It’s not often that I come across a breakup story that actually shocks me and shakes my believe in humankind, but I think I may have just encountered a truly game-changing anecdote.
Prepare yourself, y’all: this is about to get messy.
Recently, a guy wrote in to Alison Green at the work advice blog, “Ask a Manager.” The man explained a bit of backstory which was relevant to his current work dilemma:
More than a decade ago, when I was still young, I was in a relationship with a woman, Sylvia, in a country where we both lived. Sylvia wanted to settle down but I was not ready to commit so young. We clearly had different expectations from the relationship. I did not know what to do and, well, I ghosted her. Over the Christmas break, while she was visiting her family, I simply moved out and left the country. I took advantage of the fact that I accepted a job in other country and did not tell her about it. I simply wanted to avoid being untangled in a break-up drama. Sylvia was rather emotional and became obsessed with the relationship, tracking me down, even causing various scenes with my parents and friends.
Hm. Sounds like a kind of sh*tty thing to do, right? It sort of feels like this guy is blaming a woman for reacting poorly when he ghosted her. Shocking, right?
Things got even more unbelievable, however. Now, it seems that the woman he ghosted is going to be his boss:
Anyhow, fast forward to now. I now work as a math teacher in an international school. I have been in other relationships since, so Sylvia is a sort of forgotten history. Sadly, till now. This week, I learnt that our fantastic school director suddenly resigned due to a serious family situation and had to move back to her home country over the summer. The school had to replace her. We are getting a new director. I read the bio of the new boss and googled her and was shocked to discover it is Sylvia. We have not been in touch and do not have any mutual friends anymore. I am not a big fan of social media and had no idea what she had been up to since the unpleasant situation a long time ago.
I have no idea what to do and how to deal with this mess. It is clear this will be not only embarassing but I will also be reporting to my ex. I am not in a position to find another job at present. There are no other international schools so finding another job in this country is not an option. Even finding a job elsewhere is not possible on such a short notice. These jobs usually open for school terms so I have to stay put for few months. But more importantly, I am happy and settled here so do not want to move. To make the situation worse, the expat community here is very small and tightly knit so teachers also socialize a lot.
Do you have any suggestions for me how to handle it and what should I do? I understand that this would not have happened if I did not ghost her back then, but I cannot do anything about it now. I gathered from the comments that readers usually have a go on people like me for “bad behavior” but I am really looking for constructive comments how to deal with the situation.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: this guy had been dating Sylvia for THREE YEARS and they were LIVING TOGETHER.
We were together for three years and lived together for two of those years. I know that ghosting is not a way to end the relationship but I cannot do much about it now.
HOW IS THIS HUMAN EVEN REAL?
Alison Green attempted to respond to the absurd query from the despicable man, but she certainly didn’t let him off the hook for admitting to “ghosting” someone he had been dating for multiple years:
If you had ghosted her after a month of dating, it would have been rude but potentially salvageable. A month of dating more than a decade ago isn’t likely to loom very large for most people, emotionally. And ghosting after a short amount of time dating shouldn’t generally be devastating. Rude and frustrating, but not devastating.
But you were together for three years, and you lived together! And then you disappeared with no word? That’s some serious emotional destruction that you inflicted there. I’m not surprised that she contacted your family and friends; she was probably worried about whether you were alive or not! (Really, think about it. If you came home one day and your long-time partner was gone and had left no note, would you just shrug and go on with your life, or would you try to figure out if she were okay or not? Obviously I don’t know the details and maybe it moved into boundary-crossing inappropriateness, but you can’t expect to disappear on a long-term partner with no note or anything and not have them try to find out if you’re okay. Exceptions made for abuse, of course, but that doesn’t sound like the case here.)
To her credit, Green attempted to give the ghoster some actual advice, telling him that he should contact Sylvia ahead of time and attempt to smooth things over/gently alert her to the fact that she will be his manager. However, even she had to admit, “I don’t know that you can salvage this!”
Honestly, the whole thing is an infuriating reminder of how many men talk about their ex-girlfriends once a relationship is over: dismissing them as “crazy” or “needy,” when, in actuality, they may have simply been reacting like normal human beings (i.e., determining that their boyfriend wasn’t kidnapped against their will when he DISAPPEARED from their shared apartment).
Here’s hoping that his jerk has learned a valuable lesson about how karma works. And here’s hoping Sylvia continues to climb the ladder of success, despite having to deal with such an assh*le.