How To Mend Your Relationship With Ex & Get Back On Good Terms Again, According To Experts
If there's one thing pretty much everyone can agree on, it's that breakups suck. Having a long-term relationship come to an end is a painful, emotional, and often confusing experience for both partners — even the one ending things. And the aftermath of a breakup isn’t any easier: you can be left needing more clarity or closure, and with plenty of conflicting feelings about your now-ex. Even if things didn’t work out romantically, it’s not easy to forget your entire history with someone — which is why, down the road, you might want to know how to mend your relationship with an ex and get back on friendly terms again, because not every breakup has to end with a burned bridge.
"Healing wounds from past relationships will set you free and help you avoid repeating the patterns that lead you to the past relationship," Eliza Boquin, MA, LMFT, Licensed Psychotherapist, and Relationship & Sexuality Expert, tells Bustle. "Healing empowers us with self-awareness that can later guide us when we're ready to begin another relationship. Humans are wired for connection; heartbreak can cause us to isolate or later hold back in future relationships. Healing helps us to stay connected."
Obviously, there are some instances in which you shouldn't reach back out to an ex — if the relationship was toxic or abusive, for example — but if you feel comfortable re-opening that door and want to clear the air with someone, here are five expert tips for mending things with an ex.
1. Ask Yourself Why You're Reaching Out
Whether you broke up six months or six years ago, reaching back out to an ex can be nerve-wracking. But before you hit send on that casual-cool "how you been?" text, it's important to ask yourself exactly why you want to talk to them in the first place.
"It's important to know what your motives are for reaching out," Boquin says. "Are you reaching out because you've done personal work and you want to apologize for past toxic behavior? Is it because you owe them an apology? Or are you reaching out in the hopes of rekindling the romance?"
2. Don't Feel Entitled To A Response
Every relationship and every breakup is different, and everyone handles breakups in their own way. So if you're reaching back out to an ex, even if things ended somewhat amicably, you should never feel entitled to a response from them.
"Reach out when you are ready but don't expect a response," Shan Boodram, author, certified sex educator, and host of Facebook Watch's Make Up or Break Up, tells Bustle. "Everyone is entitled to their own method of mending. If you want to attempt to close the relationship together, reach out and keep the request as general and as pleasant sounding as possible."
3. Start The Conversation With An Open Question
If your ex does agree to talk, Boodram says the best course of action is to start the conversation with an open-ended question, like "I'd love to hear what happened between us from your perspective?" But it's really the next step that's key: listen.
"Even if it's eating you up inside, listen without interruption," Boodram says. "When they are finished, acknowledge what they said and validate their right to their perspective. If you can, apologize for something they were hurt about — then go into your side of the story and hope they offer you the same things you just gave them."
4. Be Prepared To Acknowledge What You Did Wrong
A major part of being an emotionally mature adult — and healthy romantic partner, too — is learning to take accountability for your actions and own up to your mistakes. Even if your ex screwed up (again, this doesn't pertain to toxic or abusive relationships), you should also be willing to acknowledge what — if any — part you had in the breakup.
"Each person needs to acknowledge how they got where they are today," Boodram says. "The conversation will run smoother if each can clearly admit where they were responsible and can pinpoint what they believe the other contributed. Stay away from talking about debatable factors: feelings, tones, perceived intentions, assumptions, etc.."
5. Don't Focus On Specific Incidents
With months or even years of history behind you and your ex, it can be difficult to have a productive post-breakup conversation. One tip that will help you prevent your convo from spiraling into an argument? Focus less on specific incidents in your relationship, and more on aspects related to character.
"When you are talking about the relationship from your perspective, try to stick to three big points that are based on character, not incidents," Boodram says. "You can use incidents to support your arguments but never make it the heart of your conversation, because you probably won't agree on the series of events and your point may get lost in the debate of the semantics."
What If You Want To Get Back Together With Your Ex?
While there's always the chance that meeting with an ex will have disastrous results, there's also the possibility that reconnecting with an ex and confronting those old feelings will make you realize you want to give things another shot. It's OK to want to rekindle things with an ex — hey, people do it all the time — but the number one rule is to always proceed with caution.
"Make sure you have taken some time to work on yourself and gain a better perspective about what happened and your part it in, so you do not repeat the same patterns again and again with this same partner," Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT, tells Bustle. "Therapy can be helpful here as well. When you reach out the them, be very specific about what changes you have made during the breakup and that you would like to explore getting back together with them. Be clear and to the point in your message."
When it comes to matters of the heart, things are rarely simple. Getting back together with an ex isn't the right choice for everyone, and it's almost never easy — but if both people are committed to making things work, it's also not impossible. Even if you have no interest in rekindling your romance, mending old wounds and getting closure with an ex is still worthwhile: it can help your heart heal, and help you grow as a person. That way, when you're in a relationship in the future, you'll be the best version of yourself possible — with lots more love to give.