Cindy, a colleague, asked us at work, “Should I call my ex for closure?” Everyone shook their heads, except me. Seeing my reaction, she asked me, “Why do I want to call my ex when he broke my heart – Is that what you’re wondering?” But the thing is, I actually understood why she wanted to call them. You see, I’m a bit skeptical about the fuss everyone makes about contacting an ex who dumped you.
Relationship coaches may scream from the rooftops that you should never contact your ex. But my ex called me to see how I was doing. And we got together after that. That has led me to believe that it really depends on the situation, and there can’t be a general answer. So, let me help you decide if you have the right reasons to call your ex.
Should I Call My Ex? The Ultimate Dilemma
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This question has racked the sleep of countless people, even after many years of their breakup. It may seem weird, but it’s completely normal to feel like contacting an ex. Either to talk to them like nothing has changed or to scream at them for not trying harder in the relationship, or just to brag about someone new you met at the coffee shop to make your ex jealous. Breakups are not easy. But before you think about what to do when you want to call your ex, ask yourself, “Why do I want to call my ex?” Unless you have any logistical reasons to do so, it will usually narrow down to the following three:
1. You’re feeling lonely and rejected
Breakups can induce a number of feelings, the primary of which are rejection and loneliness. According to research by famous anthropologist Helen Fisher, breakups can induce a withdrawal of dopamine, a feel-good hormone. This is similar to the effects of withdrawal from substance addiction. Dopamine withdrawal can cause feelings of anxiety and depression, and may lead a person to go back to the source of dopamine release, which might lead you to call your ex.
Research also suggests that emotional pain from this rejection may hurt almost as much as physical pain. The urge to escape from that pain can lead a person to call their ex even if they’re wrong for them.
2. There was a lack of closure
Closure in a relationship happens only when both partners have a mutual understanding of their issues and are in agreement over the course of the breakup. But not all romantic partners have the same beliefs. You might be pondering over the ‘should I call my ex’ question if you have unfinished business after the breakup with your ex. It is difficult to move on without closure, and so it is natural to have an urge to say your side, to not leave things ambiguous, or to prepare for this transition.
3. You’re resistant to change
A breakup is a huge change. And living with a broken heart can be a challenge. You’re pushed into an environment that is unknown and uncertain, especially while you are at a low point. Moving forward is not just difficult; without the regular course of dopamine, it can be depressing. It’s natural to want to contact your ex, so you can be with someone familiar.
Related Reading: 10 Types Of Breakups That Get Back Together With Timelines
12 Tips To Decide If You Should Call Your Ex
The compulsion to contact your ex is going to be painful. People do not lose romantic feelings as soon as their relationships end. Instead of losing feelings fast, it’s a gradual process of feeling worse than ever, trying to focus on your well-being while you feel lonely all the time, and coming out of it as a new person. It’s easier said than done, though. The most important thing is to remember that calling your ex is going to have ramifications. Are you ready for those?
To call your ex or not to call your ex, that is the question – and we’ll try to answer it for you.
1. Will this call to my ex be non-romantic?
The only reason you can call your ex’s number without feeling guilty is if the call is non-romantic and purely logistical. The majority of these reasons come into play in those relationships where some sort of joint ownership is present.
- You are running out of time. They’re not responding by text/mail, and you need this information or thing urgently. This could include any documents, account details, lease information, etc.
- In case of married couples, it could also be about health information when you share joint custody of a child
- Such reasons are valid even if they have asked you not to reach out or even if you are coworkers
- However, don’t go on to invent reasons like pretending to need the cast iron pan you got three years ago at a garage sale. Actually, that might be a valid reason. Cast iron pans last a lifetime
2. Do I completely understand my feelings?
The reason that it’s said “never contact your ex” is because most people are not in a good space once they get out of a relationship. It takes time to understand what one is feeling. You may think that you are feeling love toward them, but mostly it’s a mixture of guilt, rejection, and loneliness.
- Unless you identify your feelings and the space they’re coming from, it’s not a good idea to send a text message to your ex
- You may also need to consider if you’re under any sort of influence like alcohol as that might affect your reasoning abilities. Getting drunk and calling your ex is the worst thing ever. Not only do you intrude upon their privacy but it may take more time to placate your inner child over this embarrassing incident
- What to do when you want to call your ex? Talk to your friends. Good friends will ensure you don’t do anything you might regret later
3. Have they moved on with their life?
Do consider the new possibilities. It’s possible that while you’re convinced that calling your ex will resolve all your past problems and you two might get back together, they have already moved on. Many people go on a rebound dating spree to get over their exes. And sometimes, it works.
- It’s possible that they don’t want you anymore and may tell you that in as many words. Do you think you can take the rejection for the second time? It’s also possible that they may still want you back after the rebound but that decision has to be mutual and must come after much introspection
- Mutual friends can help you make this decision. If they say that your ex-lover needs more time, then listen to them
- Another worthwhile thing to note here is even though you want to get back with them, do you think they will be happy with you? Think of the iconic moment from Bruce, Almighty where Jim Carrey’s character, Bruce, discovers Grace (played by Jennifer Aniston) praying to forget him. Sometimes you have to let people go for them to be truly happy
Related Reading: 15 Signs You Are Still Not Over Your Ex
4. Have they grown intellectually?
People who want to move on often focus their energies on personal development after breakups. This could also be the case with your ex. If you want to give them a second chance, you should know that they’ve improved upon the previous areas of conflict. Otherwise, you’re back to square one.
- Ask your mutual friends if they would consider your ex to be a better version of themselves. Do they still have the same issues, do they still make misogynistic remarks, are they still a control freak, do they still shy away from responsibility, that sort of thing
- According to a study, more than 69% of the couples who got back together after a breakup said self-improvement helped them reconnect and improved the relationship quality. If you want your ex to come back to you, ask yourself, are you a better person now? And for a fair treatment, ask your friends if they, too, think the same
- It would make sense to call them only if you both are ready intellectually. If any of you does not have the kind of personal growth it takes to sustain a relationship, perhaps you should stay apart for some more time
5. Should I call my ex for closure?
The need for closure in a relationship can persist even after years. Research suggests that the need for closure can amplify the negative experiences in the relationship. This means that without closure, you may keep going back to the same moments of conflicts or pain. Unfortunately, calling your ex may not necessarily provide the closure you need and might just hurt more afterward. Breakups can be messy, and not everyone may want to talk through them, especially if one partner is more interested in moving out of the relationship.
- You need to get in control of your feelings for closure, and not give over the control to someone else. Talking to them will only elevate the anxiety you’re feeling and will not help resolve anything. Avoid contact if you’re seeking closure
- To ensure closure after a breakup, you can talk about it to friends or some close family members. If that seems daunting, write a long letter about your feelings and get every ounce of hurt out of you, one word at a time
- You can also get rid of any physical signs of their presence. Take away anything that was a gift from them. You can either donate these things or burn them for extra dramatic effect. Sometimes, moving houses or jobs helps too
6. Are they champions of hot and cold?
A major reason your ex is hot and cold is that they want to keep you on the hook. When you contact your ex, it gives them the affirmation that their tricks are working on you. They want to keep you on your toes and get you to react. This tells them they’re still on your mind. Such a relationship was ruined a long time ago, and passive-aggression has taken the place of lost attraction.
- If you’ve been a victim of their narcissistic behavior, you may feel worse after the breakup. Narcissists try to instigate insecurity in the people around them to feel secure about themselves. Since positive reinforcement comes very conditionally in a relationship with them, you may find it difficult to believe that you deserve to be happy at all
- They may also use social media or mutual friends to instigate you or to get a reaction out of you. If that’s how they are – insecure and emotionally immature – contacting your ex will only perpetuate the cycle you broke earlier
7. Did I have a bad breakup?
It may not be a good idea to call your ex if you’ve had a bad breakup. The chances are they haven’t gotten over it, even if you have.
- If the separation involved them getting humiliated or punished for something they didn’t deserve, it can take years to make peace with yourself if one goes through that
- If you decide to call your ex, who dumped you for your substance abuse, they are unlikely to be pleased if they realize that you’re high as a kite on the call. Work on your issues first
- It’s polite to give your ex some space after the breakup. It will ruin your chances of getting back with them if you don’t respect that space
- You don’t have to call an ex who was unfaithful to you. An ex who cheated on you did it with full understanding of what they were doing. They violated your trust, and you deserve someone better than that
Related Reading: 18 Sure-Shot Signs An Aquarius Man Is In Love
8. Will it get “complicated” being friends with them?
Moira, a relationship coach, says, “Some of my clients did remain friends with their exes once the relationship ended. So, it’s not entirely impossible. But those people knew each other for ages in the first place, and so their bond was more platonic than romantic. But for most people, it’s rarely so, which is why I usually advise against it.”
- You may decide that you want to remain friends with your ex, but are you sure that they want the same thing? It’s difficult for ex-lovers to be completely platonic toward each other. Also, it’s possible that their or your new partner may not be happy about it
- Complicated relationships can affect your mental health and inhibit your growth. You might get the feeling of being “stuck in a loop” that is difficult to break
- Make sure that enough time has passed for you both to reach the stage of initiating a platonic and healthy bond
9. Am I stuck in a self-harm loop?
Are you having trouble moving on and stuck in a loop where you constantly fantasize about them or even stalk them? If you are, then it’s obvious that you’re not ready to engage in an emotionally mature relationship with anyone, let alone your ex. Contacting your ex will only inhibit the process of healing.
- Talk to friends, or a professional if you think moving on is getting hard for you. At Bonobology, we offer an excellent panel of experts and counselors. Think of new possibilities, go out, have new experiences
- A general rule of thumb is to wait for three weeks at least. In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear writes that a person takes a minimum of 21 days to form a habit. The idea is to fall into an alternative routine where you do unfamiliar and challenging things and keep your mind off it
- Research suggests that falling into a routine can help stabilize mental health and help you lead a healthy life
10. Should I call my ex if I miss him/her and want to get back?
Jim, a teacher from Massachusetts, shares with us, “My ex called me to see how I was doing. My friends said it was weird, as we had decided upon a no-contact rule. But I was glad to hear his voice. We stayed in touch for a while, and when I realized that he indeed was a changed man, I decided to get back with him.” It’s important to be on the same page if both you and your ex want to get back together.
- The only way it’s not going to be weird or hurtful if you call your ex is if both of you are ready to talk to each other and have worked on yourselves
- There’s a great chance that at some point you’ll end up discussing the breakup. If either of you is looking to pick at the scabs of an old relationship, the conversation is going to go downhill
- You also need to be sure that your ex wants to get back with you because they love you, and not because they don’t want to feel lonely. Check with friends, are they going through anything painful? It’s best to leave them alone while they sort out their feelings before reaching out to them
11. Should I reach out to my ex when I know it won’t work out?
Sometimes you know that the relationship will not work out because neither you nor your ex wants to compromise on certain factors. For example, having an affair with a married man who tells you that he’s not going to leave his family will only give you a sense of dejection if you want exclusivity. Or if you’re living in different cities but LDR is not your thing, then there’s no point reaching out to them after the breakup.
- Remember your relationship ended because you had problems. If the two of you are not working on it, it’s likely you’ll go through this again. And every cycle of breakup and getting back together will only hurt you, your ex, and other people in your life
- Seek out a support group to help through this as it’s not going to be easy. If things get difficult, create a pro-con list and write down every incident where you felt let down. It’ll become easier every time you realize that you don’t have to go through it again
12. Am I going through something distressing?
If you’re going through a distressing time like the death of a loved one or professional woes, then you’re going to have a harder time dealing with the breakup. Part of it will be due to your mental health, which would have taken a hit in the first place.
- Analyze what you are truly feeling. Are you feeling lonely because you’re thinking about them or are you feeling vulnerable because of an external factor?
- You need to be prepared for the scenario where things don’t go your way. Are you ready to deal with the pain in case you might feel worse after talking to your ex?
- If you still want to get back with them, it’ll probably be a good idea to wait and heal from the issues you’re facing. Once you have clarity, you’ll be able to decide better
- People call their exes mostly out of feelings of loneliness, insecurity, and guilt after the breakup, or a lack of closure
- You should avoid calling your ex unless you have clarity regarding your feelings
- If you want to get together, do it only if both of you have evolved into better people and still want to be with each other
- You may not always feel happy afterward. Even if you do, calling them will provide momentary respite, but may hinder the breakup healing process
Yes, you can contact your ex if you need to get something important back from their apartment, or if you share joint ownership of something. “Should I call my ex if I miss him or her?” No, you should never call them if you’re feeling nostalgic or you want to prove a point to them. Focus on your growth, and if you’re having trouble controlling your emotions, write them down or talk to a friend.
You can contact your ex in case of an emergency, for example, to ask about the apartment lease or what drugs your child is allergic to, or to ask after them if they’ve been in a bad accident. Any reason that is not dictated by an emotional onslaught would be a good reason to contact your ex.
Three weeks after a breakup is an ideal amount of time to wait before calling your ex. It gives you time to create a physical distance after the relationship, cultivate new habits and a routine, and get some sense of what you’re facing. However, it’s not advisable to do so if you’re still struggling with being on your own.