Nothing sucks like being cheated on, then feeling pressured into cordially communicating with your now-ex. But whether you feel like you have to talk to them because you're in the same friend group, or because they randomly slide into your DMs, if your cheating ex wants to talk again, you are in no way obliged to participate. Consider safeguarding your heart, because according to NYC-based relationship expert Susan Winter, cheating exes don't usually reach out for the right reasons.
"Though we'd love to think our ex is reaching out to us because they've had a change of heart or feel guilty about losing someone valuable, chances are good they're simply bored and curious," Winter tells Elite Daily. Although it can be tempting to give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if you were in a long-term, committed relationship with this person, don't be surprised if their intentions are self-serving. "They may be trying to see if you're willing to hook up," warns Winter. If this is the case, then they probably haven't done much self-reflection, and might not be thinking about your well-being enough to understand why trying to have casual sex with someone they cheated on can be problematic.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. "On the 1% chance that they have regrets, reaching out to you would need to come with a sincere apology," says Winter. And even then, they should also be completely transparent about what they're hoping to achieve by re-establishing communication with you. Whether they want to clear their conscience, try to be friends, or see if you want to start dating again, making their intentions clear from the start is paramount. If you get even the slightest feeling that they're looking for a casual hookup, or suggest meeting for drinks "to talk" (which they know could lead to sex), it might be in your best interests to run in the other direction.
If you don't want to risk getting tangled up with an ex who hurt you, the safest way to handle the situation is to be direct. "Clearly state that you don't want to speak as you have nothing you care to say," says Winter. "Entering communication at this point isn't helpful. They've shown you their lack of character, and that's evidence enough to warrant moving on." On the other hand, if you're open to being in contact, proceed with caution. "This person cheated on you and probably broke your heart in the process," explains Winter. "Ask yourself why you would give them any more of your valuable time or energy."
It's up to you to decide whether an ex who cheated deserves a second chance. Relationships are complex, and infidelity can be too. "There are always extenuating circumstances that completely alter cut and dried relationship protocol," notes Winter. "If you sincerely feel your relationship's circumstances were unique and cluttered with unintentional misunderstandings, you may feel compelled to have a serious discussion with your ex." If you decide to give them a chance, do so on your own terms. Since texts can be misinterpreted, it might be better to talk on the phone, video chat, or meet in person. If you decide to meet in person, consider meeting during the day in a public place so it's clear you're not looking to hook up.
"If in your heart of hearts you feel they never meant to hurt you and were confused by your lack of clarity in outlining the terms of your relationship, then the conversation may be helpful," says Winter. However, if at any point during the conversation you feel uncomfortable, or realize your ex isn't someone you want to stay in contact with, you can leave. Don't feel like you have to explain or justify why you don't want to date or be friends after what happened. In situations like this, there's absolutely nothing wrong with putting your needs first and protecting your heart and mental health.