that… but based on the information you’ve given here, it seems to be in the same arena. Don’t treat a woman you don’t know like absolute shit for dating your boyfriend before you did. The relationship may not have been happy, but experiencing an unhappy relationship doesn’t make you evil – it just makes you human. I understand wanting to lash out, but it’s just not really fair. You don’t need to become her best friend, but try to stop thinking about her as a cartoon villain – she’s just a person with feelings.

      Reply
  20. DA

    Hello everyone! Thank you so much for your replies, however I would like to be clear. My boyfriend himself did not tell me she was crazy, I stated “I was told she was crazy,” and that was not directly from him. He had a hard time cutting ties because he was afraid she was going to hurt herself. Not the best situation to be in. It was from almost every single person in his life who ever had an interaction with her who stated was not a stable person.
    My boyfriend is a very respectful human being, he wouldn’t talk poorly about a fly. He treats everyone respectfully even when they don’t deserve it, which is why I knew this person was an issue considering how he spoke of her. I had never heard him be so hurt by something before. I appreciate your replies and will move forward. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. EddieSherbert

      Thanks for the info, but I don’t think the extra info is technically necessary. The take-away is that is doesn’t matter (in your current work situation) how she acted when she dated your boyfriend or when she was dumped by your boyfriend.

      What matters is that you both can be professional at work as long as you are working “together” (so for the same company). This also includes you NOT gossiping with other coworkers you are friendly with about her possible mental health or her past mental health.

      Thanks for writing in :)

      Reply
    2. Still Lurking

      Thanks for the update!

      Not related to your letter directly, but I would be careful with the people in your boyfriend’s life who are comfortable talking about the ex in such a negative light to the new woman. Their loyalty is to boyfriend and there may be a time when you two fall out and that same loyalty will remain with boyfriend and what possible things would they say about you to the woman after you?

      Reply
      1. Malibu Stacey

        And even though the boyfriend didn’t call his ex crazy, it sounds like he revealed some pretty personal mental health info about her.

        Reply
      2. oldbiddy

        I second this advice. Past college or so, it’s pretty uncommon to talk about your friend’s exes to their new partner. I don’t think I’ve ever been on either end of that conversation. That kind of sounds like them being ‘yes men’ on his behalf (best case scenario) or they have really poor boundaries

        Reply
      1. JessaB

        I think we need to not word quibble on that one, if he meant BPD or was told by someone even her that she had BPD he’s a layperson and if he thought it meant behavioural that’s an error in language, I think hearing someone say that I’d understand what they meant by it, that they meant borderline and got the words wrong. I might if I cared enough explain that it wasn’t called “behavioural” that’s not what the B stands for. But I don’t think it’s necessary to presume the boyfriend or whoever said it was making up a disease. They just called it the wrong thing.

        Reply
        1. McWhadden

          It doesn’t exactly bode well for it being a legitimate diagnosis if he didn’t know the name of the disorder a long-term girlfriend had…

          Reply
          1. Bookworm

            OP says it was an autocorrect error.

            That said, I tend to agree with a lot of the comments that the ex’s diagnosis (or not) isn’t really relevant here.

            Reply
      2. Wut?

        That’s the red flag for me. There’s no reason to share an ex’s personal medical information with a new partner. That feels gross and like a real betrayal of her privacy. If it’s true, she told him that in confidence. And yet everyone in his life knows about it? And if it’s not, that’s really problematic.

        Reply
        1. Temperance

          I vehemently disagree with this. If ex is BPD, and she was acting out, LW’s boyfriend can talk about his experiences on the receiving end of her behavior. He can get support from people he cares about.

          If she does have BPD, and she wasn’t able to keep her mask on in front of his friends and family, they all have experiences with her, too.

          Reply
          1. Summer Child

            Sharing his own experiences from his perspective and seeking support is fine. Disclosing her diagnosis to others is absolutely not.

            Reply
    3. Hc600

      Realize that some people can be fine under normal circumstances but can come across as “crazy” if being gaslit.

      For example, one ex told me he couldn’t talk to me until I found a job where he was working (we’d gone to the same professional school and he’d graduated a year earlier, hiring for people in their final year of school last’s a short time) because it was too painful. Turns out he had started seeing another girl (who had spent the summer there and was also looking for jobs in that city) and was hedging his bets with both of us. He’d told her and his friends that we were on a break pending my getting a job, but had told me over the phone we would not pursue other romantic options. Well, I found out about her and at first didn’t believe it so I called him. His reaction was to deny everything, then admitted to seeing her but claimed we were never serious (we’d talked about apartments and marriage compatibility issues and had been dating for two years!!!!). I know he tried to pass off my reaction as “crazy” despite there only being four text messages from me and two phone calls (the one where he denied and the one where he claimed i’d Made the whole relationship up). I had the opportunity to catch him in the act by showing up at his place and wish I had.

      He then tried to pull this thing where he said nasty things TO me but told mutual friends we were OK then surprised me by showing up somewhere he wouldn’t normally be well into the night after i’d Been drinking and tried to enter into conversations with people I was talking to and then when I told him to fuck off acted like I was the unstable one.

      Reply
    4. Lynca

      “He had a hard time cutting ties because he was afraid she was going to hurt herself. Not the best situation to be in. It was from almost every single person in his life who ever had an interaction with her who stated was not a stable person.”

      It sounds like you’ve never really interacted with her until she introduced herself and only have other people’s perceptions of her behavior.

      She’s not shown you anything but normal, professional behavior so far. As long as your behavior is both professional and polite, I would expect things to feel less anxious soon.

      Reply
      1. Anon for this

        +1000.

        And I don’t really trust what “every person in his life” says. I dated a nice guy who had lots of friends, and insisted that we only spend our free time with his friends and never with mine. After two years of that, I lost contact with all of my friends. Then one day out of the blue, he ended the relationship. Exactly ONE couple out of his huge circle of friends did not cut contact with me right away. I don’t know what the rest of them say about me behind my back, and do not want to know. One thing I do know is that of course they would take his side, because they all still live in the same town and work together, and besides he throws the best parties. If he wants them to tell people I kill kittens for fun, then that’s what they will say.

        This was the only toxic relationship I’ve ever had. I believe we are all allowed one. I then learned from my mistakes and went on to date a healthy, decent person.

        Reply
        1. Zillah

          I think we’re all allowed as many toxic relationships as we have the bad luck to fall into – they’re generally not something people ask for.

          Reply
    5. Bookworm

      Hey DA, thanks for commenting. I do think that it makes sense you feel a bit uncomfortable. Frankly, regardless of how she may have acted in the past, most of us don’t want to show up to work and see our partner’s ex (or really anyone with which there is potential for drama). You’re human and it’s understandable that you’re feeling a bit worried.

      It may help to remind yourself that pretty much everyone is different in a work context than they are in a romantic context. Even assuming everything your boyfriend has reported about his relationship is true, that still doesn’t necessarily mean she is going to behave irrationally at work.

      Many, many people (with AND without mental illness) act out-of-character when they’re feeling trapped in bad relationships. Just because she wasn’t the one to end it doesn’t mean she wasn’t experiencing those trapped and confused feelings that may have led to some irrational behavior. What you know of her is just a snippet of who she is.

      Give it some time. If for whatever reason, she does start acting out at work, then you can take steps as you might with a normal coworker who became inappropriate. But I think chances are everything will be fine.

      Reply
    6. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws

      “…considering how he spoke of her.”

      You’re belying yourself. Regardless, you’re ascribing a territoriality and insecurity to her that you seem to display yourself in your letter. It may be your job, but it’s not your space, it’s the company’s, and it’s her workplace as much as it is yours. She hasn’t done anything to warrant a power struggle, but if she had (or if she does in the future), the appropriate response would be to go to HR, not to “make a presence.” Don’t engage her at all. Nothing good can come of that.

      Reply
    7. Observer

      It doesn’t really change the fundamental issue. The bottom line is that your current reaction is not reasonable. This is NOT “your” space, or “your” exclusive workplace. Given that this employer is large and, by your own account, a good place for people in your field, it’s pretty unrealistic to expect her to avoid this employer. As for your dismissing her shyness and being too “bold”, that’s just incredibly out of line. Just because she decided to deal with a problem up front instead of hiding doesn’t negate the possibility that she’s shy. And, maybe she was “bold” – but that’s not necessarily a problem.

      You need to realize that the problem really DOES live in you. She’s clearly not stalking you. If she does start acting up, then you go to HR. But, “I want to make her uncomfortable” speaks to who you are, not to who (yupi think) she is / was.

      Reply
    8. MuseumChick

      Hi DA,

      Thank you for the update. Just my 2 cents:

      I’m in a relationship with a man who has an ex (I have never meet her) who, after they broke up threatened to hurt herself. His response was basically “If you threaten that I am going to call 911.” He did not let her have power over him.

      Here is what we know from the details you provide: 1) The people in his life didn’t like here. 2) He broke up with here be there some period of time where he did not explicit tell her to stop contacting him. 3) She did stop contact him once he made that clear 4) She has medical diagnosis for a condition that if not managed correctly can result in extreme behavior.

      It sounds like her interaction with her when she introduced herself was fine, nothing red-flaggy. Since you are unlikely to have much interaction with her try and put this out of your mind. If she does anything odd/threatening handle it the way you would with any other co-worker.

      Reply
    9. Robin

      Sounds awkward, and I might feel uncomfortable, too. I’d take her introducing herself to you at face value, since from your letter it doesn’t sound like she’s made any further contact. I probably wouldn’t try to be her BFF but no reason not to be civil, or to begin with suspicion.

      I do think it’s concerning that she showed up at his apartment after the breakup, but that by itself isn’t enough to show that she’ll be a problem now (plus, two years is a super-long time and a ton of distance from that context), or that she’s got some agenda with you. You might have your guard up around her, but no reason to think she got this job because of you.

      I would definitely not try to act out your discomfort or do anything to assert your “territory” or whatever. You’re allowed to feel uncomfortable, but you have no reason to act on it. She’s been nothing but polite and it would be really wrong to intentionally try to make her life at work worse…for NO reason, so far. Honestly, that kind of thing is often transparent, too, and could really put your professional reputation at stake. But I’d work privately on what’s making you so uncomfortable about this, try to get that feeling under control so it doesn’t bleed out into your work.

      Reply
    10. Susanne

      OP – it really doesn’t matter whether she was “stable” or not at the time your boyfriend and his friends knew her. The past is past. She is a new coworker at your company; it sounds as though you have little to no business-based reasons to really interact (it’s not like she’s in the cube next to you or working with you on the new Teapot Spout project) – so you should treat her the exact same way you treat any random coworker and not give her any more mental space.

      She may have been a dramatic person, but I think you also exhibit some elements of drama in the words you have chosen to portray this (“my job, my space”) and in the assumption that it was somehow nervy or inappropriate of her to take a job where her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend works.

      Reply
    11. Forrest

      My boyfriend himself did not tell me she was crazy, I stated “I was told she was crazy,” and that was not directly from him.

      He treats everyone respectfully even when they don’t deserve it, which is why I knew this person was an issue considering how he spoke of her.

      Is this a technicality thing? He never actually used the word crazy but he said enough to give you the idea she was crazy?

      Reply
  21. Jesmlet

    The ex-girlfriend sounds like she’s behaving extremely maturely here and you… not quite there yet. This is several years after the fact and she has given you no reason to make you uncomfortable besides just being your boyfriend’s ex. I know it’s not as easy as deciding not to care but if you’re not going to have to interact that often, any thought you put towards her is a choice you’re making to upset yourself, so just… don’t? Eventually you’ll get used to the idea and maybe find out she’s a perfectly normal person who may have reacted poorly to a breakup (because who hasn’t?). Just a reminder that most people won’t gush lovingly about people they’ve broken up with so you’ve heard a very skewed perspective of their relationship, and also, being depressed does not make someone crazy and there is no such thing as Behavioral Personality Disorder so take what your boyfriend is saying with a large tablespoon of salt please and don’t act unkindly toward this woman.

    Reply
    1. McWhadden

      I’m guessing the boyfriend meant borderline personality disorder. Which on the one hand is a real thing. But on the other hand is a very common thing hurled at women with little justification to describe them as crazy.

      Reply
      1. Jesmlet

        Same, that’s what I assumed as well. I’ve heard people throw BPD, bipolar, and schizophrenic diagnoses at people to describe perfectly normal emotional behavior with absolutely no basis in fact which is why whenever I hear it secondhand, I’m extremely skeptical.

        Reply
        1. Temperance

          FWIW, though, most people with BPD will not tell other people about it. I openly talk about my BPD parent because I had to live through her nonsense, and I don’t feel that she deserves privacy. (And if you ask her, her only psychiatric problems were “nerves” due to her “ungrateful children”.)

          I do hope that when someone shares this with you, you’ll at least consider that they’re telling the truth.

          Reply
          1. Jesmlet

            Point taken. Obviously if someone says they themselves have it, I’ll believe them, but I’ve known people to armchair diagnose because they took psych 101 and suddenly see disorders in everyone. This type of behavior is harmful to the community. Obviously circumstances are different if it’s a child vs an ex-partner though. For me, “My mother was abusive, she had borderline personality disorder” has more credulity than, “My ex-girlfriend is crazy, she has borderline personality disorder”.

            Reply
            1. Erin

              + 1 I hate armchair psychologists, it’s a pet peeve of mine. A psychiatric diagnosis is so complicated it can take years to get one and even the professionals can get it wrong frequently. let alone someone to who took one psche class in college who only knows the person through 2nd hand knowledge.
              Also you start telling people that she had borderline personality disorder its not going to end well for you in two ways: 1- it’s not true and it’s slander. 2-it is true and you’re violating some sort of company privacy policy.

              Reply
  22. AnonEMoose

    I understand why you feel weird and awkward about it, OP – it is kind of weird and awkward. But I also agree with those saying that the “crazy ex” thing is a red flag. It’s something people (most often men, in my experience) use to minimize their own poor behavior and paint their partner or former partner’s possibly quite reasonable reaction as somehow over the top or inappropriate.

    That’s not to say that this is what your boyfriend is doing. It’s entirely possible that the ex is or was struggling with mental illness (did you mean Borderline Personality Disorder? Because that is a thing, I believe). You know your boyfriend, I don’t. But do pay attention to how he talks about other exes, and how he reacts if/when you get upset about something.

    In terms of the work stuff, do NOT try to make the ex uncomfortable. It will only negatively impact your own reputation and prospects. If you see or have to interact with her in a work context, be civil and professional. Otherwise, I would simply do your best to ignore her presence and focus on your work. Over time, it will probably start to feel less awkward and weird. Two years is enough time that she could have sought treatment (if she is in fact mentally ill), or could have matured (if what was happening was more of a grieving/immaturity/not handling the breakup well sort of thing). Based on your description of her approach, it sounds like she wants to just move on, and it would reflect well on you to give both of you that opportunity.

    Reply
    1. Trillion

      While I agree OP should just ignore her as best as possible I don’t agree with your assessment that stalking and harassing an ex was just an immature reaction to a breakup. It is not OK behavior to incessantly call or text someone who asked you to be out of their lives.

      Reply
  23. Star

    LW, I completely and 100% get why this is making you anxious. I moved to the same *city* as someone I really didn’t want to see, and for the first few months I felt weird and jumpy as I expected to run into her in random places and having to confront the weirdness. The ex approaching you must have been a shock, though I do think it was pretty mature – it gave you a heads up, addressed the elephant in the room – and I hope that she has moved on and is okay, and eventually your anxiety about this will fade as you go longer with nothing happening. Focus on your work, your colleagues and work friends, and be as professional and pleasant as possible, and you should adjust to this new normal. You’ve had a disruption to your life and the way you thought things were, and hopefully your worry about this will settle.

    Reply
  24. Shoe

    Approaching you in a polite way and naming the potential awkwardness actually seems like a really professional move, and like she has a real interest in just existing normally without any drama.

    I’d say that shows that she didn’t spend two years trying to figure out how to get close to you and sabotage your life by working at the same company. I think it shows she wasn’t going to let a past relationship get in the way of her career when an opportunity showed up. I’d be willing to bet she’s giving the whole situation a lot less mental energy than you are.

    Either way, your only choice is to be professionally friendly to her as you would anyone else. Becoming territorial will really hurt you. It ISN’T your company and your space any more than it is hers.

    Reply
  25. McWhadden

    It may be totally unfair but, honestly, if you do anything to mark your territory or try to bash her to people for not reacting well to what to her was likely an abrupt breakup then YOU will look crazy. Maybe that would be unfair. I’m not remotely saying you are or have done anything wrong. But so far she’s actually handled things maturely and so if you escalate it it will blow back. Hard.

    When the guy who ghosted wrote in he mentioned how crazy his ex acted by calling his friends and relatives. Most people here, looking objectively, pointed out that that is actually a normal reaction when your live-in boyfriend of a couple of years suddenly disappears. My point is not to compare your boyfriend to Ghoster. But to say that sometimes “crazy” looks different when you describe it to other people.

    Reply
  26. Ophelia Bumblesmoop

    I always take “crazy ex” stories with a grain of salt. When I was younger, when a relationship would end, I would freeze out my ex until I had moved on. I simply wasn’t capable of “being friends” and would be very Ice Queen. One ex in particular had seconds thoughts after he broke up with me and kept trying to talk to me. My friends called him crazy, and it culminated with him cornering me when out with the group. Except the group had gone to the dance floor while my male buddy and I sat talking about how much buddy missed his girlfriend, who was traveling for work. Ex saw me with another guy and was really upset, resulting in an absolutely epic “Ten Things I Hate About You” meltdown in the middle of a honky tonk. This is still a cherished memory of my friend group – but they would call him “my crazy ex”. I shut that down – I was too immature to handle the break up well and my ex was upset and simply trying to talk to me.

    But I still tell the story because holy balls, it was a truly epic meltdown.

    Reply
  27. King Friday XIII

    As a man with a genuinely abusive ex, I don’t like how dismissive the tone of most of the comments are so far of the mere possibly that your bf dated someone who was Not Great, but my advice is pretty much the same as Alison’s regardless of whether your bf’s ex had significant problems or not. Maybe she’s gotten treatment for whatever was going on in her head, maybe she and your bf were just not good for one another at all, it doesn’t really matter.

    If she’s there because of some complex revenge plot, she will out herself eventually, and all you can do is be your best self and CYA if necessary in the meantime. If she’s better, then anything you do really will just look petty. And you seem pretty aware that if it’s messing with you, that’s on you – there’s no harm in talking to a professional just to sort out if you’ve got any underlying issues this is bringing up.

    Reply
    1. LQ

      The interesting thing about this is that the advice is 95% the same no matter what the actual situation is. Focus on the actions you should take (go about your work and your life as a polite professional, get help for not caring).

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        Yes. Exactly the advice is the same. IF the ex is going to do something, she will do it, and the OP will be able to act on what she actually DOES, rather than what the OP worries she might do. OP has already written Alison and is self aware enough to realise that Ex is putting OP in a really bad space. Alison’s advice is spot on, whatever ex does.

        Reply
    2. Hc600

      I’d think we’d react differently if OP said her bf described abuse during the relationship, but a woman who doesn’t react well to finding out her boyfriend was lining up a replacement during the relationship by trying to contact him, and stops when he says to leave her alone isn’t abusive.

      Reply
    3. TCO

      Like you said, it doesn’t even really matter whether what OP has heard about this ex is true–even if she was difficult or unstable within the context of that relationship/breakup, OP has no evidence to suggest that the ex is bringing that same personality into her workplace today. Time, setting, and circumstances can all change a person’s behavior, and someone with messy past romantic relationships might still be a completely drama-free and excellent coworker.

      Reply
    4. Lady Phoenix

      I am sorry you were abused.

      We are holding the OP’s word with a grain a salt because, unfortunately, a lot of asshole ex boyfriends used that line to gasslight, demean, and punish previous gorlfriends for not following their oqn abusive or assholish demands.

      It’s just another way this stuff fucks up both men and women because it punishes victims of both genders

      Reply
    5. Violet

      As a daughter of an abusive woman with BPD who left both my father and the man she dated and then was engaged to with a reason to talk about their crazy ex, I too hate how defensive everyone seems to be of this woman, and especially how much debate there is over the BPD and how likely it is to not be true. Regardless, the advice is sound and you remain as calm and professional as possible and treat her the way you would if you didn’t know anything about her. Like this comment here says, if she were to do anything, she’d reveal that side of her plans eventually, and like many have said it’s been enough time that it probably is just coincidence. Your feelings are understandable but you have to act reasonable and relaxed about the situation as much as you can, even if she were to act outside the realm of what’s normal or reasonable or comfortable.

      Reply
    6. Temperance

      I totally get it, King Friday. I have a BPD mother, and, well, I know that BPD is real and there’s nothing “controversial” about her diagnosis (other than the controversy of why no one ever intervened on her, but that’s an aside).

      I also totally understand that there is a misogynist stigma against ~crazy exes, and too often, dudes will label a woman crazy for having feelings or holding them accountable for shit behavior.

      Reply
    7. Observer

      The bottom line, as you say, is that the OP needs to stay professional and not try to make the ex uncomfortable, regardless of the history.

      I’m also not completely sure that the ex didn’t have significant problems, but I think that the OP has invited the dismissive by the way she described the current situation. She’s reacting as though the ex was being out of line, and that merely taking a job at the same employer is somehow stalkerish, despite the fact that the company is large and a good place for people in that field to work. This is just not reasonable. And it does impugn her judgement.

      Reply
      1. Tuxedo Cat

        I agree that it’s partially the OP’s reaction and also that it seems like all her info is secondhand. I’ve known a number of exes (male and female) whose behaviors have been very misconstrued because I was literally there when alleged offenses occur.

        If the boyfriend wrote in, I think there would be a different reaction.

        Reply
    8. Lissa

      Yeah, I kind of agree with you here I think it is a great point that men often call women “crazy” for normal behaviour and it’s possible the BF is really the problem, etc….but that point has been made. And made. I absolutely *hate* doing this normally but I think this is a case where people are absolutely reacting a certain way because of the genders in the letter, which *does* make some degree of sense, because “guy calls exes crazy” is more a thing than other combinations.

      But, I kind of feel like having 80% of the comments making this same point and people arguing with those who see it differently does make it hard to present other possibilities. Regardless, I think the advice is likely good no matter what the actual situation is. And I highly, highly doubt this is her trying to mess with OP/BF. I see the most likely possibility as being two people who were bad for each other in a relationship, and she has likely moved on.

      Reply
  28. hbc

    “I really just want to not care.” Then you need to work really hard at not caring. The way you’re interpreting the situation and the kinds of actions you’re considering are pretty self-destructive. I don’t want to take it too far, but thinking you own something you don’t, trying to make a presence–sounds pretty much like the feelings she was acting on that you think are so crazy.

    So when you see her, repeat to yourself “She has every right to be here.” When you start thinking you need to make a presence, repeat to yourself “My professionalism and work are all the presence I need.” When your mind starts drifting to negative interpretations of her actions, give yourself a mental swat and correct yourself. “No, it wasn’t a power play, it was a respectful thing to do.” “No, she did not come to this training just to mess with me, the topic is relevant to her work.”

    And if she does not quickly stop taking up so much space in your thoughts, you might even consider a counselor to help you through it.

    Reply
    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      This is a great comment.

      Last year, my mom and I were at a huge craft show in a different county and I ran into a girl who was one of my best friends in high school/college until she slept with my boyfriend. I had a moment of “oh my god, are you serious right now?” but then just ignored her and went about my business.

      Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      I want to second the recommendation that if your own “self-talk” isn’t working, that you schedule just a few sessions with a cognitive behavioral therapist or someone specializing in metacognitive therapy.

      Specifically seek out a discipline that helps with ruminative thoughts and anxiety.
      My son was given a form of CBT to help with the anxiety behind his OCD (though I’ve read that CBT isn’t as great with anxiety–though I found it helpful).

      You don’t have to “go into therapy” for long-term, “deep personality change.”

      You ca just regard someone as a mental version of “physical therapy,” where they teach you some exercises, have you do them in the office with coaching, and then send you out on your own, with the option to come back every now and then.

      A coach.

      Reply
    3. Temperance

      I once ran into a dude that I had worked with years ago at the Seattle airport. We worked together in Philly, and he lives in New York.

      Reply
  29. paul

    Your work is not *your* space in the same way your house is. It is your employers space.

    OP, work on not caring. It sounds like they’re a large employer and it wouldn’t be surprising if there’s other 2nd hand connections you may have there (friend’s partners, friend’s ex’s, friends of relatives) there.

    You’re coming across as very hostile to her here.

    Reply
  30. HannahS

    OP, I’m not really clear on what’s making you anxious. I’m also not sure that you’re really clear on what’s making you anxious. You said that this woman used to show up at your boyfriend’s apartment, and that there was one particular “freak”–not sure if you meant she freaked out at him? But anyway, are you worried that she’s going to hurt you? If you have a reason–a good reason, like a previous threat–to worry about it, then yeah, talk to HR.

    But you also say that this job is YOUR job, this space is YOUR space, you’re outraged that she took a job at the same company as her ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend, you want to make her uncomfortable, you don’t like seeing evidence of your boyfriend’s history every day, and…honestly, that’s not OK. Like, it’s really not OK. This is not a sandbox. All parties involved were adults. I get that it’s hard to see someone who made your boyfriend unhappy, but he chose to date her and to stay in that relationship. He is grown man with a romantic history with this woman that ended TWO YEARS ago and it is supremely unreasonable for you to demand that any and all of his ex-girlfriends stay far away from you forever more. She is a woman who got a job in another department at your company. That’s all. She’s probably there because there was a job opening that matched with her skill-set and wanted salary; it has nothing to do with you. You have nothing to be jealous of. Your boyfriend, who we’ve established is an adult, also eventually chose to leave her and date you. And you’re happy together.

    You say yourself that you recognize that this is your problem. That’s good, and you’re right. Your ultimate goal of not caring when you see her is a good one, and that’s what you should work towards.

    Reply
  31. Lady Phoenix

    I always get suspicious of boyfriends that call their exes “crazy”, and it seems especially cruel to call her that when she has legimate mental illnesses.

    I would not see the girlfriend’s approach as anything more but to “clear the air” so that things don’t get awkward

    Reply
  32. Lora

    Add another voice to the pile of people giving side-eye to the “crazy ex” characterization. My ex certainly describes me as crazy but neglects to mention his blowing $35k of my savings account on coke and hookers as a contributing factor to our split…

    Reply
  33. Jaydee

    There are basically two possibilities here (and a dozen more variations on them, of course, but basically two): either ex-gf has gotten a job at the company as part of a master plan to stalk her ex-bf and his new gf and make your lives miserable or she has gotten a job at the company because it is a job and she likes having money and doing that kind of work and you also happen to work there. Either way, your actions should be the same. If you see her, be civil to her. You don’t have to be besties. In fact, it sounds like there is no real reason to interact with her beyond the occasional passing each other in the hall or both going to the vending machine at the same time or whatever. So realistically the only words you will likely ever need to say to her are “Hi, Lucinda” and maybe “Why in the world are there 8 cheese-flavored varieties of chips, 2 barbecue, and only 1 plain one? Who decided on that ratio?!”

    Reply
  34. Tuxedo Cat

    The advice re. the boyfriend is spot-on. My friend’s now husband was in a similar relationship prior to the OP’s boyfriend and started dating him in a similar way. The ex was a huge issue from what my friend experienced. Similar to what was described here, but the ex and my friend never worked at the same place. However, the now husband was not without his faults in the relationship.

    Reply
  35. Falling Diphthong

    “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
    -Rick Blaine, Casablanca

    There’s a reason they didn’t build a movie off of “Of all the large companies in this industry within a reasonable commute of this spot, she walks into the one where the person dating her ex happens to work.”

    Reply
  36. Ramona Flowers

    You’re allowed to feel invaded, but they are your own subjective feelings – you just can’t claim a workplace as your territory.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      Yes, feelings are okay. They might even be the feelings you would rather not have, as you give yourself a nice logical pep talk about the correct emotional response you’re trying to talk your lizard brain into having. What you do about the feelings, actions–those are in your control.

      Reply
  37. Geneva

    Your boyfriend sounds like a narcissist. He portrayed himself as a victim of her “crazy” to place you on a pedestal that you too will fall from eventually. Think about it, before she was crazy he was crazy about her. And I suspect your relationships overlapped which would explain her confusion, hurt and anger. So instead of being self righteous, I would encourage you to find some empathy and realize that her life decisions don’t revolve around yours.

    Reply
    1. Temperance

      Eh, I think this is a little unfair. I participate in a few forums for those with BPD folks in their lives, and it’s incredibly common in romantic relationships for things to be super amazing and awesome and the best ever and then spectacularly blow up. (Side note: I do not recommend these forums unless you’re actively dealing with a pwBPD. They are absolutely not healthy for anyone with a person with BPD to view.)

      Reply
    2. Jaybeetee

      This…seems a bit much from what was actually written. Diagnosing OP’s bf from a brief third-hand account of a bad relationship he was in several years prior is a serious stretch.

      Reply
  38. Tomato Frog

    This comment thread & Alison’s initial framing are making me uncomfortable. I don’t think speculating about how wrong the boyfriend might be in being anxious about an ex’s behavior is kind or necessary to give good or reassuring advice to this OP. You can say “The ex hasn’t given you any reason to be nervous” without getting into speculation about whether or not the boyfriend’s account of his experiences are valid.

    Reply
    1. Malibu Stacey

      Putting aside what the boyfriend did or didn’t tell her, as Alison also pointed out, her boyfriend picked the ex and stayed with her after he became interested in someone else.

      Reply
      1. DA

        Hello Malibu Stacey,

        This is my post and I just wanted to be clear. I said he became interested me because I was told he thought I was pretty… that was it. It was until 3 months after they broke up we even began to speak.

        Thank you.

        Reply
        1. Susanne

          To DA, the OP:

          “This is my post and I just wanted to be clear. I said he became interested me because I was told he thought I was pretty… that was it. It was until 3 months after they broke up we even began to speak.”

          So I want you to think logically and rationally about this. They break up. Maybe she’s “crazy,” maybe she isn’t. Who knows. But the point is — if she really had some kind of master plan that If I Can’t Have Him No One Can, why would she need to actually go get a job at your company? If she had wanted to stalk you, make your life miserable, mess with you, whatever — she could have easily done so without working at the same company. Since she hasn’t, and she’s not bothered you one bit, why are you so quick to think that that’s her agenda? She hasn’t acted it out yet when she could have.

          Maybe you’re just not as important to her life story as you are making her to be in your life story.

          Reply
      2. Tomato Frog

        Which you could say about a lot of people who were in emotionally abusive relationships, as well, but we would call that victim blaming. But everyone here has decided that his relationship wasn’t abusive, so it’s okay to use his not leaving as a point against him? I don’t know, it doesn’t feel great to me.

        Reply
    2. Leatherwings

      Well I do think that the “crazy ex girlfriend” thing is enough of a trope that it’s worth mentioning it’s not typically an accurate portrayal of what happened. It’s specifically a way that men exert power over women; I think pointing that out in a cultural context is pretty useful.

      Reply
      1. Tomato Frog

        Yeah, that certainly pinged my radar, but based on the phrasing in the letter and OP’s subsequent clarifications it doesn’t look he called her his crazy ex.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          Well, Alison can’t respond based on later clarifications. And her basic response is NOT about the BF – nor does she declare that he’s at fault, the ex didn’t have problems etc. Just that it’s something that the LW might want to consider in dealing with her feelings.

          The real issue here is that between how common the “crazy ex” trope is, and the LW’s massive over-reaction, it’s reasonable to push back on it.

          Reply
          1. Tomato Frog

            I get that, but there are ways to push back that don’t involve talking about a dude who went through a harrowing experience in ways that put the blame on him. You can say “people’s post break-up behavior isn’t always the best indicator of how they’ll behave two years out” without making guesses about how wrong the boyfriend was was or how much not-a-victim he was!

            Reply
    3. Falling Diphthong

      Parallel this to secondhand information about a new manager and how terrible they are, from someone who worked with them years back. Sure, a warning might put you on the alert for genuine red flags. But sometimes the Terrible Behavior was more about a mismatch in personality than about the other person actually being evil and terrible and crazy in all of their interactions. If all of the managers actions to date have been banal, you should probably weight that over tales of their secret agenda. Maybe the manager has changed, maybe the outside factors that caused the behavior have changed, maybe it was always just a case of terribly intersecting personalities.

      I think a lot of us have had interactions where someone kept insisting we must HATE so and so because they are impossible to work with, when our own interactions with so and so are boring. For example, I’ve found that with teacher reviews from parents every “Mr X is of course just horrible” will be balanced by someone whose kid loved Mr X and he was her favorite teacher. And vice versa. For a mild version, my daughter’s Wonderful Fourth Grade Teacher was at a different point in her life when she had my next child–she’d married and had two small kids–and I think the extra energy that went into her class 5 years earlier now went to her family. And I was grateful for the mom who said “Mrs Y would not be a good match for my 2nd, but she was good for my 1st and will probably be good for your 1st.” Mrs Y was very strict, which was either a heaven of rules that actually were followed or hell of overrestriction, depending on your 6 year old’s temperament.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        This is a really good point. I had a BFF in college who had this unspoken condition of loyalty that involved hating, on her behalf. Which I’m fine with, if it’s reasonable – a person did something egregious to a loved one, I will gladly wish them into the fires of perdition. But she hated people for petty nonsensical offenses that just didn’t stand up, and I’d gamely try to go with her down this tunnel of outrage, but it was all so manufactured and trifling. It was a good lesson on the limits of loyalty-hating, and being honest to friends even if uncomfortable.

        Reply
  39. Temperance

    LW, my comment is going to be a bit different because I grew up with a BPD parent, and I spent a fair amount of time on internet forums for those who deal with BPDs in their lives. I’m going to take what your dude said at face value here, and give my advice as if she has BPD.

    My advice to you would be to do what’s called “gray rocking”. Maybe she’s gone through DBT and has her shit together now. Maybe her approaching you was a power move. Either way, be polite to her if you bump into her, be boring, and don’t give her a whiff of how anxious she makes you feel. You probably won’t see her that often, and if she starts up drama or manipulating people (or tries to use you to get back at your boyfriend), you will have unimpeachable character.

    Reply
    1. Robin

      Yeah, I had a friend/roommate with BPD and eventually it was lose-lose-lose no matter what way I tried to engage. So I put into practice something I read about called “Medium Chill,” which sounds similar. You’re perfectly civil, and you only ever talk about light, boring things. The idea of drama doesn’t even cross your mind. Any attempts to poke at super-personal stuff, or attempts to get you riled up, are deflected. Honestly, it’s how you’d treat any work acquaintance, with maybe a little more reserve.

      LW, you would basically show the ex-gf, if she’s looking for drama with you (which I don’t see from this letter but who knows), that you’re “no fun.” You won’t be fun to shit-talk, to or about, and if she’s looking for you to fulfill a need, you won’t do that. But I think you’re safer, because her drama was with the bf, right? Never you?

      And if she’s got BPD, assume you will lose if you engage in any of this territorial stuff. This will create drama where there is none, or escalate drama that already exists. And by “lose” I don’t mean this is a competition. I mean that, in my experience, if you are in conflict with a person with BPD, the reality is going to be constantly changing based on their own internal stuff, and that stuff always trumps whatever is going on with you. It’s like you’re playing Go Fish and they’re playing Magic The Gathering. You just don’t even want to go there.

      Reply
  40. OrphanBrown

    A few years ago my now husband’s ex ran into him in my apartment building. Then I started seeing her around every few days. I thought SHE was a crazy stalker but discovered she had moved in with her new partner on the floor above me. So my apartment building was hers too. Sometimes life is full of crazy cooincidences and even if they’re not, we make the best of the situations. I didn’t want to be seeing her every few days, but since she had never done anything to me personally, I learned to let it go and to focus on my relationship with my boyfriend instead. Easier said than done, but that is your only option here unless she does something outright to you. Based on her comments to you I don’t think she will.

    Reply
  41. WeevilWobble

    I’m not sure why her medical diagnosis was relevant. Please don’t mention that to others in real life. It’s cruel and the (controversial and usually inaccurate) diagnosis of BPD has a lot of stigma.

    If my longterm boyfriend was having (at least) an emotional affair and then dumped me for the person he was having an affair with I’d probably want to talk to him about it too.

    She stopped once he blocked her and only showed up once. So, she clearly knows boundaries. And nothing in that behavior suggests she’s a threat.

    Reply
    1. Temperance

      I do think that her diagnosis is relevant to how LW should proceed, but I do agree that LW shouldn’t tell others about it, because it is stigmatizing.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        It’s not really relevant, because grey-rocking, as you describe it, is pretty much what she should be doing regardless of whether the ex has BPD.

        It could be relevant to her emotional state though.

        Reply
      2. Susanne

        “I do think that her diagnosis is relevant to how LW should proceed, but I do agree that LW shouldn’t tell others about it, because it is stigmatizing.”

        Her diagnosis (assuming it’s true, which we don’t know) is only relevant if exGF *engages in actions* that are harmful/threatening/harassing of the OP in the workplace. The list right now? Stands at zero.

        Reply
    2. JB

      +1 and thank you.

      I came on this thread to say that it is so offensive and hurtful to express such fear and anxiety over this woman because you *think* she may suffer from mental illness. Seriously. Please be thoughtful and careful about what you say about other people that you do not know, and please be careful about painting people with mental illness as disruptive, threatening people. It is beyond cruel.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I think we’re going a little overboard on this one. She has fear and anxiety about this woman because she’s heard of unreasonable past behaviors by her. I also don’t think she needs to pretend she doesn’t have that when writing in for advice.

        I agree that her fear and anxiety seems really disproportionate and that it’s worth her thinking about what it might mean to her that she’s so thrown by this, but people with disproportionate anxiety deserve sympathy too.

        Reply
      2. Temperance

        I do not think that’s it’s really “offensive and hurtful” for LW to be wary of interacting with someone who has caused a lot of strife for someone she cares about. She’s only heard very negative things from people who know this woman, and who have interacted with her.

        I also think that it was fine for LW to both express her concerns and explain the reason for them. It’s a fact that one of the symptoms of BPD is instability in relationships, and that can manifest in destructive ways. It’s not “cruel” to state this. It’s not stigmatizing to discuss the very real behaviors of a person with mental illness.

        I’m a victim of a BPD parent, so obviously, I think more awareness of this is always a good thing instead of secret shame/stress.

        Reply
        1. Annabelle

          I’m sorry you were abused. That’s awful and no one should have to go through that. But BPD is a heavily stigmatized and controversial diagnosis. The tone of the LW’s concern and her emphasis on how “crazy” the ex allegedly is is instead stigmatizing and unkind.

          Reply
  42. Liz2

    Act like she’s not there. If work ever does throw you together, be totally polite, never meet with her without a witness and get someone to be copied on all emails. Don’t have any contact with her alone. Brief smiles and nods will likely all you ever need to concern yourself with.

    Reply
    1. Susanne

      ” If work ever does throw you together, be totally polite, never meet with her without a witness and get someone to be copied on all emails. Don’t have any contact with her alone. Brief smiles and nods will likely all you ever need to concern yourself with.”

      That’s really over the top. Until or unless the exGF begins to act “unstable” or harassing, it is not necessary to drag along an unrelated witness or copy unrelated people on emails if the OP and the exGF need to exchange a few emails over the time of the next Teapot Summit.

      Reply
      1. Liz2

        The thing is, by the time it starts happening, it can already be damaging. As noted, it’s unlikely they would ever be put together on work things at all, so if they do then there would easily be other people involved to have copied and go to meetings without any interruption.

        And if nothing ever happens, then just being polite is great.

        I agree with everything that’s been posted on the stigma of BPD, and the cliché of the “Crazy ex” and the releasing of ownership over the workplace. But there are particular manipulators who manage exceedingly well to have two faces in the world and you don’t want to end up entangled.

        Reply
  43. lost academic

    OP, I agree with a lot that’s been said, but this is what had me raise my eyebrows:

    “I cannot understand why out of all the places to work, she chooses her ex-boyfriend’s old job, and where his current girlfriend works. I do work at a decent sized company where a lot of people around my age work, I will give her that. But considering the history??!! Ever since she approached me I feel as though I need to make a presence of some kind. This is MY job, MY space … and now because she has invaded it, I feel so anxious. It was one thing to know she exists and was part of his past, you can put something like that away. But it is another when you have to see it at your job every day. Now I know she is there, I feel I need to make a presence of some kind. I want her to feel as uncomfortable as she has made me, and I hate that I care.”

    This is not an appropriate way to act at work. She works at this company for whatever reasons she has and you should not assume it has anything to do with you. It’s not your company! She didn’t invade it by accepting a job in it. You want her to be as uncomfortable as she has made you? You feel you need to “make a presence”? Just NO. NO.

    You’re literally talking about going out of your way to hurt someone you work with. I think you should talk to someone about how to handle the anxiety, which is 100% understandable, and have it not turn into actions that you can’t take back.

    Reply
    1. Louise

      Right. I find it pretty unlikely that she took this job AT you, so there’s no reason for you to retaliate as if she had. (Even if she did take the job specifically to upset you and bother you and for no other reasons like needing to pay bills or wanting fulfilling employment, you still should not retaliate.)

      Reply
    2. MashaKasha

      Honestly, to me, the most mind-blowing part of OP’s letter was the “This is MY job, MY space… and now… she has invaded it”. Unless you actually own the company, it is not YOUR job. It is a job that you were hired to temporarily perform. Don’t know about OP’s job, but mine is an at-will employment one, so I come into MY job every day knowing that I can be escorted out of MY job with MY things in a box before the day is over, and no one owes me an explanation why. It is not MY space. It is the opposite of my space.

      Reply
  44. Malibu Stacey

    LW, out of curiosity, would you be as bothered about the ex-GF working at your company if you and your BF were no longer together?

    Reply
  45. DA

    Hello everyone,

    This is my post, and while I appreciate your feedback I want to be very clear.

    1) Never did I state that my boyfriend specifically called her crazy. I said “I was warned his ex-girlfriend was crazy,” and that was not by him directly, it was by his family and friends who surrounded him. They did NOT mean it in a bad way, just that she is not a stable person. My boyfriend wouldn’t talk poorly about a fly. He actually is very cordial with his other ex-girlfriends, this one is particular just gave him a hard time.

    2) When I stated Behavioral Personality Disorder, auto correct took the wrong word. It is in fact BPD, which is Borderline Personality Disorder. I only mentioned this because it was why it was so difficult for him to break ties with her in the first place. He was afraid she was going to hurt herself, and couldn’t try to help her anymore. That is not an easy thing to do. I would NEVER disclose or tell or speak of someones mental health in any fashion without it impacting me. However for reasons I care not to share, I know for a fact she indeed does have this. Lots of people are speaking of things they do not know about me. I am not that person who would anything awful like that, it was just part of my story.

    3) When I stated she made me uncomfortable and I want her to feel uncomfortable I did not by ANY MEANS mean that in a hostile way. I was very taken back when she approached me at work, not something I was expecting that day. I was told she had approached his other ex’s in the past in not such a positive fashion, so I was very caught off guard. While I know what she was doing was respectful, it came complete out of the blue and rose all these questions in my head. She began trying to get close with my friends, and I felt like she was trying to take over my personal bubble.

    I am just a girl in a happy relationship who was looking for some advice about a situation that happened to me at work recently. Thank you for your feedback!

    Reply
    1. Aurion

      By “friends” I’m assuming you mean colleagues, right, since she now works at the same company as you?

      Since this person is now also a colleague, it makes perfect sense that she is trying to get close to the people at work–you want to be on friendly terms with your colleagues! (Whether or not they’re friends is another matter entirely, but becoming friendly with everyone is perfectly reasonable.) Unless this person is actively trying to freeze you out at work, sabotage you, or otherwise act inappropriately, she is not “taking over [your] personal bubble”; she’s looking out for her interests in a perfectly professional, mature way, at least so far.

      I mean this gently, but you’re coming off as mildly defensive here, and unless (or until) she does something hostile (generally speaking, not “hostile workplace” in the legal sense) toward you at work, you should simply accept her as another colleague and move on. So far this ex has handled herself with maturity and grace at work, which is the impression you should judge her by since she will only have contact with you at work. You may not want to develop a personal relationship with her, and that’s fine, but for your professional sake, you’d do well to divorce your prior impression of her (largely based on hearsay) and focus on what you do know of her from your own work observations.

      Reply
    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      The bottom line advice that most everyone is giving is to be like Elsa and Let It Go.

      Your framing of her mental illness and being “warned that she is crazy” comes across like you want something to be wrong with her and you are looking for a reason to treat her badly.

      Reply
    3. H.C.

      Thank you for the update and clarification; I would continue being professionally cordial (or coolly polite) towards her, sticking to strictly to work talk if you two are on the same project, work team, etc. If she tries to steer the conversation towards your personal life, have a few scripts on hand to steer it back towards work talk (or excuse yourself from that situation). If she does make you unnecessarily uncomfortable, then escalate with your supervisor and/or HR.

      Reply
      1. H.C.

        on the last part, I mean if she actually did something to make you uncomfortable and continued doing so after you told her to stop (as opposed to just her presence in/around the workplace.)

        Reply
    4. Observer

      What Aurion said.

      Also do you really not realize that your claim that you didn’t mean “I want to make her uncomfortable” in a hostile way is just not believable? That statement is almost the definition of hostility.

      Reply
      1. Tuxedo Cat

        Yeah, I don’t understand how you can deliberately make someone feel uncomfortable and not it be hostile.

        OP, I hope you examine your behaviors around this woman and proceed with caution for your sake. I’ve seen situations where someone is so concerned with another party harming them, that they shoot themselves in the foot.

        Reply
    5. fposte

      Hey, OP, I think this is somebody who’s loomed large in your imagination and that it’s understandable her appearance is pretty startling to you.

      Here’s what I’m thinking as a reader. While predatory people who destroy their exes’ new partners exist, they’re not that common; nothing you’ve described her as doing at your workplace is unreasonable so far, and though you say she’s approached previous ex-BF’s partners has she waited two years to do so?

      But, more importantly, what I’m thinking of is that your reaction isn’t helpful to you whether she’s predatory or not, and I think you know this, hence the comments about hating that you care, etc. I also think that level of reaction is affecting people’s take on your description of the relationship to some extent–since the reaction is so disproportionate and takes you into some inappropriate territory it muddies the waters of your earlier description.

      Which hopefully is useful information for you–your territorial/defensive impulses won’t save you in either case. If she does something bad–and that would be an action that’s bad if it came from any co-worker, not just one with her history–you’ll be better off if you can leave the territoriality out of it when reporting it. If she doesn’t do something bad, you’ll be better off if you can let go of the territoriality because it’s exhausting and misguided. There have been some really good posts like Special k9’s right up top about finding ways to make your peace with her as a co-worker. Good luck!

      Reply
    6. AvonLady Barksdale

      Re: your third point here, I think it’s safe to say that many of us understand that being caught off guard is a very uncomfortable thing. However, the response to being caught off guard in what is essentially a public place is not to try to “get back” at the person who happened to do something you didn’t expect. Wanting her to feel uncomfortable because you felt uncomfortable around her is not a particularly mature approach, even if you think she stood too closely to you. We get it, it doesn’t feel good. But I would advise you to let that go unless something like that happens again. If it’s possible to avoid her and never work with her, then that is acceptable and a natural response to someone who makes you uncomfortable. But if we all walked around wishing discomfort to everyone who made us uncomfortable every time they did so, then we’d have very little energy to lead productive lives.

      Reply
    7. LBK

      Understanding this additional information, here’s my follow up question: what do you believe this changes about the situation? Do you think you should address it differently knowing that the impression of her as “crazy” was validated by others, that she has BPD, that she caught you off guard, etc?

      It’s not clear to me how you would prefer to resolve the issue, aside from making her uncomfortable, which you’ve already acknowledged you shouldn’t do. So what’s your inclination on how to go forward?

      Reply
    8. FYI

      “While I know what she was doing was respectful….”

      But this line totally contradicts what was in your letter. In the letter you said, “This is MY job, MY space… and now because she has invaded it…” It sounds like you are trying to soften what you said in the letter because of the blow-back you are getting here. It also sounds like the “only helpful comment,” according to you, is the ONE comment that maybe sees your point. It can be tough to hear that so many people think you’re wrong, but the unanimity of it might be worth looking at.

      Also, this — from your original letter — makes no sense: “I am frustrated because I know how happy my boyfriend and I are, and I know how UNHAPPY he was with her.” This indicates a good deal of insecurity, sorry.

      Reply
    9. Turtle Candle

      The key thing, I think, is that none of these facts change what you should do. If she’s 1000% sane and everything you understand about her is a total misunderstanding*, you should be polite and professional to her and about her. If she’s colloquially crazy, you should be polite and professional to her and about her. If she has a diagnosable mental illness, you should be polite and professional to her and about her. This is one of those lucky scenarios where it doesn’t even matter.

      Unless she does something clearly threatening to you, your path is, happily, clear; if she does do something threatening to you, the story changes, of course. (Note that I said “threatening to you.” That’s as contrasted with “threatening to your sense of your territory.” The latter is things like ‘why is she talking to MY friends?’ or ‘does she HAVE to sit at this table?’ or ‘okay, so she was invited to this optional meeting, but I bet she came just because she knew I’d be here,’ or etc. Those are not something you can, or should, act upon.)

      As a side note, CBT helped me a great deal with dealing with unhelpful intrusive thoughts like “why does she have to be in MY space?” or “I bet she’s just doing it to make me uncomfortable.” (I’ve been in your shoes before! Although not about an ex.) I’m not trying to diagnose you, but if you find that you can’t shake those feelings, you might try it. A good therapist trained in CBT is a gold mine, but there are some self-led handbooks that are also quite good IME.

      * – as a side note, I think that part of the reason that you’re getting pushback is that those of us who do have diagnosed mental illnesses consider the “I know for a fact they have this diagnosis that they did not disclose to me but someone/something else did, and I am going to treat them like a hand grenade with the pin removed that might blow up in my face” to be sort of our personal nightmares. I know you say you know incontrovertibly through some mechanism that isn’t your boyfriend, and the options for how you could have gotten that info are fairly limited–someone told you, you stumbled upon her medical paperwork, something–but it’s really, truly scary to know that your diagnosis is out there and people are using it as a shorthand for “crazy, bad person.” So, perhaps unfairly to you, that’s bringing up a lot of feelings, I think.

      Reply
      1. Malibu Stacey

        I don’t understand what the big deal is about revealing how she knows the diagnosis for a fact – it’s the internet, none of us knows any of these people.

        Reply
        1. Turtle Candle

          I mean, I don’t even particularly care. I don’t care if the ex has BPD or not. I do sort of care whether her concrete validation of the BPD diagnosis was got in a legitimate way or not, but only in the general sense that I care that peoples’ medical information remains private unless they choose to disclose it (and in the sense that my opinion of the people involved would change if it was got in some way that I’d consider unethical). But it doesn’t matter: the advice remains exactly the same.

          Reply
        2. Forrest

          Because she thinks it’s a big deal to share that diagnosis. She’s had no interaction with this woman for a year and a half and the ex hasn’t even said anything to her in the three weeks after she said one thing to the LW. Frankly, by not sharing it, it just sounds like she’s throwing out the word to make the ex sound more dangerous than she is.

          Also, I personally find it distasteful that even if the ex has BPD that the LW is just throwing it out there. Yea, we don’t know the ex but then why is it cool to share the diagnosis but then keep secret how she knows it? In responses to everyone being all “are you her doctor?”, it feels like “oh, I tots know guys. Can’t say how even though I can state what it is but I tots do.”

          And I’m sure the fact I’m bipolar is playing a part but if someone was using that fact as an automatic negative against me to make themselves look better, I’d be pretty pissed. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy becoming a functional human being – I don’t need someone trying to put me in a box. Nor does anyone else with a mental health illness.

          Reply
          1. Zillah

            I’m bipolar, too, but I think that it’s reaching to fault the OP for sharing a person’s diagnosis paired with absolutely no identifying information with strangers on the internet.

            Reply
            1. Forrest

              I was addressing the “why should she share how she knows?”

              She doesn’t have to share but in that case, it’s perfectly natural to assume she may just be throwing the BPD label out there because it’s a “crazy person” label and it makes her case sound better.

              Reply
    10. palomar

      I’m extremely confused about how you intended for her to feel uncomfortable, but not in a hostile way. How do you make someone feel discomfort in a friendly way?

      It still sounds like you have a lot of work to do on sorting out your emotions, because honestly, what you’re laying out here makes no sense at all.

      Reply
      1. CMF

        Related: all of the people in his life who told the OP the ex-girlfriend was “crazy/unstable” – those kinds of observations are very rarely neutral comments, so how could they mean it in not a bad way?

        Reply
        1. H

          Well, I’m really not sure if this is what the OP meant, but if the ex was actually stalking the bf, and depending on *how* unstable his friends *thought* she was, I could see this coming up in a “hey, heads up” kind of way. I dated someone who did have an ex-girlfriend (just the one, he spoke very highly of the others, which, I agree with the other commenters, is important) who’s behavior during their breakup was concerning (driving drunk to his house, so his roommates had to get her a taxi home, crashing his birthday celebration after seeing it on Facebook, that kind of thing). So when he and I started dating, a friend of his basically said, “hey, there’s this woman Jane, she’s pretty unstable where Jack is concerned, so you should avoid engaging with her if, for whatever reason, you run into her.” It wasn’t meant in a “b****s are crazy” way, just, “this is a person who’s social circle you now share, and you should know this.”
          Now, I have *no* idea if that is what is meant here, it’s just an example of a more legitimate way that this might come up. Of course, you could still argue that they meant it in a “bad” way, but not in a cruel or mocking or belittling way.

          Reply
    11. CMDRBNA

      LW, if in fact this woman does pull some unprofessional or boundary-crossing stuff with you, you need to be sure that your own behavior at work is above reproach.

      Reply
    12. Escapee from Corporate Management

      DA, I am not looking to judge you or your boyfriend–just to give you useful work advice. So here goes:

      1. You are feeling anxious, angry, etc. These negative emotions are almost always harmful when making work decisions (and your situation is a WORK situation). Start by reframing the situation:

      “The issue does not lie with my boyfriend or our relationship, but with his ex-girlfriend.” No, the issue lies with you–it is YOUR reaction to the contact she made with you and her working at your place of employment”

      “This is MY job, MY space.” No, it is not. You own neither the company, your job, nor the workplace. She has as much a right to work there as you do.

      “I cannot understand why out of all the places to work, she chooses her ex-boyfriend’s old job, and where his current girlfriend works. I do work at a decent sized company where a lot of people around my age work, I will give her that.” No, it is not your space to “give” her that. She has a right to earn a living. If you cannot acknowledge that, everything else leads in a bad direction.

      “I just want to go to work without wondering if I’ll see her everywhere I go. I really just want to not care.” Yes, focus on that. The issue is not that she is there. The issue is that you don’t want to deal with this. Now that reframes the situation to be about you, not her.

      2. Act in a way appropriate to the workplace. As you say “I want her to feel as uncomfortable as she has made me, and I hate that I care.” That is completely unprofessional and will only rebound upon you. Note that she has acted in a completely work-appropriate manner. In your words: “She said she was working there now, in another department, but wanted me know she would be around, so it wasn’t ‘weird.'” She was proactive and trying to defuse the situation. You want to make it worse. As a manager, I can assure you that in this situation, YOU would be considered the work problem.

      3. Past dating history is irrelevant in the workspace. Hearsay is even worse. If you tell people she is “crazy” or that “you heard she is crazy” and she is a good, rational employee, you will only make yourself look bad. Even worse, you could get in trouble. If she acts unprofessionally, focus on that. If she harasses your boyfriend or you, then you can complain to HR. But if she doesn’t do any of this–and so far, she has not–then you must learn to deal with this on your own.

      Remember, this is not about the ex. It’s about your reaction to the ex. It may be difficult to manage your reaction, but you must. If you stick with the framing as you outlined it in your letter and follow-up posts, the only person likely to end up getting hurt at work is you.

      Reply
      1. Escapee from Corporate Management

        I want to add one point based on your follow-up post: that your desire for her to be uncomfortable is not “hostile”. What is it then? Put it this way: how would you explain to your management that you want a co-worker to feel uncomfortable? How does it benefit the company? How does it not hurt productivity?

        Remember: most managers see any intentional action to hurt the workplace as hostile.

        Reply
      2. Bagpuss

        I think Escapee from Corporate Management’s comment is spot on. It sets out the work-appropriate and professional way to deal with this.
        Part of the reality of working is that sometimes you will have to work with people whom you don’t personally like, or who you would not chose to spend time with. You need to be able to be polite and professional and not to let your personal views cloud or influence your professional conduct.

        IF the ex has hostile intentions or starts to harass you then at that point, you contact HR and deal with it the same way you would if she had been a total stranger who started working there and then started to harass you. But so far, nothing she has done *to you* or *in the context of your mutual employer* is inappropriate

        Reply
    13. Something Professional

      You’re not coming across as being very mature here, honestly. It’s okay for your boyfriend’s ex to want to be friendly with your friends — they are her coworkers. You don’t own them. They can like you and her at the same time. To think she is just doing this to mess with you after two years in which she hasn’t bothered you at all is a little self-centered. Why not just open your mind to the idea that she might have changed (or not been as bad as you were initially told) and just want to have decent working relationships with you and the other people at your company?

      Reply
  46. Uncertain

    So… I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable with both Alison’s and many commenters responses here.

    I do understand the concerns about dismissing a past girlfriend as “crazy”, particularly how it’s such a gendered way of belittling and potentially gas-lighting people. And I also get that any reference to mental illness will invariably prompt defensive reactions from people (as someone with a bunch of diagnosed issues, I’m liable to do that myself). And for what it’s worth, the ex-gf’s chat with the OP doesn’t sound like a big issue, and OP should probably just wait it out professionally and see how things develop.

    However, there seems to be a real urge to jump on the boyfriend here that troubles me. To go along with a description in the post of the ex’s unwanted contact both by phone, text, and in person (which most would see as harassment), OP has commented BTL about how her bf felt afraid to end the relationship because of his fear his ex would hurt herself. That is an extremely common form of emotional manipulation and abuse, and I don’t think it’s helpful for so many (Alison included) to say things like:

    “Fergus engaged in really unhealthy behavior in a relationship and chose not to take the adult step of ending it when he should have”.

    Given the information we have, I think that’s a pretty shameful thing to say. People (men, women, non-binary, it doesn’t matter) who are in emotionally manipulative relationships are often made to feel extremely guilty about the idea of leaving a relationship, even when it’s in their best interests. We wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) dream of saying “well, the partner who was being beaten was engaging in really unhealthy behaviour and should have done the adult thing of ending it”. I’d have hoped that we’d show more sympathy for the fact that victims of emotional abuse, as much as physical abuse, face immense challenges to change their situation.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Well, for one thing, that info wasn’t in the original letter! The OP supplied it in a follow-up comment here.

      But I do think that the letter comes across as ex-bashing in a way that rings a lot of bells for the way some people talk unfairly about exes simply because they’re exes.

      Reply
      1. Uncertain

        I get that, I really do. But you and many others also completely ignored the stuff in the original letter about the ex gf harassing the bf while he was in a new relationship and instead blamed him for not ending it sooner.

        That’s not great, Alison.

        (Also I may have double posted my original comment, so apologies for that).

        Reply
        1. Tomato Frog

          Plus I’ve seen several comments justifying that harassment. Just because it’s not uncommon post-breakup behavior, doesn’t mean it’s not upsetting and even scary, or deserves to be justified.

          Reply
          1. Trillion

            +1000 just because someone is having difficulty processing that it’s over does not give them the right to stalk, harass or otherwise invade their ex’s life.

            Reply
          2. Zillah

            I’m not sure that many people are justifying what the ex-girlfriend did so much as are trying to put it in context. It doesn’t have to have been okay behavior for the LW to not be in danger in the workplace, and I suspect that the reaction would have been different if the LW was writing in about something that she’d experienced directly. The behavior may been upsetting and/or scary to her boyfriend, but he’s not the one who wrote in.

            Reply
      2. Tomato Frog

        I think you can mention the existence of that bias against women without getting into the victim-blaming classics of “He should’ve left” and “He chose to date her”.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          But it’s true that if you’re in a relationship with someone you’re not into, you should leave. Absent any information about abuse or manipulation (and the original letter didn’t have anything about that), that’s a reasonable conclusion.

          And it’s true that he chose to date her, which is a relevant thing to point out when someone is trashing their current partner’s ex. There was something that drew him to her; she’s not all bad, and if she *is* pretty terrible, then it’s important to understand why he picked her and why he stayed, and what his understanding is of all of that now.

          Reply
          1. Tomato Frog

            But the original letter did mention the post-breakup harassment, and that the boyfriend was apprehensive about what would happen if he blocked the ex. The letter you seem to be answering is “My boyfriend said his ex was crazy, and now she’s in my workplace” but we do have red flags regarding the ex, and more certain ones than we have regarding the boyfriend. This doesn’t preclude your interpretation, but it does make it seem sort of iffy to me.

            Reply
            1. JamieS

              The scenario as presented in the letter was OP and her now boyfriend showed interest in each other while he was dating someone else, he dumps the other girl to be with OP and after the dumping the ex is then referred to as ‘crazy’, and now years later OP wants to take the extreme low road by making the ex as uncomfortable as possible for the crime of having the audacity to work for the same employer as OP.

              I know we’re supposed to take letter writers at their word, and hopefully this isn’t overly unkind towards OP, but when OPs present such a scenario they may as well preface their letter with “take absolutely everything I say with a giant grain of salt” because it reads as someone who views their SO’s exes as the enemy and who wants to start unnecessary drama and strife.

              Not to imply what I said above is this OP’s intent but I think with that context it’s easy to see why some readers aren’t taking the red flags presented in the letter completely at face value.

              Reply
    2. Greg M.

      I feel very similarly and honestly am getting very uncomfortable here. The letter never said he called the ex crazy, she said a mutual friend said he was unhappy. separate thought later “I was warned she was crazy” then later she says what the bf said. people are connecting dots that aren’t there. and there’s a reply later saying that yeah he never called her crazy.

      Reply
    3. DA

      Hello Uncertain,

      Thank you so much for your post. Honestly, it is the only post I have read that has really helped me. My boyfriend wasn’t being a bad person.. he was merely afraid to end the relationship being afraid to might hurt herself. When she approached, I thought back to previous times she had approached his other ex’s in not such a positive fashion, and have felt just completely thrown off ever since. I was merely completely off guard that she is in my personal bubble at work. I did mean any harm by anything I have said.

      Thank you again so much. I appreciate you making this statement.

      Reply
      1. Uncertain

        Hi DA,

        Thank you for this comment. I was originally a bit wary about commenting because I felt like my reaction your post was in the minority, and I’m still totally willing to believe that I’m wrong should more information come out, but I’m glad you found it helpful.

        Reply
      2. LBK

        If this is the only post that’s helped you, did you come here for work advice or for validation of your view on the matter? Because this comment only contains the latter, which might be helpful for making you feel better about the situation but I’m not sure it really gives you any meaningful thoughts on how to proceed.

        Reply
        1. Uncertain

          I’m sorry, am I only validating OP’s view? I suggested that the ex’s approach to OP seemed fine on face value, and that OP should be professional and see how things develop before taking any action. Alison said almost exactly the same thing.

          The only difference in my comment was a query about why the boyfriend was being painted as the bad guy in all this when a) the information we had suggested he was the victim of emotional abuse, and b) he’s mostly incidental to the actual ‘work’ content of the post. If anything, I’m not sure how helpful this speculation about the bf’s actions is in solving a problem over which he has no control.

          Reply
          1. LBK

            If you said almost exactly the same thing in terms of concrete work advice, I’m not sure what it is about your post that the OP found helpful that wasn’t present in all the other comments saying the same thing. That actually confirms to me that she really just wanted validation of her view of the relationship aspect of the situation, since your advice on how to address the situation was pretty much the same as everyone else’s.

            Reply
            1. Uncertain

              Perhaps you’re right LBK, maybe the OP saw in my comment a reflection of the boyfriend that she recognises, rather than as the villain of the piece as others have painted him. Or maybe all this speculation about whether her boyfriend brought his harassment upon himself is actually really useful advice for this workplace situation. Either way, I’m going to bow out here.

              Reply
              1. LBK

                I don’t think people are painting him as a villain, just pointing out that the OP is only getting one side of the story and “crazy” is an absurdly common way for men to dismiss their exes. I don’t think you can stumble on to using such a loaded word without getting some backlash. But either way, the OP’s ultimate question is how she can go forward in this situation and not care so much about the ex being there:

                I just want to go to work without wondering if I’ll see her everywhere I go. I really just want to not care.

                Recognizing that maybe the ex is not as volatile and vindictive as she’s been made out to be and treating her like anyone else until she’s given a reason not to seems like a good way to do that. If this were a week after the harassment had subsided, I think she’d be right to have her hackles up, but it’s been 2 years – I don’t think the OP has reason to be alarmed yet, which I think your comment gives her permission to do by implying that the characterization of the ex as crazy was probably accurate, and at the very least she’s abusive and manipulative.

                Reply
      3. Forrest

        I’m sorry to be picking at your story here but why would this ex approach your boyfriend’s girlfriends prior to her relationship with him? Those would be the only exs she would have approached since you’re the first girlfriend after her right?

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          I think it’s an example of previous unstable behavior from the ex–when she was dating the boyfriend, she would approach his exes and do something drama-filled. Per the boyfriend.

          Reply
  47. LSP

    OP, I am the now wife of a man who had been legitimately attracted to a line of women with actual mental and emotional problems, including one ex who refused to accept that she didn’t still “own” him post break-up, even seven years later after we had started dating. And I had firsthand knowledge of her unhinged-ness, she and I knew each other socially before they had even met. When I first started dating my husband, she was always popping up at social events, and acted really inappropriately with him and other men who had SOs (pushing together her cleavage for them to take photos of, sitting on their laps, etc.)

    Obviously, she had issues, but my main issue was that since my now husband and I were so new as a couple, I felt threatened, like she was more important than I was to him, and that at any minute, she would snap her fingers and he would leave me. However inappropriate her behavior was, I came to realize that fear was completely unfounded. He had been happy to get out of that relationship, had been out of it for seven years before we started dating, and had zero desire to back-track.

    As long as she is not trying to insert herself into your relationship, assume that this was simply a career move for her, and that her coming up to you was simply her way of trying to break the ice. And to echo other commenters, no matter the level of crazy, your issues with her are more reflective of your own insecurities, rather than any threat to your relationship.

    Best of luck. That kind of stuff is never easy.

    Reply
  48. GarlicMicrowaver

    At the risk of sounding harsh, OP is projecting and possibly planting problems that will never bloom. Also, can we all please refrain from using the word “crazy” in the same context of medical terms connoting mental illnesses? Not accusing anyone of anything, but let’s try to be sensitive to that.

    Reply
  49. Bookworm

    Honestly, OP, you sound a wee bit too defensive. Two years can be a long time regarding relationships. Unless there is behavior that warrants the “crazy” it sounds like she was like other person getting a job and ended up knowing someone who happens to work a a large workplace. She might be his ex, she might have some conditions but she’s entitled to a job and earn money and all that, too.

    Do your job and mind your business. Certainly if there’s a development that warrants further action then maybe you should think about what you might have to say or how to proceed if X happens. But otherwise it sounds like you have issues over this that maybe you’re not completely truthful about (or maybe understand yourself).

    Reply
  50. Greg M.

    wow the response letter and the comments here are making me really uncomfortable.

    first off we have first hand description of the ex stalking the boyfriend to at least a small extent. The letter writer did not say her boyfriend called her crazy but that she was warned and we already read that other friends talked to her about the relationship.

    I’m sorry but honestly people stay in bad relationships, people stay in unhappy relationships. We don’t know the specifics. However it doesn’t make someone a bad person to stay in a relationship longer than they should. Further given the Ex’s behaviour at the time I’d wonder if the relationship might have been toxic and/or abusive and honestly people find that hard to leave.

    I’m sorry but in a situation like this I don’t like how everyone is assuming the boyfriend is a bad guy, honestly it’s kind of gross.

    Reply
        1. fposte

          Calling her crazy would have required him to use the actual word “crazy.” Sharing a diagnosis really isn’t the same thing. While we can’t judge the truth from so many removes here, I don’t think exes have to act as if they’re bound by HIPAA about a diagnosis, and that’s different from just saying “My ex was totes crazy.”

          Reply
        2. Greg M.

          no he didn’t. direct quote from the followup from the original poster

          “Never did I state that my boyfriend specifically called her crazy. I said ‘I was warned his ex-girlfriend was crazy,’ and that was not by him directly, it was by his family and friends who surrounded him. They did NOT mean it in a bad way, just that she is not a stable person. My boyfriend wouldn’t talk poorly about a fly. He actually is very cordial with his other ex-girlfriends, this one is particular just gave him a hard time.”

          Reply
            1. Zillah

              Can we please not accuse LWs of lying to us? It’s more likely that there was a miscommunication than the LW intentionally lying, and it doesn’t really help anyone to do the latter.

              Reply
    1. DA

      Hi Greg M.

      This is my post, and again I wanted to thank you as well. People are connecting their own dots here and making assumptions that are not the truth. I never said he called her crazy… I said I was warned she was crazy. While I should have not used that word because it was more so of her being unstable, I did not think people would create their own stories based off of mine.

      Thank you again for your logical, common sense!

      Reply
      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        Thank you again for your logical, common sense!

        Do you realize how much this comment minimizes the experiences of people with mental illness? You are basically gaslighting everyone who commented on this post with this single sentence. People reacted to the way you framed the situation. That doesn’t make us illogical. The points that were brought up by Alison and the majority of the commenters are valid and reasonable based on the information that was initially provided.

        Reply
        1. DA

          Hello Detective Amy Santiago,

          When I said that last sentence it was solely directed to the person who I felt was making sense to my situation. I did not direct the statement to anyone else. I apologize if it came off rude, that was my mistake, but not my intent. This whole situation has completely blown up into a scenario people are creating their own details about. Clearly I did not explain my situation to my best ability. I have got the information I need, thank you for your time.

          Reply
          1. LBK

            Come on. The obvious implication of saying someone is being logical and having common sense is that people who are expressing a differing viewpoint are being illogical/nonsensical. If you don’t want to come off as rude, try not dismissing all the comments that are giving you advice you don’t like.

            Reply
          2. FYI

            I don’t think anyone is creating any alternate scenarios. You clearly stated things like “This is MY job, MY space” that “she has invaded” and “I want to make her as uncomfortable as she has made me.” Those are clear words, in a common language we all share, that you put in your original letter. So, yes, people are responding to that, since you asked for advice.

            No one is making up stories; we’re taking your letter at face value. You sound unreasonable in your original letter, repeatedly, and 99% of commenters are telling you so. (You are then choosing to focus on the two people who see it your way.) Good luck.

            Reply
          3. Pink

            Oh dear. DA, you do not seem to be operating in good faith here. You are not willing or able to engage with the excellent advice you have been offered. You seem to only be seeking validation of your irrational feelings about this woman. This is not a good place to be in. I hope you can overcome your defensiveness and learn something here.

            Reply
      2. Pines

        DA, you seem like a nice person, but you do need to stop assuming that only the comments that agree with you are logical, common sense and that the comments that tell you things you don’t like aren’t. That’s an expressway to a bubble.

        Reply
        1. Temperance

          I would normally agree with this, but I have found, as the child of a BPD parent, that you can’t really discuss your experiences without being shut down due to “furthering stigma”.

          Reply
          1. LBK

            Hmm, I can see where you’re coming from but I think sharing those kinds of experiences in the context of trying to predict the behavior of another person with BPD is probably not helpful. We don’t know anything about the severity of her condition, how far along she is in treatment/how successful it is, etc. I think discussing your experiences in a case like this can suggest the coworker might act the same way, and it validates the OP’s assertion that she should treat the ex as dangerous (unless that’s the point you’re trying to make, in which case carry on, I suppose).

            Reply
            1. Temperance

              That’s totally fair. I can really see your point, but I don’t totally agree. I would hesitate to call anyone with mental health issues “dangerous” for the obvious reasons, but I also see some value in being able to say “this is what you can expect if her symptoms are out of control / if she has a history of X behavior”.

              Not to coworkers or the LW’s boss or anything, but so LW can sort of know what to look for.

              Reply
              1. LBK

                I just think this is wildly unhelpful for the OP – those are pretty big “ifs” that the OP is in no position to judge. Giving her things to “look for” just instills paranoia and gives her license to armchair diagnose based on what doesn’t sound like it will be a particularly unbiased assessment.

                Reply
              2. Observer

                Normally, I would agree with you. But the OP has already gone of the rails in over-interpreting behavior. She implies that the ex was too “bold” and only pretended to be shy. She is indignant the the ex “invaded” “HER space, HER workplace” (the OP was the one who emphasized her ownership of the space and workplace) and claimed that the ex had no business taking with the same employer – a large employer with a large workforce of their demographic, in another department!

                Now, it could be that the ex’s BPD is still not managed and she actually took the job to harass the OP. But taking a job at the same large employer in a different department, after two years of no contact, is hardly a marker of BPD. Yet, the OP is acting as though it is some HUGE over-step. The OP doesn’t need more things to look for to “prove” how horrible the ex is. She needs to be talked off the ledge she has placed herself on.

                This is all true even if the OP (who is a really unreliable narrator here) is right that the ex has BPD and acted really inappropriately in the face of her boyfriend’s totally appropriate manner of breaking up.

                Reply
                1. LBK

                  Exactly – the OP already seems to be looking for any clue that this person will be dangerous, I don’t think she needs encouragement.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago

            I understand where you’re coming from and appreciate how open you always are about your experiences, but I think the BPD diagnosis is a sidenote to this situation and not the crux of the issue.

            Reply
          3. Natalie

            But the LW hasn’t *had* any experiences with the ex, except for this incredibly run of the mill lunchroom interaction. They aren’t having their experiences dismissed, just their assumptions about how the ex might behave which they seem to be basing at least partly on her diagnosis.

            Reply
      3. MommyMD

        Same thing. Nitpicking the delivery and syntax. Warned she was crazy, calling her crazy. Same effect and a thing guys do when they don’t admit to their role in the relationship.

        No reason to act anything but polite at work as she’s done nothing to you.

        Reply
  51. Susanne

    OP, do you not understand that it *doesn’t matter* if she’s “crazy” in the colloquial sense, has a diagnosed mental illness, or was simply very upset over the breakup? None of that matters. The only thing that matters now is her *behavior* in your shared workplace.

    And right now that behavior has been entirely and professionally appropriate. And nothing has happened since then – she hasn’t left dead bunnies on your desk, trash-talked you to colleagues, attempted any interaction with you other than the heads-up in the cafeteria.

    I don’t think this has been mentioned, but I don’t know to what extent your work friends know about this woman, but if I were you, I would NOT make any mention of it or try to “clue them in” behind the scenes. You need just to see her as a new coworker in your company with whom you have limited contact just given the nature of your jobs, and that’s that. End of subject.

    If you do think you will wind up coming across her in the workplace, you also need to come up with whatever mantra works for you to be able to treat her professionally and cordially and to not let your imagination run wild as it’s currently doing.

    I mean, after all, you kind of knew this answer when you wrote in, right? You didn’t really expect Alison to say “You’re justified in making her feel uncomfortable, and here are some tips on how to do so!” You didn’t really expect Alison to say “You’re right, she had no business taking a job at your company; here’s how I suggest you approach HR so they can fire her.” You already know the right answer, internally. Now you just have to operationalize it. Good luck!

    Reply
    1. LBK

      Agreed across the board – unless the OP is still leaving out information about things this woman has done in the 2 years between the breakup and now, none of the clarifications have changed how she should address the situation.

      It honestly feels to me like she wants permission to treat her as dangerous purely because she has BPD, and I don’t agree with that.

      Reply
    2. MommyMD

      I also hope LW reads this. I very much hope she has not trash talked someone who has done nothing wrong to her at work. Many boyfriends label their ex as crazy.

      Reply
  52. Cait

    OP – I can’t help but notice you’re only commenting on comments that agree with you. People are sharing opinions but no one is “against” you. It seems like you’re taking the same “them vs me”, “ex vs me” mentality.

    I get you were uncomfortable and thrown off guard when she approached. But it happened, it wasn’t crazy, it was mature and normal.

    You wanting to stake a claim to your company/office/space… I sense you trying to back track in the comments. Maybe you wrote your letter in an emotional moment but this is a golden opportunity for you to reflect on that gut reaction, take control of if and mentally plan on how you will handle seeing her in the future.

    Above all else, remember you are in a professional setting. Act accordingly.

    Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        Yes. If you vent to your friends, you can expect most of them to tell you that you are right and she is clearly awful. (There’s a warning upthread to be cautious of just that.) If it’s with the barista, you can expect them to say “Mmm. Uh huh. Well” but their opinion of you won’t much matter. Do not vent to people at work–just as you are supposed to be pleasant and capable and low drama there, so are they, and their “Tsk. Hmm” might not mean “ABSOLUTELY!!!” but rather “I’ll be giving a quiet warning to someone about this weird conversation.”

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          Oh, and as with advice elsewhere–the real objective truth of what went down between your SO and his ex doesn’t change this advice. It’s about how you are perceived at work, in the face of a new employee who is currently failing to do anything remotely dramatic. Whether there might be secret drama or not doesn’t matter–what matters is what’s visible to your coworkers.

          Reply
    1. Aurion

      I have the sense that the OP wants us to validate her feelings and she letting her personal feelings leach into her professional ones.

      If this were her personal sphere she’d have more leeway to freeze out the ex since no one is externally mandated to befriend anyone they don’t want to befriend. Freezing the ex out socially would be more tenable, though we can debate whether that’s the correct or nice thing to do.

      But at work? One of the most basic, unwritten part of work is that you are expected to be pleasant, cooperative, and able to work with all of your coworkers absent egregious behaviour. Since the ex has behaved with professional decorum as far as the OP can tell, she has no leg to stand on for freezing her out at work.

      OP, you don’t get to stake your territory at work. You may not want to deal with the ex socially, but you need to behave with the same professional decorum as the ex has no matter what you personally feel about it. Otherwise, you will look bad at work, not her.

      Reply
  53. BePositive

    Please continue as you were behaviorally. Even though your mind is screaming. She came to you and didn’t say anything all that weird and you reacted accordingly. The worst thing is to act paranoid. For what it’s worth I was in a similar situation and we both are on good professional terms as she didn’t give me a reason to react and neither I have it to her

    Reply
  54. dawbs

    From many years ago, someone wise reminded me that “the opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is indifference”

    When navigating relationships with exes and the like, thinking of that as the goal has helped, and knowing that the eventual indifference can be freeing is a weight off.

    Reply
    1. MommyMD

      There’s two sides to every relationship. They may not have been a healthy couple but LW may well be annoyed as well if someone made a play on her boyfriend.

      Reply
    2. Guy Incognito

      Or, you know, the diagnosis the LW heard and then commented on several times in this thread, then said, “the Boyfriend never called her crazy, that was my term”.

      Reply
  55. MommyMD

    Be polite. Keep conversation light. Do not under any circumstances gossip about her or label her as “crazy” to coworkers. Don’t engage with her if you don’t have to but do be courteous if you run into her. Never discuss anything personal. She has as much right to work there as you do. Avoid all drama.

    Reply
  56. LiveAndLetDie

    LW, it sounds to me like you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Your boyfriend’s ex hasn’t done anything out of the ordinary; she’s found a job at a large company that you said yourself is popular with folks in your age group. I HIGHLY doubt she made any thought toward her ex or you while she was looking for a job.

    I would also refrain from being as territorial about the job as you let on in your letter. “This is MY job, MY space … and now because she has invaded it…” she’s not invading your territory by finding a job. She’s developing her career and paying her bills. I know it can be hard to let go of your feelings sometimes when they flare up like this, but it’s exactly what you need to do here. Be professional and treat her like you would treat any other coworker. She’s a lot of things in her life, but “coworker” is the one that matters to you now.

    Reply
  57. Beep

    I just keep thinking about that letter from the guy who jilted a long term gf, blanked her, she wondered if he was dead and then became his boss. I mean, BPD negative behaviour and insecure attachment can absolutely be triggered by actual maltreatment by someone they trusted.

    The OP is the work emotional affair turned girlfriend, no matter how much justified. Every partners worst case scenatio. I therefore think this woman has been incredibly gracious despite her past hurt.

    Not for me to judge but OP you need to seriously reflect on your maturity here. Not everyone in the workplace will see this situation in your terms and you risk proving them right.

    Reply
  58. Clara

    I think a lot of the commenting here is really uncharitable. Alison’s original reply is good, I think, but I believe too much is being made of the word “crazy” in this context. Yes, “crazy ex girlfriend” is very gendered. But it’s also true that sometimes women DO react inappropriately to breakups (just as men do!) and that someone you only know as your significant other’s former partner (and a former partner who may have behaved poorly when the relationship ended, at that) showing up at your workplace is disconcerting. LW should ABSOLUTELY be professional, but that doesn’t mean her initial discomfort OR her boyfriend’s description of his ex in and of themselves mean they’re bad people.
    My significant other was in an emotionally abusive relationship before we got together. He has confided things about his ex’s behavior to me that are really horrible, and I think it would be additionally horrible of me to question those statements because he’s “biased” or he “didn’t leave her”. and it really bothers me to think that there’s no room to acknowledge that the crazy ex gf stereotype can’t and doesn’t coexist with actual problematic behavior on the part of some women.

    Reply
    1. Clara

      ugh, sorry, weirdly phrased final sentence: these things CAN and DO coexist and I think it’s good to acknowledge that.

      Reply
    2. Kathleen

      Yes, they certainly can. There are crazy exes who aren’t actually crazy, but there are crazy exes who definitely are.

      But I think what’s disconcerting many people, including me, is that the OP characterizes the ex as “crazy” but then describes behavior that doesn’t actually sound all that crazy – it just sounds, at least with what’s written here, like some of the unfortunate and awkward things that people do sometimes do when they’re grieving over a relationship. This has the tendency to shift my feelings of sympathy away from the OP and toward the ex. And the other problem is that the OP is saying this stuff about someone who has not, so far at least, done anything wrong at work and in fact hasn’t done anything wrong for a couple of years.

      The OP feels how the OP feels, and she has a right to her feelings. (I mean, would I want to work with my husband’s ex-girlfriend? Of course that wouldn’t be ideal.) But she also needs to recognize when acting on those feelings is irrational and/or a very bad idea professionally. Her behavior to the ex should absolutely be based on how the ex treats her now.

      Reply
      1. Tomato Frog

        But I think what’s disconcerting many people, including me, is that the OP characterizes the ex as “crazy” but then describes behavior that doesn’t actually sound all that crazy – it just sounds, at least with what’s written here, like some of the unfortunate and awkward things that people do sometimes do when they’re grieving over a relationship.

        And that’s what’s disconcerting me, because I think her behavior sounds really alarming! But more to the point it clearly was for the boyfriend. Dismissing that, because we don’t find it alarming, is just another variation of “Oh, it wasn’t that big a deal that she ignored his boundaries. Everyone does it!”

        Your second paragraph can be said without saying anything at all about the boyfriend’s experiences.

        Reply
        1. Kathleen

          I don’t get a “really alarming” vibe, Tomato Frog. I realize that you do, but all the OP cites is “It was a pretty frequent stream of calls and texts, even showing up outside his apartment to get some reaction out of him.” I mean, “pretty frequent calls and texts” could mean just about anything (all day and night? once/day? 3 times/week? And did this happen for months on end or just during the actual time of the breakup? The first would be scary, the second could very well be…well, normal. Or so it seems to me.)

          And I have no idea what “showing up outside his apartment to get some reaction out of him” means. It could mean anything: From scary, stalker-like stuff to stopping by because the BF hasn’t returned her stuff despite repeated requests to loudly singing “he done her wrong”-type songs outside in the street to walking by on her way somewhere else and glancing up at his window. Don’t you think that if something really scary had happened, the OP would have said so?

          And as for ignoring his boundries, the OP indicates that once the BF blocked her, the contact stopped. Sure, chances are that she should have done it sooner (though again, it’s really difficult to tell how egregious the contact was), but…at least the ex modified her behavior.

          And now, at least so far, the ex has done the sensible, mature thing – as far as we know. Of course if she starts acting up, the OP needs to get herself to HR. But she has no grounds for that so far, and unless there are circumstances that she hasn’t confided to AAM, she doesn’t really have any grounds for thinking an escalation is likely.

          Reply
        2. palomar

          But… the behavior as described in the letter isn’t exactly “really alarming”. She tried to make contact with the boyfriend, but stopped when she was finally asked to stop (sounds like she did the opposite of ignoring boundaries, to be frank with you), there was no contact until she got a job at a company where her ex boyfriend’s current girlfriend works, and even then the only contact has been her saying hello and making herself scarce. I’m confused, what about those actions is alarming?

          I found the letter writer to be much more troubling. Two years has gone by with no contact from the ex at all, but the letter writer has held onto such anger about this woman that she’s ready to make the ex’s work life miserable (and hopefully get her to quit? why else would someone want to make someone else uncomfortable at work?) simply because she had the audacity to… apply for and accept a job.

          Reply
          1. Kathleen

            Until she died (far too young), I was involved in a situation the reverse of this one with my husband’s high school girlfriend (?!?). She felt oh, so obviously weird about contact with me, his wife, even though he and I didn’t meet until they’d been broken up a while and – more importantly – even years and years and years after they met and married other people and, in her case, had several children with the guy she married. It was so, so weird. I mean, what possible reason was there for anybody to feel awkward five, 10, 20 years after everybody had moved on?

            But she did, oh, yes she did. She was so uncomfortable that she made everyone around her uncomfortable, too. So weird.

            Reply
          2. Kj

            Yep. The OP is not coming off well here. The Ex did nothing that egregious. If the worst the OP can come up with is the examples cited, the Ex is not the one with the problem.

            Reply
    3. beanie beans

      I think what I keep coming back to is, regardless of the ex and her mental state and the breakup, the best solution going forward is exactly what Alison recommends. Take the high road and try to maintain a respectful professional working relationship. Endlessly analyzing her and the relationship and the breakup are only going to add to the stress.

      Reply
  59. LizB

    OP, I can understand why the ex showing up out of the blue may have thrown you off your game a little bit. It’s understandable to have a “bwuh?!” reaction when someone from the past suddenly makes an appearance in your life, especially someone you’ve heard lots of negative things about. I had a weirdass situation with an ex of mine suddenly contacting me after years (!) of peaceful radio silence to ask me for a job reference (!!!), and it for sure brought up lots of now-is-my-chance-to-get-my-revenge feelings that I’m not proud of.

    That said, while I understand the feelings you’re having, you really should not act on them — which I think you realize already. Whether or not anything you’ve heard about this woman’s past is accurate, a lot can change in two years. So far, she has been totally professional towards you. Coming to work at a large employer, even one where your ex’s new partner works, is a reasonable and fine thing to do. Introducing herself then leaving you alone is a reasonable and fine thing to do. You feeling weird about the whole situation is reasonable and fine. The only aspect that is not reasonable and fine are the things you’re thinking about doing in response to your feelings. I highly recommend a session or two with a counselor (your company may have an EAP that can support you for free) to work through this and get you to a place where you don’t have to think about it. I get where you’re coming from, and I’m glad you wrote in. You can and will rise above this weirdness. Please come back to update us in the future!

    Reply
    1. Trillion

      This is great advice OP!
      I’m hoping what you wrote in about was your knee jerk reaction to someone with a past of harassment surprising you at work. While it’s ok to have that reaction and feel like you need to defend yourself against someone who relentlessly contacted your bf post breakup please do not act on it. Don’t give into paranoia. If she works in a different department just hope you don’t have to work with her. It should minimize your interactions. Hopefully she’s moved on from whatever happened and now you and your boyfriend should too.

      Reply
  60. Amber

    Something similar happened to me, only *I* was the ex! I was working at a restaurant in the town where I went to college, and shortly after I got hired for the “opening team,” I broke off an increasingly toxic relationship of 3 years.

    A few months later, one of my coworkers informed me that a new server was dating my ex. I thought for a week or so about whether I wanted to say anything to her and what, if so … my ex had abusive tendencies and it definitely crossed my mind to “warn” her, but I also was fully aware it was unlikely that she’d take my word as anything but that of a jilted lovair. On the other hand, I didn’t want to pretend that I didn’t know about them because it was a smallish town and the ex and I had been together for a long time by college standards, so I wanted her to feel OK about working with me.

    In the end, I said something very similar to the ex in the LW’s scenario — “Hi there, New Girl! I heard you’re dating Ex…and you probably already know that we used to date, but we weren’t right for each other and broke up several months ago. I’m glad things are going well for you, though!”

    Yeah, it was awkward, and we weren’t ever close friends — but I like to think it made work smoother, and she dumped him after a few weeks (smarter than me!).

    Reply
  61. Michaela

    I generally am pretty sensitive to women being called ‘crazy’ for the crime of existing while having human emotions, or for being upset when men are shitty at them, but I’m still really uncomfortable with AAM’s framing here. His ex exhibited stalking behavior, including *waiting outside his new apartment.* It’s totally reasonable to be freaked out by that.

    It’s also totally reasonable, based on that, to give the BF the benefit of the doubt: “he chose to stay with her” sounds awfully like “if it’s so bad, why doesn’t she just leave?” In other words — maybe the BF is unfair, maybe the ex is being misunderstood, maybe all kinds of things are true. But people willing to stalk their exes are often abusive, and I really don’t like how fast people here are jumping in with victim-blaming narratives.

    I know it’s often an annoying cliche, but I do think this is one of the times where flipping the genders involved would produce a very different reaction.

    Reply
    1. Trillion

      This is a great perspective. I too was uncomfortable with AAM’s response. And the comments… oof! Lately reading through the comments reminds me of villagers grabbing torches and pitchforks and piling on the LWs.

      Reply
    2. Kathleen

      The OP didn’t say the ex was “waiting outside his new apartment.” She said the ex was showed up “outside his apartment to get some reaction out of him.” I don’t know what that means. It could mean something creepy and scary or something mundane and bland or anything in between.

      Reply
    3. TL -

      But part of that reason is that women don’t have the “Oh my boyfriend was just crazy” line to fall back on.

      Also, if the boyfriend had written in, I think Alison’s response would have been very different because the boyfriend is the person with enough information to know whether feelings of discomfort are warranted enough to act upon. A big part of AAM’s answer is the fact that LW hasn’t interacted with Ex, hasn’t heard much beyond an often sexist “crazy ex-girlfriend” narrative, and hasn’t heard anything from Ex in presumably close to 2 years.

      I think if it had been a man writing in about being uncomfortable working with his ex’s male ex, with the same story, Alison’s advice would be fairly similar, honestly.

      Reply
  62. beanie beans

    I keep thinking about how weird it would be for one of my husband’s ex’s to start working at my company. OP, I sympathize with you and understand your shock. I think it might be easier to focus more on the questions the OP came here for and (while they do frame the issue) not get too stuck on the details of the ex and the breakup.

    “I cannot understand why out of all the places to work, she chooses her ex-boyfriend’s old job, and where his current girlfriend works.”

    It’s possible she may not have known you worked there. Or she did and really wanted to work there anyway for career reasons unrelated to you and your boyfriend. She may have moved on from the relationship and is in a place where she can handle this and her career is more important.

    “Ever since she approached me I feel as though I need to make a presence of some kind.”

    I think the best presence you can make is a respectful, professional one. Be confident in YOU and your relationship and try not to take it personal that she got a job there. For all we know she may be uncomfortable about the situation also, and it probably took a lot for her to talk to you, but hopefully now that you both know, you can both maintain a good working environment in the future. Fingers crossed for the best!

    Reply
  63. Stellaaaaa

    I gotta be honest: I simply don’t believe women when they’re crushing on a guy and are SO SURE that the guy doesn’t actually want to be with his current partner. You’ve viewed this woman as your competition from the beginning. You expressed interest in him while you knew he was in a committed relationship with someone else. Just…be honest with yourself about whether you just don’t want her going around telling people why she and the guy really broke up.

    The ex did the right thing. She called out the elephant in the room before it became a problem, and she says she doesn’t want things to be awkward. Would you have wanted her to do something else? Would you have preferred the awkwardness? I think it needs to be said that if you try to tell anyone your version of the story (“He stayed with her even though he was more in love with me, and then he left her for me because he never liked her anyway”) she’s not the one who’s going to look bad. It’s overly defensive. You’re in your late 20s. It’s time to internalize the reality that everyone is someone else’s ex.

    Reply
  64. DoctorateStrange

    I have an anxiety disorder. I sympathize with you on your own anxiousness in regards to this situation. It is definitely not something anyone wants to be part of.

    But that’s the thing you need to remember: the ex-gf probably does not want to be in this situation either.

    I’m sure your boyfriend is a great guy, but I should point out that his friends and family are going to automatically side with him in regards to her out of loyalty. Maybe she was unstable at the time, maybe she wasn’t, but you need to move on from that. She probably has undergone counseling and what-have-you and I do hope you won’t spread anything about the relationship she had with your bf.

    Just move on, especially as she is in a different department from you. Don’t linger. Don’t freak out. Be calm. I’m not saying that you should become friends with her, but you do need to back up and move on from whatever history you have with her.

    As for you being surprised that someone described as “shy” would do such a bold move, well, workplace personas exist. Friends certainly get surprised when they find me more introverted after-hours, along with a dark sense of humor and occasional swearing.

    Reply
  65. a different Vicki

    Addressing the last thing you said:

    I just want to go to work without wondering if I’ll see her everywhere I go. I really just want to not care.

    From that viewpoint, her mental health, or what your boyfriend’s other friends think of her, doesn’t matter. What matters is that she’s there but not on your team, so you’re unlikely to run into her very much. On the slight chance that someone asks the two of you to both be on the team that organizes the annual Llama Costume Party, that’s the time to look for a professional way of saying you’d rather not be thrown into a small group project with this particular coworker. If a coworker invites you to lunch with them “and Boyfriend’s Ex, she’s the new Darjeeling person in the tea blending department,” decline the offer, and if you wind up at the same happy hour, you can stick to ginger ale or leave early.

    For the present situation, someone upthread suggested CBT techniques, which sounds like a good idea since you actively want to change how you’re thinking about this.

    Reply
  66. BTW

    OP I really hate to say it but you’re sounding very petty. It’s not “your” job or “your” space. There is no rule saying she can’t work there. I’m sure she didn’t actively seek out a job there just because it was your bf’s old workplace, or because you work there too. I actually think what she did, approaching you, was really mature of her. She had the decency to say hey, this is who I am. Making her feel uncomfortable is just… well something that reminds me of a bunch of highschool girls. I’m sorry but you need to let this go and more importantly than that…

    You need to not talk about her history with your bf to people at work. Part of me feels like it’s too late for that considering the tone of this letter but let the past be the past. You said he was unhappy with her. You’re happy together. It’s your turn to move on.

    Reply
  67. Struck by Lightning

    OP, if nothing else I hope you take the comments on this post as a serious heads up on how YOU are most likely to be perceived in your office if you do any of the behaviors implied in your letter about making her uncomfortable and unwelcome or, heaven forbid, starting rumors about her mental health.

    If you start undermining her and she does do something at some point (unlikely as that frankly is), you will have provided her the perfect defense of her being the victim & you being the workplace bully out to destroy her just because you’re insecure about her having dated your boyfriend years ago.

    Keep absolutely professional and your mouth shut about what you believe her history to be even with those you consider work friends.

    Reply
    1. Struck by Lightning

      I realized this came off as harsh and I’m not unsympathetic. My spouse of a decade has (present tense) stalker ex girlfriend who is truly mentally ill…in & out of both mental facilities & prison for years. We’ve been forced to change phone numbers several times a year for a decade (want to know what a pain THAT is?) and always have the maximum number of blocks on our lines. We have our social media presence locked down so tight our closets friends can barely find us. It’s been almost 20 years since they dated and she’s STILL obsessed with him. If she somehow started working at my office (not that she could pass the background check), it wouldn’t take long for people to realize she’s off the deep end. Me staying completely professional would make HR’s job infinitely easier & keep the gossip mill from making hay though.

      On the other hand, I’m casual friends still with my ex, whom my entire family & all my friends loathed from day one and have never hesitate to comment how creepy he was to anyone who will listen. He’s a darned good guy (even if we turned out to be totally incompatible on a couple key issues for staying married) but is on the spectrum & can make people uncomfortable without meaning to. Absolutely not a crazy ex anyone needs to worry about.

      Reply
  68. Someone else

    I think the pertinent question to ask yourself, OP, is this:
    When she approached you, was she saying neutral things but in the menacing tone/manner?
    Or was she saying neutral things in a neutral way?

    The words of the exchange came across as fairly professional and diffusing the elephant in the room, but you sound like you felt there was an underlying, if not threat, intentional intimidation? That might be happening because of your previous awareness of who she is and other people’s descriptions of her behaviour. Or might might be because of something she actually said or did. We can’t tell which because we weren’t there.

    If there were something about the interaction itself that were truly unnerving, then you have reason to feel your unease. If it really did seem neutral in the moment, then you should try to let the unease go until future events give reason to feel otherwise. Either way, basically ignore her unless you have a business reason to interact, in which case, interact in a businesslike manner. (I don’t mean literally ignore, if she talks to you acknowledge her existence, but if you don’t have a reason to interact, just, don’t.) If you’re not actively working together, unless she goes out of her way to interact with you, it should be possible for this situation to have zero impact on your normal day to day. Until or unless she does something out of bounds, proceed as though she won’t.

    Reply
  69. Gloucesterina

    Hi OP! A lot of great suggestions here about exploring CBT; I hope you find a good set of strategies for coping with your anxiety. I found learning about mindfulness techniques really useful in coping with anxiety in professional settings. My therapist had me produce a list of things that I value in my work, which I revisit when I need to refocus. I also made my own evolving list of core values and core questions that I hold with respect to my work and add to and change it in periodic check-ins with myself. I also have a document where I list my worries when I’m trying to work and having intrusive/anxious thoughts pop up; somehow putting them on the page helps me acknowledge these feelings without getting consumed in them. It’s definitely a long-term learning process and so I try to remind myself that failing today doesn’t mean failing tomorrow or the next day.

    Reply
  70. Tealeaves

    OP, you’re absolutely in control of one thing: Your own behaviour. Stay calm, professional, and elegant. And now that you have fair warning, you can be cautious about not giving her too much personal information. Go ahead and limit your social interactions with her, but always stay civil. Keep it formal even, if it makes it easier to create a distance. Since you are in different departments, you are less likely to see her every day than you think so. Maybe you’re afraid of bumping into her at the lift lobby, having an awkward elevator ride, or running into her at the cafeteria again. Just keep things as polite as you would with any other stranger. If you don’t give her situation special attention, she won’t have any importance in your life. If she tries to harass you, go to HR.

    Another thing: Don’t keep bringing her up to your friends. She’s gone, done, forgotten! It would just annoy everyone and keep making it a big deal in your life when you can choose not to care. Find something else to focus on. Don’t let her get to you or affect your life.

    Reply
  71. Rosa

    You pursued someone who was already in a relationship and their partner turned out to be “crazy”, gosh how convenient and definitely not something every cheater/emotional cheater says about their wife/girlfriend. I bet she didn’t understand him the way you do either.

    Reply
    1. DA

      Hi Rosa,

      This is my post and I just want to be clear, because you are making up your own scenario here, haha. Never did I ever state either one of us pursued anything… you said that yourself. What I said was, “he was interested in me.” That does not say either one of us pursued anything, it means he told a co-worker he thought I was pretty. That is it. I said “interested” because he was in a dark place in his relationship and thought he saw some light after seeing someone. We did not start talking until after he broke up with said ex-girlfriend. Please do not make up your own story. I am here for your advice, not for judgement based off of false facts. Thank you!

      Reply
  72. Anonnnymouse

    “I was warned his ex-girlfriend is crazy, and in the beginning of our relationship she fully lived up to that expectation. It was a pretty frequent stream of calls and texts, even showing up outside his apartment to get some reaction out of him. My boyfriend told me she did have some underlying issues, depression and Behavioral Personality Disorder, and the best thing he could do was just to ignore it. He finally decided it was time to block her everywhere he could after one particular freak, even though he was nervous what she may do. ”

    The above is abusive behaviour. Not accepting the relationship is over, streams of texts and phone calls, showing up outside his home. “be wary that your boyfriend decided to stay with someone that was crazy” is not really something that should be said regarding someone in an abusive relationship.

    I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this.

    Reply
    1. MashaKasha

      I would not generalize like that. Aside from the fact that contacting one’s partner is fairly normal post-breakup behavior (not something I recommend, just something almost everyone ends up doing…), I found a number of comments on this thread that talk about real experiences with “someone appearing to be a stalker ex, when in reality they were not” very enlightening. Specifically these ones:

      – several men who claimed they were “being harrassed by their stalker ex” when in reality they each owed their respective ex money, in the 4-5 digits, which the ex was trying to get back
      – an ex who moved in with her new partner to an apartment that happened to be in the same building (I’m guessing because she didn’t know? I have no idea where any of my exes live now, except for the father of my children)
      – several women who did not know that they were exes, because the man had not bothered telling them he was done with them, and was already in a new relationship. They thought they were keeping in touch with their boyfriends, unaware of the fact that these men’s new partners (who they had no idea existed) were being told they were being the stalker exes.

      Things are not always as they seem, aren’t they? I would like to thank these commenters for sharing.

      Reply
    2. caryatis

      Not true. There’s nothing inherently abusive about calling, texting or going to someone’s house. We would need to know a lot more about the circumstances–for one thing, as others have said, did she know the relationship was over? You may be labeling her abusive just for calling and visiting someone she thought was her boyfriend.

      Reply
    3. Observer

      The OP is also not a reliable narrator here. Not that I think she’s lying but a number of things don’t add up. In this context, it’s really hard to know what “pretty frequent” means. Is it 10 time a day, and 6 times each night? Or 6 times during the week and twice on Sunday? Given how the OP is overstating the “stakerish” nature of the ex having the temerity of taking a job there, it’s really hard to trust that it really is the former ad not the latter.

      Reply
  73. The Expendable Redshirt

    Let’s say that the Ex really is a loon and up to no good. Your best course of action OP is to be a polite professional. You’re being paid to act civilly to others around you, so please continue to do that. Fortunately, it sounds like your like of work doesn’t overlap much with the Ex. It isn’t likely that you’d run into her that much. Sometimes we have to work with people that we don’t like much. And it’s understandable that working with your partner’s Ex is not a particularly appealing idea. You can feel whatever emotions are experienced in this situation. But you need to be a fantastic human and treat your boyfriend’s Ex (now your coworker) professionally. This serves you well in two ways. 1) If she also acts like a professional, you maintain the reputation of a professional. 2) If she becomes a Super Loon at work, you maintain the reputation of a professional. It’s truly in your best interest to behave impeccably around your new coworker.

    Reply
  74. Anon for this one

    My ex “diagnosed” me with BPD. He also cost me three years of my career and cheated on me with IV drug users he had just met. I thought I understood crazy making behavior before him – I had a very similar abusive parent – but this was something else. I lost friends, I lost years off my life, I lost basically everything and he told me it was all my fault because I was so crazy. I fantasized about suicide every day for three years and self harmed daily.

    He has been out of my life for two years now and strangely enough, I’m doing great professionally and I am not suicidal anymore nor am I self harming. Almost like the problem was the situation and not me.

    Don’t let your relationship be more important than your critical thinking skills.

    Reply
    1. DoctorateStrange

      I am so sorry for the pain you went through and I am glad you are doing so much better. I hope your ex gets eaten by a gator. Slowly.

      Reply
  75. K-Ann

    I agree with all other comments that the ex-girlfriend handled this situation well. Based on the tone of the story I was expecting her to approach and utter some sort of threat. But what she did is, from my perspective, what any mature and reasonable person would (and, probably, should) do.

    I also want to share that I can sympathize a bit with the ex-girlfriend here, because I once found myself in a situation that is not dissimilar. Maybe my story will lend some perspective. Ages ago, when I was a senior in high school, I was in a relationship with a boy, we will call him Ted. Ted had a friend named John, and I had become friends with John through Ted. John developed feelings for me, and when he told me this, I explained that I did not feel the same way and would not end my relationship with Ted. John did not take this well. Fast forward a couple years to when I’m in college, and I got a summer job with a large employer in town. Ted and I were no longer together, and John and I hadn’t spoken since the incident. I was hired into a department with two other girls who happened to know John. Apparently John was significantly more hurt than I ever knew, because he started several hurtful and untrue rumors about me, and these two girls had heard the rumours. I came into this department known (unfavorably) to two of my new coworkers even though I had never met them before. They initially did not welcome me into the team, and I felt ostracized, but I had no idea why. It was a terrible feeling. Over time, my coworkers realized I was a decent person, and opened up to me about why they treated me the way they did at first, and they explained that they felt badly and regretted the way they treated me. I’m now friends with both of them, and have been for the past 10 years.

    Reply
  76. zaracat

    OP, I agree with the other commenters that a one-off contact on neutral ground to explain her presence so you don’t think she actually *is* a stalker for popping up unexpectedly at a workplace you now happen to have in common is perfectly reasonable. Any future problems can be dealt with when and *if* they arise, and this should be handled on the basis of the specific behaviour and not any mental health problem which may or may not underlie it.

    I know you’ve added several comments which make it clear that the ex-GF did behave in ways which made you upset or uncomfortable at the time, and that to the best of your knowledge the mental health diagnostic labels you are using have been given by metal health professionals and are not being used solely as slurs.

    All of that can be true and it still not be okay for you to frame her as the “crazy ex-GF”.

    As many of the commenters have also pointed out, some of the behaviours you’ve described are common even if no mental problems are involved. People often behave in less than stellar ways when they are under stress.

    Mental health problems can make it much more difficult to cope with life stresses such as relationships ending, and under those circumstances the behaviour involved may be even more extreme. But there is a big difference between behaviour which is in some way dangerous or overtly threatening to other people – such as property damage or threats/harm to those people – and behaviour which is only a threat to the person involved eg threats of self harm. There is also a difference between choosing to frame that behaviour as manipulative, and seeing it as an expression of severe emotional distress which the person does not have a more healthy means of expressing.

    I do not have BPD, but I have other mental health problems and the combination of that and an adverse reaction to prescribed medication led to my attempting suicide in the context of a serious relationship breakdown. I did not do it to “punish” or manipulate my (now ex) husband. I did it because right at that moment it felt as if my entire world had been destroyed and there was no point in living.

    BPD is an incredibly stigmatising diagnosis. It is a term which is often misapplied and/or used pejoratively even by mental health professionals for anyone (but especially women) perceived as unpleasant or difficult to treat. The reality is that BPD is frequently the result of early life emotional trauma, leading to an INVOLUNTARY inability to regulate intense emotions. It also causes extreme sensitivity to anything which is perceived as rejection or abandonment. In the light of this, any action by OP which leads to the ex-GF being looked down on or excluded in their workplace (such as discussing her or her diagnosis with others) would be counterproductive and really quite cruel. People with mental health problems face a huge amount of prejudice in the workplace already. Please don’t add to it.

    OP, please make the effort to interact with ex-GF ONLY on the basis of her actual behaviour in the here and now. Do not discuss her past or her mental health conditions or anything else, behind her back. Take responsibility for managing your own reactions to people and circumstances in the same way as you are expecting of her, and try to treat her with the same compassion and kindness with which you would hope to be treated yourself.

    Reply
  77. I'm a figment of my own imagination

    LW – look at the loaded language you use in your letter. You’ve made his ex the bad guy in everything and now she’s popped up and seems normal instead of being happy about it your first instinct is to want to mark your territory against her.

    to describe the ex and their relationship
    – She’’s crazy, my boyfriend told me she did have some underlying issues, depression and Behavioral Personality Disorder.
    – He was in a dead-end relationship he didn’t know how to get out of. Eventually he dumped her. Wow – they couldn’t just be wrong for each other and break up … no –it was dead end … he had to dump her

    to describe your relationship:
    – we started dating. We have been in a happy relationship ever since!

    If you’re that happy and in such a wonderful relationship why do you care about the ex – the best revenge is a life lived well – that’s what she appears to be doing – so leave her to it and get back to your own life. If you see her in the corridor at work say hello and keep moving.

    Reply

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