Dear Virginia, I had a brief fling with a man. At first I thought he was great, but I went off him. He was far more interested in me than I was in him. I told him how I felt, but he's pestering me with texts and calls and has even appeared at my door with flowers. I don't want to hurt him, and I know it was my fault, but I feel a bit threatened. What can I do? Yours sincerely, Corrie
While it's true that this man might be a potential stalker - and that would be very worrying - he isn't one yet. So I do think it's worth trying to withdraw in a way that's not going to turn him into one.
As a potential stalker myself (in the past, I must add hurriedly), I know a little of the mentality of a lover obsessed. One does want endlessly to be in touch, to drive past the loved one's house and gawp in at the lit windows, waves of comfort coming just from the sight of them slumped in front of the telly. One wants to ring them up and put the phone down the minute you hear their voice. One wants just to be in touch.
So, speaking personally, I think the "cruel to be kind" approach is not, actually, that kind. Nor will it necessarily produce the result you want. If you just say: "It's over. I never want you to be in touch ever again. If you even so much as ring me I'll call the police! Goodbye!" you risk this man being driven mad with misery, a madness that could turn all too easily into rage and violence.
I think that, first, you should reiterate the statement you made earlier. Invent another man, if you like. But, whatever you do, tell him there's nothing in your future relationship. Be completely honest and say that you shouldn't have leapt in quite so quickly, and apologise. You could even say you'd like a couple of months with no contact but that you would not like to stop being friends in the long term, unless he'd prefer to call it a day. It's kinder to give him this option, because then he would feel that he had some power over you, and he decided that he'd prefer a total separation. Then he could kid himself that, in the end, he had taken the decision to end it completely rather than you.
But if he won't take that route - and, sadly, I bet he won't - then rather than cut off, just very, very slowly, withdraw the oxygen supply, as it were. Only answer every other email, and then one in three. Keep your replies short and friendly. Texts could be reduced to single words, like "Excellent - C" or "Fraid not - C". Never, ever, accept gifts from him, from the most expensive Degas to a box of Tic Tacs. Slowly, this man will learn to survive on his own. He'll know that you're still there, listening to him and occasionally responding, but that you're never going to be the mainstay of his life.
You have to take the tiniest bit of responsibility in all this. You did behave like a bit of a chump, getting too involved before you'd really got to know him, and he could be forgiven for thinking, to start with, that this was going to be a full-blown love-affair. Try to think how you would prefer to be let down by someone who'd led you on and then changed his mind and with whom you'd got a major obsession. Would you rather be cut off completely, or would you rather be given the chance to retrieve something out of the situation, even if it was only a scant friendship?
If I were you, I'd let him down, not cruelly, but with compassion - making sure that you never say or do anything that might get his hopes up again.
Move on, and don't feel guilty
Send him this letter:
Thank you for the good times you gave me in the past. My feelings, which are of course beyond my control, have now changed, and I no longer want you in my life. Please let me go with good grace, and do not try to contact me again. Pestering me will only make me feel uncomfortable, and I am sure you would not want that.
Yours sincerely, Corrie"
If this does not do the trick, ignore all further messages, hang up on phone calls without ceremony and without speaking, throw away unwanted gifts, pretend to be out if he visits, anddo not respond to any communication other than by solicitor's letter. And do see a solicitor if your letter does not have the desired effect. I would also recommend that you complain to the police sooner rather than later, because they are slow to act in these cases.
But what if he is a decent fellow who is just head over heels in love? In that case, you still owe him nothing. Only a hermit can avoid being hurt. Being hurt is part of life. Move on, and do not feel guilty; you have done nothing wrong.
Are you secretly enjoying this?
Oh, you poor thing. Having someone more interested in you than you are in him, and offering the tributes of attention and flowers. Surely, were it not for the fact that you're secretly enjoying being pursued by someone you find or found attractive, you would have long since barred him from your phones and sent him and the flowers packing?
If you are serious in regarding him as a pest, you can't afford to be kind. I presume you have tried the "nice" options. So, first write him a note saying that you wish him to stop contacting you in any way or you will be seeking injunctive relief or relief under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Keep a copy and send it recorded delivery. Second, cease all contact. If he contacts you, keep that contact as "evidence". If he doesn't give up, seek an injunction through the County Court or contact the police to make a statement for the purposesof an Order under the 1997 Act.
I suspect that if you simply ignore him, he will go away. Your signals must be entirely unambiguous.
Go on one more date with him and behave like a slob - pick your nose, belch, pass wind, swear. That should get rid of him for good!
Screen your calls
Years ago, I had this problem with a man. I made sure his number was on "caller display" on my mobile and house phones. He lived at the other end of the country, so I looked up the area codes of nearby towns and screened calls from these numbers. This prevented him using public phones to get to me. In the end, I got a friend of mine to send him a message telling him to back off. I received one abusive message and then never heard from him again. Consider changing your numbers and asking reception at work to screen your calls.
Bishop Auckland, Co Durham
Next Week's Dilemma
I'm a single mother and my baby is a year old. I love him, but I feel depressed and lonely. I'm exhausted after getting up in the night, and spending all day with him is really getting on my nerves. I don't drive and my parents live 100 miles away. There is a mother and baby club nearby, but I don't really like the other mums. What can I do?
Yours sincerely, Angie