Even if you and your ex had a messy breakup, there's almost always a point in time where you miss them, even if it's just for a minute. That lingering temptation that convinces you that texting your ex is a good idea can be so, so seductive. And fine, that 1 a.m. “I miss you” text is probably ill-advised, but sometimes, you just want to check in on your ex-girlfriend or congratulate a former lover on their new job. Maybe you’re wondering if an ex might be open to rebuilding a friendship, or you’re on the fence about what to text your ex-boyfriend when you miss him. If you’re struggling to craft the best text to send to an ex, look no further.
You (and your ex) know your breakup better than anyone else, and if you have a nagging suspicion they don’t want to hear from you, you might want to proceed with caution. If you’re blocked — or if your ex asked you not to reach out — consider letting things go for the time being, even if it hurts. Ignoring someone’s boundaries will only frustrate, hurt, or scare them, and it definitely won’t help you regain their trust or friendship. Before you even think about sending a text, you should consider the boundaries for everyone involved, no matter what your intentions are. As Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist and the author of Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today shared with Rewire: "Setting boundaries creates mutual respect and consideration. These qualities allow people to be close without emotional harm." Because you don’t know how reaching out will feel for your ex, it’s important to think really thoughtfully about what this means for both of you.
And if you think your ex might be down to talk things through, start over as friends, or even just catch up after months or years of radio silence, you’ll want to take the time to come up with the right approach. Here are six simple, direct, and casual ways to start a conversation.
Sometimes, you’re the one who messed up. It happens. If your ex specifically asked you not to contact them, you should respect their wishes. But if they didn’t, this is a thoughtful text to send if you know you were in the wrong and want to get back together. In these kinds of situations, you should still brace yourself for the worst — depending on how much you hurt your ex or how things ended, they might not be receptive to the idea of meeting up or even texting. But if you’re willing to risk not hearing back (or getting a cold response in return), your best bet is a direct message that acknowledges they don’t owe you anything, but also makes your intentions clear.
It might be tempting to send a long, detailed apology, but it’s better to have as much of this conversation in person as possible, if they’re up for it. And if they don’t want to have the conversation at all — well, you tried. It’s awful to feel like there are things left unsaid, but the best way to prove you care about the hurt you caused is to respect what your ex needs.
If you really miss the friendship you once had with your ex, this is a great text to send when you find out they've accomplished something cool. Congratulating your ex is a nice way to show you still care, but it isn’t inherently flirty, which is great if you know neither of you is interested in a reunion. It’s also ideal to kick off a conversation on a positive note, and what could be more positive than supporting a professional or personal win?
This text, however, doesn’t exactly make your motives clear. If they’re down to grab a drink, make sure you go into the meetup with at least a vague idea of what you’re hoping to get out of it. You might not know — and that’s OK. But if you know you just want to be friends, it might be smart to convey that several texts in. Being direct about what you want is the best way to avoid a misunderstanding later.
Sometimes there’s that ex you low-key can’t stop thinking about. Even if it’s been years, they still somehow manage to wiggle their way back into your head. If you find yourselves in the same place after years apart, there’s nothing wrong with dropping them a casual line to say hi. If you’re hoping to see if there’s still a spark but feeling too nervous to make your intentions known, inviting them out for lunch is a safe bet. Lunch couldn’t be a more friendly activity, but if it turns out there’s still a spark, then why not grab a drink afterward?
Some of these suggestions work well if you’re dealing with a very recent breakup, a desire to meet up ASAP, or a heartbroken ex. But if you just want to talk again and aren’t sure how to casually initiate a conversation, why not bring up their favorite new TV show (or other related work) and hit send? As long as you’re touching on a topic they love (and if things didn’t end poorly between you), they’ll probably be psyched to share their thoughts, and you’ll also bypass the awkward, cordial small talk. And if you’re in the early stages of rebuilding a friendship or relationship, this is a great way to show you still remember their interests, passions, and favorite conversation topics. Win-win-win.
One thing to remember: If you’re trying to keep things platonic, make sure not to name-drop an artist or show that might bring up especially sentimental memories. If your unofficial song was Taylor Swift’s “New Year’s Day” or your Monday night tradition was The Bachelorette, try to avoid reminding your ex of these memories or moments. This could add a much more serious subtext to your message and could be painful reminders for you both to sort through.
If you and your ex recently broke up but you really want to maintain a platonic friendship, it’s thoughtful to check in without asking for anything — especially if the split was your idea, or you suspect they might still have unreciprocated romantic (or angry) feelings. In these scenarios, pressuring them to meet up, telling them you have something you need to say, or centering your own feelings about them isn’t the best idea — they could overthink it if you ask for a drink or tell them you really want to talk. Keep the focus on their boundaries, and make it clear you’re following their lead.
Chances are, they’ll still send some kind of response to this one, but messages that don’t require an immediate reply allow your ex to set their own terms. By giving them the power to continue or ignore the dialogue, you’re basically saying, “I’m here if you need me.”
However, if you’re looking to revisit a friendship in the future, it’s best to give yourself and your ex time to heal. Rachel Sussman, a New York City-based psychotherapist and author of The Breakup Bible, agrees. She previously told TIME: “Time heals. A lot of insight can come with time and space apart.”
When navigating any kind of relationship with your ex, try to remember that sometimes, there’s a reason you called it quits. This doesn’t mean you can’t be friends, hook up, or give things another shot, but it’s important to keep your shared history in mind when you’re cracking open that door. And if your ex isn’t ready to rekindle a relationship with you — any kind of relationship — you absolutely need to respect their wishes and remember it’s best not to force anything onto them. Sometimes, when it comes to people from the past, what’s meant to happen will happen naturally.
Tina B. Tessina, psychotherapist
Rachel Sussman, psychotherapist
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