If you’ve broken up with somebody and are hoping to keep having a good relationship, it’s important to be careful. You can’t just rush in and either act like everything’s normal or start trying to rekindle your romance right away.
The good thing is that the steps you need to take are the same whether you hope to be friends with your ex, or to resume a romantic relationship with them.
Here are a few fundamental rules to help you move forward, whatever your intentions.
1. Be Quiet For a While
This is rule number one, and it should be rules number one, two, and three, because it is so important. By “quiet” I mean don’t talk to your ex, don’t text your ex, don’t phone your ex, don’t friend or unfriend your ex on social media, don’t write letters to your ex, don’t send third-party messages through their friends, don’t gossip about them, don’t visit your ex either at home or at work, in fact don’t communicate with your ex in any way at all.
I can’t overstate the importance of this step.
Immediately after a breakup – whether you are breaking things off or whether the other person is breaking up with you – everyone’s emotions are wild and crazy.
Feelings change from hour to hour or minute to minute. Tidal waves of emotion crash through you, and through your ex, too. And this can go on for a while – days, weeks, months, longer.
During this crazy, scary, tempestuous time, you can’t trust your own feelings. Never mind whether you can trust anything your ex is doing or saying. Forget that for a moment and just realize you can’t even trust yourself.
You might feel at one moment that breaking up with your ex is the biggest tragedy of your entire life, that the entire universe has broken down. Then even five minutes later, or an hour later, or the next day, you might feel very different.
By then you may be icy calm, or hot with anger that they dared to dump you. The truth is, you have no idea how you will feel tomorrow.
To keep yourself safe, and to protect any chances, however slim, that you will continue to be friends with your ex, or even become lovers again someday, you must avoid saying or doing something that will ruin those chances.
While you’re in the throes of this emotional storm, it might seem like a good idea to have sex with your ex again, or it might seem like a good idea to punch them in the face, or scream abuse at them. None of those things will probably seem like good ideas the next day, or the day after, and they may very well ruin your relationship forever.
All this is true, too, for your ex, although to tell the truth, what they are feeling is none of your business right now. But neither of you knows what you want right now, and so the best thing is total silence. Trust me. If you don’t communicate with your ex, you can’t do anything stupid. If you do communicate with them in this chaotic time when you don’t really know how you feel, you will almost certainly do something stupid. So keep quiet.
2. Listen to Yourself
It’s vital to listen to yourself, to figure out what you really want and what is best for you. But that takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. That’s another good reason for the period of silence and no contact – it gives you time to let the crazy emotions in your head and heart quiet down so eventually you can hear another voice talking, your own voice, telling you what you really want.
I suggest at least a month with no communication whatsoever with your ex. During that time, you can do some exercises to help clarify your own intentions. Take a few minutes every day, when you’re calm, and write down a list of positive and negative things about your relationship with your ex. Be honest about it – no one is ever going to read this list except you, so you can tell the truth. After a few days of this type of writing, you will notice certain themes come out. Pay attention to them.
You might also do some freewriting where you just scribble down whatever comes into your mind about your future. What are your goals, plans and dreams? Not for you and your ex or for you and another partner, but just for you? What do you want out of your life? Knowing what you want in the future will help you figure out how and even if your ex could fit in with those plans.
3. Listen to Your Ex
Finally, when and if you do resume contact with your ex, it’s very important to listen to what they want. Sometimes this is as hard as or even harder than listening to yourself. If you’re dying to get back together with your ex, you may fool yourself into hearing them say things they aren’t really saying. So tread carefully. If you want to be friends with your ex, then be honest about it. That’s what adults do – they tell each other what they want.
If your ex wants to be friends with you, that’s great. Both of you are on the same page. But if they don’t, then you have to respect that and let them go.
Similarly, if you are holding onto hope of resuming a romantic relationship with them, either soon or someday, then don’t demand an answer or any action from them right away. Just tell them how you feel, and then drop the subject and wait for them to reply in their own time.
That might be soon, or it might not be for a long time. When they do reply, you must respect what they say. If they don’t want to be romantically involved with you, you just have to accept that and move on.
If you do your ex the honour of speaking the truth to them, it is more likely they will respect you by being honest with you.
That’s the best way for both of you to move forward with whatever sort of relationship you will have in the future.