How to Respond to An Angry Ex

how-to-respond-to-an-angry-exIs your ex twisting something you say into something gross and evil? Accusing you of the most despicable, callous lies? Or worse, actually told you he/she is sorry that he/she ever had a relationship with you because you’re unworthy of his/her love?

How did it come to this? Why is he/she making everything sound or look worse than what it is? Your ex must surely know this is ridiculous. Is he/she doing this just to be intentionally cruel? Maybe he/she just used that as a way to end the relationship.

The “shock” from these accusations and lies even though they are vague and non-specific can hurt to the core. But probably the most hurtful part is being told that he/she is sorry that he/she ever met you or had a relationship with you because you’re unworthy of his/her love or that she/she is angry at him/herself for thinking you were better than you really are. It can hit hard at your self-confidence and self-esteem and cause your emotions to fluctuate from one moment loving your ex and the next hating him/her.

If this has ever happened to you or is happening to you right now, first things first.

1) It doesn’t matter if he/she dumped you or if you dumped him/her, be the bigger person.

It’s tempting to take this opportunity to let out everything you’ve been keeping inside or try to force your ex to somehow admit that he/she is wrong. It doesn’t work. When you’re dealing with a hurt or angry ex, you’re not dealing with reason or logic, you’re dealing with emotions – and emotion is a very powerful force. The best thing to do is let it play out. If you have the emotional fortitude of the Dalai Lama or some other “enlightened soul” then just sit it out and let him/her talk, rave, cry and curse – whatever.  Say nothing.

Alternatively just distance yourself from the “emotions” for a while. Leave the room or tell him or her you’re not in position to talk and would prefer to talk about it later, then excuse yourself.

Bottom line: don’t return hurt with hurt or anger with anger, it gets you nowhere really fast.

2) Return to the scene of the “crime” and take charge of the situation

This is probably the hardest part especially if you love your ex and are hoping to get back together at some point. Pretending like “nothing happened” is only postponing the problem and may get to a point where things are “beyond repair”.

So again, be the bigger person and take the bull by the horns. This does not mean “confront” your ex, which is most people’s mindset. In fact get rid of the word “confront” from your vocabulary because “confrontation” only means one thing: “there is a winner and a loser” – and in this case, the “loser” is most likely going to be you. You may win the “confrontation” but lose your ex – forever.

If winning (and hopefully redeeming your ego) is most important to you, then by all means unleash the power of reason. But if getting back your ex (and your own happiness) is more important to you than “being right”, then it’s vital that you change your attitude, words and behavior from adversarial to cooperative. In other words, don’t adopt the other person’s hurt, anger and hostility, try to understand their behaviour, and treat them like a partner and not an enemy or opponent.

1) Communicate assertively whether by text, email, phone call or face to face.  Assertively is not the same thing as aggressively or domineeringly (I explain the difference in another article). If possible, face to face communication works best because you’re more believable and will be taken more seriously when someone is looking at you. If you find yourself wanting to hide behind your phone or computer because it’s “easier” to say things on text and email that you would never say in person, then you’re not communicating assertively. Your lack of self confidence often plays to your disadvantage.

2) Acknowledge the problem (whatever it is) as a joint problem and take responsibility for your part in making it a problem.

3) Emphasize the positive and extend forgiveness whether an apology is offered or not.

4) Seek common ground and offer constructive resolutions that satisfy both of your concerns.

Bottom line: more effective communication, open and friendly attitude, a sense of mutuality and a willingness to see things from the other’s point of view (right or wrong) gets you far anytime.

With a simple change in attitude and perspective, your experience with a difficult, hostile or angry or emotionally hurt ex can change from a situation that is happening to you to a possibly enriching learning experience.  But of course if you’re afraid that your ex will take advantage of your “good heart” or conciliatory attitude, then you have bigger problems than just the lies, accusations and exaggerations. It may just be that the two of you shouldn’t be together at all. Sometimes you just “know” in your gut when something isn’t right but like most of us, we don’t want to accept it and just keep creating our own misery.

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17 Comments

  • My ex is very angry and honestly I have no idea why. She broke up with me over a small argument and accused me of emotionally abusing her which is not true. She is passive aggressive and only brings things up weeks or months after the fact. During the break-up she accused me to things that happened so long ago and some I don’t remember. I love her and want her back but wonder if it’s even worth trying.

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    • I can’t tell you if it’s worth trying or not. You are the only one that can determine that.

      She may have good reason for being angry, or as you say, she may just be passive aggressive. May be instead of being defensive or dismissing it as her passive-aggressive nature, hear her out. Listen to what she’s angry about, ask questions and try to come to some form of genuine understanding, both ways. The more defensive you are, the angrier she gets.

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  • I have gone through all sorts of emotions. While I can understand that people can “fall out of love”, I was always under the assumption that if two people wanted to make it work they could always do it. But if someone doesn’t WANT to put the effort into a relationship, then why on earth would she get into a relationship in the first place?

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    • May be it is indeed over, or may be it’s your attitude and the way you are approaching this that is creating more resistance.

      In my experience, most situations are not what many of us make them out to be. They are made worse by our constantly dwelling on what we think is “the problem”. Usually that “problem” is something we can’t change because we have no control over it.

      All you can change is what’s within your control. Get hold of your emotions, change the attitude, approach things differently, and see what happens.

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    • Allow yourself to really FEEL without trying to rationalize away, minimize, suppress, avoid or manipulate the emotions. It will feel like you are hurting more, and you may even feel so overwhelmed to a point that you think you are losing it. But you got to let the pain out to let it go. It’s really worth it in the end.

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  • My ex broke up with me about two months ago. After 3 weeks of no contact, I sent him a text “hi, can we talk. I have some things I’d rather say face to face.” He responded’ “whatever you want to tell me, you can text”. I texted him that it was important to take in person, he did not respond. After 2 days I texted him again, “if you don’t want nothing to do with me, then just say so and I’ll leave you alone”. He texted back immediately, “Please, and thank you”. I texted back “Fine. I’ll leave you alone, I don’t want anything to do with you too.”

    I still love him very much and want him back. Do you think he is acting like this because he still has feelings for me but doesn’t want to admit it?

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    • That’s just one possibility. There are other possibilities:

      1) He’s reacting to you disappearing for 3 weeks then reappear expecting him to be excited you contacted him
      2) He is really over you and wants nothing to do with you. But that’s had to tell now because you gave him the way out by suggesting he wanted nothing to do with you.

      Saying “I don’t want anything to do with you too” to someone you still love and want back is self-sabotage. It may have hurt your chances.

      If you want this to work, or any other future relationship you will have, please stop the mind games. Work on your insecurities so that you do not have to hide behind some ploy or when things don’t go your way, react in ways that hurt your chances.

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  • I just have never had someone be so mean to me for no reason at all, or much worse go from loving and caring to mean and hurtful. No one cheated on anyone and it wasn’t a dramatic breakup. I just don’t get it.

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  • My ex was my best friend for a year before we became more than friends. We were together for almost 2 years. Since the breakup she’s has become very mean-spirited and rude. I know her too well, and this is not like her. She’s the most loving and kind person I know, that’s why I just don’t understand why she’s like this to me. She seems to get meanier and say very hurtful things when I tell her how much I still love her and care about her. I still love her Yangki, and want her back.

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    • If as you say she’s generally a loving and kind person, it is possible that she’s that way because to her, it’s the only way to get you to get over her. May be she thinks it’ll be easier for you to walk away if you think she’s a mean person.

      I don’t know much about your relationship to say this is for a fact. There could be other explanations for her behaviour.

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  • Yangki, I can attest that this is by far the best relationship advice blog on the internet. When my ex and I broke up I wanted him back but he said because there was a lot of shouting and fighting in the relationship, we were bad for each other. I used your advice and did a lot of work on myself. When I did not respond with hostility as before then neither did he. Slowly he started to come around and yesterday we got back together. Just wanted to say thank you for your thoughtful and wise counsel.

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    • I’m so happy for you. Even if it is only one person who stands in a place of behaving from a place of love we affect the outcome. Sometimes what one sees as the end of a relationship can be its true beginning.

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  • My ex says she still loves me but every time we have a conversation all she talks about are my flaws. How can you say you love someone and list everything that’s wrong with that person at the same time?

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    • Unfortunately some people are “programmed” like that from childhood. I’ve found that with such people some of them “feel bad” about it when you point out what they’re doing and others just “don’t care”. I think that those who “feel bad” are not doing it intentionally and so look at their actions as opposed to their words. Are their actions of someone who “loves you?” If so, then “talking about your flaws” is something you have to live with if you want to be with this person – and if she’s willing to “change” then even better.

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