Today, a reader wants to revisit her relationship and wonders if she should write a letter to her ex boyfriend.
I’ve been struggling with a situation that I thought maybe you could help me with.
My ex boyfriend of 9 months broke up with me 3 months ago, saying he needed to “get himself together.” It was such a confusing breakup since only 2 weeks before he left, he reassured me that he wasn’t going anywhere because he had been so happy in our relationship. There wasn’t anyone else or anything like that, and I thought things were good between us. We never fought.
At first, I thought that there was a chance we might get back together but I haven’t heard from him since he dumped me. I’ve been trying to get over him— I’ve even been out on a few dates— but I know deep down that he’s the one I really want.
I thought maybe I should get in touch since I haven’t heard a word from him. There were a lot of things I never got the chance to tell him since the breakup was so sudden and unexpected.
My question is: should I write my ex a letter to get them back?”
I’m sorry you’re going through this. Breakups are painful already, without that extra added dose of WTF you got to experience.
Needless to say, whether you should write a letter to your ex to get them back is a really touchy subject.
Proper letter writing to exes can be done, in fact, I actually recommend that clients write their ex a very specific type of letter.
Except, that specific type of letter to your ex is NOT the strong outpouring of feelings that most people (myself included at times) tend to want to send their exes.
After any breakup, there is a tendency for the dumpee to want to memorialize their relationship with their ex who dumped them, and pour all of their tender feelings on them.
Without a plan, 99% of the time, writing your ex a letter to get them back is a really, really bad idea for several reasons:
1. Most people write the total wrong thing.
Letter writing leads people to succumb to the urge to “get it all out.”
Unfortunately, this leads to people penning seven page screeds that include all kinds of embarrassing details that they later WISH they hadn’t shared. Even when you feel like the letter is kosher and not over-emotional, it most likely IS NOT ready to be seen by your ex.
Most heartbroken people simply don’t have the relationship skills to write their ex a letter that doesn’t hurt them or drive them further away.
2. Your emotions are all over the place.
With all of the anger, pain and hurt involved in your breakup, the breakup letter usually ends up including a LOT of your negative feelings that your ex isn’t necessarily interested in hearing about.
Simply put, YOU are the only one interested in YOUR messy hurt feelings at this point in time.
By dumping you, your ex has opted out of hearing about your feelings or anything else about you. Your feelings are not their job. And when you write your ex a letter that includes a bunch of emotion, it’s weird for your ex who has ended things— no matter what the circumstances were behind your breakup.
3. You don’t know your exe’s current mindset or circumstances.
Even if you had stayed in touch and not gone no contact (NC) with your ex, you don’t really know what is really going on with them.
That means that any communication that you do try needs to be more light and airy than heavy and emotional.
Right now in particular, you DON’T want to be associated with any pain or negativity in your exe’s mind. A long, painful letter to an ex is negativity in written format.
4. They dumped you, so getting in touch subtly violates their boundaries.
No matter why an ex breaks up with you, if they have told you they are done, AT LEAST RIGHT NOW, you have to take them at their word and respectfully bow out.
Exes can and do change their minds, often in fact. But you can’t out-sad them into wanting something other than what they want right now.
You may disagree with the breakup.
You may be convinced there is hope for your relationship in the future.
You may think about your ex every day and miss them so much it hurts.
You might be willing to crawl over broken glass to get your ex back.
The problem is, you can’t change THEIR mind by sharing YOUR strong emotion.
They don’t want that from you. They want to be left alone.
Even if your breakup was amicable, right now you represent drama with a capital D, especially if you begged and pleaded and tried logic and reason to try to get them to change their mind about leaving you.
(If you’re reading this and happen to have begged and pleaded with your ex, I totally get it. I’ve done it too— it’s simply human nature to try and prevent loss. All is not lost.)
5. An emotional letter to your ex puts all your cards on the table.
You have managed to make it 3 months of no contact.
I have to slow clap for your self control and self worth. That kind of commitment to no contact is really, really hard to accomplish, especially when you really love someone and miss them so much it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning.
Since you were the one who got dumped, that no contact period is actually excellent and works in your favor— whether you want your ex back or not.
People do the most detrimental stuff in relationships when they decide, “I have nothing to lose, my ex is already gone, so I might as well go for it.”
If you want a shot at getting your ex back at all, you need an actual strategy, not to do whatever pops into your head because you’re heartbroken and trying whatever you can to get in touch.
6. You can’t see your exe’s reaction to your letter.
For the same reason that letter writing can be helpful— it’s a way to get your feelings out all in one place, you can plan what you want to say and you won’t be interrupted— letters to your ex can overshoot the mark and overload your ex emotionally, causing them to shut down completely.
That’s because if you’re talking to your ex in real time, you can judge their reaction to you and modify it accordingly. Since you know them well, you can change your message if you sense that they are taking it badly.
This can’t be done when you “get it all out” in letter format. They are captive to your message (if they read it) for better or worse.
7. Your motives will shine through.
Like anyone, you have conscious AND subconscious hopes, expectations and motives for how this will play out.
You may hope to hurt them back.
You may want to enact revenge or make your ex jealous.
You may want to say you’re sorry.
You may want to make up for whatever happened during your breakup.
… And, since you’re reading this, above all else, you want to get your ex back— which is most likely NOT what they want right now (since you’re the one writing me and not your ex).
The thing is, all of those subconscious motives WILL come out and potentially cloud your message.
If you think about it, telling someone that you want the opposite of what THEY WANT is not an effective strategy, whether you’re negotiating for a relationship or pizza toppings.
8. You most likely will NOT get the response you really hope for.
Since writing a letter to get your ex back was your idea and you were the one who got dumped, you are reinforcing the idea that your ex is the one who has all of the power in your interaction.
This does NOT increase their urgency to avoid losing you.
They can stay away, continue to be conflicted and keep looking wherever they are trying to find themselves, without worrying about losing you for good.
Because, believe it or not— even people who leave you are swayed by the fear of ultimately REALLY losing you—especially if they left because they have grass-is-greener syndrome and take you completely for granted.
Writing your ex an emotional letter reinforces their power over you. It’s actual visual evidence that you are still there, wishing, waiting and hoping— so they don’t need to worry about how they will feel when you meet some cute new boyfriend and move the heck on.
Writing a letter to your ex boyfriend simply isn’t how to make him want you back. He has to really feel your absence and know he lost you. That process isn’t possible when he has visual evidence of your undying love for him.