If there’s one thing I need in a breakup if I want to have any hope of moving on in a timely fashion, it’s a clean break. Some folks heal better when they're able to maintain some kind of
friendship with their ex, but not me. I need at least a few months to imagine that they don't even exist in order to give my heart room to heal. So, as you can imagine, being forced to wonder, “Why is my ex reaching out to my family?” is pretty much a nightmare scenario.
For some exes, breaking up with you doesn’t mean breaking up with your family. The question is, why? Why does my ex keep in touch with my family? Why do any exes feel compelled to keep that line of communication open? Is there a good reason for them to retain a separate relationship with the people who are nearest and dearest to you, or do they always have an ulterior motive?
To get to the bottom of
why some exes want to maintain contact with your family, I turned to the experts for their takes on what it all means and what to do if you really want contact to stop. Here's what they had to say.
Your Ex Has Developed A Friendship With Your Family Members
The most common reason your ex wants to say in contact with your parents or siblings (or both!) is probably because — over the course of your relationship — they formed their own friendships and attachments to your family. According to NYC relationship expert and love coach
Susan Winter, “In a case such as this, they may both be reluctant to give up the friendship just because your romance ended. This can make it uncomfortable for you — and your ex — depending upon how the relationship ended.”
While it’s nice that your ex grew close to your family during the relationship, breakups can be painful. In order to make this scenario tolerable, Winter says
boundaries are essential. “Set ground rules to keep everyone emotionally balanced. Negotiate with your ex and family members as to what locations are comfortable and which to avoid,” she says.
In order for your ex to maintain a relationship with your family members, then you need to be in a good place. As relationship and etiquette expert
April Masini previously told Elite Daily, " The breakup has to be civilized. Both parties have to have some understanding and empathy for what the other has been going through, and why things didn’t work out.” If there’s still fresh hurt and hard feelings between you and your ex, your parents should probably hold off from inviting them to family dinner or Sunday golf.
Your Ex Is Trying To Get You Back
It's not all love and friendship. Another reason an ex might want to maintain a friendship with your family is to get you back — which is definitely not healthy. As Winters explains, it's not fair or appropriate for your partner to “utilize your parents as a sounding board to get you back,” or to try to explain their side of the story to make themselves look better. And according to breakup coach and host of the
Breakup BOOST podcast Trina Leckie, befriending your fam may even be a form of coercion. “If they are only staying in contact as a way to manipulate, to win you back, or keep tabs on you… they have bad intentions,” she tells Elite Daily.
In this case, it’s probably time to cut off contact. “The end of a relationship marks the end of spending time with each other's families,” Winter says. “Breakups require that each person goes their own way. Clinging to the last remnants of connection to you via your family isn't healthy for anyone. After a breakup, it's appropriate for your partner to say goodbye to your family and wish them well. This is a time to thank them for a vacation spent together, dinners, or any other generous contributions provided during the time of the relationship,” she says.
Moral of the story? Don’t befriend your ex's family if you haven’t done the work independently to
come to terms with the split. As Masini previously explained, "You should only be friends with an ex’s family if you’ve processed the breakup and have your emotional and social ducks in a row." And if you feel weird about your ex reaching out to your fam, then you should first ask yourself if they may have ulterior motives.
Your Ex Has A Legitimate Reason To Keep In Touch With Your Family
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There are some situations where your ex may have a legitimate reason to stay in contact with your family. Leckie says children is one of them. “It is difficult to completely cut ties when kids are involved. It is much better if people can handle the breakup maturely so that the children aren’t negatively affected and feel as though they have to pick sides,” she says.
Co-parenting is a totally legitimate reason for your ex and family to keep in touch, so long as they respect your boundaries. According to Masini, you should also keep your ex’s comfort should be kept in mind if you choose to reach out to their family. “Keep your relationship with your ex’s family, as it pertains to the children, civilized and cordial,” she told Elite Daily, “but
don’t cross the line to where your ex is uncomfortable.”
If this situation was flipped, and I was concerned that my husband’s family still talks to his ex, these explanations could be helpful as well. If your partner and their ex shared children, it makes sense that the grandparents would want to stay connected. Another less clear-cut case where a friendship makes sense after a breakup is if your ex and your family had a preexisting relationship before you dated. In that scenario, Leckie says, “[It would be] unfair for them to then have to suddenly cut ties with everyone.”
Here’s What To Do If You Want The Contact Between Your Ex and Your Family To End
Regardless of the reason your ex wants to stay friends with your family, there may come a time when you really just
need some space. In that case, the experts say it’s time to tell everyone how you’re feeling. “If you went through a hard breakup, the last thing you need is your ex sitting at the dinner table or hanging out at your parents' home,” says Winter.
The first step is to get to the bottom of why they're sticking around. “Consider the legitimacy of their desire to keep talking to your family,” Winter suggests. “Is there a true friendship in existence that requires this communication? Or, is it a tactic to annoy you, punish you, or try to
get you back? Your ex's intentions will be the greatest factor in how you respond.” After that, the next step is to speak up. Winter says, “Make your sentiments known to each and every family member in advance. This way, they've been instructed as to your wishes. They're at liberty to say, ‘Thank you, but we feel it's best that everyone move on and forward.’”
Leckie agrees, suggesting you tell all parties how you're feeling. “Have separate discussions with both your ex and your family explaining why [it bothers you] so they can see it from your perspective,” she says. “Stay calm and definitely don’t do it when feeling overly emotional or angry.”
While there are various reasons why an ex might want to maintain relationships with the people around you, the experts agree you have the right to speak up if it makes you uncomfortable. Maybe a friendship is possible down the road, but the key is to honor your feelings and for the people around you to do the same.
Experts: Susan Winter, relationship expert and love coach Breakup BOOST Trina Leckie, breakup coach and host of the podcast April Masini, relationship and etiquette expert Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.