A Rebound Relationship After Marriage, Divorce, Separation

I was contacted the other day by a young woman who is presently separated from her husband….soon to be ex husband according to her current sentiments.  She had met a new guy and while she said it was not yet registering as a close or intimate relationship, she wanted to know if perhaps it was what is commonly called a rebound relationship.

She was not too sure quite how to define it and whether or not she should continue to explore how she felt about this new guy.  She asked me if she should give it more time to see if love will bloom.

These are all good questions and it is probably best to start with what is a rebound relationship and even more importantly, why do they happen.

rebound relationships
Do Rebound Relationships Work

What Makes Us Prone to a Rebound?

When we are married or involved in a close relationship with someone we lover very much, a great deal of ourselves become invested in this other person at an emotional level or even spiritual level.

It is not unusual to wonder why your ex seemingly doesn’t miss you after the breakup.  I get into this with this post….

Why Doesn’t My Ex Husband Miss Me After the Breakup

We learn that love is more than just a word, but consists of many things, least of which is our need to experience a feeling of safety, closeness, and connection. After many months or years of experiencing those good vibrations of love, we in a way become addicted both physically and psychologically.

This is what leads to one of the top questions I get from women.  They want to know if they should sleep with their ex husband.  They want to know if jumping into bed and having sex with their ex hubby is going to muck up their lives.

I got into this specific topic when I wrote the post below.  Be sure to check it out!

Should I Sleep With My Ex Husband – What’s In It For Me?

When this relationship it is taken away from us or ends abruptly, we often will look for a way to replace it.  This is where the term “rebound relationship” comes into play.

Often what happens is a person will be pulled in the direction of wanting (almost needing) to be part of something in order to replace the lost feelings of safety, connection, and closeness.  When it was part of your every day life, you took it for granted.  When you are recently divorced or separated, these feelings are slipping away, fast.

So sometimes a person will look for a way to bridge those lost  feelings and transfer their affection to another.  Often times, it does not work out because the person got involved with this other person for all the wrong reasons.  So in such cases, the affected individual (e.g. the recent divorcee) is truly rebounding from that which was previously lost.

the dark side of a rebound relationship

The Dark Side of a Rebound Relationship

Now sometimes people fall into rebound relationships for other reasons.  And let me tell ya, there is little fun or relief in such relationships. Somewhat darker forces will compel some people to pursue another relationship.  A person may decide to experiment a bit and enter into another relationship partly to satisfy some of the things I discussed above. But another motivating factor could be their desire to strike back at their ex husband or wife.  They may revel in the notion that there ex husband or ex wife may feel the pangs of jealousy as they learn about their new beau.

Another way a person can find themselves engaged in a rebound relationship is what I call the “best intentions date“.  This happens when a friend, whose usually only has your best interest in mind, decides to set you up for a date.  Perhaps you have been moping around the house too much since you and your husband or wife broke it off.  Your friend is thinking, “I have a really good match in mind so let me come to the rescue“.

Maybe the divorce has been messy and your friend just wants to help you get your mind off all of ugliness.  Like I said, usually the motivation help is heartfelt and their thinking is that you just “need to get out there” and live a little.

a rebound could mean trouble

I got a call from Sally a few weeks back and she was telling me about her situation.  She and her husband of six years had split up.  They were separated and looking seriously at divorce.  They both agreed to give it six months before taking up in serious measures (i.e. filing divorce papers), but they were already living apart and moving forward with their own lives.

It so happens Sally’s best friend knew a guy that she thought would be a nice match and after introductions, Sally and this other guy were going out on casual dates.  At the time, Sally was not interested in dating, but figured it wouldn’t hurt either.  After all, she was looking for a new distraction and hopefully something that would be fun.

What made this more of a rebound play in my view is that while she was dating this guy and while they had a a few intimate encounters, Sally was not convinced she wanted a divorce and continued to communicate with her husband during the separation period.

The way Sally looked at it, no harm, no foul.  Realizing that she was playing with potential “trouble”, she kept her relationship with this other man under wraps. But of course, you can never keep everything secret, particularly when you are dealing with matters of the heart.

Suffice to say, everything blew up in Sally’ face a few months later when her husband learned that she was intimate with this other guy.  That revelation, ended up setting back any attempts to reconcile for many more months.  Of course, none of this was part of what Sally wanted.  Things just sort of took on a life of its own. She was lonely and one need led to another and before she knew it, her desire to reconcile with her husband had suffered a setback.

So now that you have a better idea of what causes people to find themselves involved in a rebound relationship.  Let’s explore whether such relationships are good, bad, or if it really does not matter in the scheme of things.

I guess if you are looking for the short answer as to whether a rebound relationship is something you should avoid or if it is a stepping stone to getting where you want, I will have to disappoint.   In my view it is all of those things and more.

the faces of a rebound relationship

Don’t Beat Yourself Up if You Find Yourself in a Rebound

First of all, just know that if you find yourself involved in a relationship that could be characterized as “a rebound”,  it is not that unusual.  Indeed, it is very natural, as we discussed earlier, to want to fill in the void, that part of you that is missing companionship, love, feelings of security and many more things.

None of us are designed to completely shut off our feelings and needs after something as difficult as a breakup, separation or divorce has occurred.  We still need to be loved.  We still need someone to talk with on a daily basis.  We still want to feel that there is someone that will help us in our time of need.  We still have deep emotional and sexual needs that should be met.

Sure, there may be others in your life that can give you some of this.   Just because you are alone and your husband or wife are no longer part of the picture, does not mean that your whole existence will be shattered.  People are much more resilient than they even realize.

But my point is that when those special things that a relationship can bring into your life is taken away, it can hurt and you can suffer.  So in that respect, it is perfectly normal to reach out and look for someone that can help you fulfill some or even all of those needs.

Now, that does not mean this person will end up being your future bride or husband.  And nor does it mean that by entering into such a relationship you are committed to never returning to your husband or wife.  What it does mean though is you are human and you are only seeking to put the pieces of your life together by finding someone suitable you can benefit from.

Of course, for this to be a healthy relationship, both of you should benefit and if you enter into such a relationship, you need to be completely honest with yourself and the individual about your needs and motives.  Quite frankly, that is easier said than done in affairs of the heart.

So are all rebound relationship beneficial and help you with your healing and filling the void that is now in your life?

No, they are not.  Some people rush into rebound relationships due to their anxieties and fears getting the best of them.  The may enter into a rebound relationship impulsively for all the wrong reasons and get locked into a relationship with someone that just makes things worse.

You may be looking for a quick fix, whether it be an emotional bond or possibly even a sexual encounter.  It is entirely possible you could find yourself in the middle of a situation that you will almost later regret, causing even more harm to your sense of self.

think before acting

Don’t Act Impulsively

I had client who was so broke up over her separation which was precipitated by her husband’s affair, she impulsively decided to have multiple short term sexual encounters with her husband’s friends.

She told me that she knew at the time that she was seducing these guys that what she was doing was going to just blow up and she would end up feeling awful about it all.  But something inside her (anger) was pushing her to do it.  And just as she had predicted, after a few months of jumping literally from on bed to the next, she came close to really melting down.

When we are married and then something happens to change all of that, we lose a part of ourselves.  It is hard to understand it, until it has happened to you.  But when it does, the sense of not being completely whole can be overwhelming.

Coupled with that feeling is often a loss of self esteem and self worth.  This is what was happening with the woman who was jumping from one sexual rebound rendezvous to the next.  Anger was in part fueling her motivation, but deep inside she felt that her self esteem had been ripped away.

She was harboring thoughts that perhaps she was no longer an attractive woman or that she was not sufficiently good in bed.  So she was going to prove her husband wrong and show him just how attractive she truly was.  That was what the little (angry) voice was telling her.

And unfortunately, she followed this  inner voice to a place that led her down a slippery road.  On one hand, she gained confidence and assurances that she was still a “catch” and that men found her attractive and that she could please many men in bed.  But when her series of rebound relationships was all over, she felt completely ashamed and disappointing that she had taken such measures to prove her worth.

In cases like this, it clearly does not benefit you to enter into such a rebound type of relationship.  Trying to teach your ex a lesson or gaining short term pleasure through casual sexual affairs is almost always a quicker path to self destruction.

So it begs the question, are there any instances in which a rebound relationship can be helpful, even healthy in the long run?

a rebound is not all bad
a rebound is not all bad

Sometimes a Rebound Relationship Works Out

I had a client whose name was Billie.  She had been divorced for a few months and was really struggling in what she should do with her life.  Earlier, prior to the divorce going through, she had gotten herself caught up in a rebound relationship.

The guy she met seemed like a good guy at the time and he understood that she was going through a tough time in many respects.  She was still dealing with the obvious disappointment that her marriage of eleven years was coming to an end. She did not harbor any false hopes that it could all come back together.  She knew better.

Her ex husband had been a serial philanderer and after all of the facts came out, it was as if she was living with a stranger.  So in large part, the divorce was something she sought out and wanted very much.  What made it all the more difficult was not just the normal challenges of recovering from such heart ache, but her ex husband was not wanting the marriage to end.

He played every angle to guilt her back into giving him yet another chance.  And what made it painful was that she knew she still loved him, but felt she could never trust him again.  The final straw was when she discovered that he was seeing another woman during the trial separation.  Previously, they had both agreed to live apart for awhile, but go to counseling.   Things seemed to be improving and she even held out some hope that just perhaps she could learn to forgive him and the two of them could start anew.

All of that went out the window when she learned her husband was back to his old ways.  Shortly after all this happened, she met someone and while she was still literally rebounding from the pain and shock of what her ex husband had put her through, she agree to start seeing this other man.

So while she and the new man in her life seemed to hit it off really well and made each other happy much of the time, my client was just not ready to get involved in a serious relationship.  She needed more time to deal with the aftermath of her divorce and just “find” herself again, as she said.  So she broke it off in a gentle way with this other man, simply telling him the truth about her emotional struggles and need to be alone for a spell.

So in once sense, what Billie had with this other guy would indeed be characterized as a rebound relationship.  It had all the markings of something that got started far too early.

But in this case, the rebound relationship turned out to be a positive event. Because later, Billie was able to confront and defeat her emotional demons and when she felt she was ready, reached back out to this man who had once “been there” for her.  Because of their previous history together and the positive experiences they enjoyed when together, he agreed to see her again.  After a few months it turned out to be a good choice for them both.

In summary, rebound relationships can take on all forms.  They need not eleven be of the romantic variety.  Sometimes they can help us through hard times. Sometimes they can make times even harder for ourselves and others that we love.

Try to recognize what might be happening to you if you find yourself in between relationships.  Embrace your true feelings.  Act out not from your emotions, but from your sense of what is best for you.

To accomplish these things, you need to recognize that if your are coming off a break up or are in the middle of a separation or divorce, you are in a vulnerable place.  Take things slow and before you enter into a romantic, sexual, or even casual relationship, ask yourself if your are really ready.  If you don’t trust your own answer, then seek out a close friend and ask them.  Sometimes it is better to wait, than to take a plunge into the deep or the unknown.


My Ex Husband Won’t Talk To Me

It can be really frustrating when you reach out to talk with your ex husband and you get no reply.  Does your ex make you feel like persona non grata?  Does your former husband no longer even wish to give you the time of day?

Now some people might ask, why even both calling or texting your ex husband? “After all, you guys are no longer an item, so why not just leave him be“, they may say.

Well, unfortunately, our emotions and feelings about our relationships are very complex and sometimes we may wish to explore if the relationship can be rekindled.

Yet we may be plagued with uncertainties about his feelings.  Your estranged husband may be giving you the silent treatment.  You may think he is tired of you and just wants the relationship over.

Not so fast, I say.  As I mentioned, emotions are complex in how and when they play out.  I wrote a post about the topic of  whether your husband is simply sick of being married to you.  Just maybe it is not true and there is something you can do about it.  Take a moment later to read the post below….

Is My Husband Over Me or Just Tired of Being Married To Me?

Or it could be you simply need to talk about some non relationship issues.  Or you may be torn inside and really don’t know quite what you want. Sometimes people can experience a form of cognitive dissonance.

ex husband ignoring me

You, Your Ex Husband and Cognitive Dissonance

So what does cognitive dissonance have to do with your feelings about your ex husband? Now, you may have arrived at this page looking for a discussion on just how you can get your ex husband to talk with you and stop ignoring you.  And I promise we will get to some tactics you can employ that will help you on that front. But it is best you gain a broader perspective about why you may still be interested in talking with your.  To accomplish this it is best to start first with defining what cognitive dissonance is all about.

Let me give you the simple definition.  Imagine you are sorting through some rather complicated feelings you have for your ex-husband.  On one hand, you may still think of your ex husband as a person you love very much.  You may still have many beautiful memories about your times together.  You may even wonder if you did the right thing about splitting up with your ex husband. So it is very possible that you can harbor all of these thoughts for your ex husband, yet also still feel animosity and resentment for your former spouse.

How can this happen?  How can you feel both love and a kind of “hate” for your ex husband?  Well, it’s simple.  Our minds have the capacity to have certain beliefs that are diametrically opposed to other thoughts and beliefs we hold.

Your ex husband can be really angry at you, but he may also still have deep caring feelings.  I get into this issue in this post, along with some things you can do to better the situation.

My Ex Husband is Angry at Me – What Should I Do?

So in a nutshell, cognitive dissonance is when we believe two things that are in conflict with each other.  Such is the way in which our emotions and feelings around our prior relationships can twist and turn us into human pretzels.

Now this may not answer completely why you wish for your ex husband to connect with you.  It could be something very simple and straightforward.  It may not even be that big of a deal.  Or, it is possible you are driven by a strong, almost overwhelming desire to communicate with your ex.

Your reasons, I am sure, are very personal and without knowing all of the details, it is impossible for anyone to be sure what drives you to feel the way you do. But it is useful to understand that there can be deeper psychological reasons that can take hold of how you feel and think about certain things. On one level it make not make a lot of sense why a person can hold on to two competing beliefs.  Just know that it happens to everyone.  What is more interesting is why it happens.  Let’s explore that!

There is a physiological principle that you should be aware of to help you understand why you may feel compelled to want to get a response from your ex husband.  It is called Psychological Reactance.

Essentially, the way this principle operates is that if something is taken away from you….a type of thing that you inwardly feel is a personal freedom….then you will often work all the harder to try and restore this freedom.

So on one hand, while you may still feel angry and upset for things that you ex husband did that led to the break up of the marriage, you may still feel rejected when he neglects to communicate or respond to your efforts to communicate.

Such a situation may cause you to try even harder to make contact with your ex because psychologically you feel you are being deprived of something that was at one time a free exchange.

When your ex simply ignores you, for whatever reason, part of you cannot accept that and is attracted to the idea of restoring that communication; even though another part of your may despise your ex husband or want nothing to do with him.  Such are the vagaries of our emotional control center.  Don’t be too surprised if you discover that your feelings toward your ex husband are bouncing all over the place.

Ok, so now you understand what may be driving you to want to reach out and restore communications with your ex husband.  Let’s now explore why your ex may be ignoring you or why he may choose to ignore your efforts to start a dialogue.

my ex won't talk to me

Why Do Ex Husbands Shut Down?

For starters, I think it is useful to understand something about guys in general. Though they can be exceptional articulate and communicative, men often just don’t like to communicate their feelings, particularly when is has to do with the nuts and bolts of your prior relationship.

And if you are reaching out about something, irrespective of what it is, a guy will often default to the notion that a conversation with you is likely to turn into dialogue about the relationship.

So one reason for your ex husband failure to talk to you may be something that is more tied to his tendency to be a “guy” and shut down if he thinks that talking with your may result in a review or “play back” of the relationship.

How do you combat this tendency for men to shut down?

Well, it is simple!  Ok, it really is not simple.  Nothing is simple when it comes to men and women and the forces that govern relationships.  But if you wish to increase your chances of a response, then think about doing a little preemptive strike.

In other words, make sure he understands that your desire to communicate with him has nothing to do with past relationship issues, but is strictly about “such and such” and that in no way do you want the conversation to weigh negatively on either of you.  In effect, what you are doing is taking away any potential objection your ex husband may have about talking with you.

Another reason why your ex husband may be avoiding you is he may still be harboring resentment and anger.  Depending on what went down between the two of you, he may still feel somewhat upset or possibly very disturbed about the state of the relationship.

Whether you feel your ex husband is more at fault for the state of the marriage than yourself (or not), just know that your ex’s way of processing things is very different than your own.  His understanding and weighing of the facts may paint an entirely different picture in his mind than what you have sketched in your mind.

Your ex husband may be viewing things in way that is completely off base.  So sometimes, no amount of rational explanation or re-examination of the facts will make a dent in his “take” on what has happened and who is to blame.

So in such a situation it is often wise to give you ex husband space.  People go through stages of emotional recovery whey they are dealing with heartache, sadness, or anger.  If you push too hard to solicit a response, you may only add to your ex husband’s anger level.  A wiser option is to let the emotions run their course.

flip the conversation with ex

Try Flipping Your Relationship Situation

Try looking at the situation in a different way.  Flip it around.

Remember, if your ex husband is exceptionally upset with you and is giving you the silent treatment, then that suggests he must really still care about you to be so angry.   Allow your ex to process things and while no one can assure you he will lay down all of his anger and resentment for you, it is likely that after some time, the rising tide of these negative feelings will recede.  At that time, you may have a better opening.

So what if your simply want to talk to your ex husband about something that is not “relationship based”, but an issue of some criticality?  For example, what if you need to talk to your ex husband about finances or the children or an issue around coordinating something involving both of you?  What if you are not in a position to wait a week or weeks for your ex husband’s emotions to settle back down?

This is actually a tough area to advise you in because of the nature of communication and the role it may have played in the break up of your marriage.  If your ex husband was not a very “talky” kind of guy during the marriage…..if your ex was a kind of guy who did not wear is emotions on his sleeve and would not get high marks for being a supportive conversationalist, then you should expect that he will be even worse after the two of you split up.

So, yes, I can offer some tips on how you can get him to respond to you on matters that are not “personal” or “relationship based”, but I think it would be wise if you re-framed your expectations if your ex husband was the sort of marriage partner that was not a strong communicator.

My thoughts around these kinds of scenarios tend to be more pragmatic.  As I have discussed, it is wise when you reach out to your ex that you underscore clearly the topic of conversation so as to remove any possibility that your ex husband thinks you want to re-open past relationship wounds.

And you can politely give him a timeline to respond.  If he does not meet this “soft deadline”, you can reach out again. But if you don’t hear anything after that, then sometimes it is best to proceed without his input, if that is at all possible.

getting your ex husband talking

Are There Other Ways To Get My Ex Husband to Talk With Me?

You bet there are some ways in which you can open up communication channels with your ex husband.  I know it can be frustrating and almost maddening when your ex won’t extend the basic courtesies of responding to your text or phone call.

But don’t be deterred.  When you find yourself in such a situation, then its time to shift your paradigm about how you go about getting your ex husband to pay attention to your efforts to open up the dialogue channel.

My first piece advice deals with changing the way in which you are attempting to make the initial contact.  When I talk about initial contact I am referring to the first effort you make to reach out to your ex.

What do you think would be a more effective approach?  A text message that says, “Just checking in with you” or a text message that arouses your ex husband’s curiosity in a big way.   Clearly, the latter approach is going to give you the better odds at getting a response from your former husband.

Use the Zeigarnik Effect on your Ex Husband!

So what can you say to arouse his curiosity in a meaningful way?  Let me introduce you to the Zeigarnik Effect. Of course, you are probably thinking, “what the heck is that”.

Let me explain.  Have you ever noticed that the most popular and successful shows on television and cable will tell your the stories in a series of episodes in which at the end of each episode, you are left hanging.  The reason the show producers leave you hanging is due to the psychological principle called the Zeigarnik effect.

You see, people tend to be much more motivated to remember uncompleted tasks and really want to see things come together.  So if you throw in a bit of cliff hanger at the end of a show (or a conversation…hint…hint!), the person watching that show (or participating in the conversation) will be highly motivated to see what becomes of the situation.

You can leverage this effect when you are seeking to get a response from your ex husband.  If you really want to hear back from him, then set up the front end of your message with something intriguing, but then leave him hanging on what happened.

This can be accomplished in a lot ways.  I had one client who was having difficulty getting her ex husband to return her calls about a wide variety of things.  So she decided to use the Zeigarnik effect and left her ex husband a message that sounded rather normal until the very end when she exclaimed, “oh my god“, then disconnected.

Well, when the ex husband listened to his messages and heard her voice trail off like something, possibly shocking or frightening, had happened, he could not help himself.  He called her immediately and then found that she was perfectly fine and  what had caused her reaction was a spider crawling up her leg resulting in a temporary moment of panic.

Do you think that is manipulative?  Interesting question isn’t.  I confess, this approach is not the most honest form of communication, strictly speaking.  I usually don’t recommend using the Zeigarnik effect as a matter of frequent practice.  But, sometimes you have to reach into your bag of tricks if you really need to open up the communications with the ex.  Hopefully, it opens up a door in which after the initial communications get underway, the two of you can develop an understanding of how communications should unfold in the future.

Humor is another way to gain a communication opening with your ex husband. Now, I am not talking about slapstick or telling funny jokes to get a reaction.  That kind of approach is far too heavy handed.  But sometimes sending a text and attaching a humorous photo that you know your ex husband can relate to can open things up.  As for example, if you have kids, a pic of one your children doing something funny attached to a brief initial contact message can help grease the skids.

Yet another way to get your ex husband interested in responding to you is to send him a text about something unusual.  Maybe something odd or unbelievable happened in conjunction with an experience or place you both shared.  This approach might just awaken some fond memories and encourage him to respond.

The thing to keep in mind when you are experiencing communication difficulties with an ex is that dramatic overtures or angry outbursts for his failure to reach out to you won’t win the day.

What wins the race is slow and steady.  I like to emphasize the lesson of “little steps”.  If you put together enough small, positive attempts to connect in your efforts to regain a more normal level of communications with your ex husband, your chances improve measurably.

If you try all these things and you still can’t seem to get your ex husband to budge, then it’s time to really shake things up.  If you are thinking of driving over to his place and confronting him or leaving him a really nasty message, please think again!  While you may feel highly upset, even livid that your ex won’t extend the simplest of courtesies, don’t give in to the emotions rising up inside you.

Consider punting.  So what do I mean by that?  Punting is when you simply give up the chore of trying to initiate contact and settle into a “No Contact Period” where you make zero effort to reach out to him.  Even if you eventually hear from him, you ignore him for a spell.  Even if he sends out a feeler message, don’t respond.  Try this approach for a spell.  Perhaps 21 to 30 days.

In this way you change the equation.  For all this time, you have been trying to get him to respond to you.  For whatever reasons, your ex husband has chosen not to communicate or seldom shows an interest in talking to you.  Just go it along for awhile and give your ex what he thinks he wants.

If it is important that the two of you need to talk, your ex will eventually open up. After this period of No Contact has elapsed, then you can send him an initial contact text message.

If you wish to learn a great deal more about this approach (i.e. No Contact Rule), you can visit one of my other websites, exboyfriendrecovery.com, and learn considerably more about how this principle operates.




My Ex Husband Won’t Leave Me Alone

Have you ever had a situation where you just can’t get someone to leave you alone? Generally, if it is a friend or co-worker who keeps fussing over something, that experience can be somewhat annoying.

But what if it is your ex husband who won’t leave you alone.  The phone rings and its’ your ex.  A text message and another and another comes flying into your phone and of course, it is your ex husband again.  Just when you thought you had put him behind you, he seems to pop up all over the place.  It is as if your ex cannot process or understand that the marriage is over (or soon to be kaput).

my ex won't leave me alone

Sometimes an ex takes a while….a long while…to realize that you have moved on or are trying to move on.  His continued efforts in trying to engage with you….hoping that the marriage relationship can be re-started or re-ignited….can be an emotional drag on your well being.

If you are in a situation where your husband just won’t get out of your life, then take a minute or two and read about how you can push him out of your life.   In this post that deals with this topic, I outline some solutions you may wish to give a try!

How To Get My Husband To Leave Me – He Won’t Go!

Some ex husbands border on exhibiting behaviors that are obsessive as they try over and over again to lure you back into the relationship.  Often, their obsessive or controlling tendencies is the very thing that contributed to the marriage break up in the first place.

And as you probably well know, people just simply don’t change over night.  If they exhibited such behaviors in the past,  insisting you respond to their every call or text, then it should not be too surprising that your ex husband is having difficulty letting go the ways of the past.

But keeping your ex husband out of your life is important to you, isn’t it? If you are going to create a new future for yourself and move forward in experiencing new people, activities, and personal challenges, then it is imperative you create space between you and your ex hubby.

What if you find yourself in the middle?  What if you are uncertain as to what is best for you?  I dive into this offshoot of this discussion below….

My Ex Husband Wants Me Back – Should I Take Him Back?

When we are dealing with an ex husband who keeps bothering you or who is literally harassing you, we have entered into a different territory and it calls for some strategic measures you should consider deploying to keep your sanity and bring closure.

an overbearing ex husband

How to Handle Your Ex Husband When He Won’t Leave You Alone

Let’s talk about closure first.

A while back, I was consulting to a client named Emily.  She and her husband had been separated for four months and she was pursuing a legal divorce.  She decided to move out and get a new apartment.  Given that she was financially independent, she believed it would be best to break away from all of the memories of her ex.  And getting set up in a new apartment was one of the measures she took to establish a new way of life as she pursued new routines and her new identity without her ex.

Given that her ex was exceptionally controlling, she believed that these measures were both reasonable and necessary.   Yet while she believed she was making some progress in pressing forward without her husband, she was still experiencing problems with his insistence to frequently stop by her apartment and call her randomly some evenings to check up on her.

When she came to me for advice, she was near tears.  The things that she disliked so much about her life with her husband which caused her to pursue a separation and possible divorce……things like his controlling and overbearing nature along with his temper tantrums when she would not bend to his will….it was these behaviors that seemed to be re-entering her life.  Feeling trapped and frustrated, Emily wanted to explore if there was anything she could do to get her ex to leave her alone.

I gave her a three point plan.  Let’s talk about it here because I think it will help a lot of women who are undergoing a similar situation with their ex.

seeking closure from your ex

Seeking Closure from Your Ex Husband

The first thing that is important is to communicate clearly to your ex husband what may seem obvious.  You want him to know that he needs to step out of your life.  Often times, despite what you may have said before, your husband may be possessed by this notion that he is somehow entitled to have free rein when it comes to talking with you anytime he wants.

Obviously, if your phone is ringing of the hook and your email box is filled with messages from the ex and you seem to get an endless stream of text messages, then you have a problem.  So you first must ask yourself if you are doing anything to create an illusion that what he is doing OK.  Have you told your ex husband that he is “crowding you”?  Have you told him in no uncertain terms that you don’t want to wake up to text messages or emails about “whatever”.

In my client’s case, that was not the issue.  She had told her ex that his attention was not welcomed and to stop bothering her.

Now, let me clarify something before pressing forward.  There may be instances in which you need to hear from your ex about something this is pressing or is critical.  For example, if you have children together, there obviously will be times in which you and your ex husband will need to converse.

But in cases in which the two of you have split up and are leading your own individual lives, it is usually best to convey to your ex that you feel strongly that no or limited contact is in the best interest of both parties.

For those ex husbands who seem not to grasp what that means, you will need to spell it out clearly.  Tell your ex husband that for your own emotional health (and his as well), you have decided that you do not wish to see him or talk with him or exchange text messages with him for an indefinite period of time.  Short of getting restraining order, make it very clear that its over and that you are still going through a healing process and his actions are hurting you.

Point out to your ex that you are unhappy and uncomfortable with how he is intervening in your life.  Tell him that his efforts, irrespective of his intentions, are unwelcomed.

Explain in specific language that his frequent efforts to connect with you is disturbing to you and that neither of you will be able to successfully move forward with your lives if the trend continues.

This will be clearly a difficult piece of news for your ex to hear if you express it in the way I described.  But sometimes, to cut through any ill conceived notions or hopes he may be clinging to, the language has to be succinct and to the point.  The tone need not be ugly or mean spirited, but the words and the meaning they convey must be absolutely clear.

And if you are uncomfortable with telling your ex how you really feel in person, then write him a letter.  An email would be a more efficient way of communicating, but in my view, a letter conveys a more personal approach.

Also a letter to your ex allows the message to sink in.  Often times, when certain “truths” are being communicated, a person can “deaf ear” what you are saying. An ex can pretend they did not hear your words or later convince themselves that you did not mean what you said. People do this all the time.  They can easily fall prey to a form of delusional thinking.  But you can turn this around.

I know the thought of talking to your ex spouse in terms of the “hard truths” can be tough for you to do and for your ex to hear.  But it can be done in a respectful manner and my experience in these matters is that if your real feelings are not conveyed to your ex husband, he will just continue to go on interrupting your life as he sees fit.

Getting your ex husband to stop

Ending Your Husband’s Reliance on Pyschological Reactance

So what do I mean by ending psychological reactance?  First, let’s define the term.  Let’s start with what is driving your ex to behave in the manner that is driving you crazy.

Understand that we are creatures that are often governed by our unconscious. While we act and operate from our conscious level of processing things, we also have urges that arise from our unconscious.

The science of the mind tells us that about 95% of everything our mind processes and regulates is at the unconscious level.  I know, it sounds crazy, but this is what neuro-scientists have discovered over the past decade. Everything from breathing, blinking, sneezing, and many other physiological activities are regulated at the unconscious level.  Much of our emotional center is also controlled by the far reaches of your mind.   Emotions such as fears, anxieties, and all sorts of our drives, operate behind the scenes in the unconscious mind.

Psychological reactance occurs when a person loses what they perceive is a certain personal freedom.  An example of such a personal freedom would be their ability to reach out and talk to you whenever they want.

At one time, you were very much part of your ex’s life.  You slept together, you ate together, you watched television together, you made love together, you even fought together.

Though it may not feel like a individual freedom at the time, since we often take these experiences we have with our spouse for granted, losing such experiences can be a jolt to once psyche.

When one is unable to do those things that at one time brought pleasure and/or feelings of security, then the loss of that can cause one to desire it even more.

While your ex husband may understand that the marriage is over, he may still refuse to accept it and may be unconsciously drawn to trying to reconnect with you.

You were in his life before, but now you are gone.  If something is taken away or if someone is told they cannot have something,  it usually causes the person to be more attracted.  It is as if a gravitational force is pulling them toward this aim of seeking you out.

Remember, we are very complex, emotional animals.  And we do not always know what is in our best interests, particularly when we are operating out of the right side of our brain (i.e. our emotional control center).  If your ex is continually making efforts to communicate with you, then you can  be assured he is being influenced by these emotional forces.

So how do you combat the way in which your ex is behaving?  On a logical level, he probably knows he is upsetting you to some degree as he continually makes efforts to contact you.  Is he completely at the mercy of these emotional forces?  I say, absolutely not.

Here is what I recommend you do to reverse the tide.  Clearly, the pattern of your ex’s insistence in interfering with your life must end.  The good news is patterns can be broken.

Most everything begins with a single step.  You have to start somewhere and if that first step can make a lasting impression, the you are off to a good start.

So let’s talk about employing a technique.   It is a simple technique, but it can be very effective if you put it to use in such situations.  It is called, “naming the behavior“.

What is happening is that your ex cannot resist trying to contact you.  He just won’t leave you alone.  So the next time he calls you or texts you, tell him with no uncertainty that you do not welcome his attention and put a name to what he is doing.

Point out to him that he is being controlled by his psychological urges to and his behavior must stop.  Put a name to it.  Instead of blaming him and turning the conversation into a negative, explain he is acting on psychological urges that are damaging both he and you.  Again ask him to respect your need for privacy and self healing.

Hopefully, this will over time, cause him to pause and question his behavior.  I assure you, if you put a name to what he is doing, it will imprint on his conscious mind.

He may deny that he is driven by unconscious urges.  Your ex may seek to dispel or ridicule that there is any merit to such a thing as psychological reactance.  But it will be there in his mind.  And he will have to deal with his future behavior since you have “named it”, effectively calling him out.   The very mention of what he is doing and what might be causing it, could enable him to modify his behavior.

Ask him to resist these impulses to contact you and emphasize that it is very important to you and your peace of mind.  The effect of this will hopefully raise your ex husband’s awareness of the bigger picture of how he is perceived and how it is adversely impacting your state of mind.

tell your ex you need space

Avoid Engaging With Your Ex Husband

You may be tempted to respond to your ex’s efforts to communicate.  Sometimes, what happens after a separation or divorce, is you will go through periods of doubt.  You will question whether breaking up was the right thing to do.

Your ex may turn on the charm and you may find yourself in a situation in which part of your mind’s psyche is yearning to return to the “good days”.  Indeed, your ex husband may be clever and even somewhat manipulative as he showers you  with positive attention.  Then could cast even more doubt in your mind as to whether you did the right thing to break it off with your husband.

Trust, that this is a natural emotional cycle you will experience.  We all have vulnerabilities and it may be true that your ex husband actually provided you with some sense of security.  The memories of why you left him may temporary recede into the background and coupled with all of the positive overtures your ex is making, you may drop your guard.

All these things can cause you to get confused and actively explore whether there is a chance that the two of you could possible make a go of it again.  These kind of thoughts and feelings can be powerful and overwhelm your better judgement, particularly if you are in a vulnerable emotional state.

A good way to help you put things in perspective is to write down all of the reasons why you left your ex in the first place.  Document all of the instances in which your ex husband made you unhappy.  Write it down and don’t leave anything out.  Just keep writing until you have identified all of the things you remember about those days in which your husband made you feel miserable.

Then read it out loud to yourself.  Working through this process should help you balance out your true feelings and memories of what happened before and what is likely to happen again in the future.  Remember, past behavior patterns (of your husband) is usually predictive of the kind of behavior you can expect from him in the future.

Another way you can avoid engaging with your ex husband is to keep yourself busy with life’s activities.  Stewing over your ex may and contemplating whether you should respond to him will most certainly drag you down the wrong path.

Stay true to your commitment not to acknowledge his communication efforts and get busy with life.  You should reach out and embrace new physical and intellectual pursuits .  You should do things you have not done before.  Explore new experiences that can be fulfilling and educational.  Sign up for a yoga class. Take up a group workout regiment.  Enroll in a class and learn a new hobby.

When you leave your ex, things change in many ways.

Gaining a larger sense of perspective is your aim. Be aware that it will not be unusual for certain feelings of insecurity to creep into your mind. The routines you use to experience with your ex husband have come to and end.  They need to be replaced with something new and better.

Part of you may desire a return to normalcy. But you must accept things will be different and to fill the void, you need to create a new normal.  And by embracing new personal experiences, both on the intellectual and physical side, you be able to make positive strides in becoming the best version of yourself.

Remember, you are much more adaptable and resilient than you give yourself credit for.  And the same applies to your ex.  In time, your former husband will learn to stop crowding you and give you the space you need.  It won’t happen over night, but if you stick with the game plan I laid out, you will likely get that a lot faster.