He Won’t Leave Me Alone. Now What?

Morning friend,

Thanks so much for your prayers. The trip to Korea with my daughter couldn’t have gone better. We were greeted with lots of love, and it was wonderful for her to meet her birth parents, siblings, nephew and niece, aunts and uncles and her 90-year-old grandfather. I also got to spend quality time with one of our CONQUER sisters who lives in Korea. I came home with a bad cold, but everything else was wonderful.

This week we celebrate Easter, celebrating there is life after death. Resurrection after crucifixion. Remembering that light overtakes dark. So, while you may be in a season of dark, or feel like death, remember friend, this too is a season. Have hope. Life is coming again. Light will dawn, love always wins. 

Today’s question: I got out of an abusive relationship about 6 months ago. This person still tries to have a relationship with me, flirt, get in my space, etc… I've tried being distant, indifferent, kind, firm, sad, anything to make him leave me alone. But he doesn't. We live in the same town and share friends. These incidents happen whenever he is around me. I've considered a restraining order. Family members and close friends suggest it also, and actually requested it a few months back. But I'm scared. 

I've forgiven him for the abuse and there isn't a single thing he has done that seems or looks wrong, but when you look at the whole scenario it paints a different picture. Plus, he is manipulative enough to know what he can do to me and get away with. He’s someone who can talk his way out of anything. So again, I'm scared to get a restraining order. I don't want to incite or provoke him. But I'm scared of not having a restraining order too. I don't know what to do. 

And how do you continually forgive but assert boundaries? Every time I've tried it makes things worse for me. He always seems to win. I want this whole situation to be over. I've dealt with abusive people my whole life and I grew up with abuse but now that I'm an adult I'm determined to not allow that cycle to continue but I'm feeling a lot scared and a little lost. I know God hasn't given a spirit of fear and that He is in control. I'm just hoping for some advice and guidance from people with more experience in dealing with this kind of stuff than I have. Thank you.

Answer: I’m so sorry for what you’ve experienced and are continuing to experience. Abusive individuals will not hear your no or respect your boundaries. They believe they are entitled to do as they please. You stated you have tried to change your behaviors to no avail. You’ve tried distancing, being indifferent, kind, firm, as well as stating your boundaries, and he still manages to get in your space and under your skin. 

You haven’t mentioned what kind of abuse happened, but I suspect since you’re considering a restraining order, it was some sort of physical abuse or threat of harm. This is not to be taken lightly. You also said that his continued access to you is because he lives in the same town, and you share mutual friends. Is his access something you can change? I know it feels drastic and unfair, but as long as he has access, his behavior won’t change. 

But what might change if you choose not to hang with those same mutual friends? What would change if your routine changed, and he didn’t know where to find you? You said your closest friends advised you to get a restraining order. It doesn’t sound like these friends would mind you distancing yourself from him even if you had to give up other friends that are more mutual. 

Your specific question was how to continue to forgive while asserting your boundaries. Forgiveness isn’t about letting him off the hook or letting him have access to you to repeat his offense. Forgiveness is letting go of your right to retaliate. It’s about letting go of the pent-up anger or bitterness when someone repeatedly harms you. It’s leaving justice to God. It’s learning how to love your enemy, and have compassion for the damaged human being he’s become while holding on to the hard truth that he is your enemy. When you make yourself accessible to be a target of repeat offenses, it’s hard to keep forgiving. Friend, God does not ask you to have a personal or close relationship with your enemy. It’s not possible. 

Remember, enemies don’t respect your boundaries unless they know serious consequences will result if they violate them. You can assert your boundaries as you’ve valiantly already tried, but the only boundaries that are effective are the ones you have 100% control over or ones that have serious consequences. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean:

Boundary #1. If he shows up at the same social event, I won’t talk to him, and he can’t talk to me.  

Boundary #2. If he shows up at an event where I am, I will immediately leave. 

Which boundary do you have control over? Which might be more effective at keeping you safe?

Boundary # 1. If he tries to flirt with me, I will ignore him.

Boundary # 2. If I see him anywhere near where I am, I will pull out my phone and start moving toward safety (other people, my car, calling 911, leaving the room). No access, period.

Which boundary will keep you safe from his repeated seemingly benign behaviors?

Boundary #1. Telling him clearly and firmly, “Please, leave me alone.”

Boundary #2. “I’ve repeatedly asked you to leave me alone. If you choose not to honor my request, (here’s the consequence), I will be forced to file for a restraining order.”

You don’t have control over him, only you. 

This last example, stating a consequence if he violates your boundary is scarier in that it may provoke him to escalate. Or he may realize you mean business and not want that trouble on his record. Before you go that route, please consult with your local domestic violence shelter to see what your county requires to issue restraining orders. The last thing you want is to request one and be denied. That will only fuel his entitlement. 

Consulting with your local DV shelter may help you in other ways. They may be able to give you additional ways to avoid contact with him than I had time to get into in this response and support you in getting a restraining order if you chose that route. Your very presence and energy give him a narcissistic supply. He feeds off upsetting you. Your best option is to go no contact, even if it disrupts your social life with certain individuals. Please block him from your phone, e-mail, and other social media sites. Do not respond to any of his invitations whether pleasant or unpleasant. The term is “grey rock” and you must become as boring and unresponsive to him as a grey rock. 

Please take this seriously. Your safety and mental health are at stake and are more important than anything else.

Friend, when you’ve been in this kind of dilemma, what has worked best for you to get and stay safe?

8 Comments

  1. Denice on March 28, 2024 at 8:54 am

    Oh dear sister, I am so sorry for the abuse you have endured pretty much your entire life. Abuse is definitely demonic and a complete perversion of Gods love, grace and desires for His children.
    Last year, after almost 25 years of many types of abuse, I finally got a restraining order against my husband. I had kept records of incidents (I began keeping a journal years ago for my own sanity, but it eventually became evidence of a destructive and dangerous pattern), old texts, voice mails, voice recordings (it is legal in my state to record a conversation as long as one person – in this case would be me – is aware that it is being recorded) and photos of items he damaged while drunk and enraged. It was one of the most terrifying things that I have done, but the Lord was with me and I was granted the order. While it has still been very hard and painful, my girls and I have so much more peace in our home without the abuse and constant fear of what would happen every time he came home drunk. I echo the advice above to check with your local DV shelter. If your county has a DV Advocate in the County Attorney’s office, you can reach out to them as well. I encourage you to write down any incidents of abuse, be it physical, emotional, mental, etc. If you can provide solid evidence, this will help your case greatly.
    I pray that the Lord protects you and gives you great wisdom and discernment. No one should be in this predicament – yet we are. In the time being, continue to pray, seek the Lord, and reach out to healthy, Godly people who you can trust.

  2. Mary Taaffe on March 28, 2024 at 10:03 am

    I love the advice you all give! Leslie Vernick and her team are one of the few I’ve followed for years. However, I humbly and respectfully disagree with stating that this man is her “enemy” in this response. We need to remember the Scripture that we do not fight against flesh and blood. So I disagree with saying to look at him as her enemy (as you do several times in your response to this dear woman). I think it is more wise to say something like, this man has been blinded by the enemy and his deeds are indeed dark and if they have escalated to abusive, his deeds are clearly intended to bring you harm….do not lose sight of who he is choosing to follow (Satan)!
    I agree there is no doubt stronger boundaries are necessary, as you note and I pray, dear writer, that you do not fear setting them (remember God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of a sound mind!). As lesser boundaries are broken and ineffective, you have no choice but to increase boundaries (and get protection in place for yourself beforehand if you foresee harm to yourself as you put more significant boundaries in place.) Unfortunately, the longer we resist setting the tough boundaries, the longer we will suffer by the evil deeds of someone controlled by our enemy.
    On another note, I wrote Leslie Vernick’s group a question over email about 5-6 weeks ago and never got a response on a subject that she is an expert in (women following ungodly men as leaders in the household). I asked if there was a place of reference where I could specifically find blogs or videos as a group on this specific subject to help this person rather than sifting through years and years of blogs and videos to find the ones directly aimed at this subject. I am discouraged after all of the good work you all so wonderfully do through the videos and the general weekly emails that I was never responded to and I couldn’t grasp the info I needed to give to this woman (she is not in a place to consider her husbands demand to follow him as “abusive” so Leslie’s book wasn’t an option).
    Keep up the good and godly work you all are doing!!! But, I so wished I would have received some response to my query the one time I reached out.

    • Leslie Vernick on March 28, 2024 at 11:42 am

      Thanks Mary, but Jesus does define enemies as those who have harmed us, so what would you call his relationship with her? Certainly not friend? I’m just curious since you objected to that term. And, please resubmit your question. I can’t answer every question I am asked or that’s I would do all day long. So if it’s appropriate to be answered here, I’m happy to answer it for you.

  3. Anonymous on March 28, 2024 at 10:33 am

    I just want to reinforce what Leslie said. When I left the relationship with my x, I pretty much made myself an outsider. I left behind friends. And it was pretty lonely. But, as Leslie says, less access, less harassment. Another thing, though, is that neither the legal system nor even the best, closest, and most well-meaning and supportive friends can know the intimate methods your x uses to mess with your head and nervous system. Or know and understand that he does those things on purpose, even if he doesn’t admit it or know consciously what he’s doing. But, if he is doing those things to you while you’re around your friends and your friends are not doing anything to move you and themselves away from that kind of behavior, then I would say those friends may not be as good for you as you might think. I understand when people say they don’t see it, but now that I’m out, I’m finding there are actually a lot of people who are immediately turned off by and see through that kind of fakery and who are very quick to remove themselves. In other words, it’s not that people like your x are that good at acting, it’s that people who see through it don’t stick around, so they aren’t in his circle. My hope is you can connect with those kinds of people and start putting the patterns of abuse behind you❣

  4. Connie on March 28, 2024 at 11:53 am

    I just want to say that moving away may not be the answer. That is what I did. Temporarily it seemed better, but even though I wouldn’t talk to him on the phone – emails only – he used the children, friends, relatives to get to me. He won’t email because then I have a record, right? So they’re all mad because I won’t talk to him and so ‘I won’t forgive ‘. It’s been 30 years, but he still uses that, etc. He has them believing that if I would talk to him we could solve our children’s problems together. They are 30-50 years old! And his talking to me is not about them, it’s to push my buttons! Nobody gets that!

    • Julie on March 28, 2024 at 1:49 pm

      Connie – I just want to let you know that you are not alone. While we’ve only been separated 3+ years and divorced 2+ years; we were married 25. And I’ve held to “gray rocking” since before the divorce was final. I moved 1000 miles away but he continues to text me telling me how he’s changed and I just need to forgive him. Our kids are young adults and don’t have much to do with him because if they try and reach out, he pushes them to try and get me to give him yet another chance. I’m glad you’re staying strong and keeping your boundaries. it is hard. and it doesn’t seem fair – but you’re doing the right thing!! Hang in there!

  5. April on March 28, 2024 at 11:55 am

    I have a question, instead of a comment. My story is very similar, and contact with my ex is detrimental to my well being. I’d love to never talk to or see him again. However, we share children. So, there are the continued children’s event’s. In addition my children continue to state that they don’t want to be stuck in the middle and have to choose which parent to be with. How do I protect my emotional/mental/spiritual well being while respecting my children’s position? He’s also very vindictive and continues to pick fights in regards to parenting time and money and take me to court over it. How do I respond to that? What do I say to my kids? Thank you for your help.

    • JoAnn on April 2, 2024 at 5:56 pm

      Dear April, I waited to see if anyone would respond to your request for help, but since no one has, as a counselor I have a few things to offer. One thing is to be careful how you talk to your children about their father. You can be respectfully truthful with them. We can hope that they will see his behavior for what it is, but you might need to help them to think about the effect that his behavior has on them, with questions like, “Do you think that what he did/said is true?” and “How does that make you feel.?” They don’t want to have to choose, so set aa schedule for visits so they don’t have to choose which parent to be with. I would suggest that you find a therapist who deals with issues around divorce to help you get through your own feelings of emotional/ mental/spiritual well being. There are wounds from a broken marriage that need help to heal. Take time daily to read the Bible, taking it as your “daily bread” to nourish your heart. You can’t get through these things without a healthy spiritual supply. If you don’t have a Bible, go to BiblesforAmerica.com to order a free study Bible with footnotes to help you understand what you are reading. You will be blessed. Perhaps you can find a community-based women’s Bible study so you can meet other women in your community. And, if you haven’t read Leslie’s book, “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage,” be sure to get a copy. It will be very helpful. Another book that is helpful is “Healing Well and Living Free from an Abusive Relationship” by Ramona Probasco.
      May the Lord bless you and lift you up.

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