There’s an old, beautifully written song that soul immortal Jerry Butler made famous, “Never Gonna Give You Up.” The refrain goes, “Never gonna give you up/no matter how you treat me/Never gonna give you up/So, don’t you think of leaving.” Listening to it sung, especially when it’s sung well — the Black Keys recently released a nice cover — it is a heroic sentiment. In practice, it can be dangerous behavior. The expression “I can’t live without you” is supposed to be just that: a romantic figure of speech.
News headlines historically tell story after story of sad cases where someone took that idea of never giving up all too literally. You do not want to wind up as one of those stories.
When a relationship doesn’t work out, people with sense accept it and move on. Not everybody has sense. In fact, some folk have pretty faulty wiring. Those are the sort who will stalk you. Who will keep showing up places, following you around — that kind of creepy behavior.
The popular image is some nut-job greeting Clint Eastwood in his pajamas when he comes home one night. The reality, though, is that far from happening only too stars, most stalking is a case of hounding and harassing someone who doesn’t want to be bothered with you anymore. There is a reason many of these United States have laws against it.
Some stalkers are the kind of lunatics who kidnap their ex. Then, of course, you have the ultimate obsessed stalker, the one who commits murder-suicide — which would be less of a problem, actually, if they reversed the order and did the suicide first.
In the end, someone who can’t take “it’s over” for an answer, whether they’re being a disturbing pain in the neck or taking it to a dangerous extreme, is bad news.
So when they fawn all over you and make ridiculous romantic declarations, don’t sit around drinking up that sort of slavish devotion. Don’t soup your head up feeling flattered. Don’t think, “Oh, isn’t that sweet.” Instead, take it with a grain of salt. And don’t rule out getting your walking papers.
How, it makes sense to know, can you spot a potential problem-person who seems to be perfectly sane?
There are a few ideas at www.womansavers.com: “Personality-wise, stalkers have problems maintaining normal and stable relationships with others. They lack social skills and empathy — the ability to relate to other people’s feelings. They have a low tolerance for frustration. They have mood swings between deep devotion and angry rejection. Often they are jealous and suffer from low self-esteem.”
In other words, use your common sense. If they have a history of failed relationships, what on earth makes you think it’s going to be magically different with you? A fairly reliable litmus test: Are they still friends with any of their exes? Not even one? There’s something wrong with someone who couldn’t manage at least one amicable break-up.
Jealousy? A certain amount is natural: You have moments of it, yourself. But, when it goes overboard? Time to get your hat. Odds are, they’ll blow up, raise hell and then be contrite later. Whether they apologize after or self-righteously sulk, they still are unstable.
“Never Gonna Give You Up” is a great song. It’s a sweet sentiment. They are, however, not words to live by.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.