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What do you do when an old friend tries to reconnect after several years, and has developed addiction problems? Suppose this person is calling at 3 or 4 a.m., sending inappropriate sexual messages and comments on Facebook, and even going as far as calling from blocked phone numbers. (The context is that this is my boyfriend's male high school friend, and neither my boyfriend nor this ex-friend are gay — openly anyway in the case of the friend). This friend seems to need help, but is now harassing my boyfriend.
Block That Call
In the immortal words of Jewish advice columnists everywhere: Oy. This is not a happy situation. Clearly, this old friend is in trouble and he has decided to direct some of his troubled attention at your boyfriend. His behavior, as you describe it, is blatantly provocative. Your boyfriend needs to tell him to seek professional help, and to make clear that he is not going to interact with him in any way until he seeks that help and stops acting out.
But you knew that already, I suspect.
And I further suspect you wouldn’t be writing me at all if your boyfriend could bring himself to deliver this message. So the real question may be: can you let your boyfriend fight his own battle here, or do you have to intervene somehow? Here’s where things get tricky. Because your boyfriend remembers this guy as a pal, and no doubt feels guilty and obligated to help, and probably nostalgic for a simpler, happier time. Who can blame him?
Your job is to be a compassionate voice of reason, to help your boyfriend see that his loyalty should not be abused, that his old friend is sick and needs to get well and that continuing to put up with his harassment is not going to help him get well. His old friend needs to get into a treatment program. Period.
your boyfriend should make this call himself. He has to summon the necessary candor, and courage.
To be clear, though: your boyfriend should make this call himself. He has to summon the necessary candor, and courage. If your boyfriend can’t defend himself against this sort of harassment, well, that’s something you need to know about him moving forward. It doesn’t make him a bad person. But it’s gotten to the point where this old friend is affecting your relationship, so it’s not just about him anymore.
One thing I would feel remiss in neglecting is the curious nature of these messages (“inappropriate sexual”). What is that about? Have you asked your boyfriend why this friend of his is making these kinds of remark, some of them, apparently, in the public forum of Facebook? Are they directed at your boyfriend? Do they express desire toward him? I ask because, generally speaking, guys try to harass other guys with threats and taunts and challenges to their masculinity — not with sexual remarks that call their own sexual preference into question.
It may be that this old friend is struggling not only with addiction issues, but questions about his sexuality. Which is even more reason for him to seek help.
I imagine that it’s tough to see your boyfriend bullied in this way. But sooner or later, most bullies — even addled, addicted ones — move on if they get no response from their intended victims. They find new people to hassle. And sometimes, in the best case, they face up to the darkness inside them. I hope that happens in this case, though I’m sure you’d settle for just having the guy out of your lives.
Okay folks, now it's your turn. Did I get it right, or muck it up? Let me know in the comments section. And please do send your own question along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don't have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will. Send your dilemmas via email.