Dear Thelma: My husband's sister shares our family pics with his toxic ex


Do you need a listening ear? Thelma is here to help. Email lifestyle@thestar.com.my.
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Those contemplating suicide can reach out to the Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935/ 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999/ 019-261 5999 on WhatsApp); Jakim’s family, social and community care centre (011-1959 8214 on WhatsApp); or Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929/ email sam@befrienders.org.my/ the Befrienders).

Dear Thelma,

My husband had an ex-girlfriend before he and I became a couple.

That girl was real toxic to the extent that she wanted to run me over with a car as I was crossing the road.

She also blackmailed my boyfriend (now husband) to break up with me and go back to her. She tried her level best to stalk me.

The reason my boyfriend left her was because she betrayed him, but the moment she found out that my boyfriend had a good life, she couldn't take it and blackmailed him non-stop. To top it all off, she said she will hurt me if he is still with me. Loads of drama went on until his family had to step in to help him and talk to her family. Her family verbally abused my boyfriend with vulgar words and even to to extent of using black magic. But by God's grace, my boyfriend managed to get rid of her.

However, my sister-in-law was kind of close to my boyfriend's ex. The ex acted innocent and was kind to my SIL and so managed to get details of my boyfriend's whereabouts. But it all stopped after we got married.

The problem now is, I've realised that my SIL added that ex on her social media and started to like all her pictures. It also made me really furious when my SIL uploaded a few pictures of me, my husband and our kids on her social media.

I can't share this with my husband as he will ask me to stop stalking others.

I'm happy with my husband, living our own lives, but things like this really get on my nerves. I can't let go of this as it's taking a toll on my mental health. I need help with this, please.

Desperate


Dear Desperate,

I'm so sorry. Dealing with stalkers is complex and very stressful. Here are some ideas that I hope will help you.

First, a definition. Stalking is the unwanted pursuit of one person by another person. It doesn't matter if the stalker has good intentions or not; unwanted repeated pestering can lead to fear, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health issues for the victim. Stalkers can also turn physically violent, attacking and killing their victims (Court jails S. Korean stalker who killed colleague in high-profile case, The Star, Sept 29).

Stalking is a psychological burden but it can also be a crime, especially as anti-stalking legislation is now coming in (Stalking now a criminal offence, The Star, Oct 4).

Therefore, I urge you to write down exactly what has happened. List out actual attacks, threats, and stalking behaviour. Then go and talk to a friendly police officer or a lawyer so you know your legal rights and protections.

Then there is the mental burden. So far, the family stepped in and helped, which is excellent. For a time, your stalker stepped back. However, your SIL is now actively encouraging your stalker and sharing pictures of your life.

Look, it's easy to think that people like your SIL have evil intentions. After all, her actions telegraph that she is OK with having you threatened and scared.

However, many people are totally unaware of how dangerous and frightening stalking is. I think it's why it took so long for the anti-stalking law to be tabled and passed; typically, it's the police, social workers, mental health professionals and NGO staff who see the impact of this awful crime.

The facts are clear: Stalkers are obsessive and unpredictable. In your case, the woman has repeatedly threatened to hurt you, perhaps kill you. Therefore, this is not an issue you can ignore or pussyfoot about.

Also, I am concerned for your kids. You don't mention her threatening them. However, her stalking started before you were married. I'm worried that if she sees them as an extension of you, she may see them as a target too.

Your SIL may be a foolish woman who lacks empathy. I hope this is the case because if there is no malice, a short talking to by the family should make her aware that she may be putting you, and possibly your children, in danger.

You may not control who her friends are, but in these circumstances, you can insist she does not share information about you. That includes banning her from taking and publishing photos of you and your kids, or telling stories about where you go or what you do.

If your SIL is stubborn, perhaps a friendly police officer can talk to her. I understand that this is not an easy thing, however, the stalker threatened to hurt you repeatedly.

The other issue is your husband. Having been the target of his ex, you keep a careful eye out for trouble. Fear should not rule your life, but when someone has threatened to hurt and kill you, vigilance is a perfectly natural reaction.

Now that you have found that your stalker may be worming her way back into your life, you are rightfully concerned. But you fear your husband will blame you for being watchful and frightened.

While I'm guessing, it's possible he was horrified by his ex's actions. Stalkers can appear perfectly sensible and so it can be a huge shock to victims when they reveal themselves.

It is possible your husband feels guilty. He is not responsible for her actions, but guilt is often irrational.

He's going to have to bite the bullet and man up. Sit him down and have a good, openhearted talk. Then work together to ensure you two are a united front.

In addition, consider talking to a mental health professional who is familiar with stalking cases. Having a safe space to vent can be extremely useful. They may also help you manage some of the anxiety. The numbers above should provide support. Please don't be shy. Stalking is scary and there's no shame in reaching out for help.

I hope this answer provides a path of action. Get that legal advice, find support, and keep safe, OK?

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Toxic friends , social media , stalking

   

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