Unhealthy Attachment: When You Like Your Sister Way Too Much
Buckle up, folks, this one is gonna get W-E-I-R-D. Earlier this week, a young lady approached me to discuss a problem she was having with a male soon-to-be family member. Her father is marrying his mother, and he recently moved from another state to be with his mother. Although she lived on her own, she wanted to be welcoming to her new family and went on a couple short outings with them over the course of about two weeks. Then, wanting to bond with her new brother, she invited him to her place to play video games.After two gaming sessions, she got some very uncomfortable text messages from him, given the context of their relationship. Take a look at the following screenshots:
Apparently, Dan had too much alcohol that evening, but instead of the usual drunk texts, he poured his heart out to the young woman who was about to be his stepsister. Keep in mind that she has only met Dan just a few times, and only hung out with him twice without the rest of the family present. However, he already seems to have some pretty strong feelings for her. As the night went on, (and Dan presumably sobered up), it seemed that he realized what he had done, and appeared to apologize. Every new step-family goes through the “storming” stage of group development before they reach “norming,” especially with young adults involved, and this could easily have been some alcoholic water under a very awkward bridge. However it quickly became clear that Dan meant every word he said:
Guys, in case you didn’t know, it’s probably not a good idea to tell a woman you’ve only known for two weeks that she’s the missing key to your heart and you’ve been looking for her your whole life, even if she isn’t about to become your stepsister. It was at this point that she reached out to me.
Studying violence and stalking behavior is a part of my profession, and I was concerned by what I saw after the situation had been explained. Dan not only comes off excessively dependent and overly attached, he uses very strong descriptions of his feelings and speaks in absolutes (I will never let you go, I will do everything to keep you, etc).
I explained to her that Dan’s behavior was textbook date-stalking; that he believed, somewhere in his troubled mind, that his persistence would pay off and eventually prove his “love,” which would at that time be returned. I explained that there was no way of letting Dan down gently; she needed to provide an explicit rejection that set the context for their relationship as she saw it. In this instance, the rejection was not as firm as I might have advised another person, due to the unique situation that the parents of these two young people were trying to form a family. With some collaboration, we came up with what she felt was an appropriate response:
Dan’s accepting initial response had me skeptical, and sure enough, it wasn’t long before we saw just how troubled this young man is:
With Dan making statements such as, “I always thought I had the right girl,” it’s important that we remember these two spent extremely limited time together over only two weeks. His response says, very plainly, “I do not accept your decision, I do not respect your feelings, and I’m going to see things the way I want no matter what.” His word selection, particularly in his final message, is quite alarming. “Nothing is going to stop me, I am never going to stop until I’m dead.” Although it is not guaranteed, this type of statement should absolutely be considered a potential precursor to physical violence, and any woman on the receiving end should proceed with a high level of caution.
If you find yourself in a situation like this, and you have already provided a very explicit rejection to the person, it is important to not communicate with them again. Unwanted pursuers often decide for themselves what a woman’s feelings are, and may perceive continued communication as encouraging further persistence…an attempt to play “hard to get,” if you will. This may happen even if the communication is negative. Some stalkers (and that’s exactly what Dan is) are so desperate that they will hold on to any type of contact. The quickest way to stop contact with someone is to stop contact.
The amount of stalking situations that really do escalate to physical violence is surprisingly minimal. However, why take unnecessary risks? In this situation, given Dan’s last words to her, the objective of personal safety outweighed the interests of the forming step-family. Dan was blocked on social media, and both parents were informed, and shown the messages. The young lady provided Dan’s picture to her workplace managers and security staff, along with a brief explanation of the situation. She also purchased some reliable pepperspray and will be having someone from work walk her to her car for awhile.
It isn’t always possible to avoid situations like these. However, a good rule of thumb for personal safety is to not expose someone to where you live before you have a firm idea of their behavior. In dating situations, the first few dates can actually be used to evaluate the person for potential stalking indicators: casually steering the conversation toward his most recent break-up can paint a good picture of a man’s behavior toward a woman who doesn’t wish to be involved with him.
Sometimes though, as in this case, you just stumble into it. If it happens to you, remember: an explicit rejection should be provided. This is an example of an explicit rejection:
“No matter what you may have assumed till now, and no matter for what reason you assumed it, I have no romantic interest in you whatsoever. I am certain I never will. I expect that knowing this, you’ll put your attention elsewhere, which I understand, because that’s what I intend to do.”
After this rejection is given, no further communication should be offered. In today’s world of technology, you can block a person on practically any messaging service. If they call you a hundred times, don’t answer. If they come to your work, do not engage them, and explain to a person of authority that you would like for that person to leave. Once again, the quickest way to stop contact is to stop contact.
If you are interested in additional tips to address unwanted pursuers, obsessive exes, or stalkers, I recommend reading Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear.” If you would like to discuss personal defense options, including concealed carry, or have a situation for which you would like advice, contact me any time.