How to Move on After a Break Up, While Still Talking to Your Ex

Short Answer: it’s not easy.

Photo by Milan Popovic on Unsplash

When a relationship comes to an end, everyone has their own idea of the “right” way to move on. Many people advocate for going completely cold turkey, no contact, cut him out of your life for good. Other people, myself included, may struggle to imagine moving forward with their day-to-day life, going from texting and talking to someone every day for months or even years, to not at all. For those of us who have chosen to stay in communication with our exes after a break up, how can you still move forward with your life and not hold yourself back?

If you feel the desire to still text your ex or even talk on the phone with them, after you have both decided to end things, it’s important to take some time to reflect on “why” you want to stay in communication. Is it a fear of social isolation? Does the possibility of not talking to them throughout the day mean you won’t have anyone else to talk to? Especially this last year, people are staying home and are more isolated than ever before. So it’s understandable that you may not have a lot of people you can connect with, the way you did with your ex. You may have also been in a seriously codependent relationship, where you both relied on each other (maybe to an unhealthy degree) and pushed away other outlets for support, like friends and family.

Consider reaching out to those who care about you. Friends that may be long-distance or you may have just put on the backburner during your relationship — ask them how they’re doing, and let them know what you’ve been going through. Most people are happy to lend an ear during a trying time, like a break up, and offer emotional support. Now is an important time to reach out to alternative support systems that aren’t your ex-partner.

If you choose to communicate with your ex after a break-up, make it a priority to talk to them about limits and expectations with communication. This can sound like, “I would like to talk to you on the phone to catch up once a week. Maybe Sunday afternoons would be a good time for that?” Or something along the lines of, “I still enjoy texting you throughout the day, but am not comfortable to texting while at work. However, I’ll text you when I’m on my lunch.”

It’s up to you to set limits to how much you feel is comfortable and healthy for you to be in contact with this person. And those boundaries can (and should!) change as time goes on. Maybe the first month after the break up, you and your recent ex-partner might still feel the need to communicate a lot. You might still want to text that person about your day or your latest work drama or family issues, or just ask them what they had for lunch. They might still see memes on Instagram that remind them of you, and want to share them. That can totally be okay as long as you both know what the boundaries are.

As much as it is important to know what kind of communication you want from your ex, it’s equally as important to establish what kind of interactions are not okay.

A slippery slope can be talking about the relationship when you’re texting or on the phone. In my personal experience, there were times when texting my ex that a normal texting conversation took a turn and touched on a sore-spot in our romantic relationship. This kind of topic often spiraled out of control for us, and led to more than a few fights that were right out of our dating playbook — even though we weren’t actually dating anymore. A good way to avoid this is setting up a boundary like “I won’t discuss our relationship over text. If this is something you think we need to talk about, we can speak on the phone or in person.”

The reality is, it’s hard to effectively communicate serious issues or feelings through texting. There’s tone and body language and all kinds of other factors that cannot be accurately judged through just texting. Rarely any good comes from texting your ex how much they hurt you on that Wednesday three months ago, and how they haven’t changed at all. If it’s important, you need to at least hear their voice. And even then, in person is really the best way to handle any conversations related to your relationship.

This goes for yourself too! It ties back to the “why” from earlier. If you are talking to your ex because you want to convince them to get back together, or you’re in denial that the relationship ended at all, that’s something you need to be honest about with yourself. I get it, I’ve been there. Staying in contact with my ex after we broke up didn’t feel so different from dating him at times. We still texted during the day, didn’t talk as often on the phone and didn’t see each other nearly as often, but it was something to still give me hope. There were times our conversations felt just as easy and natural as when we were dating. It was easy to slip back into that mindset.

I had to take a hard, honest look at myself and what I was trying to gain from staying in communication with the person I had been with for two years, and still loved. It took having a couple of honest, in person conversations with him to sort out what our goals for the future were, and why we both still wanted to talk in the first place.

Being in contact with your ex isn’t necessarily an end goal, but more of a transitional phase in the course of your relationship. It’s a means for you to achieve the goal of finding out what you really need right now. Do you just need someone to talk to about your day? Do you need the comfort of knowing your ex is still around, like an emotional security blanket? Or if you’re like me, the more you talk to your ex after your relationship ends, the more you might realize how much the two of you still need time apart. No one can tell you the right way to proceed after a break-up, it’s all about finding what works for you. If you choose to continue talking to your ex-partner after you call it quits, more power to you, there can be a lot of healing that can come from staying in contact. Just be sure you’re watching out for yourself and not leading yourself to more pain or disappointment in the long run.

Larysa Labiak is a Denver based freelance writer. Her work mostly centers around health, love, dating and relationships.

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