Dear Dategirl, My ex-husband is traumatized because I have a new man in my life. Even though he was a shitty husband, the fact that I have found somebody who makes me happy is driving him effing crazy (we divorced four years ago). For example, he has broken into the house I share with our young son. He has followed me on dates, and even tried to get a past lover deported from the country. He has reported me to child protection services (who investigated and dismissed), and told our son details of my private life he gleaned by spying on me! I'm sorry, but a 10-year-old doesn't need to hear that Mommy made out with someone at the movies! I have always been very careful to only introduce my son to men I'm serious about—which includes my current boyfriend. Unfortunately, my ex isn't really familiar with the term "respect." In addition to the stalking, he's also attempted to smear my name to friends and family, but luckily they know he's nuts and pretty much ignore him. And, more important, they know and trust me to do the right thing. So I have a question for you: How do you shake off a stalker who isn't dangerous but is a major source of stress?Moved On!
Sweet pea, if someone breaks into your house, you call the police—seriously. I know it would suck to put your kid's pop in the pokey, but that is just wrong. Not only is it wrong, it's a criminal offense. And while you say he's not dangerous, the fact that he risked going to jail just to sniff around your home tells me he's more than a little unhinged. Please be very, very careful. My friend Nita (fake name in case her wacko ex is reading) had a similar problem when she gave her hubby the heave-ho. Not only did he bad-mouth her to anyone who'd listen (and unlike yours, some did listen), "he broke into my e-mail account and read everything," she told me. "Then he sent out e-mails to people, pretending to be me." Even worse, "He wrote to all of my male friends saying—again, as me—'I hate you, I never want to speak to you again.'" Not content to merely cyber-bully, he also snail-mailed every guy in her Rolodex. "He sent out a lot of handwritten notes, accusing them of being the reason we divorced—including to one person I had never met in person. It was embarrassing." Nita's lawyer recommended she start keeping a record of everything he did—something you should do too. "I told him the reason we broke up—him!—but he was obsessed with finding out the real reason—he was like O.J., trying to track down the real killer." I told Nita about your ex and she said, "I'm sure, just like my ex-husband, he feels it's completely justified. These men feel wronged and that they can do whatever they want. In their reptile brain, they feel like we're they're property and that's just not true. There are laws." Five years later, the hang-ups and confused calls from friends seem to have stopped, but that might also be because Nita moved a couple thousand miles away. She was lucky because she and her ex never reproduced, so it was easier for her to make a clean break. Because you're co-parenting, you'll always have to deal with this jerk on some level, so it's important to set boundaries and take his seriously fucked-up behavior seriously. For that reason, I'm going to suggest you talk to someone more qualified than I. Seattle has an awesome agency that deals with victims of domestic violence, called New Beginnings. You can reach them 24 hours a day at 206-522-9472. Another option is the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence at 1-800-562-6025. Neither agency requires you give your name. I know what you're thinking—he's never hit you—but as the rep from WSCADV assured me, stalking is a form of violence, and there's no reason in the world you have to put up with it. Good luck and be safe. firstname.lastname@example.org