Sometimes the best gift is one you’ve gotten before.
It may not be Halloween anymore, but you’re not alone if you’re still seeing ghosts. Something about the holidays can prompt exes to reappear — especially if your plans include heading to the same hometown for the season.
As messy as it might sound, sometimes this can be a good thing. Time apart can allow you to recalibrate and decide what you want — which may include giving your ex a second chance. Here, five people share how they were able to reconnect with a former partner, with only minimal weirdness. The one thing they have in common: They were honest, they met up IRL, and they took things moment by moment. Take a page from their playbooks — because when you’re home for the holidays and hoping to shoot your shot, every second counts.
I Followed My Ex’s Socials
My ex and I dated seriously in high school and hooked up in college. Then I decided my senior year that I needed to stop being connected with him. I was moving across the country, and I just needed to be focused on my new life. But I still missed him. I knew he lived about half an hour away from our hometown, and I was heading home to see my family for Thanksgiving. I made a plan about two weeks before I came home: I would unmute him on social media, and if he looked like he had a girlfriend, I would mute him again. But he didn’t seem to. So I began commenting occasionally on his social media. Nothing weird, just emojis. When he responded to that, I sent him a DM saying I was going to be in town and I’d like to have coffee to catch up.
I think this worked for two reasons: One, I could “see” his life right now and could sort of read between the lines that he would be up for getting back together; two, I was direct and asked him to hang out. Coffee also made sense: It wasn’t high stakes, and I also told myself I wouldn’t let things go further if I got weird vibes or felt like it wasn’t right. We ended up getting back together. It didn’t last, but it was what we both needed because it helped us be together as “adults” and not teenagers. Now, three years later, we are still friends! — Dara, 26, Oakland, California
I Called Out The Hookup Requests
I had a friend with benefits whom I had begun dating in college. We went on a few dates right before graduation, but then he moved to Europe and I was in New York City. For awhile, we would have a hookup situation whenever he happened to be in New York for meetings or if I was in Europe. But then COVID happened, and we didn’t see each other for two years. Flash-forward to last year, and I got a familiar “You around this weekend?” text from him.
Here’s the thing: I fantasized about those hookups. But I also wanted more than just that. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a relationship because of the long distance, but I did want dinner and drinks and to actually be friends with our clothes on. So I told him all that and we ended up having a really romantic weekend going to bars, restaurants, and having an amazing hookup. For me, it was just getting really clear about what I wanted out of the situationship. I wanted a great time in bed, but I also wanted to feel connected and get to know this guy. We never were official, but it was this great long-distance friendship with awesome hookups that made me happy whenever we happened to be in the same place at the same time. — Sarah, 24, New York City
I Invited My Ex Over
After we broke up, my ex and I FaceTimed and texted a lot, but we never really hung out. This was expected because we lived about two hours away. But one time, we were texting while we were both visiting our families, 10 minutes away from each other. I was the one who was like “You should just come over,” and she did. She had spent a lot of time at my family’s house when we were dating, so it was easy for her to come in and feel like old times. Weirdly, having my family around ended up putting less pressure on us. We had a few of these low-key hangs, and we sort of slid into dating again, which I don’t think would have happened if we had either kept texting only or if we had put a lot of pressure on a big “meet.” — Amara, 20, Bayonne, New Jersey
I Stopped Ignoring Him
In our town, everyone gets together at the same bar the night before Thanksgiving. I knew my ex would be there. I had seen him a few times in the past year and had tried to ignore him, since we hadn’t ended the relationship on the best terms. But I hated how every time he came to a party, I felt I had to leave.
This time, I was like, “Whatever, let’s pretend I never met him before.” So I asked how he was doing, we talked, and it ended up being pretty good. We didn’t hook up that night, but we did start developing a friendship, which eventually ended up in us dating again. — Liv, 20, Sandy Springs, Georgia
I Told Him How Weird I Felt
My ex and I broke up right before we went to college. It was amicable and really sad. We had agreed to not keep in touch during our first semester, but I knew we would be home during the holidays. We didn’t really have the same social circles, since we went to different high schools, so I knew I wasn’t guaranteed to run into him. I ended up just sending a very long text explaining how I felt: I wanted to see him and I didn’t want to see him at the same time, and I wondered how he was feeling. We began texting and made plans to connect over the break and got back together.
I feel like it worked because we had a good relationship before we broke up, and I knew I didn’t want to lose our connection completely. I’m also glad I could be vulnerable and tell him how I was feeling instead of just pretending I was over it. — Eva, 19, Reston, Virginia
These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.