An ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend that won’t leave you alone is a disruptive force in your healing journey.
A person can work through their heartbreak and relationship ending in many ways, some far healthier than others. But when an ex won’t leave you alone and tries to stay in your life, that makes things much harder for the both of you.
That lingering prevents either of you from healing effectively so you can move forward with your life.
Now, before I get to the meat of the article, there’s something important you need to know. The end of a relationship is often a painful, difficult experience. Few people get into a relationship hoping they’ll eventually fall out of love or see a need to end it. Most of the time, an ex who is trying to stay in your life isn’t doing it because they are bad; it’s just that many people are bad at handling those emotions, and it’s difficult to let go. Your partner may simply take longer to get over the breakup than you.
However, not everyone is so innocent. Domestic violence and abuse are serious matters that happen all the time, every day. Sometimes, an ex that won’t leave you alone is trying to stay in your life because they want to harm you, harm you more than they already have, or just to disrupt your life. If you feel you are in danger, threatened, or concerned that your ex may hurt you or themselves, the best thing you can do is get help.
In that case, your best choice is to tell a trusted adult or talk to authorities. Sometimes, establishing boundaries needs to happen with a restraining order, unfortunately.
But hopefully, the matter won’t escalate that far. That being said, let’s look at some things you can do when your ex doesn’t leave you alone.
1. Be direct. Make a concrete statement about the relationship ending.
Sometimes, an ex may try to stay in your life because the end of the relationship is floating in a gray area of indecision. This kind of thing can happen when one or both of you really don’t want the relationship to end. Instead, one or both of you may still be floating along, not really addressing or acknowledging the major issue of your breakup.
It’s understandable. Most people don’t get into a relationship hoping for it to end or end badly. But not making a concrete statement about the relationship ending doesn’t do either of you any favors. Make sure those statements have been made in no uncertain terms: that the relationship is over, that you’re not interested in getting back together or talking, and that it’s time for them to move on.
Make sure that you’re not sending any false signals in the process. For example, if you say the relationship is over, let it be over. Don’t reach out to them for emotional support or a hookup. That’s no longer their role in your life, and it will make the issue much more complicated. They may think you still want them in your life in that capacity.
Some people feel that being direct is mean or unkind. It’s not. It’s far more unkind to be unclear or dangle hope of getting back together just because it feels uncomfortable to be direct. The truth is that life is much easier when you’re direct about what you want and don’t want. You don’t wind up with things lingering around you for months or years that aren’t right for you.
2. Establish firm boundaries.
Boundaries are an essential part of any good relationship. We all have lines that we don’t want pushed or crossed. And when a relationship ends, boundaries are often necessary to ensure minimal emotional turmoil and harm to you or your ex.
Set firm boundaries with your ex about what is and is not acceptable. That will look different depending on the kind of breakup because it may not be as simple as “don’t talk to me again!” There may be kids involved that require you to contact your ex regularly for visitation or co-parenting after the end of the relationship.
What do firm boundaries look like? Let’s look at some examples.
I don’t want to talk to you. So don’t contact me again.
I don’t want to discuss our relationship or breakup any further. Our relationship is over.
I am not interested in seeing you or hanging out with you. Stop.
Enforcing those boundaries can be a challenging thing. Enforcement can range from blocking phone numbers, social media, and email, all the way to a court order and restraining order. Hopefully, your ex will be reasonable, accept the boundary, and move on.
3. You don’t owe anyone a reasonable explanation or closure.
Sometimes, an ex may keep coming back into your life because they don’t agree with the relationship ending or they’re seeking some kind of closure. Giving someone closure to a relationship may be an option if they are a reasonable person acting reasonably. Sometimes a relationship ending is messy, difficult, and confusing. It happens.
However, some people try to pull a stunt where they just refuse to accept that the relationship is over. For example, you may break up with them, give them all the reasons you’re breaking up, and try to have a reasonable discussion with them, and they just say, ‘Nope! I don’t agree!’ And act like nothing happened.
This can happen for a few different reasons. Emotional immaturity is a big reason. They may not be willing to handle or accept that the relationship is ending. It may be that they do not do well with rejection or the perception of being rejected, so they ignore the breakup.
It’s possible they aren’t accepting the breakup because “That’s not a good reason to break up.”
Guess what? You don’t need a verified “good reason” to break up that meets your partner’s standards. The only reason you need is “I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore.” And that should be good enough.
4. Remind both of you why you broke up.
Breakups are different flavors of hard. Sometimes it’s an angry, volatile experience that can pit ex-partners against one another. On the other hand, there may be a lot of arguing and conflict that makes the breakup the only sensible path because things are so bad.
But not every breakup is like that. As we all learn sooner or later, love is not enough to make a long-term relationship work. Certain deal-breakers may require the end of a relationship because they aren’t something you can compromise on. Let’s give you a few examples.
One of you wants kids, and one doesn’t.
People who try to compromise on kids will eventually learn that this is not something you can compromise on. Children are a long-term commitment, sometimes lifelong. And if both partners aren’t “Hell yes! I want kids!” passionate about it, a lot of resentment can build that will poison and destroy the relationship. That may also include poisoning the relationship with the kids.
Differences in financial spending.
Money is the biggest reason why couples fight and break up. A lot of times, it’s not even the stress of not having enough or a lot of it. Instead, the partners have different expectations of how and what to do with it. A big rift can form if you are a responsible saver and an irresponsible spender, or vice versa.
Differences in life trajectory.
Many differences can be overcome in a relationship, but a difference in life trajectory and lifestyle is difficult. And by life trajectory, I mean the general direction both partners want to go in life. For example, if you are satisfied with being home, you may have difficulty being with someone who wants to travel and be on the move. On the other hand, maybe you have a job or responsibilities where you live. Still, your partner wants to go to university or work in a different area.
These kinds of situations can cause a breakup. You may realize that you want something entirely different out of your life than your partner does. They aren’t a bad person. They may be an amazing person! But these kinds of breakups are difficult because everything else can be great. Still, these incompatibilities are not really something you can compromise on.
It may be that your ex just doesn’t understand that. They may say things like, “You’ll change your mind later.” or make you question whether or not that’s what you really want. And why? Because of love!
Because society, media, and marketing want us to believe that love conquers all, and if it doesn’t, well, you must be doing love wrong. That’s not reality. In reality, wonderful relationships regularly end because compromising on major aspects of your life that you feel strongly about is a time bomb that will explode years or decades later.
And a lot of people just haven’t learned that lesson yet. Your ex may not understand that lesson yet. It could also be that they are not emotionally intelligent enough to hear and understand you when you tell them that. You can have the greatest chemistry, think you have found one of the best partners for you, and it just breaks for one reason.
In that case, it may help to talk it out a bit more so you can both attain better closure. But, if they refuse to accept your reasoning, we can go back to our previous statement that you don’t need a “good” reason to end the relationship.
The only reason you need is, “I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore.” But it can help to reiterate the reason if they are a good person who is just struggling.
A reminder about personal safety.
To round things off, it is worth reiterating an important point we made at the beginning of the article. Namely, if you have any concerns about your safety or that of your ex or any children you may have because your ex’s behavior has become unpredictable or volatile, speak to the authorities about it.
Stalking is often perpetrated by ex-partners and is a horrible experience for the person being stalked. Stalking can sometimes culminate in acts of violence, though this isn’t always the case. But enduring unwanted and intrusive communication from your ex—both in person and digitally—is a stressful and worrying situation.
Don’t allow it to continue unchecked. Seek the help of the police or the courts and put a stop to it sooner rather than later.