The Do’s & Don’ts of Having Contact with an Ex
Dear Selfless Esteem,
How should I go about having contact with my ex?
Dear It’s Complicated,
Good question! The answer depends on your situation.
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First of all, let’s address safety. Sometimes when people end a relationship, they have suicidal thoughts. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. There’s also a chat feature at Lifeline Chat : Lifeline (suicidepreventionlifeline.org) Of course in imminent danger, call 911. For other countries, please see this list of suicide crisis lines. (You may be interested in the post, “Want To Stop Feeling Depressed? Here’s How.”)
And if you have any concerns that your ex might try to hurt you, consider reporting it to the police and getting a restraining order. Keep emergency numbers handy, such as 911 for immediate danger. For crises, which are not life-threatening, text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. (Please see the post, “Domestic Abuse Victim Is On the Fence,” for more information.)
Now here are 4 tips to reveal the do’s and don’ts of having contact with your ex.
1. Identify the Purpose of Your Contact.
What’s the perceived benefit of maintaining contact with your ex? After you determine that, you’ll be able to discern whether contact is warranted or not.
For example, loneliness wouldn’t be a good enough reason because it could result in more heartache if you’re unrealistically expecting someone else to make you happy.
Instead, find a competent therapist to help you through this difficult time. (See “What Is Wise Counsel and Good Therapy?” and “Why You Need a Therapist ASAP” for details.) Spending time with positive friends and family is also helpful. And if you’re an animal lover, pets can be comforting too. See “6 Health Benefits of Owning a Dog” by Stacy Russell of alesstoxiclife.com.
Another situation, in which ceasing contact seems like the best option, is if your ex’ immaturity was a cause of the breakup. This would allow both of you an opportunity to grow and learn from your experience. Furthermore, building separate support systems rather than relying on each other would be ideal.
2. Keep Your Emotions at Bay.
Sometimes contact is necessary, e.g. coworkers and coparents. In that case, be as cordial as you would with anyone else. Coparents, stick to simple subjects, and then a therapist or professional mediator can facilitate communication for difficult topics. Above all, be sure to keep the benefit of the child(ren) as a priority in every interaction.
Sharing your feelings with your ex could lead to conflict or a premature reunification. Consequently, save your expression of emotions for your therapist or close confidantes. If you still find yourself getting upset while communicating with your ex, assert that you’ll resume the discussion at another time. (You may be interested in the post, “Mending a Broken Heart: 8 Methods to Heal Your Pain.”)
3. Maintain Boundaries.
This may one of the most challenging things to do, especially if your ex has a new relationship. Jealousy or curiosity is even more of an indication that you need clear boundaries. Give your ex space and reach out to your support system instead. You’ll feel more peace in the long run. (You may be interested in the posts, “How To Be Happy Single,” “Why You Shouldn’t Feel Ugly,” and “The One Thing All Single People Should Know.“)
The Bible says that we don’t live on “bread alone” but on every word from God (Deuteronomy 8:3; Luke 4:4). Spending time in God’s presence is more fulfilling than anything we think is vital, including a connection with an ex. With His unconditional love, He can help you heal. (For more details about His amazing love, see “Why Selfless Esteem Is Better Than Self-Esteem.”)
I close with an old, heartfelt song by Stephen Stills because of the lyrics, “I must learn to give only part, somehow.” The subsequent lyrics are slightly different: “I must learn to live without you now as I cannot learn to give only part somehow.” And so, whether you’re dealing with unavoidable contact or severance of ties, it’s a challenge. For this reason, get help from a therapist, your support system, and your Heavenly Father.
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version®. Copyright © 1984 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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