How To Talk To Your Ex After A Breakup

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban, LMFT, IMH-E
Updated February 2, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

For many people, the end of a romantic connection can be painful and cause symptoms of grief. While you might want to talk to your ex-partner, 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 for talking points and wondering how to check in with your ex after a breakup.

Wondering How To Talk To Your Ex?

The First Talk After A Breakup 

After the end of your relationship, 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 give back 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 to have 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  

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. Ultimately, these guidelines can be unique to your situation and emotional needs. Other common boundaries might include the following: 

  • Asking for your ex to not contact you 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) 

Friendship 

Friendship after romance may not be viable 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 maintain a friendship 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 has feelings or the breakup wasn't mutual. 

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 Reaching Out 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. 

Keep these tips in mind 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. 

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 the relationship and clearly express past hurts and feelings. Clarity can be critical. Rather than ignoring past issues or insisting that they don't matter, clearly stating how an ex's past actions affected you can help you reflect, apologize, and potentially move on.  

Determine How (And If) You'll Stay In Touch

You may wonder if you should text your 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.

For some, texting an ex can feel tempting. It is often quick, accessible, 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 clear, simple, and focused on setting dates and times for further discussion, if desired.

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.

Regardless of how you arrange your communication, try to establish this plan within the first few weeks after a breakup so that you both understand the new expectations. 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. 

Establish A New Normal

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 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 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. 

Open Yourself Up To New Relationships

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 begin a new romantic partnership, 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 not feel comfortable 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 Let Go

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 healthiest option if it was 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

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. 

After a breakup, some people seek out 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 accessible 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. 

Takeaway

At the end of a relationship, a new chapter may await. As you reflect, learn, and embrace new challenges during this season, consider that you can decide when and how to initiate a conversation with your ex. Establishing clear boundaries, stating expectations, and communicating honestly and with compassion can be pillars of a healthy relationship, whether with an ex, friend, or future partner. 

Additionally, a therapist can offer insights and tools to support healthy communication and prepare you for future relationships' potential challenges and joys.

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