Auntie SparkNotes: Should I Warn Other Girls About My Abusive Ex?
I dated a guy for a period of four months, but broke it off after a friend informed me (correctly, as confirmed by two psychologists) that he was abusing me emotionally, sexually, and physically. Even though he hurt me badly, he is a very charming person who is well-liked by others. But I know better. I know just how capable he is of hurting someone in more ways than one (I still struggle with the trauma of our relationship, nearly two years later).
My question is, if and when he gets a girlfriend and goes public about it (I'm talking, like, Facebook official or something), do I have an obligation to warn her? What do I tell her? Do I just sum it up and say, "Hey, my therapists informed me that the guy you are currently dating is an abuser with a possible personality disorder. I have proof and witnesses to the lingering trauma he has inflicted on me. He ruined a year of my life even though we were only together for four months. I just wanted to let you know. Best of luck"? How does one go about this?
Everybody grab a juicebox and take a seat on the storytime rug, because before we go any further, I'm going to tell you guys a story.
It goes like this: About a hundred years ago, when Auntie was graduating from high school, I got back together with the guy I'd dated on and off since freshman year. And though my boyfriend had been a nice enough guy the first time around, this time around, he was a nightmare: controlling, manipulative, jealous, cruel, and an expert gaslighter. Even after he dumped me, he continued to harass and torment me for more than a year afterward: playing with my emotions, undermining my attempts to move on, stalking me at my college, sending vitriolic emails telling me that nobody would ever love me the way he did. And even though I eventually cut off contact with him, nobody understood why I wanted to, because—like so many abusive people—one of his great talents was convincing everyone else that he was the nicest guy in the world.
This is, needless to say, not a very nice story. But I'm telling it to you, darling Sparkler, because I want you to know that I get it. Okay? I get it. I know how infuriating it is that someone can waltz into your life, inflict the sort of awful wounds that take years to fully heal, and then waltz back out unscathed while you're left sitting there covered in scabs and scars. I know what it's like to wish you could tattoo the word "DOUCHEBAG" on the dude's forehead while he sleeps, because some people should come with a warning label.
And since I know all that, I hope you'll believe me when I tell you that everything you're feeling, every last ounce of resentment and anger, is all the more reason why the only thing you should say to your ex's hypothetical future girlfriends is…nothing.
It's not just that they won't listen to you—although they won't, for the record. The realization that your boyfriend is a bastard can only be reached through direct, personal, painful experience; you have to live it to learn it, and anything you say will just sound to them like the sour grapes of a vengeful ex-girlfriend. Even your own history speaks to this: a caring friend was able to help you see your way out of the relationship, but only once you were in it. You wouldn't ever have known how bad the apple was without biting into it first.
But, more importantly, the fact that you're even thinking about this says that this guy is still taking up way too much room in your head—and to involve yourself in his life would just be to give him even more power over yours. And while you don't have an obligation to whoever he might date next, you do have an obligation to yourself. You need to come first, sweetheart. Your independence. Your happiness. Your mental health. Every day you spend dwelling on your desire to rip off his sheepskin so that everyone can see the wolf underneath is a day that you aren't taking care of yourself.
Now is the time to take all your energy, all your anger, and let it carry you beyond this. Talk through it with your therapist. Distract yourself from it with fulfilling hobbies, good books, great conversations with friends who make you feel full of interesting ideas. Remove from your life anything (including your Facebook connection with your ex) that doesn't serve your journey forward. When you feel yourself getting all clench-fisted over what your ex might be up to, make the conscious choice to unclench and think of something else.
And through all of this, you can look forward: not to the day when your ex's terrible behavior finally catches up to him in the form of a reputation for douchebaggery that he can't shake, but to the day, months later, when you hear about it secondhand—because that's how small, powerless, and unimportant he'll be to you one day.
Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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