How to Deal With a Manipulative Ex

So here you are – just when you thought you were free of your ex, just when you thought you’d put all that pain and anguish behind you, just when you’d finally started to heal, suddenly your manipulative ex pulls you back in. Do you have to go through all that pain, frustration, heartache and anger again?

No. Not if you handle the situation correctly. Handle it wrong, though, and you’re likely to be riding this roller coaster for a long, long time.

There’s an important lesson for you to learn when dealing with a manipulative ex, one who just won’t let you go. Just say no. Or even better, just say nothing.

Think about it. You and your ex broke up. That means your relationship is over. It doesn’t matter whether you broke up with them, or they dumped you, or you ended things by mutual agreement or mutual neglect. Whatever the reasons, be they noble or ugly, the result is the same – your relationship is over, and you need to start acting like it’s over.

Sure, it would be great if your ex started acting like it’s over, too, but you don’t have control over them. All you have control over is yourself – your decisions and your attitude.

The best, healthiest way to move past a break up is to cut off all contact with your ex. No messages of any kind, or only messages of a housekeeping type – if you lived together and have to arrange to move your stuff out or vice versa. But that’s it. Once the break up is over, no more contact.

text-from-exIf your ex contacts you, you don’t respond. You block their texts and phone calls, direct their email to your spam folder, and unfriend them on social media. In the unlikely event a paper letter arrives in your mailbox, ha ha, you sell it to a museum, since no one writes letters anymore. No, if a letter arrives, you throw it away without opening it.

This simple rule will save you a ton of heartache.

Think about it – why would your ex want to contact you? Maybe you think they want to get back together again. Maybe they think they want to get back together again. I don’t care, and neither should you right now. Sure, a couple of months down the road, when both of you have had a lot of time to think it over, then it’s possible, however unlikely, that you might consider trying again. But for now, for the first month or six weeks after a breakup, and for probably much longer, you should have no contact at all.

If your ex is contacting you, any contact at all, that’s some form of manipulation. They want something. They want something from you. They want you to do something for them.

Perhaps they’re feeling sad and lonely and want you to help them feel better. Maybe they’re feeling angry and they want to vent some of that anger at you. Maybe they want sex. Or they feel guilty for dumping you, or cheating on you, or lying to you, and they want you to reassure them that “it’s OK, I’m OK, don’t worry about it.” Maybe they know you feel guilty and they realize, either subconsciously or consciously, that they can manipulate you into doing something or saying something they want.

It doesn’t matter. None of these things are your business or your responsibility once you two have broken up. Both of you need to cut off all contact so you have time to heal and get your heads screwed on straight. You are no longer responsible for whether your ex feels happy, sad, angry, frustrated, lonely, guilty, ashamed, furious, depressed, suicidal or homicidal. They are responsible for their feelings, and you are responsible for yours. Right now, after a break up, your feelings are more than enough of a job to keep you busy. You don’t have any time or energy to spare trying to fix somebody else’s.

A manipulative ex may say all kinds of crazy, desperate things to get you to react. They may threaten suicide and blame you. They may tell you that it’s your fault they have to spend thousands of dollars on therapy bills. They may spread lies about you (or truths about you) among your friends or on social media. That’s how the relationship works – your ex acts, and you react. They act again, and you react again. This quickly becomes a pattern and you spend so much of your time reacting to what they’ve said or done that you no longer have time for yourself, for your own feelings, your own business, your own healing. You no longer act, you just react. Don’t fall into that kind of trap. Once you respond, you give away your power to act on your own behalf. You just react, and you are trapped.

manipulative-exIt’s important to understand that your ex is an adult, responsible human being and that their problems are now their concern. You might feel very guilty or sad or angry about the breakup. That’s totally fine and normal. You should feel all kinds of powerful emotions in the days and weeks and months following a break up. But those feelings are your business, not your ex’s business. So keep them to yourself, and share them only with friends and family you trust.

Cut off all contact with an ex, and especially with a manipulative ex. You can’t be manipulated if no messages get through. After a break up, your primary responsibility is to yourself. You need to focus on your own healing, so that you can regain your emotional balance and get on with your life. That’s not possible if you are reacting to provocations from your ex.

Learn first to say no, and then learn to say nothing.

About Jessica Raymond

Jessica Raymond, BSc, RCC, is LoveLearnings senior editor. As a relationship counselor, Jessica has helped hundreds of men and women achieve their relationship dreams. Whether it’s finding your one true love or simply charming someone on a date, Jessica's got your back! In her articles, she reveals little-known, psychological tips that will make even the coldest person chase you around like a little puppy.