If “I’m scared of my ex” is a recurring thought that you have, there are probably reasons why. There are also ways to cope and keep yourself safe.

Sometimes relationships don’t end well, leaving unresolved feelings.

If a person exhibits traits like aggression and a need for control, the end of a relationship may prompt them to act out to regain some of their power.

If this sounds like your ex, you may have good reason to be concerned. But you’re not alone. Support is available to help you take the necessary steps toward safety.

Quick exit

Press the “Quick exit” button at any time if you need to quickly exit this page. The button can be found at the end of multiple sections. You’ll be taken to Psych Central’s landing page instead.

Alternatively, if you’re on a computer with an external keyboard and you want to quickly close this tab, try using the following keyboard shortcuts:

  • Windows or Linux: Ctrl + W or Ctrl + F4
  • Mac: ⌘ + W

For more tips on safety plans and safer browsing, consider visiting the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Was this helpful?

Protecting yourself from an ex who scares you involves support, awareness, and planning.

Seek support

If you’re scared of your ex, sharing your feelings with the people in your life can connect you to a network of support.

According to research from 2023, most survivors of domestic violence don’t seek help. You might be experiencing shame about your situation and want to keep your fears to yourself, or you may wonder what anyone could do to help.

It’s important to remember that the situation you’re in is not a reflection of you. It’s not your fault.

Whether it’s a co-worker walking you to your car after work or a friend checking in on you over the weekend, having people in your life aware of your situation can increase your safety and help ease your stress.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a strong social support network as a protective factor against intimate partner violence.

Assess your risk

The CDC lists numerous risk factors for intimate partner violence. If your ex demonstrates any of these characteristics, they may be more likely to cause a problem after your relationship has ended.

Some of the risk factors include:

Some of these traits may be the reason your relationship ended. It’s as important now to maintain your boundaries to help you avoid being manipulated or pressured into situations you’re not comfortable with.

If you feel unsafe at any point, relocate to a place where you’re not alone, such as a friend’s house or a police station.

Watch for signs of stalking

According to the CDC, 1 in 3 women and 1 out of every 6 men are the recipients of stalking victimization at some point in their lives. Current or former intimate partners account for 43% of stalking done to women and 32% of stalking done to men.

Signs of stalking include:

  • persistent attempts to contact you or participate in your life
  • notifications that someone has tried to change your password
  • mail that has been opened and resealed
  • signs that someone has been in your home while you were out
  • repeated sightings of a person or their car

A 2020 study examining stalking gender and victim-stalker relationships found that about half of the females who experienced stalking by someone else were assaulted by ex-partner stalkers.

If you suspect that your ex may be stalking you, there are a few things you can do.

  • keep a record of evidence, such as text screenshots and photographs
  • ensure your car and home are always locked and secure
  • install alarms, cameras, and deadbolts
  • tell people you trust and those who need to know, such as the staff at your children’s school
  • change all your passwords
  • change your social media accounts to private
  • familiarise yourself with laws against cyberstalking
  • get a new phone number and keep it unlisted

Create a safety plan

A safety plan is a set of strategies for staying safe and a blueprint for responding to a crisis.

Your safety plan might include:

  • the use of a code word to tell friends or family that you need help
  • arrangements with the people in your life to accompany you to places so you’re never alone
  • a place you can go at any hour if you’re no longer safe at home
  • protective tools like a keychain alarm
  • regular check-ins with family and friends

You might also find that taking self-defense lessons and improving your fitness level increases your confidence and eases some of your anxiety.

When a safe relationship ends amicably or peacefully, you might still experience some discomfort when you encounter your ex. In this case, you’re likely not afraid of the person or concerned for your safety. Instead, you might feel a little unsettled about revisiting the past and the reasons you parted ways.

However, if your ex exhibits risk factors for intimate partner violence, your intuition might be telling you to be careful.

Even if there were no physical altercations in the relationship, emotional abuse may have left an impact. You might fear the way your ex makes you feel about yourself.

Or you might experience heightened anxiety wondering if the destabilizing effect of the breakup might cause things to escalate and become physical.

How to Seek Help

If you want support or need to involve law enforcement, there are services available:

Was this helpful?

Sometimes, when relationships end, the problems don’t.

If you’re scared of your ex and concerned for your safety, steps to take include:

  • seeking support
  • tracking evidence of threats to your well-being
  • creating a safety plan

You can also access online or telephone support, take legal action, and call 911 if there is an immediate threat to your safety.