Welcome to the Internet, the birthplace of questionable breakup gimmicks and relationship truisms. I welcome your skepticism.
Chances are you’ve already been exposed to ideas such as going no contact or other forms of manipulative behavior.
This guide is my earnest attempt at clarifying what works and what doesn’t work, without the reverse psychology and parlor tricks. In short, this is about making sense, and not throwing our cards on the table in a last desperate attempt to get them back.
1. Limited Contact Beats No Contact
Communication is key when it comes to reconciling. If you can’t communicate, or behave in a way that makes your ex feel they are welcome to reach out, how can you expect positive change to occur? Scratch that, if we make our boundaries and walls so high the risk associated with them is self-esteem suicide, how can we expect anything other than drifting apart to occur. Coupled with a growing dose of mutual resentment, of course.
Forget no contact, primarily because it is a self-fulfilling prophecy and will lead to no contact more often than not.
And even if it doesn’t…
Consider what no contact actually does. It seeks to exacerbate insecurity rather than fix what is broken. The chances are high that once your ex returns, purely out of a sense of panic, they will quickly be reminded of why they left.
Why did they leave?
That’s what you need to solve before you break the silence.
2. Be Objective About The Breakup
Silence is a precious thing, and it should be embraced to attempt to become objective about the relationship. Even if the breakup was nothing more than a temporary mistake, the rift that occurred is a sign that something wasn’t working as it should. Now is the time to do our homework.
Questions to ask ourselves
- What really led to the breakup? Not just the singularity that sparked it, we’re talking way back. The more objective we become, the more we realize that the issues are rooted far further in the past than we initially thought.
- What can be realistically negotiated? If the breakup hinged on your, or their, inability to compromise a core need, the relationship might not have been realistically salvageable because any promise of change was fundamentally hollow. This isn’t a question of blaming anyone; we need what we need as individuals, beyond being a partner. And sometimes there’s no real compromise to be had.
- How complete am I as an individual? An underrated facet of relationship management is our ability to incorporate a partner’s routine into our lives while remaining a functional individual. If we can’t find fulfillment and well-being outside of our partner, we risk being co-dependent. This leads to the shaving away of what makes us tick as individuals, and also makes us less attractive to our partner, as we progressively strip away what they fell in love with.
The questions are endless, and this kind of introversion can be taken too far. Make sure you don’t over-analyze aspects of the relationship you have no control over such as your partner’s intent (good luck with that, I know).
Once you feel you have a grasp of what fundamentally went wrong, which is usually the point where you realize that the latest fight was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, it’s time to formulate a plan of action.
3. Use The Right Tools
Wielding the right tools means knowing, at least roughly, what state our ex is in.
The most important tool we have is communication. And sometimes how we communicate is as important as what.
Due to the emotions involved (fear) we usually make one of two mistakes:
- We deescalate communication because we are fearful of rejection. This means using text messages rather than talking openly. The risk here is that we are mixing our messages and confusing communication.
- We escalate communication because we need gratification. The heightened degree of emotion usually leads to confusion or rejection if we’re acting blindly. We can’t lose sight of their needs, or we will be judged as disrespectful. The overall risk here is being too intense and driving our ex’s off.
The key to true communication is to identify what level of intimacy your ex is comfortable with. For instance, if they are silent or resentful, start with something impersonal such as an E-mail. You won’t risk catching them at the wrong time, and you can both communicate objectively without your emotions muddling the waters.
4. Make Promises You Can Keep
It’s always tempting to promise the world to keep someone we love in our lives. Whatever it is they want, we’re willing to sacrifice to achieve, and the thing is — in the heat of the moment we actually mean it.
The problem with this is manifold.
Firstly, it just sounds dishonest. Our ex is likely far more objective about what we are capable of than we think.
Secondly, our display of “selflessness” will usually be interpreted as a sign we either have no real value or are having a self-esteem crisis. I know it sounds crass and superficial, but there you have it.
The truth is that, as hard as it is, we need to stand our ground when it comes to protecting our needs. Even if that means risking rejection. Let me put it this way, if protecting your own needs means parting ways, then all you’ve done is saved yourself time and energy because sooner or later the house of cards would have come crumbling down anyway.
You lose nothing but false hope by standing up for yourself.
5. Don’t Take The Bait
Mind games are a hallmark of the post-breakup world. Since to some extent both you and your ex feel like you have something to lose, whether it’s a chance at reconciliation or closure, engaging in mind games means gauging intent without risking a potentially ugly truth.
The problem here is that mixed messages will only further confuse your connection and lead to resentment. What we hope is a way to keep the spirit alive is a way to slowly kill it, because your relationship will become lost in a haze of crumbs.
Ironically, the best way to strike at the underlying core of what’s going on is to take all contact at face value.
- If they’re silent leave them be. It doesn’t matter whether or not the silence is manipulative. If you wait it out you will teach them that they can’t manipulate you, and they will have to be direct if they have questions. If their silence is genuine, you free yourself from leading yourself on and receiving confusing mixed messages. Naturally, this goes both ways. If you really have questions, and you’re sure you’re not just letting your insecurity get the better of you (you ping just to hear them pong), be direct.
- If they’re engaging you take it as a sign they want you in their life. But don’t confuse this with reconciling, at least yet. They might just want you present because they value your company or friendship. Take the attention at face value, don’t over-analyze.
As a general rule actions are far harder to fake than words. While an ex might think nothing of poking you on Facebook as a quick “forget me not” because it requires no real effort (and is masked), meeting you for coffee means they still have something important invested. Look at the degree of effort behind their actions and you will have a rough of idea of how invested they are. If in serious doubt, demand action and watch the fallout.
6. Redefine The Relationship
Reconciling successfully should feel like beginning a new relationship, not taking a step back into the past.
Like a phoenix from the ashes, redefining the relationship means injecting excitement, hope, and life into what had potentially staled. It means infusing yourself with the comfort and intimacy you had, but shredding the monotony, codependence, and mistakes of the past.
Achieving this feeling will depend on your ability to redefine yourself as an individual, not just an ailing partner. This is why I applaud people who remain active after a breakup. Not because provoking jealousy works, but because you are twisting a curse into a blessing. You are redefining yourself, and consequently, you will redefine all your relationships with your newfound energy. Breakup fallout included.
7. Be Open About Your Intent
Your ability to communicate is directly linked to your chances of reconciling successfully. If your connection is currently drowning in a sea of insecurity and mixed messages, it will eventually kill the desire to reconcile because you might both tire and get used to the distance. Catering to your fear is only natural, but left unchecked, it will corrode both your memories and your feelings.
The problem with being direct is due to fear. We all know that being fearless beacons of courage is the right thing to do, but given what’s at stake, and what’s transpired between you, this may seem impossible. The thing is, you can be direct without being particularly brave. They key here is using a means of communication that is comfortable for us.
If the idea of phoning our ex and telling them how we feel is frightening, the act of writing an Email may seem infinitely less daunting. We should do whatever it takes to reduce our fear, so long as we remain true to our feelings.
Added to which, by leading by example, we are making it easier to get the answers we need because our ex will respond in kind. That’s the value of being direct, we force the hand in play, and get the answers we need to move forward, regardless of what those answers are. If we are straightforward, even no answer is an answer.