Let’s say you are in a happy relationship. Everything is going along swimmingly. Well, everything except for one little issue. There is an ex that just won’t go away. They’ve been asked politely. They’ve been asked not so politely. You’ve heard promises and threats that they never EVER want to talk to you or hear your name again… but you don’t hold your breath because they call… text… email and IM time and time again. It’s a become a problem. An embarrassment. Something you passionately wish would just go away.
And just to be clear right up front, I don’t believe that ALL exes are a problem. I know that some of you do believe that exes aren’t meant to be friends while others of you are friends with all of your exes and take pride in that. Either way, whatever works for you. But this article IS about dealing with the ex that becomes toxic and how to save your relationship from the potential fall out.
“I just miss your friendship and want to be with you.”
“I can’t live without you.”
“I still love you.”
“I never really got to say all the things I needed to say to you. We need more closure.”
“Just one last hug/kiss goodbye?”
“You’ll never be happy with anyone like you were with me.” (Obviously. That is why you are broken up.)
If any of those sound familiar, then you are the proud owner of a toxic ex. And I’m betting that as much as you once cared for them, you now find yourself cringing when the phone rings or sighing as you tell your partner that your ex phone bombed you today. Again.
So what do you do?
First, take care of your relationship.
- Talk to your partner openly about it. No ultimatums. No threats. No passive aggressive snark… just good old honest and compassionate communication. “My ex keeps contacting me. I know it’s become a problem. What do we need to do about it?”
- Evaluate your own emotions around the issue and do your best to clear out any of the ugly in your heart that may be creeping in due to frustration over the situation. If you are the non-owner of the toxic ex, avoid jumping immediately to mistrust of your partner. Unless your partner is doing something to encourage the behavior… he or she really can’t control the toxic ex’s toxicity.
- However you decide to handle the problem, maintain transparency with your partner about your actions (or lack thereof.) Secrets only lead to trouble down the line. Trust me on this one… TELL your current partner what is going on!
- Focus on the relationship you are building. Find your common ground and remember that you are together for a reason. The more you can pull together as a team, the less outside problems/people will impact your relationship.
- Be flexible in finding a successful solution. Sometimes action that works for getting one person to back off will do nothing but egg another person on.
- Ask a professional for help in formulating a plan.
- If it’s YOUR ex that’s a problem, don’t discount your partner’s feelings. It’s one thing if they are jealous and possessive about everything and everyone. It’s entirely different if they are expressing concern about someone exhibiting toxic or inappropriate behavior.
Next, take care of the problem.
The person with the toxic ex probably needs to contact Mr. or Ms. Toxic and ask them (if they haven’t already,) to please go away. Be warned, email can come across more harshly than you intend, in this situation, so use it with care.
- If the ex is yours, explain that you aren’t coming back. Communicate the romantic relationship you had is over and you have moved on.
- Sometimes, sharing that any and all future attempts at contact will be shared with your current partner, can serve as a contact deterrent.
- Say whatever you need to say to let this person know that the past is the past.
- Be kind and firm, but don’t leave any doors open for hope to creep back in.
- Some exes will argue that a friendship should be maintained. Unless you share custody or a group of friends, there is no reason to maintain any kind of relationship with someone who brings toxicity into your life.
- If you feel that you MUST have this conversation face to face — make SURE you go to a public place. This is not a talk that you want to have in private unless you want to explain to your partner why you have lipstick on your collar and your pants button is ripped off.
If the ex continues to intrude, you can repeat your request for no contact. If you do, stick to simple and to the point. The less you say, the better. The shorter and more non-emotional your communication is after the initial request to leave you alone, the less your ex will have to hold onto.
Or you can try the “ignore them and hope that they go away” part of the plan. For some exes, this is all they need to get bored and go away. No fuel to burn… move on to the next fire. For others, it can actually cause the opposite reaction. (If they are prone to delusional thinking or consider you the “one who got away,” ignoring them may actually escalate the behavior.)
If your ex continues to try to engage your attention, block their number, email, IM, Facebook, etc. Any points of engagement simply need to be removed.
Finally, if you find that Mr. or Ms. Toxic is actually moving into stalker territory — drive-bys, following or contacting your current partner, increased contact, researching new ways to contact you, tracking behaviors — showing up where you are, intimating that they have knowledge of where you’ve been, etc. — you need to contact the police and seriously consider getting a restraining order.
I’ll say it again, not EVERY ex is a problem. If the communication is infrequent, respectful and/or limited to discussing things like shared custody, business or bills, then you really have no reason to get too upset with the connection. However, if the ex’s communication is simply meant to keep the door open, to manipulate or seduce or if they are ignoring a request to cease contact… refer to the lists above.
Breaking up is hard to do, and there is usually one, if not two, hurt parties. If you are reading this article and realize that YOU are the toxic ex… tune back in tomorrow for a few helpful hints on how to get your life back and move on!