In my divorce mediation practice, I occasionally hear from a client who is struggling with an annoying ex.  I hear that the former spouse can’t seem to let go of the past and is desperately seeking a reconciliation.  (Emphasis here on “desperate.”)  

This sometimes occurs because, during the divorce process, one spouse wants to let the other down gently. While that strategy is admirable and respectful, it is often completely ineffective because that gentle let down can lead to false hope. 

“Robert” and “Kristy” were getting a divorce after 14 years of marriage. They both made it clear to me that it was Kristy’s choice, not Robert’s.  While going through their divorce process, Robert and Kristy cohabitated in their marital home.  They ate dinner together every night, even went to the movies and to the nearby casino together upon occasion.  Robert told me that Kristy kissed him goodbye every morning when she left for work and held his hand when they went out.  To Robert, those gestures meant that the relationship wasn’t over and for months after the divorce was final, he called, texted, dropped by Kristy’s office and, in general, made a pest of himself, hoping Kristy would “come to her senses” and reconcile.  Kristy eventually told Robert in no uncertain terms that the relationship was over, and Robert was finally able to let go and move on.

Sometimes, pride and ego take over a person’s common sense.  When I was helping “Chris” and “Amber” with their divorce, Amber couldn’t wait to tell me that Chris was having an affair.  And after the divorce was final, every time Chris picked up the kids at Amber’s house for his weekend visitation, Amber screamed at him about the girlfriend.  Eventually, Chris insisted that the exchange take place at a nearby McDonald’s in the hope that Amber would be calmer in public.  Unfortunately, Amber remained emotional, and her constant texting and calling actually got worse, according to Chris.  So, we had another mediation session to talk about setting new boundaries.

In both cases, the ex was obviously unable to let go.

I reached out to a few therapists for advice, and their findings were unanimous.  They shared some tips for getting an ex to leave you alone:

  1.  Ignore every text, email, voicemail, etc.  Unless you share children, block that person from all communication.
  2.  If blocking isn’t feasible, make sure to set clear boundaries.  Let your ex know how, when, and to what you will respond.
  3.  Tell your ex that you need space and ask for respect. 
  4.  Be honest about your feelings and encourage your ex to do the same.

I’m going to add one more tip of my own:  If, at any time, you feel unsafe, IMMEDIATELY contact a lawyer to obtain a restraining or protective order.  This is especially important if you have children together, because their safety may also be at risk.

If you have ever experienced a similar situation, or know someone who’s currently experiencing a relentless ex, please comment.