How to Break It Off with an Ex Who Won’t Let Go

Because everyone needs a clean break.
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Because everyone needs a clean break.
Photo Credit: The Kitcheners

Photo Credit: The Kitcheners

Your breakup was hard enough, and now your ex won’t let it go. You are ready to move on—not necessarily to someone new but away from him. So what do you do when he’s making it difficult by continuing to reach out?

We have all either been there or had a frustrated friend who has experienced this—a text message here and there, “likes” on your Facebook page or Instagram posts, emails, or maybe even a “How are you?” phone call. Whatever his mode, he’s still trying to communicate with you, even though you’ve told him it’s over and you can’t just be friends.

How do you handle this? Here are six tips to gain the clean break you desire.

01. Directly state that you want him out of your life.

You have said it—in so many words (you didn’t want to be mean, and how many other ways are there to interpret “It’s over”?). But when a guy you used to date won’t let it go, you have to be as blunt as possible, without being cruel of course. Call him, don’t text him, in order to avoid any misunderstanding. Florida State University psychologist Roy Baumeister tells Psychology Today that it sometimes does more hurt then help when you try to sugarcoat it. Psychology Today explains, “A misguided attempt to spare a partner pain can leave him or her hopeful [that] there might be a chance at future reconciliation, which can hinder the efforts of both parties to move on.” Use the most direct wording—short and to the point—in this situation. Say, “Please stop contacting me.” Don’t be afraid of being ‘mean.’ You are firmly establishing what you need, and he should honor that.

02. Do not respond to any of his communication.

This can be really difficult, especially if you still care for your ex. Interestingly, there is research indicating that people react to rejection like a drug user going through withdrawal. According to Psychology Today, Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher believes that the activation of addictive centers in response to breakups also fuels stalking behavior—which is why he may be calling so much. He may be struggling post-breakup, but it’s not up to you to comfort him or make him feel better, and doing so may make his feelings of withdrawal worse. After you have made your boundaries clear, do not respond if he reaches out again. Even by responding to his “Hey, thinking of you” text with an “I'm good, hope you are well, too” adds fuel to his fire to keep contacting you. He’s fishing for anything from you, so cut the cord, and don’t respond.

03. Unfriend, unfollow, and consider doing the same with his friends.

We live in the social media era, which means he has easy access to pieces of your life. If you remain “friends,” you may be tempted to check in on him. The easiest way to prevent this is to remove him from your networks. It may seem a little absurd, but even asking your close friends to unfriend him is another option. Finally, if it isn’t already, set your profile to private.

04. Have his emails sent directly to ‘trash.’

There are some other great technology tools out there to nip unwanted communication in the bud. Here’s how to have his emails delivered directly to your trash folder in Gmail:

  • On a computer, open Gmail.
  • Check the box next to the email you’d like to create a filter for.
  • Click “More.”
  • Click “Filter messages like these.”
  • Fill out information about the emails you want to filter. Click “Create a filter with this search” at the bottom right.
  • Check the box for what you’d like to do with messages that fall into that filter. If you want them to get sent to “Trash,” check the box for “Delete.”
  • Learn about different ways to create filters.

05. Block his number.

It’s frustrating to have to constantly delete voicemails, and it can feel harsh to ignore all those friendly or maybe even pleadingly romantic text messages. But, thankfully, you can stop his calls and texts in their tracks. To do this, go to your telephone service provider (AT&TVerizon, etc.), or investigate your phone’s (Android or iPhone) capabilities for blocking.

06. Don’t check on him.

You may be tempted to ask his friends how he’s doing and what went wrong or communicate to him through them, but this might only kindle further communication. Russell Friedman, executive director of the California-based Grief Recovery Institute and author of Moving On, told Psychology Today that he warns against prolonged back and forth, as it often instigates arguments and causes more hurt. If his friends want to talk about him or ask any questions, change the subject. It’s not worth it possibly getting back to him and giving him another reason to reach out.

In the ideal world, we would all be buddies with our exes post-breakup, but sometimes it’s just not possible—at least not right away. If the man you used to date can’t give you the space you need to heal and move on, you can take the initiative to facilitate a clean break.