A decade ago, if you broke up with a guy, or needed to avoid him, it would probably be a matter of chance as to whether or not you’d bump into him somewhere. Maybe you’d say an awkward hello and walk the other way. All in all, it was pretty straightforward. Go where he doesn’t. Live your life. The end.

Now, it’s not about chance. It’s about choices. Tons and tons of choices.

The social media fiasco of “should we stay friends with our exes or not” is complicated. I spent years feeling unsure of what I should do. When you’re a caring, Christ-following woman and you’re dealing with relationships that were once so close and important, it’s hard to think of any other option than staying friends. It’s hard to be a nice girl and still have firm boundaries. Married or single, it just is.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat—there are plenty of ways to connect with (or simply observe) an ex in trivial ways. And as harmless as it may seem, it may actually be doing you a world of hurt to stay in contact with that boy you crushed on all through college. As a matter of fact, in 2011, lawyers polled said Facebook was the third leading cause of divorce in the cases they worked on. People connecting with their old flames or meeting someone new on Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild was the third leading cause of divorce.

Nice Girls

A few years ago I encountered a man (at a 20somethings ministry at my church, of all places) who didn’t have good boundaries. I was seeing someone else at the time, but this guy would still make borderline inappropriate comments to me, ask if he could see me in private, and message me on Facebook. I distinctly remember a weekend trip to Minnesota when I told my friend Sarah about him, torn up and wondering how on earth I was going to deal with this in a good “Christian” way. She took my computer out of my lap, clicked a few buttons, and handed it back to me.

“There,” she said.

“What? What did you do? Did you tell him to stop? Were you nice?”

“Nope. I blocked him. Ashley, you don’t have to be nice all the time. You don’t have time for that. Once he realizes you’ve blocked him, he’ll get the picture at church.”

By helping me rip off that Band-Aid, Sarah had introduced me to the beauty of blocking.

The Beauty of Blocking

If you are married, if you’re committed to someone, if you know that ex-boyfriend was unhealthy, if it wasn’t a God-honoring relationship, if you ever felt unsafe or abused, if you can’t get over someone and you don’t know why, it might just be time to rip off that Band-Aid and take away the temptation of contact. It’s time to stop looking at his profile, reading his tweets, or following his Instagram. Heck, it might be time to block him from your phone. Actually, it might be best to block him altogether—that’s what I call removing yourself from temptation.

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Worried that it’s going to make you seem mean and heartless?

It might. But that’s a small price to pay to protect your ability to move forward in a healthy way. God is calling you forward, not backward.

I’m being harsh, I know. But I know sometimes it takes a helpful nudge to move forward, and this concept has set me free—and it’s kept me more emotionally and spiritually safe. Often we can’t control when temptation enters into our lives. But this we can control. Cutting ties is about protecting ourselves from the temptations we can control. It’s a way of respecting yourself and respecting your future.

If you’re single and you’re reading this, you might think I’m crazy. You might think it’s good to stay friends with exes on Facebook after you’ve broken up or moved on. You may even see it as somewhat of a safety net, just in case, down the line, you’re single, and he’s single . . . you know the drill.

But if you can’t remove that person from your life after you’ve broken up for good, there will be no room for someone new. And doing that unfriending or blocking once you’re in the new relationship? Well, I’ve been there, and it made me wonder if I was doing it for me or for my new boyfriend. It made me bitter.

See Joseph Run

In Genesis 39, Potiphar’s wife is trying to get Joseph to sleep with her, because apparently he was the McDreamy of the Old Testament and all the girls thought he was hot stuff. What I love about this passage is that in the face of her advances, Joseph doesn’t give a second thought to being nice. Instead, he doesn’t even try to save his cloak (he’s constantly put in situations where he’s losing his coats, poor guy) and runs away from her as quickly as possible, knowing he’d make her sad, mad, or both.

Joseph wasn’t an idiot—he knew this woman had the power to affect his professional life as well as his personal one. She was his boss’s wife, after all. But what I admire so deeply about Joseph is that regardless of any feelings, professional or private, he had, he put his purity, his integrity, and his obedience to God ahead of all else. He ran out of her bedroom in his Skivvies, only to be falsely accused of attempted rape. He was fired. He went to prison. He lost everything, once again. But he was obedient, and he protected himself from a woman who was not his to have.

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Protecting the Marriage You Want

It’s easy to compare your husband at his worst (when he smells bad and he’s crabby and he forgot to buy that thing at the store that you needed) with that sweet ex-boyfriend whose Facebook is telling you he just moved to India to work with orphaned children. Or whose Twitter account is reminding you of how very hilarious and godly he is. Social media is the easiest way to present people with the best versions of themselves, and whether or not you know it, that comparison can seep into your marriage and suck out your joy. It’s poison.

I recently got married, and as I’ve grown in this relationship and its responsibility, I’ve had to really reassess my social network activity. For a while, there were a few exes I still needed to completely cut out from my media world. I hadn’t done so yet because I always thought staying social media pals with them was a neutral decision. They weren’t a threat to me at that moment, so I assumed they never would be. But I’ve had to ask myself: Are these friendships benefitting my marriage? Are they healthy in the long run?

The answers, for me, were no. And even though they may never have come back to haunt me, I didn’t want to take that chance. Sometimes making these tough choices is the best way we can help ourselves.

While not all Facebook friendships with old flames lead to affairs, the concept of running away from temptation instead of allowing it to remain at your fingertips is a good one. It’s a biblical one, even. If you’re married, protect the marriage you’re in. If you’re single, it’s about protecting the marriage you want. Not interested in getting married? Well then give yourself permission to live the single life with a little less baggage.

It’s time.