How do I get my stuff back from my angry ex?

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Hi Beth,

I’m a young man who has recently split up with my girlfriend of 4 years. I can’t say that our break-up was ‘clean’ and at this point we want nothing to do with each other romantically.

My ex-girlfriend is clearly very upset about the break-up. See, we lived together, and I still have some of my belongings at our old apartment (I moved out). Every time I try to contact her to coordinate a good time to pick up my things she lashes out, calls me names, compares me to other men, and threatens to steal my belongings.

I’m trying to remain as calm as I possibly can. My question to you is: how can I improve this situation? I care about her and her future goals and my hope is that, eventually, we can keep in-touch and remain friends.



Hi Alex,

Bummer about your break-up, especially after 4 years and living together. That must be rough. My condolences. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything to improve this situation. Your ex is being an ass, and nothing you do or say will change that. She may come to her senses of her own accord, but it won’t be because you finally found the right words. Our relationships with other people are always messy, even if they’re good, because humans have been blessed (cursed?) with free will. Other people do what they want to; we can’t control their behavior. This is really frustrating, especially when we are pretty sure we’re in the right.

So, considering your lack of control in this situation, how do you get the items that you left at the apartment? That’s a difficult call. Is your name still on the lease? If so, and you no longer have a key, you could contact your landlord, explain the situation, and ask if they could let you in to get your belongings (at a time when you know she won’t be there). Otherwise, you could just try showing up at her place, asking her to let you in so you can quickly collect your things, and hope for the best. Though I sort of hesitate to advise you to do that because from what you described, she seems a little…volatile. I don’t know if she’s as immature face-to-face as she is with you on the phone, but if she is, an in-person meeting might escalate quickly. A third option is to try a third party. Do you have a mutual friend who could get your things for you? It sucks to involve someone else but it’s a messy situation, and there’s really not a perfect solution.

Alex should have been more specific in his personal ad: “Don’t steal my stuff.” (NSFW)

I’m sure there are also legal avenues you could take to get your stuff–the attorney I consulted with about this quandary forbade me to bring up any legal issues. Apparently if you try to give legal advice and you’re not, you know, a real lawyer, it’s called the “unlicensed practice of law” and prosecutors frown upon it. Fine, fine. So I don’t know how you’d do it exactly, but surely there’s a way to use the long arm of the law to get your stuff back.

As for the issue of friendship…you’re remarkably calm for a guy who has had his stuff taken hostage. But, hey, maybe she’s really nice when she’s not swearing at you. Under saner circumstances, it would be understandable that you would want to have a connection with this woman in the future. You made a life with her; it can be hard to let go of that bond.  But it’s pretty rare to stay friends with an ex. Even the most mature people find it difficult to forget the sins committed during a relationship and break-up. Also, your ex doesn’t like you right now. That might not change (especially if you pursue legal action to get your belongings back). I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s important for you to be realistic about the odds of forging a friendship with her in the future. I also think it’s pretty common to feel this way–“I want us to stay friends”–right after a break-up…but a year later? You may not feel the same need to hold on as you do now, especially if you are seeing someone new.

I hope this helps, Alex. Hey, if you never get your stuff back, maybe a good excuse for splurging a little and replacing those shoes/floor lamps/high school yearbooks? Eesh, well, not everything can be replaced. Good luck.


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