Home Advice & How-ToRelationships Breakup Etiquette: Should You Block Your Ex?
Home Advice & How-ToRelationships Breakup Etiquette: Should You Block Your Ex?

Breakup Etiquette: Should You Block Your Ex?

by Fred Decker

In an ideal world every breakup would be amicable.  You could even argue that in an ideal world relationships might always last!  The one we actually live in is definitely less than ideal, though, and breakups are one of life’s unpleasant realities. 

Breakups are almost always stressful, but some cross the line into downright nastiness.  This raises the question of whether (and when, and why, and how) you should block your ex.  There aren’t any easy answers — relationships are hard, even when they’re over — but we can offer some guidance. 

Should I Block My Ex? The Pros and Cons

Every situation is different, so you may need to take some time and think through the reasons why you should or should not block your ex.  If necessary, take a pad of paper and a pen and mark out a column each for pros and cons.  Your list will be unique to you, but a few potential reasons for blocking and not blocking are pretty predictable.  

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Reasons to Block: 

  • It’ll feel good.  Yes, that might be petty, but it’s no less real in the moment.  Besides, you can walk it back later if you feel the need (we’ll get to that). 
  • It gives you time to grieve the relationship.  It’s a loss, and — sooner or later — you’ll need to take time to process it. 
  • You’ll need healing.  Similarly, while the wound is fresh, every contact is likely to hurt.  Taking a little time for that to wear off is an investment in the future.  You may or may not ever be friends again, but you’ll be better able to deal fairly with each other after the rawness wears away. 
  • You still have “feelings.”  This is a tricky one.  Even if you’re the one who initiated the breakup, you may still be strongly attracted to your ex.  Blocking them is one way to make sure you don’t drunk-message them with scathing texts, booty calls or your sobbing heartbreak, all of which can be embarrassing the next day and might definitely complicate your life. 
  • You want to.  It’s perfectly valid to straight-up say, “I can’t deal with this/you right now.”  Self-care is always important, but especially when you’re hurting. 

Reasons to Not Block: 

  • It makes the practical details harder.  Even if you’re not dissolving a shared household, you’ll probably have left things behind in each others’ homes.  And what about that photo you loved that lives on your ex’s phone?  It’s easier to sort out that kind of thing if you’re still communicating. 
  • You lose a community.  How many of the people in your circle are part of your ex’s as well?  Often you can’t block your ex effectively without blocking them, too, and that might be a price you’re unwilling to pay.  It’s especially true if you and your ex both belong to a tight-knit community, whether that be the LGBTQ+ community, a fandom-based subculture, or you both work in the same industry or the same branch of academia (career-oriented social network LinkedIn is one platform where exes often don’t block each other). 
  • It’s unfair to friends, family and colleagues.  On a related note, blocking your ex may make your friends, family and coworkers feel forced to take sides.  In a normal breakup (one that doesn’t involve egregious misbehavior or outright criminality), you might decide not to put them in that position. 
  • There’s a custody issue involved.  If you’re co-parenting after a breakup, blocking your ex — and especially attempting to block your ex from communicating with your child — can put you on thin legal ice in a hurry.  Pet custody has less legal standing — we think of them as family, but they’re property under the law — but the courts are increasingly willing to consider their emotional role (especially when you’re going through a formal divorce).  Even when the courts aren’t involved, you may want to ask yourself, “Do I really want to be that person?”

If you’re having a hard time deciding whether to block or not block, it’s not just you: Even experts disagree.  Former advice columnist Amy Chan, author of “Breakup Bootcamp,” says you should always block an ex for at least 30 and ideally 60 days, while fellow columnist Anna Pulley — who cheerfully admits to a lot of trial and error in her own breakups — is open to a broader range of responses, which may or may not include blocking. 

Abusive, Threatening or Stalking Behavior

Most of the time your decision to block or not block is a judgment call, but there’s one circumstance that makes it an absolute no-brainer.  If your ex was abusive, or if you’ve been getting abusive or threatening calls and messages, or if your ex is stalking you, don’t even think about it.  Stop reading, and start blocking (okay, read to the part where we talk about how to block…but then go do it). 

Abusers are often very skilled at manipulating and gaslighting their partners (if your history together includes a million reasons why everything is your fault, extravagant claims of remorse and — empty — promises of reform, or scathing comments about how and why you’d never make it on your own, this is what we mean), so blocking your ex takes away a lot of potential vulnerabilities.  Not only does it cut those puppet strings, it denies your ex most of the easy ways to track your activities online.  You’ll probably also need to block his friends and family, lest they deliberately or accidentally pass along crucial information.

It may feel harsh, but it’s potentially a life-saving step. 

Blocking Your Ex across the Major Platforms

Once you’ve decided to block your ex, you still have to go through the process of actually doing it on every platform where you’re active.  We’ve already written about blocking someone’s phone number here on this blog, so let’s cut straight to the various social media sites.  To save you some Googling, here’s a list of the major platforms and their corresponding help pages. 

  • Facebook: The Privacy, Safety and Security page in Facebook’s Help Center will tell you how to unfriend or block someone, and also provides a lot of other options you might not be aware of (we’ll get to that).  
  • Instagram: On Instagram, you’ll want the Blocking People page.  One thoughtful detail: When you block someone from the Instagram app, it also blocks any new accounts they may create. 
  • Snapchat: The Snapchat support page on how to Remove and Block Friends includes a helpful reminder that your blocked ex will still be able to see any public posts, so you’ll probably want to tweak your privacy settings as well (a good idea for every platform, for the next little while). 
  • Twitter: Twitter’s corresponding help page includes a few useful cautions.  The biggest is that your ex can’t be blocked unless they’re logged in, and if they use a third-party app to view Twitter content they’re pretty much immune.  Also, if your ex decides to be vindictive and report your account to Twitter for whatever reason, they’ll automatically see any tweets that mention you, as part of the reporting process.
  • TikTok: TikTok’s Blocking Users page, like the process itself, is short and simple. 
  • Email: Blocking your ex on social media is pointless if they can just send you an email.  You can find instructions for blocking a sender on all of the major platforms at third-party help pages like this one.

A Few Further Steps

Depending how many channels you previously used to communicate with your ex, you may also need to block them on one or more messaging apps, or reach out to mutual friends and acquaintances and ask them to please, please, please not undermine your decision by acting as an intermediary. 

The very nature of social media can make it hard to escape your ex entirely, unless you take the drastic step of closing your accounts.  There are usually some extra steps you can take: On Facebook, for example, you can “take a break” from your ex and limit how much of each others’ content you see.  You can even create a list including your ex and all of his or her friends and family, and explicitly block them from seeing your otherwise-public posts. 

If your ex is really determined to maintain contact, you may need to take extra precautions against them opening new accounts or getting a new phone number for the express purpose of bypassing your defenses.  Spokeo’s people search tools can help with that: Just plug in your ex’s name, phone number and email address, and review the results to see what additional numbers, emails and social media “handles” are associated with them.  As a bonus, it’ll also show if that number that’s suddenly messaging you belongs to his mom or her BFF. 

Finding Your Level

It’s important to remember — especially if you’re feeling conflicted about it — that blocking your ex doesn’t necessarily need to be forever.  Unless things are really adversarial, you can even be up front about it (“I’m going to block you for 60 days…it’s not from spite, I just need some time to process it all…”). 

Be sure to emphasize that when (if) you unblock them at the end of that time, and potentially re-friend or re-follow them, that it doesn’t mean the door is open for a reunion.  It just means you’ve taken the time you needed, and you’re ready to get on with your life. 

At the end of the day, it’s all about you.  If you need to block your ex in order to get through the breakup, then do it without shame or guilt.  If you’re okay with maintaining limited contact, do that instead. Everybody grieves differently, everybody heals differently, and sometimes you need to put yourself first.  And that’s okay.