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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Hopkins in Westworld

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rock and role: Jamie Bell's character Benjamin Grimm is transformed into 'Thing' in the film adaptation of Marvel Comics' 'Fantastic Four'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Hopkins veered between sycophancy and insult in her new chat show
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
In his role as Hamlet, Benedict Cumberbatch will have to learn, and repeat night after night, around 1,480 lines

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Belgian sexologist Goedele Liekens with pupils at Hollins Technology College in Accrington
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The rapper Drake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The gaffer: Prince Philip and the future Queen in 1947
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Style icons: The Beatles on set in Austria
film
Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Books
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

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

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future