I Want My Family to Stop Talking to My Ex: A Guide to Emotional Independence

I Want My Family to Stop Talking to My Ex: A Guide to Emotional Independence

Divorce specialist Natalie Maximets
Natalie Maximets is a certified life transformation coach with expertise in mindfulness and sustainability. She is a published author focused on the most progressive solutions in the field of Psychology. Natalie helps people go through fundamental life challenges, such as divorce, and build an entirely new life by reframing their personal narrative.

When you are married, you and your spouse are part of each other’s families. Your family members develop a relationship with your spouse, and often, that relationship can be very deep and connected.

When you separate or divorce, your family may find it hard to disengage from your ex. They may still talk to your ex or even hang out with your ex.

Conveying to them how hurtful this is and why you need them to stop talking to your ex is crucial in creating an environment in which you can heal and move forward without feeling there are mixed loyalties at play. Having your family’s complete support while healing from your divorce means you need them to stop having a relationship with your ex.

Becoming emotionally independent after a divorce can be challenging, and that difficult process is even more complicated if your family continues to engage with your ex.

Key Takeaways

  • Take the time to understand your feelings about the situation.
  • Talk with your family members about how you feel and what you are asking them to do.
  • Create firm boundaries to protect yourself.
  • Be prepared with conflict resolution techniques.
  • Work on increasing your emotional independence.

Understanding Your Feelings

When you end your marriage, you are in a vulnerable place. You need support, and you also need emotional protection. You’ve been hurt and need your family to stand behind you.

If your family continues to communicate with or hang out with your ex, you probably feel hurt by this. And that is a normal reaction. You want to be your family’s priority and need to know they have your back.

While this isn’t a feud where you need them to line up next to you, you do need to feel they have emotionally chosen to support you.

If your family still has contact with your ex, it probably feels like they disregard your feelings and may even disagree with your choice to end the marriage.

bored woman drinking coffee

It’s essential to recognize how your family’s behavior makes you feel. You may feel angry, hurt, resentful, ignored, alone, sad, scared, or betrayed. You may also think that your family is choosing your ex over you. You aren’t wrong to feel this way.

You have been through something very painful, and your family’s behavior is simply making it harder for you to move on and for you to get the support you need to rebuild your life.

Communicating with Your Family

The first thing to realize is that your family might have no idea that their ongoing contact with your ex makes you feel this way. They might assume that it doesn't hurt or affect you as long as you aren’t directly involved.

They might think that they have a separate relationship with your ex that they want to continue without you and might not have any idea that this is hurtful to you.

Because of this, you can’t assume they know how you feel. Even if it seems logical to you and you believe they should be able to notice how it affects you, it might not be obvious to them.

Plan to have a conversation with the people involved. If it’s your parents, you might want to talk to them together. If it is siblings or other family members, you might want to speak to them separately.

Use these tips to have an effective conversation:

  • Plan a time to talk when you won’t be disturbed, and they can focus on the conversation.
  • If possible, have the conversation in person, not by text or email. If you live far apart, video calls can work.
  • Start by telling them how much you love them and how much their support means to you.
  • Tell them how their ongoing contact with your ex makes you feel. Focus on the impact it has on you and why it is so hard for you to deal with.
  • Explain that you understand they have developed a relationship with your ex independent of your marriage and that it makes sense that they would have done so.
  • Discuss how important it is for you to be able to move forward and leave your marriage behind you. Talk about how their support is necessary for you to be able to do that.
  • Gently point out that their ongoing relationship with your ex is hurtful to you even though you know they do not intend to hurt you.
  • Ask them to disengage with your ex so that you can have the space you need and feel they are using all their energy to support you.
  • Be careful not to blame them, and avoid being angry during the conversation. Share how you feel, what you need, and how you hope they will help you by doing what you ask.
  • Listen to their explanations and feelings and tell them you understand. Don’t argue about it. They are entitled to feel however they want.
  • Ask if they can do this for you, and if needed, give them time to think about the conversation so they can process it. Circle back in a few days to see if you can resolve things.

It’s important to emphasize how much you love and need your family and how it is unhealthy for you if they continue to be friends with your ex.

Setting Boundaries

Talking to your family allows you to express your feelings and what you want them to do. However, it’s up to them to decide if they will comply with your wishes.

two friends criticizing other people

However your family reacts to your conversation, it can be helpful to create some boundaries with family members to protect yourself moving forward.

Consider these as possible boundaries you can set with your family:

  • If your family is going to continue to have contact with your ex, tell them that you do not want to hear about it, ever.
  • Tell them that you never want them to mention the ex’s name to you ever again.
  • Ask them to take down photos that include your ex.
  • Request that they do not share anything about you with your ex if they are in contact.
  • Insist that your ex is not invited to any gatherings or events where you will be.
  • Ask that they do not discuss the divorce with you anymore. You’ve explained it, and you made the right decision for you, and you no longer will rehash it or talk it through with them anymore.

Boundaries protect you and set out exactly how you want your family to behave and respect you and your wishes.

Conflict Resolution Tips

Your family might have difficulty accepting your feelings and working within your boundaries.

You’ve just been through a divorce, and more conflict is not something you need, but if it happens, use these conflict resolution techniques to handle the objections from or misunderstandings with your family:

  • Whenever possible, talk in “I” statements. “I feel this way when X happens,” “I have a hard time with X,” or “I need X.”
  • Take the time to understand why your family member feels the way they do. Be sure to say something like, “I understand how you feel.”
  • Don’t be dragged into discussions that evaluate or critique how you feel. Your feelings are valid, and only you know what they are.
  • Try to stay calm and talk in a regular voice. If you feel upset, take a break and return to it later.
  • Avoid letting the conversation swerve into long-time disagreements or ongoing issues with your family.
  • Sometimes, it is helpful to phrase your concern as a request, not an order. Ask your family to help you by disconnecting from your ex rather than telling them they must.

Going into the conversation with conflict avoidance techniques at the ready can help make the communication go smoothly.

Work on Emotional Independence

Achieving emotional independence after divorce takes time. The divorce itself is often just the first step in your healing process. Feeling adrift, alone, scared, and unsure is common after your marriage ends.

young man ignoring his girlfriend

The person you thought would be your lifelong support system is no longer part of your life. And if your family is maintaining contact with your ex, this is even harder to cope with.

Follow these tips to work on your emotional independence after divorce:

  • See a therapist. Getting professional help and support is the best way to get on the right track.
  • Accept that you will grieve the end of the marriage for a long time and that this is normal.
  • Choose not to be defined by the divorce but accept it as part of your journey.
  • Rest and take care of your body, mind, and spirit.
  • Listen to what you need and respond to it.
  • Practice being alone but not lonely. Learn how to spend time with yourself in a loving way.
  • Stay connected to the people you love. Spend time with them and lean on them for support.
  • Be open to new friendships, new interests, and new things.
  • Have the self-confidence and strength to say no to people, things, and situations that do not work for you. Let your gut guide you.

Achieving emotional independence after a divorce takes time, and the process looks different for everyone.

Final Thoughts

Divorce is hard enough, but when your family continues to see your ex as part of the family or has an ongoing relationship with them, it can be very upsetting.

Understanding your feelings, communicating directly with your family, and building your emotional independence can help you move past this.

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