How To Talk To Your Ex: Is It Ever A Good Idea?
The end of a relationship can be a painful and confusing experience. In the weeks and months after your breakup, you may oscillate from feelings of pain and hurt to a sense of calm, acceptance, and even relief.
While some degree of emotional upheaval is common, many people emerge from breakups with a deeper understanding of themselves and their future relationship goals.
During this process, you may feel compelled to contact your ex. Perhaps you’re curious about their thoughts and feelings about your breakup, or simply want to know what they’re up to and share your own life updates.
Whatever your situation, there are numerous reasons why you might want to talk to your ex. If you’re trying to decide whether it’s a good idea to reach out, the following considerations can help you make the best, healthiest decision for you.
When Should I Talk To My Ex?
Only you can decide when and how to talk to your ex, but many therapists suggest waiting for a period of time before reaching out. For many ex-couples, it’s helpful to wait at least 30 days before speaking to each other after the breakup. This window of time gives both people an opportunity to reflect, rest, and seriously consider what they’d like to say to each other.
Reasons To Talk To Your Ex
There are several valid, healthy reasons why you might choose to talk to your ex. While this list represents some of the most common reasons, you may have other reasonable grounds to talk to your ex.
1. You Want To Tie Up Loose Ends.
During the actual breakup, you may have found it difficult to communicate your thoughts and emotions in a clear, succinct fashion. Breakups can be emotionally intense – and sometimes, you’re not able to articulate everything you’d like to say. Both people may express themselves in anger, frustration, and other emotions that make it difficult to communicate with clarity and kindness.
If you’re interested in “checking in” and addressing any emotional loose ends from the breakup, take plenty of time to process your feelings and consider your ex’s needs before reaching out. They may need more or less time to recover from the initial breakup, and it’s important to honor both of your needs.
2. You Want To Maintain A Friendship.
Depending on the nature of your breakup, a friendship with your ex can be a realistic and natural evolution of your former relationship. After processing old wounds, restarting a friendship with a former partner can be fun, enriching, and even healing. It can be difficult to let go of someone you care for deeply, and friendship may allow you to stay in each other’s lives.
3. You’re Parenting A Child Together.
Parenthood is one of the most common reasons for exes to stay in regular contact, even years after the initial breakup. Even if you don’t live in the same area as your ex, you may travel to visit your child and provide emotional and financial support.
Co-parenting can be complicated – but with clear and thoughtful communication, parenting with your ex can also be a rich and rewarding experience. Research suggests that when exes effectively cooperate as co-parents, their communication benefits the well-being of their children as well as their own emotional health.
When Should I Avoid Talking To My Ex?
While there may be many reasons to talk to your ex, there’s an equally valid list of reasons to avoid contacting them and let go of the relationship.
The primary reasons to avoid contact with an ex include abuse, toxic behavior, and other deeply rooted, long-term issues that may have contributed to the breakup.
Both physically and emotionally, your safety is always the top priority. If you have any safety concerns, take care of yourself first and enforce a strict no-contact rule with your ex.
5 Tips For Reaching Out To Your Ex
If you’ve decided to contact your ex, you may be struggling to find the best time and place to check in, as well as the right words to communicate your intentions. These five tips can help you prepare for the conversation and express yourself fully.
1. Accept Your Role In The Breakup.
If the end of your relationship was explosive, emotional, or otherwise upsetting, you may need to address any lingering resentment and guilt about your past behaviors.
Identifying your role in the breakup is an admission of honesty, and also invites your ex to be open with you about their role in the breakup.
While this subject can be uncomfortable, acknowledging your roles and admitting past mistakes clears the way for more honest, vulnerable, and cathartic conversations with your ex.
2. Practice Forgiveness.
Whether we’re extending it to ourselves or others, forgiveness is a powerful tool – especially if you’re thinking about talking to your ex. You may feel anger toward your past partner, but also toward yourself – especially if you behaved in a way that contradicts your typical approach to intimate relationships and emotional discussions.
Self-forgiveness is a critical aspect of mental health and restoring relationships. If you’re interested in maintaining any kind of relationship with your ex – whether it’s a deep friendship or a casual connection – finding forgiveness can help you move on from past hurts, let go of anger, and invest your energy in other meaningful connections.
3. Establish Clear Boundaries.
If you and your ex decide to maintain a friendship after your breakup, talking about boundaries is key to a healthy, lasting connection.
Clear boundaries can help you establish your new normal. While personal definitions of “normal” vary greatly, they can refer to your daily routines, habits, and frequency of contact with your ex.
When you speak to your ex after a period of zero-contact, you may decide how often you want to see each other; whether or when you’ll open up about new romantic relationships, and any other subjects that may be tricky to discuss with each other in the aftermath of a breakup.
Over time, your boundaries can evolve to reflect your shifting needs and the friendship you build together.
4. Think Before You Speak.
Both before and during a conversation with your ex, think through your options and consider the implications of restoring contact. Ask yourself: why do I want to reconnect with my ex? Am I prepared to listen to understand their perspective, or am I more likely to vent my anger, frustration, or confusion?
Any of these feelings are valid and expected, especially after a painful breakup. However, if you’re unsure how you’ll react when in the same room or even on a call with your ex, take time to reflect before sharing these feelings with your ex. With a calm state of mind, you can reinitiate contact in a way that benefits you, your ex, and anyone else affected by your relationship.
5. Find Closure.
For some exes, keeping in touch after the end of their relationship may be unrealistic or even unhealthy. If the relationship was toxic, abusive, or manipulative in any way, it may be best to end all contact with your ex and move forward with your life.
Whether you’re ready for closure or interested in restoring a friendship with your ex, a licensed therapist can empower you to make the best, healthiest decision.
Therapy Can Help You Heal From Past Relationships
While some people prefer traditional, in-person therapy, a growing number of both individuals and couples use online therapy to address their mental health needs and relationship goals. Using a digital platform like Regain, you can quickly connect with a board-certified therapist after completing a brief questionnaire. Every Regain therapist has at least three years of professional experience, and many are well-versed in the complexity of communicating and restoring friendship with an ex.
Several studies show that online therapy can be an effective tool for couples and families, including a 2022 study of the effects of the COVID‐19 pandemic on family therapists’ delivery of online therapy. Based on survey information from a sample of 626 family systems therapists, the researchers noted a dramatic increase in online therapy: 7.92% of family therapists used teletherapy before the pandemic, compared to 88.17% during the pandemic. The study highlighted the value of teletherapy for families with transportation challenges, childcare needs, and other conflicts that traditionally limit connection to psychotherapy.
Talking to an ex is rarely easy – but by taking time to reflect on the relationship, you can approach this conversation with confidence and clarity. If you’re wondering how to talk to your ex, keep these five tips in mind and always prioritize your physical and emotional well-being before reaching out.
A therapist can help you determine whether it’s a good idea to talk to your ex and how to frame your conversation. Whether you decide to end all contact or maintain a friendship, you can make a decision that honors your health and healing process.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Do You Start A Conversation With Your Ex?
First, make sure that starting a conversation with your ex is something that you're ready to do. Then, Check in with yourself and ask, "What are my expectations for this conversation?" and "What will I do if it doesn't turn out the way that I want it to?" You might want to talk with your ex for many different reasons, and if you have certain expectations, it might be best to check in with yourself and see if you'll be okay if the outcome isn't what you want it to be. Go into it without expectations, and be prepared to respect their wishes if they don't want to talk.
If you determine that you are ready to reach out regardless of the outcome, the best way to start a conversation will vary based on your motive for starting the conversation and where you left off with your ex. For example, if you want a friendship connection with them and it's appropriate given the context, you might let them know that they've been on your mind and that you would be interested in catching up with friends if they are, too. Of course, this is assuming that you left off on good terms. If, after your breakup, you didn't leave off on the best terms and feel that you could've acted differently during the relationship or breakup, on the other hand, you'll want to reach out with an apology to start a conversation.
If you initiate a conversation and they want to catch up, you can say something along the lines of, "what has gone on in your life since the last time we talked last?"
How Do I Talk To My Ex I Still Love?
When you're talking to an ex you still love, keep it short. Focus on talking about the reason you're in contact (say, splitting or returning belongings) and keep the contact as minimal as possible.
If you don't need to contact each other, the best way to heal is to cut off contact with an ex.
How Do I Talk To My Ex After No Contact?
If you're talking to an ex after no contact, there's probably a good reason as to why. Especially if it's a one-time conversation and you don't plan to continue speaking with them regularly, keep your goal in mind. Stay respectful, and focus on talking only about what you need to. In other words, be concise. If you intend to catch up, you might start your conversation or message off with something like “Hey! I know we haven’t talked in a long time...” and, with any relevant context in mind, proceed to let them know that you’d love to catch up. Of course, this doesn’t always mean that you’ll be close friends, but depending on the circumstances, it can be a good feeling to clear the air and have a friendly relationship, especially if a lot of time has passed and you’re on the same page.
How Can I Talk To My Ex After A Long Time?
Time can be healing. If you're thinking about talking to an ex after a significant portion of time has passed, it's something you've probably thought about quite a bit. Likely, you've both been through a lot of life changes and are probably very different people than you were the last time you spoke. When you're talking to an ex that you haven't spoken to in a long time, this is something to be conscious of; while you're talking to someone you have many memories with, you don't know the details of their lives in recent years. Focus on talking to them in a way that is positive and respectful of their boundaries.
Additionally, it's a good idea to clear the air and make your intentions known before you really get into a conversation with an ex if you're the one reaching out. If the relationship was hostile when you last spoke, or even if it's been so long that it could take them as a surprise that you're reaching out, start by telling them why you're reaching out. Say that, last time you talked, you fought and said things you didn't mean. Perhaps, you intend to apologize. In that case, you may start by saying something along the lines of, "Hey, I just wanted to reach out and apologize for (insert action here)." In particular, it's often helpful to let them know that they don't need to reply with a scenario like this. Be sincere, make your thoughts known, and only reach out if you are okay regardless of the outcome.
Can I Tell My Ex I Miss Him?
Whether you should tell your ex that you miss them or not largely depends on the situation. If you're trying to get over them, don't reach out. Talking to them will only make it harder. If this isn't the case, there are some circumstances where it's okay to tell your ex that you miss them. The most important thing in these cases is to make sure that it's really something you want to do.
What are some tips for talking effectively with your ex?
What are topics that you should not touch when you're talking with your ex?
What are interesting conversations that I can have with my ex?
Is it unhealthy to always have conversations with your ex?
What are situations or events that are more painful than going through a breakup?
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