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#276 & #277 & #278: A three-for-one stalker (un)special.

Here be a bunch of letters about dudes who can’t let go and the very young women who pity/get stalked by them. Have a website full of cute animal pictures open in another tab while you read this. You’re going to need it.

Dear Captain Awkward:

Came across your ‘the art of “no”.’ post, wish I did earlier.. 2 years earlier..

See, what happened was I went through a pretty dramatic break-up with my first love (as dramatic as break ups can be at 16) after his sister’s best friend died in a car accident and his view on life changed. He started experimenting and becoming addicted to drugs, and wouldn’t let me intervene. I figured, that in my messed up brain I somehow thought that going out with another guy at my school in a similar situation (huge druggy) and managing to pull him out of his addiction would prove to myself and even my first love that I could fix him, while fixing this guy at the same time. So I flirted with druggy guy, and he asked me out, and we went out for 6 weeks, in which I had successfully managed to make him give up all the drugs.

Unfortunately, I was his first girlfriend, and he thought he was in love with me – when actually I think he was just in love with the idea that someone gave him, this disgusting waste of space, a chance. Also, he has deformities going down downstairs so I guess that made the whole me-giving-him-a-chance thing even more significant. Even after the first 2 weeks dating him I knew he was bad news and wanted out, but he dumped all this guilt on me like how he would resort to more drugs, how he would drop out of school to become a dealer, how he would kill himself etc. And I truly believed him. I mean this kid was a psycho now because of all the shit he’s done, and I’ve seen him smash his face against a door because I was about to dump him – which ended in me not doing it anyway because I felt so bad. Also, he really digs chemistry (guess why), and I believed that he had a chance at going to uni and making something out of it – but only if he stuck in school. So in exchange for me dating him, he would stop the drugs and stay in school – it made me feel good to be helping this kid out so much, but it made me feel terrible because I was very unhappy with my love life, and because he liked to touch me and stuff and I didn’t want that at all, and yet I still let him because of fear of looking like a bitch. Anyway, when I finally dumped him, he left school.

Now 2 years later, even after no contact with him (I blocked him everywhere I could), he is interrogating my friends and making fake accounts on social networking sites to stalk me and try and tell me how much he loved me and how sorry he is for making me love him. It is really fucking creepy and I want this jackass to know we had a loveless relationship based on fear, insecurities, selfishness and guilt and even though I’ve gotten friends to pass on the message he won’t let go. I had faith time would solve all problems like it does with my heart ache but this is starting to get to the point where I am feeling unsafe, because I have a full on stalker stalking me, and I am barely 18 (next month). I do not want my parents involved. If there is something I could say to this guy, what would it be? I almost want to make up lies for him so he will hate me and leave me alone. I don’t want to talk to him at all. Please help, I’ve kept a cool head on this for far too long.

Dear LW #276:

1. Please read The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker (don’t pay too much attention to the domestic violence chapter – dude has issues). It will give you some insight into how guys like this work and how you can break the pattern of a stalker.

2. Please consider seeking out therapy or counseling of some kind to help deal with the stress this guy is placing on your life and the bad relationship messages that you learned while you were with him. You were so smart to realize that romantic love can’t “save” people from addictions or being a toxic stalker jerk. This is a way you can get your parents’ help – ask them, or your school for assistance in seeing a counselor. You don’t have to necessarily say why. “Feeling stressed out and off” could be the reason you give. You can tell the real reason only to the counselor and they have to maintain confidentiality. But I think you need a responsible trained adult on your side while you deal with this, and that person can help you decide when and if to involve your parents and/or law enforcement.

3. There’s nothing you can say to make this guy leave you alone. You already said what you had to say when you broke up with him. There is nothing to be gained from interacting with him again. If he didn’t believe you before he won’t believe you now. If you react now, all you do is teach him that stalking you and bothering your friends works to get your attention.

You can get your friends to help you. Send them this message:

Hey friend – you probably know by now that my ex (Name) is stalking me and harassing people in my life to get to me. I appreciate your support during this really difficult, awful situation. Here is how you can help:

1. If he contacts you, do not reply. Totally ignore him. Don’t yell at him to leave me alone, don’t tell him I’m not interested. Just don’t respond at all. Each time one of us responds to his messages, we teach him that his stalking behavior works. 

2. Block him on all social media. Report his emails as spam, or set up an email filter that directs messages from him to a special folder that you never read. Don’t tell him you’re doing this. Let him think that you’re getting them.

3. If you run into him in person, walk away. Leave wherever it is and go to a safe place. Call the police if necessary. If possible, do not talk with him, yell at him, tell him to leave me or you alone. Just don’t engage at all if you can help it.

4. It would help me a lot if you wouldn’t pass on his messages to me or tell me if you interact with him. I know you want to warn me, but it just makes me anxious and fixate on him, and passing those messages on is what he wants.

Thank you for your help with this. Hopefully if we ignore him long enough he’ll choose someone else to fixate on and leave us alone.”

Think about creating a new social media profile/email address/cell phone number that you give to all of your good friends and keep behind a lot of privacy settings in terms of who can see it. Leave your old, public one in place. Get a friend to help you make a new password for the old one that only they know (in case of emergencies) and that the friend does not tell you. Let him contact you there all he wants. He’ll think his messages are getting through and that he can get no response.

Document what he’s done so far in case you do need to involve law enforcement.

I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. Take courage and do not engage with him.

Hi Captain Awkward,

I have a problem. I am 18 and have been dating my boyfriend for 5 years. About 3 years ago, I moved across the continent and we both decided to be a long distance relationship. The problem is that after a year of the long distance, I have no feelings for him and no longer interested in the relationship. I told him about this but he refused to break up with me. He would have meltdowns on the phone and that really hurts my feelings. For about 2 years now, I have been trying to break up with him but he keeps telling me that he loves me and he keeps crying. I can’t cut ties with him because I really care about him and I am scared that he would never forgive me for leaving him. He is my first boyfriend and he means a lot to me. I feel like I owe him something, i don’t want him to feel like I abandon him and move on to leave in a better continent and have a better life.

I just met this new guy that I really like and we have been seeing each other for a little while now. I feel like a cheater because I am technically cheating on both of them. How can I break up with my boyfriend, so I can move on. What am I doing? Please help?

Dear LW #277:

Five years is long enough (too long) to be with someone you don’t love out of guilt and pity. I’m glad you guys are long-distance, you don’t have to worry about running into him at parties. You can handle “meltdowns on the phone” pretty simply, if you want to – you just hang up on the person and block their number.

I know, I know, that feels mean and you don’t want to be mean. You want to stay on good terms with someone who was your first love, and you want him to have good feelings about you and the relationship even as it’s ending. Sometimes that just doesn’t happen. By crying and threatening and making you pity him when you try to break up with him, your boyfriend is sending you a clear (and horrible) message:

Girlfriend, your actual feelings for me and desires don’t count at all. I’m more willing to have a totally fake relationship with you where you stay with me only out of fear that I’ll throw a giant tantrum than to believe the words coming out of your mouth.

No matter how much he says he loves you, he can’t love you if he won’t listen to you and believe you and if he’s willing to force you into this fake relationship. Of course he’s going to react badly to you pointing that out and breaking up with him – because it might force him to accept that he is a pathetic, controlling weenis and completely destroys his image of himself.

If you want to be free of this guy, you have to let go of the idea that this will end well and that you’ll be friends and everyone will be happy and okay with it. You can survive his displeasure and the story of “I was in love with someone but it ended badly.” You can’t deal with another 5 years of fake-dating this guy.

Since you’re currently dating (according to him), I do recommend one breakup email. His scary tantrums means he doesn’t get the right to a phone conversation or a Skype session. Compose the email but don’t send it right away.

Dear (Boyfriend):

I know this won’t come as good news, but it’s time for us to break up once and for all. 

I’m sorry to do this via email, but when I’ve tried to have this conversation by phone in the past you’ve gotten very upset and tried to talk me into going out with you again, so I think this is best for me.

I need you to accept that this decision is final, and I am asking you not to contact me and to completely disengage from Facebook and other social media. Please let’s just remember the good times and move on with our lives.

NO nonsense about being friends. He can’t handle friendship with you, so don’t even suggest it.

So once you have this email composed, open up all social media and unfriend/block him on it. Create an email filter that automatically deletes his email or sends it to a special folder that you never read. Block him on Skype. Download a call-blocker app for your phone and block his number. Tell all mutual friends “(Dude) and I have broken up. He will probably be very sad, so you should reach out to him, but I am taking a long break from having any contact with him while I get over our relationship. Thanks for understanding.” If he tries to get friends to pass on messages, just say “I’m really trying to get over things, and it’s very painful for both of us. I’d appreciate you not mentioning him to me or vice versa.

Then send the email and be done with it. It’s hard, and not how you wanted it to end, but you will be really and truly taking care of yourself if you can find the strength to end it completely.

P.S. Talking to a counselor would not be a bad move for you. You definitely need to process some of this stuff with someone who has outside perspective and who will be nice to you.

Dear Cap’n Awkward,

I find myself in the middle of a tangled web of lies due to my inability to say no to someone. Although I have read your Art of Saying “No” articles and everything that was even remotely tied to the topic, I’m afraid it still did not help my situation. I’m a 22 year old student who suffers from social anxiety to the point where I prefer to stay inside and spend time with my books. I’ve spent the most of the past decade on the Internet making friends since it was easier and it saved me from facing issues I found too overwhelming in real. When I was 15, I met someone while playing World of Warcraft, and at first the friendship went on without a hitch. However, a few months after I made his acquaintance, he told me he had some serious feelings for me and he wanted more than mere friendship. He’s 8 years older than me, which at that point didn’t really seem to be a problem, since I was the type of teenager who found the attention of older men very flattering.

Yet as time progressed, he got more and more aggressive about it. First came the text messages describing his sexual fantasies, most of them revolving around his desire to be my first sexual partner. When I didn’t respond to those, he would quickly apologize, saying he never meant to make me feel uncomfortable. I fell for it, several times. As someone who spent her time crushing over people who never returned those feelings, at the beginning I could actually sympathize with his predicament. Despite all this, he kept bombarding me with erotic text messages and after a while, the apologies stopped. His calls became frequent even when he knew I never liked speaking over the phone with anyone. When I didn’t answer, he messaged me. Over and over again until he got a reaction from me. I soon regretted even giving him my number and decided to block him. For a few weeks after that I didn’t hear from him. I felt sorry about my reaction, but didn’t want to backtrack since his interactions with me made me highly uncomfortable.

Two weeks later arrived the first present in the mail. To this day I have no idea how he found out my address, but he sure decided to make good use of it. He sent me an iPod with a note attached in which he began his emotional guilt tripping crusade. Claiming he was going to commit suicide due to my disappearance from his life, he wanted the gift to be my last reminder of him. As someone who had a close friend take their life a few years earlier, this was the biggest hook he could use on me. I raced back into his virtual arms and have been stuck there ever since.

Dozens of presents and 8 years later, I find myself having to continuously lie to him to keep him stable, since the moment he feels like I don’t “love him enough” he unleashes an emotional abuse I find myself unable to deal with. Fortunately, distance has kept him from me and the only reason why he never visited – although he expressed desire to do so – is my overprotective father. Yet this is all about to change as I wish to move to Edinburgh next year to continue my studies and he will be only a couple of hours away. He’s already making plans of us moving together and I have absolutely no idea how to get myself out of this situation. When I break all contact with him, he tracks me down either through other people – even if I explicitly tell others not to help him out -, by buying himself different phones with new numbers, or creating new email addresses. These messages are usually angry and threatening, and truth be told I’m so scared of him I just go back every time. The fact that I’m unable to say no to him is one of the biggest disappointments to me, since I don’t have this problem with anybody else. I just simply don’t know how to handle this situation.

Sincerely,

Red

Dear Red (#278):

HOLY FUCKING SHIT.

Please read The Gift of Fear. And seek counseling immediately (with the help of your overprotective dad). You definitely need someone to help you process the last 8 years and to help you rid yourself of the idea that you’re responsible for this guy’s well-being in any way.

Getting free of this guy is going to be a bit of a process. Here are some of the steps:

1. Refuse all presents. Mark them “Return to Sender.” If you can’t do that, and you don’t want to return them to him because it will mean interacting, take them (unopened) to the nearest trash bin and leave them there. Donate old gifts to charity or throw them away. Out of your house, out of your life.

2. Send him a message:

Dear ____,

I know this won’t come as good news after 8 years, but it’s time for me to break off our relationship once and for all. We won’t be emailing or talking on the phone anymore. Please don’t send any gifts or mail to my house.

You really scared me in the past when you threatened suicide, and I definitely don’t want you to harm yourself. If you have any suicidal thoughts, I beg you to seek immediate medical care.

I’m sorry it had to end like this, but it’s really time for me to move on. Thank you for respecting my decision.

The reason to send the message is to make it clear (and have documentation that you made it clear) that you don’t want him to contact you anymore.

Then, as in above examples, do not respond to anything he says, set up filters, blocks, etc. With one exception: Should he reply to you with a suicide threat, call the emergency services in his local area and say “I recently broke off a relationship with this person who lives at (address), (telephone). He just contacted me threatening suicide and I recommend that someone check on him because he may be a danger to himself or others.”

In other words, take his threat of suicide EXTREMELY seriously and refer it immediately to someone who can help him. If he’s not serious about it, as in, it was just a cheap manipulation tactic to make a 15 year old girl (!) feel responsible for him and stay in a relationship she didn’t want and listen to his fucked up sexual fantasies, they’ll soon get to the bottom of it. If he is serious, they’ll get him the help he needs. He will resent the hell out of you for calling (and the services for showing up and checking on him), but it’s the right thing to do for him and for yourself.

If he kills himself? If he had killed himself back then when he first threatened? NOT YOUR FAULT.

If he shows up at your house, call the police. This is someone who sent explicit sexual fantasies to a 15-year-old girl and who is ignoring your direct request for no more contact. He doesn’t understand boundaries or the social contract and cannot be trusted. He does not love you or care about you. If he did he would have gotten gone when you first asked him to instead of asking you to live some weird lie for him.

All of these cases worry and scare me because of the extent to which the Letter Writers took on responsibility for the other person’s negative emotions. Breakups suck. It is sad and hard to want someone who doesn’t want you back. But breakups are survivable! Other people can get sad or mad – it’s not your job to fix other people’s addictions, mental illnesses, or deep existential sadness and fear of being alone at the cost of your own happiness and safety. Really and truly.

And for the stalkers or tempted-to-stalk among us, let’s review what to do when someone breaks up with you:

1) Say, “I’m really sorry to hear that, but I respect your decision.”

2) Go lick your wounds elsewhere. Gather whatever support system you can around yourself and grieve and be nice to yourself.

3) Sort out the giving back of the stuff as quickly and politely as possible.

4) Even if you want to be friends and think it’s possible, give it a good 3-6 months of no contact to let yourself fully get over things.

5) NO STALKING, GODDAMNIT.

6) No manipulation or guilt tactics. Would you really rather have someone fake being in love with you because they’re scared of you than suck it up for a while, heal, and move on to someone who will like you?

 

Readers, have you successfully excised a stalker? What worked for you? 

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106 comments
  1. Crim said:

    My face literally the entire time as I read this post? D8, with more and more D’s being added on the further I read. I can’t even…

    Nothing to add to the Captain’s advice sadly, but I hope all three of you break away from your respective creeps (and I feel as if “creep” is being too nice here, holy SHIT) as soon as possible!

    • JenniferP said:

      Your face literally _____? I MUST KNOW.

      • “D8″
        It’s a little picture: the 8 looks like horriifed wide-open eyes, and the D looks like jaw-dropping dismay. Like this:
        D8 = “oh noes!”
        DDDDDDDDDDDDD8 = “oh holy fucking shit, HELL noes!”

        • Simone Lovelace said:

          As someone who makes much use of (sometimes quite creative) emoticons, I love everyone here. <3

  2. Esti said:

    Wow, that was horrifying. Letter Writers, I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with these scary situations with these scary men. The Gift of Fear is an amazing book and I second the recommendation that you read it right away. Also the Captain’s advice that you stop engaging with any contact from these men except to report it to authorities if you feel unsafe. And please, PLEASE enlist a real-life support system — you can find a lot of support and encouragement online, but you all need someone who knows who you are in real life and who can help you handle these situations. It sounds like you all live at home, so if you have a good relationship with your parent(s), that’s the best first step. If not, find someone else, someone older who you trust to be on your side and who will know (or find out) what options are available to you: a teacher or guidance counsellor, an aunt or uncle, an older sibling, a family friend, etc. And then tell them what has been happening–even if you think it’s embarassing, even if you think you can handle things on your own–and tell them every time one of these guys finds a way to contact you.

    Once you’ve cut off contact and got a safety strategy in place, then please take the Captain’s advice about talking to a therapist. You have each spent several years stuck in really destructive relationships/being stalked, and that can really affect how you approach relationships and how much you value your own needs and wants. You deserve to know that being in a relationship is a mutual decision, but breaking up is not. You never, never need the other person’s permission to break up with them. If you don’t want to date/talk to/accept gifts from/be friends with someone, that is totally okay and not something they get to say no to. And it is never, ever your job to stay with someone you don’t want to be with because it would upset them (even to the point of threatening suicide) if you left. I think you’re all lovely, compassionate people for wanting to help someone and wanting not to hurt them, but what these men are doing is abusive and wrong and your well-being is more important.

    And please also know: it gets better. It really, really can and does. I had a high school boyfriend who, after the break up, threatened suicide and called me to tell me he drove past my house and saw what I was wearing and who occasionally even years later would email to say he loved me and wanted to leave his fiancee for me. But I learned to not respond, and once he stopped getting an answer he went away. And after that first experience, it became way easier to set boundaries. I later had coffee with a guy I met online and he seemed nice so I said we should go out again. Then the next day he sent me multiple texts and called me at work to chat even though I’d told him not to and tried to get me to be his date for his birthday party 3 days later and overall was coming on way too strong and not listening to me when I told him to quit it. High school me would have gone out with him a few more times and put up with him being too pushy and waited until he really crossed a line before saying anything; new boundary-setting me told him right then that we wouldn’t be going out again and I didn’t want to hear from him anymore. And he went away!

    Shorter version: you are all awesome, and you deserve to be happy, and your happiness does not include being guilted or scared into being with someone you don’t want to be with. Tell them it’s over; enlist one or more supportive safety nets; find a good therapist; focus on making yourself healthy and happy; and go enjoy your lives!

  3. Hoping this is more helpful than otherwise:

    Breaking up is unilateral. If you break up with someone, they don’t get to say “no, I decline that offer.” So if you end a relationship and the other person doesn’t let go, they are wrong. That is, I think, as close to a universal rule as exists in relationships.

    • Awkward Niece said:

      Oh my Goodness yes.

      ‘…. they don’t get to say “no, I decline that offer.”’

      – when are the Tshirts coming out?

  4. Eden said:

    For LW #2: You don’t actually need someone’s consent to break up with them. You tell them that you’re broken up, and *poof*! You’re single! It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t “agree”. It doesn’t matter if he can’t accept it. It doesn’t matter if he can’t deal with it. You’ve already broken up with him. You’ve told him repeatedly it’s over. He is not your boyfriend, he is your ex. Start thinking of him as the ex boyfriend who can’t let go, not the person who’s trapped you in a relationship you don’t want.

    And enjoy your new guy. You’re not cheating on him, because you were already single, because you had already told old guy that it was over. His inability to accept it or deal with it is not your problem. He’s going to get broken up with a lot more over the course of his life, and he needs to learn how to deal with it productively; and to learn that you can’t actually manipulate or coerce someone into staying with you.

    On one level, I get it. I really do. When I was your age, it took me a year to officially break up with a boyfriend I cared about. I wasn’t into him or the relationship anymore, but I still thought I cared about him and didn’t want to hurt him by leaving. But the cold fact is, I hurt us both more by staying when I didn’t want to be there. You can care about someone, and that’s okay. But you have to care about yourself *more*. Your own happiness should be your first priority.

  5. I managed to lose a much less scary/intense stalker-type back in my college days. Took several false starts and a couple of years longer than it should have. I was finally able to make it stick when he told me he’d slept with another woman (and then did the O HAI WHY U SO UPSET? thing). The reason I was able to make it stick that time wasn’t because anything was different about him — it was because I’d finally worked up enough righteous fury to completely expunge him from my life.

    It was a long-distance thing, so I didn’t have to worry about him showing up on my doorstep, but I stopped answering phones (this was back in the Stone Ages, before call blocking was a thing). At home, at school, even at work: no phone-answering for me. My boss was pretty great about it. I deleted all his emails unread. I threw away any letters he sent. I deleted all my characters on the MUD we’d played together (told you it was back in the Stone Ages). I cried a lot, although less than the other times I’d tried to break up with him. I kept myself really incredibly busy — I was taking classes, working part time, performing in a professional musical on an 8-shows-a-week schedule, and seeing lots of doctors to try to figure out why my vision had started graying out when I turned around too quickly. (Incidentally, while keeping busy can be a good thing, I don’t recommend taking it quite that far.)

    I wish The Gift of Fear had been around the first time I tried to break up with him. It might have saved me a couple of years of extreme drama.

    LW #278: If you feel safe doing so, make good use of that protective father of yours. Mine was a big help to me. It would probably be a bad thing for him to answer the phone when Mr. Asshole calls, but helping you remove all reminders of Mr. Asshole from your life, and helping spread the word that nobody should help Mr. Asshole contact you, could potentially be good for you both. In my case, it made me feel safe and cared for, and it made my dad feel like he could help and protect me.

    You do not owe Mr. Asshole anything. He is manipulative and scary. (Also, where I live, a grown man pulling that kind of shit on a 15-year-old would be committing a felony. YMMV, and I’m not meaning to suggest you should prosecute, just that you don’t owe him one damn thing.)

    All three of you, please keep us posted. I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts.

  6. xenu01 said:

    hey, letter writer number three? I know this is not what you want to hear, but I don’t think you should go to Edinburgh. I mean, if it is your dream don’t let him stop you, but do you have another option? One that is far away and where he has no contacts?

    In any case, your mutual friends? I don’t know, again, full disclosure here but I fled an abusive ex/stalker situation and for me, the solution was if they were his friends, they were no longer my friends. It’s harsh, but if he can use them to track you down, maybe they are not allies of yours. Maybe they will be the ones who try and mediate. Maybe not- I don’t know them. Just- be careful, ok?

    • Red said:

      He has no contacts in Edinburgh. He found out about my plan through some old mutual friends who saw a status on Facebook that I was stupid enough to make. I’ve cut those people off and made a whole new Facebook account where I only added my closest friends who I know would never give information to him.

      Studying in Edinburgh is really important to me. Trust me, I also wondered if I should give up on it or not because of him. But he also expects me to be honest with him since he knows how I react when he throws a tantrum, so if I tell him I will not be going to Scotland, chances are he’ll take it at face value.

      • Bev said:

        Also, for the next four years, you will never live alone, so even if he finds you you can set your housemates on him. So I’d say go.

      • Esti said:

        I definitely don’t think you should give up on studying in Edinburgh if that’s something you want to do. (And well done changing your Facebook account, that’s definitely a good step to take.) You know this guy and your situation better than we do, but my advice would be not to tell him you’re not going to Scotland. I know how hard it is to just not engage with this type of man, because you think that telling him to go away or that you won’t be accessible is going to help. But he is not operating on a rational level. What he wants is your attention. Any time you give it to him, for any reason–even to tell him you’re going far away–he gets what he wants. If you tell him you’re not going to Edinburgh, I can almost guarantee that you will then be bombarded with messages from him trying to find out where you *are* going. And if he figures out you’re there, then he will bombard you with messages about why you lied to him.

        You don’t want him in your life. Therefore, he has no right to know where you are living or studying or anything else about your life. Once he’s been told once, and only once, that you will not be moving in with him in Edinburgh and never want to hear from him again, the very best thing you can do is usually to never, ever respond to any kind of contact from him again. (Unless you want to let your overprotective Dad pick up the phone some time, which could be helpful depending on the guy and on your Dad). If he continues to contact you after you’ve told him to stop (and as others/the Captain have suggested, you can auto-filter his messages and have a friend or parent read them so that you don’t have to) and you are scared of being near him, I would definitely encourage you to look into a restraining order. That would give you some legal protection if he continues to try to contact you, and especially if he tries to come to Edinburgh to see you in person.

    • Robot Rose said:

      I think that this is worth seconding, at least as a consideration. This guy has demonstrated that not only is he unwilling to respect your boundaries, he escalates when you pull away. Even if it’s a question of deferring for a year (if possible, I admittedly know little about higher ed in the UK) it might well be worth it to avoid the possibility of physically dealing with him. If you do go through with the move, I strongly encourage you to carefully consider the security of new potential residences etc.

      My experience in this is as a hotline counselor for victims of domestic violence. While not wholly applicable, this experience reminds me that the most dangerous time for anyone dealing with an abusive partner, or whatever you call this guy, is when they leave. If you think there’s a live possibility of him getting physically in contact, I encourage you to make use of any resources designed for domestic violence survivors, as I suspect they will prove useful.

      • Robot Rose said:

        Additionally, Red, I want to say props for reaching out for to the Captain for advice. I suspect that putting this much out there to the wide internet would be difficult for anyone, much more so for someone with the social anxiety you describe.

        • Red said:

          This letter was the first time I told the full story to anyone. A year and a half into the problem, my parents started asking questions about the gifts I was getting, but their conclusion was that if I don’t want to be his friend, I shouldn’t string him along with being nice to him. But when I wasn’t nice, he hurt me. And I just didn’t want to be hurt.

          It’s difficult, yes. I suspect it would be difficult for anyone to talk about something that has caused them fear and hurt over a period of time to strangers. But I can’t move on with my life while I’m stuck with him, and I’m determined to see it end once and for all.

          • Bravo. I wish you luck, and I hope all the members of Team You will provide the necessary assistance. Enjoy Edinburgh! (Site of Demijohn, my favorite shop in the entire world)

    • Eden said:

      Especially because all the letter writers are so young! It may not feel that way, but believe me, making friends is *much* easier in your early 20s than later on in life. People at your age are still figuring things out and still open to trying new things. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to make new friends after 30, just that by then, most people have settled into a comfortable social circle. Don’t worry about being alone or lonely or bored – it’s better to be alone than to be friends with douchebags, and your new social freedom will allow you to meet the awesome people you actually deserve as your friends (and who deserve you!)

      • I don’t find this to be true at all. I’m in my mid-thirties and still make friends just as easily as I did in my twenties. Perhaps it’s some people’s experience, but that doesn’t make it everyone’s experience – and maybe not even most people’s experience.

        I hope these LWs and other readers don’t think they’re doomed and unable to make friends after they turn thirty (not to mention that thirty isn’t the kiss of social death, thanks) and that they’d better rethink their African Violet sendings to bad friends just because in their thirties it’s “harder” to make friends.

    • MissPrism said:

      Depends where she is now. If she’s moving from elsewhere in the UK, two hours is still a relatively long way away. But no harm in thinking it over and seeing if somewhere else might be an even better place to study.

      Am I reading it right that in eight years Red’s stalker arsehole has not actually net her? Is it possible that the reason he hasn’t visited is that he doesn’t want to, he just enjoys terrorising young women (and do note the plural) at a safe distance?

      • That’s what I was thinking — Red is not in a “relationship,” Red is the victim of child exploitation and psychological abuse.

        • JenniferP said:

          Dude, yes. She is a nice person who did not put a bunch of happy-you’re-gone songs on the iPod and send it back to him with his stupid suicide threat.

          • FlyBy said:

            *snickers* I like that idea. I probably couldn’t actually do that, but I like the idea.

    • Chay said:

      I was going to go the other way and say moving is an excellent opportunity – provided you never, ever, EVER tell him you’ve moved. He will no longer have your address so all his creepy gifts can be sent back return-to-send, you’ll have a new mobile number, the whole bit. Provided you give you contact details to ONLY those you really trust back at home (i.e. not-Edinburgh) with the explicit direction that your details are NEVER to be passed on to ANYONE, you can literally just disappear and he wont’ know where you’ve gone.

      I know that totally isn’t the answer in terms of you shouldn’t HAVE to just disappear, and I’m so sorry you’ve been through all you have already. But if you were moving anyway – embrace the invisibility cloak that it may provide you!

  7. xenu01 said:

    Seriously, my heart goes out to all of you. Be safe.

  8. Red said:

    Thank you for the replies, I’ve been really nervous about speaking of this to anyone. Sadly he realized he can have a lot of control over me by threatening to commit suicide. I remember seeing the parents of my friend who killed herself when we were 13, and how they blamed themselves for the death of their daughter. So to have someone telling me they wanted to die because of how I treated or didn’t treat them is terrifying. Even after all the emotional bull crap he put me through, I don’t want him to harm himself.

    I’ve done as you said and looked up emergency services in his city and put them on emergency dial in case he started the threats again. Also since his gifts tend to be on the more expensive side, I would rather donate them to others, although I feel a little weird about giving others things that came from this person. (It’s why they’ve been catching dust in the far corner of my room since forever now)

    @Other Becky: He was committing a felony after the laws of my country as well, but since we live on the different sides of Europe, trying to get him prosecuted would open just a whole bigger can of worms and I would rather not want it to get bigger and messier than it already is or will be once I send him the message the Captain suggested. I just want him to stop contacting me.

    Thank you again for the help. It means a lot to me.

    • Jake said:

      Red, you are so brave for taking these steps. You have a real right to be proud of yourself here, so give yourself a good pat on the back. This guy has been abusing you through your adolescence and it’s very impressive that you realized how fucked up it was and are ending it. Go you! Wow, okay that sounds kind of patronizing. I’m saying it because I think a lot of people in your shoes would be blaming themselves, thinking leaving should have been easier, whatever, because that’s often the message we get, and it’s not true. So.. yeah. ok.

      Also, I want to reiterate that his death, if he kills himself, will ABSOLUTELY NOT be your fault. I know the captain said it already, but it’s a hard thing to internalize, so I want to add my voice to it. Something we were taught when I worked on a support hotline is that if a person really really wants to kill themselves, there’s not likely anything anyone can do to stop them.

      And finally, don’t let anyone tell you that you have a responsibility to prosecute, for the sake of future potential victims, or whatever bullshit. You have a right to just move away from this part of your life and leave everything about it behind. That said, it might be worth consulting with a lawyer or violence-against-women/DV advocacy group in Edinburgh about what the law enforcement process is and what your legal options are, if only because you may eventually choose to involve law enforcement for your own safety.

      And really, best of luck to all the LWs! These stalker folks are NOT behaving acceptably, they have chosen to leave the category of “Decent Human Being”, and you are NOT responsible for their actions or feelings.

      • I absolutely agree regarding legal action — I definitely didn’t mean to suggest that she *should* do it. I brought up the criminality of this dude’s actions more because, for me, “Do I feel obligated to this guy I’ve been sort-of-not-exactly-dating for years?” is a very, very different question from “Do I feel obligated to this skeezy felon who’s been manipulating me?” Reframing things can help my perspective.

    • FlyBy said:

      *Jedi hugs, if you accept them* You’re doing well. This dude is the definition of a creeper. I’m sure I could have been manipulated exactly the same way when I was 15. This guy is an adult who took advantage of and has been emotionally abusing a teenager. You owe him nothing.

      Most universities have some experience with dealing with stalkers, so I’d suggest letting them know what’s going on when you arrive. The appropriate contact point may be security, counseling, student life, or someone else, it tends to vary pretty wildly. Hopefully any of them can point you in the right direction. If they don’t have experience dealing with stalkers, it’ll be easier for them if you can walk in with a list of what you need them to do. The Gift of Fear is a good starting point for figuring that out. (Just ignore the parts where he buys into the “if you stay with the abuser you’re volunteering to be abused” fallacy. Dude has male privilege and doesn’t get how people can feel stuck and/or responsible.) They should be able to do things like put a note on your file that no-one is to give out any information about you, ever, to anyone, not even confirm if you’re going to school there. They shouldn’t be doing that anyway, but sometimes an extra reminder is good. Or if you have a picture of him, it can be distributed to security so they can watch out for him. Maybe they can help you find secure housing. You’ll have a lot of resources.

      Enjoy Edinburgh! Studying abroad was the best part of my schooling, I hope you enjoy it too. :-)

    • People have been recommending the Gift of Fear, and I just wanted to tell you one of the most important things I took away from it (and from books by Lundy Bancroft): ABSOLUTELY ABSOLUTELY trust your own instincts when it comes to your safety. If you think he might try to hurt you, act on it.

      There were studies done on survivors of domestic violence that showed the best indicator of whether an abuser would become physically violent was the survivor’s gut instinct (which was obviously honed by dealing with this person on a regular basis, so it makes sense). If other people make excuses or downplay your serious concerns, mark them down as “unsupportive” and kick them out of your safety network.

  9. Something I found helpful with e-mail, was to filter my ex’s e-mail such that I never saw it but it landed in another inbox which only my trusted friend had access to. That way, my trusted friend could keep an eye on things and someone would

    (a) know if my ex made another suicide threat, because I was ready to call his bluff in the way the Captain suggests.

    (b) know if my ex made a threat to me, or said he was coming to see me, or something else I needed to act on and

    (c) have any further e-mails as evidence if I needed to talk to the police.

    Frankly, I was a bit too frightened to simply block his e-mails, but I absolutely couldn’t put myself through reading them. My friend read some of the e-mails out to me in a silly voice, which also helped a great deal – if I read them, it was as good as hearing my ex’s voice, which I’d hear in its most scary, mocking and compelling tone. My friend’s silly voice emphasised how pathetic he was acting and allowed us both to laugh at him, then dismiss him, without feeling that he’d made any point or plea that deserved an answer.

    I would also recommend telling as many people as possible, as soon as possible. One of the biggest powers someone has over you is isolation. It’s can be very tough to tell parents especially, because you feel so foolish for getting into this situation in the first place, but you didn’t. You did what most young people do, the other party has behaved very badly and each LW has done their very best to extricate themselves from the bad situation. It’s much easier for a good parent to hear, “This went badly for me, I tried to get out but now I need some help.” than for them to be helpless in the face of your unhappiness.

  10. Jessica said:

    I agree with all the wonderful advice that’s been given, and I would like to reiterate the Captain’s advice to get rid of all “presents” these men have given you. Not only will that remove reminders of them from your life, allowing you to move on more easily, but it will also literally remove their energy from your life as well. Just like how our bodies take in the energy from the food we eat, gifts from people bring their energy into our space and thus into our lives. In many cultures, this fact has been (and is) used very consciously to bless and curse others, and having these men’s energy in your lives at this point is having the effect of a curse (ESPECIALLY if gifts were given with the conscious intent of manipulating you).

    In case this doesn’t make sense or is unconvincing, you can also think of it like housecleaning, or feng shui – how decluttering and thoroughly cleaning our space acts like an energetic breath of fresh air in our lives, and how moving to another place supports us in making other kinds of changes in our lives. All these things are basically energetic tools to add to your toolbox of support.

    • Not It said:

      I had a stalker in graduate school. When I reported him to police, they were grateful, because they already had him on their radar as a no-good scum bag and they were looking for a reason to detain him. He had left presents for me–mostly notes and flowers. Before I got rid of the flowers, I photographed them, as proof. I turned the photos and notes over to the police.

      All three of you seem reluctant to involve law enforcement and I understand that. I just wanted to share that I found that the officers in my town were very, very helpful, both in convincing this man to leave me alone and in helping me emotionally. They immediately took my concerns seriously (because they knew more about him than I did). It was an enormous relief to be able to hand this huge problem off to people who had the training and power to do something about it.

      Anyway, that was a long-winded way of saying, “Yes, get rid of the presents. But consider photographing them or inventorying them first.” You may not want to go to the police now, but you may change your mind later, and if you do it will help you to be organized with your documentation.

      • JenniferP said:

        I love this idea – these guys might have victim(s) PLURAL and already be on police radar.

        • Not It said:

          Here is the conversation that I had with the police department when I called. I think I contacted the non-emergency number.

          Not It: Yeah, there’s this guy who live in my apartment building and he’s always there when I go to my car and I don’t really know if this qualifies as stalking but today when I refused to talk to him he called me a bitch. And he writes really bad poetry, which I’m sure is against the law somewhere. And I think he’s dealing drugs to the teenagers at the high school across the street.
          Operator: Have you contacted the apartment management?
          Not It: Yes. They are in the process of evicting him.
          Operator: I can’t really do anything without a name and description.
          Not It: I only know his first name, Andre. And he’s this big and that high and this skin color and his hair is like that.
          Operator: [electric pause] You mean Andre Delaney [obviously, not his real name]. I’ll have someone right out.

          THREE MINUTES LATER.

          Officer Freckles: We have enough here to sign out a warrant against him. This is verbal assault. He doesn’t get to call you names. You don’t want to talk to him, you don’t have to talk to him.
          Officer Crew Cut: DO NOT talk to him.

          And that is how I learned that when the nice, young officer asks, “Do you want to press charges?” the correct answer is, “Yes. Show me where to sign.”

          Unfortunately, I demurred. I minimized the threat, even though I was a self-defense teacher and I have volunteered with police departments. Andre was evicted and faded from my life. He was a stranger to me, not someone I had a romantic relationship with, and he did not have the stamina or resources to be a successful stalker. BUT, I now know, after 15 more years experience, nothing I ever tell the cops is a surprise. They already know. (I’m speaking generally, about passing on info about a drug house or similar situation). They’re just waiting on someone to help them make their arrest. This may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but in the three communities where I have lived, law enforcement has been a source of protection and comfort to me.

          LWs, I’m not trying to convince you to involve law enforcement. There are many valid reasons that people are reluctant to: immigration status, language fluency, social standing or lack of it in a community, sexual orientation, fear of corruption, fear of not being believed, etc. But when I did make that phone call, I did take some control over the situation, which made me feel better. I had someone to share the burden with me. Somebody knew what was happening–somebody with actual power to do something about it. And after spending lots of time with cops, I can tell you that the ones I know go into the field because they want to help people. They are all over-protective dads at heart. (I know very few female officers, but I will assume they are mama bears). They are supposed to be on your side. And they LOVE getting bad guys.

          • JenniferP said:

            Thanks for sharing, I’m glad you had such a good experience.

            Chances are you are not someone’s “gateway stalkee.” They’re not that good at hiding their true colors.

  11. Bev said:

    LW3, what he did might actually be illegal. You appear to be in the UK, so I can actually give you some advice about this, too.

    If you decide to contact the police (and I know it’s difficult when it’s someone you have a sort of attachment to, maybe get your dad to do it?), they will take you in, do an interview during which you can have as many cups of tea as you want, and then decide whether to arrest him that night or wait for more evidence. He won’t know anything until they arrest him.

    You have lots of evidence, which is good, but it’s all electronic, which means it goes into the black hole of the High Tech Crime Unit, which can take two years to properly search the evidence. But, during this time (since they can’t keep him in a cell for two years), he will be on bail and not allowed to contact you in any way, and if he does they whisk him off to prison. So effectively, it’s a restraining order.

    I hope this helps, and even if it isn’t illegal because of the sexual content, the police can probably point you to where to get a restraining order (or our equivalent), so it won’t be a total loss.

    • Bev said:

      Okay, just read your comment above and you being in different countries makes this more complicated, I guess. But still if you want to turn him in when you’re over here, then that’s basically what will happen and he still has to abide by our laws even if you’re in another country.

      • VoIP said:

        I thought he was in the UK?

  12. sasha said:

    I managed to (mostly) excise an abusive stalker several years ago, and Captain Awkward’s advice here is excellent. The best thing you can do is DO NOT ENGAGE. DO NOT!! I know how hard it is, how bad you feel for him, how much you want him to be okay, and also (selfishly) how much you want him to think well of you in the end, how much you don’t want to be hated. But you don’t have control over that in these situations. So, please, DO NOT ENGAGE!

    As for those suicide threats…my ex used them again and again and again, and they can be very effective as they play right into our fears and desires to help. Right after we’d split up and before he moved out, he once pulled a knife and threatened to stab himself with it. After he moved out, he’d threaten to come over and kill himself in front of me. Other times, he faked suicide over the phone to me – once setting down the phone and fake-jumping in front of a bus, so I could hear everyone in the background screaming; another time he faked an overdose over IM. But “faked” is the key word here. That last time, I’d figured out where he was staying and sent the police over to check on him, as I’d actually believed him. Oh boy was he ever angry when they showed up at his door, and ended up telling them that I was the crazy one stalking him. As if! Even more twisted (or at least as twisted – it’s all twisted!), he once faked his sister’s suicide, a year before she really did kill herself. That one worked, in that he got me back for a while, until one day his sister called him while I was there.

    My point is, odds are those suicide threats are hollow. Just in case they’re not, follow the Captain’s advice and send the police after him, if you know where he is. If they’re real, the police will be able to help him. If they’re not, they’ll have the double benefit of a) removing the emotional power of the threat, and b) making him so angry that he’s more likely to pull back, at least for a while.

    In the end, it took my complete disengagement to get him to leave me alone. Not answering his emails. Not responding to his suicide threats. Going into hiding at someone else’s house when he showed up in town. That plus him finding another woman to fixate on; though I feel bad for her, I was relieved to finally not be his object of obsession anymore.

    It’s really, really hard to not buy into those threats and to not respond. But it’s the only way you’re going to get away from these guys. Best of luck and lots of Jedi hugs from someone who’s been there!

    • Dorinda said:

      In the end, it took my complete disengagement to get him to leave me alone.

      Same for me. And complete disengagement meant complete. No answering, no acknowledgement, no acquaintances in common who will report to him what I’m doing/where I am (seriously, if your “friends” are helping your stalker? NOT YOUR FRIENDS. If they won’t change their behavior on this front after you tell them straight out to knock it off, then cut them from your life, period. You don’t want his allies in your camp!).

      No response whatsoever, not to threats (toward you or toward himself), or promises, or seemingly casual chat, or “love”, or arguments where you feel you need to defend yourself, or apologies (“Oh I’ve just now realized how badly I’ve treated you all this time, let’s meet so I can make amends!”), or an urgent request for directions to the hospital. He might try anything and everything, to try and hit just the right spot to make you give him attention. You have to disappear utterly from his radar screen. He’ll keep pinging and pinging, but you must resist, and play the long game. Any relenting will unfortunately just teach him that perseverance will get a reaction, and what you instead have to teach him that you have vanished into a cloud.

      • Various camps you need to get cut out of your life, because they will all be happy to act as go-betweens:
        * The stalker’s camp.
        * The “drama is always worse than anything else” camp.
        * The “nothing truly bad can happen to someone who isn’t me” camp.
        * The “obviously ‘stalking’ is intended as hyperbole” camp.

        The third and fourth, especially, have a lot of overlap.

        • JenniferP said:

          Let me also add the:

          “I know you told me to stop talking to you, but I think that my opinion is really important” camp to your excellent list.
          Also the “Well, if you would just explain to me more convincingly why I should go away, maybe I would go away, but you haven’t really made your case. If you want to convince people like me to agree with you, you should let me talk at you until I feel ready to stop” camp.

          LONG DAY, in other words.

  13. Erika said:

    It wasn’t sensitive, and it probably wasn’t technically the right thing to do, but when my stalker in college was bothering me my then boyfriend bought me an illegal butterfly knife and taught me how to use it. I looked totally Angelina Jolie badass flipping that thing around.

    And when StalkerBoy threatened suicide for the nth time, instead of reassuring him, I snapped and said “Ok. Go kill yourself. I can live with that.” Never heard from the dude again.

    Again, I like Captain’s way of dealing with it better–taking it seriously and sending emergency services over–but Cap did ask for stories about what had worked for us.

    • Commandant Cray Cray said:

      +1!

      Again, I also second your suggestion that the LW’s follow CA’s excellent advice of disengagement. However, I love your response to this dude and I’m happy it worked for you.

      I think one of the more difficult things to get over in these situations is the “nice girl” training ladies get culturally. The LW’s have no obligation to be nice to these men, to assure their safety, or to placate them in any way. In fact, a completely appropriate response to these kind of breathtakingly boundary violating tactics is anger and outrage. This is not to say you must feel anything, but that it is totally okay to be PISSED these dudes are fucking with your life and to use that as fuel every time they try to manipulate you.

      There’s no way the LW are going to get out of these situations without these dudes casting them as Super Villianesses*. I say, embrace it. If you can channel some knife flipping Angelina Jolie badassery into that role, more the better. Again, hopefully you wont be in contact with these dudes, but when your mind drifts to them (this is a stalkers goal) picturing yourself as the Super Villianess of his doom, kicking him into the sun with your super human strength, can be fun. Basically:

      YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO BE NICE, in your head or in any of your dealings, when people are fucking with you in any way.

      *it was being cast as “the most evil selfish bitch ever OMG” by my ex that finally tipped me off that this was not true, and not even reality. I mean, I don’t have bitch superpowers, as much as I’d like to.

      • Commandant Cray Cray said:

        Oh forgot to mention: self defense classes! Super empowering and good for developing a badass attitude.

    • And when StalkerBoy threatened suicide for the nth time, instead of reassuring him, I snapped and said “Ok. Go kill yourself. I can live with that.”

      Yeah, maybe I’m a horrible person but if a stalker threatened suicide, I’d be thinking “YES PLEASE. If you’re dead, you won’t fucking contact me anymore!”

      I had a yucky experience once with a guy threatening suicide. We were new-ish friends, he was (or told me he was) a clinical depressive, and he’d just been romantically rejected by some chick and was angsting about it to me over email to the point of musing about killing himself. Like, long terrifying ranty emails. I started out trying to comfort/reassure him because I figured his depression was flaring up, but then I realized: most people (including me) get sort of gray and flat-seeming when we’re depressed, and barely have the energy to write anything. We don’t write spectacularly flowery emails filled with florid metaphors. He wasn’t being a depressive, he was being a drama queen!

      So I stopped catering to his need for attention and just wrote back “here’s a number for a suicide hotline. Please call it” – nothing more (if I’d known his address, I would’ve stopped emailing entirely and just sent the police to his house as Captain Awkward suggests). He responded with an even more insane ranty email, going to extremes to try to get my attention back – and when I completely ignored it, he wrote another perfectly normal email to me just 20 minutes later, all “So I was thinking of making a new OKCupid profile! Wanna help?” and asking me what username he should pick. Whereupon I told him our friendship was over and blocked him on every platform I could think of. Luckily, he did in fact go away instead of getting stalky.

      What a shitty, shitty thing to do to a person, though! I was at work when he started sending those emails, and the first few freaked me out so much I was shaking and couldn’t concentrate on my job at all. If a friend said “I’m really not doing very well…I think I need help…please take me to a hospital/come to the doctor with me to get my antidepressant prescription refilled/etc.”, that’s one thing, but “BLARRRRGH NOBODY LOVES ME AND I SWEAR TO GOD I’LL KILL MYSELF BLAAAAAAAARGH” is not a thing you do to someone you care about. It’s a bid for control.

  14. Lilly said:

    (long time reader, delurking to comment!)
    LW3 (wow, you sound really brave – and the creepy stalker douche sounds like a creepy stalker douche) – the captain’s advice is spot on – BLOCK, DON’T ENGAGE.

    I’ve had 2 experiences with stalky behavior, the first was when I dumped an emotionally abusive boyfriend and the second was some creepy dude from an evening class I took who wouldn’t take no for an answer when he asked me out.

    The first case, the guy in question used creepy tactics to make me feel bad about dumping him, including making me feel sorry for him and responsible by threatening to kill himself (in public!) because his ex-wife said he had to pay child support (yeah, why did I ever dump him, you ask – he sounds like a keeper).

    Anyway, eventually I worked up the courage to dump him (my friends were really supportive which helped – he tried to isolate me from my friends, BTW) – he was staying in my flat because he made himself homeless even though he had a well paid professional job to make his ex-wife feel sorry for him – and I just told him to leave and it was over.

    He did leave, but started a crazy stalking campaign.

    This included: calling my cellphone ALL THE TIME so I could not use it, it literally rang CONSTANTLY, he would just hit redial for DAYS at a time.

    He sent me mail that included gifts, which he said showed how much he loved me and how sorry he was.

    He drove to my flat, and sat outside in his car for an entire day, he did that both days of the weekend for two weeks so I could not go out – when I did he either kerb crawled me or got out the car and followed me, pleading.

    He then went into my flat when I was not there – I took the key I gave him back but I guess he copied it – and he MADE A VIDEO of himself in MY HOME which he mailed me on a CD. It was the creepiest thing I ever saw.

    He called my work.

    He sent flowers to my office.

    If you are wondering, why I did not call the police, the reason was his elderly mother, who was incredibly fragile emotionally and with whom he stayed after I kicked him out. The shock of the police investigating her son, whom she idolized, would have killed her I am sure. Now, I think I was in physical danger from him and I should damn well have called the cops.

    I did not engage with him, I deleted his mails, I gave his creepy letters and the video to a friend just in case, for evidence.

    After a while of no response, he did give up. I know that had I talked to him, reasoned with him, he would never have given up.

    Soon after that I moved to a totally different country.

    After that, though, he resumed stalking me on the internet, finding a blog I set up that was not in my name (he must have devoted serious hours to searching for it) and leaving threatening comments. It was unpleasant but easy to ignore.

    This was 2 years ago, six months ago I heard he got married (!!!!!) and I really worry about his wife but I know that is not my problem.

    Wow, that was long….

    • JenniferP said:

      OMG, thanks for sharing your story even if I will be having nightmares of this guy’s home video-making.

      The bit about the elderly mother makes me think of how these guys use our own good hearts & instincts against us. “His mother will be sad! He might kill himself!” This guilt and worry becomes a tool that they use to keep people in a relationship they don’t want and clouds our ability to see that creepy guy is just creepy and awful and deserves whatever he gets (police visits, embarrassment, total social isolation).

      So glad you’re free.

      • Yes, I am totally going to have video-related nightmares. What the everloving FUCK?!?!

      • Rosa said:

        I was SO HAPPY to see the advice you gave about suicide threats. The first time I came to that conclusion (unfortunately it was AFTER we broke up, not during the two years we stayed together because of periodic suicide threats) and called emergency services on someone who was trying (or “trying”, i still have no idea) to commit suicide, our whole community treated me like a cold unfeeling bitch.

    • Lola B said:

      WTF, that is awful!! I swear that sounds like the plot of a really wacky episode of Criminal Minds or CSI. (I’m so glad in the real life situation you are OK!!)

    • Private Editor said:

      All I could do as I read your comment was say, “Oh. My god,” “Oh. My god,” “OH. My GOD,” over and over. I am so, so sorry that happened to you and I’m so glad you didn’t get hurt. Jesus. Nightmare fuel, for reals.

      *goes to check deadbolt*

  15. Cora said:

    I completely second CA’s advice. And to all of you: whatever these guys do is absolutely *not your fault*. They’re trying to make you feel responsible for their feelings and actions, but nobody is responsible for that than them.

    One thing I do want to suggest is hiding or forwarding their e-mails instead of deleting them. I really hope it doesn’t come to this, but if you need to take legal action in the future, or if, heaven forbid, one of them does something or tries to, you’ll want that paper trail.

    You can do this by creating a hidden folder and sending all the e-mails there, but if you think you won’t be able to resist the temptation to check it (perfectly understandable! I probably wouldn’t be able to stop myself checking it either), you can auto-forward them to a trusted friend (who doesn’t have to read them either, but can filter them to a folder and keep them for you where you can’t get at them) before deleting, or you can auto-forward them to a dummy e-mail account and have a trusted friend or family member control the e-mail account password. (In the latter case, you don’t even necessarily have to explain all the details of why you’re having them control the password.) That way they’re out of your hair and out of temptation, but still accessible if you need them for legal purposes in the future.

    Like I said, I hope you never need it, but unfortunately it can be useful to keep the record in case you do.

  16. Marie said:

    My emotionally abusive boyfriend tried to stalk me after I broke up with him (I was 18). First he sent me a guilt-tripping postcard at the exact time of a family holiday he knew I’m very fond of, but I was wise to his manipulating ways (he’d made me cry quite a few times with the same tactic), so it didn’t work. A while later I met him by chance on public transportation. He asked if I’d received the card and I said yes, but that I hadn’t been upset because I understood he was trying to guilt-trip me. He actually admitted that that was what he’d been after (he’s the only person I’ve ever met who’s ever owned up to his manipulative ways – most people deny it adamantly).
    A few months later, he showed up at school on the morning of a big exam, but I acted like a total ditz: “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii, long time no see!!!! Oh my God, did you get a makeover? Gotta run! Bye!”
    Then I moved to another city and he got my e-mail address through my school’s website. He e-mailed me several times (about once a month), but I never replied and I deleted all his e-mails. I know he tried to contact my parents during a vacation, but I had stayed in my new city (he may have done it a few more times, but I’m not sure – my parents never told me about it). Once he bumped into my brother on public transportation and started waxing lyrical about our relationship to him, but my brother is rarely interested in what’s going on in this world at the best of times, let alone in what his sister’s ex-boyfriend has to say.
    The last time I heard from him was in grad school, when he sent a Christmas card to my parents’ house in which he wrote “I’m single…” I snapped and sent him a card back, in which I wrote something like: “Dear ex-bf, thanks for the offer but I’m not interested. Never try to contact me of my family again, you psychopath! Merry Christmas! Marie” That’s the last time I heard from him.
    I’m pretty lucky, because there was not a lot of fuel behind his fire. But I’m still apprehensive everytime I take the subway in my hometown or I enter my e-mail address on a website (my Facebook privacy settings? I got an iron grip on those). My heart goes out to all of you, LWs. I hope you get rid of the creeps who are ruining your lives.

    • FlyBy said:

      Most schools and businesses use a set format for their email addresses, usually firstname.lastname@institution.org or firstnamelastinitial@institution.org. If a stalker can find an email address for anyone at your school or workplace (and they’re probably all over the associated website), he can probably guess yours. I hope I haven’t just scared the crap out of anyone dealing with a stalker, but the point is that if he gets your work or school email address it’s probably just the result of an educated guess, not super-stalker abilities. Your IT department should be able to block or filter his emails for you if you ask. You could also ask for an email address that doesn’t follow their usual format, which they may or may not be willing to do.

      • Marie said:

        That’s exactly what he did. Like I said, I was lucky that he didn’t have a lot of stamina. When I read stories about people getting stalked, I always think to myself that I got off pretty easy. I haven’t heard from him in years, so I suppose he moved on.

  17. solecism said:

    I too have a stalkerish ex. I too tried to break up and quickly gave in to the tears and heartbreak out of pity. I finally ended it 6 years later after moving across the country together, buying a house, etc. That ultimately was way more cruel and devastating and harder to disengage from (selling the house! separating our worldly possessions! escrow refund check in both our names! jointly owned car!) than if I’d made it stick the first time. Everyone is correct that you need to disengage entirely. I will note that sometimes the stalker ex will move on and fixate on someone else, and sometimes not. Mine is still fixated on me, though it’s been 6 years since we broke up. I know this from mutual friends, though they do not pass along information nearly as frequently as they used to.

    All of this happened long before Captain Awkward’s blog, and I only just read The Gift of Fear last month. However, I received wise counsel from a good friend. Up to that point, I had always stayed friends with my exes and former FWBs, though sometimes that was because of the Fallacy of the Cool Ex, and I told the stalkerish ex that we would be friends. How wrong I was. Anything other than a hostile interaction was perceived by him as an invitation. And even the day we closed on the house and loaded up all his worldly goods to move back across the country, after cracking his ribs in the process, he still tried to coerce me into sex. So following wise counsel, I did not initiate any contact after he moved away and did not reply to any of his communications. And as I moved and my contact information changed, I restricted that information so that only an email address is listed publicly. I expect to follow this policy for possibly the rest of my life (or more realistically, his). I specifically instructed friends to not pass along my contact information to anyone without asking me first.

    Things that I did not do. I didn’t try to regulate interactions of mutual friends with him, since philosophically I figured they needed to navigate their own relationships. I neither requested information about him or requested that they not pass information along to him, but neither did I refuse to discuss him if they opened the subject. As a result, someone told him that I had started dating not long after he moved away (maybe to help him move on? I don’t really know). Someone (who later confessed to me) suggested that he write a letter to me to get all of those feelings out of him and not mail it as therapy, but of course he did mail it, and I have saved the hate mail in case I might need it later. Additionally, before I moved out and after I had officially broken up with him and he’d believed me (finally!), he went through my address book without my knowledge and copied information on my closest long-distance friends. He proceeded to harass them by phone for awhile. One of them has saved some of those voicemails, again, in case the evidence should be needed later. Many of these mutual friends are caring, compassionate people, and they proceeded to accept calls from him for several years. I suspect they generally did a good job of redirecting conversation away from me, but because they were connected with me, I expect this contact by proxy to me has helped keep him fixated on me. However, the frequency of his calls to others have declined, from all I have heard, and one by one, they are changing phone numbers and not sharing with him.

    I had the advantage that he was older and not tech savvy. So online stalking seems very unlikely in my situation. Still, between this and my general privacy concerns, I do not participate in social media much if at all. I know this isn’t a realistic choice for you who are already enmeshed in these networks. Please pay close attention to privacy policies and settings. Do not participate in apps like foursquare that share your location with other users. Use anonymous/pseudonymous options, private browsing, and filters that will disguise your IP address, phone GPS location, etc.

    Definitely keep personal security in mind in terms of housing. Avoid first floor/basement apartments. Good roommates advisable. Find buildings with security doors and enforcement of security policies. Make sure that you set up a list of approved visitors, and more importantly blocked visitors, if this option is available. Get to know your neighbors (and security guards?) so that they know you (and your friends). I’m not sure whether you can arrange with the postal service to not receive mail/packages from specific or unknown recipients/addresses. Consider getting a PO Box so that your home address is not readily available. I haven’t gotten to that step, but I keep it as an option.

    Name on utilities–that can be tricky. It helps to establish credit, but it can also be a means of tracing you. Currently, all of my utilities and my domain are registered in the name of my partner. If we ever break up, I would be in a world of hurt in terms of the domain, but hey, trade-offs. You’re all young, so public records are likely less of a concern in terms of property titles, etc., but if you have a driver’s license, find out what you can do to restrict access to that information. Here in the USA, FOIA means that anything that appears in government records that isn’t specifically protected by privacy laws (like HIPAA and FERPA) can be turned over when the appropriate paperwork is filed. This can include things like voter registration, ballot petitions, etc.

    It sucks that you may need to consider these things. It sucks that the victims of abuse, potential violence, stalking and other profound violations of the social contract largely bear the burden of coping with this often with little or no assistance from institutions and communities. It sucks that no matter what, there will always be some people who will blame you for whatever your stalker does. That ain’t right. And it isn’t true, you are not responsible for the stalker’s feelings or actions, ever. It’s okay to set reasonable boundaries and expect them to be respected. The burden shouldn’t be on you in this situation, and I hope extreme protective measures will be unnecessary.

    • solecism said:

      One more thing. Since we broke up, I have been very open about the fact that our relationship was abusive, though it took me awhile to figure out, and I kept plenty under wraps while we were still together. I have not hesitated to discuss this with friends (especially mutual friends), sometimes in detail. Part of this is me processing the whole experience.

      But also, remember, you’ve done nothing wrong. You have been a caring person who was preyed upon. You are learning from this experience. It’s okay to acknowledge that publicly. It helps your friends understand that this person is a problem. It helps them understand your need to protect your personal information and online accounts. It hopefully makes them your allies in protecting yourself. Or it may expose those who aren’t, so you can get them out of your life sooner, sad and disappointing as that may be. It’s like coming out of the closet–it makes it easier for others to recognize when they are in trouble with a stalker or otherwise abusive relationship and to know they aren’t alone. It helps create a community that is more likely to be hostile to predators instead of complicit with them. However, how much, what, when, to whome you share is always entirely up to you. It is not your responsibility to do all of these things, I am simply describing some reasons why it can be beneficial.

      • Alice said:

        “It helps create a community that is more likely to be hostile to predators instead of complicit with them.” THIS. SO MUCH. There’s a reason stalkers try their damnedest to isolate their victims!

  18. AwkwardNoho said:

    Hey LWs, nthing the Captain’s awesome advice. I wanted to add one other thing from my personal experience. I have a good friend who recently had a stalking situation. The guy went from casual conversations (like a grand total of maybe 8 minutes of chatting) to violating her property and privacy. The point of this is: these guys have broken the social contract, as someone else already said, especially #1 and #3. They are already on the other side of that fuzzy line that separates what people usually do, even mean people, from everything that is totally socially unacceptable and awful. Don’t assume that they will follow any social or ethical rules, or that you owe anything to them. Surround yourself with as much support and protection as possible. Don’t feel like you’re silly or unreasonable for asking for help or support (from friends, parents, law enforcement, your school/job, whatever you think you need.)

  19. AwkwardNoho said:

    Gah, I should add that the point of the anecdote (which I totally left out, so it doesn’t make much sense) was that the guy who stalked my friend had broken some small social codes and cues, and I thought it was creepy, but my dad was like, no, no, he’s just socially inept, he’s fine, but all the women I talked to thought it was Bad News. And then a few weeks later he broke into her house. The point is, trust your instincts and get help if you want it – don’t assume that it’s a waste or unnecessary.

  20. Caito said:

    This is the post that finally makes me send the link to your blog to all of my sisters.

  21. Anon21 said:

    My heart just breaks for LW3, ensnared for eight years by this creep. Who does shit like that?

  22. CODA said:

    I had an ex who threatened suicide. Luckily for me (I was only 17 and WAY I’ll-equipped to handle this), his threats were made to the mothers of me and our girlfriend. The mothers were good friends, and teamed up to deal with him. A couple of times, they drove to get him (at 3am, natch) from railway bridges and the like. It didn’t take long before they decided enough was enough, and told him that killing himself was his choice, and they wouldn’t be coming to rescue him any more. He must have done something else, because they ended up taking him to a mental hospital and getting him committed.

  23. readhead said:

    Hi Red, I am so so sorry this is happening to you. I wanted to highlight Captain Awkward’s advice that you seek counseling immediately. Without going into too much detail, I had a roommate/best friend relationship like this one and unfortunately my friend did attempt suicide. Luckily, she was not successful, but dealing with the guilt was extremely difficult to me and it influenced (still does) almost all my relationships because I essentially live in fear of this happening again. But, it wasn’t my fault. It really really wasn’t, and if this creepy stalker guy did hurt himself, it wouldn’t be yours either. Knowing that intellectually and believing it are sometimes two different things though and having a therapist to help you through it is very important. Please seek help immediately–it is so helpful to have a professional on Team You when you feel responsible for the behavior of someone else. This professional will repeat as many times as you need to hear it that you are NOT responsible for anyone’s behavior but your own and you will believe s/he means it even when you don’t believe friends and loved ones.

  24. Alice said:

    First of all, I just want to give a HUGE THANK YOU to Captain Awkward for this site, and answering these questions. I’ve had two experiences with stalkers.

    The first stalker I had actually did come to my apartment, after having tried to kill himself. He’d swallowed a couple bottles of pills and had cut up his arms, and showed up on my doorstep to “say goodbye.” My roommate called an ambulance and he was kept in the hospital, and like a fool, I visited him there, where he told me I was now his angel and had saved his life. After his release from the hospital, his obsession grew to include threatening my friends if they didn’t allow him to see me. The thing that finally worked was getting the help of several men at the church we both (myself and Stalker) attended. It was not a perfect solution but I did not know better at the time. But five of the men from church went to my stalker’s apartment (he lived across the street from me) and informed him he was not to speak to me or show up at my apartment any more, and that if he did, they would involve law enforcement. He ended up moving out of the country and still attempts to contact me on various social media (via fake accounts) to tell me what a horrible, selfish bitch I am. It’s been 8 years since he moved away, and it was only last year that I was finally able to let go of the guilt, and realize that I did the right thing by shutting down all communication with him.

    The second stalker I had 2 years ago, and he was a customer at the cafe where I work. He’d wait in the parking lot and corner me to talk before I could get in my car, and had written some sort of movie script involving me breaking up with my boyfriend to go out with him, that he left at the cafe for my coworkers to read. After a few months of this, I informed my boss that I was frightened of the guy, and fortunately, my boss was very supportive. The next time the stalker came to the cafe, I went and sat across from him at the table, and my boss walked up behind me, not saying a word, but just stood behind me while I told the guy that I was uncomfortable interacting with him and he was no longer welcome to be served in our cafe or on the property. Haven’t seen or heard from him since.

    In both cases I was lucky that I had support from friends and bosses. The controlling, manipulation, guilt trips, they don’t seem to work as well before an audience, maybe? It also helped me IMMENSELY in the second case, to have someone who literally had my back.

    • JenniferP said:

      You and other posters are so right in saying “tell somebody.” Let there be an audience to their behavior.

      They make us feel afraid and ashamed, so that we’ll be quiet and not tell anyone about it and try to be “cool” and handle it ourselves. When really, they should be ashamed and need to be Told.

  25. Keely said:

    I’ve shared my story in bits and pieces in various comment threads before, so I won’t go through the whole thing again in detail, but here I go again, trying to cover the details relevant to these particular letters:

    I started dating my first boyfriend at 16. He was kind of screwed up emotionally but so was I, and very early on I established a habit of putting up with shitty guilt-tripping and other bullshit because I felt I owed him for putting up with my anxiety/depression/etc. My family was and is full of dysfunctional relationships which meant a) that I didn’t realize how fucked up some of his behavior was– that was ‘normal’ to me and b) there were times where I honestly felt I didn’t have better options than being with him. (He and I had very small social circles that overlapped almost entirely)

    I stayed for SIX YEARS despite escalating ugly fights that started around 3 months, and serious attempts at breakups (initiated by me, of course) every six months or so starting around year 3. The list of abusive behavior is long, I see now, but at the time I always convinced myself things weren’t that bad. I even got engaged to him, about 9 months before I ended things, mostly because I couldnt come up with a good REASON to say no. (hint: wanting to say no is reason enough. Always. I promise.)

    I finally gathered the nerve to end things for good only because circumstances forced us into being long-distance immediately after we graduated college, as our dream career paths took us to different cities. The new location and living ALONE allowed me to develop new support systems full of people who weren’t already on his side, and I started to have just enough self-esteem to believe I deserved better than the constant arguments and cruelty that dominated our conversations. (Distance brought out his insecurities and jealousy in a truly scary way. I have saved phone messages with super classy highlights such as “you’re a worthless whore.”)

    When I left, he went crazy. I broke up by email to try and avoid being screamed at and argued down, he immediately jumped in his car and drove 6 hours to my place, without asking first of course. I let him in out of guilt, and we didn’t leave my bedroom for nearly 24 hours, which we spent talking and crying and arguing. (we both missed work/school) I got him to leave only by promising we’d stay together and that I would still fly up for my planned visit that weekend.

    I should have never gotten on that plane. He was saying crazy things, and more importantly I just didn’t want to. But I felt guilty, so I went, but after an exhausting week trying to deal with the drama and school, I asked that we not try to talk anymore the evening that I arrived, but instead watch a show together and fall asleep. I also asked that he not spend the weekend making grand gestures to try and fix everything, but instead let us just stay in and relax and talk things through, and I asked that sex not be on the table for the weekend.

    He ignored my wishes on all counts. I arrived to an evening full of planned events designed to manipulate my emotions–“lets go through this box of momentos together and reflect on how awesome I’ve been to you!” was one. When I finally got him to give up and let us go to bed, he tried to guilt me into sex. I refused, he laid in bed and cried.

    I woke up just a few hours later to him hovering over me, whispering in my ear, “you love me, you don’t want to leave me, please tell me you’ll stay, please don’t hurt me like this, you know you’re better than that, you wouldnt hurt me like this…” I freaked out because…creepy, yes? I jumped out of bed, and unable to come up with another way to get privacy in his studio apartment, said I wanted to shower ALONE to wake up and clear my head.

    He joined me in the shower after less than 5 minutes. He didn’t ask, just walked in and tried to seduce me into shower sex like it was any other weekend morning. I refused and had to physically fight him to get out of the shower. I got dressed and started packing, knowing I’d made a huge mistake by coming at all.

    When he realized I really intended to leave, he went apeshit. He wrecked his apartment, pulling books off shelves, smashing plates on the floor. He pulled out his pocket knife and said he should try cutting like I used to, because he couldn’t take the pain. When that didn’t get enough of a reaction, he threatened suicide. I told him that if he was serious about that or keeping me from leaving, I’d call 911. Then, thank god, my taxi came.

    It has taken over a year to fully get rid of him. For the first few months he guilted (you owe me another chance/an explanation/etc) or threatened me (if you don’t answer my call/email I’ll just come down there again) into contact or badgered me through mutual friends. I eventually had to change my number, block him in every imaginable way on social media, and change my email, giving the password for the old one to a friend in case I ever needed it for evidence. I also put out misinformation through friends and online saying I had moved, and told him in very clear terms that if he ever showed up in person I would call the cops.

    Again, this took me a year. He got to me many, many times, and if I hadn’t had good friends and a good therapist I easily could have gone back to him in the first few weeks, because he did have me convinced that I was the bad person in all of this. It was hard. It was ugly. Several mutual friends cut off contact with both of us for awhile because they couldn’t handle it, and many of those people have since resumed contact with me while cutting him off entirely, since he sees anyone having a relationship with me as a means to get to me/an evil traitor who associates with that selfish whore.

    But there is a GOOD end to this story. Now that I don’t have a fiancé constantly telling me how much I suck, I’ve managed to put together a little bit of self-esteem. (My self-hatred preceded him and is still something I’m working on, but I’m MUCH better) I feel like I’m making progress in my social/emotional life for the first time since high school. Grad school got way easier without the burden of Him. I have loving, meaningful relationships with people who respect my boundaries and never, ever guilt trip or manipulate. I still have issues, and I’m still getting over accepting the fact that I am a person who took emotional abuse from parents for my whole childhood and then ran out and found someone new to take even more abuse from as an adult. But life got so,so much better.

    Letter writers, you’ve been given amazing advice here. Protect yourself, get loving supportive people as well as the law if necessary on your side, get therapy, and be kind to yourself while you recover. But GET OUT, and if you take one thing away from this, take away that your life is YOURS, and no one, not your parents, not your boyfriend, not anyone, has the right to your attention, time, love, or affection. You don’t owe anyone. You are free.

    • Keely said:

      And I totally did go through the whole thing again. Whoops.

      • solecism said:

        I am very happy that you succeeded in making a new, positive life. I am very sorry that you experienced all of that, but you survived. Thank you for sharing. I too keep posting bits and pieces (or worse yet, endless loop of the same points) about my ex, so I hear you on all of this. Keep working on the self-esteem, self-care, and self-love. We got your back, at least around here.

      • JenniferP said:

        No worries, Keely, it’s completely on topic. Also, holy fucking shit, I am so sorry you went through that.

      • Keely said:

        Thank you both. I think I’ve said it before, but this place is good for me. Regular reinforcement of healthy ideas about boundaries/relationships/etc = awesomeness.

  26. JenniferP said:

    You guys, Letter Writers, I forgot to tell you a brief story. STORY TIME!

    You guys are not alone in this stuff. Even without violent threats or suicide or secret videotaping or internet stalking, I was unable to make a breakup stick and developed a fake long-distance relationship with someone who wouldn’t let go.

    When I was a freshman in college, I had a boyfriend, G. He was a senior who graduated and moved back to his home city.

    We stayed together over the summer, and agreed to an open relationship long distance the following year. That meant a) we talked on the phone a lot and occasionally visited b) I dated a lot of other people, and because he wanted “honesty” I told him about them c) he dated almost no other people and tried to guilt me about his loyalty vs. my slutty betrayal.

    I broke up with him several times but it didn’t really take. “Sure we can stay friends.” “Okay, cool, so I’ll see you next weekend like we planned, right?” “Uh, okay, I guess.” Then we’d have bad sex and have the whole conversation again in person.

    I grew less and less interested in him, but had more and more guilt and he was my first (consensual) sex partner and he really loved me and was mostly nice and inoffensive and I didn’t want to be mean and maybe this is just what relationships are like….yadda yadda, you all know the Young Woman’s I Just Want To Be Nice song by heart by now. What was happening was that I was saying “Ok but we should break up” and he was treating it like a negotiation and refusing to believe me. Since he was far away it was easy to ignore him and focus on other people when I wanted to. He’d get the hint eventually, right?

    Then I studied abroad junior year. I broke up with him before I went. He still called me on the phone, late at night his time which was the wee hours of the morning my time. He’d get mad when I’d put the phone down or ask him to call back later because on being awakened at 4 am I really had to pee. “I really feel like you’re taking me for granted, Jennifer.” He’d send me weird card that were full of news clippings about Prague. I mean…I lived in Prague. I knew what it was like and didn’t need a NYT trend piece about it. I asked him not to send me any more clippings, which also made him mad.

    When I came back, he drove out to see me at my parents’ place. We had dinner and then went to the playground to sit in the car and talk. He talked the entire time. He didn’t ask me a single question about the YEAR I’d just spent in a FOREIGN COUNTRY, but he did spout off every factoid he knew about the Czech Republic like the champion mansplainer he was.

    I broke up with him again. Something something about the long distance thing not working for me anymore mumble mumble lame excuse. But somehow we ended up doing…stuff…again? GOD, HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? Answer: Because I wanted to be “nice.” But we were definitely broken up now! For sure.

    I went back to DC for my senior year in the fall. One fine fall morning he showed up at my dorm and rang the bell. Because, you see, he’d moved back there and now we could be together. We wouldn’t be long distance anymore, he’d fixed it! Solved! Surprise!

    I was finally truly shocked and creeped out. He’d escalated things to the point that I could get in touch with my anger. I wouldn’t let him into my apartment. I walked him over to the student union and sat with him in a very public place. My shoulders were up around my ears. I asked him why he’d moved back. He said “for you!” and I said something like “That’s too bad, because I didn’t ask you to and I don’t want you to.” He got mad at me for being mean and only talking to him in public. I asked him to please leave – I had homework to do.

    And then I never talked to him again. I think I hung up on a few of his calls and told the story to mutual friends so they’d have my back. They did, fortunately, though it was more “Man, what a sad sack, yes, I will help him get his shit together” than understanding how afraid and guilty and weird I felt.

    YEARS later one of those mutual friends stayed at his place (a place he shared with his mom) in NYC and called me from the bathroom. “Jennifer, G. and mom has a PICTURE OF YOU on the mantel.” A framed 8 x 10 of me! He asked me what I wanted him to do. I said “Steal it, obviously. Steal it and destroy it.”

    He did – and sent photographic proof of it languishing in an Upper East Side dumpster. That is a good friend, people.

    All this is to say I am not a superhero of assertiveness. I got the same shitty “you have to be nice to boys but don’t be a slut or what they do to you will be all your fault” programming everyone in this culture gets, and it did not serve me well. I dated that guy for at least a year of my life longer than I wanted to. More like two.

    I got older. I got therapy and read about Feminism and got some of the messages uninstalled from my brain. Mostly. It gets better. You level up.

    • Esti said:

      A friend who steals the portrait of you that your ex/stalker keeps on his mantle and then sends you a picture of it in a dumpster? PRICELESS.

      • JenniferP said:

        TRUTH.

  27. DWM said:

    I was friends with a guy for years in HS and afterwards. He was engaged to be married and sent me a note that he would leave his fiance in a second if I would just give him a chance. I said no but continued the friendship. A few years later he invited me to his house to see his son and hang out and when I got there he told me he always loved me and asked if we could have sex. I said no and promptly left and never spoke to him again. Just last year he called and left a message on my home answering machine (it’s been 18 years-ish since our last contact) asking if this was my number and if I would call him back. I asked my spouse to delete the message and I will never call him back. I have no desire to rehash events from 18+ years ago. Creepy! I remain fairly anonymous on FB because there are lots of guys from my past that I just do not want contacting me. Ever. Period.

  28. DWM said:

    When I think back to all the creepy, fucked up behavior some of the men I dated displayed I literally shudder for my younger self. One boyfriend who lived across the street told me of the guests he saw at a party I threw through his gun scope (curtains always drawn after that!), another ex boyfriend who called me and showed up at my house threatening me when I started dated someone new (“You’re nothing without me. I made you, I can take everything away. Answer this phone now or you’re gonna get it.”), one guy who sent me flowers and gifts and then called my house with obscene phone calls every night for two months (“I can see you. I know what you’re wearing.”). Jeebus, this is some scary shit when I think about it now.

    • JenniferP said:

      I’m confused…why would you be afraid of a sniper watching you and your party guests from across the way?

      (I’m not actually confused because GAH TERRIFYING)

  29. Private Editor said:

    Gah. Gah. This entire entry, Cap, I can’t even. Thank you for making this blog a safe space for people to share their stories and solutions and to support one another. The advice here is all good and I can’t really add anything to it, but:

    LWs, I’m so sorry this is happening to you. You deserve to be happy and to feel safe with the people in your lives. Go forth, seek whatever help seems best to you, and move forward on living your terrifyingly amazing lives, even if the trip to get there takes a long time.

  30. We’ve all done some stupid shit, I think.

    Like baby insomniac me calling in for tickets to a late night DJ (which gave him WAY too much of my info) Letting him talk me into phone sex. And then, letting him come visit while my parents were out of town. Thank god my friend was staying with me and refused to leave while he was there or bad things would probably have happened. I was 18. He was 37. It took months to get him to stop calling me.

    It doesn’t mean you’re not a good person. It means you’re probably very nice, and he’s preying on that. The only way to stop it is to draw a hard no in every way. It’s always better to have someone on your side to do it. Counseling is awesome and a huge help in how to re write the scripts that you’ve been using to tell yourself what you do and don’t deserve. Because, you really deserve MUCH better.

  31. Lieutenant Intuition said:

    My stalking experience was pretty brief and extremely mild, especially compared to the ones described above, but here goes anyway:

    I met A at a dear friend’s birthday party. He seemed nice enough; he made jokes about sex and stuff but then so do I, and all in all we spent a pretty entertaining afternoon chatting and became friends on Facebook. He did not express any sexual interest in me after I told him I was a lesbian, although as we parted he did say that I ought not to make it so obvious, because it might put guys off. Which, you know, sure, whatever, it’s not like I’m going to have to interact with you on a hugely regular basis, right?

    He texted me later that day, and rang me. (I dislike phonecalls intensely unless they a) are for a specific purpose or b) are from close friends or family.) We made small talk for a little while, and he brought up again (from earlier that afternoon) a parody porn film I had mentioned in passing wanting to watch out of horrified curiosity, but not wanting to do it alone. He said he could get it and we would watch it. I said “maybe”, getting a little worried at this point, but figuring hey, I wasn’t committing to it, and I could maybe make it into a big friendly even where I wouldn’t have to be alone with him? And then he said that he was looking forward to masturbating to it with me in the room. I said we definitely would not be doing that. He said he would show me thinkgs that would make me change my mind. I quickly exited the conversation and freaked out to one of my close friends, who told me that “that’s just how guys are” and I didn’t need to get so worked up over them joking around. (We’re not that close anymore.) Luckily my sister, my other friends and the lady I was seeing at the time were there to tell me that his behaviour was extremely uncool, and to help me through the next stages. I deleted him on Facebook, told my friend what had happened – she was horrified but sadly not surprised, as he’d tried to pull a lower-intensity version of the same crap with her – and gave his name and number to my dad, as well as alerting all of my other friends who had met him at the same party to what he’d done. The next day he texted me saying that he was on a break from work and was going to have lunch with me. I told him he definitely was not, and not to contact me again. He sent me a few texts, ranging from “come on, don’t be like that, I was enjoying our friendship and I know you were too” (yes, our deep and lasting friendship of seventy-two hours) to “you’re a stuck-up bitch”. The texts and phonecalls carried on throughout that summer. I ignored them, and eventually they stopped.

    Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee that carrying on. I last heard from him via Facebook message about a year ago, when the friend who had introduced me to him suddenly died. As we were pretty close and I knew her parents, I was the point of contact for anybody who had information about the incident or who didn’t feel they could directly send condolences to the family, and he messaged me saying “I’m so sorry to hear what happened, I want to be a friend again more than ever in this time of need!”

    I didn’t reply. I was too scared and too angry, and I still wonder if it was the right thing to do in spite of a large number of awesome people telling me that I am absolutely not obligated to keep in touch with a dude who will actually go so far as to use the death of a close friend of mine to try and manipulate me back into talking to him. In his life story I am probably a bitchy dyke who can’t take a joke. And I’m okay with that.

    • JenniferP said:

      My ex (of the framed mantel photo 8 yrs later, see above) used 9-FUCKING-11 as a reason to try to get back in touch and “see what I was up to.”

      BALEETED.

    • Erika said:

      I’m glad to hear that you’ve mostly gotten away from this scary jerk person, and I hope it’s done and over for you.

      Also, I want to let you know that “I ought not to make {my lesbianism} so obvious, because it might put guys off” is perhaps the most awful-inappropriate-yet-funny thing I can think of saying to a lesbian… I might have to call up one of my friends and say it to her right now and see if I can get her laugh hard enough that her coffee comes out of her nose.

      • I don’t even get it. Well, I get it, but what’s the idea behind it? Heterosexual guys shouldn’t have to feel like there are woman who are definitely not interested in them? *rolls eyes*

        • KL said:

          I think that’s exactly it.

  32. Captain gives good advice.

    Because these behaviours aren’t limited to significant others (or people who wish to be so) and on principle that it is useful to share these things so others can learn from them:

    My (physically, emotionally abusive) father threatened to hang himself in the basement when I was seventeen. I was in first year uni, alone in my dorm, he was alone in the house (a 30 hour drive away), and we were on the phone. My first thought was not I don’t want him to die so much as that’s where my sisters’ room is oh no they’ll find his body and so I begged him not to.

    So of course the next time he hit one of my siblings it supremely fucked with my head. I’d already felt guilty for not standing up to him, and not stopping him, but now I felt directly responsible for him and for everything he did.

    It took a very long time to untangle my brain from that. I was always, always worried about what might be happening at home, and wondering how to protect my family from him without somehow making things worse. University did not go well.

    I tried to control contact with him a few times. He kept pushing at boundaries, or striding right through them. There was an email I interpreted as another suicide attempt and called my mom in a panic. There were unwanted hugs at family events when I was surrounded by people and didn’t feel able to push him away because it would cause a scene. I was accused of being some kind of ringleader/traitor/conspirator who was leading my sibs in open rebellion against him. There were offers of unwanted, extravagant gifts. He’d interrogate various relatives for information about me, try to get them on his side, and ask them to give me messages. He insisted that I was morally obliged to forgive him (he’s Catholic; I used to be) for various transgressions. I’d learned the hard way that forgiving someone for something they were still doing was a Bad Idea.

    There are a couple family members who I stopped talking to entirely because they couldn’t respect my boundaries at all. There are others I restrict contact with because they keep asking me if I’m sure about my choices and pressuring me to change my mind because it would be easier for them.

    I’m not sure whether people are sympathetic to him because they don’t want to believe abuse could happen within our family, or because of his own trauma (about eight years ago he survived a grizzly bear attack – not even kidding). It’s probably both, and I’m not sure the reason really matters all that much. I keep not going to weddings or holidays, and his scowling face keeps showing up in the pictures.

    But I got away. He still tries to contact me, but his attempts are (finally) tapering off. My siblings are all grown up now, and they got away too. And with every year that I add between now and the last time I talked to him, life keeps getting better.

    • JenniferP said:

      Man, I’m sorry you had to deal with that. You have your shit WAY together, lady. Good work.

  33. notmyusualname said:

    My freshman year in college, I had a boyfriend who was a senior and graduated and moved away to grad school over the summer, which was a couple of hours flight away. I decided over the summer (after visiting him) that I didn’t want to be with him any more because he didn’t listen to what I said enough. When I tried to talk to him about that over chat, he ignored it and informed me that he intended to propose to me as soon as I graduated (in three years). I broke up with him. He refused to accept it over chat, and then over the phone, and insisted on coming up on his planned visit the next week. I spent the entire visit telling him we were broken up, stop trying to hold my hand, etc. He insisted on still coming to my family labor day celebration in September (the previous was mid July-ish) which was combined with my grandmother’s 70th birthday party. Meanwhile, he had started emailing me every night with the same thing “good night, sweet dreams, I love you.” Which continued despite everything I said to him until January, when I threatened to call the cops if he didn’t stop. Thank everything that worked! It still scares the fuck out of me when I think about it, and it’s been well over a decade now. I can’t quite bring myself to use my regular commenting names for this, even.

  34. GemmaM said:

    I had a stalker ex-boyfriend my first year of university. We’d gone out in high school, and were going to the same university (not such a big coincidence in New Zealand), but I broke it off before the school year started. Like in a lot of these stories, I tried to still be friendly with him for a bit, but it got to the point where every conversation we had was him trying to pressure me into getting back together with him. He had this really intense way of staring at me, I hated it.

    Eventually I tried to stop all contact, but he’d wait for me on whatever the most obvious route between my classes was and start the pressuring conversation as soon as I saw him. I’d tell him to go away, that he was hurting me by not respecting my wishes, and he’d respond with “Oh, is that what the problem is? I’m so sorry, I understand now, I won’t do it again. So we’re cool now, right? We’re back together?” (To which I would say “NO!” very loudly, and he’d say “Quiet! People will think we’re arguing!” rofl, of course we were.)

    My mother wasn’t much help. She’d started with “Well you just have to tell him how you feel,” which might have been good advice at first, but really, after a while, I could tell that ANY conversation about my “feelings” with this guy was a bad idea because he’d always take it as encouragement. But even when I tried to explain that to my mother, she’d waffle on about “I just can’t help sympathising with him, you know” and “maybe if you just understood him better you’d be able to deal with this” and other unhelpful crap. Seriously, Mum, you dropped the ball on this one (but I owe her big-time for the assertiveness training when I was little, because that at least was helpful here).

    After about four or five months I figured out a containment strategy. As long as we were in public, I discovered I could get him to go away really quickly by leveraging his embarrassment. All it took was about twenty seconds of me shouting at him at the top of my lungs, and he’d disappear around the corner with a final, unconvincing shout of “This isn’t working!” Hah.

    Eventually I talked to a counselor (yay, university counseling services!) who said, very calmly and cautiously,

    “We’re dealing here with someone who has been rejected. Have you considered that he might actually be trying to hurt you? I really think you should contact the harassment authorities.”

    Yay! Also, after I told my mother that, she stopped with all the “maybe you should understand him” nonsense. Double yay!

    The nice harassment officer who I talked to was a little too much on the “Maybe he’s a nice boy who doesn’t understand, we get that sometimes” end of the spectrum for my taste by this point, but I was glad to have the authorities involved for all that. Her suggested strategy of “try saying ‘stop’ or ‘go away’ really clearly every time he talks to you” was about as ineffective as I thought it would be. Seriously, when you’ve said “go away” flatly about 35 times in 5 minutes, that strategy is pretty much exhausted. On the other hand, snapping and shouting at him that “the harassment authorities will be on my side!” may have worked, and having the harassment officer actually talk to him seems to have been the thing that finally ended it? Although she still maintained at the end that he just really didn’t understand that I didn’t want to be with him any more, which I was skeptical of because by that point it was clearly HIS fault if he didn’t understand, not mine, but hey, as long as he stops. Which he did. Thank goodness.

    A few months later, the local “bad boy” started flirting beautifully with me. He’d pull my hair gently and make up silly songs to my smile and while I didn’t feel ready for a relationship on the level of (sexual) seriousness that I knew he’d want, I still enjoyed the attention for a couple of weeks, because he didn’t seem to need much by way of response. He’d deliver free compliments that really felt like I could just take them for free if I wanted. But eventually I knew I’d have to make a decision one way or the other, so I decided, nervously, that the best strategy was to continue to be friendly, but to shut off all the encouraging responses to flirtation. I figured after a while he’d get the message.

    So the next time he pulled my hair I turned around, raised my hands, smiled, and said “uh-uh-uh…”

    … and his face fell, just a little, and he stopped. Completely. Then and there.

    Holy shit. I never did fuck him — I don’t think there’s ever been a time when he would really have been the right person for me — but I will carry that moment of unexpectedly swift respect for my wishes with me for the rest of my life.

    • FD said:

      I too have a moment where that happened, and oh, the headfuck when I realised THAT IS WHAT IS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN. Like falling down a well.

      • That happened to me too! I was training at work, and some guy who wasn’t my trainer stood over my shoulder watching me for long enough that it wasn’t just a “hey what’re you doing?” glance, and made me really uncomfortable. There was no reason he should have been doing that! He wasn’t even in the same department! Since I was at work, I managed to prioritize my ability to do my job over my be-a-nice-girl-or-else training, and it went like this:

        Me: Is there a reason you’re watching me? (just in case there was, you know? I WAS trained pretty thoroughly to be nice)

        Him: No. Is it making you uncomfortable? (in this weird, challenging tone, like I was supposed to cower and say “no never mind it’s okay”)

        Me: Yes. Please stop.

        And he made this grouchy face and stopped! And was totally blandly pleasant the rest of the day! I always expect people to, like, attack me or something when I tell them off, so it’s always a complete shock when they behave like basically nice people*

        *I don’t think he was being creepy on purpose, I think he was oblivious at first and then embarrassed when I told him off. Since he A) listened and B) was nice to me from then on, I don’t hold it against him.

  35. Jiggs said:

    Seriously, fuck being nice to shitty people. I am so mad at the world sometimes for teaching me my whole life to put other (asshole) people’s needs above my own.

    Not on the same level as other stories on here, but I once had a bit of a stalking situation myself. I was in a terrible relationship and lonely, so I re-opened my OKCupid account looking for friends and went on a few friend dates. One of those friend dates with with R, a self-described highly-functioning autistic fellow (or so he told me, who knows what reality was). R was boring and went off several times in our short time together about a girl named Esther who had cruelly toyed with him and how terrible she was. This was pretty uncomfortable for me but I toughed it out. After we finished our coffee and were about to separate, he asked me if he could give me a hug, I said no and he took that okay and didn’t try to force it. I got on my bus relieved not to have to see him again after all the woe-is-me-bitches-be-crazy bullshit.

    What followed was YEARS of online harassment. I still thank The Powers That Be daily that I never gave him my phone number and this was before Facebook (where he might have found my number had I added him.)

    I had him as a contact on MSN and he would swing wildly back and forth between trying to charm me into meeting him and verbally abusing me, often calling me Esther and basically accusing me of being a terrible, selfish bitch. When I eventually overcame my culturally-programmed need to Always Be Nice and blocked him, he registered over a dozen anonymous accounts and tried to get me to add him back (once with 5 different addresses in a day). Sometimes this even worked but he was always blocked shortly thereafter.

    Then I started getting the emails, again veering wildly from one to another on whether I was the devil or he just liked me so much and wouldn’t I go out with him again what’s the harm? I responded to most of them because I felt like I had to, like I wasn’t being ‘nice’ if I didn’t. Sometimes I told him to leave me alone (usually followed by the ‘you’re a bitch’ type email) and sometimes I gently explained I just didn’t want to see him again (the reply was 50/50 between ‘bitch!’ and charming emails).

    He found my best friend on OKC and started contacting her, calling her by my name. Did he think she was me, hiding out, or was he trying to ferret out information about me?

    Eventually the emails tapered off, but at least once a year for about four years afterward I got either an OKC mail or email yelling at/charming me. Once, trying to be ‘nice’, I actually chatted with him on OKC. Almost immediately the pressure to see him again started and then the cycle of emails went up for a while afterward.

    Today, I have probably not heard from him in 3 years. We live in the same city, and I hope if he ever sees me he doesn’t recognize me! He was smart too, and I used to fear he’d get hired at my work or find my number somehow or something like that (silly maybe but I would NOT want a personal encounter with this guy ever again.)

    I have spent way too much time thinking about this useless waste of space over the past 8 or so years, and I can’t imagine having a guy like that know how to contact you outside the internet. So for the love of god, anyone with a stalker, DON’T BE NICE. STAB NICE IN THE FACE and do whatever you can to distance yourself from that person physically and/or online.

    • I’m going to take “STAB NICE IN THE FACE” as a mantra for dealing with shitheads.

  36. LW276 said:

    This is LW #276, and I just wanted to send a huge thank you to Jennifer and everyone who replied with such helpful advice and their own experiences, and to send my sympathies and good vibes to the other LW and repliers in similar situations. It is actually so terrifying to realise how many of us have gone through this, but it is comforting to hear about the lessons learned and empowering to see how bad things like this lead to greater understanding of yourself, relationships, women issues/feminism. I have order The Gift of Fear and will be reading it soon, and I may seek a school counselor next term. For now, just letting Captain Awkward in on this has helped so much. Thank you again

  37. G said:

    All these stories made me remember one unfortunate incident when I was 16. I was nice and polite when I shouldn’t have been. I wish teenage girls were trained to be nice and polite only to people who deserve it. Once they start pulling this shit of not listening to your No, that’s it. They have thrown away any and all of your social obligation to be nice and polite to them. It’s not you deciding to be mean, it’s THEM throwing your niceness and politeness away.

  38. anon said:

    I tried everything to get rid of my stalker-ex. It was a seriously unhealthy, manipulative relationship that took me a long time to get out of, and he did NOT want to let go. At first we tried being friendly, but when it became abundantly clear that he couldn’t handle that I asked him to not contact me, at least for a few months. That also did not work; he eventually stopped calling constantly because I was staying with my parents for a couple months and he didn’t want them to pick up the phone when he called, as they would not for one instant put up with his shit. But as the phone calls went down, the creepy online contact went way up. I ignored these for months and months, but eventually he started creeping in-person, too; sometimes just creepy messages pointing out that he knew where I was, or insane ones angry at me for going to a certain place (even though I actually wasn’t there…). When that upgraded to angry messages to my friends for being around me -including not-so-veiled threats against a male friend of mine for dancing with me at a club (a friend who stalker-boy vaguely knew, but apparently not well enough to realize said friend was gay and there with his boyfriend) -I sent him a single message: telling him that if he ever contacted me again, I would take it to law enforcement. I also contacted his parents and explained the situation, asked for their help, and they certainly did try. But when he inevitably contacted me again, I knew I couldn’t just let it lie- no use making empty threats. So I took it to law enforcement. I suppose I could have had him charged with something, but since it was clear he was mentally ill I instead got a restraining order against him -and, at the trial, the judge actually yelled at him a bit, telling him he was *lucky* that a restraining order was all that was happening, that I could have had him charged instead. Which I think woke him up a bit -he’d been furious that I was getting a restraining order. But I’m glad I did, not only because it worked -haven’t heard from him since- but also because the process of getting the restraining order clued me in to how creepy he’d gotten: I found out his new address was just down the street from mine. I can’t believe that was a co-incidence, and I know nobody who knew my address would ever tell him, therefore the only way he could know was that he’d followed me home without my knowing. Creep-tastic.

    I’m mad at myself now for putting up with it for so long. Not only for staying in the awful, terrible relationship simply because I didn’t want to hurt him (and because he threatened self-harm when I did try to end it), but for waiting so long to get the courts involved.

  39. e=he/she/him/her

    Back in college an ex who had physically and emotionally abused me for a year managed to get into my dorm and was aggressive towards me and my s/o and harassed me for several weeks after that. As someone who teaches self-defense, I will say this: In these situations it doesn’t matter how level-headed you are or what martial arts you know, you do not want to have to just rely on yourself. This ex got into my dorm because e figured out which of my friends were unaware of the the situation and had them let e in. E used the fact that e had forgotten to pick up an apartment key and some miscellaneous stuff as an excuse to get me to open my door. E said that e didn’t want me to have access to e’s living area (which seemed very reasonable and allayed my suspicions that she wanted access to mine). In isolation, we don’t have perspective and we can be hurt or controlled or let down by well-meaning friends who are not aware of what is going on.

    Stalkers and violent people like my ex spend all kinds of time finding ways to crawl into our weakest spots. Obsession like that is really powerful and scary. I found it was most effective basically to warn everyone cursorily of what was going on. I told them to tell everyone that might even remotely know either of us enough of the story to convince them to not mention me to e and to create space for me to move safely. I got an unofficial restraining order: e was allowed in the dorm, not that anyone would let e in at that point, but not on my floor, so that I would have at least a few hundred square feet to retreat to, no questions asked. It was very important to create these protective social structures that could maintain a network of information and support in the long term. Right now e’s house still sits less than a block away from my current apartment, but I feel much safer than I did before because physical distance is not the main thing that protects me. Captain is VERY right to advise people to document and inform as much as possible.

  40. Way late to the party here, but have a hilari-awful story about how I got rid of my rapey, abusive, stalkery ex:

    The backstory is long and sad and awful. tldr: ex convinced me to get engaged to him after he raped me because we had “had sex” and so we had to get married or else we’d be adulterers and go to hell forever and ever. A few months after agreeing to the engagement I came to my senses. It wasn’t any kind of watershed moment, just a long slow realization that our “church” was really a horrible cult and that this man was a manipulative emotional vampire. I tried to cool things off, and then tried to break up, but each time he’d threaten suicide, threaten to tell our pastor that I’d been unchaste, threaten to cut me off from all my friends.

    He finally screwed up and posted one of his suicide threats to his public blog. I immediately screencapped that shit, and sent the link to everyone I knew. One wonderful amazing writer friend of mine crafted a dramatic retelling of the blog post, and performed it for *everyone* in our social group. Repeatedly. By the time she was done, he couldn’t go anywhere near my circle of friends without being mocked endlessly for the empty suicide threat. The people who didn’t shun him ended up shunning me, but that was okay because it meant they weren’t in my face every day telling me I should get back together with evil ex.

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