In simpler times, stalking was a simple affair of inappropriate attention and restraining orders. Today, it’s so mundane, we even joke about it: “I’ve been stalking him/her on Facebook.” It’s funny until…well, until it’s not. As my friend Elyse says, “You know it’s an idol by the way you react when you’re either forced to do it, or forced to stop.”
This, I suppose, is why I can’t throw stones too hard at stalkers.
I myself have walked dangerously close to the line where a crush turns into an obsession. (Diet pills, alcohol, and insecurity will do that to you.) I know how it feels to want someone so bad that my efforts to get their attention are practically performance art.
My own history proves that stalkers are just regular people who get carried away by their relational needs. It’s important to be empathetic toward them. But — and this is where I have trouble — it’s equally important to not be carried away by empathy, either.
As my wise and not-one-to-mince-words friend Kristi would say,
1. “Boundaries, girl.”
Sometimes I really hate boundaries. Why shouldn’t my friends pick up the phone every time I call? Why shouldn’t my parents send me money when I could use a little help with my bills? For that matter, why shouldn’t I miss an important job interview to help my crazy friend reclaim her car from the tow yard?
Here’s why: because we all need, for our own sakes, to be responsible for ourselves.
Boundaries aren’t barriers to relationship. On the contrary, they make mature relationships possible.
Stalkers don’t have boundaries; that’s why they don’t respect yours. By not maintaining your boundaries, you’re actually hurting your stalker as much as yourself.
2. Beware the Messiah Complex
We initially became friends because he told me he was looking for change, something to save him from his bad habits. I felt all glowy inside that he would confide this in me, that he trusted me to help him find the truth.
That’s when he leveled me with the news that I was the saviour he was looking for. F’real.
…Is it weird that I still had a hard time cutting him off?
Since I’ve felt that intense desire for someone to save me, it’s twice as powerful when someone suggests that I — I — could be the one with the power to save. Wow, really? I could matter that much?
But being a saviour is a bigger job than any of us can fill. Letting someone treat you as if you don’t have limitations will either kill you or make you crazy.
3. Not all stalkers are created equal.
They won’t always look like a guy with a grody mustache and tinted glasses parked outside your driveway. They’ll look like friends. Maybe friends you’ve known for years. For one girl I know, it looked like her own father.
“After all,” you’ll think, “why shouldn’t I take a few minutes out of my day for someone who’s obviously hurting? Wouldn’t I appreciate a friend who did the same for me?”
Yes. You and I both would. But if the person who’s always texting, calling, and showing up isn’t doing the same…isn’t, for example, asking how your day was or what’s on your mind…that person isn’t a friend.
And guess what? By always being available to them, you and I are not their friends, either. We’re enablers.
4. Avoid Contagion
Lifetime Channel movies taught me to equate stalking with physical harm. That’s like thinking the only form of domestic abuse is the kind that comes with black eyes and cigarette burns.
In fact, stalkers can ruin your life in lots of ways.
The very twistedest effect they can have is making you just like them.
Here’s how: when someone demands more than you have to give, you’re going to end up seeking resources in…you guessed it…someone else.
It’s like the way zombies spread their infection. One unhealthy relationship can end up poisoning all the others in your life.
5. Stalking ≠ Love
Let me spare you the word “duh” — I’m not talking about mistaking a stalker’s stalkiness for love.
I’m talking about your love for the person stalking you.
The hardest ones to get rid of are those for whom you feel real empathy.
When you distance yourself from them, their threats and cries of pain echo your own self-reproach.
The thing to remember is that the stalker state of mind does not register love as simply love. For them, it’s like crack cocaine. They’ve decided what they need to survive, and no, it’s not you…it’s something they’ve decided you represent. It’ll never be enough for you to show them love —they need you to be love.
And…do I need to say this? You’re not enough for that.
Knowing how terrible it feels to be ignored, I hate the idea of doing it to someone else. What if they are on the verge of some major turnaround? How can I live with myself if my refusal to meet them halfway ruins their last effort at change?
Then it’s not really a change.
To get rid of a stalker, you have to hurt them a little. Actually, it’s the final gift you can give them. Down the line, when they’ve found the love they need, they’ll be able to forgive you, like one human to another.