Ask a Therapist: My Mom Won't Stop Talking to My Ex-Boyfriend

You can't control what others do, but you can set healthy boundaries

Ask a therapist

Verywell / Catherine Song

In the “Ask a Therapist” series, I’ll be answering your questions about all things mental health and psychology. Whether you are struggling with a mental health condition, coping with anxiety about a life situation, or simply looking for a therapist's insight, submit a question. Look out for my answers to your questions every Friday in the Healthy Mind newsletter.

Our Reader Asks

My mom refuses to stop talking to my ex-boyfriend even though it hurts my feelings and makes me uncomfortable. What do I do?

Amy's Answer

You can’t force your mom to stop talking to your ex. But, you can set some boundaries with her. Take steps to address the issue with your mom. If she doesn’t respect your wishes, you may need to set some firm limits with her.

Grieve the End of the Relationship

The end of any relationship creates grief. And it’s hard to go through that grieving process when you’re experiencing ongoing contact—or even third-party contact—with the individual.

Your mother might not understand that you need to take a break from having contact with your ex in order to heal. It’s up to you to decide whether you are able to have contact at a time down the road. But initially, you may need to separate yourself completely to give your heart a chance to heal.

Your mom might not understand this. So a good place to start is by holding a conversation with her. Even if you’ve talked about it before, she may need to hear this again.

Talk About Your Feelings

Although your relationship with your boyfriend ended, clearly your mom doesn’t want to end her relationship with him. If she stops talking to him, she might feel sad and miss him. So in an effort to avoid her own grief, she’s choosing to continue to communicate. Unfortunately, this is increasing your pain.

Hold an open conversation with your mom about your feelings. Explain that you’re having a hard time with the fact that she keeps talking to your ex.

Keep in mind, she can’t argue with how you feel. So when you say, “I feel sad that he is still getting information about me,” you’re giving her the facts.

Saying, “When you talk to my ex-boyfriend, it prolongs my pain,” is much different than saying, “Stop talking to my ex.” Your mom might be more willing to stop talking to him when she realizes that it’s hurtful to you.

Acknowledge your mom’s feelings too. She might consider your ex-boyfriend a friend or even a family member so cutting him out altogether might feel painful for her.

While you might be tempted to say something like, “If you think this is hard for you, imagine how tough this is for me!” But, minimizing her pain will only create a bigger divide between the two of you. Try validating her feelings and saying something like, “I know this must be hard for you, too.”

When she realizes that you understand this will be painful for her too, she might be more open to making changes.

Get Specific About Why You’re Uncomfortable

Is your mom giving your ex-boyfriend regular updates about your life that you don’t want him to know? Is she giving you information about him now? If those are the kinds of problems you are experiencing, you can set some healthy boundaries.

Or, are you uncomfortable that they still communicate in general? That’s okay if you feel that way. It’s tougher to set a boundary, however, as you can’t control who your mother communicates with.

Understanding why the situation causes you discomfort is important. And it can help you decide how to proceed.

Establish Healthy Boundaries

If your mother insists on continuing contact with your ex, establish some boundaries with her. You could ask your mother not to share with him information about your life. You could also ask her not to tell you anything about what your ex-boyfriend is doing now. Of course, you are likely the glue that holds them together so outside of talking about you, they might not have much to say.

You also can’t really control the information that goes to him. If he’s curious about your life and wants the latest updates on you, he’ll likely find a way to do it.

But you can control what information you take in. If your mother tries to talk about him, you can say, “I don’t want to hear about that,” and change the subject. If she insists, end the conversation.

If your situation is serious, you may need to take more drastic steps. For example, if your relationship with your ex included domestic violence, you may have some real safety concerns about his ongoing communication with your mom.

In a case like that, you may need to stop communicating with your mother altogether so she doesn’t give him information about what you’re doing now.

Press Play for Advice On Influencing Someone's Behavior

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares that while you can't make anyone else change their behaviors or habits, you can certainly influence positive change in your loved ones. Click below to listen now.

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Get Help If You Need It

You might find that it's helpful to consult with a mental health professional about your situation, especially if you want to maintain some kind of relationship with your mother.

However, remember that you are entitled to limit or end communication if she isn't respecting your boundaries. You're entitled to initiate the conversation and take further steps as needed.

By Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.