Murphy’s: Stop Texting Your Ex

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Dear Stacy:
I can’t stop texting my ex. I know I need to stop, but I have a lot of questions about how things ended and I am not getting the answers I need (or maybe that I want to hear). I have tried to stop many times, even asked my ex to block my number, but I still keep going back to it. I know it’s making it harder to get over the relationship.
-Texting Mess

Dear Texting:
First, you are not alone. This is actually a topic that comes up a lot in my office. I am impressed that you are the one asking for help to make this stop rather than shifting the focus onto how Ex has wronged you and using that as justification for your actions. You can get better but it may not be easy.

This is harassment and it could have legal repercussions. I checked in with local attorney Regina DeMeo and she explains that while it could be difficult for Ex to obtain a restraining order based on compulsive texting alone, you need to tread lightly here. “Any legal action involving an adult is part of the public record, and when companies or credit bureaus do background checks on people, orders entered against someone can harm their chances of employment and damage credit scores,” she says. “If you have a Protective Order entered against you, it can jeopardize your security clearance and your right to own a gun. In addition, it can definitely impact a person’s right in child custody cases.”

Beyond the legal issues, I am concerned about your emotional wellbeing. It sounds like your efforts to understand the breakup have taken up the space that the relationship used to fill. In other words, rather than get over Ex you have just renegotiated a new kind of coupling based on compulsive texting. Compulsive behavior – in whatever form – is hard on the body and mind. True, yours may be rooted in the pursuit of answers to a legitimate question but this has morphed into something else. When we act compulsively it is because we are seeking a release for anxiety. But if the compulsion is also injurious (e.g. it robs us of our self-respect or puts us at risk of legal action) it becomes part of a continuous loop of self-harm.

For you, I recommend more self care, and absolutely no more preventable self-harm. But it is up to you to decide whether or not it’s time to change things. The good news is that you have help on this path. This isn’t just about willpower – a losing bet on its own – it’s about building new skills and trying new routines. Block Ex’s number from your phone today and then buy a book about compulsive behavior or look into finding a therapist who can help you map this new territory.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. This column should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to stacymurphyLPC@gmail.com.

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