In healthy relationships, people can go their separate ways when a relationship comes to an end, and begin the process of moving on with life. In situations where one partner was toxic, the other person may become the victim of stalking if they end the relationship.
A stalker ex boyfriend or girlfriend can be frightening, and even dangerous. Here, learn how to keep yourself safe by finding tips for how to deal with a stalker ex.
What it means when an ex stalks you?
So, why would someone stalk you? There can be several reasons behind stalking behavior, but keep in mind that stalking behavior can signify danger. Research suggests that some minor cases of stalking, such as unwanted phone calls or texts, may be a result of one partner attempting to reconcile the relationship.
If a stalker ex girlfriend or boyfriend sends you unwanted text messages, for instance, they may be holding onto hope that the two of you will get back together.
In some cases, stalking can come from a place of obsession. Once your partner loses you with the end of the relationship, their drive for connection may lead them to obsess over you, which eventually results in them stalking you.
On the other hand, sometimes stalking can be more than a desire to get back together. It can point to dangerous behavior, and it may stem from a desire to control or harass you. More severe instances of stalking may be a form of retaliation, meant to bully or intimidate you.
Research also shows that stalking is linked to domestic violence, especially in the case of a stalker ex boyfriend. If you’re finding yourself noticing, “My ex is stalking me,” it could be a continuation of domestic violence that occurred during the relationship.
When you break up with a violent partner, they lose some control over you. Stalking you gives them a means to continue to manipulate you and attempt to exert power and control.
Examples of stalking
If you’re looking for signs your ex is stalking you, the following examples of stalking behavior can be helpful. Keep in mind that stalking doesn’t just involve someone physically following you or tracking your location. It can also include the following behaviors:
Repeatedly calling you when you’ve asked them not to
Sending you unwanted emails and text messages
Giving you gifts you have not asked for
Sharing your personal information with other people
Spreading rumors about you via social media
Collecting information about you, such as your behaviors and whereabouts
Refusing to leave you alone
What to do if you are being stalked by an ex?
If you are feeling unsafe, you probably want to know how to deal with a stalker ex. One piece of advice is to keep documentation of behaviors that you find concerning. Make a list of dates and times they engage in stalking behavior, as well as what they are doing at those times to concern you.
Documenting incidents of stalking may be necessary, because you might reach a point where dealing with stalking behavior means filing a restraining order or contacting police. Hopefully it won’t come to this point, but it is a possibility.
Beyond documenting incidents and being prepared to reach out for legal intervention, it is important to be direct when you’re in the process of getting rid of a stalker.
Perhaps you’re too kind and are afraid of hurting their feelings, or maybe you are minimizing their behavior and writing it off as “not that serious.”
Whatever the situation is, it is critical that you are direct, and tell them clearly that you are not interested in any further contact. There is no need to worry about being nice; when stalking is involved, things can quickly take a turn for the worst, so it’s important to protect yourself.
Beyond these basic strategies, the 25 steps below provide great insight into how to deal with a stalker ex.
Signs You Have A Stalker Following You Around Wherever You Go
When you’re trying to figure out how to deal with a stalker ex, you may just be experiencing unwanted texts or phone calls, but in some cases, a stalker will literally follow you. This can signify even greater danger than if you are simply receiving unwanted communication via phone.
Some signs a stalker ex is following you around wherever you go include:
They show up at places where you are, even if you have not discussed with them where you are going.
They show up at your place of work.
They are asking mutual friends about your whereabouts.
You notice tracking devices on your phone or vehicle.
Cars drive by your house slowly at all hours of the day.
When you’re deciding how to deal with a stalker ex, it may be time to take action to protect yourself, such as by alerting law enforcement, if you notice the signs above.
25 tips to stay safe when an ex becomes a stalker
So, what should you do when your ex stalks you? Your first priority in dealing with a stalker should be taking steps to stay safe.
Consider the 25 steps below to keep yourself safe from a stalker ex.
1. Tell friends and family
Stalking behavior should be taken seriously, and it’s important that you not try to cope with stalking alone. Telling close friends and family about the stalking situation means you will have other people checking up on you.
It may even be helpful to suggest that your friends and loved ones pop in or call you from time-to-time, to ensure that you are okay.
2. Established a code word
Hopefully, it will never come to this point, but you might find yourself in a situation where your stalker shows up unexpectedly, and you feel threatened. In this instance, you need to be able to quickly call someone for help.
It is a wise idea to establish a secret code word with friends and loved ones, so if you call them and say the word, they know to come help you, or call 911.
3. Don’t go out alone
If a stalker is truly following you, it can be dangerous to be out alone. When your ex stalks you, they may unexpectedly show up to places where you are. They may try to corner you or force you back into a relationship, especially if you’re alone.
This is why getting rid of a stalker may mean strength in numbers. Go out with other people, and send the message that you have people in your corner, so you cannot be forced back into a situation you don’t want to be in.
4. Stop minimizing their behavior
If you try to tell yourself that the stalking “isn’t that bad,” you may not take it as seriously, and you may even begin to make excuses for the stalker.
This can cause you to let your guard down and accept some of the behavior, which ultimately places you in greater danger. Recognize stalking for what it is: inappropriate behavior that places you at risk.
5. Don’t feel sorry for them
Just like minimizing the behavior can lead you to make excuses, if you feel sorry for a stalker ex boyfriend or girlfriend, you might put up with things that could ultimately put you in danger.
Getting rid of a stalker isn’t likely to happen if you feel sorry for them, because you’ll end up being too nice and sending the message that maybe the two of you will get back together.
6. Trust your gut
If you begin to notice strange signs, such as your ex popping up wherever you are, or receiving unwanted gifts in the mail, listen to your gut. If something feels off, it probably is. Don’t dismiss it as being a coincidence.
7. Stop blaming yourself
Figuring out how to deal with a stalker ex is hard enough on its own, but when you begin to blame yourself for the stalking behavior, it becomes even harder to move forward. It’s not your fault you’re being stalked.
The stalker is in control of their own behavior, and they do not have a right to continue to harass you, especially if you’ve told them that their behavior is unwanted.
If blocking doesn’t send the message, you might have to change your phone number entirely. Some stalkers will change their own number, or text you using special apps, if you block their number from contacting you. If you change your number entirely, they won’t be able to reach you at all.
9. Swear off social media
It can be difficult to do, especially since social media is such a common way to stay connected today, but you may have to shut down your social media accounts if you’re dealing with stalking behavior. A stalker ex may use social media accounts to track who you’re talking to and spending time with, which can place you in danger. Shutting down your accounts closes off some of their access to you.
10. Be direct with them
You may be tempted to be nice and occasionally throw your stalker ex a brief text message in response, but this will only encourage stalking behavior, as they may take it as a sign that you are interested in communicating with them.
It is important for you to be very clear that you do not want a relationship or contact with them.
11. Leave town
This may not always be possible, but if you’re trying to figure out how to get away from a stalker, your best bet may be to leave town for a while. If you have vacation time from work, you might consider using it to pull away from the situation for a bit.
Or, you might consider staying with a relative who lives out of town for a bit, until the situation cools off.
12. Spend more time in public locations
Instead of spending most of your free time at home, you might consider spending more time out and about in public, such as at the park or at the local winery. Being out in public gives the stalker less of an opportunity to sneak up on you when you’re alone.
13. Be ready in case of attack
If you’re dealing with a stalker, the unfortunate reality is that they may confront you and attack you, especially if your non-compliance with their advances has left them enraged. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared by carrying pepper spray when you go out, so you can defend yourself if they attack unexpectedly.
14. Change your routine
Stalkers may rely upon memorizing your routine in order to continue to follow you. If you always get your morning coffee at a certain place, or walk along a certain nature path after work, your stalker ex may know this.
Knowing how to deal with a stalker ex involves deviating from your usual routine, which leaves them confused about where to find you.
15. Avoid third parties who may have contact with your ex
Unfortunately, not everyone takes stalking seriously. Chances are that you have mutual friends who may still be in touch with your ex. If they are communicating with you, they could also be communicating details of your life with your stalker ex.
For your safety, you have to cut these people out of your life.
16. Return gifts
If your ex is stalking by sending countless gifts to your address, go ahead and return them. This will make it clear that their attempts to contact you are not wanted. If you keep gifts, even if you don’t reach out and directly contact your ex, they may think that you want to receive the gifts.
17. Take a self-defense course
It helps to be prepared in the event that a stalker ex attacks you physically. When your ex stalks you, it’s a good idea to be ready to defend yourself. Signing up for a self-defense course may just come in handy, because it will allow you to fight back.
18. Consider a security system
Having a security system provides an extra layer of protection in case a stalker ex shows up on your property. Having evidence of a security system may even deter them from bothering you at home in the first place.
19. Change your passwords
If you were in a long term relationship, your stalker ex may know passwords to your email or social media accounts. Now is the time to change these passwords,or else they may be able to login and gather additional information about you.
20. Keep your private life private
If you continue to use social media, avoid posting about private matters on your pages. Even if your stalker ex is blocked, they may be able to hear about your activities from a friend of a friend who still has access to your page.
21. Be careful about who you trust
If there is anyone in your social circle you feel unsure about, listen to your gut. If someone is giving information about you to your stalker ex, they can’t be trusted. It’s time to cut them out of your life, too.
22. Keep a record of stalking incidents
If stalking behavior continues, you may eventually have to contact the authorities. In this case, it is important to have documentation of stalking incidents.
If your ex engages in ongoing stalking behavior, like showing up unexpectedly at your house, appearing at your workplace or other places that you go, or sending you repeated messages or voicemails, keep record of it.
23. Seek a restraining order
At the end of the day, you may have to contact the courts to file a restraining order to deal with a stalker. Having documentation of incidents of stalking can make it more likely that a restraining order is issued by the court.
Once one is in place, it won’t stop someone from stalking you, but it does provide legal documentation and could increase the risk of your stalker being arrested. Many states have anti-stalking laws as well.
24. Check on your family
In some instances, a truly dangerous stalker may try to go after your family in order to coerce you into giving them what they want.
If this seems to be a concern, be sure to alert your family so they can protect themselves as well. It is also helpful to check on your family to ensure they are staying safe.
25. Block their number
If stalking is occurring in the form of repeated phone calls and texts, sometimes the easiest way of getting rid of a stalker is to simply block their phone number so they can’t contact you anymore.
You won’t have to deal with messages coming through to your phone when a stalker ex is blocked, and eventually, they may just give up contact when they don’t get a response from you.
Sometimes, learning how to deal with a stalker ex simply means being direct and telling them you aren’t interested in reconciling. In other cases, the situation may become more serious, and getting rid of a stalker may be necessary to protect yourself from danger.
If stalking intensifies, it is important to tell other people what is going on, and take steps to protect yourself, such as keeping your private life off of social media, changing your routine, and carrying pepper spray.
You may even consider documenting stalking behavior and seeking a protection order.
At the end of the day, dealing with a stalker can cause significant stress and anxiety. You may notice that you feel tense or on edge most of the time, which is understandable, given the fact that a stalker ex can threaten your sense of privacy and safety.
If you find that you’re having trouble overcoming anxious feelings, it may be time to reach out to a counselor to process the distress you’ve endured and to learn healthy ways of coping.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker with a master's degree in social work from The Ohio State University, and she is in the process of completing her dissertation for a Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology. She has worked in the social work field for 8 years and is currently a professor at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. She writes website content about mental health, addiction, and fitness.
Licensed as both a social worker through Ohio Board of Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage/Family Therapists and school social worker through Ohio Department of Education as well as a personal trainer through American Council on Exercise.