The general rule of thumb is that texting after a breakup is a terrible idea. However, if you absolutely have to text your ex, there is a right and a wrong way to do it. Here’s how to text after a breakup without making things worse:
- Leave your emotions at the door. If you’re picking up your phone in response to a wave of negative or painful emotions, you definitely should not send your ex a message. You need to have a really good reason to text after a breakup, and a sudden onset of feelings is not one of them. No matter what you have to say to your ex, you need to do it with as little emotion as possible. Be matter-of-fact and level-headed. If you aren’t able to come from a place of calm and self-control, you are not ready to send the message, even if you think it’s urgent. And speaking of urgency: the more urgent you think it is, the more you should question your motives.
- Know why you’re doing it. If you’re going to open the Pandora’s box of reconnecting with your ex, you need to be self-aware about your motives. You might tell yourself that your ex just randomly popped into your head, when in reality, you saw a photo of them on social media with a new partner and were secretly devastated about it. This will come across in your text, no matter how unaware of it you are. Don’t sabotage yourself by failing to look closely at your goals. Be brutally honest with yourself before hitting send.
- Think about how it will affect them. Depending on how your breakup went, texting your ex may be more painful for them than it is for you. Before you compose a message, put yourself in their shoes and try to assess whether they would want to hear from you. If the answer is “no,” the kindest thing is to keep your thoughts to yourself. Only text them if you think the impact will leave them in a neutral-to-positive frame of mind. Relationship expert and author Dawn Michael, Ph.D. points out that texting is often used as “a way for you to immediately emote your feelings without having to deal with the other person’s reactions.” This type of texting is selfish and should be avoided at all costs.
- Keep it short. The longer your texts, the more likely you are to forget that you’re actually talking to someone and not writing in your private journal. Dr. Tristan Gorrindo and Anne Fishel, Ph.D. refer to this phenomenon as the “hyperpersonal” effect, where people get much more personal when writing someone via email or text than they would in person. Sending a novel in text form out of nowhere will probably freak your ex out and make them less likely to respond. Long texts can be perceived as a red flag because they make it seem like you have a lot to process and are not in a good emotional place to be reaching out.
- Be direct. One of the benefits of keeping your texts short is that it forces you to be straightforward. If you want to get back together, say so. If you want to apologize, just do it. Trying to open up a conversation without explaining why will only confuse your ex and it might even stop them from replying. Being clear also shows that you know what you want and are approaching them in good faith. Ambiguity can easily be misunderstood, so your best tactic is to say what you mean as quickly and simply as possible.
- If you want a conversation, schedule a face-to-face meeting. A lot of things are lost in translation with texting. Whether you send a text the length of an epic poem or one that’s barely a single sentence, the person you’re messaging may completely misinterpret what you’re saying. Because of this, it’s best to leave important conversations for in-person meetings. Communication expert Dr. Neha Sangwan advises that “when the conversation is serious, emotional or could disappoint someone, you need as much information as possible: body language, tone and words.” If you want to address a topic with your ex that fits any of those categories, it’s best to arrange a face-to-face meeting instead of texting what you want to say.
- Only apologize if you’re ready. You may use an apology as an excuse to try to coerce your ex into forgiving you. If you did something that hurt them and it ended your relationship, you shouldn’t reach out to them until you truly feel remorse. Sentences like, “I’m sorry you misunderstood me when I said I didn’t want to move in together,” or, “I’m sorry you don’t think I love you” are not real apologies. Unless you’re willing to accept accountability and feel truly remorseful for your actions, you are not ready to text.
- Be indifferent to whether you get a reply. If you’re texting your ex for the sole purpose of receiving a certain response, you’re doing it with an emotionally dependent mindset. Texting your ex should always be about what you’re saying, not what you’re hoping they will say in response. Telling them that you’re open to meeting up or that you’re sorry for your part in the breakup is fair game, but trying to eke an apology out of them or a sign that they might still be interested is a sign that you shouldn’t be reaching out to them.
- Wait to hit “send.” So you’ve established that you do, in fact, need to text your ex and you’re in a good mental space to do it. Congratulations. You compose your text and are ready to hit “send.” Don’t. Not yet. You might be confident in what you’ve just written, but give it five minutes or an hour and you could be mortified. Texting your ex is risky. It should never be done impulsively or without time to think about the possible fallout. Wait at least 10 minutes after composing the text to hit “send.” You won’t regret it. Plus it gives you time to spot grammatical errors. It’s a win/win.
- Know when to let it go. Your ex might not respond. Depending on the circumstances of your breakup and the amount of time that has passed, there is any number of reasons why they may choose to leave you hanging. If this happens, let it go. You can’t communicate if they are not receptive to a conversation. Accept that the door has closed and move forward. Find comfort in the fact that you’ve said what you wanted to say, and let that be the only form of closure you need.
How To Avoid Texting Your Ex Altogether
Texting your ex after a breakup is usually a bad idea. Here’s how to prevent yourself from doing it.
- Begin to process the breakup. Sometimes people want to text their ex as a way to avoid processing what’s happened. This is always a bad idea that will only drag you backward. Before you even think about texting after a breakup, make sure you’ve processed your emotions and accepted your new reality. Licensed therapist John Kim says that you have to go through six stages to process a breakup. The first is accepting that the relationship is over. This is easier said than done, but as Kim states, you have to let go of the “what ifs” and accept that “[y]our relationship hit its expiration date.”
- Try a rebound relationship. For some people, jumping into bed with a stranger after having a tough breakup is the worst way to move on. But for others, it’s a great distraction device. Dip your toe into the dating scene and see how you feel. If it feels icky and premature, step back again. But if it gives you a buzz of excitement, don’t feel embarrassed about jumping in. A casual rebound after a tough breakup can be just the distraction you need to get through the hardest period of post-relationship blues.
- Delete their number. It might feel like severing your own limb, but deleting your ex’s number is the best way to prevent yourself from texting them. This is an especially useful tactic if the breakup was painful and protracted, or if you know you’re going to say something you’ll regret. If you can’t do it yourself, give your phone to a friend and have them do it for you. It’s hard, but ripping the bandaid off will prevent you from sabotaging your emotional recovery.