An 11-Step Guide to Dealing With Your Ex — Gracefully
From divvying up friends to whether you can date one
This month, we’ve been talking about all the things we’ve loved.
That past tense is important: because today we’re talking about people we once cherished, but, for one reason another, no longer do.
Some exes stay friends. Some drift apart. And a few still owe us money (hi, Heather!).
But everyone needs closure. So we asked a panel of relationship experts, psychotherapists, etiquette experts and marriage counselors about coping with lost loves. Our queries include social-media protocol, divvying up friends and what to do when you run into one another (hint: don’t run).
Their advice, below.
What if I want him/her back?
“If you truly want to consider getting back together, I recommend making lists. List of what you loved about them is easy, but balance that with a real list of the things that made you NOT compatible. List the differences of your qualities and values. Study the list and add to it over the course of several days. Only then, reach out to meet face to face to discuss. Reconciling must be mutual.” — Tammy Shaklee, relationship expert and LGBTQ matchmaker
“This is something you can explore with them if they are open to the discussion, but if they make it clear that is not going to happen, you should cut off all contact and focus on yourself and what you need to move forward in another direction. If you are really struggling, counseling can be a lifesaver and has been used by many people to get over heartbreak.” — Toni Coleman, psychotherapist, relationship coach and divorce mediator
We lived together. How do we divvy things up?
“The general idea is to compromise on the things you bought together. He gets the couch, but you get the kitchen table. ”— Jeannie Assimos, Chief of Advice at eHarmony
“I’d say that the things each person brought into the relationship should remain with them. If stuff was bought together, talk about it. Some people have more emotional attachment to certain things than others. As alast resort, sell the piece in question and divide what you got for it.” — Nina Grey, lifestyle blogger, A Gorgeous Soul
“The person who leaves, leaves. They take their personal belongings (clothes, books, sentimental items) but furniture and electronics goes to the person who stays. Most people who want out just leave with what they entered into the relationship with. I advise my clients to have an exit strategy, to get clear on what they want and how they are willing to pay the other person for half if they are willing to accept.” — Lisa Concepcion, founder of LoveQuest Coaching and podcast host (Love & Tacos)
Who “gets” the bar/restaurant/hangout spot we used to frequent together?
“A part of letting go will involve creating new associations with the places you used to go with your ex. Going there with new people will help with that. The first few times might trigger memories of your ex, but new associations will form in time. The avoidance of these places hinder your ability to move on.” — Shirin Peykar, , M.A., licensed marriage and family therapist, founder of “Let’s Talk Divorce”
“If you and your ex have a set of bars and restaurants you used to frequent together, find a new spot to go to! Too many memories exist in the old haunt.” — Jeannie Assimos
“Usually the person who loved the spot the most keeps it. If you had a specific place that you loved going and she just came along then it’s clearly spiteful if she goes to the same place, and vice versa. When you start showing up to her favorite brunch spot while she’s there with her girlfriends, trying to claim it as yours, it will make you seem desperate and immature. — Lisa Concepcion
How do we split up our mutual friends?
“If they are truly mutual friends, there should be no reason you have to split your friends. People are not possessions, and they will have their own opinions about whom they ally (or hang out with) after your breakup. Take your cues from each individual in turn, and if suddenly you find texts are going unanswered or you are being blocked on social media, you have your answer.” — Thomas P. Farley, aka Mister Manners, a New York-based etiquette expert and speaker
”If you believe you have to sacrifice lifelong friends if you’re not civil with your ex, then it may be worth trying to compromise. It doesn’t mean that you have to spend every waking moment with them, but if the people in this friend group matter to you, both people are going to have to be okay with being around one another occasionally.” — Mackenzie Riel, educator for TooTimid.com
Can I date within the mutual friend group?
“There are many factors to consider before ruling out the idea entirely: how long you and your ex dated, how acrimonious the breakup was, whose friend (originally) the prospective new mate was, how close your ex and your possible “next” are. If you feel it is appropriate to proceed, you should discuss it with your ex to seek acceptance of this new relationship. Overall, I would advise not starting a new relationship within the mutual friend group in the immediate aftermath of a breakup. If the two of you dated for a good while, I would wait a minimum of a few months, if not longer, before proceeding.” — Thomas P. Farley
“Sooner or later, word will get out and friends within the group may feel betrayed, possibly causing division between the core group. There are millions of people in the world, surely people can be better served by finding someone new that’s not within their core group of friends. Good friends are so hard to come by and personally, I would never do this. — Mary Kaarto, speaker, author (Hope for the Laid Off)
Can I stay in touch with their family?
“If possible, have a conversation with your ex letting him/her know how much you value the relationship with his/her family. Ask if they feel comfortable with you maintaining those connections. If not, it’s best to respect your ex’s wishes. — Shirin Peykar
“Yes, you can, but is this a wise practice? I really loved my ex-mother-in-law, but as my dad always used to say, ‘blood is thicker than water.’ She would always remain true to her son, as she well should, and I wouldn’t really be able to share anything about my life with her, without it getting back to him. — Mary Kaarto, speaker, author (Hope for the Laid Off)
How do I react when I run into them and they’re with someone new?
“Be mature. Say hello and move along as quickly as possible. Honestly, you could even nod hello to prevent any awkward exchanges.” — Jeannie Assimos
“It will largely depend on how long the two of you have been broken up. Regardless, it’s important to remind yourself that they don’t ‘belong’ to you anymore and are free to be with whomever they want. A truly mature response would be to hope that they are happy with their newfound partner.” — Adina Mahalli, certified mental health professional
“Whatever you do, don’t be confrontational. If you saw them and they didn’t see you and you’re not ready to see them with another person, leave. Just be polite. Introduce yourself to the new guy. Shake his hand. Wish them the best and if chatting more seems OK, great. If not, politely excuse yourself. Protecting your peace is the top priority.” — Lisa Concepcion
How do I react if I’m with someone new?
“In uncomfortable situations, it’s good to remind yourself that it’s not awkward until you make it awkward. Play it cool and introduce your ex- to your new partner and vice versa. There’s no need to make everyone involved uncomfortable, even if you are dying a little on the inside.” — Adina Mahalli
“Resist the urge to be overly showy (e.g.: ‘John, meet Steve. He’s a neuroscientist. Perhaps you’ve seen his fitness videos on Instagram?’). Keep it friendly, and for the sake of everyone around you, brief. Finish with ‘It was nice to see you’ rather than ‘We should catch up sometime.’”. — Thomas P. Farley
“If you have a new person with you, be respectful of their feelings. Be kind, and do what is best for your date. More than likely, it’s smiling, waving and moving on. Stopping for a personal introduction can be awkward and misinterpreted by multiple parties. Just move on.” — Tammy Shaklee
What about social media? Should I block or unfollow? What about commenting?
“It’s best to avoid looking at your ex’s social media if you are struggling with the breakup. It satisfies the craving for the person you had from a distance, but ends up making you feel miserable afterwards. Remove your temptation by either unfollowing or even blocking to avoid the urge to check up on your ex’s new life, especially on days where you feel good and think you can handle it.” — Shirin Peykar
“At least during the breakup and healing period afterwards, it’s helpful to hide the ex-partner’s profile so you’re not constantly confronted with their life, which goes on now without you. Everybody needs some space to work through such a sad situation as a break-up. Blocking or even unfollowing is in my opinion kind of childish and only makes complete sense if the breakup was ugly.” �� Nina Grey
“I find that the majority of my clients, despite being success-minded adults with careers and businesses. slip into arrested development of about age 15 when it comes to social media post-breakup. Be kind to one another. Posting pics of you with a new person too soon after the breakup is tacky.” — Lisa Concepcion
When can or should I contact my ex? Death of friend/parent? Birthday? Random thing on I see on the internet that reminds me of them?
“Letting them know you’re thinking of them might create a situation where things could get messy. Remember why this person is your ex before you contact them, as you might realize you are recreating old unhealthy patterns by opening the lines of communication.” — Shirin Peykar
“Especially in the beginning, you should minimize any contact, no matter the situation. If you dated for many years and a birthday comes up, a nice text doesn’t do any harm. Just be mindful about getting in touch, and understand that it could open up further communications.” — Jeannie Assimos
“Talk about it beforehand. If you’re both OK with texting every now and then, then go for it. If you feel fine to talk on the phone sometimes, then do that. As long as each one has enough space to grow as an individual person and get used to a life without the ex-partner.” — Nina Grey
Finally, do any of these answers change depending on who did the breaking up, or if someone was specifically the “bad” person? (Infidelity, deception, etc.)
“If only negative emotions such as sadness, bitterness, anger etc. are associated with the ex-partner, there’s no point in having any kind of connection. It’s better to let go of the past and to move on.” — Nina Grey
“It’s really about the two people in the relationship honoring themselves and what feels best for them. There are some people who did terrible things to one another and then over time are able to be friends, and then others who were loyal but ended and never spoke to one another again. It really depends on the energy between both people.” — Lisa Concepcion
“All of these change depending on what the relationship was like, who broke up with whom, or if there was conflict or one person caused real harm to the other. All of these factor into how you feel about one another and if any contact or relationship is ill-advised due to any of these.” — Toni Coleman