Every Thursday on Twitter @jdesmondharris, Dear Prudence asks readers what they think of a question that puzzles her. She will publish her final thoughts on the matter on Friday. Here’s this week’s dilemma and answer:
I recently found out that my boyfriend of almost two years, Adam, had been pestering me for over a year before we met. For context: this is the best relationship I have ever had and until recently I would have told you that Adam was perfect for me. He is caring, funny, caring and so supportive. I was severely abused growing up and all of my relationships before Adam were with guys who hit me too – Adam was never abusive and encouraged me to see a therapist last year to help me get through my trauma and my internalized homophobia (I’m a gay man). The therapy went well, and it meant to me how kind and supportive Adam was throughout.
We moved in together quite recently.
It was when I was on his computer to print something that I found a file with my name in it. (I searched my full name to quickly find the document I sent to print, and this other one appeared to be buried in an Adam file.) The document was last edited in 2019, before we met. I opened it and felt like I had stepped into a horror movie. It was full of information about me: work, hobbies, friends, ex-boyfriends, favorite coffee (the place where we officially “met” in what seemed like a pretty coincidence). More frighteningly, it contained details of my addresses and the address of my ex-boyfriend.
Adam walked over to me looking at him, and I just started yelling at him, demanding to know what it was. He stalled for a while, then confessed it all. He first saw me playing the piano in a jazz bar he loved (I’m a musician), but I blew him away when he tried to talk to me there (I had a boyfriend there. ‘era). He said he “couldn’t get me out of his head” and ended up wanting to know more about me after seeing me there every week, so he started following me. He claims it started innocently enough with standard social media “harassment”, but “just sort of escalation.” He said he had never been so obsessed with someone else, which I think I believe because I met his ex and they are on perfectly cordial terms (his ex was sympathetic and n ‘certainly didn’t mention anything like that, by the way, he harassed me ”).
I was deeply panicked and panicked, but Adam persuaded me to stay; we are currently sleeping in separate rooms because i feel so weird with him right now. I wanted to talk to a friend but he begged me not to, saying they wouldn’t understand and my friends shouldn’t “get a vote in our relationship”. I know it’s crazy about me but I’m really in conflict. I wish I had never seen the document. I still love him more than anyone I have ever known and honestly want to give him a chance, since he begged for forgiveness and said he would do whatever I want to prove he is again worth of trust. Is there anything he can do to prove it? Am I incredibly stupid to even consider this not a dealbreaker? I feel trapped and a little crazy right now. Please help.
– Am I crazy?
Dear am I crazy,
Short answer: no, you are not! But your boyfriend is. And you should break up with him.
But let’s take a step back. I have to admit that my first reaction to your question was far off. I was like, “Well, don’t we all engage in some level of stalking towards the people we are dating or hoping to date? After all, I currently have a tab open with the professional website of a guy my friend is chatting with on Tinder, although he hasn’t told him where he works yet. I also lightly reviewed it with one of his former colleagues. Would he be absolutely scared if he saw the evidence? Probably. My friend and I are we dangerous psychopaths? I do not think so ! (Hope not!) We’re just excited and curious.
But something told me to recheck my take and I’m glad I did. When I shared your question on Twitter and asked people to comment, a few points were clarified for me.
First, not all trackers are created equal. There is the innocent stalking, and then there is the disturbing and frightening stalking. The way your boyfriend was functioning put his behavior in the latter category. The documentation! The addresses ! Track your movements! Literally show up to find yourself at the cafe! It’s not just a matter of scrolling through someone’s Instagram – or even Google searching for it and reading all the results – to get a better idea of who they are.
In my opinion, having it stored in a document feels very… premeditated, and like one of them is entering the relationship with a huge imbalance of power. Searching for someone on Google? Fresh, normal. See a stranger and find out where they hang out to set up a cute date? Uh. Google document? Nope –@SaraLang
run, addresses and ex addresses place this waaaayy beyond the “I checked their Instagram too much” category –@ JWJones252
Ouch. Let; he’s not who you thought he was. And what he actually is is quite frightening and disturbing. I mean, we’re all stalking, right? But the level and the documentation suggest that this person is most likely a serial killer. Joke. Kind of… –@ginandspice
… I think there is a big difference between relying on information someone has made public about themselves and delving deep into their personal life and tracking their whereabouts to set up a “chance” meeting in one location. that he frequents. –@dbzbornak
Second, his attempt to keep you from sharing this with your friends is really concerning, and a testament to a possible effort to isolate you from people who would support you as well as your gut as to what he did. It also suggests that he knows his behavior was bad.
Here’s the really scary part: “I wanted to talk to a friend but he begged me not to …” It might just be love at first sight, but if he tries to isolate you from your support networks , run, don’t walk away from him and call a DV hotline as soon as possible. –@cryingbaseball
I was torn about this until the boyfriend told the OP not to share this with friends. Classic isolation stuff and a huge red flag especially given the context –@eparillon
GET OUT !!!!! Yesterday! When he said Adam told him not to tell anyone they wouldn’t understand, THEY WILL UNDERSTAND HE WAS A HAPPY! –@ aloe9678
Finally, something occurred to me as I read everyone’s extremely alarmed responses: I realized that they reflected the feeling of “deeply panicked” you expressed in your letter. If you feel so horrified by someone’s behavior that you want to sleep in another room, that’s enough. I know a little voice in your head is probably telling you, “But he’s been so good otherwise. ” But as @dstar put it, “He * seems * perfect because he researched what a perfect boyfriend would be for LW! That’s scary. AF & LW shouldn’t let their apparent compatibility keep them from leaving.
It’s finish. Now that you know what you know, you will not be happy or at peace, and no rationalization or therapy will get you there. You don’t need to ask for a contribution or permission to run the other way around.
Q. Discovering a family secret: A few months ago I did a DNA test to find out my ethnicity and after looking at the results online saw that I was sharing a significant amount of DNA with someone who lives across the country ( enough to be close relatives). I just got a message from this person explaining that my grandmother had a child decades ago and gave the child up for adoption, so one of my parents has a half brother and I have a half. cousin I didn’t know existed.
The person who contacted me said that she had contacted my grandmother in the past to see if she wanted to communicate; she said no, and they didn’t ask again. Because my grandmother refused contact, should I do the same to respect her wishes? Do I risk my family dynamic collapsing to meet this cousin?