Help! I’m Being Stalked by the Man Who Nursed Me Through a Serious Illness.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 26 2013 9:31 AM

While I Was Sleeping

A friend nursed me through serious illness—and now he won’t leave me alone.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
For several years I had a debilitating illness that nearly killed me and clouded my thinking. I was in the hospital for months on end. Throughout all of it, there was a wonderful man, K, by my side who did everything to be there for me. We used to be friends but ended up as a couple during my illness, despite the fact that I was too weak for anything remotely sexual. This could have ended as a tragically doomed terminal-illness romance. But it didn’t. Despite the doctors' expectations, I recovered. I'm healthy and I can live my life to the fullest. I'm back in school and things are going great. With the exception of K. I broke things off with him not too long after I recovered. I felt awful about it. He'd spent so much time and energy on me that I felt as if I had taken advantage of him. But we just weren't compatible; the illness was what held us together. It was like waking up with someone after you've been really, really drunk. I tried to be gentle, but since I broke it off he has left hundreds of messages on my phone. He has accused me of emotional abuse and claimed that I'm the reason he has suicidal thoughts. I don't want to speak to him, but what am I supposed to tell a guy who sends me an email saying that it's his birthday and he's alone and asking me to just talk for five minutes? When I’ve done this it ends up with him confessing his love! I should be grateful to him, but I just can't stand him. Please help.

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—I'm Done

Dear Done,
You’ve awakened from an illness that threatened to end your life, only to find you’re starring in a stalker movie. Your situation brought to mind the film of the Stephen King novel, Misery. (Please don’t see it.) K is not your Florence Nightingale, he’s not your friend, and he was never your boyfriend. Your analogy about drunkenness is apt, but K sounds like the kind of person who instead of waiting for you to get drunk on your own, would slip you a roofie. But he didn’t have to: Your illness put you in a state in which you were not capable of giving consent to a relationship. K used your incapacity to insinuate himself into your life while getting everyone to think he was a sainted presence beside your bed. I’m sure what he actually wanted to do was get into your bed, so thank goodness you were surrounded by bustling hospital staff. K sounds disturbed; he must leave you alone. His behavior and threats of suicide because of you are alarming. I hope you’ve kept his texts and emails, especially those that blame you for his thoughts of violence. You may not have made it clear to him that your interactions must cease, so do so unequivocally. Respond to his latest text or email by saying he should call the suicide prevention hotline because he needs to talk to a professional about these thoughts. Then tell him it’s your wish that you two not communicate anymore, period. If he violates this, you need to talk to the police. Explain the situation and say his behavior is escalating. If you are a college student, also bring this to the attention of the campus police. I don’t want to unnecessarily worry you, but I believe you are being stalked, so you need to take steps to educate yourself and get the help you need. I’m glad you survived one ordeal, and sorry you are facing another. Here’s hoping K just slinks away.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence: Ex-Wife Facebook Stalker

Dear Prudence,
I have a mistress. I have been married 15 years and have two beautiful children. I love my wife and the life we have built together. But our relationship is volatile and my wife and I sought couples therapy for the tension and arguing. We also felt our emotional intimacy and sex life have suffered. A little more than a year ago I met a woman I really clicked with. She is also a married professional with young children. We meet at a hotel every couple of months and have mind-blowing (safe) sex, the kind that would appall my sexually conservative wife. Those few hours together recharge me like nothing I have ever experienced. We meet during the day, I don’t buy my mistress gifts, and I do not text or call her. I like and trust her, find her attractive, but I am not in love with her. She is well-grounded and has no intention of leaving her own marriage. Because of these encounters I feel so much better about my life and even my marriage! My wife has commented that I seem happier and more attentive to her. Our therapist has noted that our communication has improved exponentially. At first I was guilty, but I no longer am. I wonder if I’m a bad person, but that’s not how I feel. Your thoughts?

—Afternoon Delight

Dear Afternoon,
Your therapist must be thinking she’s some kind of genius because here’s one marriage she appears to be fixing. You know that indulging in these matinées has the possibility of blowing up your life. One of you might start developing stronger feelings; someone could slip and leave a trail; it could turn out the safe sex wasn’t so safe. I’m an advocate of monogamy, which I recognize comes with well-documented frustrations. But you make a convincing case that this discrete and discreet infidelity has actually improved your union. Still, I think you should keep the guilt alive—it’s salutary for you to recognize violating your vows should come at some psychic cost, with the potential for more. That I understand your situation and am not urging you to end it doesn’t mean I’m giving a pass to cheaters. I have the same caveat that the Supreme Court articulated in Bush v. Gore: “Our consideration is limited to the present circumstance …” Now that you’re in couples therapy—and it’s going so well!—consider whether you can broach the idea that you want to continue to explore sexually with your wife. Maybe you can breach some of her reserve and get out of what sounds like a dutiful sexual rut. Your affair will eventually end, and instead of skipping to the next woman and the next, you’d be better off being able to be fully present in an improved marriage.

—Prudie

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