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How to Really Get Your Ex Back, According to a Former Therapist

couple in love looking at each other
Couple in love

In this article, we are going to talk about how to get your ex back. In particular, we are going to explore nine essential steps you should go through if you want to re-build your relationship.

The heart is a stubborn organ. You know it, and I know it. It wants what it wants with an intensity that can be exhausting. Hope might spring eternal, but it beats inside our hearts.

You’re likely heard of conscious uncoupling, but what if you truly want to consciously recouple? You wouldn’t be the first person in the world who wanted to get an ex back. Whether you should get them back is one consideration. Whether you can get them back is another thing entirely.

What you can’t do is control the outcome, so let’s talk about what steps you can actually take when you realize that you want to reunite with an ex-partner.

Why listen to me? I was a master’s level licensed therapist. I worked with couples and families and specialized in trauma recovery and empowerment. I now write content about relationships and psychology. My work has been featured on Elite Daily, Your Tango, Positively Positive, Mamamia, and The Good Men Project.

Two Questions Before Starting

Should you get them back?

Exes are exes for a reason. It’s trite but true. Before you invest your time, energy, and emotional resources into an effort to reunite with your ex, ask yourself if there’s been real, lasting change.

Why did you break up in the first place? Is that reason still applicable?

If nothing has changed, expect any recoupling to be followed by future uncoupling. It’s a cycle that will only break your heart. As much as you might truly love your ex, you need to ask yourself if you’re right for each other.

You might feel in your heart that they are right for you, but are you actually right for them? Do you want the same things? Do you love each other in the same way? Are you both willing to work on the relationship?

You likely can’t answer these questions alone, but what you can do is evaluate why the relationship ended — and why you think it could actually work now. Get very clear on this. Don’t romanticize it. Just look at the facts and ask yourself what’s changed and what hasn’t.

How to know if you should get them back

Make a list of what you loved and hated about the relationship. Be as specific as you can. Are the qualities you hated something that can be changed or are they intrinsic to your personality or theirs?

Your heart might desperately want your ex back, but your head is going to be a better judge when it comes to making the right decisions.

You might even want to involve some outside opinions. I’d recommend a therapist first. A professional without a vested interested in your life could help guide you through the decision-making process. You can also ask friends or family members what they think.

If they recoil at the thought of you getting back with your ex, they might be seeing something you can’t or won’t see. Be open to listening to them without getting defensive. If they love you, they want you to be happy.

Can you get them back?

Once you’ve assessed whether it’s a good idea to try to get them back, you might wonder if it’s even possible. If they’re in a new relationship, you need to accept that it’s not the time to try to win them back. They’ve committed to someone else and aren’t available to you.

Trying to get them back right now isn’t fair to them, to their current partner, or even to you. If you still want them back despite the fact that they moved on, then you may need to practice patience and hope that one day they’ll be available again.

You also need to consider if the damage to the relationship is even capable of being fixed. If the trust has been irreparably damaged, you might not be able to salvage a friendship, much less reunite for a romantic relationship. Sometimes, you have to let go of the relationship and move on even if you wish things had worked out differently.

Before you go any further, you have to be able to accept that your ex might not want a reunion with you.

You need to release control over the outcome and be prepared to fully accept their decision without pleading your case, trying to manipulate their response, or persisting even after it’s been made clear that it’s unwelcome.

If you truly want them back, you’ll need to love them enough to let them go if they don’t want you anymore.

How to Get Your Ex Back: 9 Actionable Tips

Before you get discouraged, there are some actionable steps you can take to attempt recoupling with a former partner. If you want your ex back, here are nine things you can do to get that process started.

1. Activate the No Contact Rule

It’s a painful truth that you cannot heal from a breakup when you stay in constant contact with the other person. Trust me on this one. Especially if one of you didn’t want the relationship to end in the first place, continued contact is going to make healing complicated.

You won’t be able to process the end of the relationship when every time you hear their voice, hope rises only to plummet again.

Activating the No Contact Rule isn’t a way to punish them or even to punish yourself. It’s about giving yourself time to grieve and process what’s happened. This space is necessary even if you just want to continue a friendship.

Generally, when you put the No Contact Rule in place, you stop communicating for 30–60 days at a minimum. You don’t look at their social media. You don’t text, email, or talk; you may even have to block them.

This might seem like a terrible idea when you want to get back together with them, but it could be integral to your healing. Tell them you need some time without contact so that you can heal and reassess.

It’s normal to want your ex back when you’re grieving. Give yourself time to get through those early stages of grief. You might still want them back when it’s over, but you might not. Give yourself the chance to find out.

2. If You Made It Wrong, Make It Right

If you still think that your ex was the only one who damaged the relationship, you aren’t ready to attempt to get back together. A true reunion is only possible when you are accountable for your behavior. If you think you were perfect, you’ve got some growing up to do.

You likely did a few things of your own to damage the relationship. They might seem like small things. You might even be able to justify them. But if you want your ex back, it’s time to own up to the ways that you might have inadvertently damaged your connection.

This can be a painful realization. I know it was for me. After months of trauma therapy, I began to see all the ways in which I was triggered and reactive in relationships.

I became aware of patterns I couldn’t see before. I went from assuming that an ex sabotaged our relationship to understanding that I had sabotaged us, too.

With true accountability, you’ll need to apologize and make amends if it’s at all possible. You have to release the need for them to forgive you.

You have to accept that your apology might not mean anything to them. They might not even give you the chance to say it. But it’s important to try. Just as it’s important to forgive yourself for not knowing better until you did.

Let’s be clear: At the end of the day, the apology is for you, not for them. It’s important to be accountable and to try to right wrongs. It will bring you a sense of relief and help you forgive yourself for any mistakes you made.

But it might help them to know that you don’t believe they are solely at fault. It could help if you shift some of the weight of responsibility off their shoulders. It might also show them that you’re truly trying to change and be better in your relationships.

3. Reach Out and Then Back Off

You might want to reach out to your ex and let them know that you still love or care about them. Let them know that you would consider a reconciliation. Then, back off. Seriously — back way off.

Don’t keep pleading your case or trying to convince them to see things your way. Don’t beg for them to come back or try to sway them with pity, don’t try to make them jealous.

And don’t attempt to manipulate the outcome. Just let them know you’re interested, and then create space for them to consider it.

As much as you want them back, they might not feel the same. Let them have the time and space to think about it while you move on with your life. Just back off and give this overture a chance to be considered.

Don’t try to pressure them into answering or make them feel like it’s a now-or-never offer. State your case, and then go live your life. Don’t dwell on it.

4. Focus on Personal Growth and Happiness

Once you back off, you need to focus on personal growth and creating your own happiness. If you think you can only be happy with your ex back in your life, you don’t need your ex back; you need a competent therapist.

You are responsible for improving your life, and you are the only one responsible for your ultimate happiness. Your ex coming back won’t solve an inherent discontent.

You’ve told your ex what you want. Now, you just need to work on unpacking your baggage and healing. Become more self-aware. Think about what you want your life to look like.

As you begin taking steps to creating a happy life, you’ll be making yourself a stronger partner at the same time. The truth is that your ex might not come back, but focusing on yourself will always improve your life even if that life doesn’t look the way you thought it would.

You can improve your communication style, deal with any attachment issues, and even invest some time having fun with your hobbies. Branch out and grow.

You might hope your ex decides to consciously recouple with you, but you can’t place all your hopes and dreams in their hands.

5. Don’t Sleep with Them

You might be tempted to rekindle an old flame and sleep with an ex. Don’t do it. You’re only going to complicate matters. Plus, it’ll give them a confidence boost and allow them to enjoy the benefits of a relationship with you without having to commit to one. It likely feels good in the moment, but later, it can break your heart.

No matter how tempted you are, try to refrain. You might get tempted to settle for a situationship and take the crumbs on offer, but you deserve so much better than that. Even if you want to sleep with them, just say no.

This isn’t about withholding your body and physical affection until you get your way. It’s purely about giving yourself the healthy time and space to let go of them. You can’t do that if you’re sleeping with them or beside them.

Even if you think this is leading to a happy reunion, take sex off the table and try to reconnect emotionally instead.

6. Rebuild a Friendship

If you truly want to get back together with your ex, consider building that foundation on friendship. Get to know them all over again. Find out who they are and who they’ve been since the relationship ended. Give yourself a chance to know them as a friend without assuming you already know everything important.

A word of warning: don’t rebuild a friendship for the sole purpose of getting back together with them. That might not work out. Can you be their friend still if it doesn’t? If the answer is no, this method is likely not in your best interest.

But if you want their friendship regardless, this is also a great way to build back the relationship. Discover each other at a friend level. Rebuild trust. Learn to simply appreciate each other’s company.

Friendship is a wonderful foundation for any relationship, and while it won’t guarantee you’ll get back together, it could create a strong and lasting friendship.

7. Go No Contact on Their Social Media

Save yourself some time, energy, and heartache by staying off your ex’s social media. You’re going to want to engage in a little light cyberstalking, but it will only break your heart. When you want them back, apply the No Contact Rule to their social media and refrain from checking it.

This is important. You might want to keep tabs on them, but it might just hurt your feelings. You might see them dating other people or making posts that feel like they could be directed at you. Their social media will become open to your interpretation, and it’s better for everyone if you just stop looking for a while.

8. Ask Them to Consider Couples Therapy

If your ex is at all open to reconciliation, suggest couples therapy to help you work out the kinks of a reunion. It can help to have a professional in the room as you sort out their perception of the past and yours, and it can also teach you to communicate better with one another.

If you really want to make this reunion work, you both need to be on board with putting in some effort. Couples counseling is a great place to start.

Couples therapy isn’t for rehashing every argument. It’s a chance to see each other’s perspective and to talk about your fears going forward in a neutral setting with a trained professional.

You might find out that recoupling would actually be a terrible idea, or you could discover that it’s time for the two of you to get your happy ever after.

9. Trust the Process and Release Control of the Outcome

No matter what you say or do to get your ex back, you’ll have to trust the process and release control over the outcome. You can’t make them want you back. You can’t convince them it’s the right decision. And you can’t even change their perspective about your relationship, the breakup, or how it all went down.

The difficult truth is that some exes are just going to hate you and see you as the bad guy even if you don’t see it that way at all. These exes aren’t right for you anyway.

But if your ex is the right person for you, trust that they’ll find their way back someday. In the meantime, try not to obsess over it and go enjoy your life instead.

Releasing control is hard for most of us. You might think if only you reach out one more time, they’ll be convinced and see it your way. You might want to persuade them to love you or manipulate them to do what you’re asking.

But this isn’t healthy for you, and it wont’t make you happy to know you had to resort to these techniques to convince them. Frankly, you shouldn’t have to convince anyone of your worth.

When You Want Them Back: A Conclusion

I wish I could give you a simple formula to get your ex back if that’s what you want. But I’ve learned a few truths in my life. Care to hear them?

  1. You can love your ex with all your heart and still need to let them go because you don’t want the same things.
  2. You can love your ex with your whole heart and still let them go because they can’t or won’t give you what you need.
  3. You can want your ex back, but you can’t make them want you back.
  4. You can love them and still recognize irreconcilable differences.
  5. You can want your ex back only to find that they’ve moved on with someone else.
  6. You can want your ex back only to find out that they would never even consider it.
  7. You can want your ex back only to discover that you were simply mired in grief and not thinking clearly.
  8. You can get your ex back only to find that it ends exactly the same way it did before. It’s the risk you take.
  9. You can love your ex and still not be a healthy partner.
  10. You can love your ex only to discover that they hate you.

Knowing that you want your ex back tells you a lot about yourself. It’s a reminder that love lives on even when relationships die a painful, tragic, or early death. You might still wish with all your heart that they would come back, but if they don’t, you’ll need to grieve, heal, and move on.

Your ex isn’t your likely your last chance at love.

One day, you’ll find yourself with the right person, and it will make sense of all the wrong ones. If the right person is your ex, trust that they’re on their way back to you — even if you can’t see it, even if they can’t.

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Photo by Jake Young on Unsplash

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