After breakups, sometimes an amicable silence is what you both want. You’ve said all you need to say and acknowledged that it's over, and now you just want to move on.
But that's not always the case. What if you have more to say? What if you want to apologize? What if you want your ex back? There is no right or wrong way to go about this, but thinking about how the other person will perceive your communication can help you make a better decision.
Here are six do's and don'ts of contacting your ex:
1. Do be up front.
Be clear about what you want when you contact them. When most people get a message or voicemail from their ex, they always wonder, “What do they want?” They'll be curious to know if you want to rekindle the flame or just to clear your conscience. Be direct in your communication.
If you want to get back together you can call or email and say, “I’ve been thinking about you recently and wanted to see how you’re doing. I would love see you and meet for coffee.” If the goal is to revive interest, aim to spark curiosity. When you see each other, convey the feelings you had when you were together. If your goal is to clear a guilty conscience, say what you need to say, via email or on the phone, but don’t string them along. Hopefully they'll take the hint either way.
2. Don't worry about whether or not they'll respond.
Even if you're worried that your ex won’t want to see you, or they'll have a hostile reaction to contact, don’t let that stop you. You might be surprised to know that on some level that person might need to hear from you. If things were left unresolved or unfinished, they will also need a sense of closure.
Many people aren't comfortable reaching out to an ex for closure or to broach the possibility of getting back together. Their feelings might be hurt by behavior from the end of the relationship, when communication was hostile or avoidant. If important things were left unsaid, make the move. Initiate communication. It’s better to try to resolve something than to live with unanswered questions about the past. Saying what you need to say is the best way to move on.
3. Do be respectful of their current relationship status.
Consider the options. You might not necessarily know whether they're with someone else, so you need to consider whose buttons you might be pushing when you make contact. Think about how you would feel if your partner's ex contacted them. You probably wouldn’t even want them to respond. You might imagine telling the other person off on your partner's behalf.
So, it’s important to identify your objectives before reaching out. Do you want to be friends? Do you want to apologize? Do you want to win them back? If you ask to get together, you can say, “If you are single, I’d love to meet for drinks. But that if you're with someone else, I respect that.” Saying something like this will also give you an indication whether they're still interested in you. Decide based on what’s best for the other person. If they're happy with someone else, don’t be aggressive in your approach — even if you want them back.
4. Don't continue to contact them if they don't respond.
If your ex hasn't replied to your messages, voice-mails, emails, pokes, Snapchats, or any other form of communication, it’s time to chill out. They might not want any form of communication with you, especially if the relationship ended on a sour note.
Don’t wait for intervals of three to seven days and then try again for a balance of playing hard to get and not being clingy. Just stop. You can live with the knowledge that you gave it a shot, and then move on with your life. You tried. Don’t beat yourself up.
5. Do keep it light.
Avoid sharing too much emotion in a text or voice-mail. Sometimes people respond to this kind of honesty, but it's best to keep things casual until you meet in person. Remember, upon seeing your ex, you might feel differently about what you want. You might think you want to get back together, but once you see them, you realize the chemistry just isn’t there. Or, you might think you just want to get some things off your chest, but once you get there, you feel a strong attraction and want to rekindle things.
This can definitely be confusing. Unless you know exactly what you want when you contact them and have made what you consider to be an irrevocable decision regarding that, keep your communication light and be direct. Avoid pouring your heart out unless you think that is the best way to get your point across. When in doubt, assess the situation in person.
6. Don't wait too long.
It's important to be truly ready before you contact an ex, but it's also best to avoid postponing it for too long. They won't be waiting around for you. They'll be moving on with their lives. This doesn’t mean they'll forget you or resent you, but if someone else shows up and sweeps them off their feet, they're not going to let the memory of you stop them from taking that leap.
Time changes things. Six months go by and they have a different hair color and a Tinder profile. One year goes by and they have a new job and might be engaged. Seize the moment — if that's what you really want. Your desire to rekindle the relationship, start a friendship, or apologize is irrelevant if you never do anything about it.
Weigh the options. Decide which consequences you can live with and which you can't. Then just do it!