How to Set Healthy Boundaries With Your Ex

It feels like just yesterday I was writing an intro about how I went on an amazing date… and now, I’m here to say I was dumped. Ha ha ha ha. Is The Everygirl my personal diary at this point? Maybe. 

Navigating a breakup and dealing with the aftermath of how you’ll remain friends (if you even will), what you’ll do if you see each other, how you handle social media, and more is enough to make us all stay in sh*tty relationships forever. It’s hard (and honestly way more effort than any of us want to put in) to figure out the nitty-gritty details of post-breakup life, especially when we’re dealing with how the heck we’re even going to live without this other person we’ve likely built our life around and potentially imagined a future with. But we can’t stay in this cycle of confusion and stress forever. 

Because I also didn’t quite know how to tackle this issue (I’m learning right here with ya, Everygirls), I sought out some expert advice on why we should set boundaries and how to actually get it done. I spoke with Heidi McBain, a mental wellness counselor who focuses on women’s mental wellness, all about breakups — here was her biggest advice:

 

Give yourself time and ask for help

We all know that you need a little time to heal after a breakup, but this time is especially important if you plan to stay friends or keep a relationship. McBain explained the importance of grieving and understanding that a breakup is a loss, even if you were the one to make the call. “It’s not only a loss of how you hoped things would turn out in the present, it’s also a loss of future hopes and dreams attached to this relationship as well,” McBain said.

Taking time for yourself doesn’t have to be a month of face masks and spa visits and Netflix movie nights in. McBain suggested seeing a therapist or discussing the grief of this relationship through therapy. She said it could be a great place to grieve as well as process what went wrong and what went right with that relationship so you don’t make the same mistakes in the future. 

 

Understand why you need boundaries

If you think you and your ex don’t need to set boundaries, then you and I have a lot in common, and one of those things is that we’re wrong. Setting boundaries is important for any relationship, especially one that’s just ended. “Establishing healthy boundaries with an ex give you both space to grieve the loss of the relationship early on, but also gives both of you space so that you can also move forward and start to date other people (when you’re ready to do so),” McBain said.

Boundaries are there to help the two of you navigate the breakup and whatever remaining relationship you want to have. Are you still going to talk? How often will you text or call each other? Will you follow each other on social media? How will you navigate being together in social settings or hanging out with mutual friends? Will you unfriend/unfollow their family or friends on social media? There are dozens of situations that will change after a breakup, and while it may seem awkward, setting expectations of how you both will act will make it much easier in the long-run.

 

Talk to them

When the time feels right, you should be able to talk to your ex about the boundaries you want to set, and they should be able to discuss it with you too. Your opinions and ideas might differ, and that’s OK. Focus on compromising in a way that is beneficial, easy, and works for the both of you. According to McBain, this conversation should be “open and honest.”

 

Block them if you need to 

If seeing your ex on Instagram or noticing that they watched your stories is causing you stress, it’s OK to block them from your story or block their account altogether. Focus on your mental health here instead of worrying that blocking them will cause a riff in your relationship. According to McBain, if the other person isn’t respecting the boundaries that you’re setting, blocking them and taking more time for yourself might be a good next step. 

However, she also suggests paying attention to your intentions. If you’re blocking them to show them up or be petty (guilty!), that’s a different situation. Also, if you’re only planning to temporarily block them, pay attention and set a timeline of when you’ll unblock and reevaluate your social media relationship. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about this. They should be understanding that having them as a friend or following them on social media can be triggering to you and that it’s about your mental well-being.

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