Two questions.

Question one: A few years ago I was in a toxic relationship that left me feeling traumatized and abused mentally and physically. I left. Cut him off completely. I went to therapy. I started to feel better, and then... my toxic ex moved to my tiny town. He lives five blocks away. I can’t get a restraining order, I checked. He doesn’t call me or text me or email me. He just lives down the fucking street. There is a potential to bump into him everyday. Me bumping into him entails trauma response.

Friends don’t get it. When they hear of the situation they say, "Oh, that sucks," like you might pass off losing your wallet. Many of them still don’t know how deeply he violated me. I don’t want to share the story with everyone who asks. I often end up feeling like I am on trial, even with well-meaning close friends or family. I'm put in the position of having to prove and re-prove that he was a dick, abusive, and gaslit me.

A year or two on and I feel distant from many of my old friends after feeling a lack of support (I am a lot closer to a few supportive folks), uneasy about living in my town, and unsure of what to do next. I’ve written multiple letters to him that I haven’t sent explaining how he hurt me, because I truly don’t believe he understands that he’s done anything despite watching my decline into PTSD and anxious suicidal state throughout the course of our relationship. He’s a classic narcissist. Charms his way through life and genuinely believes he is and describes himself as a do-gooder. But he was a sadist. What made him an abusive sadist instead of a decent kinkster was the lack of clear consent and refusal to process and cuddle and talk with me about boundaries when painful or scary or far-too-intense sex made me literally shake and unable to sleep for the rest of the night. Forty nights that year. I counted. Angry tirades when I told him that I was concerned we were pushing boundaries that were harming me. I’m glad I left. But now he’s down the damn street in a tiny town I bought a house and run a business.

What do I do? Do I confront him? I’m scared with his personality that he will only get off on it. How do I get better support from the friends who tell me to "not let it get to me"? Should I just fucking move?

Question two: I need dating advice. I have a career which involves my face and voice heavily. I’m not super famous, but I’m recognizable to many people. Enough so that I didn’t want to call this one in. And I’m single. Not just single but 38-years-old, wants-a-baby, lives-in-a-small-town single. I do not want to be on dating apps. No one uses them here anyhow because it’s such a small town and no one wants their business known. And, to complicate things further, my tastes are kinky. For a while I enjoyed chatting people up on Fetlife. But because of how small my town is and how public my career is I didn’t feel I could Be open regarding my location. I said I was from a bigger city far away. But I don’t want to date someone who lives in a city far away.

I love this little town. And yet I feel lonely here and hopeless about dating. The pool of available men here is both macho and vanilla. That's not what I want. I am introverted and picky; most dudes annoy and offend me. Luckily I like other gendered/bodied people too. But... this a small damn town.

I want a life partner and am pretty sure I want a kid., But I feel stuck, being 38 with wrinkles and baggage, living in a small town, and having a public career. What should I do?

Situation Torments Unhappily Cloistered Kinkster

Two questions, one answer: MOVE.

Not because you should have to, of course, but because you have a perfectly good reason to move, STUCK, a reason unrelated to your awful ex.

I get it, STUCK: you love the small town where you live and work. But setting aside the fact that your ex's presence is making you miserable, you'd like to find a partner and you can't be open about what you want because you live in a small town and putting your kinky business out there could result in your kinky business being known. So pick a big city you like, someplace with a thriving kink scene and a wider selection of potential partners, a place where the residents have better things to talk about than the neighbors' kinks. Then rent the house you own to a friend you trust, move your ass to that big city, and go find someone you can love and, fingers crossed, persuade to move to the small town you love.

With any luck, STUCK, your asshole ex will have moved away by the time you head back to that small town where you can't be out about your kinks because it's a small town where everyone knows each other's business and besides all the men in that small town are macho and vanilla so what's the point of being out about your kinks when there aren't any kinky men around. (Some of those macho and vanilla guys in that small town could be just as kinky as you are — perhaps even good matches, kink-wise — but aren't out about their kinks for the same reason you aren't out about yours: they live in that small fucking town.)

As for your friends who aren't being sufficiently supportive...

You don't appreciate hearing, "Oh, that sucks," STUCK, and I can certainly appreciate why that rankles. It doesn't scale with your trauma. But in the next sentence you mention that many of your friends "don’t know how deeply he violated [you]" because you "don’t want to share the story with everyone who asks." You're unlikely to get the support you need from friends who don't understand how bad the relationship with your ex was. If all most of your friends know is that an ex moved down the block and your the relationship was an unhappy one and you can't stand the sight of him... well, most people who live in small towns have to navigate running into exes they loathe. Absent te details you don't want to share, your problem is going to seen as something everyone who lives in a small town has to deal with: running into exes you loathe at the post office and the Piggly Wiggly.

You're under no obligation to share the details with anyone, STUCK, but if not getting the support you need from friends who don't know the details upsets you... well... then you might want to avoid discussing your ex with with friends who don't know the details. Otherwise their reactions, informed as they are by two reasonable assumptions (everyone has exes they can't stand, everyone who lives in a small town runs into exes they can't stand), will result in more hurt feelings for you.

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