5 Things To Do If Your Ex Reaches Out To Not Harm Your Recovery
I know that it can feel really good when your ex reaches out. I mean, they left you behind and here they are, wanting to be in contact again.
But, I can tell you that, when your ex reaches out, there are so many opportunities for things to go bad, even if it feels great at first.
Perhaps they beg for you back, only to leave you. Perhaps you have sex with them, only to have them disappear again. Perhaps they make you promises that they don’t keep, just like last time.
And you are left, right back where you started: broken hearted!
Luckily, there are things that you can do if your ex reaches out to not sabotage your recovery. Here are five of them!
#1 – Don’t engage. Period.
The number one most important thing to do if your ex reaches out is to not engage AT ALL.
That means no responding to see what they want. That means no responding so that you can finally get closure. That means no responding as friends. That means no responding even if they were the last person on earth.
Why? Because if we crack the door open even a little bit, our ex can push it open and place themselves squarely back in our life.
I have a client whose ex of four weeks texted her recently. Her ex was buzzed and saw some Instagram posts of her having fun and suddenly decided that he missed her and reached out.
And my client? She was thrilled, conflicted, intrigued and lonely. So, what did she do? She responded.
Two hours later she was at his house, ‘seeking closure,’ and they ended up having sex. The next day he told her that, if they were going to get back together, they would have to take things slow. (RED FLAG alert!)
The day after that, he was only texting sporadically and soon making excuses for why they couldn’t get together. And my client? Left broken hearted, again!
So, don’t engage if your ex reaches out. Don’t let them back in. Period.
(Side note: I believe that closure is a myth. I believe that it is just an excuse to spend more time with your ex to see if you can talk them into staying. Think about it – am I wrong?)
#2 – Take stock of why they are your ex.
Whenever my clients are going through a break up recovery, I encourage them to take stock of all the things that were wrong in the relationship. The red flags that they saw and ignored. The way their ex made them feel. The things their ex did that upset them. You know, those thousand little cuts that hurt every day.
Why? Because, after we break up with someone and we don’t feel those the thousand little cuts every day, we tend to forget what was wrong with the relationship, the things that were a part of it’s break-up..
By taking written stock of the things that were not okay, my clients have a tool to use when their exes reach out – a list of all of the things that made them miserable. This tool is so much more effective than the faulty memories of the good times, because that is just what they are – faulty and inaccurate.
With one of my exes, whenever he reached out I would go back to him. This happened for a full year and I was a shell of myself. One time I took the advice of someone who told me to make this list and, when he reached out, it worked! I remembered all of the things that made me miserable and I didn’t respond.
After a full year of not being able to break up with him, my list led me to keeping the door of our relationship firmly shut. I was finally able to move on.
#3 – Don’t drink and text.
If your ex reaches out, it is very likely that they have been drinking.
When we are drinking, our inhibitions are muted and we do things that we wouldn’t do when we are sober. We also can feel lonely or horny or bored or wistful. So, what do we do? We reach out to an ex, to see what will happen.
The same can happen if your ex reaches out to you. Even if you don’t respond at first and have your list at hand, once you have a drink or two, all of your resolve can vanish. Instead of staying strong, you can justify reaching out to them and then you do.
You think that you are reaching out ‘as a friend.’ Or you respond with a list of all the ways they hurt you. Or you tell them how much fun you are having out in the world without them.
Whatever you do or say, none of it is coming from a sober place.
If you are going out with friends and there is going to be any amount of alcohol involved, I would encourage you to set up a safety net.
Perhaps you give your friend your phone or tell them you are feeling vulnerable and to not let you text, no matter what. Perhaps you change your ex’s name in your phone to “Douchebag” or “Don’t Reach Out to this Person.” Something that will give you pause before you send a text.
Luckily, there are also apps that will help you refrain from reaching out to your ex when you have been drinking. Here are a list of them. Use them!!!
#4 – Ride it out.
Ok, you are sitting on your coach, watching Friends, happy as can be (mostly). Then Ross kisses Rachel and you are suddenly stricken with loneliness, believing that you will never love or be loved again. And you want to fix it right now!
And what happens next? Your ex reaches out. You reach for the phone to respond, believing that it’s a sign that you don’t have to be alone.
And then? Only messiness.
I always encourage people, when their ex reaches out, to walk away from their phone for a few minutes. To get some ice cream, take a shower, go for a walk, find their list of why their ex sucks.
Why do I suggest that?
Because, more often than not, we respond to our ex, or even text our ex, on reflex. We are all programmed to respond to a text right away and, when an alert pops up on our phone, we reply, almost automatically.
If you can step away from your phone, do something while that initial need to respond passes, this will protect you, and your recovery, in a big way. Furthermore, if you can step away, you can take the time to think through what responding to your ex will mean for you and if it’s a good idea.
I do know that, with each minute that passes, you will be less inclined to respond. That initial hit of dopamine that you get from the text alert will pass, your heart rate will go down and you will be able think clearer.
So, ride out the initial reaction when your ex reaches out to you. Your recovery might depend on it!
#5 – Have a friend shut them down.
When I failed over and over and over to break up with my guy, I finally resorted to something I never wanted to do – to have a friend shut them down. To have a friend tell them to go away.
This worked for two reasons.
The first is that I had to tell my friend that the ex reached out. They then reminded me of all the reasons to stay away and pestered me to do so. Secondly, my friend texted them, in no uncertain terms, that they have no business reaching out and to pound sand, hard.
When an ex reaches out, we often hesitate to tell our family and friends. Why? Because we know that they won’t approve. They know all of the shitty things our ex did to us, things they aren’t going to forget anytime soon (even if we do). So, we hide it from them, embarrassed, determined to manage this on their own.
And that never works because we are too vulnerable.
By asking our friend to respond, we are being honest with them, including them in next steps and not going it alone. With this, our chances of sabotaging our recovery is greatly reduced.
So, there you go, five things to do if your ex reaches out to not harm your recovery.
I know that, more than anything, you want to respond to your ex. And I am guessing that, if you are reading this article, you know that you shouldn’t do so.
First and foremost, don’t respond to them, don’t open the door. Remember why they are your ex and ask a friend to support you as far as managing this. Put your phone away when you are drinking and walk away from it if you are tempted to respond.
You have worked so hard to get to this healthy place. You have worked through so much pain and you have reached the other side. Do you really want to sabotage all of that hard work now and start fresh? Of course not.
You can do this! I promise!