With red and pink decorations and candy flooding the stores, it’s a reminder that Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, which may stir up emotions more in some people than in others. Whether you’re single, just started dating someone, or in a serious relationship, everyone has different feelings about the love-centric day. You may also reach out to friends and family on February 14, just to remind them that you love them. But what should you do if an ex reaches out to you on Valentine’s Day?
You may welcome hearing from them — they’ve finally come to their senses! — or, you’re in shock. Or angry. Perhaps you’re finally over them, or maybe you may be perfectly content dating yourself. And then THE EX appears out of the blue. After all, this tends to happen when you’ve finally gotten them out of your head — and social media feeds. Now what?
“This holiday is one that can stir up complicated feelings for both men and women,” Kat Haselkorn, matchmaker for Three Day Rule, tells Bustle. “If an ex contacts you, they may be trying to capitalize on your vulnerability (not nice!) or they may truly be missing you and hoping to reconcile.” She says that it’s important to not let the emotions surrounding Valentine’s Day affect your behavior. “Make sure to treat it like any other day,” she says. Of course, this may be easier said than done. If you do hear from an ex on Valentine’s Day, before you respond, here’s what experts recommend you do.
1. Remind Yourself How The Relationship Ended
Thomas Edwards, founder of The Professional Wingman, tells Bustle that the first thing to assess is how your relationship ended and what kind of terms you and the ex are on. “From there, see if the reaching out has specific intent,” he says. “All these things can and should be considered: Is it a recent breakup? Are they trying to connect with you again? Is it just a simple pleasantry, given the history you two have had?”
James Preece, dating coach and relationship expert, agrees, saying that why you broke up may be a factor to consider when you’re contemplating whether or not to contact them back. “If you are happy to hear from them, then it’s fine to respond,” he tells Bustle. “Just take it slow and see where they are leading things, but do keep in mind the reasons why you broke up and if you really want to give them another chance.”
2. Wait Before Responding — If You Choose To Respond At All
While it’s easy to get right back to your ex, it’s best to wait. “If you think their intentions are pure, they will understand your hesitation,” Haselkorn says. “Wait a day or two to gather your thoughts before responding.”
Carmelia Ray, celebrity matchmaker and relationship and online dating expert, agrees. “Hearing from an ex might bring back sad memories or skeletons in the closet that you’d rather leave behind,” she tells Bustle. “The best thing to do is not react immediately, if at all.”
3. Don’t Assume Anything
Maybe you have been waiting to hear from an ex for months — yay, they want you back! — or maybe they’re the last person you want to hear from. In any case, it’s best not to draw conclusions before you know their motivation. “Don’t assume anything,” Ray says. “Do not panic and do not start thinking about all the worst (or best) possible reasons your ex is contacting you.”
4. Ask Yourself If You Still Have Feelings For Them
Sometimes, hearing from an ex is exactly what you’ve been waiting for — you gave them space and would love to be in contact again, platonically or not. So, assess if you still have feelings for them, Stef Safran, matchmaking and dating expert, tells Bustle. “If you are the person who broke their heart — and you are over them — then you can reach back out and just say ‘Happy Valentine’s Day,’” she says. “If you don’t still have feelings, communicating may not be an issue.” But if you do, that may be another story. “If you were hoping that they would contact you to get back together, this might be a sign, so contact them back.”
5. Ignore Them If It Will Reopen Old Emotional Wounds
Sometimes, just when you’re starting to embrace your happy single life or your new relationship, it’s as though your ex has ESP and contacts you. “If engaging with your ex will interfere with your current, quality relationship — or your well-being in general — ignore them,” David Bennett, counselor and relationship expert with Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. “With the way that the brain chemistry of love works, you may have some feelings and attachment for your ex even if you have mentally moved on.” So, when your ex pops back into the picture, you will likely feel these again, he says. “This can seriously get in the way of you moving on, and could even cause you to question whether you should be with the person you may currently be seeing,” Bennett says. In this case, he suggests ignoring your ex, consider blocking them, and moving on.
6. Enforce Your Boundaries
Boundaries are important in every relationship — with friends, family members, people you’re dating, and exes. “Some people break up on good terms with their ex, while others break up because they need a toxic or abusive ex out of their lives,” Bennett says. “Whatever the case, if your ex reaches out to you, stick to and enforce your boundaries.” If your ex was bad for you and you know responding will lead to disaster, it’s best to ignore and/or block them, he says. But if they were good for you and you feel like you want to give something a chance, then it’s OK to respond.
Margaux Cassuto, relationship expert and founder of Three Matches, agrees about boundaries. “You want to be clear that you have moved on and don’t have room for them in your heart or your life,” she tells Bustle. “However, if you miss their friendship, you can invite them to reconnect — even on Valentine’s Day — but you need to be clear with them about boundaries.” And, to avoid any relapse, she says to remind yourself — before meeting them — why you don’t want to reconnect with them romantically.
7. Do Whatever Will Make You Happiest
At the end of the day, do whatever will make you happiest. “In ‘thank u, next,’ Ariana Grande’s attitude about her exes is an exemplary model for dealing with past relationships,” Ray says. “Consider that your ex had something positive to contribute to you, even if it was a life lesson on what NOT to do in a partnership. Then, if your ex reaches out, it doesn’t mean you have to return the message.” She says that if it’s best for you not to respond, then do what empowers YOU and what makes you happy. “If they reached out simply to wish you a happy day or a happy life, you can say ‘Thank you...’ and return with a positive sentiment and a clear message that you’ve moved on,” Ray says.
As you can see, there are several ways to respond if your ex contacts you on Valentine’s Day, all depending on the circumstances and your feelings toward them. In any case, Valentine’s Day is primarily about loving yourself first and foremost, and then taking it from there.