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Updated 04 March 2014

You and your ex

It's all over and you're feeling terrible. But, for your own sake, what are the things you should never do to an ex?

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You were together for quite a while, and then the crunch came. There were tears and fights all round and then things went all silent on you.

Separating or divorcing is a dangerous time in anyone's life.. No one likes being dumped and either we go on the rebound, we get over it, or we revisit the scene of the crime. Your heart is broken, but how you behave now, could have a huge effect on the future – and whether you ever get back together again (that's if you want to).

"People want to dish out some of the hurt they're feeling," says Ilse Terblanche, Cape Town psychologist. "It is also quite painful when your ex moves on, finds someone else and is obviously happy. This makes people feel worthless and hurt, and they often seek ways of sabotaging the new-found happiness of their ex."

But, whatever you do, always choose the road of dignity. Should you smash in his windscreen, or punch his new girlfriend, your reputation could follow you around for years.

Here are nine things you should never do after a breakup.

Destroy his/her possessions. The temptation is great to smash the CDs and make a bonfire of all the jerseys and underwear that are still at your flat. And to chuck his potplant off the balcony or deliberately go and scratch his car. You're angry and his possessions represent him. And you've dreamt for the third night in a row that you pushed him off a building. But just don't go there – it's only going to make you look childish and petulant. Put everything in a box, and give it to one of your friends to deliver.

Phone all the time. Especially if you've been dumped, don't touch the phone. Try and leave the scene with some dignity – and it's difficult to do if you're sending thousands of SMSs and pestering him by leaving endless traces of missed calls. Making a nuisance of yourself will only make your ex be happy about his decision to hit the road. Don't give him that satisfaction. If he wants to speak to you, he'll phone. You just leave it alone. Gnash your teeth, but do it in private, or with friends who are on your side. And if you've done the dumping, give him time to lick his wounds.

Alienate his/her family. If you liked his family, they probably liked you too. But remember that blood is thicker than water. Even if he dumped you for a 19-year-old bimbo, and they are unhappy with it, they will stand by him in the long run. Don't expect too much sympathy from these quarters, and above all, don't do anything, which can make them think that he did the right thing by dumping you. Behave with dignity, and years down the line, they'll still be sad he didn't marry you. Keep it that way.

Become a stalker. Where is he, what is he doing, and, above all, who is he with? These questions plague us shortly after a break-up. But, whatever you do, don't set about finding out. Following him around, hanging about outside his flat, waiting for him outside work – all of these just make you look psycho and extremely desperate. And just think about it, if you go to his flat to see if he's there, how does finding this out benefit you in any way? If he is, you feel bad, because he doesn't phone you, and if he isn't, you just wonder where he could be, and with whom – back to square one. Don't go down this road, as it could lead to a court interdict, among other things.

Make trouble at work. This is a vulnerable spot for most people. Everyone tries to present a professional image at work, and it is very difficult to maintain that if a deranged ex is hanging about, or even worse, is telling stories to the boss. Don't do this to yourself. Once again, it will only make you look weird, and will make all his colleagues think he did the right thing by getting rid of you.

Have a rebound relationship. On the rebound, we tend to go for rough diamonds, or more succinctly put, rough, but no diamond. Rebound one-night stands have a horrible way of developing into something more, as your ego is hurt, and you think that sporting an engagement ring is a good way of getting back at your ex. The saying "Marry in haste, repent at leisure" has been around for centuries, for a reason. Take at least a year before you make any big decisions.

Tell him you never loved him. This always just makes you look silly and childish. If you never loved him, why were you together then? This is a sort of last-ditch effort to hurt someone (as is telling him and other people he was no good in bed) and it looks as if you'll do anything to dish out some of the hurt you're feeling. This makes you look both immature and dishonest.

Spread stories to friends. Speak to a counsellor, or to one trusted friend, but the last thing you should be doing is telling everyone who is anywhere in your vicinity what a lousy person your ex was. The more horrible things you say about him, the more odd it looks that you chose to spend any time with him. And it just makes you look bitter and twisted – especially if the stories are not true. Or, for that matter, even if they are. Leave him to his own devices – if he's a lowdown scumbag, everyone will find that out for themselves sooner or later.

Sleep with your ex.This is always a big temptation, but it's always a mistake. All it does is rekindle hope where there is none. You're just breaking your heart all over again. And above all, how will it make you feel if you find out he's been sleeping with someone else as well?

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated January 2011, March 2014)

 
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