Breakups can be tricky, and not just because they tend to make you sad. When someone has been in your life for a significant amount of time, it’s not always easy to cut them out completely. You and your ex-partner might have mutual friends or shared activities, or maybe you even have class or work together every day. Knowing
how to set boundaries with your ex is crucial, regardless of whether you'll have to see each other IRL. Exes can interfere with your life in so many different ways, so having a plan of action for communication (or lack thereof) is an act of self-love. It can help you move on in a stable and healthy way.
So many women have dealt with this problem, and it’s important to remember that boundaries are going to be different for every former couple. What works for some might be a disaster for others, so you need to follow your gut about what will be best for your mental health and healing. But if you’re looking for advice about how to move forward, take it from these women who have been there, done that. Here are some pro tips from people who have navigated tricky ex situations and made it out alive — and learned some lessons in the process! If your breakup protocol has you high-key stressing out, use these tips to help navigate those murky waters.
There was one point when I was speaking to an ex who was emotionally dependent. A friend asked me one day if I was getting anything out of the communication with him — was it ever positive and was it ever benefitting me? When I realized the answer was no, and that every interaction led to more emotional weight for me, I realized that the best act of love I could give myself was to end my communication with him. It was the only way I could move forward.
— Ragan, 26
My ex and I have had several arguments on this matter. I told him straight up that I didn’t feel comfortable hanging out with him anymore, but we could still talk online/text once a cooling off period happened. He is the one who broke up with me, but still tries to message me about how I’m ‘the best he’s had’ and ‘can’t quit me.’ It caused me a lot of pain that I had to work through in therapy, and my ex and I finally have a somewhat decent friendship with strong boundaries for my mental health.
— Courtney, 23
My dad gave me the best ex advice I’ve ever heard: imagine yourself meeting up with him, and him telling you he’s dating someone new. If that wouldn’t bother you, you’re ready to be friends again. If that would upset you, you’re not over him yet — so stay far, far away.
— Victoria, 24
Usually I start with a full block. Like block. them. on. everything. You need that space at first! It helps so much to not have to see them or anything they are doing! Also, it makes you seem mysterious because they won’t be able to check up on you. After you’ve gotten some distance, then you can unblock and be chill. The ones that keep trying to text/Snapchat you after you’ve ended things have to be cut off. Take a hint, dude.
— Chaney, 22
My most recent ex played the ‘I’d still like to be friends, but I know that I’m the one breaking up with you, so ball is in your court if you ever want to reach out.’ So I set a timeline — I won’t even consider reaching out for at least one month. (And I really, really wanted to message him a lot that first month, but I held myself accountable.) However, the first month passed, and then more time, and I realized I still don’t feel like reaching out. I’m thankful that he is sticking to his end of the deal and not making the first move to reconnect and letting me wait until I am ready (if I am ever ready).
— Natalie, 24
My ex and I met up in person to ‘talk things out.’ I was leaving for a two-week long vacation and made sure to tell him that I didn’t want to hear from him during that time. It was hard making that decision but in the end I was glad I did it. I never was focused on my phone or wondering if he was going to text me.
— Meagan, 30
I first have to realize that because we were together at some point, our lives are inevitably going to be intertwined ... To set specific boundaries with an ex, I talk to him about why we broke up and what the cons would be of seeing each other. And as for personal boundaries, instead of focusing on losing an aspect of my life, I learn to fill my extra time with self-improvement and time with people who matter most. Being in a relationship is consuming mentally, physically, and time-wise, so I learn to instead channel that energy toward new things!
— Sally, 15
When I didn’t [set boundaries], it turned into a year of friendship and not getting over him. Once I finally stopped communication I was able to process it much better. Being friends is possible, but you need a break to really put a boundary around the ending of your relationship.
— Samantha, 27
My boundaries for exes means no contact whatsoever. Sadly, this means losing some mutual friends along the way, but I think it’s the healthiest option and demonstrates the most self-love. That’s right, I block them on social media too!
— Shannon, 28
As much as we might wish for it, there will never be a one-size-fits-all method for moving on after a breakup. It ultimately comes down to you and your ex and how you both decide to go forward. Sometimes friendship is totally possible, but other times a clean break is the healthiest thing for both of you. Take all this advice to heart, and know that you will be able to handle this with grace, no matter how hard it seems at the time.