Are you still in touch with an ex-partner? Or are you considering contacting your former lover? If the answer is yes to either question, you should definitely be wary and pay attention to this article.

When you can't resist staying in touch with your ex, you are certain to find that your present love life will fall apart spectacularly, or that you will be unable to progress into a new relationship. I often hear people talking about staying friends with an ex, and many are quick to condemn anyone who opposes this view. But in reality, staying in contact with a past partner can end up slowly destroying a new or current relationship, and may even destroy yourself too.

Imagine this scenario – you have ended the relationship with your ex and both of you have moved on with your lives. Or so you thought. You are now with someone else, and you are happy and content, either enjoying the early days of your exciting relationship, or making plans about a permanent future together. Then, out of the blue, your ex-partner is starting to worm their way back into your new life with the intention to be ‘friends’.

In the beginning, it may be one or two phone calls, but after a while, it becomes regular. Eventually, you stop trying to resist the temptation of falling into old patterns. This is either because you still have some romantic feelings for your ex, or it is your ex that can’t get over you, and there may be something comfortable or familiar about the situation that draws you back in. However, you are aware, deep down, that this path will lead not only to the destruction of your new relationship, but possibly also to a host of complicated and unexpected problems for you.

So what should you do if your ex won't leave you alone? In this article, I outline some primary reasons why allowing an ex-partner to re-enter your life is the beginning of the end for any existing or potential future relationship.

1. Your ex will never take no for an answer

Make no mistake, if you fail to make it clear to your ex that your relationship is definitely over the first time they try to make contact with you, you can be certain they will contact you again and again. No matter what reason they give for contacting you, no matter how catastrophic or tragic they say their situation is, you must emphasise that you will not be a shoulder to cry on and cannot offer support in the way you did when you were a couple. While this may seem callous, if you give just an inch, you are encouraging their hope that there is a possibility, even just a slight one, of your relationship being rekindled. The hope of this reunion will motivate your ex to continue to try to muscle their way back into your affections, and they will become increasingly more persistent every time you cave in to staying in touch.

2. You are failing to protect yourself

If you are in a promising new relationship with potential for long-term stability and security, you should never be afraid to take a stand against your ex making contact with you, or be concerned about offending or upsetting them. If you let your fears over-rule your common sense, you are not putting yourself first, and you may lose your chance of being happy in your current relationship.

3. You are not respecting or prioritising your current partner

If you are worried about appearing heartless and cruel to your ex-partner when you know you should be turning them away, you need to consider the lack of respect and regard you are showing for your current partner when you give in to such concerns. By caring about the needs of your ex, you are declaring that they are your first priority. Staying in touch with an ex is going to cause anxiety, doubt and pain for your new partner, and this will certainly place additional stress and strain on your developing relationship, without you even knowing it.

Whilst your current partner is trying to be brave in accepting the ‘friendship’ with the ex, making you believe that it doesn’t bother them in the slightest, your current relationship may not be able to thrive as it naturally could have otherwise. With your ex always coming around or ringing you up, never underestimate how this might play on the mind of your current love.

When I hear people condemning those who oppose the notion of staying friends with an ex, many such people are oblivious to the concerns that this connection with the ex is causing the current partner. The current partner may stay silent on the issue for months or even longer, but little does the person know how this connection is affecting the new partner who should be the priority.

Before you know it, your current partner may become more snappy or irritable with you than usual, blaming it on other factors such as work. But the actual uncertainty your current partner has about the nature of your ongoing contact with your ex could be contributing to much of that underlying stress. It is sure to result in arguments, fighting and in the end, the new romance is going to be heavily strained.

You need to decide whether it is worth taking the risk of throwing away a future of happiness with a loving new partner by choosing to stay in contact with your ex who can offer you none of the things you need to enjoy a happy, stable and secure future. Perhaps you may need some inspiration from my article here on a partner you should forever hold onto, just to remind yourself of what you have found in your current partner, and what you therefore stand to lose.

4. You are causing pain for your ex

If you agree to communicate with an ex, you are not only putting your current partner and yourself in jeopardy, but you also are not being fair to your ex-partner. Giving them false hopes can only prevent them from moving on to a new relationship. Therefore, no matter what you tell yourself, or how much you try to persuade yourself that your situation with your ex is different to the same situations of other people, you must accept that you are harming, not helping, your former partner. It is very easy to make excuses for your failure to stop the contact, by convincing yourself that you need to be there for them, and by doing so, you believe you are protecting them from pain and stress. However, you must accept that in reality, the ongoing contact is indeed hurting them, and you are doing them no favours. Your care and concern for them will only foster a dependence on you, and with this, fantasies that they may have a chance of getting back with you.

If you delay in taking the firm stand that there is absolutely no hope of a future together with your ex, you are only postponing the inevitable which will create a more destructive impact when the facts do become clear.

5. Your ex has a selfish agenda or realises they “should never have let you go”

Of course, there may also be a chance your ex does not really want to get back with you at all, but selfishly wants to stop you moving on to find contentment with another partner. Your ex may possibly not have loved you enough to commit to you, and this is why the relationship ended. Therefore, they may simply want you to remain available on the market to keep their options open in case ‘something better’ doesn’t come their way. If there is any truth to this, you may want to read my article at this link about a person who is just not into you. Whilst this article was originally written for men, it contains principles for both men and women who may need help in realising if the person they are with is ever going to commit to them or not.

If this could potentially be the situation with you in regards to your ex, you are just falling into their trap if you allow the contact to continue. Do not be convinced that they have changed their mind about you, nor that they have suddenly come to realise that they should never have let you go. The reality is, you can never go back, and those same commitment problems are guaranteed to return. And if you were the one who had deeper feelings for your ex, those feelings will come back to you in the process of the communication, and you will be up for an enormous emotional struggle, jeopardising all the work you have done to move on and heal. Giving your ex such power is going to cause trouble and pain for you, so the only thing you can really do is enforce the message that while you can both cherish memories of the past you shared together, the past is past, and can never invade the future.

To conclude: Reality must be faced

You are probably not telling your ex the truth because you either have a deep discomfort of confronting them, or you don’t want to come across as harsh and insensitive. Or, you have unresolved feelings for your ex and these feelings are making it hard for you to turn them away. Or, you may even find comfort in the idea that you are still desired and pursued by your ex, gaining self-confidence from this knowledge. But will you still have confidence in yourself if your new partner leaves due to your connection and loyalty to an ex-partner?

Although nobody wants to confront a former partner to tell them you can’t stay in touch, in the end, you must face reality. Unfortunately, your ex will almost certainly reappear on the scene at the very moment you have embarked on a new romantic chapter of your life, and this is because, while you have moved on to a future that is full of positivity, your ex is not yet in that place. They are holding on to the hope that, as you have found a new happiness, they too may find it by making contact with you again.

You must never mistake your need to be honest with your ex as being unkind or cruel.  Helping them face and accept the reality is the only way to be respectful to all parties concerned.

Should you be struggling in any way to finalise the relationship with an ex-partner, recall all of the reasons why the relationship ended in the first place. Perhaps if you read my article here on toxic relationships you must avoid, this might bring your attention back to some of the problems you had with your ex. Or as previously mentioned, maybe your ex just wasn’t that into you, and you were experiencing unrequited love in that relationship. You may also need to read this article about the pursuit of a happy relationship to appreciate the qualities you have found in your current partner if you have indeed found a healthy and stable relationship.

So in conclusion, if an ex makes contact with you, you should handle the situation by telling them the truth about why you do not want to stay in touch with them. No matter what happens, you should ensure that you make it clear that your answer is NO. Even if they send you a Christmas present, birthday gift, or even worse, an anniversary gift, it is imperative that you never accept it. The more you make it clear that your relationship has ended and will never be rekindled, the more your ex is likely to accept that you have moved on to pastures new and, in turn, they are more likely to move forward with their life.

I would love to hear your comments or answer any questions you might have about this post.

Yours sincerely,   


Dr. Carissa Coulston, Clinical Psychologist

BSc(Hons), MPsychol(Clinical), PhD, MAPS