Relationship Advice


How to deal with a persistent ex

Fran Creffield

Other than in rare cases, a relationship ends because one person says that it is over. If the other person doesn’t feel that way they could be hurt, confused and insistent that whatever is ‘wrong’ with the relationship can be put right. Sometimes the strength of this conviction can stop them from letting go and allowing either of you to move on with your lives. Without realising it you may be doing things that are encouraging this behaviour, so here are some tips for giving a clear message that they cannot mistake.

Be clear in what you say

Part of the reason an ex continues to hang around often has to do with the fact that they don’t believe you have the courage of your conviction that it is over. This might be because the reasons you gave seemed flimsy when weighed against the feelings you used to have for each other or because you are actually uncertain yourself and they are picking up on your doubt.

It is hard to end a relationship with someone and it is natural to feel guilty but don’t mistake that for second thoughts. A mistake a lot of people make is to try and clarify their decision by talking to their ex about it. They want them to be less angry, hurt or upset but what actually happens is that they end up just as confused as you are. They are more likely to hang around if they think there is a possibility you might change your mind.

Once you have said the fatal words ‘it is over’ you don’t need to justify it to your ex or anyone else. The way to avoid feeling so guilty about it is to make sure you have talked everything through before you end it. Never say it’s over as a ploy to move the relationship on or as a game – if you say it, mean it and stick to it.

Cut contact

This can be really hard especially if you have been together for a long time and much of your social lives intersect. It is really important that you break old patterns and begin to establish social links away from your ex because otherwise you could easily find yourself drifting back together. Although this may involve you sacrificing other friends or activities, a clean break really is the best way. If your ex keeps turning up in places you go to because they know your routine – change your routine. If they are staying in touch with your life via social media ‘defriend’ them and if you have mutual friends who can’t resist updating you on each other’s lives, cut contact with them also. It might all seem a bit harsh but it really is for the best in the long run. It doesn’t have to be forever – after a few months, when you have both moved on, you can reassess the situation.

Staying friends

Many people want to stay friends with their ex but ultimately unless you both feel the same way this is not a good idea. It will be difficult for either of you to move on and date other people and having an ex as a friend may be perceived as a threat by a new partner. Maybe in time you can be friends, but for the first few months at least be prepared for the fact that when you say it is over this person will no longer be a part of your life.

Don’t rise to the bait if provoked

Sometimes, when all else fails an ex might resort to underhand tactics to get your attention like spreading rumours or being deliberately confrontational. They think that by getting your attention, even in a negative way, there is a chance that communication between you can resume. The trick is to not let it get to you. They are acting out and no matter what they say or do it is more a reflection on them than it is on you. Whatever you do don’t retaliate and behave in the same way. Try to remember that it is part of the process of them eventually letting go and remain grounded and mature.

If you ever feel threatened or scared by the behaviour of an ex do seek help and support immediately and put in place whatever measures you need to in order to feel safe.

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16 thoughts on “How to deal with a persistent ex

  1. Good article. It’s a tough one, everyone will experience things differently. There is always a pull between making sure someone is ok, and stringing them along. I don’t think staying ‘friends’ is helpful to anyone. No-contact is tough, but it allows both people to move on. Don’t retaliate if they provoke you. It might be easier just to say something like – you have your views on the subject, and i, on the other hand have mine. Don’t get sucked in to futile arguments. It’s not advisable to air dirty laundry in public either! – No matter what happened. (speaking from experience!)

  2. Yes, i have been in this situation, and its important to cut contact i think. Sometimes we respond to emails and texts out of guilt and try to wish them well to help them move on. Unfortunately this can be seen as a ray of hope that you still have feeling for them. My ex was very manipulative, saying just let me speak to you one more time and then i will move on, but he never did. in the end i was seriously stalked as he used to sit in his car on my street, contantly phone, text and email me. I had to change my phone numbers, but he emailed me at work. In the end I had to get the police ivolved. That did the trick. sad but true.

  3. happinessandpeaceofmind

    May 31, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    do not answer or respond

  4. happinessandpeaceofmind

    May 31, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    when its over its over

  5. I think any ex deserves an explanation as to why it’s over. People need closure. I went away with my partner for a weekend break, on the Friday she was making plans for us for the following weekend. Sunday she ended it and refused to say why. We hadn’t even fallen out. So saying you don’t need to explain yourself is rubbish.

  6. I’m with you on that one David :-)

  7. I agree with the most of the article, though agree that a certain amount of justification is important when you break up with someone, people deserve to know why it’s over. Obviously if they don’t accept your reasons that’s tricky, especially if they draw you into endless discussions like my ex used to. But most reasonable people need to know why it’s over in order to move on.

  8. following on from my points above. Yes people need to know when its over, and why, but this is supposed to be discussing those who dont accept this. What i was trying to say is when your ex dosent accept it then you have to get tough and ignor them. Experiencing this feels like being a hunted animal and its rather scary to persued by someone who dosent care that you dont want them. (clearly a mental health problem)

  9. My ex was dreadful when we split. We went through a combination of anger, pleading, begging, back to anger, threats against me and threats of suicide. Every day there was a call, or an email, or a text message or he’d show up at my house. It was heartbreaking because I’d explained why, I thought we had closure and I was really careful about his feelings but as it went on and on and on, I found myself getting tougher and tougher towards him. I year and a half on, when I started seeing someone else, he showed up at our new place and barged in, causing a scene and he left a really nasty voicemail threatening to kill both of us so I had to involve the police. We still have to have some contact as we own a house together which I want sold but it’s been a tough journey. He doesn’t want to let go not because he loves me, but because he doesn’t want to be alone and I’m an easy option due to habit. It’s sad when you break someone’s heart but you can’t stay out of pity or fear that they might do something to themselves.

  10. I too agree there should be some explanation / reason for wanting to call things off. My ex led me on and made me believe everything was ok, when suddenly he text and said it was over. No reason, nothing. Worst thing too is being dumped by text, at least have the guts to say it to their face and be adult about it.

  11. When I finished with my ex I didn’t tell him all the reasons as it would have been too damaging and hurtful. Saying you are just not for me is a lot less painful than, I find you are not the man you made yourself out to be. You have gotten very old these last 6 months. You never want to do any of the things you said you like doing and I am bored with you. The list goes on. You can go off someone very easily if you are not truly in love.

  12. I was in the position where my ex was dumping me then changing his mind it all ended up being mind games so the last time he ended things in2011 I decided enough was enough,I wouldn’t take his persistent phone calls and texts to the point he phoned the police and said I had taken an overdose which was total rubbish. The police came I was wearing shorts and a stroppy top which showed bruises on my arms from 4 days earlier where he had grabbed me. He told the police he was on the way .After the police had seen me they radio’d and told control I was fine and explained the bruises ,he was then told to turn around if he showed he would be arrested.4 days went by he showed up stating he wanted to be together I said no he insisted on being friends no matter how many times I said friends wouldn’t work he still never let go. few months back he moved from his home closer to me and still insists he can’t be without my friendship . I helped him get on-line with a dating site ,helped write his profile he met someone who I feel he is stringing along as he will only see her once a week and she lives so far away he told her he would never move to her , yet he still will not drop me as a friend no matter how much I ignore him.In the beginning I admit I still had deep feelings for him but I won’t be played and no-one puts their hands on me .A clean break would DEFINITELY have been easier even changing phone number ,as much as I didn’t want the relationship over friends don’t work I don’t want to be with him and yet I don’t like having his new girlfriend which I found for him so I could move on, thrown in my face .

  13. kelly pattenden

    August 1, 2013 at 8:45 PM

    I recently split from the father of my children , we have seperated lots of times before and got back together for the kids sake and its been awful .I finally had enough and asked him to leave , since then its been a constant war , he refuses to pay for the kids , refuses access , sends me letters from a solicitor , has done everything he can to break me down . I dont love him anymore but im starting to think it may be easier just to let him back as I cant take the fight anymore . He send abusive emails alday , nasty text , always ringing me . He has even involved friends telling them hes concerned for my mental health , if I so much as slip up hes always there ready to slate me to everyone . Im trying so hard not to rise to the bait but all the time he tells everyone i know lies about me and I feel like I cant do anything but keep my mouth shut . Has anybody got any advise on how to move on from this situation as it feels endless. thanks

  14. Most people do want to know why you’re splitting up with them. It provides closure and pre-empts any unanswered questions. You don’t have to tell them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – but you do have to tell them something. Otherwise, not knowing the reason(s) they are being dumped will eat away at them and they’ll find it hard to move on. If they can’t move on from the experience they’ll keep coming back to you. By giving reasons you can be economical with the truth. In other words leave out the bit about how she’s put on so much weight that she looks like a Sumo wrestler and you don’t fancy her any more, or the fact his conviction for theft means he’s become unemployable and will always be a burden to you. The truth can be very hurtful, so you may want to tell a kindly lie in order to cushion the blow. You can simply tell him/her that although you can’t put your finger on exactly why, your feelings towards them have changed and you definitely don’t love them any more. Why asked why say keep telling them that it’s beyond your control.

  15. This advice reads more like the response one should give to an abuser as opposed to someone a person once loved. It contains no compassion, care nor love and in my opinion would be both deeply hurtful and damaging. People should be treated with care and tolerance and not dismissed like a used pair of trainers.
    Jimbo is right. People deserve better.

  16. I agree with the last couple of posters, this is terrible advice.
    It starts from the premise that you have sat down with the other party and discussed the state of your relationship and the concluded that you no longer wish to be part of a couple with the other person. Oh for such a perfect world. The reality is far more often you are either in a damaging controlling relationship and you get the strength to walk away, but it’s unlikely you sat down with the person and said as much, or you were too scared and insecure to get involved, or simply that overtime your feelings have changed.
    In that last one unless you’re a pretty good actor the other person has probably picked up on some subtle cues and may be ignoring them, but if it’s your own insecurity holding you back/making you flee then again they may pick up on this and misguidedly or otherwise want to try and help you through it.
    Also there is nothing wrong with staying friends with someone you meet on a dating site. Most successful relationships arise between people who already know each other and it isn’t in a dating site’s interest to say don’t come back and sign up again!!

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