If you smell the slightest whiff of stalking after you’ve met or started dating someone, alert your friends about your concerns and proceed with caution. There are several examples of stalking behavior, and each type means that you could find yourself in trouble if you get too close to this person.
Who is a stalker?
Anyone can be a stalker, from the quietest girl to the friendliest guy. Both men and women can be stalkers, and they come in every ethnicity, social type, and financial demographic. Don’t fall prey to the myth that stalkers are weird, off-putting types – you know, potential serial killers and the like – because the most popular guy at work or the sweetest-seeming woman at the party can turn out to be very dangerous. Acquaint yourself with five of the most common signs of stalking so that you can better spot it if you come across one.
Sign #1: Intensity
Though stalkers may look different on the surface, they all share one critical characteristic: they are intense people. When they set their sights on you, they have made a decision that you are the one they want, at least for the moment. Stalkers make and sustain strong eye contact in a way that can feel predatory. At first, being looked at like that can feel good because you’re getting a wave of intense attention. However, you must understand that there is often a much darker side to that kind of intensity. Stalkers work hard to convince you that the two of you have a strong, almost divine emotional connection, and that the two of you are meant to be together.
Sign #2: Obtaining details about you before you’ve provided them
Stalkers are a lot like detectives in that they make it their mission to get as much information about a person as possible. Stalkers will ask anyone they know or meet for details about you once they’ve become fixated on you. They also spend a great deal of time researching their targets, far beyond the usual search engine investigation or perusal of social media sites. Stalkers want to know everything immediately: where you live; where you go to the gym; where you work; which transportation methods or routes you take to work; and with whom you socialize. Stalkers often slip up when they’re dating someone early on by divulging a personal detail they know about you – before they should know it.
Sign #3: They ask you extremely specific questions about photos or messages you post online.
Social media is a feeding ground for stalkers. They will study your accounts and check them multiple times throughout the day. Stalkers are motivated by the quest for control, and getting as much information about you as possible makes them feel that they have more control over you. When someone you’ve started dating asks you more than once about a particular person you took a picture with, or about the location you were in when you posted something, you need to seriously evaluate whether the person you’re dating has stalker tendencies.
Sign #4: They stop by unannounced, and they often do it when you already told them you had plans.
The dropping-by-unannounced behavior is one that makes targets the most nervous. Often, your logic goes like this: “Yeah, I’m happy to see you, but didn’t I tell you that I was hanging out with my friend?” You feel confused but you also feel nervous because, deep down, your instincts are telling you that this is aggressive behavior – just showing up when you already told him you had plans – and that your boundaries and privacy are not being respected. Stalkers don’t just drop by your home; they show up at work, your friends’ houses, or anywhere else they believe they might be able to find you.
Sign #5: When angered, they touch or grab you in an aggressive manner, or they stand near you but give you the creepy feeling that you couldn’t get away if you tried.
Stalkers want to have you all to themselves. They don’t want to share you with friends or anyone else. If this person starts to get the feeling that you are pulling away, the stalker kicks into overdrive because he/she is terrified that abandonment will soon follow. If you show a little too much independence, the stalker will try to get you to cancel any plans or take him/her with you regardless of where you’re going. If you draw a boundary and say “no,” the stalker then uses physical intimidation to get you to do what he/she wants. They may grab or touch you aggressively, or stand close to you in a way that crowds you and makes you afraid that you can’t get away.
If your date tries any of these behaviors with you:
Always alert your neighbors, friends, and family if you start dating someone who has somehow made you a little nervous. Once you realize that you feel unsettled about something your date has done, don’t arrange to be alone with them or travel away from your home with them. If you start dating someone who shows a single sign or multiple ones, don’t be afraid to call the police to report it. A call to the police station or going to the nearest station yourself can help bring you much needed emotional support, and police can provide you with resources and tips specific to your (scary) situation.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.