Dilemmas: I think my spurned lover is stalking me

Len had a brief relationship with a girl whom he dropped to get back with his fiancee. Now he gets mysterious phone calls and someone thought they saw her car nearby, even though she lives miles away. Is she stalking him? Should he report it to the police?

WHAT VIRGINIA SAYS

When people are dropped suddenly after an intense relationship they can often feel powerless. I don't know anyone who hasn't, in her time, rung some loved one up and put the phone down, just to know they're there. For some reason, just hearing a voice answer:

"Hello" is comforting, and there is a certain feeling of power that accompanies it, which runs: "Heh, heh, I know exactly were you are at this moment and you have no idea where I am or who I am. You poor fool, I have you under my surveillance." Okay, it's crackers, but it can reduce some of the pain of being dropped by someone you were very close to. It's a secret and pretty harmless act of aggression.

Driving by their house, if that is what this girl was doing, is also common. I have toured round half London just to pass some ex-boyfriend's house. You check to see if the lights are on in the windows. You count the milk bottles. Sometimes, I've parked and just sat there, feeling comforted, like a loyal dog by its master's grave. It's tragic, but it happens.

It's the act of a sad, sick sack and rarely leads to a Fatal Attraction scenario. If the aggression were coming, Len would have found it out by now, with shrieked phone calls, mad letters, threats and his fiancee the victim of crazy scenes in the streets.

But why is Len so alarmed? Does he have an overdeveloped imagination or a highly-developed sense of intuition? Has he read too many stalking stories? Does he feel terribly guilty about how he behaved? Is the person who's ringing him up and putting the phone down really his conscience talking (or rather, not talking)? Or is he himself not over the affair, and, by fantasising that he's being stalked, keeping himself emotionally close to his original girlfriend? In other words, is he the one who's obsessed, not her? By asking if he should ring the police, when there's no reason to, is he trying to brand her as evil and crazy to avoid any responsibility for the affair? Is he subconsciously trying to get her locked away so that he himself can lock away her memory?

Or does he know the girl so well that he's right to be frightened? Perhaps she was aggressive and possessive while they were together. Perhaps he correctly interprets this current behaviour as the thin end of the wedge, in which case he ought to start dialling 1471, and keeping a diary of all the calls and sightings in case he has to make use of them later.

But my feeling is that these are simply the signs of a sad girl who's been hurt. The last thing he must do is make any approach to her. If he sees her he should probably cut her dead. If she is obsessed, she may interpret even the mildest of hellos as renewed interest. If she writes, he should not respond.

But until then, he should get on with his life and not panic about being stalked. And try very hard, if he ever has another affair, not to treat a woman quite so unkindly by coming on so very hot and then suddenly blowing cold.

WHAT READERS SAY

Give her time

Recently my boyfriend did exactly as Len did - he dumped me abruptly after a brief but intense relationship for his former girlfriend. I was devastated. And I - normally a very together person - found myself behaving exactly as Len's former girlfriend.

Give your ex time, Len. What she's doing is harmless. She's simply grieving. What stopped me was when my ex asked if it was me during on of my silent calls. I didn't reply - but I felt a bit stupid and it brought me to my senses.

If that doesn't work, threaten to get your calls traced - but be gentle with her. You've hurt her.

ANON

A guilty conscience talking?

It seems to me that Len is probably not being stalked by his former girlfriend but by an uneasy conscience. This shows all the symptoms of an emotional and sexual escape. Len has to ask himself why he felt the need dramatically to leave both his fiancee and his lover. Will he need to escape again? If, as sounds likely, he has not been entirely honest with either of them, he should exorcise his guilt by first being honest with himself about his fears.

SARA LODGE

Oxford

Just say sorry

Having been through a similar experience, I think Len should find a way of contacting his former lover. While stressing that there is no way their relationship can be resumed, he should apologise for the abrupt way in which the relationship was ended, and explain that although it cannot continue, he still cares about her and feels guilt for the pain he caused her.

LINDA

Leamington Spa

Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia,

My husband committed suicide five years ago. He was suffering from an incurable disease. His father had done the same, albeit for different reasons. My own children, now married with children of their own between 8 and 14, want to tell them the truth, as they often ask for details of granddad's death. I think they're too young to know and to trust the oldest with the secret would be too much to ask. What is your view? Yours sincerely, Sally

Letters are welcome, and everyone who has a suggestion quoted will be sent a bouquet from Write to Virginia Ironside, `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax 0171-293 2182, or e-mail: dilemmas@independent.co.uk - giving your postal address for sending a bouquet.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all