How Do We Help Our Friend Move On From His Awful Ex?



Maybe he's into FinDom


I've know people like this and in my experience the ones that managed to break the cycle did so because they met someone new that more-or-less forced them to. Not an ideal fix but at this rate he won't have the money for therapy to repair what has probably been a lifetime of self-worth issues.

If possible, just be there for him. Take him out. Show him new people and things that will chip away at whatever he thinks is good about clinging to this ex—and since that probably won't work... what Dan said.

Even in this most severe of cases, "wrote his papers for school" still caught me off guard.


Dan, did you take half a donut and leave the other half in the box to dry out? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.


i shall let no donut go uneaten.


The 'trophy boyfriend' syndrome is so true.


The friend's ex must be having fun. He keeps all the benefits of a sugar daddy without any of the effort of a relationship. What a pitiable existence for the friend. I don't even know what to say, except this: most people cannot be helped unless they want to be. Some part of this poor man wants to be self-destructive and let himself be wantonly used. That part is in the driver's seat, and only he can kick it out of the car. The best the LW can do is to support their friend and give him what help they can. Sometimes, as per the serenity prayer, there are things (or people) we must accept we cannot change.


Along with your "Nobody to blame but your own damn self" speech, you can put on your best Carole King voice and sing this litttle song to your friend when he finally comes crying to you...

"And it's too late, baby, now it's too late
Though we really did try to make it (we can't make it)
Something inside has died
And I can't hide and I just can't fake it"

Everybody loves a little music when they've made a bonehead mistake...


LW calls bad news ex “not too bright,” but he seems smarter than any of the other characters in this drama.


@8 Maybe by "not too bright," the LW meant academically lazy. After all, the friend was writing his papers for him.


My grandfather used to say you can help with any problem except bad decision making.

Also: you resisted that chocolate cream-filled one?!


Look up advice for situations like "my friend's husband hits her, I can't stand it, what should I do?" It's not the same relationship or the same behavior, but your response is very similar.

Don't try to argue him out or make an ultimatum or stage a big intervention. Don't treat him as pitiable, give him a chance to show agency in other ways. If he tells you horrible things, you can say directly "that sounds to me like a horrible thing to do to someone", or you can say "you know what I think about him but I can't keep hearing about him" if you can't. Don't do "why on earth do you stay?" And as Dan said, in the end, it's out of your control.


@2: “I've know people like this and in my experience the ones that managed to break the cycle did so because they met someone new that more-or-less forced them to.”

One of my friends in a similar situation finally did meet a better partner, and moved on. But in the case of the LW’s friend, the using POS has blocked that exit once already:

“Years later, when my friend finally met someone and started seriously dating, the old boyfriend quickly swooped in and convinced my friend to end his new relationship.”

Sometimes, the addict has to hit rock bottom before recovery can start. In this case, LW might want to use that old high school standard:

“I understand you’re still in love with this guy. But I’m done with him. I do not want to hear another word about him.”

Then make it stick. The LW’s friend must choose. After POS user leaves him again AND he has no one to talk to about it, then he might finally admit to himself he’s had a problem, and start to fix it.


Shame on Dan for showing off his self-control with that donut picture! 😂😂


HTW, if you cannot bear to see your friend exhaust his savings and waste years of his life in pursuit of someone who doesn't love or respect him, then don't watch. You are not obligated to hear your friend discuss his relationship with ex, and if your friend continues to do so, you are not obligated to continue this friendship. If you need to go that route, be honest about why you are ending the friendship, but do not feel guilty about this situation. Friends deserve our support in facing life's problems, but you are not responsible for fixing your friend's self-inflicted troubles.


I think a lot of people have been through similar situations and it really sucks not to be able to do anything. One thing I might try saying next time friend brings up bf is saying, "try imagining if it was [insert someone he really cares about and maybe is protective of] in your place. How would you feel about the way they were being treated/the relationship? How would you feel about their hope for the future/what would you want them to do?". It probably won't do anything, but it may at least plant a seed. A lot of times it's easier for us to realize how badly someone we care about is being treated rather than ourselves. After that have one, simple response. In this situation what I've done when the significant other is brought up is say, "you know how I feel about [person]. I hate seeing how they treat you, but I'll be there for you no matter what". I never fed into the drama like Dan said. No going, "OMG, I can't believe he did that [what they think: only I see the amazing person they really are/the good side that is the true them]!" "No, how could you give even more [subtext they hear: you're such a martyr for love]!" "Oh, you must leave him [what they think: we have a deep, misunderstood love]!". Just the one standard reply given in a flat, emotionless tone. The reason I suggest staying by and being clear about the support is the control, lack of self-esteem and destructive imbalance of power reminds me of abusive relationships. People in that kind of position need to know they still have friends and not be allowed to be isolated, so when they finally are ready to leave, they have the support.


This was 12 years ago, hope friend has seen the light and dumped the parasite already.


@16 - My first thought upon reading this was a 2007 repeat was "I bet the bloody fool is still pining"! I agree with Dan, and everyone above. Nothing you can do about it, so don't bother.


I'll have to come back to this later, but LW seems to be on the Patty Chase track (from My So-Called Life) when Camille Cherski would handle this better.

There are various things of which the letter doesn't give me a sense:

Is X the type of person to whom F is attracted or is X the type of person F attracts?

Do LW and presumed spouse genuinely want F to be happy, or are they just irritated by the sight of X playing F along for so much profit, or F's acting in a manner they consider undignified or bad optics?

How do they learn of all these things? Presumably at first F told them, but is F a regular teller of an ongoing Tale of Woe, or does it come out in other ways?

Are F's values similar to LW's and presumed spouse's? Does F care about money? use it to manipulate others? Do they ask financial questions? Is F genuinely happy, or at least enjoying the misery of the situation?

Mt first instinct is that I'd probably only be as harsh towards F as Mr Savage was if F had donated substantially to Ms Gabbard's campaign.


Something that's little talked about in discussion of addiction is that there is a payoff for the addict. It might not be clear what the payoff is. The payoff might be so bizarre to onlookers that they don't understand it as a payoff, but it is there. Also, the payoff is not the high from the drug.

Ex: A man gets drunk every night. His alcoholism is so severe that it's ruined his relationship with his wife and his children, and he's about to lose his job. He acknowledges all that but can't stop drinking. Most recovery programs will put all the emphasis on how, if he stops drinking, he can have a good relationship with his wife and children, and he'll be able to work, and he'll get promoted, and wouldn't that be great. A better recovery program would notice that as long as he keeps drinking, he doesn't have to face the fact that he's terrified of having sex with his wife, that he actually hates his children, and that he was bad at his job even when he wasn't drinking. Not having to have good intimate relationships with his family and not having to work is the payoff. Bizarre to me, great (in a twisted way) for him.

I gave the classic example about a straight man because I've never seen the example HTW gives, but I do know enough about addiction to know that there's a payoff in there somewhere. My (loving) example to HTW's friend is to look for help in places that treat addiction. (By "places" I mean even online resources like webpages, or go to the library for books, or if you're in a large enough city, there could be an anonymous group.) (And yes, I know that the statistics for anonymous groups are dismal, but they can still be a good resource.) My (loving) advice for HTW is to check out places with advice for family and friends of addicts.


The really important issue here is whether Dan broke the donuts in half before eating two half-donuts, or put them back in the box with bite marks in them! Ewwww!


Dan, you didn't resist the least-alluring donuts in the box!


Ciods @ 10 - "Also: you resisted that chocolate cream-filled one?!"

My thoughts exactly. How could he?


@15 Kitten Whiskers I completely agree with this idea.

At my worst, one of the only things that was able to break through my irrational efforts to blame everyone's problems on me/mentally frame myself as a terrible person/justify my self-harm was my therapist saying, "What would you tell a friend if they said to you what you just told me?" Granted -- in the moment, all it did was cause a lot of cognitive dissonance because I saw the logical side but it didn't change how I was thinking/feeling at that time. But later on, the next time these feelings arose, I had a little voice in the back of my head saying, "Wait a minute. Does this really make sense?" And over time that voice grew louder. It helped immensely.

Of course, this is a completely different situation -- but they have in common the ingrained irrationality and self-destructiveness. Sometimes just a little push can magnify over time.


Of course, the response would be, "This is different," but it would still be worth a try if this wasn't such an old letter.


@Dan The Boston Creme (or whatever you call it) is my favorite. It would be the FIRST one I go for. How dare you.


I feel like the LW is playing a little fast an loose with numbers here. The friend dated the ex 7 years ago and he was ten years younger, so the ex was 23 when he dumped the friend and started dating guys 10 to 15 years younger. So 8 to 13 year olds? OK.

The friend mortgaged his house several times. Several? Like more than 2? He must have had a lot of equity and then was still able to buy the ex a condo. I wish i had this friend's credit rating.


@26 They may be playing "fast and loose" with numbers so that it would be hard to identify the person if they read Dan's column. On the other hand, I'd be tempted to lay it out exactly as it is so they hopefully do read Dan's column..... Like, "Hey, you, read this column where I submitted a question about what the hell I'm supposed to do while you waste the best years of your life chasing windmills that don't love you back, that never loved you in the first place, and will never love you. If the multiverse exists, where theoretically every decision you and every other person on this planet makes branches into other universes, and we were able to visit all of them, via "Sliders", we would still never find one where this person loves you back... ahem. Though we may find one where Dan doesn't toy with people by putting pictures of delicious donuts online, thus forcing you to go out and make questionable food and health choices because that creme filled one looked amazing."


@13 pythag3
"Shame on Dan for showing off his self-control with that donut picture!"

Truly (though perhaps subconsciously) a humble-brag to show that the donuts he ate half of were the ones with the least calories in the box.


You can't change someone like this, but you sometimes can succeed in convincing them that they must set aside money for their retirement, and that retirement money needs to be off limits for giving or loaning to anyone - anyone at all.


Not sure how you got 8 to 13 year olds, MickLak @26. The LW's timeline jumps back and forth a bit, which is confusing, but here's what they actually said:

"A close friend of ours is a gay male in his 40s [let's say he's 48]. About seven years ago, our friend met and briefly dated a not-too-bright, conniving guy about 10 years younger [when they met, friend was 41, and conniving guy was 31]. Our friend threw himself into this relationship ... After the boyfriend was back on his feet with a new job, new wardrobe, new apartment, and new furniture [how long did that take? let's say 2 years, making the BF 33 when the relationship officially ended], he dumped my friend and was having sex with boys 10 to 15 years his junior [that would be 18-23 year olds]"

I think the "briefly dated" thing is a bit misleading. Most people would probably define "briefly dated" as a period of less than a year. But I don't think it's the case here. It sounds like the boyfriend was studying when he met the LW's friend, and was "back on his feet with a new job, etc." when he dumped him. And he must have had at least a little bit of time to get his claws in. So I'm inclined to think the LW means they "briefly dated" in the context of the entire 7-year span of this toxic not-quite-relationship.