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Friday, November 23, 2012 - Page updated at 05:00 a.m.

Friendship with ex-boyfriend brings headaches for everyone

By Dear Carolyn; Carolyn Hax
Syndicated columnist

DEAR CAROLYN: I've been trying for a few years now to maintain a friendship with my ex from high school. We're in our late 20s now.

He's not a bad guy, and he talks a lot about how much I mean to him, but in practice, he seems completely uninterested in the "being friends" part. He does things that really bother me, seemingly on purpose; for example, he makes uncomfortable comments about my appearance, starts arguments with my husband, attacks our lifestyle, and takes my picture when I've explicitly asked him not to.

The couple of times I've confronted him about how alienating his behavior is, he won't acknowledge any wrongdoing but also refuses to give me any distance because of how "important" I am to him. I'm at wits' end. It's like he views my friendship as a trophy for how nice and well-adjusted he is as opposed to a relationship requiring work and respect. Is there any way to fix this?

— Ex-Friends

DEAR EX-FRIENDS: Yes. Stop pretending you're friends.

CAROLYN: And when he asks me why I'm not keeping in touch anymore? I would love to cut off all contact but it's going to be awkward; we have a lot of friends in common, and he's not one to just let things die quietly.

— Ex-Friends again

EX-FRIENDS: "Well, Fred, I haven't called because you routinely insult me, argue with Phil and attack our lifestyle, and when I call you on it, you refuse to admit fault. So, I'm done. Please respect that."

Then do not cave. Just by keeping this guy in your life, you're saying awkwardness is worse than keeping an insulting, argumentative and disrespectful person as a friend. It's not.

If he pressures you or makes a scene, then don't have any of it. Walk away. He apparently has no trouble reading your reluctance to tell him to shove it; he "refuses to give me any distance" because you let him stay close.

RE: EX-FRIEND: Unless my Internet pipes are busted, I don't understand why a married couple allows an ex to visit so much that the ex feels free to humiliate her, argues with the husband, etc. And why does a married woman keep company with a man who keeps telling her how important she is to him?

— ?????

DEAR ?????: Because she doesn't want to tell him to (buzz) off. That's powerful incentive for the nonconfrontational. I have to think her husband shares this trait.

You might want to duct tape those Internet pipes anyway. You can never be too safe.

— Carolyn

RE: EX-FRIEND: I went through the same thing with an ex who insisted on being friends. I finally had to straight-up tell him: "I am not interested in being your friend anymore." Of course, he reacted like a baby ("Fine. I'll pretend not to see you if I pass you on the street"), but that just confirmed I wasn't missing out on anything by cutting him out of my life.

— Anonymous

DEAR ANONYMOUS: Don't know if I could keep a straight face if an adult said that to me. Assuming you managed it, well done.

— Carolyn

Email Carolyn at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living.

Copyright 2012, Washington Post Writers Group