Dear Bitter Butch,
I spent eight terrible years in a relationship with a crazy person. I mean she is certifiably batshit crazy. (I was in a bad place, what can I say?) We’ve been apart for four years now. I have a wonderful new partner who is perfectly sane. I often get threatening texts from the crazy ex-girlfriend. She even texted my new gal a few times. It’s very upsetting for me. I have a child with this crazy person, so I can’t make a total break from her, no matter how much I want to. Do you have any advice on how to deal with my crazy bitch ex?
– Baffled Boi
Dear Baffled Boi,
You don’t sound baffled to me.
You sound really, really, really angry.
In a 110-word paragraph, you used the word ‘crazy’ five times, and the utterly, helplessly dismissive phrase ‘crazy bitch.’ I have to admit that as a woman who hates the ‘b’ word and as a mentally ill person, I took a step back from you upon first reading.
But then I read again. You are using these words, I think, because you feel helpless in dealing with someone who is threatening you and your partner (and possibly your child?), furious that you can’t just cut ties with her, and probably terrified by how her unpredictable behavior will affect your kid.
So let’s break down this language and see what we can do.
I think that we, colloquially, use the word ‘crazy’ when someone is acting in unpleasant ways that we simply cannot fathom– that seem utterly illogical. If someone cuts you off in traffic because he’s in a hurry, he’s an asshole. If someone goes careening across traffic to cut you off and then slows down in front of you antagonistically, he’s ‘crazy.’
There is a certain level of helplessness we reach when dealing with someone who has a measure of power over us behaves in what seem to be irrational, hateful ways that often leads to name-calling like this.
And you are clearly there.
What you need to do is take back some power so you can feel calmer, more in control, and less helpless in dealing with her. And to recognize that some of her power over you is illusory.
To get started, I have a few questions for you.
- You said she sends threatening texts. Is she threatening to hurt you? Your child? Your ex? Herself? If so, you probably need to get the police involved. I know that is a huge horrible pain in the ass and can lead to drama. But credible threats are illegal, and if she’s truly as illogical and nasty as you say, she perhaps is not in a good place to raise a child right now. You might be able to get more custody of your kid until she gets help or stops being an asshole, which is best for everyone. If she’s just threatening to tell people bad things or something, delete her texts.And for goodness sakes have your partner block her number! There is no reason why she has to ever have any contact with her whatsoever.
- You also said she is ‘certifiable.’ Does this mean she is diagnosed with a mental illness or personality disorder? Which one? Researching this illness or disorder might help you to understand how to deal with this person. Stop Walking on Eggshells is a wonderful book that can help you deal with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder. If she is bipolar there are resources for that. If she has PTSD. Narcissism. If she has substance abuse problems, Al-Anon can bring you a measure of peace. Looking closely at her issues instead of using the generic, frantic word ‘crazy’ will help you to understand her better and know better which techniques are best for dealing with whatever is going on with her.
- How about yourself? It sounds like you may benefit from talking this through with a therapist of some kind. Someone who might know about what is going on and might help you to deal with your rage. I always share the bitter joke that there are two kinds of people: those who get therapy, and those who cause others to NEED therapy. Talking through this issue with someone knowledgeable in mental illness, anger management, and family dynamics could really help you to deal with your anger, which might be controlling you a bit right now.
Anger is an important emotion. It tells us there is something terribly wrong and something must change. It tells us when we are in danger. It tells us when we need to fight. It tells us when there has been injustice or harm and motivates us to do something about it.
But when anger sinks into helpless bitterness, which I’m afraid your letter just REEKS of, it can cloud our judgment, cause us to make bad decisions, and lead us into venting rather than changing what needs to be changed.
And I think that you have some serious rage right now for what sound like really good reasons, and sorting out how to control that emotion can really help you to see your ex with clearer eyes.
If there was no kid in the mix, you wouldn’t have to do all of this work. But there is, and as a parent you know that you need to do what is best for your kid. That means figuring out how to get hold of yourself and figure some shit out.
Regardless of what approach you take, I would suggest you minimize contact. Discuss only information regarding your child, not feelings or any other topic. Use email or text if possible, and make those points of contacts as brief as possible. Drain all emotion from these contacts. Do not reply to threatening messages (unless you need to call the cops, and then that’s reply enough) at all.
Google the phrase ‘parallel parenting’ for advice on how to have as little contact as humanly possible with her while still being a parent.
When you begin being able to control or even remove your emotions regarding her terrible treatment of you, you will probably see that she has a lot less control over you than you initially thought.
BITTER BUTCH aka Haddayr Copley-Woods is a queer, a cripple, a nerd, a mom to two kids with neurological differences, and has a truckload of opinions on everything including sex and relationships, parenting, disability issues, family relationships, work dynamics, gender/sexuality issues, and etiquette. You can reach her with all your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org