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Sometimes it’s not the boyfriend that’s hard to say goodbye to, or the consistent sex, or the person you could text all day long. Sometimes it’s his family. As a good girlfriend, you integrated yourself into your now-ex’s family. You learned about them, let them learn about you, made yourself helpful, accepted their help, maybe even traveled with them and were privy to some of their most intimate moments and issues. They became your family, and family is a hard thing to let go of. But you have to if you’re going to take care of the most important person: yourself. Here’s how.

Cut off all communication

You don’t need the family’s thoughts on the breakup influencing your actions. And if you give them your audience, they’ll give you those thoughts. Sometimes, just having the ex’s mom tell you how special you are will make you forget how unappreciative the actual ex was of you, and will have you considering taking him back! But the love needs to come from the man, first and foremost. His family is just an added perk.

Cease social media

Social media is nothing but a source of pain after a breakup. Any time you see any of your ex’s family check-in somewhere, you’ll wonder if the ex is there too. Not to mention the family photos posted. Unfriend/unfollow his family. At least, for now.

If you remain friendly later, set boundaries

Can you handle his mom raving about your ex’s new girlfriend? Or even complaining about her? It’s okay if you can’t, but let her know right out of the gate that you don’t want to hear about your old boyfriend’s new girlfriends.

Hide the gifts

Your ex’s family gave you some great, thoughtful, useful gifts. You use that pasta maker almost every week! Too bad. Buy the boxed variety for a little while. Any reminders of what a positive force the ex’s family was in your life might confuse you, making you believe he was a positive force. But obviously he wasn’t, or else you’d still be together.

Find new connections

Your ex’s family came along with a whole new network of connections. His mom and dad were constantly putting you in touch with people who could help you in your career, or friends you could stay with while traveling, or even a hairdresser who’d give you a great discount. But using those connections is not worth still being emotionally tied to an ex. Suck it up, go to networking events, think of other friends who can help you and let go of your ex’s family’s network.

Be prepared for the same treatment

Even if his family loved you, blood will always be thicker than water. If your ex tells his mom that it pains him even knowing the two of you talk, you may wake up to find one day that she has unfriended you on Facebook.

Do not use them to get back with your ex

Family can be a powerful influence. You could possibly go to your ex and say, “Your mother said that you were wrong in all these ways and that I am great in all these ways and you’re really missing out” and the ex could give into pressure, and try to get back together. But it’s up to your ex to appreciate you, all on his own. His mom won’t be sitting on his shoulders throughout your relationship. She may be wise, but he somehow hasn’t picked up on that wisdom. It’s too bad. Move along.

You can send a thank you, but keep it brief

If you were together with the ex for a long time, his family may have treated you to vacations, cooked you countless dinners, bought you presents and been plain generous with you overall. Disappearing without so much as a thank you will feel rude. Feel free to send a short text or email (a phone call will get long and sticky) simply thanking them for all they did for you, and wishing them the best. But don’t engage in a long exchange.

Holiday cards are inappropriate…for now

Trust me: his family will not be thinking, “How rude!” if they don’t receive a Christmas card from you. They understand that ties had to be cut, and that seeing that card lined up on the piano will only hurt or upset your ex. Give up your pride and your need to be liked for now, and withhold the cards.

Start calling your own mom more

The toughest bond to break is usually with the ex’s mom—especially if she lived in the same town as you, and your own mother does not. But it’s time to start leaning more on your own mom. Call her each time you have the urge to call the ex’s mom. Or at least find someone else you can call. It’s healthy to have a mother figure around, just not your ex’s mother.

Find a new grocery store

Just as you do to avoid your ex, find a new grocery store/post office/dog park etc. to avoid your ex’s family. Don’t play the, “Oh darn…I guess I’ll just have to see them because I have to get my kale from this particular store.” No you don’t. Going a little out of your way to avoid contact will go a long way in your emotional healing.

Don’t ask how the ex is doing

If you do run into the ex’s family, be pleasant, but do not ask how your ex is doing. You’ll only make the family uncomfortable as they try to formulate an answer that won’t make you sad/suspicious, and you’ll drive yourself crazy because any answer they give you will make you sad/suspicious.

Explain it’s not personal

If you feel the need to, explain to your ex’s family that your disconnecting is not personal, and that it just causes you pain to see them because they recall memories of the ex. Even if they say they don’t find seeing you painful, respect that but explain you have your own feelings on the matter.

Take responsibility

You may be tempted to say that your ex is forbidding you to speak to his family, but that will only cause conflict within the family, and if the lie comes out, you’ll be left in a worse light.

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