Advice: Should I warn her about my ex?

Last updated 05:00 24/01/2013

She had a brief relationship with a guy who turned out to be a bad egg. Should she warn his new partner?

Send your questions to lifeandstyle@stuff.co.nz, and remember to include a nickname if you don't want to be identified.

Around two years ago I got into a brief relationship of sorts. Looking back it's become clear that the man I was involved with was quite manipulative and the fling was pretty unhealthy. I felt hugely relieved when he broke things off as I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. The only reason I didn't end things myself was because my self-esteem was at an all-time low. The break-up was relatively clean with a little toing and froing for a month but over all it was polite and amicable.

With time to clear my head I've realised he wasn't a very nice guy. I actually now feel like I suffered a mild form of sexual abuse. Frequently after spending time with him I would end up crying as I felt so used/bullied. I feel very angry with myself for letting this happen and I'm not a weak or insecure woman usually. 

Time has been a great healer and I have been in a very healthy and loving relationship with a wonderful partner for a year and a half. Sadly the ex has been bought back to my attention though some awful gossip - I heard that he had been accused of date-raping a co-worker just prior to us getting together. I'm sickened to say I wasn't shocked. I have no real proof that it's true but all of the facts tie up with things I know about him and his behaviour towards me. The victim never pressed charges and put the incident down to an awful misunderstanding. They both moved on from the company and she has found ways to get over it. I don't want to drag up the past with her but I really don't think it was the 'misunderstanding' she thought it was in light of the way he treated me.

After being told this news I did a little digging to see what he's up to and that is really what has lead me to writing today. He is now in what seems to be a happy relationship. Everything I can see from a brief online search points to them being very much in love and sharing life together. What I'm finding worrying (other than his behaviour in the past) is that she has Asperger's syndrome and also has a young child. I fear that her condition could make it hard for her to pick up on his 'off' or 'unacceptable behavior'. I also feel very uneasy about him having access to a child, although I have no grounds at all for worry, other than a bad gut feeling.

I am completely at a loss as to what to do. I know that if I contact her I will be painted as the crazy jealous ex. I have nothing other than gossip and a bad feeling to pass on as information, which isn't much. Also on a selfish note I really don't want any more to do with him. Maybe he has changed and he was going though a bad patch and now with the right woman things really are OK. I can't help but feel worried for her though and it's an awful situation to find a child mixed up in. Should I do anything?

Concerned

It is wonderful to hear that you are in a loving and satisfying relationship. How great for you that you are now in this good place, and can have a full appreciation of what you now have. You have also reflected on the difficulties of your past relationship and are able to see it with new eyes from your current position, and through this you can grow into a greater understanding of what it is that serves you in relationship, as well as seeing more clearly  the pattern of dysfunction your previous partner was involved in with you.

It's understandable that you look back on your relationship and seek to join up the dots with the gossip you have heard, and that you feel concern for anyone who might be going through a similar experience to the one you have had, which took such a toll on you. This is particularly poignant if you think a child is involved. The behaviours you describe in your former relationship suggest power and control issues, and you may want to go to www.areyouok.org.nz to enrich your understanding of these issues.

Given the information you have provided here - that it would not be good for you personally to have contact with him, that while you do have some information based on your own experience the additional information that you have is based on gossip, and that from the information you have his current relationship appears to be going well - there may not be a strong reason to take further action. On the other hand you have identified experiences which you have found abusive, and involve a misuse of power, and controlling behaviours on the part of your former partner and there is also a motivation to speak out to support or protect others.

The tricky part is whether you should get involved. I can suggest a couple of guidelines. A common rule for mental health professionals is the degree to which there is a serious and imminent risk to a person. If you have reasonable grounds to believe that his current partner or her child are at serious and imminent risk of harm then you have some strong grounds for action. Do you know either woman involved or the child? If you do and your concerns are great enough then you may have the basis for a conversation, if you don't know them it is very much harder as there is not a relationship upon which you can base a conversation in order to address the issues.

There is not a clearly 'right' or 'wrong' way to go with this issue, in the end the direction to take is the one that sits the best with you.

For more advice and information on counselling, visit Relationships Aotearoa online or join them on Facebook.

We'd love to hear your take on this week's issue. Before you comment below, though, remember that this is a real-life situation. This reader has bravely shared their personal life with you; please show them respect by refraining from hurtful or abusive comments.

 

- Stuff

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