Q- Hi Margo. I have caught my ex-boyfriend driving by my house a few times now. I live on a side street so I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I ended the relationship two months ago because we weren’t getting along. He isn’t doing well with the breakup and I know he is going through a hard time but he has never been abusive or anything like that so I’m not really afraid of him. Though I don’t know how creeped out I should be. The last time he saw me see him and when I talked to him a few days later neither of us mentioned it. I think he would be embarrassed if I said anything to him. What should I do?
A- I agree it is hard to know whether to treat his behaviour as a symptom of his suffering, or a threat to your safety. I would treat it as both. While being dumped really sucks, he is still choosing to spy on you. I don’t think there is one right way to deal with any form of grief, but creeping out the people around you is not really helpful because, ya know, it just causes further isolation.
Some broken-hearted people will torture themselves by investigating the life of their ex. They don’t want to care what their ex is up to, but they also want to know and sometimes they choose to give in to this desire. Acting out of this form of desperation can lead to a blossoming obsessionand your ex is certainly showing signs of this. Hopefully being caught in the act has shamed him enough to stop with the obsessive behaviour.
If he continues driving by your house or shows any other signs that he is monitoring you then it is obvious that embarrassment and shame are not going to deter him and this should be taken seriously.
I think there are a few steps you can take that will protect you, and potentially prevent his behaviour from continuing, but please, don’t just listen to me; use your own judgement as well as the advice of those around you. You don’t need to spread vicious rumours about him, but you should tell a few people you can trust. Ask a friend or family member who knows both you and your ex. They may be able to offer insight concerning your ex’s motives as well as their support.
If he continues monitoring you, for safety’s sake, start keeping a record of his drive-bys. Note the date and time that it occurred just in case you decide to involve the police. Know that you can go to the police! It is their job to take the matter seriously even if you don’t.
Be discreet and limit what he sees. This protects you and also prevents him from getting any kind of reward from spying on you (if he is not finding anything then he might stop looking). Limit what he sees on your online accounts (new posts, comments, pictures, planned events) and what he sees when he drives by your house. If you have been seeing someone else you may want to consider spending time at their place (if possible) rather than having them over, at least just for the time being. I don’t think you should live your life in fear or anything, but rather see it from the angle that you are trying to prevent this behaviour from continuing as it is not benefiting either of you.
Tell any of your trusted mutual friends not volunteer information about your personal life (this is actually a big ‘duh’ on their part, if friends are volunteering personal info to an ex I would be really wary of them, even if the ex is not showing signs of stalking). He probably doesn’t want to know, but can’t help but want to know, anyway. So you and others around you can just take his choice away (and potentially help end the agony) by leaving him out of your private life.
Oh, and go with your gut and not necessarily my advice.