7 Things To Consider Before Getting Coffee With An Ex
It's a nice thought: having coffee with your ex lover. Spending a few hours one afternoon across from the person you once gave your heart to, now older, wiser. Theoretically, it could be both progressive and comforting to find space for an old flame in your new life. It would mean that it wasn't all for nothing — you're adults now, you can be civil, right? A friendship would validate the relationship's demise, wouldn't it?
But for many of us grappling with the decision to reach out to an ex, there's a quiet objective and unrealistic expectation attached. Here's how it might go, your subconscious taunts: You'll hug, you'll say it's so good to see each other. You'll acknowledge new hairstyles and shoes and smile at the old wallets and watches and cowlicks. You'll surprise each other with your orders — maybe you don't drink coffee any more, maybe they've gone vegan. You'll talk about your families, your friends, your jobs. You'll talk about a trip you took independently that you had hoped you'd one day take together — you'll try not to be passive aggressive about it. And maybe somewhere not so deep inside, you'll hope they reach for you and tell you that the break up was all their fault and they'd do anything to get you back — even though you're not sure you want them back.
But for others, making a coffee date with an ex is more convincingly innocuous, as they've really moved on and are in a happy relationship. Regardless of what your current relationship status is, reaching out to an ex can signify reaching into the past, which might have more psychological relevance than you realize. Bustle talked to clinical psychologist, Alexandra R. Lash, PsyD about how to consider opening up the ex files in the most emotionally responsible way possible. Together, we've compiled a list of questions to ask yourself before you reach out to your ex to ensure that your objectives are in line with your values and expectations.
Consider Your Objective
"To approach this concept as objectively as possible, first ask yourself how you would react if a friend or loved one told you they were thinking about reaching out to their ex. Consider yourself with the same standards that you would attribute to someone you respect and love," Dr. Lash suggests as a way of removing the emotionality out of the concept. What you need to be sure of before reaching out to your ex is exactly why you're doing it. If some part of you is hoping for reconciliation, be honest with yourself and keep that honesty at the forefront of your awareness. If your objective is to build a friendship, be equally as aware so as to not send mixed messages.
Has Enough Time Passed?
Imagine hearing that your ex has moved on and is happily committed and thriving in their life, post-your relationship. If that stings, it's too soon to reach out. In order to build an authentic friendship, you have to be in a headspace where their happiness is genuinely important to you. It's OK if that's hard in the beginning, people move on at different rates, but wait until this has passed before trying to be in each other's lives.
Do You Have An Irrational Agenda?
If you want to meet up with your ex because you have convinced yourself that the mere sight of each other will rekindle the sparks of your romantic relationship, you are setting yourself up for an unnecessary disappointment. "Make sure that you have modest expectations," Dr. Lash tells Bustle, "it's easy to have irrational ideas of what one coffee date will accomplish, but managing those expectations is going to be the difference between being disappointed, and progressive."
Can You Handle It?
"If you go into this experience looking for clarity, you might find yourself with information that will be overwhelming or hurtful," Dr. Lash says, warning that we should be fully prepared to have our most negative suspicions validated when opening up the ex files. What's more, even if the conversation is kept light and surface, the act of merely sitting across from someone with whom you were intimate with can be equally devastating. If the prospect of being unable to kiss or touch your ex might hurt, don't put yourself in that position.
If It's Just Coffee, Will That Be Enough?
While in your head you might be telling yourself that you just want to catch up for an hour or two, you might subconsciously want something more. If you're trying to re-open a door to the relationship, you might be disappointed when your ex keeps it short and sweet and doesn't follow up. Make sure that you're satisfied with the prospect of a coffee catch up being just as straightforward as it sounds, before proposing it.
Are You Looking For Answers?
It's totally normal to want answers after a break up. Especially after significant time has passed, some things become more clear while other things become even more cloudy. "For some people, clarity is needed to move on. The brain doesn't like unsolved mysteries and one way to free the mind from returning to an unanswerable question is to seek that clarity. That said, remember that even if your ex agrees to meet and answer questions, you're not guaranteed full disclosure," Dr. Lash tells Bustle, reminding us that your ex will only be as honest as they see fit. And, if you have questions, make that clear when you reach out to make plans. Don't blindside your ex with an inquisition. Give them the opportunity to politely decline meeting if they're uncomfortable with rehashing your relationship in a public place.
Are You Keeping Tabs?
Think about why you want to see your ex. Why do you want to know about their life? Is it because you care about them and want to see them thrive, or is it because you can't figure out what's going on in their life because they don't post enough on Instagram? It's natural to want to know what they're doing without you, but if you're reaching out under the false pretense of being OK with friendship, when you're really reaching out to create a false sense of intimacy, you're better off postponing the coffee date until you've moved on a bit more. "Your gut matters, sometimes you have to just trust that you have all of the information you need, and rely on your intuition for the closure you desire, " Dr. Lash says, encouraging tempted excavators to search for the answers in themselves before turning back to the past.
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