Dear Prudence

Help! My Ex’s Friend Keeps Trying to Be My “Ally” and It’s Freaking Me Out.

Why won’t this woman just leave me alone?

A young woman looks at a phone screen with an annoyed face.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by tommaso79/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. For this edition, Hillary Frey, Slate’s editor-in-chiefwill be filling in as Prudie. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Dear Prudence,

I’m a woman, and a few years ago, I was in a serious relationship with a man, Roy. Roy had a friend Janine whom he spoke about frequently. I met Janine once at an event, and she was incredibly rude and snide to my friend and me, and I expressed to Roy that if Janine was going to continue to be that rude, I didn’t care to spend any more time with her. Janine and I never met again. Roy and I stayed together for another year, over which time he became deeply abusive. After our breakup, I discovered that he had been cheating on me throughout the relationship and that he had abused at least two exes in a similar way to me.

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Last year, Janine reached out to me on social media saying she had heard Roy had been abusive to me and asked for confirmation. I didn’t trust her, so briefly confirmed but didn’t go into detail. She asked some questions about the abuse, some of which I answered and some I didn’t. She told me that Roy had been cheating on me even more than I was aware of and that she had known that even when we met. She told me she would end her friendship with him, which I said she wasn’t obligated to do, but it was her choice.

Since then, she has continued to message me on social media—alerting me that she has ended the friendship, insulting my ex, and (most randomly) asking me if I remember whether my ex had ever recommended any bars in a city she was visiting. To the latter message, I told her that I appreciated her previous expressions of support, but didn’t want to be reminded of my abuser just so she could get a bar recommendation, and to please not send me messages like that. Recently, she messaged me again asking me for bar recommendations in a city where I don’t live, and then asked me if I would prefer not to hear from her at all, or if I would ever be open to meeting with her (we live nowhere remotely close to each other).

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It took me a very long time and lots of therapy to recover from my ex, and while I’m vaguely glad (in a “the bar is low” way) that she cut ties with him, I’m baffled by this woman’s messages and her desire to connect with me. We didn’t get on when we met, and I don’t feel the need to forge a new connection based on a man I no longer want to think about. Her messages also feel performative to me, as she keeps referring to herself as an “ally” and being in “solidarity,” which feels more based on her self-image than actually supporting me. My honest internal response to her messages is “What the f*** do you want from me?!” but asking that feels aggressive! What is this woman thinking and how should I respond?

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— I’m Not Your Feminist Ally Project

Dear (Not Your) Ally,

So not to be flip but: Why are you responding to this woman at all? Close the door. It sounds like there is no reason for you to be in touch, though you feel badly and rude if you don’t respond. But you know what’s rude? Her continuing to butt into your business and bring up bad feelings. Don’t reply. You could even block her. She sounds like someone who wants to stir a pot you’ve worked hard to put the lid on. Don’t let her.

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Dear Prudence,

After years of living in a conservative rural town, I’ve finally moved to a city. I’m meeting people I’ve only dreamed of spending time with—intellectual and politically engaged, as well as other members of my minority ethnoreligious group. The issue? My husband. His sensibilities and interests are largely attuned to where we lived before, and he’s prone to not reading the room. I want to continue to make friends in my new city, but imagining inviting people to our home and risking a major gaffe (think pro-something controversial or borderline misogynistic) by my spouse has me reluctant to engage. I feel like I can see the social life I want. How do I get it?

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—Would-Be Hostess’ Ball and Chain

Dear Would-Be Hostess,

This is a tough one because it sounds like your new environment could provoke a bigger crisis than just a faux pas at your housewarming. Step one would be to talk to your husband. Start in positive ways, and describe the new kinds of experiences you are having and people you are meeting, and how exciting it is for you. Hopefully he will get the message and work to catch up with you culturally. If, as you predict, he is skeptical or critical, take that opportunity to start a more pointed conversation and tell him how you feel the behaviors and values of his that trouble you. If he can’t be open to what you are looking for and feel you need, it might be a good time to suggest couples therapy. You are going through a huge transition, as a couple and as an individual, and some support would likely help you work through it all.

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Dear Prudence,

I recently moved to a new state that primarily runs on tourism. I lived in my previous town for well over a decade. A friend I used to be very close with (who helped me leave an abusive relationship many years ago) stopped making time for me, or stopped inviting me to things. It was very gradual, and I’m sure our busy lives, kids, work all played a part in that. They didn’t even RSVP to (or obviously attend) my wedding. We’ve transitioned to “online friends” in this stage of our relationship.

Just the other day, said friend asked if they can visit me in my new home, where it’s warm almost year-round, where I have a pool and am close to the beach and other fun things to do. Part of me wants to say yes, because I do care about them and we have made good memories together. The other part of me wants to say no, because we were in our last (and very first) home for seven years and they never once came over in all that time, despite not living very far away and being invited to every party we threw. In fact, I haven’t seen them in person in at least six years. So, what do I say to a friend who couldn’t make the time when I was close but now wants to plan a trip down to me?

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— The Convenient Friend

Dear Convenient Friend,

Life is short. You still care about this person. Why not give it one more go, and in good faith accept their offer of visiting? You don’t need to travel, you are on home turf. Discuss the trip in advance, what the expectations of the visit are, and have plans and an end date. This might be an amazing opportunity to reconnect. Also, sometimes people come in and out of our lives with inconsistency. It can be very annoying, but the moments when they are around can also be invigorating and delightful. I say: Say yes.

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Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

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