Mar 12, 2021 | LIFE | Advice Column | Illustration by Bibi Powers
Dear Dr. Catherine de la Poudre,
My partner of two years broke up with me nearly a year ago, and we have barely spoken since — with one pretty glaring exception. Whenever something big happens in their life, like an internship offer or their dog passing away, I’m immediately hit with a text that’s qualified with “just thought you should know!” Why should I know? I don’t know how to delicately tell them that this communication pattern is hurting me and making it hard for me to move on, because I feel like they could drop a bomb on my day at any moment.
Thank you so much for your help,
Your instinct that this habit is unhealthy is totally correct and I am so sorry you’ve been living in a hurricane path for months. There is a lot to investigate about the motives your ex-partner may have behind reaching out to you, but I am guessing a lot of that has to do with the nature of your breakup.
When someone you aren’t close with shares something private with you, they are generally trying to make you feel compassion for them. Since your partner is the one who dumped you, it is reasonable to me to guess that they are sharing “secrets” with you as a way to curry favor and assuage guilt they may feel about hurting you.
You need to tell them that what they are doing isn’t making you feel compassion toward them, but is actually prolonging the hurt you have already gone through because of your breakup. By explaining this, you will actually help them understand what they are doing (if they aren’t aware) so that they can make sure to find someone else to talk to during their highs and lows. Finally, you need to be really clear that this kind of communication isn’t acceptable. You aren’t friends, and thus, they should not be relying on you as if you are one.
If you would like to be friends with this person, then you should mention that you would like to reintroduce more stable lines of communication to perhaps work back to talking about more big-ticket emotional items. However, it could be very possible that this person is not interested in a reciprocal relationship, but would rather just have you be there for them and not the other way around.
Best of luck to you!