How to politely tell ex-girlfriends to stop contacting me?
May 10, 2006 6:57 AM   Subscribe

How do you phrase a letter politely to let an ex (or whomever) know that you no longer want to be contacted by them? No bitterness, no hurt - just the expression of the preference that you would prefer all future contact to cease?

I get emails or text messages every now and then from ex-girlfriends, which I would prefer not to receive. I've gone the ignore them and they'll go away route, but they continue -- I don't want to be bitter or mean, would just like to inform the writers/texters that I would like them to stop. Suggestions?
posted by buddha9090 to Human Relations (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think you can do it without sounding like an asshole. Most guys I know receive texts and messages from ex-girlfriends when something big happens in their life or when they're in town and wan to catch up. It seems to happen when the relationship wasn't working as a relationship (ie problems in bed, loss of attraction) and the two still want to be casual friends.

You're going to have to tell them directly, I don't think there's any way not to. Be expected to have a "why", which could be a new girlfriend who doesn't like it -- but then that's kind of cheating and saying that you don't mind the messages, but someone else does and it opens the door in the future (post-girlfriend) for them to contact you.
posted by geoff. at 7:09 AM on May 10, 2006

Can't you just say it like you just wrote ?

Or take the formal, corporate road :)
"Thank you for your interest in me. Your mail has retained all my attention. It is my most sincere opinion that your time would be better used some other way. Please retain from further communication with me, as I myself have gone to other interests, and have no will to keep up with past ones. Thank you for understanding, I wish you the best in your future endeavours. The undersigned".

If she keeps on mailing you, reply with a PowerPoint file with bullet-point reasons why she should not do this anymore :)
posted by XiBe at 7:12 AM on May 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

You are actually going to send them a letter? That's going to come off badly simply because it's so impersonal.
posted by smackfu at 7:22 AM on May 10, 2006

don't respond at all to any of the emails/text messages.

the silent treatment works best - eventually they will go away.
posted by seawallrunner at 7:25 AM on May 10, 2006

I know you said the ignoring route is not working, but you might want to try to block their email address. Normally the sender does not know that you didn't receive it, and you are never alerted that it was blocked. The email just dies in space somewhere.

Not what you can do about text messages though.
posted by milarepa at 7:28 AM on May 10, 2006

arghh meant to say, "Don't know what you can do..."
posted by milarepa at 7:29 AM on May 10, 2006

Be as simple and straightforward as possible. "I'm not comfortable with continuing to be in contact with you. Please don't (email/text/write/call/as appropriate) me anymore."

I chose the words 'I'm not comfortable' because they're both vague and you oriented. It's sort of a 'it's not you, it's me' thing, that these exes can read whatever they want into without you going into any reasons at all.

The reality is 'I don't ever want to be in touch with you again' is a pretty harsh thing to say. In social etiquette, it's so harsh there's no point where it's even acceptable. People are expected to treat others as if they don't even exist rather than be so rude as to directly say they don't want to speak to them. You won't find an easy, simple way to do this that will leave them thinking fondly of you, but if you're vague and straightforward about it, they might not think too badly about it.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:30 AM on May 10, 2006

As an added note, don't send a letter unless they're writing you letters. That gives it an added gravitas that will make things worse. Just send the message back via whatever channel they're using to contact you - email, SMS, whatever. If they're phoning you, you might email back, or send a voicemail so that you don't have to speak to them directly, but otherwise just use whatever medium they've chosen.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:32 AM on May 10, 2006

request a "downgrade to 'amicable silence.'" i've seen it work!
posted by soma lkzx at 7:47 AM on May 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Send them a link to this thread.
posted by ry at 7:48 AM on May 10, 2006

At the risk of sounding like an asshole myself, my advice is this: just be a grownup.

If this person (or these people) are truly intruding on your life, trying to get back together with you when you don't want that, trying to sabotage your current relationship, that's a very serious matter, and you shouldn't worry about how you sound.

But if they really are just friendly "hi, how are you, thought I'd check-in" kinds of messages, just be polite and courteous (you never know when it might come in handy to be on good terms with someone), or if you really have nothing to say to them, just don't say anything.

At this point, trying to deal with the issue in a confrontation seems to be expending a whole lot more of your energy and attention than just letting it lie.
posted by j-dawg at 7:53 AM on May 10, 2006

To expand on the "ignore them" suggestion, that means really ignoring them. Just hit delete without giving it a second thought.
posted by alms at 8:07 AM on May 10, 2006

As the recipient of several such communications, there is no nice way to do it. "I never want to communicate with you again" is a hurtful thing to have said to you. Do you absolutely have to do this? If so, it doesn't much matter how--you will come off as a jerk, and it will be effective.
posted by LarryC at 8:08 AM on May 10, 2006

If reading their messages is getting you down, filter their messages straight to the trash so you don't even know they're arriving. If they track you down and ask why you aren't responding, explain directly: sorry, but receiving messages from you bums me out.
posted by pracowity at 8:11 AM on May 10, 2006

Agree with just ignoring them. "I never want to hear from you again" (or any more polite versions) is going to sound like you don't care if they're alive or dead.
posted by desuetude at 8:12 AM on May 10, 2006

It really depends on the definition of "every now and again" -- if the frequency is every few months or so, it requires a different (and gentler) response than, say, three or four a day, which was the number of e-mails I was getting from an ex at one point.

And it depends on the nature of the messages. Are these general e-mail broadcasts to many recipients, of which you are but one? Are these short notes or long, drawn-out letters? What level of emotion is being invested in the notes being sent to you? What's being said? Is anything being asked of you, or is this just on an FYI basis?

Basically, the question is whether you're overreacting to innocent, friendly FYIs or underreacting to someone who's having a hard time letting go. In neither case are you wrong to ask not to receive further messages; it's just a question of how you handle it.
posted by mcwetboy at 8:23 AM on May 10, 2006

Use an intermediary, a mututal friend, that sort of thing to pass along the message that it's not a good thing to keep in contact with you.

Take the Thomas Jefferson approach and avoid entangling alliances.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:41 AM on May 10, 2006

Were I in your situation, I think I'd phrase it along the lines of:
I enjoyed the time we were together, but now that that time has passed, I must admit it feels rather awkward and uncomfortable to me for us to continue communicating like this. At the risk of offending you, I'd really prefer if we just end our communication with each other. I honestly wish you the very best in your future life ... take care.
posted by WCityMike at 9:11 AM on May 10, 2006 [2 favorites]

"I don't mean to be a jerk, but I don't really feel like talking. I'll let you know if that changes."
posted by unknowncommand at 9:30 AM on May 10, 2006

It depends on the frequency and nature of the messages.

If it's the occasional (say, monthly-ish) mass email about what's going in their life that seventy people besides you also receive, then it is just pointlessly hurtful to respond with "stop contacting me" - if it really bothers you to be contacted, you may have to resign yourself to hurting their feelings.

If it's weekly personal messages to which you never respond, then there's something weird about that person continuing to contact you. If they are having trouble letting go (or if you were always the type who didn't return phone calls or emails so they don't see anything unusual in that), then you could go either way - continue to ignore them and hope they get the hint, or tell them to stop and risk hurting their feelings (but their feelings will be hurt by silence too, so you might as well be direct).

If it's hourly personal messages to which you never respond, then you might want to read The Gift of Fear and shift to the strategies one uses with a stalker, rather than the normal etiquette one uses in regular social interactions.
posted by joannemerriam at 9:51 AM on May 10, 2006

If you have a new S.O. and the messages are awkward to recieve because of the new relationship, would it hurt to mention that, too?
posted by catkins at 12:11 PM on May 10, 2006

I second WCityMike's version. I was close but not quite as articulate when I had to cut off communication with a (former) friend/ex. Mine was "I think it's best if we don't talk anymore. I hope you understand, and I hope your life is filled with love and happiness." Was easier than I thought it was going to be, and it seems to have worked.

It's just the 2 years prior to that that were agonizing/frustrating...
posted by adamp88 at 2:14 PM on May 10, 2006

My eviction notice to my ex stated 'do not attempt to contact me'

When he did for a legitimate question, I answered the question then stated 'No further contact is necessary. That is all'

Nothing since, and god help me, there never will be.
posted by pieoverdone at 3:10 PM on May 10, 2006

What j-dawg said. Failing that (but you have to try and fail first), what unknowncommand said.
posted by eritain at 6:52 PM on May 10, 2006

Hm. I won one of these when I gave my ex a less than tasteful valentine's card on the Valentine's Day after she broke up with me in December. It hurt worse than anything that had ever happened in our relationship or anything than has happened in relationships since. It hurt like a bitch, mostly because I'd managed to distract myself from mentally dealing with the breakup. The "I don't care if you're alive or dead" example is very close to my very depressed thoughts at the time.

I think the advice here is very good. I just thought you'd want to hear the other side of it. If your ex has a history of depression then you need to factor that into your response. If they have a history of self-harm, then that's very, very important to consider.

As was mentioned above, stalkers and potential stalkers are an entirely different case.
posted by Skwirl at 1:51 PM on May 11, 2006

If the ex and their communications are benign, you might just compromise to say, "Let's limit our contact to once a month/year/decade/eon just to see how each others' doing."
posted by Skwirl at 2:09 PM on May 11, 2006

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