If you’ve watched YOU (read: binged all 10 episodes in one day), you know that this Netflix series is legit one of the many reasons why you may be opting to stay single during cuffing season.
For those of you who haven’t seen this psychological mind-eff of a series, TL;DR: Penn Badgley plays Joe, a psychopath who legitimately stalks a woman named Bec (Elizabeth Lail) he’s in deep like with. He eventually gets her to date him—but obvi, under totally false and scary pretenses.
After watching YOU, every woman is left with the same question: Um, has this/is this/could this ever happen to me?
As Jaime Vinck, CEO of Sierra Tucson, a treatment center for drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and mental health disorders, says: “The thrill of new love can be intoxicating. In a healthy relationship, the newness and infatuation will eventually subside. But for individuals with unhealthy attachment styles, it manifests to an obsession with an underlying fear of rejection and abandonment.”
So, how can you make sure that your hot bookstore boyfriend isn’t actually a creeper with stalker tendencies, a la Joe? Follow these warning signs.
If your new beau checks off any of these boxes, it may be time to reconsider, girl.
They are extremely attached to you early on
“This could be a potential warning sign if it’s early on in the relationship,” says Vinck. While you may mistake it as flattery, when someone wants to know everything about you, showers you with gifts, and wants to move in with you or discusses marriage very early on, it may be signs of an obsession.
They need constant reassurance
Affirmation is okay and completely normal in a relationship. But being needy and requesting you at all hours of the day has potential to lead into isolating and controlling behaviors, says Vinck. An unhealthy person may convince themselves that you need to be rescued or saved, which justifies their behavior. You'll spot this if they say things like, “Don’t you see how much I care about you?" or "Don't you know how lucky you are to have me in your life?”
They try to influence your decisions, actions, or emotions
Manipulation like this is considered a part of the aggressive stage. An example is when your partner convinces you to cancel brunch plans with your girlfriends, ignoring you until they get their way, and then rewarding your decision with gifts and apologies.
They make you feel bad about yourself
This is beyond roasting and good fun. If they call you names, make rude comments about your appearance, or make fun of you in a way that isn’t funny to either of you, this could be a sign of belittling and a manipulation tactic that tricks your mind into believing you may never be able to find someone better than your current partner.
They deflect their own behavior
And normally blame it on their past, their parents, their ex, etc. You buy into it to justify their actions says Vinck.
They know your whereabouts when you stray from your routine
It’s as if they have a sixth sense or something, honestly. Odds are they may be stalking or cyberstalking you. “Limiting your personal information on social media profiles can be a good preventative measure,” says Vinck.
They text, call, or email you numerous times per day
It’s fine to keep the banter going, but if communication escalates to becoming more desperate, it's a blatant attempt to control and determine your every move. “Often, they become jealous of other relationships, accuse you of flirting or cheating, and may attempt to sabotage communication with friends and family,” says Vinck.
They show up to places uninvited, call your place of work, follow you...
And yes, this also includes stalking your Snapchat location. Bottom line: If there are too many coincidental encounters with you (or your friends and family), you're noticing items are going missing, or keep getting phone calls from a person that immediately hangs up, then odds are, it’s not a coincidence. This is an attempt to exert power and control by a desperate individual. They are not coming from a place of love; they are unstable, and you may be at risk says, Vinck.
Okay, so I know what you're thinking at this point. If this person is, like, legit mentally unstable, at what point do you break off this relationship?
What is the best way to breakup with this type of person?
“End the relationship the first time that you’re uncomfortable, or your gut tells you that you’re in danger,” says Vinck. And in other words, let go of the guilt and feeling that it’s your job to fix them.
If you're still being harassed post-breakup, keep a record and gather as much evidence as possible—like, phone records, screen shots, photos, and witness accounts. You may even have to change your passwords, turn off locators, and erase your browser history just to be safe.
"Seek support from family, friends, and a mental health professional when ending the relationship," says Vinck. Take good care of yourself, girl and understand your own relationship needs.