How To Talk To Your Ex After A Breakup
For many people, the end of a romantic connection can be painful and cause symptoms of grief, and affect mental health. While you might not know how to talk to your ex, you and your ex may seek time to process your emotions. Feeling a mix of conflicting emotions and desires can be natural as you process a loss.
In some cases, talking to your ex about your breakup may give you a sense of closure or help you establish healthy guidelines for your future relationship. The following strategies may be beneficial if you're looking to not avoid talking and wondering how to check in with your ex after a breakup.
The first talk after a breakup
After a breakup, talking to your ex may occur at some point. You might belong to the same friend group, attend the same school, work in the same office, or have belongings or children together. Exes may sometimes meet up to distribute belongings, discuss future dynamics, or return items from the relationship.
Whatever your situation, navigating the first talk after your breakup may cause mixed emotions, and they might not feel pleasant. You may feel sadness, confusion, anger, relief, or grief. Before reaching out to your ex, check in with yourself, process these emotions internally or externally, and talk with trusted friends or loved ones. It could be beneficial to allow some time to pass before initiating the first discussion with an ex-partner.
When you feel ready for this conversation, check in with your ex-partner to confirm if they're also ready. You may have different goals for the aftermath of your relationship. Ultimately, respect your partner's boundaries if they ask for distance. Additionally, consider discussing the following if you initiate a conversation after the breakup.
Rules and boundaries
When figuring out how to talk to an ex, try to be clear about your boundaries and discuss when and why you'll need to maintain contact in the future. If you're co-parenting, for instance, you may implement a rule about calling your ex at the child's bedtime so that both parents can say goodnight. These rules should be respected by both parties; for example, calling to say goodnight when the kids went to bed an hour and a half ago is not within the boundaries of the agreed-upon contact period. Ultimately, your game plan can be unique to your situation and emotional needs. Other common boundaries for an effective strategy might include the following:
Have a no contact rule for a month or two
Asking for your furniture, clothes, or items back
Letting them know not to show up at your house
Advising them that you might block them on social media for some time
Letting them know if you're open to friendship or not
Asking your ex not to contact your family (unless they are both your children)
Asking them to keep new relationships to themselves
Friendship after romance may not happen for everyone, but some individuals might desire reconnection. In the LGBTQ community, for instance, studies show people may be more likely to keep in contact with exes. They might also be more likely to express satisfaction with those friendships than heterosexual individuals.
Ultimately, your ability to remain friends can depend on your emotional needs, identities, and communities, which may shape the likelihood of running into an ex or deciding to be friends. Some exes might not feel comfortable being friends because one or both still have romantic feelings, the breakup wasn't mutual, or they had bad experiences in a past relationship.
The first post-breakup discussion may be influenced by your history together and goals for the relationship. Whether you'd ultimately like to be friends, amicable co-parents, or cut ties entirely, establishing these guidelines and boundaries can prepare you both for the next stage.
Other tips for how to talk to an ex
For many people, the first time talking to an ex may not be the final encounter. After establishing healthy boundaries for your post-breakup relationship, you may continue to connect over time and, in some cases, sustain a friendship or get back together.
Remember these tips for your situation before reaching out to an ex-partner so you can heal from the relationship.
Take time to process the relationship
Try to do the "work" of reflecting on and ultimately healing from any old wounds that may have developed during your relationship. You may not want to try jumping into a friendship if the breakup happened less than a month ago.
Research indicates that the more energy you invest in processing and amicably dissolving a romantic relationship, the more satisfied you may feel with its ending, and the more likely you may remain friends.
When you decide to talk to an ex, it may be necessary for both people to discuss their reflections on how the relationship ended and clearly express past hurts and feelings. Try to use active listening to understand where they’re coming from; clarity can be critical. Rather than ignoring past issues or insisting that they don't matter, clearly explain how an ex's past actions affected you to help you reflect, apologize, and potentially move on.
Determine how (and if) you'll stay in touch
You may wonder, "Should I talk to my ex after a breakup?". Depending on how you and your ex used to communicate, you may decide to limit your contact to texts, phone calls, or in-person meetups only. In the first few months after a breakup, you might opt for a combination of these outlets or no contact. This can be important to consider if either of you still has strong feelings.
For some, texting an ex can feel tempting. It is often quick, available, and more distant than a phone call or in-person conversation. When it comes to texting an ex, consider the following:
Try not to text unless you intend to benefit both parties. Think about whether it might cross your ex's boundaries or how they might feel hearing from you.
Consider keeping your texts and other communication open but clear, simple, and focused on setting dates and times for further discussion, if desired. Also, consider telling a funny story about some positive memories and keeping things light and friendly.
Try not to text or call if your ex is starting a new relationship. Depending on your friendship status with an ex, this rule might vary. However, try to be mindful of your ex's autonomy to pursue new relationships, be wary of always asking for more detail in the post-breakup stage, and avoid telling them you miss them or trying to re attract them to you.
Regardless of how you decide to talk to your ex, try to establish this plan within the first few weeks after a breakup so that you both understand the new expectations moving forward. If your ex asked you not to contact them when you broke up, respect their wishes. If they wish to communicate with you again, they may reach out in the future. Breaking rules you established together can lead to some sticky situations and potentially sour the relationship.
Establish a new normal and take space from mutual friends if needed
The definition of "normal" may vary for every person and relationship. Ending a relationship might signify the end of your previous definition of "normal." Losing a partner can mean losing a best friend, routine, and other daily rituals, habits, and expectations.
A breakup can cause a shift in your life. As you adjust to a new routine without your ex, be gentle with yourself and grant yourself time and space to grieve the old relationship. For a period, you might need space from mutual friends, activities you used to do with an ex, or places that remind you of the relationship.
While this time can be painful, it may be an opportunity to develop healthy coping strategies and uncover new hobbies, interests, and friendships. Research indicates that positive emotions can also occur after a breakup, especially if you feel that your previous relationship did not expand your sense of self or encourage personal growth.
Move on from your past relationship and open yourself up to new ones
With time, you and your ex may begin new friendships and relationships with other partners. If you're maintaining communication with your ex, this period may call for extra clarity and new boundaries. As you build your social network after a breakup, consider the following considerations.
Prioritize new partners
If you are interested in someone else, focus on this budding relationship. To form a healthy foundation, you may need to earn trust and respect each other's needs.
In some cases, your new partner may feel uncomfortable if you communicate regularly with an ex. Try to validate your partner's concerns, show them there's no competition, and ask how you can make them feel safe in your relationship.
Know when to avoid talking to your ex
If communication with an ex is no longer serving you, you may choose to let go. You might choose to stop the communication to honor a new partner's needs or safeguard your mental health and safety. Relationships end for various reasons, and ending communication might be the best idea if it is a challenging breakup.
If the past relationship included abuse of any kind, cut ties and consult a therapist before resuming communication with an ex.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, available 24/7, at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233), or text "START" to 88788. Live chat is also available on the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.
Seek professional help to care for your mental health
A therapist may prepare you for this conversation if you're trying to talk to your ex after a breakup. With grace and compassion, a counselor can challenge you to reflect on your relationship and help you clearly state your motivations for reaching out to an ex.
Breakups are rarely easy; in fact, most breakups are quite difficult. After going through one, some people wish to speak to counselors who specialize in sex therapy, marriage and couples therapy, and related subspecialties. These professionals can recognize the complexities and pain that might arise from romantic partnerships and have the psychological tools and expertise to guide you through a breakup.
Modern therapists are now often offering these specialized services online, making quality mental health care available and affordable for a broader range of people. A 2021 study of young adult women who engaged in online group cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) after breakups found that the participants' scores for self-esteem and capacity to forgive ex-partners increased significantly after online therapy.
Before reaching a breaking point in their relationship, online couples therapy can also help couples improve communication and restore a romantic connection. More couples therapists and other professionals have transferred their services to online platforms like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples, which match individuals and partners to licensed, verified therapists.
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