Q: I recently reconnected with a friend from college. She worked hard to bring all our college friends together and it has been fun — except her husband has started to annoy me. He messages me every day, wanting to know how my day went, whether I had dinner and lunch. He finds some flimsy excuse, like wanting my professional opinion on something. I initially thought he was hitting on me and ignored his texts, but he was persistent, saying he feels a good friendship is in the making. Am I overthinking or is my hunch right? I have made it clear I am committed to my husband and family. I am tired of his daily texts. Blocking him might spoil my friendship with my friend, plus she is pregnant with her second child, so I am concerned about the stress. As of now, I ignore his texts and calls, but he doesn’t get it. What do you suggest?
A: If anything, you are underthinking this, perhaps dangerously so.
You’re uncomfortable with the communication; you don’t want it; you don’t buy his rationale for it; you have indicated by typical “polite” means — asserting your commitment to your marriage, then ignoring his texts and calls — that you aren’t receptive to his attention; and he is running through these red lights as if they aren’t even there.
Even in the rosiest of interpretations, his actions point to a person who is operating outside the norms of healthy behavior.
You, however, are trying your best to stay within them, and flustered that it hasn’t worked.
So: Recognize the husband’s persistence as a serious violation needing a serious response. The one I advise is courtesy of Gavin de Becker, author of “The Gift of Fear,” who says to give the husband one clear “no” message, such as, “I’ve decided to stop our communications. I’m confident you’ll respect my decision, and put your attention elsewhere.” Don’t repeat or negotiate this, because that only rewards his persistence. De Becker says not to block him (yet), because you want to see whether he goes away.
So keep ignoring him after the “no” message. Don’t even pick up calls from numbers you don’t recognize.
If your paths cross, be civil and don’t engage, especially not to make “polite” excuses: If you hem and haw about your or his marriage, then you imply you would be interested if single; if you waffle out an, “I’m not comfortable,” then you’re not clearly saying no. “The Gift of Fear” provides clear guidance on handling red-light runners like this spouse.
As long as he doesn’t escalate, you needn’t mention anything to your friend. If she asks, though, tell the least. “I got a few texts from your husband, and I advised him I don’t want to correspond; call me old-fashioned.” Don’t provide details unless she asks.
This might fracture your renewed college alliance, which would be a sad consequence. But the consequences of a weak boundary could be harmful for all involved.
Washington Post Writers Group