Getting your ex back — steps to take now
If you prefer to listen, here’s the podcast version of this post on iTunes and Soundcloud.
It sucks when you love someone and there’s nothing you can do to get them to love you back. It can make you feel worthless, powerless, crazy and obsessed. Not to mention, the pain of mourning: life becomes a disorienting fog and all you can see as a solution is somehow winning the one you love, back. Well if that sounds familiar, I am writing this for you. Before you read on, I must tell you that this is a cheat of a title in that there’s no quick and easy fix to a relationship that’s been broken. It takes two willing partners to rebuild – you can’t do it alone. However, if you love someone – I believe in honoring yourself – so if this is your situation, I have tools and insights that I think will help you reach a positive outcome. That process is best achieved by empowering yourself to be strong, confident and demonstrating you are a worthy partner. I know if you’re reading this you probably hurt a lot over someone, so I’ll cut to the chase. Before the blog, I want to say that if you’re in a really bad place, I highly recommend you see a therapist – it will only help you move through this more quickly and it will also help you reach a better outcome. As with all my blogs, there are three parts to this blog: the what, why and how – the tools I can offer you, today.
Part 1: The What
That feeling of pain and longing and even obsession over the loss of your relationship. Maybe it wasn’t something you were expecting, or you both kind of “decided” it was right but now you’re realizing it’s not at all what you wanted and you can’t stop thinking about getting back together, but now your ex says it’s too late. Or maybe you’re trying to move on but find yourself crazy-obsessed: internet stalking and drunk-dialing – all things that make you feel lower and more depressed. Maybe you’ve been talking about getting back together but it’s still touch-and-go and you can’t for the life of you, figure out how to do this right. So this is for anyone who is trying to get their ex back or is holding their head up high and not admitting they want that, but still wishing they were magically back together– either because you broke their heart and you know now you screwed up, or because you were dumped and you were not ready or willing to have this outcome. If this is where you are – you’re likely in a split personality state that can be sometimes a belligerent puking of tears, sometimes a banal but painful loneliness, sometimes annoyingly obsessed, sometimes scary-obsessed, or sometimes feeling like complete and utter worthless crap – and ONLY your ex can make you feel stable and “yourself” again.
So if that sounds like you – you’re not alone, and there’s a lot you can do – right now, that will help your situation immensely. It starts with getting to a place where you can be the most capable and clear-headed. This is a chemical state that is tied to a whole lot of other factors than just this relationship. I don’t say that to make you think that this wasn’t a really powerful and meaningful relationship in your life, I say that because you’re suffering at the hand of some factors you cannot see – that have nothing to do with this person. And though this feels like the only solution is getting back together with your ex, a lot of this pain is not about the relationship – at all. If I could hand you a button that you could push to remove all the pain – you’d be able to see things from a much clearer perspective. You’re not crazy, you’re not broken, and though this is excruciating and purgatory, this pain will end. Right now because of a whole lot of other factors – to do with biology and the brain, something pure and painful has been made a ton harder. There are other equally confusing types of pain that are being lumped on top of this, and that is because being left by someone or not loved back by someone is much like a trauma on top of a drug addiction. My hope is that once you can see what is affecting you, you can better help yourself and manage your feelings – SO that you can choose from your highest self what is truly best for you, and what you DECIDE you’re going to do.
Part 2: The Why
Break-ups don’t happen by accident. They happen because something is not working for one or both partners and whether or not you can see what that was, it had to happen. I know it hurts a lot when you’re on the receiving end and you don’t KNOW what wasn’t working – but despite how it feels, it’s not about you. Some factor was not in alignment and this is the result of that – your job is to figure out what that was and milk this for all the learning you can get – for the good of your future. Change needs to be made – and that’s a great opportunity! That might be something in you, your partner, or the way both of you related to one another that hit a breaking point. Sometimes things just need a hard reset button.
If this feels like it came out of nowhere, search for what – if anything, was in your blind-spot – ask why that was a blind-spot. Breakups are truly great opportunities in that they are teachers. They can illuminate change that needs to be made and imbalance that needs to be reset. So if you were kept in the dark, maybe that’s something you should reflect upon – as far as what you missed, that could have told you something. But above all, if you were broken up with, know that there’s nothing unlovable about you. People make decisions based on their own issues and this has everything to do with whatever they’re going through. Sometimes personal crap comes up seemingly out of where – it could be something in their life stage that forced a shift. It could be something they didn’t confront about their own feelings that now is coming out at you. If it’s mystifying to you, let it go for now and focus on yourself. The only important fact for you to know is: it has nothing to do with your worth. What someone else does is solely related to where THEY are in their life, DESPITE you. So you can be grateful that you are existing in the truth of things vs. living unawares. You deserve to have someone who is on the same page as you so that you can continue to thrive in the relationship. I know it’s hard to actually feel that way – and not take things personally, but truly – you cannot control what others do or how they feel. A lot of people hit really random stages where their ish comes out and they act out based on old milestones unbeknownst to them. And a lot of what motivates acting without compassion is fear and deep insecurity. Your view of yourself creates your view of the world. For example, if you feel fat and ugly, you might not be into the idea of sex: it’s because of how YOU feel – not what your partner looks like. Additionally, if you feel reliant on status symbols to know you’re a valuable person, you will grasp for external identifiers.
If they don’t miss you or call you and you miss them, know that break-ups are a billion times more painful when it’s out of your control. I have brought this up before but I’ll repeat it – when two rats were given shocks, the one who could control the shocks did fine, the other fell apart. And that’s because your fight or flight system cannot tolerate random pain. It causes you to be traumatized. So you’re dealing with a lot of the trauma that makes this more painful, but that is not related to your ex. The sympathetic nervous system is activated, which is driven by fear and pain – you’re running away from the badness the best way you know how – by focusing on the cause of your pain (your ex) you are attempting to control the pain’s source. This is an attempt to empower yourself. If I can get my ex back, then I can feel comfortable in this pain: it will be in my control and I will know where I am. Additionally, anything new feels bad JUST because it’s new. Human brains crave what is familiar and will choose it regardless of whether or not it’s good. So part of what you long for is just the familiar.
If you were the one who did the breaking – like you mistreated this person and now they left you, so guilt and agony is driving you to want them to come back – then you are fighting a different set of painful factors. When we break things that are important to us, it’s usually coming from a place of fear – but one we are confused by: misalignments in actions and understanding of those actions signal something buried in the unconscious. In my experience it’s usually something old and unrelated that we are giving the wrong label – it’s not that you are a liar and a cheat, it’s that you are trying to make sense of yourself and that is what your behavior shows you. Whether or not you wish this break didn’t happen, it did – and you should honor it by getting to the bottom of what is at play. Because there is a good reason: one that needs your attention. You needed to do some self-work and growth. It could not continue on as it was, this result is showing you something – it’s giving you a key. You must choose to take it. I want you to hold onto that fact and examine what needs to be untangled. If you were not valuing the person while you were in the relationship and maybe you took them for granted, that’s a clue to something in YOU that needs to be unearthed. If you cheated on them and lived a double life, this is also a clue to the self-work you need to do. Whatever your factors are – write them down because they are gold. They provide maps to happiness and love. And you can and should take them with you to your therapist – because this is how you will be able to make a B-line to the “solved” position. Attack it head on and understand yourself! It’s worth so much in the long run of your happiness. This can be a gift in disguise to both you and your partner. I’ll give you a hint – it’s something very old, like little kid age.
My last why -that I want you to journal on- is this. I want to examine WHYyou want your ex back. Just write that question at the top of a journal page and leave it open ended. Leave the answer open to things about them, but also to yourself: how has this made you feel? What are the emotions that are coming out of you now – that hurt? This is a key question for anyone listening to answer, because it will give you insight into what is operating you currently. Usually it’s either fear or pain, both of which are not tied to the quality of the relationship. Is it because they disparaged you? Is it because you crave the familiar? Is it because they were company and you cannot stand being alone? Would COULD be other reasons you are longing for this person? Is loss always very hard for you? Do you feel like a failure because you’re single? Do you feel like you have no worth in the dating marketplace? Was this just “something to focus on” and now you feel like you have nothing?
All of these questions are not to depress you – they are to get you thinking in a different headspace. One of empowerment. I want you to approach yourself and your pain from a “SELF-HACK” perspective vs. a winy victim or “I’m a born asshole” perspective. Right now you are handing the car keys of your self-worth and happiness over to another person, and in that act, you are limiting your access to your own power in this situation to better yourself and become someone more worthy of chasing. So this is a sideways path to getting LOVE back than it is to getting your ex back. But I can guarantee that if you start to empower yourself and use these tools, you will automatically be much closer to getting your ex back than otherwise. The real answer I want you to consider is whether or not that’s truly what is best for you, at least – from the place you’re both at, right now.
Break-ups happen for good reasons. Either something needs to change – dramatically, in a self-work department. OR it wasn’t tight and stable enough to sustain a lifelong commitment that would feed and grow both of you. Because I will tell you right now – the pain of loss is intense, but choose RIGHT if you’re looking for love that lasts. Life is long and commitment is really hard and not sexy most of the time. You need a bond that’s as BULLETPROOF as possible. And that means you both need to start on the same page – all in. If that’s not the case for your partner, honor your own heart and find someone who wants what you want. Your match exists when you decide you’re going to look for them – that part takes a while. Don’t stop and dawdle at the door – walk into the ballroom and interview each person before you settle on a dance partner. Fate rewards those who learn their lessons and commit to what they want. If that’s deep and rewarding love, that is a truth that you must honor.
If you were on the receiving end of what you thought was “your one” I want to say first, I am very sorry. I know how devastating that feels and I want you to know that sometimes this stuff comes out of nowhere and there’s nothing you could have done to predict it. However, it doesn’t mean your life is over or you don’t have a future with happiness and love – it will just be different than what you thought. Right now you must remind yourself that this is not a judgment of you and it doesn’t remove the validity of what was great in your relationship. Time will give you perspective but you must choose to keep moving toward healing of any kind. For now, don’t try to figure them out – assume it’s something that won’t make sense to you for a long time and make this time in your life – about you, and what you need to do to be good to yourself, right now.
Whatever your situation, I want you to journal about your particular “why.” Ask yourself hard questions and consider them even though your pain wants to tell you the same thing over and over again. A lot of what keeps you obsessed with the person who broke your heart is a biological fixation on a threat: your brain is trying to help you to feel safe in your concept of the world, and right now – this one thing doesn’t make sense. So it can become a painful obsession that appears to be all about the relationship. However, getting your ex back will not give you the solution to the pain – it’s in part the most obvious source of control that your brain can identify to stop this terror. Having a relationship shows us proof that we are lovable and doing okay and when they choose to leave us, it feels like we are nothing, after-all. This pain is truly the most excruciating – feeling not good enough, not lovable. But the actions of the other person are not related to your worth – and the way to remedy this feeling is to know your own worth is valuable, regardless of who loves you. And that is because relationships mask a lot of the pain and vulnerability we have inside. They also overlap a lot of other great stuff about our life – and we feel immense longing for “what was previously, us.” You were half of what was great in that relationship – and that half is not gone. It will just go through a resetting and rebuilding process, and that’s what I want to help you focus on. So to help you best approach this situation from an empowered position – I want to give you some practical steps to take so you can better grow that core of self-love. It will carry you right to the doorstep of love and a healthy relationship.
Part 3: The Tools
- STAY INSIDE THE CHALK CIRCLE: For obeying your highest self
This is a tool for dealing with painful reactions to this situation, when you’re not acting as you would like you. It’s how to recognize your highest self vs. your pain and clinging. Your highest self is really the voice of reason that speaks when you are balanced, calm and empowered. You know it best when a kid calls you a name and you can say, “Now, now, that’s not nice.” Instead of “Shut up you little brat!” You have access to this part of your brain when you are chemically balanced and also not in the fear-threat-response state. So this tool is really to remind yourself of that fact when you’re suffering and longing and triggered (at your lowest). The first goal you have is to get back to center – return to the most chemically empowered state you can be in and DON’T STEP OUT of that RING.
I want you to imagine that right now you’re in hell and there are swirling chemical demons and ghosts all around you – and there’s one chalk circle that I am drawing on the dirt floor for you that will allow you to see what is around you for what it is. Inside this circle, you are in control of your emotions and you are your most rational, highest self. Your job in those moments of being triggered is to get back into that circle. Don’t act on anything when you’re outside of it. How to get back inside the circle? That will be a personal process that you will fine-tune, but here are some places to start. In the simplest terms, you are going to enact things to calm the chemicals and distract yourself. Slow down the response – this will give you one toe inside the circle because it will release the chemicals that get you out of the fight-flight-threat response. For example, go running or do some jumping jacks.
Another helpful move is doing ANYTHING that’s new. I call it zag-ing – just removing yourself from the train of thought, the triggered track of actions. So if you’re on the computer in the middle of the night – throw the laptop in the trunk of your car and start dancing your ass off to loud pop music. Put a comedy on the TV or start cooking a complicated recipe. Literally ANYTHING that you can fully immerse yourself in that will help you empower yourself and slow down the REACTIVE thought process. Time is your best friend in this zone. Add time – if the chemicals aren’t soothing fast enough, waste time doing your hair in the bathroom. Keep dawdling before enacting the triggered response. If you need something else to do, begin practicing a breathing exercise – I have several meditations on my playlist, but I also recommend slow, even, loud breathing in and out so that you can only hear the sound of your breath.
The short of it is – happy=rational. If you really want to get your ex back, the first thing you need to do is be rational and clear-headed. You need a brain and a self-respecting, strong person that values themselves. You need a person who is taking care of themselves, who is capable of making change, who has a smile and a solid core. You need to remember who you are – and be great at that self. And in order to walk through this process as a quality individual, you need your head on straight, now, more than ever. You need to be at the wheel and not on the ground, clinging to someone’s ankle. So stay in a place that allows you access to your highest self. Your highest self will not react based on fear or pain – your highest self will CHOOSE based on reflection. Your highest self is powerful and self-assured, and attractive for this reason. So empower yourself to act from this place. If you’re blinded by the swirling pain and the clinging, your FIRST STEP is to get back into that chalk ring I drew for you. Where you can see the situation clearly and you KNOW what you need to do, and be capable of doing that.
Tool 2: WALK THE WALK
This is for anyone who neglected their partner or perhaps for the first time – cheated on their partner, and now sees how truly horrific that was. I wanted to start this tool by saying that a lot of my clients are baffled by their own behavior – when they blow up their relationships and betray those they love, seemingly when everything is perfect. I’ve heard it called “panic” and “fear” or “helpless watching” when they enact these things. This is a very specific kind of break-up and one you absolutely NEED to get therapy for. If you are a self-sabotager, I want you to know that this will not go away and this issue needs gutting. It’s coming from something old and totally unrelated to your partner and you can and should get therapy for the good of YOUR happiness and self-love, and the good of your future partners. Do the work, you owe it to yourself and to the person you hurt – because this kind of self-destruction is cruel and unfair to those who welcome you into their hearts. Not to mention it makes YOU believe you are a piece of crap, which you are not – this is just a misunderstood and confusing loop of survival machinery operating inside of you. If you need a starting topic for therapy, I can tell you it’s either tied to trauma and loss or your family of origin. Do it right. Start the work. It will be done faster than you think if you just get specific and aggressive about it – don’t let fear of “knowing” or change, be the reason you continue to suffer. Life doesn’t have to be this way for you.
Whether that’s you or not, the tool is the same in that the only power you have in any situation is changing yourself for the better. And if you broke trust, your word means nothing – all that matters are your actions. If you want to win someone back, you must demonstrate real change over a long period of time. And this can’t be faked. It must be acted on. So if you broke your partner’s heart, start walking the walk of change and get into therapy. Start some self-work in the areas you suffer – not for them, for YOU. Because the fact that you hurt someone else and betrayed your values hurts you, too. It makes YOU feel like a bad person. And that shows me you have some self-worth issues that need to be unearthed and untangled. If you did not betray your own values by cheating, then that shows me you need to be more honest with yourself about the kind of relationship you can be in – and you need to be more honest about that with your partners. In love, there are lots of inconvenient truths and sometimes it comes down to learning to own them so you don’t destroy people with them down the line. Not to mention – there are people out there who want the same thing you want and that would be a much more self-loving act than forcing yourself to live a lie.
Regardless, if you want to show this person you are changing – the only way is to actually change. Trust will be rebuilt over time – and because of the betrayal, the process you are going through is but an offering of peace. It does not require they come back to you. And hopefully they will – but you should do it for yourself, regardless. Know thyself and trust thyself. There’s nothing more stressful that living in fear of what “you might do” and not knowing the answer. Knowing thyself is like an intoxicating form of confidence and comfort. I want you to have it, too.
Sometimes breakups are the resetting of things that really need attention – so I would look at this as a positive process. Use it. Don’t shy away from it because it truly can be the answer to all that was wrong with the relationship originally. If you are overcompensating in one area where they are weaker, this means right now is when you can balance that out. So if they cheated on YOU and you are afraid to lose them, that means you have to see them grow self-worth in order for you guys to be back together again: you cannot accommodate sickness, otherwise it thrives and you reset the unhealthy loop. For love to work both partners need to feel strong and equal and confident. They need to be capable of loving you, too. So grab this window when everything is in flux and milk it – be aggressive about setting up all the change that needs to take place – it’s often the only path to happiness and love, in the future.
Tool 3: Welcome Newness
Your perception of your own value has been confused and your routine has been injured by the break-up. One of the best ways to get back on track and feeling good about yourself is to grow. It’s also when you appear more attractive as a partner. Your job is to get yourself into a state of, “I have something great to offer and I am a gem.” The best way to do that is to practice living a great life and conduct yourself with confidence, even if it doesn’t feel totally authentic just yet. To build confidence from scratch, try new things that intimidate you. Expand what makes up “you” – welcome change. This is how you grow and with that, you get stronger.
Think about yourself, right now – when you see a person looking happy and glowing, you immediately think, “What do they have? I want to be around that…” It’s an intoxicating energy. So by welcoming newness, I mean say yes to things that scare you. Be around new people often. Go out, get dressed up, be social, act as if – even if you’re not feeling it. Because this also has an effect on how you feel– via the visual feedback. Act nice to yourself and it will actually change you – and when you build self-love, you quite literally build your value to others, so by investing in yourself you build more of what you have to offer someone else.
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One of you asked me to talk about myself, specifically any personal growth journeys I took to learn what I had to overcome to become the person I am now, and how I did it. And because I want to protect the innocent I will keep that answer vague. I speak from personal experience and I offer the tools I have used myself. So for now, you can fill in the blanks. As I told the person who wrote me, I will write a memoir one day and spill it all on Oprah, but for now. It’s all obtuse – mainly because I don’t like dwelling in the negative, it’s irrelevant to the tools. Which is what I really want to give to you all! And if you are looking for more on this topic, you can check out the pre-order for the Break-Up Album on Yaywithme.com/podcast right now. xo
If you were with someone who you loved and they don’t want you anymore – they don’t deserve you. And if you don’t believe that – that is where you need to start. Not in the trying to get them back. Because truly we can only love others from a healthy place if we love ourselves. It’s vital! If you don’t have self-love and you cannot tolerate being alone, you are selling your life short – because that is a very painful life to live. What a nightmare to exist in fear and excruciating pain unless you have someone to blanket that pain. I used to be like that and I am not anymore – so for you I would say, undo that for yourself. Get to some self-work SO that you can feel okay, solo. It’s a lot easier than going through that painful addictive loop of loneliness, then settling for less-than, then getting hurt and feeling lost and terrified all over again.
If you are sad because you lost someone you love, that is a really hard place to be in. I want you to know that it’s okay to feel all the things you’re feeling – and we’ve all been there. It’s the pits. Pain and mourning is a necessary part of this process, and it’s not all wrong or bad. You mourn a loss because it meant something to you – and that is a beautiful thing. It means you live, you feel, you invest – and that you have heart. And this is truly how you get to the best of life – by feeling it and livng it. The pain of loss is just the other half of having something of value. Just because things ended doesn’t mean it wasn’t something of great worth in your life and in the life of the other person. It is always better to have loved and felt the depth of something than to have not – in my opinion. It shows you have great range and depth and you will bring more to your next relationship. More compassion, more clarity about who you are – and more understanding that you can gift to everyone you meet.
The key is to not become a victim of your experiences – and instead MILK them for all they’re worth. Use this as a gift that can grow you – seek out the lessons that are built into this. That’s what my album is all about – because break-ups, truly are an opportunity for post-traumatic growth. If something needs to change, don’t hide from it – run into it – because this is a window of time that can springboard you into another level of life. If you’re hurting, why not use it! Don’t allow yourself to wallow – pick up some tools. Or if you want to wallow a little while, just make sure when you’re done you put a clean shirt on and get right back out into the world. Life is for living and yours is not over – this can be a great teacher in your life, but you must choose to use it. I can tell you from where I stand that it is well worth it – it holds the keys to gifts you never knew existed. So I wish you well, be gentle on yourself, forgive yourself readily – and act from your highest self. You deserve love, first and foremost from yourself. And that includes investing and committing to working on the things that need to be addressed and owning your truth – and what you want for yourself. This isn’t about what someone else wants – I want you to ask yourself first: what do I want for my life? How do I want to feel? What do I want to solve in myself – for myself? What do I deserve from someone else? What do I want to have in the future for my happiness? The rest is just a process of taking steps that align with those things. I think you should have all of it.
Much love and hang in there. Xo Sarah May B. If you want my reading list you can check it out here.
Featured image © Emma Feil Photography