The Lower Brain: Stop Feeding The Drama

After divorcing late last summer, I started in on the mysterious world of dating apps. Early this year, I matched with a beautiful, smart woman who turned out to be suicidally depressed. Sometimes it was wonderful; sometimes it was awful. We dated for four months and she talked about suicide all the time. Finally, I couldn’t do it anymore. We parted amicably.

A few weeks later, I checked her social media. I know that’s a stupid thing to do with an ex. Anyway, I got to a series of screenshots of texts with her friend. I’ve never met this friend, but she was telling my ex how happy she was that we’d broken up. I was mad because I thought we had a sweet little detente but she was firing shots over the border. I called my ex out on it, and she got very upset with me and still is. She still has some shit stored at my house and has to communicate with me to see when I’m out of town so she can pick it up. She only writes three-word texts. 

A friend then told me she went wild on twitter, shit talking me directly for weeks. First: what’s my responsibility here? Is it wrong to just pack her shit and leave it on the curb? She still has a key to my house and is unstable, so that could be dangerous. Second, like, what the fuck? And third: Now what? Brave the dating apps again? Or just do what I want to do and hole up with a bong and my pets and spend the other 12 hours a day at work?

I’m 35. It’s not old, it’s not young, but it feels like these decisions — dating decisions — are going to be increasingly fraught with the Big Questions if I date someone in her mid-30s, or slightly weird if I keep dating 20-somethings. 

– Help

Dear Help:

Stop dating. Stop hooking up. Get help. Clearly, you’re codependent and need to be in therapy. You need to take responsibility for why you chose to stick with this person — and why you chose to creep on her social media afterwards. Please don’t fuck up another woman’s life with inappropriate boundaries and expectations when you’re not over your ex-wife or your rebound.

You started dating this girl early this year and only got a divorce about six months prior. What did you expect? You’re not ready for a real relationship, so you picked somebody dramatic who would blow up your life (or nearly so). Then you got to blame it on her instead of dealing with your own shit, including your unfinished mourning of the marriage. I’ve never been married, but I’ve done what you did, on nearly the exact same timeline. It’s a way to create drama to conveniently disguise the real issues, like why you didn’t feel okay being alone, or continuing to play the field rather than buckling down and feeling all the feelings so you can get to the other side of grief, loss, anger and/or this next stage of maturation. It sucks, right? I know.

You poked at her by going through her social media to find evidence of whatever shit she’s talking. I know it feels like garbage and we can worry that if our exes talk shit, others will believe them, but ultimately it’s none of our business. I know you know that and won’t do it again. I also know how tempting it is. I don’t blame you for creeping – I’ve done it! But it always hurts me, just as it hurt you. Then you inflamed her further by engaging with her with anger.

Stop engaging with her with any kind of emotion at all. Do the literal housecleaning you need to do, and then stop talking to her at all. She’s kept shit at your house as a way to have a hold over you. That ends now.

More helpful advice: Not Broken, Just Human

Change the locks. Why haven’t you done that already? You say she’s unstable. It seems you still want the thrill of the danger. If you don’t have an appropriate forwarding address, contact the woman politely and without emotion and inquire about her address, informing her that you’re going to ship her things with a tracking number and insurance. If she won’t respond, ask a mutual friend to receive the things. If no one will receive the things, inform the woman you will donate them by a certain date unless she provides a forwarding address. Tell her not to come to your home. If she comes to your home in violation of your express wish, it’s up to you whether to call the cops or not.

You can either keep feeding the drama or you can stop it and set firm boundaries and apply them. Regardless, get into therapy immediately. If the first therapist isn’t right for you, seek another. A good therapist won’t affirm every single decision you make, but nor will they try to tear you apart. Rather, they will listen and guide you to figuring out what is healthiest for you. Not what’s most comfortable or easiest, but healthiest.

And cut this shit out. I’m telling you to do what I wish I’d done, what I wish so many friends of mine would do – take some time for yourself. If you want to reproduce, you’re likely going to be shooting winners for the next forty to fifty years, so don’t freak out. You’re not on a timeline. Life is easier for men in this regard. Do the work on yourself so you can be the partner an awesome woman deserves, and so that you can be the best possible version of yourself. You can do this, but you’ve got to take the initiative to work on yourself one day at a time.


If you have a question and need some advice, email Sara at [email protected]