How Can I Get My Ex Back?
When we lose someone important in our lives, it’s common to miss them and to wish they were still in our lives. If we ended it, we may wonder if we made a mistake. If they made the decision to leave, we want to know how to get our ex back.
Every situation is different; I cannot provide you with one-size-fits all directions that will bring your ex back. What I can do is give you a series of questions for you to ask yourself. Not all will apply to you, but the ones that do can help provide clarity and direction.
Are you in contact with your ex?
This is the starting point. Is there an open line of communication between you? Have they reached out to you or responded when you contact them? When you do have contact, what is the nature of it – bittersweet, angry, sexual, longing? In order to try to win them back, you have to first be able to have a calm conversation.
If you don’t have contact, why is that? Did they ask for space? Are they refusing to respond? It’s important to remember that a relationship takes two and that you cannot force them to engage if they do not want to.
Who ended things?
If you ended the relationship, you may have a better chance of rekindling it, especially if they did not agree with the breakup. Whereas, if they left, they left for a reason. Even if it’s one that you you don’t understand or agree with. It still may be possible that they are open to the idea of starting again with you, but they will likely be wary. If you have a chance, you must be willing to listen to them without becoming defensive. You have your version of the end; it’s time to listen to theirs.
Do they know you’re interested in working on the relationship?
They cannot read your mind. They don’t know you’re up every night pining after them and regretting what happened unless you tell them. I know that this can be a scary admission; you’re risking a second rejection. A rejection, that if it comes, you have to accept. If you have a chance at getting your ex back, it begins with you stating that you want them back and why you want them back.
What were the circumstances surrounding the breakup?
In the best situation, there were outside circumstances that contributed to the end of the relationship. Circumstances, that once removed or dealt with, are no longer a threat. Yet that’s rarely the case.
Every relationship has its challenges – what were yours? Were they always there, or did they suddenly appear? Be careful here. It’s easy to fall into the magical thinking trap. Much like we always believe our future selves will be motivated to stay on that diet or stay away from our phones, we can paint our future relationship with that same rose-color. If you want this to work, you have to be willing to explore what made it fall apart in the first place.
Have you had a history of on-again, off-again with them?
Why is this time different? What is driving you two apart and what is pulling you back together?
Do their words indicate they are interested in a relationship with you?
Because you want them back, it’s easy to interpret anything they say as interest. Are there words clearly expressing that they not only miss you, but that they want to try to work it out?
Do their actions match their words?
Words are easy and often offered without much thought. Actions, less so. Are they saying what you want to hear while acting in opposition?
Are you healthier apart than together?
This is a hard one. Sometimes love isn’t enough. We can adore people that bring out the worst in us or pair up with those that allow us to reenact the traumas from our childhoods.
It may be the case that you two are better off apart. And when that happens, the most loving thing you can do is let them go.
Are you feeling lonely?
If you’re lonely, it’s natural to want your ex back. After all, right now you feel that gaping hole where they once were and so you want to fit them back in place to relieve that ache. But loneliness isn’t a solid foundation to build a relationship upon. Loneliness encourages you to need a partner, yet strong relationships can only happen when you WANT a partner.
Before you try to get your ex back, it’s important to fill your life up again. Spend time with your friends, throw yourself into a hobby, strive to meet some goal or finish line. Work on making yourself complete and whole first. Only then are you ready to try to bring them back.
Are you just wanting the pain to end?
The end of a relationship hurts. You’re grieving so much as you adjust to life without them. We don’t like pain and much like we pop an Advil to relieve a headache, we reach for the fastest way to alleviate our emotional pain too.
Be honest with yourself – are you reaching for them simply so that you don’t have to feel this pain? Is that fair to them? Is it good for you?
What do you miss more – them or the idea of them?
I know you miss them. But do you miss who they actually are, flaws and all. Or, do you miss who you’ve made them to be in your mind? Sometimes, we get so caught up in someone’s potential that we neglect to realize that we’re not seeing them at all.
Have you both had space to figure out your feelings?
The emotions that surround the end of a relationship are messy. It takes time and space to begin to unravel those. If you’ve been in consistent contact with your ex since the breakup, neither or you have had the opportunity to fully dig into your own feelings.
Take some time without contact to muddy the emotional waters. Talk to a therapist. Write in a journal. Have long conversations with yourself as you go on extended walks. You owe it to both of you to start from a full understanding of what you want and need.
What change(s) have both parties made since the breakup?
Have you made some legitimate and lasting changes since the end of the relationship? Have they? Again, this is about actions, not words.
If you have made changes, did you do them only in the hopes of getting your ex back? Or, were these changes that you wanted to make for you, to make you better? The latter is more authentic, meaningful and lasting.
How do you want your relationship to look differently this time?
Sometimes, we think we want to go back to the way it was. But the way it was didn’t work. So something needs to be different. Relationships can become like a well-traversed dirt road with ruts that we easily fall into. What will you do to avoid that?
What have you done towards this goal?
Again, wishes and words won’t get you anywhere. What actions have you taken?
Are they feeling lonely or insecure?
Tread lightly. Just as I cautioned you about wanting your ex back when you’re feeling lonely, it’s not a good idea to start back up again if they’re coming from that place. You want them to WANT to be with you, not for them to use you to make them feel okay with themselves.
Are they looking for something in their contact with you?
Sometimes people will reach out to an ex to gain a confidence boost (this is often the case if the contact is sexual in nature). Other times, they are looking for a quick connection because they’re feeling isolated. And sometimes, they just want to see that you’re hurting too.
When you want your ex back, it’s easy to read too much into their communication. Pay attention to patterns and trends. If they only reach out when they have something to gain, they’re using you, not sad about losing you.
Have they told you that they are not interested in a relationship?
If they have stated this, believe them. It’s not your place to question their decision. You don’t have to understand it and you don’t have to agree with it, but you do have to accept it.
Are they in a new relationship?
It’s common for us to want what we can’t have. Sometimes, we only desire to get an ex back when we see them with somebody new. Yet, that’s not a reason to try to win them back. Just like you expected others to respect your relationship with them, respect the new relationship they have, even if it’s one you don’t approve of. It’s not your place to monitor, judge or try to undermine the new partner of your ex.
Have they moved on?
This is independent of their current relationship status. If they have rebuilt their life and not made a space for you in it, it’s time for you to move on as well. And that starts with learning how to fall out of love.
Are you motivated to get your ex back because you feel like you’re quitting, failing or losing?
We call them “failed” relationships. We talk about people “giving up” on their partners. It’s easy to equate a relationship ending with failure. Yet, that’s not actually the case.
There is a different between quitting and letting go. The first is born from fear or frustration. The latter comes from acceptance that something has reached an end. Letting go is a gift, a way of releasing the hold on the past to allow the space for something new to move it.
What would happen if they agree to get back together for your sake, but it’s not what they really want?
Do you want them to be with you out of a sense of guilt or obligation? Are they trying to make you feel better to alleviate their own discomfort? Much like the father in Pet Sematary, we can go to great lengths to try to get our ex’s back, only to discover that they aren’t really there at all.
Refrain from begging or pleading. Don’t work to create an argument on why they should come back. If they want to be with you, they will be. If they don’t, you don’t have anything to gain by trying to convince them otherwise.
Are you feeling overwhelmed at the thought of starting over?
Starting over is hard. Sometimes, we are drawn to our ex’s because it’s a shortcut. You don’t have to do all of the work that happens as a relationship transitions from something casual to more serious. Yet sometimes a blank slate is exactly what we need.
Are you afraid that you won’t find love again?
You have lost one. But you haven’t lost the only one. Yet, as long as you’re holding onto your ex, you are not allowing the space for new love to find you.
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