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.
The ex who won’t let go is probably more common than we know. 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, it’s 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.)
What can you do about it, 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 with my own ex.
1. Be Blunt. Tell Your Ex To Leave You Alone.
Some advice 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, it 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 them 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, that’s the first thing we do, but sometimes we forget or figure it doesn’t matter. Or, and let’s be honest here, we want the ability to stalk their Facebook profile from time to time. When they’re 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 Boundaries
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. Of course, 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, and he agreed to them. The moment he stepped over the line, the conversation was over.
4. Be Consistent
Once you’ve set the boundaries, 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 it 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.
5. Ignore And Delete
In the beginning of our split, his constant barrage of texts and emails was 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 he wanted was my time and energy, and not knowing any better, I gave it to him. The best advice I was ever given 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 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 the 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, you may need to file a police report and take them 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. 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, 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 steps to stop the 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 them nurse their hurt feelings while explaining their crazy ways to the cops. You are not responsible for their actions; they are. If they choose to act like a stalker, let the law treat them like one.
But for the average ex who can’t let go, being ignored over time will stop the crazy messages. The three-in-the-morning 100 word text message declaring their undying love will pass. One day you’ll wake up to realize you haven’t been forced to think about your ex in days, weeks, maybe even months, and you’ll smile.