Should I Talk to My Ex or Stay Away?

By Corrina Horne |Updated August 18, 2022

Relationships are complicated. Each relationship, no matter how happy or meant to be, comes with a unique set of challenges, setbacks, and (possibly) periods of breaking up or taking breaks. You may be wondering, "Should I reach out to my ex?" If you've experienced a breakup, it's normal to wonder about reaching out to your former partner at some point. Knowing that, how do you determine when you should talk to an ex and when you should cut the cord?

my ex

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Talking To An Ex

Breaking up with someone is painful, whether you are the initiator or the injured party. The reasons for breakups are far too numerous to count, some issues frivolous and unnecessary, others absolutely essential and irrevocable. When the question of speaking to your ex arises, there are many factors to consider, not the least of which is the state in which your breakup occurred. If it was a respectful, mutual parting, talking to your ex may be just fine. If it was a tumultuous breakup, in which one or both partners felt betrayed, staying away might be the better path.

Because each relationship is so unique, asking whether you should talk to your ex is a deeply complex issue, and it must be evaluated and eventually answered only after a thorough analysis of your relationship, your breakup, and yourself. This particular issue often requires the help of a panel of sorts, comprised of your family and friends, as they can often share insights that you may not be able to see in the moment.

Preliminary Questions To Ask

Breaking up is never easy. Almost no one waltzes away from a breakup with a champagne glass in hand, toasting to their new life. Instead, the process of letting go is often slow and fraught with difficulty. Even new or shorter relationships can have an impact on your life, and the loss of a relationship as short as one month can present unique and difficult challenges-especially in a day and age when communication is usually constant and immediate via text and social media.

So how do you determine whether or not you should reach out? Ask yourself a few simple questions to get the ball rolling, and sincerely consider whether talking to your ex is a good idea. These include:

1. How did the relationship end? If the two of you ended on agreeable-even friendly-terms, reaching out might be okay.
2. How much time has passed? There is a consensus among professionals that reaching out to an ex immediately following a breakup is unlikely to end well.
3. Why do you want to reach out? If the two of you broke up, but you are still in love with your ex, reaching out could prolong the inevitable breakup process, particularly if your ex prompted the breakup. If, however, you initiated the decision, reaching out might make sense.
4. What do you want to happen? Are you hoping for a tearful reunion? A fight? Do you want to hash out what went wrong? Although it is reasonable to want some closure, your ex might not be willing to talk or might not be amicable in their speech.
5. Are you in a safe place? If you are emotionally or physically vulnerable, try reaching out to a trusted family member or friend instead. Reaching out to an ex without knowing the outcome could be harmful to your emotional health. If you are in a good place, reaching out might be less risky.

Thinking through all of the possible consequences before reaching for your phone can help you avoid plenty of pain and even embarrassment if your ex is unkind or unresponsive. Consider what might happen after you reach out as well. If the attempt to connect goes well, think it through: what then? What is your purpose for reaching out? Will you have an extended conversation? How do you hope to leave the interaction? These questions can help you determine whether or not it is truly a good idea to contact your ex.

Effects Of A Breakup With An Ex

Not every couple that breaks up needs to cut off all communication. Some couples are able to forge ahead with a friendship after some time has passed, especially after both have healed, while others do better if they never contact each other again. Some couples will reach out, only to reconcile and end up back in the same poorly-functioning relationship; some will reconcile and stay together forever, and others may reach out only to experience the pain and heartache of being rejected or ignored entirely.

After breaking up with someone, your first priority should be healing your wounds, evaluating your needs, and (if applicable) tending to your family. Your ex is no longer your partner or even necessarily your friend, so immediate communication is usually discouraged, Time without contact can facilitate healing, a more even perspective, and a greater understanding and awareness of yourself.

Communication After A Breakup

Although friends and family members may have differing opinions, health professionals agree: most situations require as little contact as possible between exes-at least for a while. This is especially true for relationships that were toxic, abusive, or manipulative, as these qualities can easily leap from a romantic relationship to a platonic one. The person who was the target of manipulation and abuse may be at greater risk for falling back into a relationship with their abuser. Because many abusive relationships rely upon communication to keep the flame alive, cutting off contact as much as possible is usually advised.

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.

If your relationship was healthy and blossomed from an existing friendship, experts have conflicting opinions about remaining in contact. This is the best-case scenario in reconnecting with an ex, however, and may be the best reason to reach out to an ex, shared children or property aside. If you had a strong, healthy friendship prior to developing a romantic entanglement, you may be able to revert back to the friendship you once shared. Even then, though, staying in contact can prove tricky, as you may have already created space in your brain for that person to act as a romantic partner-this space is not easily reassigned.

Breakups Are Never Easy - We're Here To Help You Talk Through it

Thinking Before You Act

Although reaching out to an ex is certainly tempting, there can be many unpleasant repercussions. Ideally, all further interactions with your former partner will end happily and will result in respectful, considerate conversation. But any attempts at communication could just as easily result in you being ignored, accosted, or another form of hostile or inconsiderate behavior, which might aggravate a wound that is already struggling to heal. If you're asking yourself whether or not you should reach out to an ex, the safest answer is no; after all, a "no" can readily morph into a "yes," while an attempt to reach out cannot be rescinded once it is offered. Remembering why you broke up is an important step in answering this question, and it may be able to save you additional heartache and pain.

Learning Your Own Motivation Or Reason Behind Wanting to Talk To An Ex

One of the most important aspects in determining whether or not you should reach out to an ex is evaluating your own motivation. This can be a difficult thing to do because people often struggle to be honest with themselves about the "why" behind their actions or can find the "why" difficult to determine when they want something too badly to remain objective. This is where therapy can come in handy; ideally, a therapists guides you while you learn about yourself-you learn about your motivations, your needs, your boundaries, and your hopes, all of which can help you come to a greater understanding of yourself. With this information, you'll have a clearer idea about whether or not your breakup was one that warrants further pursuit of your ex or one that would be best left alone.

Not each and every breakup requires therapeutic intervention. Past breakups may have been easy, cut-and-dry endeavors where you broke up, moved on, and went about your life. If the question of speaking to an ex has arisen, however, understanding your breakup and subsequently healing from it might be easier with an objective third party. Few relationships that end on healthy, concrete terms prompt thoughts getting in contact with an ex. Usually, it is the difficult, unwanted, or unexpected breakups that encourage the notion of contacting an ex, and these breakups might have far more to them than a simple misunderstanding or easy separation.

Therapists can not only help you understand yourself better but can also offer you insight into your relationship as a whole. They may be able to point out issues in your relationship that were significant and even hazardous issues that you may have been willing to overlook when you were trying to make it work. This can be a painful process, but it's necessary if you want to heal and move on. Speaking to an ex in these instances can further delay healing and even obscure valid concerns. Below, BetterHelp users recount their experiences working through difficult situations via online therapy.

Online Therapy with BetterHelp

"I've never been to therapy and so was really hesitant about opening up at first. But Whitney has just been so great! I signed up for BetterHelp because I was going through a breakup with problems I knew stemmed from problems with myself. I knew I felt unhappy in my relationship but could not for certain say why. Therapy with Whitney has been so great in helping me become more self aware and reflective. And, of course, the breakup was hard at first. But every day, with Whitney, I was able to feel a little bit better than the day before."

"Julia is a very open-minded, understanding, and warm-hearted person. She listened with kindness and without judgment. Her advice helped me tremendously through a bad breakup and ensuing personal problems. Her advice and understanding has been very helpful in guiding me to a healthier frame of mind."

Should You Talk To Your Ex?

Most experts agree: you should not reach out to your ex unless you hope to salvage a treasured friendship. The impulse to reach out to an ex, whether it is because you still have feelings for them, you are seeking comfort and familiarity, or you simply want to know how they are doing, is often a bad idea. All breakups occur for a reason, and these reasons are usually legitimate to at least one of the people involved. Although it may be hard, focusing on your own health and growth can limit the desire to reach out to an ex, helping you move forward with your life. BetterHelp is here for you every step of the way, if you want an unbiased, professional ear. Take the first step today.

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