I recently received a letter from a young man with a history of mental illness who has become obsessed with me. He fortunately does not know where I am living, but he has my parents’ phone number and address. Three years ago, I declined his marriage proposal given over the phone from 800 miles away. We had never dated and I had already told him I did not return his affections. I have since then ignored all contact from him. He has left numerous messages on my parents’ answering machine (including another marriage proposal), and although they used to be infrequent (about every 12-15 months), they have become more frequent and finally he sent a long letter requesting I give him some sense of closure. When he proposed to me 3 years ago, I thought I had made my feelings clear, but I don’t think I ever simply said “Don’t contact me again”. At that point, I didn’t realize the extent of his mental illness. I am concerned that any response from me after all this time will be perceived as a positive response, however I really want him to leave my parents alone and to stop trying to contact me. Would it be better to send him a short note requesting he stop calling and writing, or to simply continue to ignore him? Or is there another option?
- Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
- Dr. Dombeck intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
- Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
- No correspondence takes place.
- No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Dombeck to people submitting questions.
- Dr. Dombeck, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Dombeck and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
- Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
The jury is probably out as to whether it is better to write a clear note requesting he cease all attempts to contact you or whether it is better to ignore him. On the one hand, he may possibly respond to a single very clearly stated note to the effect that you want nothing to do with him and that you regard any attempt by him to contact you or your family as hostile stalking. On the other hand, it seems that this fellow has difficulty comprehending that your less than subtle multiple-year lack of interest in returning his advances means that you don’t want anything to do with him, and any communication from you might encourage him to redouble his efforts. My own suggestion to you is that you not communicate with him but rather continue to ignore him. If anyone does ultimately communicate your definitive lack of interest in him, it should be some third party and not yourself. I would also suggest that you keep extensive notes on any and all stalking behavior this guy shows and that you not hesitate to take legal action against him to require him to keep his distance (For instance, you may be able to get a restraining order against him – call the police and/or local domestic violence shelter and see if they can advise you on how to better protect your personal safety). This is not a mental illness issue. This is a stalking issue. This guy is a potential threat to your safety and needs to be treated as such. Better safe than sorry.