A woman sits on the sofa looking angrily at her phone

How to deal with a persistent ex

by Fran Creffield - February 25, 2013

Not all relationships end when you want them to – sometimes the other person will continue to have feelings for you no matter what you do or say.

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.

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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.

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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.