How To Get Your Ex Back - Step-by-Step Guide

This guide will help you get your ex back.

Table. ofContents

Most of us have been there. Breaking up hurts and the pain hits you hard. It can feel like getting the wind knocked out of you. One second everything is okay and then the next second you're flat on your back, staring at the sky, trying to remember how you were able to breathe normally before.

You’re in pain and you can’t think straight, you just want to get over the feeling as fast as possible. You might grab whatever or whoever you can to bring you short-term relief, then find yourself right back where you started.

Overcoming heartbreak and getting back with your ex may sometimes seem impossible, but you can do it with the right perspectives and some new healthy habits.

Timeline Overview

Here’s an overview that will help you know where in time the steps take place. The following graphic is a timeline, from the day the breakup occurs to the day you meet with the ex again, and when those steps should be taken within that time:

Graphic timeline


Should You Get Back With Your Ex

Before you can work on getting your ex back, you have to decide whether you should and, more importantly, whether you want to.

Popular media conditions us to think breakups are meant to be and should be used as a learning experience. But for every couple that broke up and never got back together, there's another that did.

The popular belief is that your ex is an ex for a reason and that you’ll have the same problems that tore you apart if you ever attempt to get back together.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. A breakup can be a catalyst for learning where you excelled in your relationship as well as where you came up short.

When breakups are used as a learning tool like this, they can help you determine whether the relationship can be re-established into a healthier, happier union. As you reflect on your relationship, certain key questions can give you clarity on how to move forward:

Key Questions To Ask Yourself

# Questions to ask yourself

"Why did we break up?"

  • You probably broke up for a good reason, so it’s important to remember what that reason was.
  • Especially if the breakup isn’t fresh, it’s easy to forget or gloss over that reason.
  • Time may heal wounds and allow scars to fade, but it also scrambles memory - you don’t want to meet up with your ex and have an “Oh yeah… THIS is why we broke up” moment.

What would other people say about our relationship?

  • Talk to people who knew you when you were with your ex. Ask them: “Was I able to be myself?”, “Was I happy?”, “What made me unhappy?”, “Do you think this person is good for me?”.
  • As time goes by, and scars fade, it’s easy for our selective memory to recall only the positive ones.
  • Polling people from the outside helps you to reflect on your relationship more objectively.

What needs to change?

  • Relationships are a dance that takes two. How were you or your ex responsible for the patterns in the relationship?
  • What do you or your ex need to change that might prevent the missteps in your dance? For example, have you learned to set boundaries and communicate your needs better? Are you and your ex still going through opposing life stages?
  • Look for evidence that you or your ex are working towards positive changes. You or your ex’s actions after the breakup will be much more revealing than your conjectures.

How do I want to feel in a relationship?

  • Consider which feelings you prioritize over others.
  • How much do you care about feeling excited? Challenged? Respected? Protected?
  • Get a clear idea of your needs and desires and ask yourself if a relationship with your ex has the potential to fulfill them.

If you haven’t reflected on these questions, then you can’t be sure whether you’re advancing, or simply getting on the exact same ride.


Understand Why The Breakup Happened

Once you've determined you want to try and get them back, you need to reflect on your relationship and understand the specific cause of your breakup.

1. Your ex couldn't get what they wanted in a relationship with you

# Wanted Something Else

They have certain goals or desires that just can't be fulfilled while in a relationship with you. They may not have any complaints about you or the relationship itself. This is a simple one, without many layers. But I think that's what also makes it one of the trickiest issues to deal with - there's usually not much you can directly influence.

They want to be single.

Welp, there we go. We're starting with the big one. You want to be in a relationship, and they want to be single. Their exact reasons for wanting to be single can vary - maybe they want to focus on career/education, maybe they think it's too soon to be in a committed relationship, maybe they just haven't been single in a long time, etc. - but at face value, it doesn't matter, since your desires are completely incompatible.

It's not that grim of a situation if we look closer, though. Unless your ex has no interest in ever pursuing a relationship in the future, their desire to be single almost certainly has a deadline. They want to be single right now, not forever. In other words, if they have no actual complaints about you or the relationship, there's nothing to say that you can't just continue your relationship after they have fulfilled their desire to be single.

It's not as easy as it sounds, of course. You still just got broken up with. You're still going to be hurting. And then there's the actual waiting - you don't know how long you have to wait for them, either. They're unlikely to know either. Unless they were completely mistaken, they're not going to suddenly miss you so much that they change their mind about being single. It's going to take a while. Maybe a couple of months, maybe even a year.

And trying to influence their decision will probably just make things worse for both of you. Instead, you must use this time apart to your advantage. While things may feel helpless and bleak, life hasn't actually stopped. You're going to focus on the other parts of your life so that when they're ready to stop being single, you will be ready and there for them.

They want to see other people.

This is a hard one. And if this is the reason, it's understandable why they may not reveal it to you. There are a few different things they might be looking for - maybe they're unwilling to be in a commitment right now, maybe they want to "check their options", maybe they're looking for an open relationship and you're not - but the most important thing to figure out is if they have any actual complaints with you or the relationship.

If not, your next steps are not that different from if they wanted to be single (above). Give them time, do not pressure them, and work on yourself. Worst case scenario, they meet someone they prefer to you. But that goes the other way too - they might meet someone that just makes them realize they want you back.

They want to take things further than you're ready or willing to.

If they're looking to take your relationship to the next step and you're against it (or they feel you're against it), they may believe they have no choice but to cut their losses. This can be about marriage, proposal, moving in together, or even going steady.

The most important thing here is to consider what you really want. It's not advisable to jump into a deeper commitment than you might be ready for, but a lot of us have never actually given it as much thought as we should. It's also important to be completely honest with yourself and them. You might be tempted to agree to something now because you don't want to lose them, but if you're not actually on the same page; you're just delaying the inevitable. And making sure everyone gets a lot more hurt later.


2. They Have Lost Attraction Towards You

# Lost attraction

This is one of the most common reasons why I see clients getting broken up with. And it's not just about someone's balding head, there's a lot of factors that are involved.

Loss in physical attraction.

If your physical appearance has suffered since you both started dating, it's likely to have contributed towards your breakup in some way. It's time to take a look in the mirror.

  • Weight Issues - Have you gained a lot of weight since you guys have been dating? You may not even have realized it, but it's not uncommon to suddenly gain a couple of dozen pounds over a few months. Or maybe it was the other direction and you lost a bit too much weight.

  • This is a reasonably easy thing to fix, especially since you're not trying to become a supermodel, but just getting back to how you were when you guys first met (maybe a little better than that).

  • If they are very health or fitness conscious, this is likely going to be an even bigger issue for them, since it will hint towards major incompatibilities between the two of you.

  • Grooming and Fashion - If you've not been taking very good care of yourself, especially compared to when both of you first started dating, it's probably playing a part.

  • Let's be honest, it's quite natural for people to become complacent about their appearance, clothes, even hygiene when they start getting more serious with each other. As we get more comfortable with our partner, we feel more secure about ourselves, and that's a good thing.

  • A healthy balance is always crucial, though. There's a difference between being yourself and letting yourself go.

  • Aging - This is a tough one as it's pretty much entirely out of your hand if they strictly mean your age. But it's likely to not be about the actual number.

  • If they suddenly feel you're too old, that's more likely to be about themselves than your age. Unless you guys have a really big age gap and have been together for a while, you've probably not aged that much since you both started dating.

  • Your age is just one part of the "attraction" puzzle, and if you're aces in all the other sections, this one will not weigh you down that much.

  • Rather than your actual age, this probably has more to do with how you act. Specifically about how you act towards them and around them. The biggest red flags are if your behavior has significantly changed since the time you both met.

    • Have you recently become more protective or possessive of them?

    • Have you stopped flirting with them like you used to?

    • Maybe you prefer to hang out with your own friends, who just happen to be older than their circle?

    • Or maybe you're always telling them to act a certain way.

  • Either of the above can remind them of their parents instead of the person they want to be with.

  • Even if you make the necessary changes ASAP, they're not going to suddenly think you've lost a few years. They have an image of you built in their mind and it will take a while to replace it with the new one you want to present. Taking some time apart and practicing no contact is a great solution, especially as it gives you the time to make the changes.

Loss in your status.

I'm going to have to explain this one a little bit. When you first think of the word "status," it can have a slightly negative connotation. It's a bit deeper than that though.

When I say "status," I'm not specifically referring to the relative status between the both of you, eg: you were better than them, now they're better than you. That's absolutely not the implication. It refers to their impression of your status when compared to your past self (and other people).

  • Career/Education/etc troubles - Life has ups and downs. And a lot of it can be out of our direct control.

  • If you're not doing as well at school/work as you were when you guys met, you have to admit that you're not the same person they fell for.

  • Even if they don't particularly care about your pursuits, these things generally have a domino effect. Trouble at work can mean stress, which can lead to overworking, which can lead to neglecting your partner. And that's just one example.

  • Or maybe things haven't changed at all. And that can be just as bad. We always want to keep doing better, not stay at the same level. If you've stagnated in your pursuits while they have continued to better themselves, they have basically outgrown you.

  • Take an inventory of your life. What are your goals outside your relationship? And how are you actively working towards achieving them? That's your priority now. Use this time away from them wisely.

  • Putting them on a pedestal - Some people dig it, but unless that's the dynamic you guys established in your relationship from the beginning; it's unlikely to win you any favors. And even then, I'd advise against it. It's natural to elevate the ones we care about and love, but if we do it at the expense of ourselves, it will usually come back to bite us.

  • Were you always asking for their approval, even for the smallest things? It probably made them feel like you can't make your own decisions and that you have to rely on them for everything.

  • Were you being clingy? Maybe you displayed some jealous behavior. Put yourself in their shoes and you'll agree how annoying this can be.

  • Did you always make time for them and/or do whatever they wanted you to do, regardless of your plans and needs? Some people call that a doormat. It's good to make time for your partner and to be able to prioritize their needs over your own, but if you're only ever making concessions and never stand your ground, they're going to realize that you're not the one for them.

  • It does not mean you have to be a jerk. It's about being assertive and sincere. If someone asks you to do something, and you're genuinely happy to do it, that's good. But if someone asks you to do something that you're not really interested in, you shouldn't be insincere and play along just to be "nice".


3. They Haven't Been Getting Their Emotional Needs Met

# Emotional needs unmet

When two people are in a relationship with each other, a lot of things are taken for granted and left unsaid. Arguably the most important component of a successful relationship is making sure both your emotional needs are met. Even if the attraction between you both is great and you share similar goals and interests, it will all be for nothing if both of you aren't emotionally fulfilled.

  • Lacking attention - You may have unconsciously stopped paying attention to their needs and desires. In a long-term relationship, over months and years, our lives shift, move, and we are constantly taking up new responsibilities and tasks.

  • You may have started spending more time and attention on other people or pursuits. Maybe you've been really busy with work lately or made a new group of friends. Either way, they haven't been getting to spend as much time with you as they'd like.

  • Maybe there hasn't been any change in how much time you spent with each other, but that doesn't mean you couldn't have been neglecting them in some ways.

    • Were you guys not talking as much when you spent time together?

    • Were you calling or texting fewer times than before?

  • There could also have been a drop in the quality of your communication.

    • Were you prone to giving vague responses? A lot of people resort to being vague when they don't want to express their actual emotions (like resentment) or they're trying to keep some secret.

    • Not only does this slowly build up a wall between you and your partner, but it can also come off as deceptive since it'll feel like you're trying to hide things.

  • Lacking intimacy - Intimacy is a foundation of relationships. It represents that two people care about and trust each other enough to make themselves vulnerable in each other's company. Without intimacy, no romantic relationship will ever go far.

  • Had things stopped being romantic? Or at least not nearly as romantic as when you began dating. A "romantic" relationship is the result of a lot of things - attraction, interest, comfort, sexual tension.

  • Did arguments/fight happen more often as the relationship went on? Negative interactions put us on the defensive, and that is just not conducive to letting oneself be vulnerable and intimate with another.

  • Did you guys rarely have conversations about each others' feelings? Validating your partner's feelings and providing a safe space for their feelings is crucial to maintaining intimacy.

  • Do you have a short temper? It would be hard for someone to be intimate with you if they have issues dealing with your short fuse.

  • Lacking support - Having each other's back and supporting your partner is an important part of a fulfilling relationship. If they felt like they couldn't rely on you for emotional support, it's not surprising that they decided to end things.

  • You have to be supportive of their goals and passions. If they felt like you didn't respect or support them in their pursuits, they would feel like you don't care about what they want.

  • People aren't mindreaders. If you never complimented them or acknowledged their accomplishments, they probably felt like you didn't care about their success.

  • Did you hold yourself back from speaking your mind when you felt vulnerable? That probably made them feel like you didn't trust them enough. It's not uncommon to feel nervous about sharing our insecurities with others. But it's an important step towards building a successful relationship. You have to work on your insecurities, and let your partner help you with them - trust them to be there for you.

  • Lacking security - If someone isn't feeling secure in their relationship, it's not going to go very far.

  • Is there any reason they might doubt that you'll still be around in a year? Or two? If you couldn't get them to a position where they felt comfortable that you'll be around, that's your answer.

  • Were you facing financial instability? The world is a shaky place, and this past year has been quite remarkable. If your financial position deteriorated, that probably had a part to play in your breakup.

    • This isn't something you can just fix, of course. No one wants there financial position to worsen, and you probably did your best to prevent it.

    • Set reasonable goals and start working on building a stable foundation for yourself. Use this time apart from them to focus your 100% on this.

  • Are you bad at keeping promises? It's going to be very hard for you to find any person to date you if you're not halfway decent at keeping promises. If you follow only one advice I listed out today, please make it this one - set achievable goals and keep yourself accountable.

  • Lacking autonomy - If they lacked autonomy and agency in the relationship, it would have made them feel trapped. When any of us feel trapped, our minds automatically start telling us to "get out". Here are some signs that you were too controlling in the relationship.

  • You stopped (or tried to stop) them from going out with friends to clubs/bars.

  • You demanded that they share their phone or social networking app passwords.

  • You constantly asked for their whereabouts.

  • You nagged constantly about what they should be doing.

  • You often made decisions for them.


4. They Lacked Compatibility With You

# Incompatible with each other

We're all going through our lives at different speeds and in different directions, all of us have wants and desires that are largely independent of each other, we may not all share the same values in life.

Compatibility is key to a long-lasting relationship. Even the strongest chemistry, attraction, and all the understanding in the world can't substitute for compatibility. This doesn't mean that two people have to be 100% compatible, and in fact, a little difference is appreciated. But if two people are truly incompatible, it can be really hard to get around it.

  • Incompatible Values - We can't all have similar values in life (though that'd be great). There are a lot of things that are very important to some people and incompatibility in any one of these things can be enough to end the relationship, eg: health and fitness, the involvement of extended family, traveling, religion, integrity, privacy, etc.

  • If you're willing to compromise on some of your values and prioritize your ex's more, then that's the obvious first step. But honesty is crucial here. Honesty to yourself. You don't want to convince yourself you can do something just to later regret your decision.

  • Don't ask them to compromise their own values.

  • Different points in life - Maybe you both just lack enough commonalities. Life experiences, personality, cultural background, maturity level, financial situation, general life experiences, etc all factor into where we believe we are in life, eg: When to get an education, start a career, living the simple life, moving in together, get married, have kids, etc.

  • If they believe you both are at different points in life, it could be the sole reason behind the breakup.

  • Unlike values, this is far easier to compromise on, for either of you. But just like values, you have to be completely honest with yourself.

  • Unhealthy Lifestyle - If you have any habits that they disliked, especially ones that are negatively affecting your health in some way, they may have decided not to put up with it.

  • Smoking, drinking, drugs are the obvious problems. But even somewhat harmless habits can become dangerous if we become psychologically dependent - like video games.

  • If your drinking or drug habit is to the point of addiction, I think we both have to agree you have more crucial things to work on before you can think about winning them back.

  • If you used to waste weekends just sitting on the couch smoking weed and being unproductive, use this time apart from them to your advantage.

  • Sexual Incompatibility - This is actually a lot more common breakup reason than most expect.

  • If they weren't having as much sex as you wanted, it may have been because they were losing attraction towards you (check #2 above). Or it may have been because their prerequisite emotional needs weren't being fulfilled (check #3 above).

  • If you were not fulfilling their sexual needs, it may have been due to several reasons.

    • If you weren't having as much sex as they wanted, you have to think about where it began. Did your sex drive decrease compared to when you both first started dating? Were you just not getting enough time? Maybe your attraction towards them had been dropping. In this case, sexual incompatibility is a symptom of a bigger root cause - like you not paying enough attention to them.

    • Did you not feel comfortable performing certain sexual acts? Besides just slowly building up to it, an alternative is to suggest a similar sexual act you'd be more comfortable performing.

    • If you have any medical issues or medicines that affect your sexual performance, that is very understandable. Generally, this isn't a deal-breaker unless there are other issues in the relationship as well.

  • Maybe they felt like they couldn't sexually fulfill you.

    • You may be more adventurous in bed than they're comfortable with.

    • They may just not be as sexually active as you prefer.

    • You may not have communicated your preferences to them openly.


5. They Can't Trust You As Much As They'd Like To

# Loss of Trust

Trust is an integral part of relationships. It is the foundation for intimacy, comfort, even attraction to an extent. If they felt like they couldn't trust you, they would not be able to continue the relationship. There may be many reasons why they'd come to this conclusion.

  • Lying - If you've lied to them in the past, it's easy to see why they may not trust you completely.

  • If you had a pattern of lots of white lies, you won't be able to suddenly convince them you're not going to lie anymore. It will take constant effort and time, you will have to establish low-level goals and keep yourself accountable.

  • If you don't have a history of lying, but lied about something important, you may be able to make them forgive you. You would have to apologize to them, making sure you explain exactly why you lied (like if it was out of fear or jealousy, etc). It'll also require some time for them to slowly let go of any anger.

  • Breaking promises - If you've made promises to them and failed to carry through, you've basically set yourself up for failure. Depending on the severity and frequency, it's going to be really hard for you to fix this.

  • You have to be genuinely apologetic and show it to them.

  • You can't just promise to never break another promise - if only things worked like that.

  • You will have to slowly build up trust even if they forgive you.

  • Unforgivable Incident - Did you say something hurtful to them? Maybe you picked a fight with their best friend? Or maybe you humiliated them in front of a group?

  • Whatever the reason, the only way you dig your way out of this by apologizing.

  • They probably don't want to talk to you right now, so you should write them a message. That way even if they decide to not read it immediately, it will be there for when they're in a better mood.

  • After that, you can give them some time and space, and then re-engage later with another message.


6. They Found Someone Else

# Found someone else

The one thing none of us want to hear. Yet, it is always a possibility. If they found someone else, that's just one part of it. For them to decide to leave you for this other person, it also means that this other person provides more value than you. In their eyes and for their current needs, they believe the other person is a better fit.

Let's take a look at some scenarios:

  • The new person provides value to them in ways that you weren't. Maybe it wasn't always like this and you changed over time. Take a look at all the 5 points above this and try to figure out where you might have lacked.

  • You've not changed since you met them, but they may have climbed higher on the "dating pool".

  • If they feel like they're much better than when you both first met, it's not hard to see why they would want to "upgrade".

  • Focus on raising your own "market value". Fitness, develop attractive communication skills (like teasing, witty banter, charismatic speaking, etc), advance your career, etc.

  • No matter what, do not confront them about the new relationship. Instead, take yourself out of the equation. Give them space and use this time to better yourself.


WRITING A MESSAGE OF CONNECTION

Once you have determined the reason for the breakup and pinpointed the communication breakdown, it is time to put that information to use by writing your ex a Message of Connection. The goal with the Message of Connection (MOC) is to help spark connection in a healthy way. It helps you communicate/express yourself effectively and demonstrates a better understanding of your partner and yourself.

When connection is present in a relationship, partners are attuned to how the other feels and thinks at each moment. By maintaining a connection:

  • Partners feel safe and understood - they can trust one another to be treated the way they want to be treated.

  • Conflicts get resolved - partners quickly realize why their partner behaved the way they did and they express themselves effectively and make appropriate compromises in order to restore the connection.

What is Disconnection?

# What is disconnection

When partners experience a disconnect, they feel less safe and trusting and feel more lonely and vulnerable. In unhealthy relationships, the pain and vulnerability experienced by a disconnect causes partners to:

  • Prevent themselves from being hurt more by detaching further

  • Stonewall

  • Become cold/distant

  • Come up with false explanations for their behavior to make them feel like they still understand each other, and therefore are connected (not always a positive belief)

  • “He still cares about me, he’s just very forgetful”

  • “She’s not interested in what I have to say because she simply isn’t smart enough”

  • “What I said wasn’t hurtful, he’s overly sensitive”

  • Push partner do something that would restore connection

  • “Why don’t you just say you’re sorry already?!”

  • Attack partner for making them feel hurt

  • The partner feeling the disconnect might feel hurt while the other isn’t, and would try hurting them back, often because they are struggling to express their needs.

As we have done earlier while determining the reason the breakup happened, before creating an impactful message of connection you must effectively diagnose the core issue, the source of the disconnect in the relationship.

Ask yourself:

#

What has been misunderstood?

#

What has been misinterpreted?

#

What needs are not being met?

If you don’t have enough information to answer those questions right now, go back to the [previous step]() before writing the MOC.


Basic Formula Of The MOC:

# MOC Formula

  • Greeting/Intro that gives context for what you are about to say:

  • "I've been reflecting these past few days…"

  • "Since we last spoke, what you/I/we said has been on my mind…"

  • If the last interaction involved high emotions, showing ownership of how you weren't expressing yourself effectively

  • "I went too far when I said…"

  • "I was harsh when I said…"

  • "When I said… …my emotions got the best of me and I wasn't thinking clearly."

  • Using examples from your assessment of the core issues of disconnect, highlight what you were feeling/needing/misunderstanding that contributed to the disconnect.

  • "I felt so much shock, disappointment, and uncertainty seeing how my family treated you. I became too caught up in how hard this situation was for me, I lost myself in it and stopped showing up as the woman you knew and loved."

  • "I know that traveling to Germany was not something you were fond of, and it occurred to me that perhaps this was because of what you spoke about before, that in your childhood, you traveled the globe and didn't want that lifestyle as an adult. If I had realized, during our time together, that extent of this within you, I would have chosen to travel to you each and every time."

  • If appropriate, sharing a concrete actionable step that will feel significant to your ex and is achievable by you.

  • Ending with a sentiment that leaves an opening for connection - potentially hoping to connect again soon. If taking space is needed or has been requested by your ex, showing understanding in a way that allows your ex to choose without pressure.

  • "If you need this time, I understand and will respect your decision…"

  • "I hope we can meet and talk again soon, but if you decide not to, I will respect that decision."

Example Messages:

# example MOC

Hey [[Ex's Name]], after you dropped me off Sunday I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. I was harsh in how I asked you to find another place and I’m coming to realize I was not thinking clearly at the time and my emotions got the better of me. And then I saw you handle the situation the opposite way. I felt you had control over your emotions in a way I couldn’t and already found another place to stay. I guess I’m trying to say I’m seeing you and how I thought of you differently. Maybe you know what you want and I’ve only given you reasons to doubt that or not be open with me. I hope we can meet and talk again soon but if you decide not to, I respect that decision.

#

Hey [[Ex’s Name]]. You are right when you say my attitude has been negative and moody lately. I have been thinking about it, and I can understand how our relationship became another source of stress for you rather than that place where you felt comfortable and relaxed. I can recognize my responsibility for that happening. I guess I was feeling insecure, I care deeply about you and let my insecurities react in a negative way. If you want to meet to talk this through, I would be really happy to do so. I care a lot about you and this thing we have. But, if you also need space I am willing to respect that. It hurts a lot, but I want to respect whatever decision you need to make to feel the best, even if that means we won't continue to see each other.

#

[[Ex's Name]], Your words have given me much to reflect over these past few days. You’re right to be angry with how things went down, I too am upset with my parents and myself, not only for what happened but for how I handled it. I should have been secure enough in our love to stand up for you, for us. You have never faltered in this and I hope to emulate you in this way. I'm taking the first steps to correct my mistake this weekend, having my parents down for a chat. When it comes to you, I won’t listen to what they say and will physically remove myself from their presence if I need to for that to happen. I understand you need to have space to process your emotions and I will respect that. Know that I will be holding you in my heart during this time and will be turning my focus to creating better boundaries with my family. I hope we can reconnect soon and get back to the amazing times we had together.


Key Components Of The MOC

  • Connection requires an understanding of emotions - and the important part is acknowledging and validating emotions - which usually negates the barrier to connection.

  • A compassionate tone to the message is important – incorporating words and phrases that make the reader feel understood and cared about.

  • True statements that you likely wouldn't have been able to identify or wouldn't have told ex without the self-reflection and analysis you have done.

  • Using "I" statements focusing on the way you feel.

  • Avoiding assumptions regarding how your ex might be feeling or putting blame on your ex.

  • By describing why you feel the way you do, you are validating your ex.

letter

After you've written and sent the Message of Connection, the next steps involve holding space. This is important as it allows your ex to take time to process your words and have time to heal.

This period is often referred to as the No Contact period.


No Contact Period

After sending the Message of Connection, it is important to hold space for your ex as they take time to process your words and have room to heal. During this period of no contact, you should avoid initiating any sort of contact with your ex. No calling, texting, Snapchatting, Facebooking, Instagramming, etc. You may be tempted to text or call in the middle of the night when you’re feeling alone and vulnerable or if you have a bad history of drunk texting. In that case, it can be helpful to temporarily remove your ex from your phone or any chatting application.

No Contact

Doing the No Contact Period provides time for:

  • You to focus on improving yourself.

  • Your ex to forget about the negative thoughts and feelings about you.

  • Getting yourself into a more emotionally stable state before reengaging.

  • Proving that your ex’s desire to break up is taken seriously.

  • Making you more intriguing by creating a mystery about what you are doing.

The standard time period for how long the No Contact Period should be is 30 days. But this will highly vary depending on your situation. The duration can always change as new events unfold. For example, the No Contact Period should be broken if your ex initiates within that time.

Why You Shouldn't Skip No Contact

# Don't skip no contact

Here are the biggest mistakes “No Contact deniers” have made when they break the rule too soon:

  • Overanalyzing something their ex said and jumping to (wrong) conclusions.
  • Appearing insincere or “off” because they’re trying to hold back the panic.
  • Attempting to reduce uncertainty and make off-putting ultimatums.
  • Asking about reuniting someday.
  • Asking how they can prove they’ve changed.
  • Asking about why the breakup happened.
  • Accidentally or intentionally get into old arguments.
  • Get overly-emotional when their ex doesn’t respond the way they hope.

These mistakes are all caused by a mixture of anxiety, obsessive thoughts, and a poor understanding of why the breakup happened. The No Contact time period is your opportunity to self-improve, reflect on your past actions, and be more level-headed about the situation. With the boost in confidence and a better understanding of how you could improve, you’re much more likely to avoid these mistakes.

Why You’re Biased To Doubt

The main reason you doubt the No Contact Rule is because you think you’re not at risk of making the mistakes listed above. You may have known your ex for years or even decades and feel like you, of all people, know how to engage with them properly. Or, you think your situation is unique and a generic rule can't be applied.

Here’s why you’re probably wrong

One of the biggest mistakes people make when talking to their ex is blurting out whatever is on their mind, unfiltered by whatever raw emotion they feel at the time. This often leads to making the mistakes listed above, making the situation worse and leaving them feeling even more vulnerable. Unfortunately, this mistake is so hard to avoid, it’s almost inevitable.

After a breakup, your old relationship with your ex dies. The old relationship had the level of trust necessary for allowing open and honest communication. How quickly the trust gets broken (almost instantaneously) makes it hard not to continue communicating in the same style that’s been exercised and encouraged for months, years, or even decades.


Playing Strategically Helps Avoid Mistakes

# Playing strategically

You cannot revive the old relationship. It died after the breakup. You need to create a new one. And you cannot rely on the same open and honest communication style you’ve used in the past. Instead, Playing Strategically is your best option, i.e., using an indirect, ambiguous, yet ethical style of communication to strategically maximize one’s self-interest.

You already play strategically in most of your relationships, like with new acquaintances, potential employers, business partners, or dates; it’s not even an option, it’s mandatory. In these relationships, there are information gaps that prevent both parties from engaging in open and honest communication. You’d be foolish to think otherwise. Neither side collected enough evidence about whether being completely honest is against their own best interests. In these types of relationships, you have to avoid being 100% honest all the time and play strategically instead.

Playing Strategically is not the ideal communication style to sustain a long-term, trusting relationship with another person. But it’s perfectly fine for starting one.

Does NC Always Work?

NC is a tactic. It is hurtful if:

  • You cheated on your partner.
  • You said or did something to greatly hurt your partner.
  • You sabotaged the relationship and said hurtful things you don’t really mean.
  • You haven’t given them the level of attention they want from you
  • You weren’t emotionally supportive

The one thing in common with these reasons is that spending time apart would only support the idea you haven’t changed.

For example, if you prioritize your work over your ex and ended up spending very little time together. Then 30 days of No Contact would just add salt to the wound. Before you decide to start No Contact, think about what situation you’re in. Think strategically.

There's a reason why basketball players only go for half-court shots when the buzzer is about to go off. It's a reasonable move for the situation - a terrible one any time else.

Whether it's basketball or love… a tactic is only useful depending on the situation.

Tactic Vs. Strategy

A strategy is made up of tactics, but they're not followed blindly, they're organized in a way that helps you decide which tactics to use and when to use them.

The No Contact "Rule" is more of a tactic, not a rule. It may work for many people trying to get their ex back, but it’s not helpful for every situation. Just like in sports, there are many tactics that help teams succeed, not just one.

Unlike basketball, football, or any other sport, there are no clear rules in love (no scoreboards either). Unfortunately, you must understand the situation you're in before knowing which tactic to apply. A good starting point in figuring out your situation with your ex, look at the reasons why the breakup happened.


What To Do During No Contact

# What to do during no contact

A No Contact period is almost always a smart idea. There are some exceptions, and the length of the No Contact period depends on your situation, but it’s still one of the most common steps we advise you to take. While it is an important step, it is also a difficult one and sometimes you need to find a healthy way to distract yourself from thinking about your ex throughout the no-contact period.

Focusing On Self-Improvement

Here are some suggestions:

  • Call friends or family on the phone
  • Hang out with friends and family
  • Exercise
  • Cook your favorite dish
  • Go for a hike
  • Play video games
  • Go shopping
  • Work on car, motorcycle, bicycle, etc
  • Start a blog
  • Do yoga, tai chi, or other less intensive exercises

No Contact is a good time to self-improve, reflect, workout, reconnect with family, etc. But, beyond that, you can spend that time more effectively by improving areas about yourselves that lead to the breakup.

I advise you to practice strategic self-improvement, which refers to improving areas of your life that help resolve the issues that caused the breakup to happen. There are many ways to self-improve and the No Contact period is long enough to make real changes. What you tell you to do during No Contact should include strategic self-improvement.

Imagine someone whose ex broke up with him because he was overprotective and controlling. After reflection, he may determine that he acted this way out of fear of being alone because she was his only friend. Deciding to hit the gym 5 days a week isn’t the best self-improvement option. A better option would be to expand his social circle and possibly go on a few dates. Working on that will help build his emotional support system and make him less likely to ruin his next relationship with the same fear. You need to play strategically. NC helps you avoid mistakes. That said, it can feel intimidating or contradictory to take time apart from the person you want to build a future with. It is common to grapple with insecurities about what this space may mean.

You might ask yourself:

  • "They reached out to me first, shouldn’t I respond back?"
  • "If I don’t contact them sooner, won’t they forget about me?"
  • "Won’t they find someone else during the No Contact period?"
  • "I learned why I hurt them, can I just send an apology text now?"
  • "We work in the same office, wouldn’t doing No Contact make things awkward?"
  • "We have kids together, how can I do No Contact, but still have to talk about our kids?"

These are legitimate questions, but in the majority of cases, No Contact will only help. If you’re forced to interact with your ex, minimize the length of your conversations as much as possible and don’t talk about the relationship.

Doubtful

If you’re still doubtful, you’re making the assumption that you’re capable of figuring out a better approach. You may be right, but the odds are against you.

The No Contact Period is hard for many of us to go through. Especially coming right out of a relationship, you’ll have more time to yourself than you’re used to. It’s tempting to use this time in unhealthy ways, but if you focus on self-improvement, not only will you be overall happier, you’ll also improve their chances of getting your ex back. You’ll come out a better, healthier, happier person and romantic partner.

Depending on the reasons for the breakup, there are a variety of positive life changes that can be made. Some examples include:

  • Getting a better job or promotion

  • Learning something new

  • Start a fun/challenging hobby (not video games)

  • Getting in shape

  • Expanding or creating a new social circle

  • Improve in general areas your ex said you need to improve on

  • If your ex thought you had bad sleeping habits, you can work on that.

Once you're done with the No Contact period, you can take the final steps towards reconnecting with your ex. The goal is to re-engage your ex via text, slowly build comfort, schedule a meetup, and finally work towards restoring the relationship.


Re-engagement Message

Going from spending almost every day with your ex and sharing the intimate details of what keeps you awake at night or gets you out of bed in the morning to the radio silence of a break up can be a tough adjustment. Now that it’s time to reach out again, it can be tempting to make some grandiose gesture or a bold statement of affection when approaching the re-engagement.

texting

It’s very important to approach this casually, without being overly emotional or putting pressure on your ex. While you may have been looking forward to this day for some time, your ex doesn’t need to know that. This message should feel spontaneous, be short, and be easy to respond to. You don’t want to seem in a hurry to get back together or mention the relationship, you simply want to reopen the doors to communication in a laid back and friendly way and see how they respond.

Does it feel like this tactic is not how you would have approached the situation in the past with your ex? That’s a good thing, it’s designed this way because this is how an improved version of yourself would handle it.

Here are some tips to help get you out of your head and onto the path towards the re-engagement you’ve been hoping for:

What to say:

There are a few different methods you can use when reaching back out to your ex. Notice all still maintain a casual, friendly, and upbeat tone but, depending on the dynamic between you and your ex, one may feel more natural to you than others. Regardless of the method you pick, it’s best to end the text with a simple question about their life to encourage conversation.

Mention positive memory

This message should reference something you just experienced that reminded you of a positive memory you shared during the course of your relationship. It shouldn’t be too serious of a memory, and a humorous one is more likely to get a positive reaction. That said, if you’ve had a particularly messy or difficult break-up you may opt for a more sentimental memory.

For example:

I was driving past Joe’s Pub last night and thought of that night we had 1 (or 3) too many margaritas and you somehow convinced me to sing karaoke. Made me smile. How’ve you been? Is Love Shack still your karaoke go-to?

Ask for advice

Asking for advice can be a low-pressure way to re-engage your ex without any mention of the relationship. If there is a certain skill set or area of expertise that sticks out about them, you can reach out on behalf of yourself or a friend for their guidance. People typically feel honored when they are sought out for advice, and it’s an indirect way of getting them to open up to you.

For example:

I’m trying to get back into reading and looking for recommendations. You were the first person to pop into my mind, you always had the best taste. Been reading anything good lately?

Check in about life change/update

This method is a good one if you know your ex was preparing to be going through a significant change in their life. It could be a promotion, a new job, or moving houses or cities.

For example:

I know you started with the new job last week. I have no doubt in my mind you’re absolutely killing it, but wanted to check-in. How is it?

When to send it

Send the message at a time you can safely assume your ex won’t be doing anything. During the week, after dinner and before going to sleep is usually your best bet. They won’t be distracted by the responsibilities and hectic nature of the workday, it’s normally not a time people make plans and it’s not too late that you will risk them thinking you’ve been out and/or drinking.


Using Re-engagement to Highlight Improvements:

# Highlight Improvements

The Re-engagement Message is your opportunity to show off your self-improvement.

Let’s take a Re-engagement Message example from the above examples and see how we would change it if the breakup reason was 1) Unforgivable Incident, and 2) Alcohol binge problem. In this case, the two reasons are related - you did the unforgivable incident while drunk after a night of binge drinking.

The example:

I was driving past Joe’s Pub last night and thought of that night we had 1 (or 3) too many margaritas and you somehow convinced me to sing karaoke. Made me smile. How’ve you been? Is Love Shack still your karaoke go-to?

Now, considering the breakup reasons, we can improve the message:

I went to karaoke at [name of NON-Alcoholic bar or restaurant] the other night, some big hairy guy decided to sing "Love Shack", I almost sang along before I came to my senses. Anyway, it also reminded me of you (in a good way). How was your weekend? Any good lip-syncing?

The big difference here is that the karaoke place is not a bar, preferably some non-alcoholic venue, like a bowling alley. The more subtle hint is the part “before I came to my senses” which might further imply he wasn’t drinking.


Reigniting Conversation

After sending the Re-engagement message, focus on maintaining the same casual tone, and continuing to elicit positive memories and reactions. The ultimate goal of the conversation is to reignite that spark and move towards meeting up in person, but be careful not to rush things or get too excited too quickly. Imagine you're trying to arrange a first date. Be patient and accept the fact that this is a journey, and be proud of yourself for taking a step in the right direction.

The difficulty of this step highly depends on your ex’s response to the Re-engagement Message. If their response is very positive, you may have an easy time carrying on the conversation (as you have many times during their relationship). If the response is negative, delayed, or contains mixed signals, the next message should calibrate accordingly.

Example:

The screenshot below starts with a Re-engagement Message, which gets a response. The next message continues the conversations with the same positive vibe. It also contains a tease in order to reignite the passion:

Reigniting conversation


Scheduling A Meetup

After successfully rekindling the spark in the Reigniting Conversation, it’s time to send a message intended to schedule a time to meet up.

There’s a spectrum of how direct this message can be. An example of an indirect message is “Some friends and I are going to shoot pool at the local pub. Shoot me a text if you’re in the area”. In this example, a meeting wasn’t even brought up, it was just implied. An example of a direct message would be, “Let’s me at the local pub and shoot some pool at 7:00 PM Monday”. There’s no room for ambiguity here.

The challenge in writing the Scheduling Meetup Message is in figuring out the right level of directness. The simplest approach would be to match the level of directness your ex is communicating with. The examples below will explain how to figure it out in more detail.

Example

This screenshot starts with a Scheduling Meetup Message that received mixed signals:

Scheduling meetup

It’s not over when the Scheduling Meetup Message doesn’t succeed in scheduling a meeting. The best way to recover is to not make a big deal out of it and move on to a new conversational thread.

Recovery message

If the response is very negative, like just a “No” or no response at all. you might have to backtrack to the no contact period.


NEXT STEPS

Although it is true that every relationship, and therefore breakup, is unique and laced with nuances, when you strip those details away to unearth the bare bones of conflict and human interaction, you can uncover patterns in the types of relationship problems that drive couples apart.

The behavioral patterns can be difficult to discover. But they’re critical in keeping your Ex after you reconnect.

We’ve helped over 25,000 clients discover, acknowledge, and take control of these destructive patterns. If you want to ensure your success, I highly recommend talking to one of our professional relationship coaches.

Click here to chat with a relationship coach.

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