Responding to an ex who's broken with reality
May 27, 2011 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Utterly delusional letter sent from my ex to my current partner (stating I belong with the ex, am being kept from him, and am currently in love with him). Here is our plan; what do you think?

(Sorry this is long. I've edited carefully for length, but I'm including relevant details since I'm anon / can't respond in-thread.)

I broke up with this ex eight months ago, after many months of badly deteriorating communication, increasing disconnection from reality on his part, and bouts of obsessive contact attempts (e.g. calling me every few minutes for hours at a time).

Breakup was via email (by that point I'd told him I absolutely refused to have phone contact, although he was ignoring this and still leaving voicemails). The breakup email said I no longer considered myself to be in any kind of relationship with him and that if he came near my new home, the result would be a call to the police rather than any contact with me.

All his phoning and emailing stopped when I sent this breakup email last September. Now, after 8+ months of no contact, he's sent a letter to my current partner via registered mail, at the address of the home I share with this partner (which is in a different state than the ex lives in, in a town he'd have no natural reason to visit).

The letter is six dense pages of complete delusion, such as these points:
- I'm in love with him, I am his current partner, and he and I "know we want to spend the rest of our lives together";
- He and I have agreed to have children together (he describes specific plans and timeline -- in reality I never so much as told him I wanted a child, much less made any such plans);
- He and I live together, and I want to return to "our shared home" (the letter uses this phrase a LOT) but forces beyond my control are keeping me from him;
- He has always been my savior, emotionally and otherwise, and he is "profoundly worried" about my being trapped in a bad situation I can't leave.

There are many other delusions and/or lies (I truly can't tell which), often seemingly purposeful exact-opposites of reality.

As far as I know he's never shown or been treated for this degree of break with reality. (I did repeatedly try during our relationship to get him to see a therapist for other deep issues -- never successfully -- but I never observed anything like this.)

To me this is intensely concerning and indirectly threatening. Local police don't care, and the national and local domestic violence hotlines I tried (because googling "stalking" leads you to DV resources) were sympathetic but useless. No one will help because he hasn't made direct threats, hasn't tried coming to our house "so far" (!), and never abused me when we were together.

So, a plan to respond: in addition to getting more serious about home security (for our thus far totally undefended/un-alarmed house), we realized there are luckily people in my life whom he knew at least casually when he and I were together, who -- like everyone other than him -- know I'm deeply happy and peaceful in my current relationship. He and I didn't have mutual close friends (he had no close friends other than me), so these are close friends of mine who knew him in passing.

We feel getting this message from them to him in a human-as-possible way is much better than escalating the situation (for example with a letter from a lawyer, which we feel could seriously increase his delusion that I'm being held against my will -- his letter includes paranoidly invented/exaggerated situations and people, including vaguely described professionals, that he thinks have actively kept me away from him).

At the end of his letter he gives all his contact info and asks my partner to contact him. We think this contact should be a request to schedule a phone call, and the scheduled call should be a conference call with him and about four of my close friends who also knew him at least in passing. A recorded call, definitely (all parties would be in a one-party-consent state). They would collectively tell him that I'm doing fine, that I'm not his partner and don't want any contact with him, and that my current partner and I will each be sending him separate formal letters (contents certified by a notary public) saying he's not to contact us in any manner and he's not to come near our house (on penalty of [whatever would be the legal remedy, if he did such things after a provable request not to]).

-- Is this the best strategy overall (keeping in mind, as mentioned, that we do NOT want to do anything that would push this obviously unstable mind into further escalation if we can help it)?

-- Should my partner be one of the people on the call, or is it better to not reward the ex with live contact from either of us? (Clearly *I* should not be one of the people on the call.)

-- Is a notary public the right way to have proof of the content in the letters we send? Clearly email, including my breakup email, is useless as proof (my ex, of all people, knows digital records can be faked, and his complete rewriting of history suggests he would fake and/or deny both contents and headers of past emails).

Thank you for reading.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (58 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I think the humane approach is wrong. What your ex craves is engagement, and anything other than a letter from a lawyer is engagement.

It's important to feel compassion for others, but you also need to focus on self-preservation. How much more do you want to deal with this person?

If a letter from a lawyer sends this person off the deep end, then be prepared by speaking with the police first, and initiating a restraining order.

Their inappropriate behaviour should not be your concern. Anything less than a total separation will just mean months and years more of having to deal with this person on your own.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:55 AM on May 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

I don't think responding or engaging in any form is recommended in these situations.

You and your partner are not responsible for the ex's emotional or mental well being.

I would not in any way shape or form engage directly with this person.
posted by iamabot at 8:57 AM on May 27, 2011 [60 favorites]

In my limited experience, you cannot talk delusional people out of their delusions. Consider how hard it is to change rational people's minds about issues in which there is clear factual evidence that counters their opinions.

Rather, what you do is contain and curtail the effects of their behavior.
posted by itstheclamsname at 8:58 AM on May 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

If he is that out of touch with reality, absolutely nothing will dissuade him from his delusions. Not your friends, not your partner, not even you telling him directly. Ignore and document.
posted by kimdog at 8:59 AM on May 27, 2011 [19 favorites]

Skip the police and go straight to the court. Your state may have laws allowing PPOs or restraining orders for harassment through communication. You can probably get one in your state or his state.

Ask the lawyer when you go in for the cease and desist letter (which you'll do asap). You & your partner shouldn't engage this loony directly.
posted by motsque at 8:59 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

We feel getting this message from them to him in a human-as-possible way is much better than escalating the situation...

Humane engagement is escalating the situation. Do not engage. Delusional logic is far stronger than the words of people he knew in passing.
posted by griphus at 8:59 AM on May 27, 2011 [15 favorites]

Agreeing with everyone else. You need to ignore this completely.
posted by something something at 8:59 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

This gives every indication of being seriously mentally person engaging in behavior that could be considered stalking.

I would consult stalking resources (there are a lot online) and Nthing the "don't engage directly" thread. Safety for you and your partner should be your primary concern.
posted by pantarei70 at 9:00 AM on May 27, 2011

"mentally ill"
posted by pantarei70 at 9:01 AM on May 27, 2011

Oh boy, don't do this. A conference call intervention won't snap him out of his delusions. I would definitely ramp up home security and personal security (for you and your boyfriend) in a major way but don't respond to the ex.
posted by amro at 9:01 AM on May 27, 2011

Time for a restraining order. Seriously.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:02 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also, how does he know where you and your new boyfriend live now? How would he have found out? Do you think he's following you, or is this info available online? Make sure your online info is locked down, too.
posted by amro at 9:03 AM on May 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Nthing don't respond, as it will just teach him that when he does things like that he gets attention for it. (Also the phone call idea seems like it would play neatly into his delusions that outside forces are keeping you from him - "this group of people are all in on it!")

Read The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker asap, it's fantastic and covers these exact sorts of situations.

Also I would definitely punch up the security at your place, and document document document.
posted by brilliantine at 9:03 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

This cannot possibly work. Your ex doesn't recognize reality when he sees it, so he's not going to suddenly do a face palm just because another person or people are yet again explaining reality to him.

The best tactic is NO RESPONSE. No letter, no call, no friends mentioning this to him. It will NEVER have the desired result. Any response or acknowledgment of crazy drama only breeds more crazy drama.

Of course you must respond by calling the police if it escalates. And I'm sorry you're dealing with this. My husband had a similar situation and the only thing that caused it to taper off is to not respond. Ever.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:04 AM on May 27, 2011 [9 favorites]

I would not respond at all. Ignore completely and hopes he goes away. I don't know that you can provide any resolution for this man by engaging with him but you open yourself up to months of further and escalating harassment.
posted by londonmark at 9:05 AM on May 27, 2011

Do not engage. Can you get a new phone number? Do so. I don't know if you can get a new address, but that would solve that. People who do this can not be talked out of their notions, and no amount of good will on your part will ever fix it.
posted by Gilbert at 9:06 AM on May 27, 2011

First off, I am suggesting that you avoid direct engagement. This will probably not be popular, but I know that if I went off the deep end, I would appreciate someone contacting my parents or friends and letting them know, "By the by, did you know Teddy has, umm, some interesting thoughts lately?" Send copies of the letter.

You cannot fix him, obviously, but that does not mean that he does not need help; people around him could possibly arrange help for him.

What would you like to have happen if you had a psychotic break and were alone?
posted by adipocere at 9:09 AM on May 27, 2011 [12 favorites]

Everyone's giving the right answer here-- no response is the right answer because anything else allows him to wallow in his delusion. Reminders of you and contact with you gives him more opportunities to think about you, escalating the delusion. Even mutual acquaintances shouldn't mention your name in his presence. Any other actions you take should be ones that focus on protecting yourself (police, courts, etc.).
posted by deanc at 9:10 AM on May 27, 2011

A group of your friends talking to him will do nothing to change his behavior. In his state of mind, he will simply rationalize that they are "in on it" or some other nonsense. If he won't believe you he won't believe anyone.

Letter from lawyer + restraining order + home security + briefing friends he may contact
posted by halseyaa at 9:10 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing what everyone else said. Do not respond, do get a restraining order, do lock down your personal information, do increase your home security, do document everything.
posted by no relation at 9:10 AM on May 27, 2011

Do you know his parents or siblings? If so, perhaps you might send them a copy of the letter and a) inform them that you plan to seek a restraining order; b) ask them to get him the help he needs; c) announce that this will be your only contact with them on this matter. Also, increase your on-line and IRL security as others advise.
posted by carmicha at 9:13 AM on May 27, 2011 [21 favorites]

I had an ex do this to me and my current partner. DO NOT ENGAGE. Just ignore and move on. Pretend you never received it. Do not reply to any other communication. Just don't.

Honestly, I don't even recommend a restraining order. I looked into it, and heard from too many people that someone who is this delusional will see a restraining order as a "challenge" for them to work around to get to you. It will actually serve the opposite purpose that you intend.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:20 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

All of your mutual friends should be brought into the loop that this individual is stalking/harassing you. Mutual friends, sometimes well-meaning, are often a source of information for stalkers.

I had a friend who had a similar mental break last summer. It really had nothing to do with the object of her obsession and everything to do with all the unaddressed stuff going on in her life. The person she was cyberstalking made the mistake of posting private stuff about her on his blog every time she sent him a crazy email and it just fueled her obsession more.

From the friend-of-the-mentally-ill person's handbook, the best I could do is encourage her to get treatment and deflect the conversation to try and break the cycle of obsessive thought: "That topic is getting old, what's going on with your comic book collection?" I thought about this campaign a lot:

She's doing better now, but it wasn't ever the result of some big intervention epiphany or treatment, it was just a result of life going on and her having other stuff to think about.

I've also been the friend-of-a-person-being-stalked and it was important for me to be enough in the loop so that I knew that if I got a call from someone claiming to be a lawyer or a private investigator or whatever that it was probably the stalker shaking the tree trying to have some small bit of information fall out and to be on-guard not to share even the tiniest bit.
posted by Skwirl at 9:21 AM on May 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

I would throw it out.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:26 AM on May 27, 2011

I agree with the no contact. But I might have a conference call with just your friends, so they are in the loop enough (like Skwirl) to alert you to any possible new danger. If he is this delusional, he is no longer rational and will not respond, or even have the ability to process any information rationally. By contacting him, you would be trying to speak to a part of him that pretty much doesn't exist at this moment, therefore it will not register with him. You will just escalate the situation.
posted by Vaike at 9:33 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would throw it out.

Don't do that! Document everything, save anything he sends you.
posted by amro at 9:38 AM on May 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

I would throw it out.

What ever you do, do not throw the letter out. It may turn up as evidence. Even if you decide not to go the police or get a restraining order right now, you may have to in the future if he escalates it. You'll be kicking yourself for getting rid of evidence.
posted by spaltavian at 9:39 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do not contact him.
At all.
Make copies of the letter, and provide the copies to the police.
Seek a restraining order.
Do not contact him.
At all.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:40 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Absolutely nothing you suggest will get through to him.

The level of this delusion is incredibly concerning, and absolutely nothing rational will break him of it.

Do not contact him directly. Seek advice from a lawyer if you think need to, and absolutely talk to your local police department about what steps you can take to make sure you are as safe as possible. Or at the very least, a highly trained home security professional --- beyond just installing alarms.

Don't forget he knows where you live and he knows who your current partner is. Even though it may not happen, or possibly come close to happening, I don't think you're in a position to plan for anything except the worst case scenario.
posted by zizzle at 9:40 AM on May 27, 2011

Do not engage with him at all, but be sure to update all the people you know that he may reach out to, and instruct them under no circumstances are they to give him any information about you. People may unwittingly think that they are being helpful if you do not clue them in that he is STALKING you and not to be assisted in any way.

Save the letter in a safe place in case you need it later. Do not respond or engage in any way.
posted by ambrosia at 9:41 AM on May 27, 2011

Don't call. Don't write. Never contact him ever again. Keep all of his correspondence, including the envelopes with postmarks. Document everything he sends to you. Document everything from when you were breaking up. For things that have no physical proof, try to narrow down the time as much as possible.

If his insane letters or phonecalls turn into direct threats, then you can get an order of protection. Call 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) and let them know where you are and what has been happening.

Make sure you have "proof" that you were once together. If you need an order of protection, it will make a difference - Family Court for people in romantic relationships vs. Criminal court for others. An easy thing to do for orders of protection respondents in family court that weren't married is to deny that there was ever a romantic relationship. Having documentation is the key.

Tell your friends or other people that have access to you that you can trust about what he is doing and to tell you immediately if he contacts any of them.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:42 AM on May 27, 2011

Please note my above comments for Family Court vs Criminal Court are about NY state, this could be different in other states. The Domestic Violence Hotline would be able to help you to the right place where you are.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:44 AM on May 27, 2011

Letter from lawyer + restraining order + home security + briefing friends he may contact

Also, work security. See this fact sheet and don't forget your partner's work security too.

I would throw it out.

Absolutely do not do this! You may need it as evidence in a court case latter.
posted by Jahaza at 9:44 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

What is recommended in situations like this is neutral non-engagement. If he's a harassing serial caller, you keep that number with a voicemail, and get a new number for your life. That way he's calling and calling and getting his jollies and it doesn't disturb you. Likewise with letters. You don't respond, but he has the satisfaction of mailing them and doesn't get a "moved: no forwarding address" note.

Your job is zero escalation, zero response. Any engagement is escalation.

It may be a really, really long time before he stops this. It's really bad. And it's unpredictable how and when it'll escalate or stop, so... be careful.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:46 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, in case you aren't already convinced, you should not contact this person at all. He is delusional, not mistaken. Any contact you make with him is much more likely to feed the madness than help you ex. I think that is a very bad plan.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:49 AM on May 27, 2011

You don't state your age, but one thing you may want to do, depending on how well you know them, is contact his parents. These deluisional breaks sometimes happen very quietly and so you might do some good (both for him and to defuse the situation) lettting some one in his life know.

However, you want to make sure you are not pulled in any more that that. So refuse any suggestions to talk to him. As everyone above has been saying delusional systems are very, very resistant to change and what you think is a rational response can be twisted in extremely creative ways to support his delusion.
posted by rtimmel at 9:50 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Absolutely do not throw out the letter or any other form of communication. Keep voice mails, etc. This will all go to your case when you have a restraining order.

Also, absolutely do not use an intermediary. No contact whatsoever, whether through his family, your family or anyone else except the police.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:50 AM on May 27, 2011

It sounds like you were with your ex for quite a while according to your post. You mention not having mutual friends but do you have contact details for anyone in his family? Assuming that he is at least on neutral terms with them, I believe that letting them know what has happened is the most humane course of action.

This sounds like a mental health problem rather than just "oh, my ex can't get over me". Regardless, you need to take precautions with your own safety. Please tell anyone who has contact with him not to give out your personal details and alert them about this situation.

And, as everyone else has repeated, do not contact him, by phone, by email, in person, on Facebook, nothing.
posted by amicamentis at 9:59 AM on May 27, 2011

Looks like everyone upthread agrees that no contact is best, but I wanted to note especially that it sounds like your current partner is in danger more than you. By the tone you've described, your ex sounds like he is going to attempt to rescue you or save you from your current partner, who he knows by name, by any means possible. You also allude to your ex being tech-savvy, which means he may be able to do things like hack into secure systems to learn about your current activities and/or screw with your new partner's life.

Your partner needs to inform his workplace, gym, anywhere he goes regularly, about this issue. Increase home security. Neither of you should go anywhere alone, and you should try hard to inform third parties of where you are at all times.

Also, your local police station may not care, but keep trying. You might have gotten the desk guy who didn't care that day, but escalate. If your ex sent you this letter from across state lines, it may be more serious and enough to get police involved when they normally would not.

Nthing picking up "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin deBecker.
posted by juniperesque at 10:08 AM on May 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

The book that everybody recommends for stalking situations, The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker, discusses behavior that is almost identical to what you're describing. A lot of what's in this thread is also in that book. For instance, De Becker talks about how engagement is part of what your ex wants. You shouldn't talk to your ex or try to convince him or negotiate with him. If you want ties severed, then what you should do is live your end of that.

However, the restraining-order issue is tricky. Some people will tell you that you need to wait it out, just suffer until your ex stops (or moves on to someone else). Some people will tell you that a restraining order might escalate things. If De Becker is the expert, he's no help on this issue. He talks about restraining orders in the book and says they can go both ways, help or hurt, depending on the situation. There isn't a hard, fast rule as to whether restraining orders are a good idea or will escalate things, and anybody who tells you otherwise is wrong.

My feeling—and this has been my experience—is that it's a relatively safe bet that obtaining a restraining order won't provoke violence where none has been indicated previously. In other words, if your ex has never given you any reason to fear violence, then it's unlikely he will suddenly jump to that now. Violence escalates, as a general rule. The guy who murders his girlfriend usually showed violent behavior beforehand.

I don't know if you can get a restraining order. In some jurisdictions, you need to show a threat of violence. If he hasn't threatened to harm you, or if he hasn't actually harmed you, then you can't obtain a restraining order. Other jurisdictions have more lenient standards (e.g., harassment-prevention orders).

The value of a restraining order is twofold. First, it's self-help. You go straight to the court, not the police, and you apply for the order yourself. Second, it changes the dynamic. Right now, if your ex contacts you, that's an issue between you and him. But if you get a restraining order and he violates it, that isn't between you and him; that's between him and the judicial branch. The issue is no longer, "consequences for calling me," but rather, "consequences for violating a court order." It's as close as you can get to removing yourself from the equation.

Research what's involved in getting a restraining order in your jurisdiction, or where your ex lives. You can consult with a lawyer, but you shouldn't need to. Most states are good about putting this information online. Educate yourself about the option and then decide if it makes sense for you.

I'm sorry this is happening to you. It's not uncommon, sadly. Good luck.
posted by red clover at 10:14 AM on May 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

Just as an unfortunate anecdotal datapoint: a former highschool classmate of my wife's and her new partner was killed by an ex who did not take threats and dilisional behavior seriously. They did not notify the police. They did not notify a lawyer. They did not notify anyone. Instead they agreed to meet the person and attempted to handle an irrational person rationally.

Take care of yourself: contact lawyers and the police and supportive family. Do not contact this person.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:03 AM on May 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

You're trying to have a rational reaction with irrational behavior. These two don't mix.
posted by filmgeek at 11:24 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I hope that you don't contact this guy, especially on a conference call with four of your closest friends. This is not humane, and could escalate the situation beyond your ability to handle it and beyond your expectation.

I came in to support the idea of calling his parents to give them a heads up, but then I re-read your post and reconsidered. Don't engage, don't use an intermediary.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 11:48 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing the Gift of Fear recommendation.

A very similar scenario happened to a member of my household once. Her ex-boyfriend (and our former neighbor) sent a very similar letter. We ignored him but documented everything, and he eventually left her alone.

He's delusional. If you or your partner contact him, he'll say you were coerced or brainwashed by him.

Do not engage him, save the letter.
posted by clearlydemon at 11:51 AM on May 27, 2011

Anon, I agree with everyone else, and based on my experience, I'll add this: tell as many people as you can about this. Family, even distant family if you share an unusual last name. Police (done that, awesome). Workplaces. Anywhere that people know you, where it's relatively common knowledge
that people know you. (gym, regular bar, what have you.)

Feel free to pm me for personal stories--the person involved is dead and I STILL don't want identifying details out in public.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:01 PM on May 27, 2011

I'm so sorry this is happening to you, OP. One of the things that strikes me about your plan, and the response you're getting from people here, is that you may not have fully accepted exactly the possible predicament you and your partner find yourselves in. And so your response - contacting your ex - is off based on your ex's behavior.

I think it's devastating to see someone you used to love, and claims to love you, in serious mental distress. It's even worse when their mental illness somehow irrationally causes them to threaten your wellbeing and those you love. And the ground floor of awfulness is realizing that their unwillingness/inability to control their deterioration means that the possible danger they present to you will alter your actions, perhaps for the rest of your life (or whenever he pops us). Because it seems crazy to live like that. But you have to see it, because it's the only way to wrap your head around the possible danger you are in, and respond with your eyes open.

I note that you want to respond humanely - so I ask you to consider saying something like this to some image you hold of your ex in your mind - hopefully an image of him before, in better days, when he was thinking clearly. Imagine you are talking to him about how he is behaving now, when he is less Dr. Jekyll, and more creepy, your-behavior-is-scaring-me-Mr. Hyde mode. Imagine you are brainstorming together how you will respond. It goes something like this:

"If you were in your right mind, you would be horrified by your actions. You would want me to protect myself from your ability to harm me in any and every way possible. You would want me to tell all of my friends and family and work colleagues so they wouldn't be conduits to me. You would want me to cut off all contact, and file a restraining order, and keep records of your bizarre behavior, and install a security system to build up boundaries and enlist my community to protect myself and my new partner. You wouldn't want me to live in fear, but you'd recognize that any kindness could be twisted, misconstrued as proof of your right to have, and harm, me, so I wouldn't be able to respond to you. You would hope that in your clearer moments, that you'd get the help you need, but until you did, I would have to treat you like a clear and present danger. You'd want me to be happy in my life, and limit anyone that would jeopardize that. Even if that someone was you." And he would be nodding, "yes".

That compassionate response still allows your ex to not be in his right mind, but you to acknowledge and respond like you understand that in his not clear mind, he might try to hurt you or your partner. And that since you can't know his mental state, or if he's seeking help, or if that help is helping, you have to assume that at any point, 6 months down the road, 6 years down the road, his mind might latch on to you again, and try to, in his own way, connect with you - even if that means stalking or harming you.

Whoever mentioned the gift of fear is on point. I'm sure you know by now that what you're going through is terrible, and common. (Particularly the, oh, look, I’m in a fresh chapter in my life, and 8 months later, you've popped up again trying to drag me back into the drama and danger). Giving him anything that he could perceive as false hope - which includes any contact from anyone in your circle, even if that contact is "no", "I said no", "As I told you last time, no", isn't merciful. So every time he tries, I think the healthy response is to grieve a little that he is still in anguish, and then respond with decisive, consistent steps to make sure that he doesn’t harm you and yours.
posted by anitanita at 12:29 PM on May 27, 2011 [10 favorites]

In addition to Gift of Fear, there's some great info on Mark MacYoung's No-Nonsensese Self Defense site on stalkers:
A fundamental point, that both defines the problem and you must never forget is: Stalkers/Abusers think of themselves as laws unto themselves.

That is to say that no laws, no social standards, no standards of behavior and no motivation other than "themselves" dictate their actions. As such, what would deter a normal person won't even phase them. Normal "laws" of conduct are like cobwebs to them, nothing more than minor inconveniences, not something that stops them from getting what they want.. Their wants, their feelings, their emotions, their needs and -- most deadly of all -- their pride are the only law they follow. In fact, to them, it is the only law that exists and they will go to no ends to enforce that law. If such a person cannot manipulate you, then they will beat you...and then they'll make you feel guilty for it.

In their own childish minds, they are gods upon this earth and no mortal (you) has the right to deny or hurt them...

Handling police and lawyers
Dealing with police and lawyers can be extremely frustrating. If you are being stalked your best defense AND aid is documentation. Caller IDs and recording of harassing phone calls (you can purchase telephone handsets with tape recorders in them) video tapes, audio tapes, logs and records of events, etc., etc., are legal requirements for prosecution. If you don't have them, no matter how severely you are being stalked there is no solid basis for legal resources. Restraining orders, stalking charges (which most states have laws about) and litigation work better with documentation.

Contact the police ASAP and


The police are busy...and like busy people anywhere, they really don't want to increase their work load. And in truth, most situations do resolve themselves without police involvement. However, if the situation does escalate you NEED a paper trail. That is why you need to insist on a written report. Do not expect the police to do the "investigation" for you, present them with a package of proof that a crime is occurring.
Under no circumstances should he be considered reasonable or in his right mind or capable of understanding. This guy is an unstable threat.

No conference call, he'll just accuse everyone of conspiring against him.

After writing a 6-page delusional letter like that, you have to assume he's gone off the deep and end and is capable of crossing states lines and committing violence.

Because you're caged against your will and he's the only person trying to save you. That's the reality he lives.

I recommend you get a barking dog and read/watch Cesar Milan's "How to be a pack leader" stuff. Yes, MeFites disagree about CM, but here's the point: You have to have a relationship where your dog obeys your commands to sit & be quiet. That has to be the normal routine.

Because when the dog ignores your commands, something has changed and it's trying to say "No really boss, someone's out in the bushes".

No contact AT ALL other than him being served with a restraining order.

Best of luck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:50 PM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Nthing everyone else. Any contact you receive from him should be documented extensively, kept in a safe location, and never, ever, EVER engage him. If you were living in the same area, I'd be suggesting you don't even LOOK at him, nod, smile, say hello, or breathe in his general direction.

Congratulations, you have your first stalker. You have my sympathies; may he be boring and rather low-key.

Restraining orders may not be forthcoming; I was unable to get RO's on my two stalkers because they never 'threatened' me. (This is why intense documentation is good; if he even HINTS at it once, you can give the court a mountain of paperwork saying 'SEE?')
posted by Heretical at 12:56 PM on May 27, 2011

Consensus here seems sound.

If I were to contact anyone at all, it might be someone from his family (is this realistic/possible?).

If you go that route, I would keep it short and simple: you are concerned about his mental well being because he sounds delusional and scary.

That throws the net a little wider without 'escalating' a situation and (hopefully) brings on board someone who cares about him.

After that, everything else is about protecting yourself.
posted by mazola at 1:16 PM on May 27, 2011

Please please please document the living fuck out of the POLICE response/dismissiveness. And let them know you're doing this, and cc: it registered mail to your chief of police and city councilperson.

Cops are all about liability and CYA. This is the only way my ex and I were able to get action on a severely psychotic dude who decided to live in our backyard. The cops wanted to look the other way until we made it extremely clear that if/when anything went wrong, it would look very very bad for the officers, their department, and the local pols. Voila, they magically decided to act the next week. (Happy ending: dude was actually treated in hospital for a year or two and afaik is still medicated and OK.)

Good luck to you.
posted by cyndigo at 1:38 PM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

During a breakup, people can get quite unhinged. Be really serious about personal security. If there are friends and family who will help the ex- deal with reality, enlist their help.

If there's a lawyer here, does she need to give him specific instructions to stay away to have legally enforceable rights to keep him away? The only possible contact is a letter stating. " I do not want you to contact me at all, for any reason. If there is any further contact, it can go to my lawyer, Larry. Q. Lawyer, etc. "

I'm so sorry you're going through this. It's scary and distressing. Do not hesitate to get the police involved if he continues to contact you.
posted by theora55 at 1:42 PM on May 27, 2011

I came in to say what everyone else said: DO NOT ENGAGE. The other advice is good too - get the courts involved with a protection order. Do everything you can to keep yourself safe.

I also came in to say, basically, what charmica said: Do you know his parents? If they are level-headed, please let them know what their son is doing. He really needs help.
posted by deborah at 4:17 PM on May 27, 2011

Cyndigo makes a very very good point about documenting this with the police and your city council person.

As someone who served on their city council and also on their police safety commission, I highly recommend you follow through on this. Your letter to us is sound and civil, you won't be dismissed a second time if go up the chain of command. A multiply page letter out of the blue detailing situations so far from reality, well, it's beyond something you can just let play out or handle by yourself.

Nothing everyone who says you and any other non-authority figures should NOT contact this person.

It's beyond troubling that he tracked you and your partner's information down and used it. Act, but act wisely.

I have a stalker. An ex I first met 19 years ago. I've considered going to court over less, but if I EVER received a certified letter like the one you described, I would bring the full power of the Law on my side - and I have resources and a great attorney - so the only reason I haven't gotten a restraining order is that my long-term stalker events are still on the "ignore" end of the spectrum. You do not have this luxury. Protect yourself.
posted by jbenben at 4:33 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Nthing everyone who says..."

Thanks IPad spell check. I had it right the first time I typed it.
posted by jbenben at 4:36 PM on May 27, 2011

he'll just accuse everyone of conspiring against him

To be fair, we actually are.

Which is totally appropriate. You need as many people made aware of what's going on as possible.

The fact that dude sent his letter registered means that he now knows somebody signed for it; you probably want to take home security more seriously until you see which way things are going to play out.

All his phoning and emailing stopped when I sent this breakup email last September

Hopefully you still have an archive of the email parts of that conversation. Print it. Add the current letter to the pile. Document your interactions with police, courts and the lawyer you're going to get if you haven't already got one. Datestamp those and add them to the pile as well. DO NOT make contact with dude.
posted by flabdablet at 7:07 PM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you know his parents? If they are level-headed, please let them know what their son is doing. He really needs help.

Yeah but do not give them the letter or quotes from the letter. Do not describe exactly what he is doing, only that it is very scary to you. Do not give them any information that they can pass on to their son. Just say that he is acting radically different and it is scaring you, please check on him. Period. Click. Good bye. And tell them only if they are really level-headed.

Seconding mazola
posted by lakersfan1222 at 7:36 PM on May 27, 2011

This was my comment in another good thread on obsessive and slightly delusional romantic interest. (Yours is like that times one thousand.) With your plan, think about what new fodder for delusions you would be providing. Are you putting those friends in harms way by making them part of "the conspiracy"?

Not to scare you, but you might think about how you would react I'd you came home one day and found your ex outside, or inside. That's a question you might want to ask a mental health expert. In a similar situation, what was recommended to me by a psychologist was something like "you're scaring me" (as a way to get heard through his fearful delusions) followed by a clear request, like "I want you to leave and never come back here again." But in your shoes, I'd get some advice on this topic.
posted by salvia at 8:24 PM on May 27, 2011

Your ex sounds mentally ill. I mean that seriously.

Whatever you say to him will be misconstrued, twisted, and rationalized in his head, adding fuel to the fire. Please don't kid yourselves into thinking otherwise.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:01 AM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

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