Ahem, Here’s a List of Things to Consider Before Reaching Back Out to Your Ex

Ahem, Here’s a List of Things to Consider Before Reaching Back Out to Your Ex

There comes a time in almost everyone’s life when they find themselves asking the forbidden question: “Should I get back together with my ex?” It’s a big one to mull over and an even bigger one to discuss with people who might, erm, not feel as fondly about your ex as you do right now. Trust me when I say that I have received some (very much deserved!) thumbs-down reactions when asking the group chat this *exact* question. And while those friends usually have our best interest at heart, sometimes bringing in their opinions can make this already complicated question even more confusing.

But, hi, getting back together with an ex is a big decision, and it’s not one you should have to make alone! Hence why we asked the experts to give us a no-BS, non-biased rundown on rekindling an old flame and how to figure out if it’s the right choice for you. According to therapist Susan Trotter, Ph.D., this question should always start with you. “There are several things to consider when reconciling with an ex, but the primary issue is to start with why you want to get back together,” she says. “It is important to take time before reaching out to an ex and do some work on yourself. Ask yourself why you want to reconcile. Do you miss the person or just miss being in a relationship?”

Before you hit send on that “I miss you” text, it’s also worth doing a little internal work to figure out why things didn’t work out in the first place, explains sex educator Liz Powell, PsyD, author of Building Open Relationships. “Sometimes the timing was off, but sometimes a partner doesn’t work for us because we’re not a fit in general.” Remember, you broke up for a reason. And, hate to break it to you, but chances are it was probably a good one.


That! Said! If you can’t shake the feeling that your ex just might be The One, we asked the experts what you need to consider before agreeing to “catch up” with that person whose number your friends told you to block months ago. Consider this your official guide to figuring out whether or not your ex should remain an ex.

1. Take a good look at yourself.

First things first: Take a sec to really look inwards—we’re talking wants, needs, desires, and literal life stage. There’s a big difference between getting back together with someone because you’re lonely and because you truly love them, explains Patel. In fact, oftentimes, we get so lost in our own ideas of what we think would be beneficial for us that we don’t actually consider whether or not it makes sense, adds Powell.

Did you recently start a new job? In the middle of a giant work project? Experiencing a different loss in another area of your life? Our emotions are tricky, and sometimes stress in other areas can cloud our judgment. Not only that, but it can lead you to commit to things (like trying again with an ex) that you don’t actually have the mental or emotional capacity to take on. Think about whether or not you’re ready to be a good, healthy partner before even considering reconnecting. If you can’t show up 100 percent right now, there’s no point in trying to reform a bond. Trust us, it’ll save everyone a lot of heartbreak in the long run.

2. Evaluate your current relationship sitch.

Wanting to get back together with your ex when you’re single is one thing, but feeling that way when you’re dating someone new is a whole other. The good news is, it’s pretty normal to have *some* lingering feelings for your ex, even after you’ve moved on, Powell explains. And those occasional yearnings or fond recollections aren’t necessarily reason enough to DM your ex, they say, but you do need to evaluate what capacity you’re thinking about your ex in.

“I would ask whether you’re actively building those feelings rather than just letting them be what they are,” Powell advises. “Are you spending time fantasizing about what could’ve been? Are you comparing your current partner to your ex? Are you using the feelings as an excuse to push away from your current partner? Usually, these are things we do either because we’re not addressing an issue in our current relationship or because we’re afraid of getting too close to someone and need a way to get some distance.”

Either way, take a look at your current relationship situation to see if there’s anything you’re lacking before running to your ex. You might be surprised to discover it’s not actually your ex that you’re missing, but the fact that they’d bring you coffee in bed or always go down on you during sexy times—two things a new partner is absolutely capable of doing with a little communication. Oh, and don’t reconnect with your ex while you’re still dating someone else, pls. Let’s respect everyone in this process.

3. Reflect on your relationship.

    Before you decide you’re going to stand outside your ex’s window with a boom box, Patel says it’s a good idea to spend some time reflecting on your relationship first.

    “Unfortunately, people don’t often take time to focus on the things they did or didn’t like about the relationship,” she explains. “I would reflect on why things would work this time, as well as what’s different that would potentially make this reconciliation work differently.”

    Because sorry, but in a lot of cases, someone’s your ex for a reason, says Powell. “Unless something significant has changed, there’s no reason to think things would be better now. However, if things have significantly changed—you’ve gotten a lot older, you’ve worked through your baggage, etc.—then there’s some chance it could work,” they explain. “Either way, I think it’s worth taking some time to really look at why things ended and whether anything has actually changed to make things different now.”

    4. Be realistic.

    After taking a long look at why your relationship ended and whether or not things are any different now, Powell says to get real about what your current feelings mean. It’s natural to still have some lingering love for your ex, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to rebuild something.

    “Our desire to reach out to an ex is often about a wish for an idealized, sentimental version of the relationship more than because the relationship could actually work better in the present,” says Powell. “I think we can also get lost in our own ideas of what would be good or beneficial and lose track of whether our ex would even want to hear from us.”

    Powell suggests asking yourself why the relationship ended, why things would be better now, and how hearing from you might affect your ex. Reaching out for no clear reason might cause more pain or reopen wounds that have already started to heal.

    5. Consider getting professional help.

    Everyone can benefit from therapy. If you’re experiencing a breakup or wondering whether or not you should try to rekindle something with an old flame, psychologist Mariana Bockarova, PhD, who teaches relationship psychology at the University of Toronto, says this is the perfect time to call in the pros.

    Oftentimes when we think back to relationships, we do so with rose-colored glasses on and aren’t actually viewing the past from an objective angle. A therapist can help you focus on all aspects of the relationship—and not just the ooey-gooey picture-perfect ones—to help you decide whether or not it’s worth reaching out again.

    And FWIW, if your ex is in a relationship, I’ll save you some time and money and let you know the answer is a resounding No, you should not try to get them back.

    6. Allow things to unfold naturally.

    Thinking about dropping a thirst trap specifically designed to get your ex’s attention or accidentally-on-purpose showing up to their favorite spot? Think again. According to licensed clinical psychologist Kristen Casey, Psy.D, it might be tempting to casually orchestrate interaction with an ex, but it doesn’t always feel great when we do it. “When we force things to happen, it may not feel so good long term,” she says. So, not to get all que sera sera about it, but instead of trying to mastermind a reconciliation, it may be in your best interest to take a step back and let whatever future you and your ex may have together unfold naturally. It’s okay to take initiative and reach out (you know, if you’ve already followed all these tips and decided that’s the best choice), but if you find yourself mapping out a 25-step plan to get your ex back that ends in the wedding you’ve already picked out a dress for, it may be time to slow your roll.

    7. Give your (ex)partner actual space.

    This one will probably be harder if you were the one broken up with, but trust, it’s important. If you can’t respect your ex-partner’s basic wishes of needing some space, you’re not off to a good start in making them want to date you again.

    Of course, if you’re trying to get back together, you will want to reach out eventually—but there’s no concrete amount of time to wait, says Bockarova. A good rule of thumb: Break the silence when you feel more clarity about the relationship.

    This means if you were broken up with and have been blaming yourself for the split, only reinstate contact when you stop feeling that way. If you did the breaking up, shoot a text only when you’re certain that you miss your ex for the right reasons, rather than out of boredom or guilt.

    8. Don’t think of it as a competition.

    “I would avoid the mindset of ‘winning over’ anyone,” says Bockarova. In a world that looks at dating culture as a “challenge” anyway, it’s quite unhealthy to try to re-win your ex over by thinking of it in the same way you’d think about a football game—where there’s one clear winner and one loser.

    Seeing a reconciliation as anything other than a combination of mutual growth and effort is a pretty unhealthy approach, confirms Bockarova, and it probs signifies that you shouldn’t be getting back together in the first place.

    9. Hold back on the bad-mouthing.

    Obviously, breakups feel shitty. It’s only natural (and needed) to have a vent session with your closest BFFs. You can, however, be hurt without acting vindictive—especially if your ex is someone you already think you might want to get back together with.

    “Put yourself in your ex’s shoes,” Bockarova says. “Would you appreciate it if someone you cared about spoke badly about you to all of your friends, [sent you] an avalanche of angry messages, or revealed secrets you had told them in a vulnerable state?” If you ever want to open the door to dating each other again, spreading weird rumors or sending mean-spirited texts won’t do you any favors.

    Also, it’s just good practice for all breakups, regardless of your future dating intentions. It’s never good to divulge super-personal gossip about an ex—plus, it won’t actually make you feel better.

    10. Change your life before seeing if your ex fits into it.

    In your time apart, you might feel a little lonelier than you used to, especially when you’re making weekend plans or finding activities to fill up a rainy Tuesday night.

    But learning to like yourself just as much when you’re alone is arguably the most crucial part of this process. Bockarova suggests investing in new friendships and hobbies and filling up your life with as much joy as possible, even if you’re still down about the breakup.

    Once you’ve faced your fear of being partnerless, then and only then can you know if you genuinely want your relationship back. “If you only miss your ex when you feel lonely or when you compare your life to those of friends in relationships but not in moments when you feel happy and confident, it won’t make for a very fulfilling relationship down the line,” Bockarova says.

    11. Assess if your issues are actually fixable.

    Okay, so you’re sure you miss your ex a lot and do want them back. But there’s more to it than that: Were your reasons for breaking up actually mendable?

    “Problems that are tangible are easily fixed,” says Bockarova. “If you broke up because a job took a partner to a new city and the long distance was difficult, then the problem may be fixed if one or both partners are willing to make a sacrifice.”

    But if you had larger disagreements about your values or plans for the future (such as whether to have kids or where you ultimately want to live), you’ll most likely be just as incompatible down the line. And sorry to say, you might find yourselves in the same position as before.

    12. Ask yourself: Have they done the work?

    Maybe you’ve done some solid self-reflection, worked through the relationship in therapy, and taken ownership of any actions of yours that contributed to the breakup. Kudos to you! But, uh, has your ex done the same? According to licensed therapist Jennifer Klesman, you can’t be the only one doing the work: “If just one person is willing to change and do the work, you can’t reignite the relationship,” she says. According to Klesman, when the other person is willing to work on themselves to prevent repeat offenses, only then should reconciliation be considered.

    13. Don’t overthink how you approach them.

    Once you’ve decided that trying to get back together feels right and you’re pretty sure they’re not dating anyone else, it’s time to open up the convo. It’ll probably feel a little awkward, but the main thing to remember is to do what feels right for the relationship.

    For long-term partnerships, Bockarova suggests being more up-front and honest about missing the person and hoping to meet with them. For shorter-term relationships or fizzled-out dates, she recommends keeping it simple and just asking them if they’re free to hang out.

    14. Keep the actual meetup spot casual.

    Although your old go-to bar with the dimly lit candles and velvet booths feels hella familiar and romantic, it’s probably not the best bet for this situation. Instead, Bockarova suggests something like an afternoon coffee so “there aren’t high expectations on the meetup and your partner doesn’t feel pressured into staying too long if they feel uncomfortable.” Plus, an open-ended, sober daytime hang lets you be clearheaded and honest about how you feel without any pressure.

    15. Address the elephant(s) in the room first.

    You may very well be tempted to flatter your ex a bunch to warm them up, but unless they’re totally oblivious, they already know what’s up. Buttering them up comes off as disingenuous, even if it’s not your intention.

    “If there are any issues that need clarification or anything you’d like to apologize to your partner for, do that early on,” says Bockarova. “Sort out your issues so that your partner can tell you’ve given this some thought and it isn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision to reenter into a relationship.”

    16. End the convo on great memories.

    Okay, so you’ve sufficiently covered everything you’ve reflected on in your time apart. You’ve built a case for getting back together, and your ex has given their verdict. Maybe they’re enthusiastically into it—or maybe they’re very firmly against it. Either way, you should reflect on the best parts of your relationship.

    “You always want to end this conversation on a positive note—a memory you’ll always cherish or maybe why you are glad your partner entered into your life,” says Bockarova. If you love your ex enough to want to be with them again, you should try to look at your past with zero regrets, regardless of the final outcome.

    17. Maintain your dignity.

    It’s easy to find yourself reconciling with an ex who hasn’t actually changed or done the work when you’re face-to-face and reminded of all those good memories and fond feelings. But if you do have that much-needed closure talk, Jessica Alderson, co-founder and relationship expert at So Syncd, a dating app that matches compatible personality types, advises not to compromise your values in the process. “It’s important to be vulnerable and honest about your feelings, but be aware of where your boundaries lie and stick to them.” So, be prepared to walk away from the relationship—even if it’s for a second time.

    18. If you do get back together, really do the work.

    This goes back to the no “winning them over” thing. If you decide to give it another go, know that it’s not an overnight process.

    “Although it will take some work to rebuild trust, this is your opportunity to form an even deeper bond,” Bockarova says. “But that can only be if you speak up to your partner about what you like and dislike, when you feel hurt and when you feel happy, and how you’d like to be treated.”

    The point is, as fated and passionate as getting back together can feel, there were still reasons you broke up in the first place, and now’s the time to tackle them. But hey, when you’re with the person you want to be with, you already know you’re down to try again.

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    Headshot of Rachel Varina

    Rachel Varina is a full-time freelance writer covering everything from the best vibrators (the Lelo Sona) to the best TV shows (The Vampire Diaries). She has over 10 years of editorial experience with bylines at Women’s Health, Elite Daily, Betches, and more. She lives in Tampa, Florida, but did not feed her husband to tigers. When she’s not testing out new sex toys (100+ and counting so far!), she’s likely chilling with her dogs or eating buffalo chicken dip. Ideally at the same time. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter

    Headshot of Morgan Sullivan

    Morgan is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer, covering everything from health and sex to fashion and beauty. Her work can also be seen in Bustle, Refinery29, Well+Good, and more. She’s a big fan of these things, in order: silk slip dresses, giving unsolicited life advice, working out, and Taylor Swift’s entire discography. 

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