How to Handle An Ex That Drags Out A Breakup

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I recently talked to a woman who was confused about why men always wanted to “figure out” a breakup months or years later. She (fairly) wonders why they get to drag their exes through the emotional ringer a second time.

First, this phenomenon doesn’t break across gender lines at all. Any ex has the potential to become a “What Did It Mean?” person, a “I Just Need To Say I’m Sorry” person, or, horrifyingly, an “I Want You Back” person. These are some of the most dangerous animals you’ll come across in your romantic life. Trust me, I’ve been all of these people. Here’s a little guide on how to handle the Wild Rehasher in your life.

They’re More Afraid of You Than You Are of Them

It can feel like a victimization or power play to call up an ex out of the blue, as if they’re testing their ability to get under your skin. The emotions that well up on your end make you feel like they’ve won just from sending you a text message. It’s okay to feel weirdly dominated by the sort of communication, but the way to resolve that is to understand that they’re probably just feeling particularly confused and lonely. The kind-of-deflating-but-ultimately-freeing truth of the matter is that The Rehash is not about you, it’s about the Rehasher. You may not even be the only ex they’ve called this week. They’re going through some stuff. They’re taking stock of their own lives. You’ve become another chapter in their self-perceived life narrative – and they have too, in yours. So approach the situation as it actually is: two people on equal footing.

Do Not Feed the Animals

The Rehasher lives on a diet of leaves, berries, and your feelings. The motivation behind wanting to retread your relationship is because the Rehasher has (or thinks they have) regrets about how the relationship ended. They want to know what could have happened, or they want to know that they could have you back if they tried, or whatever. Reacting angrily to their messages, or allowing yourself to get dragged back into the weird rut in which all relationships end, just guarantees an extension of the process. You’re essentially just giving them what they want. Like many beasts of the woodlands, feeding the Rehasher until they’re satisfied doesn’t make them go away, it only means they’ll come back again when they get hungry.

Play Dead

The only way to not get dragged into this is to, um, not get dragged into it. Your ex texted you? Don’t respond. They emailed you? Delete it. Oh, they’re calling you now? There’s this great thing you can do with a phone where you don’t answer it. I know the temptation is high. You want to pick up the phone and just tell them to stop calling you. You want to answer that email just to say, “Hey, dude, you’ve gotta move on.” You read the text, and he said some totally untrue and unfair stuff and is that the story she’s telling, doesn’t mean you need to share your side.

Okay, think of it this way: they send you one email, and they think you didn’t respond because you don’t like them. They send you another, and now you’re being stubborn. They send you a third, a fourth, a fifth… now they’re starting to wonder whether you’re even reading them. And after a while, they stop coming. If it seems heartless, just remember: you’re doing it for their own good, you’re taking the high road, and soon enough they’re going to thank you, to themselves, silently.

Aaron and Josh are two guy friends who have a podcast in which they try to answer questions about dating, romance, relationships, sex, and the vagueries of human interaction. (“If you’re not a straight cismale, then we (may) have the answers you’re searching for.”) They’ll be writing a weekly post on The Date Report expanding on some of the topics covered in their weekly podcast.