6 key things to do when your ex wants you back

Let’s face it, it’s so many people’s ultimate breakup fantasy — your ex comes crawling back.

They can’t live without you, they want another chance.

Even if it feels pretty satisfying to know that your ex wants you back, now what?

After all, you broke up for a reason. So you might be feeling a bit confused right now and unsure what to do next.

Before you decide whether to give it another try or cut your losses and move on for good, check out this complete guide to what to do when your ex wants you back, to help you figure things out.

What does it mean when your ex wants you back?

Sometimes in the heat of the moment, we make a decision that we later regret.

You may have been fighting lots and so decided to go your separate ways, perhaps it was a knee jerk reaction after a big argument, or one of you messed up in some way.

Whatever the circumstances, there are different stages of a breakup and regret and remorse afterwards are common.

That’s because, at the time when we decide to split, we are so focused on the problems in our relationship that we get tunnel vision. All those negative emotions are the only ones we feel.

But once we’ve had a chance to cool down and reflect, we can start to gain some clarity that makes us see things differently.

It’s then when we remember all the good things we’ve lost. We start to miss this person who has been an important part of our lives.

We may even start to panic that they’ve gone, and feel desperate to get them back. But it’s important to be cautious too.

The feeling of loss can be a powerful emotion. It has the potential to cloud your judgement.

The truth is that emotions are fickle and after a breakup, they are likely to be all over the place.

That’s exactly why deciding whether to take back an ex needs to be a joint decision between both your head and your heart.

If you suspect your ex is thinking about you, but they haven’t admitted it yet. Check out the subtle signs that your ex wants you back.

If on the other hand, your ex has told you they want to get back together, but you’re unsure what to do, read on.

What should I do when my ex wants me back?

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1) Consider their motives

What has brought this on? Why now?

Their motives may be perfectly sincere.

It may be that they instantly regretted losing you or that some time apart has made them realize just how important you are to them and they want to work on things.

But it’s worth considering that wanting you back could also have been triggered by something else. Maybe they saw that you were moving on and didn’t want to let you go.

The little green-eyed monster may have appeared when they spotted you with someone else and so they started to feel jealous.

Perhaps single life wasn’t quite as exciting as they’d hoped, they feel lonely or things have been going badly for them, so now they want you back.

Ask them why they want to get back together and look out for any warning signs that they don’t have the best intentions.

2) Try to take an objective look at your relationship from the outside

Zoom out from your relationship and try to take a birds eye view, as if you were watching it from above rather than living inside it.

Before you decide to put yourself back there, it’s wise to take an honest look at your relationship — the good, the bad and the ugly.

A good friend of mine introduced me to the 80/20 rule of relationships.

It basically means that we can only expect to get about 80 per cent of what we really want from a relationship. It kind of makes sense.

After all, you can’t have everything and all relationships require some compromise.

It might be useful to think about how much of your needs were met by your relationship with your ex? Was it 80/20? 50/50 or more like 20/80?

For us to stay in a relationship, it should always bring far more to our lives than it takes from us.

It might seem a little oversimplified to reduce your relationship to a plus and minus column, but getting a blank sheet of paper and writing down everything that was good and bad can help you see things more clearly.

It’s not as simple as counting up whether there are more “goods” than “bads”. It’s important to think about how significant each point is and overall what is most important to you.

For example, you might have a long list of lovely things about your ex, like they bring you coffee in bed, they let you wear their favourite hoodie and you enjoy watching the same TV shows.

But all that could pale in comparison to the one simple fact that you do not trust them.

Some questions to ask when your ex wants you back:

  • Did your ex hurt you?
  • Can you trust them?
  • Did your ex lift you up or bring you down?
  • Did you have fun with each other?
  • Did you spend more time laughing with them or crying over them?

If you’re feeling stuck, it can be helpful to talk things through with a good friend or family member. I’d suggest going to someone who you know is a good listener but who can also be neutral.

At the end of the day, it’s your decision to make and nobody really knows what your relationship was like other than you.

3) Ask yourself “Is life better or worse without them?”

I’ve read some articles about taking back an ex that talks about deciding if “you miss them”. But I actually think this could be very misleading.

In the words of Paulo Coelho:

“I think it’s important to realize you can miss something, but not want it back.”

Most of us are creatures of habit. We get used to certain things, and so any change will always feel uncomfortable.

You’re not a robot, so you’re bound to still feel something for this person.

If there were any good things about your ex or your relationship then you are likely to miss them — even if it’s just a little.

But missing something isn’t enough of a reason to welcome it back into your life if that thing ultimately isn’t good for you.

That’s why, in my opinion, a far more useful question is whether life is better or worse now that they’ve gone?

Sometimes the answer might be that it feels worse right now but you know that it will be better eventually.

Regardless of how sad I felt at the time or how much I was missing them, the breakups that I knew were ultimately for the best, I could always sense it deep down.


Because despite having to ride out the sadness, part of me was relieved it was over. Life outside of the relationship was less stressful, more peaceful, and ultimately easier.

4) Don’t let strong emotions cloud your decision

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I know this is a big ask. We’re often told to follow our hearts.

Personally, I can be a hopeless romantic. I adore going with the flow or letting life and the Universe guide me. But I’d also argue that it’s never wise to base big choices on strong emotions alone.

I do believe in gut feelings being able to guide us, but your gut isn’t emotional, it’s actually more of a calm and quiet “knowing”. When we’re coming from a place of love, our instincts can be powerful.

But all too often when our emotions are concerned, and particularly after a breakup, we’re actually coming from a place of fear.

Yes, they are messengers, but feelings are not facts — and they cannot always be relied upon to steer you in the best direction.

Extreme emotions are like clouds in the sky. They come and go. You feel them one day and they are gone the next.

Plus, the reality is that plenty of things that are ultimately good for us don’t always feel so great at the time. Whilst lots of things that are bad for us can feel pretty damn marvellous when we’re doing them. ⁣

That’s why it’s important to check in with your emotions but also to question the motivation behind what you feel.

Wrong reasons to get back with an ex:

  • Feeling guilty, sorry for them, or that you owe it to them to try again.
  • Feeling lonely, missing having someone else around.
  • Feeling scared about being single, or worried that you’ll never find somebody else.
  • Feeling sad and wanting to avoid the pain or upset that you feel right now.
  • Feeling jealous at the thought of them with somebody else or moving on.

All of these feelings come from lack and fear, rather than love.

5) Decide if you’re willing to put in the work

Rekindling a romance can be super exciting, comforting and give you a sense of sheer relief at being back in each other’s arms.

But plenty of couples end up going through yo-yo break up cycles because, whilst they enjoy riding the temporary high of reuniting, they weren’t fully prepared for the hard work involved after that.

When the honeymoon phase starts to fade again, they find themselves right back at square one — with the same old issues resurfacing which caused them to part in the first place.

Nobody breaks up for the fun of it, that’s for sure. You want to know that whatever issues led you to break up in the first place can be resolved.

  • What’s different now?
  • Can you identify the problems that you two had and find solutions?
  • Are you prepared to put in the effort to improve your relationship?

Don’t assume that because your ex wants you back that they should automatically do all the work to make things better. Because they can’t.

Relationships are between two people and it takes both to make them a success.

6) Ask yourself if you’ve already moved on?

If you’re still hung up on your ex, you’re always thinking about them and have felt in limbo since they left —  maybe you’ve not moved on from the relationship yet.

But you’ve got more to lose if you have already done a big chunk of healing and feel like you’ve started to move forward without them.

I once had an ex who would always come back a few months after our breakup and want to get back together. Because he’d distract himself and avoid dealing with what happened, it took a while for things to properly hit him.

The problem is, by that time, I’d already done my crying, mourning and healing.

That meant every time I took him back when we broke up again, I’d go through the whole thing all over again. It was exhausting.

So if you’re thinking right now, my ex wants me back but I moved on — before turning back, consider if it would be better to keep on walking away.

What to do when your ex wants you back but you don’t

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If you’ve already come to the conclusion that things were just not meant to be between you and your ex, you might be looking for a way to let them down gently.

It’s natural that whenever we have feelings for someone, we don’t want to hurt them.

But you still have to do what is best for you and put yourself first.

  • Take some time if you need to. As we’ve established, your emotions might be all over the place, so it’s ok to wait a while before giving an answer. At least then he/she will know that it is a considered answer.
  • Tell your ex why. You don’t have to drag up the past or be unkind, but you can still point out some of the things that have led you to this decision. Explain to them why you don’t think it’s a good idea.
  • Be gentle. Be kind to your ex, as it’s a vulnerable situation to be in. But equally, be kind to yourself — love doesn’t come with a handbook and you’re doing the best you can.
Picture of Louise Jackson

Louise Jackson

My passion in life is communication in all its many forms. I enjoy nothing more than deep chats about life, love and the Universe. With a masters degree in Journalism, I’m a former BBC news reporter and newsreader. But around 8 years ago I swapped the studio for a life on the open road. Lisbon, Portugal is currently where I call home. My personal development articles have featured in Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global and more.

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