In partnership with Relate
Exes are like opinions, everyones got one and they aren’t all the best. When it comes to exes getting back in contact with you it can be a confusing and potentially difficult experience but know that you are in control. Given your history with this person and that they’re running back TO YOU, you are in the driver’s seat. It’s just up to what direction you take it. How you treat the situation will depend on what your relationship with the person was, and now is, like. You are likely to treat someone who you were dating for a +1 year very differently to someone who you were dating for 2 weeks.
Relate Counsellor Peter Saddington says:
“Of course this contact from an ex can come at any time. If you are in a good place and life is treating you well, you are likely to respond very differently to if you are feeling lonely. When you recognise what’s happening, you might be able to empathise. You can even have a conversation with your ex, but not let yourself get caught up in it. If you’re vulnerable or lonely, the attention can feel flattering. It may be tempting to re-ignite the feelings from before. To get drawn in to what is essentially, a fantasy.
In this case, while it may take a lot of will power, it’s probably best to give yourself some breathing space. Time does make a difference. It allows you to think more clearly about why you aren’t together. Then the ex has time to recognise that contacting you may have been an impulsive reaction and to also remember why the relationship ended.”
How to respond to an ex trying to get back in contact with you:
Replying with sympathy and understanding:
This is the ultra mature way of dealing with the situation and you should be congratulated for showing such strength. This type of reply is not a requirement, however if you are to approach it this way then a reply of more or less “thanks, but no thanks” would probably suffice.
Obviously this depends on the previous status of your relationship. If you were closer with this person, then you may want to elaborate a bit further on why you don’t think it’s a good idea, but otherwise feel no need to expand too much if it’s just going to cause you stress.
Talk to their friends:
If you don’t appreciate exes getting back in contact and don’t feel comfortable replying to them, then contacting their friends is always an option. This isn’t you avoiding the situation. It’s you putting your own needs first and helping your ex improve their own support network.
This could be an especially useful if your ex is going through personal issues and you don’t feel that you are the right person to help, or don’t want to be caught up in it all.
Ghosting isn’t a recommended response, however, in certain situations it is just necessary.
If this ex is someone who caused you a degree of difficulty and you don’t want to engage with them then you’re under no obligation to do so. Being triggered by an exes return is a completely natural and you don’t always know how to deal with it.
Relate Counsellor Peter Saddington says:
“It can be a shock to discover how painful the memories and feelings associated with an ex are. We are trying to make sense of what is happening now, as well as reprocessing what happened before. This can be hard when the contact has come without a warning or time to prepare. The best option is to be compassionate to yourself. Give yourself some time to make sense of what is happening and what you want to do.
That is nearly always done more effectively by speaking to someone else – someone that knows you. The act of saying what you are thinking out loud to someone else is very different to ruminating about it alone. If you think about that 2am moment when you are lying in bed worrying about something that seems impossible and the difference the next day when you talk to a friend and it no longer seems impossible to sort – it is the same principal. You are thinking more clearly and your friend is likely to remind you of why they are an ex!”
However you find dealing with exes getting back in contact and whatever your response is to them, it’s important to trust in yourself. Know that what you’re doing is both healthy for you and sensitive to the other person involved. Best of luck!
If you have any further enquiries or need any advice or help with your relationships check out Relate’s website and sign up to their monthly newsletter.