New Phone, Who Dis? 4 Things to Do When an Ex Reaches Out

I’ve always felt that unexpectedly coming back into the lives of past loved ones is what exes do best. It is their single most cherished hobby (apart from drunk-texting). Most especially, exes love showing up once you’ve moved on.

I had a weirdly obsessive relationship with an ex that lasted a year or two (or three or four) too long. Neither of us could seem to move on, and so, like clockwork, we’d eventually make our way back to each other. We were king and queen of the late-night text. Slipping into DMs, rekindling nostalgia while tequila-infused at a bar. That was our practiced MO.

Until it began to grow kind of old and stale and exhausting. It took five long years to cut the cord, and though the cord had been hanging together by a single, run-down strand, I finally severed it.

That was what was best for me and for that relationship, but I’m well aware that’s not always the case. There are exes I’m still cordial with, friendly with even. It all depends.

Has an ex recently reached out to you out of the blue? Here’s what to do when an ex rears their ugly head (I joke, I kid):

First and foremost, breathe.

Maybe you’re looking for specific advice on how to react or a verbatim text template to craft back to said ex. But you’re not going to get it here. Instead, let me inundate you with the value of meditation.

Do a five-10-minute meditation or take a meditative walk. The purpose of either of these exercises is to slow down your heart rate, breathe through any anxiety the unanticipated reach-out may have caused, and to clear your head.

Sometimes, we respond too quickly, make decisions based on knee-jerk emotions like nostalgia or missing someone. But our initial reaction isn’t necessarily the most trustworthy. Step away from the situation and organize your thoughts in a coherent, calm manner.

Future You will surely thank you for it.

Make a pros and cons list.

Divy a page into two categories: a positive and a negative side. On the positive side of the list, itemize as many good memories as you can think of. Then, list the things that were not so good: Did the ex-partner cheat? Did you have trouble communicating as a couple? Was trust an issue? Did you bring out the worst in each other? Did they rip at your insecurities?

Sometimes after a breakup, we tend to only remember the good. That’s not fair to us nor is it giving proper acknowledgement to what the relationship actually was like. I was in an on-again, off-again relationship for several years and when people would ask me what kept me there, all I could remember was when we went to Disney World together, how well I got along with his mom, and how much time I’d invested in this relationship. But I had amnesia when it came to all the fights, the recurring incompatibility issues that went unresolved. Why didn’t I shed light on those memories?

People break up for a reason. Remember the good times but also, remember why you called off the relationship too.

Reach out to a trusted confidant.

Is there a trusted family member or friend who knew you really well during the time you were in this past relationship? Reach out to them; gauge their opinion on your ex’s efforts to contact you.

Chances are the closest people to you can see the relationship from a more objective perspective. My sister was an overt picketer of my aforementioned on-again, off-again relationship. My mom said from day one, “He’s a good guy, but not the one for you.”

At the time, I thought my sister too judge-y, and felt hurt my mom didn’t “support the relationship.” While they certainly could have done more to accept the relationship at the time, I can look back now with clarity, knowing they saw something I didn’t.

Talk to your loved ones. What do they think about your ex getting in contact with you again? Trust their opinions, truly listen to their reasoning. Let it affect your decision but not inform it.

Ask yourself: What do you want your future to be?

That on-again, off-again relationship of mine came to a head: He was still in graduate school, I was on my own in a one-bedroom apartment, paying my own rent, making money, and living in a different state. I envisioned my future: I’d stay in this state for a while, get a bigger apartment, maybe a dog. It was hard to see this boyfriend in it.

Why was it so hard to see him in it? Because I knew in my heart he wasn’t going to be there. He no longer fit into my life, and as we both grew and went forward, we were going to grow further and further apart.

Think of where you are now: What kind of relationship with this ex, if any, would make you the happiest and the fullest version of you? Are you really only just looking to settle the dust and be friends with this person? Are the ex’s intentions the same? For us, friendship didn’t work; we had to fully cut the cord.

Friendship between exes only truly works out when both people are on the same page. If you are confident that you and your former flame both want the same thing out of reconnecting, then that might be a sign that you should respond and pursue what you’re looking for.

If not, cut that cord, baby. Cut it.

It’s easier said than done. I didn’t find any success following through until I had started really confronting what I wanted out of my life. Therapy, falling in love with someone else, and ignoring his reach-outs all played a part. I moved on; stopped answering. Eventually, he stopped reaching out.

All of these activities will help you determine how to handle your ex’s attempt to contact you. It might require a little effort, but as long as you have a solid understanding of what you’re looking to get out of this contact, you will feel more confident handling the newly reopened lines of communication.

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