Is Reaching Out to An Ex a Bad Idea?

You always hear that reaching out to an ex is a bad idea. But does doing so help or hurt your healing journey after a breakup?


min read

Reaching Out to an Ex – Unsplash Wesley Hilario

Breakups come with many challenges, and one of the most common temptations people face during this time is wanting to talk to their ex. Whether it’s for closure, to talk through lingering feelings, or to rekindle a sense of normalcy, the urge to reconnect is powerful. But is reaching out to an ex a bad idea?

You’ll hear from everyone that talking to your ex is only going to get you hurt. In most cases, they’re probably right. However, there are valid reasons for reconnecting, and doing so can actually help you heal after a breakup if you approach it the right way. So, what’s the real answer?

Understanding Why You Want to Reach Out to Your Ex

There are many reasons why you might want to reach out to an ex after you break up. You may hope that talking to them again will lead to getting back together. You might be searching for closure about why your relationship ended. Maybe you’re hoping the two of you can be friends. Regardless of the reason, knowing why you want to reconnect with your ex before doing so is essential.

It’s also important to recognize that these reasons aren’t created equal. Hoping to get back with your ex is far different from seeking a conversation about why your relationship ended. The intention you enter the interaction with often dictates the result.

It’s key to approach a conversation with your ex with the right mindset. The goal should be to understand and heal, not to restart the relationship. Being clear about your intentions can prevent further emotional entanglement and confusion.

In other words, don’t go into a meeting with your ex expecting to walk away with all the answers. Though an honest conversation can help you gain clarity on what went wrong (and how you can avoid those issues in future relationships), finding closure is an individual journey.

How Talking to Your Ex After a Breakup Can Hurt

After a relationship ends, it’s normal to want to reconnect with your ex. You might imagine that talking to them will bring back the feelings of happiness and love you felt while you were together. Unfortunately, this isn’t usually the case.

Research shows that people who stayed in touch with their ex after a breakup had lower levels of life satisfaction than those who moved on. Another study found that people who met up with their ex in person were more likely to have high levels of breakup-related distress—even two months after the split.

When you’re trying to heal after a breakup, reaching out to an ex can make it harder for you to process your feelings. Working through difficult emotions takes time and is a sensitive journey. Reconnecting with your ex can interrupt this process and dredge up negative thoughts and feelings.

Likewise, when you maintain regular contact with an ex, you’re constantly reminded of the past, which can hinder your ability to establish a new sense of normalcy. Emotional dependency, jealousy, and the pain of seeing your ex move on are common pitfalls of staying in touch post-breakup.

While an initial conversation can be beneficial, continuing to talk to your ex or trying to maintain a friendship is often detrimental. Staying in contact with an ex can keep emotional wounds open and delay your healing. This is especially true if one or both of you still have unresolved feelings or hopes of getting back together.

Can Reaching Out to an Ex Help Me Find Closure?

You might be surprised to learn that closure likely won’t come from a conversation with your ex. In fact, closure isn’t even something you can get from another person.

As relationship therapist John Kim says, “Closure is an inner-self journey. It doesn’t require the other person. It requires you to find peace on your own.”

“Closure is an inner-self journey. It doesn’t require the other person. It requires you to find peace on your own.”

John Kim, LMFT

While a conversation might provide some answers and help clear up misunderstandings about why your relationship ended, true closure comes from within. It’s about processing your emotions, understanding your experiences, and coming to terms with the breakup on your own terms.

Engaging in self-reflection, practicing self-care, and seeking support from trusted loved ones is a more effective path to achieving genuine closure and moving forward in a healthy way.

Setting Boundaries is Key

If you decide that reaching out to your ex is an important step in your healing journey, it’s crucial to set clear boundaries. Doing so helps protect your emotional well-being and provides a framework for the conversation. Here are some tips for setting effective boundaries:

  1. Define the Purpose: Be clear about why you’re reaching out. Is it to discuss what went wrong, to return belongings, or just to have a final conversation? Understanding your motives ahead of time keeps the interaction focused and helps prevent emotions from clouding your judgment.
  2. Limit Contact: Before reaching out, tell yourself that this is a one-time connection. Afterward, ending communication entirely allows you to continue pursuing your healing journey as an individual.
  3. Avoid Intimate Conversations: Keep your interactions neutral and avoid discussing personal or emotional topics outside your breakup. This can help prevent rekindling old feelings and keep the relationship in the past.
  4. Respect Each Other’s Space: Both you and your ex need time and space to heal. Respecting this space is essential for personal growth and helps you avoid post-breakup distress.

An End is Just the Beginning

Reaching out to an ex after a breakup is a nuanced decision. While an initial conversation can aid your recovery, continued contact often does more harm than good. If you choose to reach out, setting boundaries is an essential step you should take to protect your healing journey.

By understanding the potential risks and benefits of reaching out to your ex, you can make a more informed decision that supports your emotional well-being and helps you move forward.

Remember, the end of a relationship is not just an ending but also an opportunity for a new beginning. Embrace this chance for growth and self-discovery and take the next steps to heal and thrive.

If you’re looking for extra support, consider using the Breakup Buddy app as your personal healing companion. You’ll find more than 70 guided exercises and space for thoughtful journaling. Plus, with 24/7 progress tracking, the Breakup Buddy app helps you heal faster. Start your journey today with a free trial!

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