It’s always flattering when a woman is into you. But what happens when she’s a little too interested? There’s a fine line between clingy and concerning—and your ex-girlfriend (or prospective partner) may be crossing it. Here’s how to tell:
1. She’s your #1 Twitter follower.
“Long gone are the days that a jilted lover merely drove past her ex-paramour’s house,” says Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D, a San Diego County Deputy District Attorney, and coauthor ofReading People. “Now people stalk each other online, through friends of Facebook friends, or through cleverly placed GPS devices.” So if she has something to say about all of your status updates, is constantly re-tweeting you, or drags out any and all online conversations far longer than they need to be, there may be a problem, Patrick says. Some sites like LinkedIn also let you monitor who is viewing your information. Pay close attention.
Block her: Adjust your privacy settings to reflect what you are and aren’t comfortable with her seeing, Patrick says. And even if you do block her entirely, never post your location online. Internet-savvy stalkers can often still track down that information if they really want to.
2. She feels slighted.
Typically, female stalkers are either exes or women with whom you’ve at least had one date, says Patrick. Perhaps she’s trying to get you back in her life, or right any wrongs she feels you’ve committed against her, says Robert T. Muller, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at York University who specializes in trauma and attachment.
Don’t reason with her: It’s likely that she’ll feel like you’re apologizing and still care about her, which is plenty of reason to keep on stalking. “Remember that many stalkers misperceive innocuous messages as romantic,” Patrick says. “They read sexual meanings into neutral communication and often take this as encouragement.”
3. She doesn’t seem like her normal self.
“After a breakup, unfortunately, some people can deteriorate psychologically,” Muller says. While people without a history of mental illness can fall into stalking habits, too, depression and psychological stress can exasperate underlying issues such as paranoia or bipolar disorder. If her personality seems to have taken a drastic change, it could signal something more complex than the typical breakup woes, says Muller.
Get her help: Depending on your relationship history, it might be appropriate to tell a family member that you’re concerned about her mental health. However, it’s important that your message doesn’t get back to her, as she could think it means that you have feelings for her.
4. You just feel creeped out.
To determine if her interest has gone too far, you need to take stock of your own feelings, Muller says. If whatever she’s doing makes you feel frightened, don’t ignore it. “Guys especially try to shrug off stalking. But it can be dangerous, and you don’t always know someone’s endgame,” he says. Likewise, you shouldn’t assume it’s normal or that you can handle it on your own, according to Patrick.
Tell someone: Report any stalking to the police, suggests detective Mike Proctor, author of Antidote for A Stalker. If it’s happening at work, you can also tell HR and your company’s Workplace Violence Team (if it has one). The proper authorities will help alleviate the situation, Proctor says.