What to Do When Your Ex Won’t Let You Go

When married or in a long-term love relationship, the people involved tend to rely on one another in various ways. No matter how difficult the relationship, there are probably specific areas of support that they turned to each other for. Whether it was physical pleasure, a listening ear, financial support, or home and/or child care, there is a myriad of ways that couples depend on one another. When the marriage ends, this dynamic changes and each person has to find other sources of support to meet those needs.

This transition time can feel scary, frustrating and stressful. But it can also open doors to ways of living that you’ve never experienced before that can actually be empowering and freeing. For example, maybe you depended on your mate to fix whatever needed repairing around the house. Now that you are on your own, you can feel a sense of pride when you are the one to mend a leaky faucet using a helpful book or Internet site to guide you.

But what do you do when your ex just won’t let go? Yes, he or she may have moved on in many ways since your divorce, but whether it’s continuing to dump his or her work frustrations on you or wanting to sleep together just one last time, in certain areas your ex seems to pretend that you two are still married! Even if you want to be friends with your ex, you may not want to always hear about how unfair their boss is — or whatever the case may be.

Consider the experience of Janet and Ed. Janet has had enough. Ed is the one who wanted the divorce in the first place and now he just won’t seem to let go. Now that Janet has come to terms with the fact that she is starting a new life with lots of new possibilities and is even feeling excited about that, she realizes how much Ed still seems to depend on her. Although she has primary custody of their three children, Ed usually finds a way to back out of the weekends he has with them. This puts a crimp in Janet’s new social life. Ed also appears to be under the impression that Janet will be picking up his dry cleaning for her entire life! She doesn’t want to provoke an argument between them but the whole situation is getting on her nerves. As she hangs up the phone after his latest request to pick up concert tickets for him, she contemplates getting an unlisted phone number or moving somewhere far away!

If you can relate to Janet’s situation, try implementing these tips:

1. Establish Boundaries.

What is most important is that you and your ex both be comfortable with the level of connection and involvement. Go within and be clear about what you are wanting in terms of involvement and why. Are you still fixing the finicky garage door at your old house because you really want to get back together again? If so, re-think your motives. If at some point you do reunite with your ex, you want it to be for more than just your handy fix-it skills. Once you are clear about what you are willing to do and have in terms of continued connection with your ex, communicate that to him or her.

2. Communicate clearly.

Especially if children are involved, you and your ex’s lives will probably still be intertwined. Coordinating schedules and making parenting decisions are real issues that mean you and your ex will have to communicate in some manner. You may also choose to continue to be a support to your ex when it comes to certain things. For example, you may feel comfortable “”as a friend”” continuing to be a listening ear for him or her. It is your relationship and there are no right or wrong ways to stay involved (or not) after a divorce.

3. Be consistent!

Stick to the amount of involvement you said you’d have with your ex. There are benefits to being flexible in life, but when it comes to the boundaries you have set, be firm. If Janet has plans to go out to dinner on Saturday night and it’s Ed’s weekend with the kids, she can assert to him that he has to make childcare arrangements. Yes, he might be angry but this is the agreement they made. If you need support in staying consistent with the involvement decisions you made, ask a friend or family member to be with you before or during that phone call where you decline his or her request. If at any time you feel that you or your children are in danger because your ex won’t let go and move on, we encourage you to contact authorities and get to a place where you will be safe.

As you become clearer about the level of involvement (if any) you want with your ex, you may find you are clearer about what you want your life to be like. As difficult as this time in your life may seem right now, remember that your clarity and consistency can lead you to the happiness you desire.