Is my friend a stalker?
May 26, 2007 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Is my friend a stalker? And if so, how do I help her stop?

About 5 months ago my friend hooked up with a guy for about a week. She said it was amazing and she fell HARD.

Since then she has been IMing him, emailing him, calling and text messaging him many times a day - I'm guessing about 8 times a day on average. From what she's told me/shown me, the content is generally inane, but she'll sometimes ask him to get together, or tell him how much she likes him, or how sexy she finds him. Sometimes the message/email/im is quite intense - long and full of emotion.

She also drives by his house a lot - more than I think she's admitting. I'm guessing about once a day. Sometimes she leaves him gifts or notes.

At first he was emailing, texting, calling, IM-ing back to her fairly consistently. They were sometimes affectionate, sometimes silly, but mostly explaining that he was not in a place to get into a relationship.

Over the past few months his responses have petered out to nothing. But she persists.

Suggesting that she not get in touch with him seems not to work. I've mentioned other men that might be interested in her. No go. She just cannot seem to stop.

Having been on the receiving end of this type of behavior, I understand how it goes from funny, to annoying, to upsetting, to scary. I have told her my story and she does not get the analogy.

To her credit - I do believe this guy led her to believe that there was the possibility of a long-term relationship. Often his responses to her indicated that he has some interest in her. And he has never straight out told her to leave him alone.

And she does jokingly admit to "stalking" him.

FWIW she is in her late 30's, never married, no kids, and smart and sucessful in every other area of her life. She has mentioned that she behaved similarly with another man a few years ago.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
She has mentioned that she behaved similarly with another man a few years ago.

Ask her how that worked out.

If it worked out well, then it's possible that what she's doing isn't really out of line; she may be exaggerating a bit to you (rather than, as you assume, minimizing things when she talks to you). If she has a track record as a responsible, level-headed human being, then you may be the one projecting a bit here.

If it worked out poorly, then as you start to let her tell you why, hopefully you can both start drawing parallels to her own past behavior and how that didn't work for her, and start to figure out ways she can change her behavior or expectations in order to get what she wants. Don't lecture -- you've seen that lecturing her about your life hasn't worked -- let her find those connections and desire for change herself.
posted by occhiblu at 1:23 PM on May 26, 2007

yes, obviously that's stalking.
It's an expression of obsessive behaviour. She'll have to acknowledge that this is not completely healthy. But since she's being obsessive that's the last thing she wants to hear.
So you're chances of making her see the errors of her ways are slim.

I've been stalked by a girl and it definitely put her in my mind in the 'loony' category.
Of course mostly it's a bit sad and harmless.
posted by jouke at 1:28 PM on May 26, 2007

Tell her to read He's Just Not That Into You. Remind her that she's wasting her life by pursuing men who don't want to be with her. She jokes about it, but it's not really funny. She has issues with which she needs to deal.
posted by HotPatatta at 1:28 PM on May 26, 2007

It sounds like, yes, he led her on a little in the beginning but, no, her actions are not excusable. I would probably be at least a little fearful if I was in his position, so whatever it's called it's not ok. Maybe what other people will have to say in this thread should be shared with her.
posted by monkeymadness at 1:29 PM on May 26, 2007

"She just cannot seem to stop."

At this point, you should take the kid gloves off and stop playing around about it. Suggest that she get a clear yes or no go from the object of her fixation, and abide by her findings. If the answer is no, which it sounds like it likely will be, then you mustn't indulge her jokes about stalking, nor her delusions that something is going to change to make him love her. Sit her down and make your story about having been stalked very clear, and tell her that you're afraid for her, and that her behavior is not okay. Beyond that, therapy may be required. Consider bringing in some of her other friends for a group confrontation if she persists. I know, it sounds easy coming from an armchair quarterback. I'm not saying I would be perfectly effective at this approach, but I believe it's the right one. Best of luck.
posted by squirrel at 1:29 PM on May 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Legally, it's not stalking until the object of her attentions decides that her actions are unwanted and tells her to stop. But I think that what's really important here is that she has an unhealthy attachment to someone who very clearly isn't going to give her what she wants from him. Basically, she's wasting a lot of time and energy, and she's going to get hurt eventually.

Whether there's anything you can do about this depends on whether she wants to stop. She's getting something out of this behavior: hope. By fixating on this man, she gets to avoid the often depressing prospect of dating and she gets to believe that she has a possibility for a great relationship with a wonderful man. The fact that this possibility doesn't exist is irrelevant, because it's the hope that keeps her going. She has to be willing to give up on that hope and face reality in order to stop. And she may or may not be willing to listen to you or anyone else telling her that right now.

Depending on her personality, she might benefit from a self-help book as suggested above or a frank talk about this behavior pattern. But she may also simply refuse to read the book or refuse to believe that anything you say applies to her situation. It may take this man rejecting her outright at some point down the line for her to see this situation for what it is. If you can get her into therapy, that might be the best course of action, because then she'd have a long-term support system to help her recognize unhealthy situations like this in the future and prevent this situation from recurring.
posted by decathecting at 1:50 PM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm thinking that the word "pathetic" is one she has already applied to her actions and/or herself here, but much like some overeaters, that only makes it worse. The more she sees her actions as stalking, the more she needs to get a response from this guy to prove to herself that she has a relationship of some kind with him, therefore she is not some pathetic wacko stalker, just -- proactive with the friendship. She's not some sad loser of an aging single woman throwing herself at a guy who doesn't want her even just for sex, she's -- well, she's not that. How would it feel to think of yourself that way? Bad, I'm thinking. Luckily, she's got you.

This isn't about how her behavior affects him -- it's about how her behavior affects her. So it's not -- Stacy, leave this guy alone, you're being a stalker. It's -- Stacy, did the Red Cross pay you to fuck that guy? He's a loser, he doesn't begin to know how to appreciate you, do you really want to bring his retard children into the world? Thank God he is too stupid to call you back -- you dodged a bullet. Now, Joe, on the other hand... Stacy are you still on about that idiot? He looks like an Ikea commercial -- HIJPSTR, some assembly required. But Mike, well... Maybe if you just take the relationship she's trying to prove as given, but throw all the ridicule she must be putting on herself on him, you can help her retrieve her self-esteem. Once she has that back, she won't need anything from this guy.
posted by Methylviolet at 2:28 PM on May 26, 2007 [9 favorites]

"...HIJPSTR, some assembly required." I just blew iced tea out of my nose.
posted by pullayup at 2:37 PM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Anonymous, just realize that if you want to do something about it, it will be a rather lengthy project and things may even get resolved in other ways before you get this woman to realize her craziness. and you might want to keep daily notes about the goings on for future entertainment and educational and legal purposes.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 2:46 PM on May 26, 2007

When she breaks in and boils one of his rabbits, call the police department.

Whatever he said is irrelevant to the current situation. If things peter out into nothing and she *still* keeps it up, she's got some issues.
posted by drstein at 3:07 PM on May 26, 2007

I'd like, if I may, to defend the guy a little bit. He may have been interested in your friend at one point, but her actions may have just been too much and drove him off.

I recently met a guy on a online dating site, and he seemed pleasant enough. He wasn't really my type, but since he seemed interesting, I gave it a shot via email.

He started emailing me a couple of times a day. Then he started sending me ecards. Then we talked on the phone. During that conversation I was informed of how nice I was, how hot I was, how smart I was, how good looking I was... and I also learned all about his fetishes, how much he made per hour, and how his mother never really loved him.

After that, the emails started coming more often.

I know in my case, I stopped reading his emails and such, not because I had intentions of leading him on, but because it was way too much way too soon and it made him look very desperate. I never told him that I wasn't interested or that he should stop contacting me. It wasn't because I didn't mind the emails or the phone calls and voicemails... it was because he was scaring me a little bit and I hoped he'd just go away on his own.

Please don't ask your friend to contact him to get a definite yes or no. Frankly, that seems a little Fatal Attraction-y to me.

Maybe it's time for a Lucy moment... find her a new object of affection who might appreciate the attention more.
posted by aristan at 3:19 PM on May 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Let's boil this down:
About 5 months ago my friend hooked up with a guy for about a week... At first he was emailing, texting, calling, IM-ing back to her fairly consistently...mostly explaining that he was not in a place to get into a relationship. Over the past few months his responses have petered out to nothing. (emphases added)
So after the first week he told her he didn't want a relationship. That's the "no" right there. Then he repeated it a bunch more times, in various ways. And (assuming you're using "few" to mean "3 or more"), after 2 months of telling her "no" repeatedly in these various tactful but honest ways, he broke off contact altogether. And has continued to maintain silence for the last 3 months. For the last 720 messages, 90 drive-bys, and however many assorted gifts.

If that's a fair summary, then she needs to get that they're not in a relationship. Period.

That they haven't been in a relationship for at least the last 3 months, probably more like 4.75 months. Period.

I think of "stalking" as more a legal term than a psychological one. I'd guess it becomes stalking on the day when he files a police report. Which must be coming soon. But, ehhh, maybe not officially stalking yet.

Regardless of whether she believes that her behavior is unwanted (because that requires knowledge of, or at least empathy for, what's in someone else's mind), she needs help understanding that her behavior is obsessive and self-sabotaging.

Is there any part of her life that she's dissatisfied with? Something that she'd be willing to get a little therapy for? If she can get in the room, surely any decent therapist could pick up on obvious disconnects like mention of a fabulous boyfriend who refuses to speak with her.

Otherwise, yeah, staging an intervention sounds like it might be needed. But try to focus on why the obsessiveness is a problem in her own life, and in her relationships with each of you. I doubt anyone is going to get through to her by trying to speak on behalf this guy. You can't know what "amazing" thing they seemed to share during that first week, or what he's thinking, both of which makes it easy for her to immediately dismiss anything you say about him. Easier even than dismissing what he himself has communicated directly.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:58 PM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've been that girl. I was experiencing a bipolar episode at the time. Thinking back, now that I am on proper meds, I can't remember how I was or could be that person, and I still feel guilty about possibly having hurt the other person. I'm not saying that she's necessarily mentally ill, but the behavior sounds obsessive. I'm not sure she can control it just from having you talk to her, or even if the guy told her straight out that she should stop - you can't "just stop" obsessive behavior. I think she may need behavioral therapy.

I have no way of saying if she's dangerous or not, but I would think not, because she jokes about stalking...she doesn't think she's actually stalking because those dangerous types of behaviors aren't something she's going to do. She thinks she is harmless, so she probably is. However, I would treat this very seriously with her, and not let her get away with jokes with you. Treat it seriously when you talk to her about it.
posted by veronitron at 4:31 PM on May 26, 2007

Your taking this on is just a different manifestation of your friend's apparent issue: lack of boundaries.

I'm unclear why this is any of your business. If she hasn't asked for your help (and really, even if she has), stay the hell out of it.
posted by ottereroticist at 5:08 PM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by jtron at 5:27 PM on May 26, 2007

Yes, she is a stalker. She is probably scaring the hell of of the guy, and you need to tell her in no uncertain terms that she is acting like a pathetic, wretched, loser piece of shit.

I'm unclear why this is any of your business.

She's shouldn't be doing it for herself or even for her friend. She should be doing it for the innocent person who is the focus of a dangerous person's twisted idea of "love." If I were the man at the focus of this obsession I would probably be armed and willing to hurt or kill her if it became necessary. I certainly hope he is.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:46 PM on May 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

yes, stalker. he may have been interested in her at the beginning (although generally when i guy says he is not interested in a relationship, he is not interested in a relationship) but no doubt her behaviour has creeped him out. if someone i wasn't deeply in love with (but even then because they really shouldn't have that much time doing this stuff) was calling, IMing, texting, emailing me many times a day and sending me notes and gifts, it would creep my shit out. it's definitely unhealthy for her to fixate so obsessively on one person when it is absolutely clear that person does not return her interest. eventually it could become scary. also, as she's in her late 30s and presumably smart and successful in other areas, it's just kind of sad and pathetic—and no one finds that attractive.

girl friend needs to get into therapy post-haste.
posted by violetk at 6:46 PM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Over the past few months his responses have petered out to nothing. But she persists.
To her credit - I do believe this guy led her to believe that there was the possibility of a long-term relationship. Often his responses to her indicated that he has some interest in her.

Just because he lead her to believe something in the past does not mean he feels that way now. It is perfectly normal for people to change their mind about this. She is hung up on this man and avoiding moving on with her life.

Can you help her? Should you help her? I don't know.
posted by yohko at 9:35 AM on May 27, 2007

The fact that "his responses have petered out to nothing" is a good thing. That means that he is (sensibly) not letting her bother him, and waiting for her to give up on him. Or find a new target.

How about helping her find some new activities that don't involve driving by his house. Because the only other thing I can think of is to say "Look! You are stalking him; the fact that he's stopped responding to you at all proves he has no interest in you; if you can't bothering him on your own, get some therapy!"
posted by ilsa at 10:30 AM on May 27, 2007

Yes. Recommend therapy.
posted by trii at 5:50 PM on May 27, 2007

Y'know ...
... I would have started getting freaked about 8 weeks in, probably less. This has been going on for 5 months? Over a 1 week not-quite-relationship?

This chick is stalking. And having been on the recieving end of such behaviour in my life, I must say, it is a highly unpleasant experience.
posted by ysabet at 11:35 PM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is my friend a stalker?

Oh hells yes. I think you already know this.

And if so, how do I help her stop?

Have you told her she's a stalker? Directly. Not through analogy, or by trying to sugar coat things. I think that's an important first step. Maybe she already knows what she is doing is creepy, and being told it's not cool by her friends would help her stop.
posted by chunking express at 7:05 AM on May 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

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