I am convinced that successfully reconciling with an ex is less about what you do right, than what you do wrong. While playing your cards right might mean getting together once more down the line, screwing it up is almost guaranteed to catalyze further distance and grief.
Instead of trying to find the ever-illusive magic bullet (which doesn’t exist), I feel that focusing on what not to do is a far better way of improving our chances.
Don’t be overly apologetic
Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with apologizing, so long as the apologies in question are genuine.
More often than not however, apologies within the context of a breakup are borne of trauma, leading us to compromise the uncompromisable and generally sell the last vestiges of our rapidly deflating dignity.
As crass and superficial as it sounds, retaining our dignity is an important facet in terms of preserving long-term romantic attraction. Insecurity-driven umbrella apologies are a surefire way to demonstrate how far our own self-worth has plummeted.
By all means apologize for your royal screw-ups, but drop the perfectionism. Or you risk biting off far more than you can chew should reconciliation take place (promises you can’t keep), as well as permanently dampening the ashes of attraction.
Swallow your anger
Anger and resentment are natural and temporary feelings during the five stages of grief. It bears remembering that they are, in fact, temporary. Even if your ex is worthy of resentment, you owe it to yourself to avoid the drama. Should reconciliation not come to pass, moving on will necessitate forgiveness.
Not only is anger inherently damaging, it is also a transparent cry of emotional distress. As the saying goes, you ain’t foolin’ anyone. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t hang on to hate. Like it or not, opening the door to a potential make up scenario will mean starting fresh.
Carrying your resentment inwardly, or worse, externalizing your pain, will only erect an insurmountable wall of distrust. Chances are your ex also has their own reasons for being hurt and resentful.
Don’t play mind games
Post-breakup routines such as no contact are often heralded as magic bullets. While starving your ex of attention might seem to work (you are preying on their insecurity rather than their desire to reconcile), the truth is that nothing is being done to correct the reason why the breakup occurred to begin with.
No contact is about you, not them. It is a chance for you to begin to detox from dependence, guilt and over-analysis.
Mind games are destined to fail because once the game is over, the house of cards will always come tumbling down and the intention of the act will be laid bare. In addition to their questionable effectiveness, consider also their questionable morality. If your ex calls your bluff and sees the game for what it is, all bets are off. And any semblance of another chance will have just been blown to smithereens.
Don’t burn (all) your bridges
It is natural to want to scrub your life of every painful reminder of your ex’s existence after a breakup. Nobody wants to be a backseat driver to the highlight-reel show of their moving on without us.
Blocking them from Facebook or Skype, changing your number and other ways of avoiding pain are great ways of attempting to detox. But if you intend to reconcile, the bridge burning can be taken to far:
- Your ex may misread your intentions and assume you loathe them.
- You leave them no realistic way to contact you, should they have something to say.
- They may block you right back, leaving you no way to contact them.
If you plan on making up at some point remember to let your ex know that you are open to communication (along with which avenues are open, and under which conditions). I would personally urge to limit contact to an impersonal medium, thereby protecting your own feelings (you don’t want to view their Facebook stream — trust me), but also keeping the lines of communication alive should feelings change.
Don’t argue with their needs
By far the biggest contributor to a turbulent and scarring breakup is the figurative game of cat and mouse which follows separation. If your ex broke up with you claiming to need time and space (or a chance to “find themselves”) the only winning ticket is to wholeheartedly accept their decision. Feelings are not logical, attempting to control or dissuade them will only hasten their retreat from you.
By attempting to stop their trek into the wilderness of separation you directly jeopardize your chances by:
- Denying you both a chance to reflect on what when wrong, dissolve dependence and regain your objectivity.
- Show that you’d rather discard their needs in favor of yours, signalling disrespect.
- Demonstrate insecurity over strength and control over understanding.
- Distance and time, if your relationship scorecard was positive, will often work in your favor. Familiarity breeds contempt.
By the time you are informed of the breakup, the decision was usually long in the making. Take it at face value. Or, in the timeless words (sorry for the poor quality but it was the best I could find) of Alan Watts, demonstrating the willingness to let go will only ever work in your favor, and improve your chances are reconciling.
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