I have what may or may not be a unique problem. My ex is also the father of my children (okay, so that’s not unique at all). He’s never paid child support, hasn’t seen his children in over three years, and calls them only randomly (sadly, this probably isn’t unusual, either).
He’s also the ex who won’t let go.
He sends me random text messages late at night, rambling on and on about how much he loves and misses me, swearing that he knows how he screwed up, and that he’d do anything to be with me again. We’ve been divorced for four years, and I’m in a loving, healthy relationship – in a different state.
Cue the eye roll, disgust, and then, silencing of the phone.
Yes, it’s as sad and pathetic as it sounds. If he hadn’t been annoying me like this for so many years, I might even feel bad for him. In a way, he does inspire pity, but not the kind he wants.
Struggling to get rid of an ex who won’t let go is probably more common than people realize.
Hell, there may or may not have been a time or two in life when we were the ex who couldn’t let go. (I admit nothing!)
It’s not pretty, and when you’re on the receiving end of the constant barrage of regret, woe, and promises, dealing with a lovesick ex is completely exhausting. (Pro tip for those who’ve been the needy ex before: Once you’re on the receiving end of it, you’ll never do it to anyone else again.)
So, how do you get rid of your ex, especially if your ex is the parent of your children and has every legal reason to contact you from time to time?
Your instinct might be to think you’re stuck with your ex’s pitiful, pathetic, and very annoying ways at least until the kids are 18. Think again. I’ve got a few ideas, some of which I have, unfortunately, used to deal with my ex who kept popping up.
1. Be blunt. Tell your ex explicitly to leave you alone.
Some advice about getting rid of your ex who won’t let go probably seems pretty obvious, unless it’s something you really don’t want to have to do. You’re going to have to be very clear and actually tell your ex to leave you alone.
Yes, this means being a little confrontational and telling them something they don’t want to hear, but it has to be done. Even though they should already know, your ex has probably convinced himself that because you haven’t said it, you don’t really want him to go away.
If you haven’t done it already, tell your ex to stop messaging or calling you. Say in no uncertain terms that you want them to leave you alone. Of course, they should have realized you’re not interested, but some people need to be hit over the head with obvious information. This is one of those times.
Okay, so you’ve told them to go away and leave you alone. For a time it works, but they always seem to crop up again. It’s not enough to consider them a stalker, but it still makes you crazy. You’ve got other several things you can do.
2. Block, delete, unfriend, and remove your ex from your life.
If you’re fortunate enough to have zero legal ties to your ex, and they won’t respect your boundaries or wish to be left alone, it’s time to block, delete, unfriend, and remove them from your life.
For some of us, removing our ex from social media is the first thing we do, but sometimes we forget or figure it doesn’t matter. Or– let’s be honest here– we want the ability to stalk their Facebook profile from time to time.
When your ex is making you crazy, access to pictures of their new girlfriend isn’t worth the aggravation. Get rid of the connection.
Maybe, like me, you don’t have the option to completely remove your ex from all forms of communication. Here’s what you can do instead.
3. Set clear boundaries with your ex.
I’ve told my ex a few times that I only want to speak with him when it’s about our children. He can call anytime he wants to talk to them (not that he does), and we can have conversations about what’s going on with the kids.
The first time I told him that, he took advantage of the situation and had my attention for 30 minutes. The moment the conversation veered away from the kids, I ended it. I set the boundaries with my ex, and he agreed to them. The moment he stepped over the line, the conversation was over.
Setting clear boundaries with your ex (or anyone) might feel awkward at first but think of it like an investment in your sanity (and your future happiness).
Since your romantic relationship is over, remember that you don’t owe your ex anything, except maybe kindness– but it IS kind to have clear boundaries when your ex won’t let go. That’s because boundaries are for your ex also.
4. Consistently reinforce your boundaries.
Once you’ve set boundaries with your ex, it’s important to stick to them.
The needy ex that’s desperate for your love and attention is looking for any opportunity to talk to you a little longer or get a response of some kind.
Don’t leave yourself open to contact from your ex because you feel sorry for them or because you got too comfortable. Remember what it’s like to be bombarded with “I love you’s” from someone you barely even like anymore. That’s exactly what you’ll get if you don’t follow your own rules.
Remember that the longer you allow your ex in your life, the more it will seem to them like they have a chance with you. When you KNOW that the relationship is completely over forever, it is actually more unkind in the long run to let them continue to hang on than it is to tell them clearly to stay away from you. Without you being firm, your ex will keep trying to stay in your life and maybe even get you back.
5. Ignore your ex and delete them.
In the beginning of our split, my ex husband’s constant barrage of texts and emails felt a bit like enemy fire. It came at random times and was intended to do as much damage as possible by getting me upset and willing to fight with him. What my ex wanted was my time and energy, and not knowing any better, I gave it to him.
The best breakup advice I was ever given about getting rid of my ex husband who would not let go was to simply ignore anything that didn’t pertain to our children or the divorce proceedings.
It took a while for me to fight the urge to come back with a smartass comment (which would ultimately make things worse) but my life was immediately more peaceful with each ignored (and then deleted) message.
6. Decide for yourself if your ex is getting out of hand.
We all have our own unique limits of what we can handle. Sometimes your ex becomes the crazy-stalker-ex and you get scared. Push back and remind your ex of your boundaries.
If and when that doesn’t work to get rid of your ex, you may need to file a police report and take your ex to court. Early in my divorce, my ex took his anger out on me in very physical ways, something he’d never done during our marriage. I refused to allow him to think I wouldn’t fight back.
I took him to court and while he still had access to the kids, he wasn’t allowed to be closer than 500 feet from me unless he was picking up our kids for a visit or contact me to discuss the children. You can protect yourself legally without taking away custody rights – unless their behavior is harmful to your children, too.
Yes, of course, those injunctions don’t always work. If you fear for your safety, always call the police. That may be the jolt they really need. From experience, I can tell you it does.
7. Remember your ex will move on…eventually.
Maybe your ex isn’t a stalker or violent. They’re just annoying as hell. I’ve got good news. The emails, texts, and whatever else your ex is using to hold your attention and convince you of their undying love will eventually slow down and stop completely.
Like I said, I’ve been divorced for four years, and while it’s not completely over, it’s much better. He texts about the kids (sometimes), and I only get the rambling ones on holidays if he’s had too much to drink.
They say time heals all wounds, and I’d like to think that’s true. If you’re like me, you’ve moved on and are living a life your ex wouldn’t even recognize (good for you!). If you’re not there yet, you may think this is as good as it gets – lonely nights on the couch and an ex who lives to make you crazy.
Believe it or not, this will pass.
Ignoring them and their messages and sticking to your boundaries are probably more effective than anything else. Remember, they’re pining for you, and like your children, are desperate for your attention. You can’t reason your way out of this.
You have to decide for yourself what’s too much to handle, though. Everyone has their breaking point, and the point in which they stop feeling safe.
If the constant communication disrupts your life and upsets you, and your ex is unwilling to respect your wishes to leave you alone, you’re not overreacting if you take further steps to stop your exe’s harassment.
If at any point, you feel in danger or threatened in any way, you should definitely call the police and report the behavior.
Your safety is paramount. Let your ex nurse their hurt feelings while explaining their crazy ways to the cops. You are not responsible for their actions; they are. If your ex chooses to act like a stalker, let the law treat them like one.
But for the average ex who won’t let you go, over time being completely ignored will stop their crazy messages. The three-in-the-morning 100 word text message declaring their undying love will eventually stop.
One day you’ll wake up and realize you haven’t been forced to think about the ex who won’t let you go in days, weeks, maybe even months, and you’ll smile.