My ex says terrible things about me

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Hello Meredith,

I spent college in a relationship with a guy who I thought was the love of my life, but barely anyone in our group of friends agreed. The relationship started great, or so I thought at the time. I found out several months later that he had been cheating through the beginning of the relationship with girls I thought were my friends. After learning this, I broke up with him, but he begged, so I took him back.

Until it happened again and we broke up again. I'd seen texts (accidentally) that made it clear he was cheating. He said I hadn't seen what I'd seen. It was around graduation that I took him back and we moved to New York City together. During that time living together, I finally went to therapy, learned about gaslighting, realized the relationship wasn't healthy, and decided I needed to end it. The night I ended it, he wasn't concerned about losing my love or our relationship. He seemed more upset that about the timing, and that I had chosen to give myself freedom.

Now, four years later, I am in the healthiest relationship of my life. I've grown and learned a lot about who I am. My ex and I still interact with the same crowd, and even though we haven't seen each other, I hear about him. Mainly I hear what he has been saying about me ... it's not great stuff. Even though I know the breakup freed both of us, he is dragging my name through the mud. I have always maintained that my ex is a great person and we were just not healthy for each other. I've never said anything bad about his career or personal life, only that we were toxic together. I do my best to ignore his comments about me. I tell people who come to me with these comments that they should form their own opinions.

But to be honest, it still stings a lot. How can my ex and I have such different opinions about what happened over those years? How can someone who loved me be so terrible toward me, even years after the relationship? Especially since we both, as far as I can tell, have only grown since all of this? Why does he bother? I just don't understand why he seems so negative about the whole thing when the night it all ended, he wasn't showing that he was upset about losing the relationship.

– is there anything I can do?

You can't control his behavior. That means your best bet is to tell friends you'd rather not hear what he has to say about you. It does you no good to be told about his opinions. Make that boundary clear.

I wish I could tell you why he's behaving this way, why he can't do the grownup thing and say, "Well, it didn't work out. That's OK." He might be embarrassed by his behavior, or maybe he still won't admit he had a role in the breakup. Maybe he's someone who needs things to end on his terms, no matter what.

You say you've both "grown since all of this," but that seems like an assumption. You've grown, for sure. But has he? Do you know? It's possible he's found a better relationship, and maybe he isn't cheating or gaslighting anymore. But that doesn't mean he's become an entirely new person. In fact, his narrative to friends suggests otherwise. Don't assume he evolved.

Whatever happens, don't engage. Stay out of his story. Enjoy your life. Hopefully this will all fade away as time passes. Regardless, you know you're taking care of yourself.

– Meredith

Readers? Anything one can do to stop an ex from spreading negativity?