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Boundary-violating boyfriend transitions from controlling to dangerous

| Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, 1:33 a.m.

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My sister Jane has been seeing Jack barely three months. They live in different states and Jack regularly visits Jane on the weekends, sometimes they travel together. During this time Jack has exhibited some low-level controlling behaviors — getting upset when Jane goes three hours without answering a text, when Jane has a drink with friends, when Jane fails to FaceTime him morning and night, etc. Additionally, Jack has been trying to convince Jane to move to his state.

When Jane expresses that this is too much too fast, or that she doesn’t really want to move to Jack’s state, Jack replies the he will make Jane happy and she will like it once she gets there.

Recently, Jane clearly expressed to Jack that she was feeling rushed in the relationship and asked him for a three-day break from texting, FaceTiming, etc. Jack could not do this and continued to text Jane repeatedly. When Jane did not respond, Jack called Jane’s roommate. Jane told Jack this was a concerning boundary violation.

Long story (with lots of long texts from Jack) short, Jane phoned Jack and told him that this was not the type of relationship she wanted; that he was not respecting her clearly expressed boundaries; and that the relationship was over. Jane told Jack not to come visit her this weekend.

Jack informed Jane via text that he was coming to her city anyway.

Now the part that involves me: Jane has asked for my advice along the way. At first, I saw some red flags but wasn’t too worried. Now, I am somewhat concerned about Jane’s safety. Am I overreacting?

— Protective Older Sister

Yikes. I’d suggest strongly that Jane not be home for Jack’s visit. She can go stay with a local friend, leave town, come to visit you, anything. Just not be available to Jack.

If/when Jack gets in touch with Jane to rage about her absence, Jane needs to respond clearly in writing, once, that: She said clearly she did not want to see him; she is not interested in a relationship; and he is not to contact her anymore.

Then she needs to make sure she doesn’t respond to him again.

“The Gift of Fear” is required reading, and if she starts today it’ll help her this weekend.

So, no, you are not overreacting. I would even suggest Jack’s early controlling behaviors were not “low-level” at all, but instead grounds for breaking up on the spot.

Re: Jack:

You’re definitely not overreacting. Maybe Jack will do nothing, but considering he has not stopped at any of the other “reasonable” checkpoints, I’d be really worried for both your sister and also for her roommate.

The roommate might also want to leave for the weekend, and they should take any pets with them (and maybe irreplaceable documents). I would see if I could quickly get a doorbell camera or some type of security camera that backs up to the cloud. If your gut is screaming at you, believe it.

— Seeing Red Flags

Excellent point about the roommate, thanks. Another commenter also pointed out that Jane should not stay someplace Jack might expect, like Older Sister’s home.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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