update: my stalkerish ex-boyfriend is applying for a job at my company

Remember the reader whose stalkerish ex-boyfriend was applying for a job at her small company, after she’d repeatedly told him to stop contacting her? Here’s her update.

Things went REALLY well and went really great! Thank you SO MUCH for your help.

What I was so nervous about coming forward about — what I had perceived as something that would be considered to be a “tough call” or too minor to bring up to an employer — received the same swift and decisive response one might give a bomb threat (sorry if that sounds bad, but)…

I probably started a little too passive or apologetic with, “This might sound weird, and I’m not sure what to do, but my ex-boyfriend is applying …” and I was cut off almost right there, halfway through my sentence, with, “OK, I’ll let HR know, and I’ll make sure they take care of this. We don’t want to deal with that here. This will be stopped.” The conversation wasn’t longer than 15 seconds.

They still held the interview (he came from out of town) but needless to say he didn’t get the job. Of course, he told me all about this.

I have since been promoted (this happened shortly thereafter).

I did employ the silent/nonresponsive method for a month or so after I was told to do so. I may have at some point told him how it made me feel and that he needed to back off. He still texts me and I gradually began responding back, but he seems to accept the fact and move on. At any rate, I successfully established a boundary with him, and I am thankful for having your advice that gave me the courage and confidence to do that.

{ 47 comments… read them below }

  1. BookWorm*

    I’m glad it worked out for you. But, it might not be a good idea to respond to any of his attempts to contact you. PLEASE read The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker.

    1. Daria*

      The Gift of Fear is excellent! Stop responding to his texts. When you ignore him for a month, and then respond, you are teaching him that it takes x number of texts before you will respond. Practice Dead to You. He is no longer a part of your life. Don’t let him weasel in. You owe him nothing.

      1. Arbynka*

        “When you ignore him for a month, and then respond, you are teaching him that it takes x number of texts before you will respond”

        This. Thousand times. He might have moved on and is respecting your boundaries and that would be great. Or he might be “conditioning” you. I agree with others that you should just stop answering to him.

        1. Jessa*

          This exactly, it’s like a kid who screams for 20 minutes and the parent gives in. This just teaches that if you scream for 20 minutes or more you will get what you want.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      100% agree.

      Don’t respond to him because in his mind, that can encourage further contact and that you wish to continue corresponding with him.

      1. Arbynka*

        Yes. In his mind he might be thinking “well, I got her to talk to me again, I can get her to date me again. “

        1. voluptuousfire*

          To quote Dan Savage, DTMFA. (Dump the Mother F@#$%^ Already!)

          “Establishing boundaries?” Forget that. Call your mobile company and block his number. Better yet, change yours. Do not engage him.

  2. evilintraining*

    Seriously, don’t respond to his texts. It’s like telling someone like him that the door is still open. You gave him a clear directive not to contact you any more, and he didn’t abide by it. Even though he hasn’t done anything violent and the texts slowed down, that’s a huge red flag. I’m glad your company took the possibility of trouble seriously; you need to do the same.

  3. Seen it happen*

    I have to join in with the people saying please don’t respond to your ex’s texts. The boundary you’ve set is “if you keep pushing, eventually I will continue to engage with you”.

    I’m glad that your company took this situation seriously – because it is serious, and remains serious. Please take their concern to heart, and do the same. :(

  4. andy*

    Do Not Engage! I +1 the person who said it’s teaching him that it takes x number of texts before you respond. Pretty soon he will send x texts in 1 night.

  5. Jamie*

    I’m a little nonplussed they had that reaction before you finished your sentence.

    What if you were giving them a heads up that he’s applying and he’s awesome …just being an ex in and of itself shouldn’t send up those kind of red flags.

    Most of us have exs and are exs – it’s doesn’t mean we should all be on high alert.

    1. Cat*

      I imagine there were pretty overwhelming tonal clues as to what she was requesting and how uncomfortable she felt about it.

      1. Elizabeth*

        Yes – while the words themselves could go either way, facial expression & body language could immediately make it obvious that the OP was not there to put in a good word for the ex.

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            Yes, I can imagine being more nervous about informing your boss of something like this.

        1. some1*

          But embarrassment/discomfort could also come from “My ex applied for a job here…& we are best friends now. What can I do to get him fastracked?/How do I help him get hired”

          1. JamieG*

            I think that most people wouldn’t refer to someone initially as their ex if they were trying to present them in a positive light like that.

              1. Cat*

                Well, to be honest, I wouldn’t be keen on hiring the ex of an employee if the employee was trying to get them back either.

    1. Elizabeth*

      “you don’t owe him anything!!!!”

      Exactly what I wanted to say, too. OP, you aren’t obligated to continue to have any kind of relationship with your ex, even a “we occasionally text” relationship. There are people we have to interact with and be nice to by social or business contract (coworkers, customers, the cashier at the grocery store, your kid’s teacher), but it sounds like you never see your ex in person. It isn’t rude to say “I’m not going to text with you anymore” and hold to that. It doesn’t mean you didn’t once have something special with him – but that time of your life is over, and you’re allowed to leave it in the past even if he doesn’t want to.

  6. Concerned*

    I agree with these comments as well. Any response you give him gives him the notion that if he does A, he will get a response. Please block his guy’s number. And don’t be afraid to go to the police. If he continues to contact you, they can either contact him and/or file a report to inform him that he has to back off.

    1. Anon*

      That doesn’t work, and can lead to much more trouble. Please read The Gift of Fear as mentioned above and do not take this step.

  7. LD*

    So glad you had the courage to talk to your manager and that your company handled it so well! And I agree with all the commenters who are saying “Stop responding.” Cut off all communication. Block his number and texts. You cannot assume things are ok with someone who continues to ignore your efforts to break off the relationship. Please read The Gift of Fear. It will help you with perspective on people who don’t respect your boundaries. Stay safe. And congratulations on your promotion!

  8. LizNYC*

    I’m glad he got shut down with applying to your company, but I’m joining the chorus for PLEASE don’t respond to him! If you haven’t already, change his name in your phone to DO NOT REPLY in all caps. That way, when he texts, you’ll have that immediate reminder to not respond (that is, if your phone company can’t block his number — I know he can get another one number, but it’s a temporary deterrent at least. And don’t respond to random texts from numbers you don’t know. It’s about protecting YOURSELF and YOUR SAFETY.) You’re not hurting his feelings. You’re taking care of yourself, which is the most important thing you can do.

    1. voluptuousfire*

      Very good idea! This ex is not taking your feelings into consideration. If he did, he wouldn’t text you anymore!

  9. A Teacher*

    STOP responding to his texts! You are teaching him how to treat you and now you’re saying its okay for him to talk to you again.

  10. PPK*

    In addition to the advice to ignore and change his name — if you haven’t already, swap his number to be silent on phone and text. No sounds, no buzz. On my iphone I had to download a silent ring tone (really Apple, can’t have that by default?) but I love it for my ever growing Spam number list (I add all dodgy numbers to a contact called “Spam”). Yeah, when you look at your phone you’ll find the missed calls, but it doesn’t interrupt you anymore.

    If you have Verizon, I know that you can block 5 numbers. You have to log into the verizon website and enter the numbers by hand.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Yup! and you have to re-block them every few months, last I checked. But it’s a MASSIVE improvement over the “well you’ll need to file a police report or change your number” response I got from Verizon when I was harassed by an ex back in 2007.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        (And I HAD called my local police but they couldn’t do anything. I needed to call the cops where he was, and I didn’t know what city he was living in by that point.)

      1. Bea W*

        You can do this on Android too. I must have a half dozen blocked from the same person. I suppose at some point he stopped wasting money on burner phones.

    1. Daria*

      Companies do it all the time. I’ve been in several jobs where we KNEW we were going to hire someone internal, but still had to go through the motions of having a job search anyway, including interviewing several non internal candidates.

  11. themmases*

    I have had a couple of ex boyfriends like this, OP, and I totally sympathize. At first, I responded to them out of a naive attempt to “stay friends”, as though our acrimonious relationship could somehow reflect poorly on me no matter the cause. I let them blame me for how upset they were about being dumped, and guilt me into maintaining contact even when I didn’t want to. Even after I started to see how inappropriate they both were, it was like picking a scab if they contacted me. I wanted to win our argument, make them feel bad, and generally punish them for continuing to contact me. The only thing that worked was blocking them.

    If you have a smartphone, there are tons of apps out there that will block calls and texts for you– either sending that person to voicemail or just answering and hanging up, automatically. Many of these let you turn off notifications so you don’t even have to know about all the calls you’re avoiding. Even if you don’t, you can always add him to an “ignore” contact in your phone that never rings– not great, but it’s better than nothing. If you don’t want to mark his messages as spam, Gmail and Outlook (and probably other email interfaces too, but those are really common and are the ones I use) both allow you to set up rules and move certain messages directly to a folder other than your inbox. You can even mark those messages as read automatically, or turn off message counts for that folder, so you never have to know that a new unwanted message has arrived there.

    Since your ex has escalated to trying to work in your office, you might also want to seriously think about changing your contact information completely. Unstable people like your ex can get angry and escalate even more when you finally cut off contact. Get a new email address, send a message to people you trust (rather than an auto-reply that he could get too) that your address is changing, and forward everyone’s email but his to your new address for a few weeks. Anyone who doesn’t update their contacts themselves will still get your new email saved when you reply to one of their forwarded messages. Contact from my exes slowed down a lot when I graduated and they knew there was no longer any point in writing to my school address. Pre-emptively block him on Facebook and other social media, and if you tend to use the same username to comment lots of places, start using a new one now (true story: that’s why I have to use the “themmases” handle I use today).

    Stay safe, OP! Your story is completely believable and important, and you deserve to be safe from harassment.

  12. Jessica*

    This is your life and I don’t have any right to tell you how to live it, but based on your words “I MAY HAVE at some point told him how it made me feel and that he needed to back off”, and the fact that you started texting with him again, it doesn’t sound like you really set a strong boundary. I had a habit– which it sounds like you have– of phrasing things people don’t want to hear in a less confrontational way (e.g. “Let’s not talk about this right now” rather than “Don’t bring this up ever again”). All that does is give them a plausible opening to raise the issue again.

  13. Cantebridgean*

    You’re getting a lot of really good advice about blocking the texts, OP, so let me just make the same point in a different way. If I were your boss and learned that the person I hadn’t hired out of concern for your well-being was someone with whom you’re still texting sometimes? I’d be . . . puzzled.

    If it’s serious enough to involve your boss (and it sounds like it is!), then it’s serious enough to cut off contact.

  14. WFBP*

    Along with Cantebridgean, I think you should look at it a different way as well. I bet you feel pretty bad, or like you’re not being nice, or maybe it’s a challenge and you let yourself get sucked into it. So, let’s treat him like he’s a dog. No, really. Dogs are thrilled to see you, they are glad you’re home, etc etc.

    So let’s pretend you have a dog you don’t want on your couch. The dog jumps up, you say ‘no honey, don’t get on the couch’ because you want to be nice. Dog does what he wants to do. Then you escalate ‘NO! Do NOT get on the couch!’ The dog might listen for a little bit, but he’ll sneak up there when you’re not paying attention. Before you know it, the dog gets on the couch all the time and guess what? Your couch is ruined. You never really noticed it, because you were too busy thinking it’s normal for dogs to get on the couch and you want to be nice to your dog. This is confusing to the dog.

    So, think of this guy like a dog. He’s taking advantage of your inability to stand firm (I don’t know, is it niceness? Laziness? A mental game you play with yourself? What?) and is impacting your life in a negative way. Sack up and quit engaging! Tell the dog to stay off the couch, MEAN IT, and go enjoy your life.

    Seriously. This is troubling you cannot seem to stand up for yourself, and you allow someone else so much control over you. Why are you allowing someone to do something to you that you don’t like? Think of him poking you with a sharp stick every time he contacts you, because that’s what happens to your mind.

    I don’t know, listen to Katy Perry’s ROAR or something and stand firm! Employ all the tricks the people on this blog have shared and take back your life! This guy, no matter how ‘nice’ you’ve made him out to be in your mind, does not deserve a place in your life if you don’t want him there. He will creep back slowly and you won’t notice how bad it’s gotten. Cut the cord. Throw this fish back. Give him what he needs to move on with HIS life – silence! Whatever. Just do it and go have fun!

    1. WFBP*

      Oh, and the word insidious applies here. Stop letting his mental problems affect your life.

      1. intended to entrap or beguile: an insidious plan.
      2. stealthily treacherous or deceitful: an insidious enemy.
      3. operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect: an insidious disease.

      This guy is an insidious disease. Cut him out of your life.

  15. Elizabeth West*

    +1 for:

    –The Gift of Fear (seriously, de Becker should give us all autographed, updated copies for how much we endorse his book)
    –Cutting off ALL contact
    –Your awesome boss.

  16. So Very Anonymous*

    I love the love for Gift of Fear on this blog. It’s a great sign that people here understand that boundary-setting is important across the board (personally and professionally).

  17. Working Girl*

    You did the right thing going forward to tell your boss, congrats. What an awful situation that could have been. Congrats on the promotion too! Here is some advise I received from a guy that works – he said if you want to get rid of a stalker boyfriend just simply tell him “I’m not interested in you” just plain and simple- it has worked for me when I had have to use it. Then, do not read any messages from him, do not take his calls – ever, block him if he persist so you have no temptation. Remember you are not interested in him. Otherwise, you are giving him conflicting messages so to him you are reading hot and cold like you are teasing him and want him to continue. Not to say you are, just that he may think it.

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