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Getting Your Ex Back

Breaks up are hard, no matter who the initiator. However, it’s always harder when you wanted things to continue progressing and she did not. It’s a painful situation, but an unfortunate reality of dating: you will probably experience a break up at some point in your life.

Generally, it’s best to move on after a break up. Stewing over scenarios, asking yourself where you went wrong, and over-analyzing the situation rarely makes things better. What does make things better is getting out of the house, being active, socializing, and getting back into the dating pool.

Also, we aren’t covering some of the obvious “move-on” or “we are not going to help you” situations here. Those include situations where she broke up with you because she met someone else, she “broke up with you” when really, you were never an item to begin with (you went on three dates, you didn’t even have an exclusivity talk, etc.), she broke up with you because you were abusive in any way (we are not interested in helping you because you don’t deserve her), or this relationship was not the primary one (you/she is married or in another committed relationship and you/she are the “side piece”).

If you don’t fall into the categories above, and you still can’t shake the : “Can I get her back?” thoughts. And you still want to know if it’s possible to get her back. The answer is: It’s a daunting uphill battle, and it’s not always feasible, but sometimes, yes, you can. We don’t recommend it, but if you are that stubborn type who simply must make the last ditch effort, we’re here to help you maximize your chances.

How to Win Her Back

There are 5 basic steps that you need to follow in order to maximize your chances of getting your ex back in most scenarios:

man insisting at table
  1. Give her time
  2. Reconnect / entice her to reconnect
  3. Take your time
  4. Don’t have expectations
  5. Move on in parallel

This is the basic blueprint that you will need to follow in almost all situations where winning her back is feasible. We will break down these steps in more detail soon, but before you follow the blueprint, first it’s worth seeing if winning her back is even realistic to begin with. If not, despite what you may be thinking (that you might as well try anyways) it’s actually best not to go down the path as it will cause unnecessary emotional distress. Winning back an ex is a stressful and difficult task that isn’t worth undertaking if there’s no chance of success.

Breaking down break-ups

Knowing what category your breakup falls into will help you best decide whether to take the steps necessary to win her back, and how to tweak these steps for your situation. We like to break down break-ups into 5 reasons and 4 fact patterns. Fact patterns describe the core facts of the relationship:

  1. She broke up with you and the relationship was short
  2. She broke up with you and the relationship was long
  3. You broke up with her and the relationship was short
  4. You broke up with her and the relationship was long

(“Mutual” break-ups, while they exist, are rare. Usually, even in a mutual break-up, one party is the instigator and the other is the reluctant “agree-er”, that is why we do not include it in our fact patterns)

And 5 key reasons for break-ups:

  1. Lose of interest (“fell out of love”) — As the name suggest, these means “the spark” is no longer there. There is still comfort usually, but other elements of a relationship are lacking.
  2. Infidelity (one of you cheated on the other) — Each couple defines cheating differently. Naturally, the more flagrant the violation of trust and exclusivity, the more it falls into this bucket.
  3. Logistics — logistics are major non-emotional or romantic reason for breaking up. Common logistical reasons include working hours where you rarely see each other, long distance, some elements of children from a previous relationship, and financial mismatches. Sometimes, love is not enough.
  4. Long term prospects (“don’t see a future”) — Significant others might not see a future for a variety of reasons. Views about children is a big one, as are career and financial reasons. Other reasons are also closely tied to logistics, for example, long term living aspirations. Some long term prospects are also tied to infidelity, some to health, and some to the next point, external social pressures
  5. External social pressures — Common external social pressures include differences in religious beliefs, not getting along with friends or family, hanging around in different social circles, and sadly, still in today’s day and age, race.

Most break-ups can be described by one element from each bucket. For example, if you broke up because you were long distance and you broke it off with her after a long time, your break-up would be considered a (3,d) break-up. 3 for you broke up for Logistical reasons, and d for “you broke up with her and the relationship was long”.

The Break-Up Success Matrix

Armed with a concise way to describe most break up situations, we can visualize all the different situations with the heat map below. The more red the color, the less likely recovery is possible. The greener the color, the more likely if you want to get her back, you have a chance.

A matrix showing different breakup scenarios
The “Break-up” Matrix.

Before we dive into more detail, remember that every situation is different. This matrix is a rough guide based on interviews, personal experience, and our research. In other words, they are averages, not guarantees. Also, it is based on our experience from the man’s perspective breaking up with a woman. The chart likely looks quite different from a woman’s perspective.

Looking at the matrix, we can draw a important observations right away:

  • There are very few ‘red’ — this is good, it means many situations are redeemable to some extent.
  • As expected, when you break up with her (columns c,d) your odds of success are higher if you initiated the original break-up
  • Infidelity (row 2) is surprisingly, one of the easier reasons to overcome
  • Time in relationship can benefit or backfire, depending on the reason

Armed with this knowledge, let’s get back to the blueprint to winning her back. We’ll look at each step, and factor in variations depending on where you fall in the matrix above.

1. Give Her Time (and Space)

The first step, in almost every break-up situation is to give her time. Whether she broke up with you (columns a and b), or you broke up with her (c and d), things aren’t going to change overnight. If she broke up with you, her decision might have seemed like it was on a whim, but it was almost surely calculated decision that she made over a period of weeks, months, or even longer. After summoning up the courage to engage in the uncomfortable and hurtful conversation, she is not going to flip flop and change her mind the next day, next week, or even the next month.

Similarly, even if you are the one who broke it off with her, she isn’t going to just take you back the next day. You hurt her–maybe you caught her by surprise as well, but you’ve broken the trust and comfort that comes with being in a committed relationship. She is going to be wary of being as vulnerable with you emotionally going forward, and that isn’t going to heal in a day.

The only situations where not giving her time after a break-up hold is if the break-up was in the heat of an argument. In those situations, an immediate apology and “didn’t mean it” can be effective.

2. Re-connect under non romantic pretenses

After giving her time, regardless of which quadrants you fall, if you want to reconnect, it’s best to do so under non-romantic pretenses. You two broke up. That means intimacy is not a given nor an expectations. Naturally, the situation is different if she is the one who initiates contact. In that case, let her take the lead. However, if you are the one initiating, you’re much more likely to be successful if you don’t try to re-engage with intimacy as the pretense.

The reason this works is because comfort is of utmost importance coming off of a breakup. The last thing you want to be is the annoying ex who keeps trying to get back together and can’t take a hint. A surefire way of being that guy is by reconnecting in an aggressive or sexual way.

One thing you need to ask yourself at this stage is whether or not reconnecting is even worth it. If you fall in the green areas of the breakup matrix, it’s worth it. If you fall into the yellow, it’s iffy. The orange and red squares likely require an even more indirect approach: you’ll want to try to land on her radar in a way that entices her to reach out to you.

2.a. Entice her to reconnect

Sometimes, even reconnecting is unlikely to work. You need to plant the seed for her to reconnect with you. It’s not that common that ex’s shut down all contact, delete each others’ contact, unfollow each other on social media, and the like. When enticing her to reconnect, you basically do a lot of the things you shouldn’t do while trying to get her to date you to begin with, use social media.

Typically, social media is a very weak passive way of getting a girls attention that should almost never be used. Reconnecting after a “break up in the red” is one of the few areas where social media is useful in dating. Get on her radar with a well timed “like” or making a post that is more significant (but nothing to do with dating) than you normally do in a bid to catch her attention. A well timed like or even comment means doing so on a substantive post. For example, did she just land a new job and made an announcement. Did she post about a scary experience (natural disaster, near car accident). Those are the type of posts where an emoji response or a comment are meaningful.

3. Take your time

You gave her time and you managed to reconnect. At this stage, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself and think that the battle is almost won. Don’t do that. Just because she agreed to talk to you again does not mean everything is back to normal. This is the stage where most men screw up.

Just because she agrees to talk to you again, or even see you again, it does not mean she wants to date you again.

Here is where whoever initiated the breakup matters. If you initiated the break-up, you still want to take your time, but you can afford to take more risks in this regard. There’s a chance she is still into you, even after the hurt of a break-up.

If she broke up with you, then the situation is much more tenuous. While you have a history, and that history can in some cases work in your favor, you are still in essence starting pretty much from scratch in this latter case. It’s actually even worse than that: if you try to move things back towards a romantic relationship too quickly it can backfire tremendously. You know she didn’t want that somewhat recently, going for it early on is inconsiderate and disrespectful: it shows her you don’t respect her boundaries and wishes.

If you re-opened the lines of communication, you want to move slow. You don’t want to make it immediately obvious that you want to get back together. At the end of the day, depending on the length of your relationship, she was a pretty big part of your life, and also likely a good friend, not just a love interest. It’s only natural that you wouldn’t want to completely disconnect from such a person forever. She likely feels the same way, which is why she reconnected with you.

From there, you need to indirectly remind her of the positives of your relationship, focusing on comfort. One thing that’s very likely, even if she isn’t as attracted to you as she once was, is that she will feel comfortable with someone she’s dated for a while. You need to work from comfort, which is a difficult place to start, but it’s the main thing you have after a break-up.

4. Don’t have expectations

A corollary of taking your time is not to have expectations. Remember: you are no longer dating. Not that she ever owed you anything, but she really doesn’t owe you anything now just because you are talking again. You need to earn everything all over again.

When you’re dating someone, you are their priority in many ways, as they are yours. It’s easy once you reconnect with an ex to fall back into this pattern. Don’t. You are no longer her priority, and she is no longer yours. Make sure you keep the interactions you have going forward with that in mind. For example, if you make plans, there’s not nearly the guarantee she won’t reschedule on you that there was when you were dating.

Because you have a history, it’s easy to get upset or annoyed when you are no longer her priority. However, that’s a surefire way to end what remaining chances you have of getting her back. If you respect her boundaries and don’t have expectations, you will avoid this common pitfall.

5. Move on in parallel

Moving on in parallel to trying to get your ex back serves multiple purposes. First of all, the odds of getting her back are typically low, so if you are putting all your eggs in that basket, you’re bound to experience disappointment more often than not. This is the reality of reconnecting with an ex: even if you do everything “right”, it isn’t guaranteed to work.

The second reason moving on is important is because it will give her much more comfort hanging out with you again. That’s right: moving on will actually help you get her back!

As we mentioned earlier: she probably still wants you in her life because of the history you have together. There’s still comfort and likely the friendship component of the relationship. However, she’s afraid (rightfully so) that you’ll either (a) hurt her again (if you broke up with her), or (b) that you are dismissing her decision about the relationship and just trying to get her back. If you’re moving on, she’ll likely catch wind of it through the grapevine and it will set her mind at ease about letting you back into her life: it’s more likely that you don’t just want to get back together if you’re demonstrably moving on.

Breaking down the break-up matrix

We covered the main blueprint, now let’s take a look at a few specific cases. We’re going to focus on a handful of illustrative situations in the matrix. From these, you should be able to extrapolate how to adjust in the rest of them.

Logistics (Row 3)

Breaking up over Logistics is often one of the easier things to overcome. If you broke up with her because of long distance, but you want to date her, then you can just accept the long distance situation. If she broke up with you over a similar thing, it’s surprisingly even easier: from our experience, most women are much more willing to deal with logistical issues such as long distance than men.

If she broke up with you over it, if you’ve been together a long time (3,b) it was very likely due to you constantly complaining about the logistical issue. It’s actually a little bit harder to get back together if you break up with her over logistical reasons (3,c) and (3,d) because it leads to a long term dependability issue (how can she trust you won’t just break up with her again over logistical issues?)

Infidelity (Row 2)

Infidelity, except in the case of an early break-up instigated by her, is also typically in the “green”. Remember, green does not mean you’ve got it in the bag, it just means you have a good chance relatively speaking. The chances are never great when you’re trying to get an ex back.

In the FAQ that closes out this article, we mention that vague apologies are rarely effective. Infidelity is an exception to that rule. If you’ve been unfaithful, apologizing is one of the most important thing you can do. If she’s been unfaithful and you broke up with her because of it, it’s really up to you how you want to handle that going forward.

Long Term Prospects (Row 4)

Long term prospects is the “shades of yellow” territory: it’s tough but not completely insurmountable. If you don’t meet her long term criteria, it’s going to be hard to convince her you’re worth more than the fling you’ve had. Even if you broke up with her over long term prospect issues, it’s going to be very difficult for you to convince her that you’ve really changed. When long term prospect issues relates to something tangible, such as whether or not to have children, there’s always the option to change your mind if she’s the one. However, when it’s less tangible, something like “ambition”, it’s much trickier to demonstrate a change in a meaningful and convincing manner. But, that is what you will have to do in order to succeed.

The Red (1,a) and the Green (1,d)

When a woman loses interest early on in a relationship, there’s not much you can do. She gave you a shot and the spark just fizzled out and died. You haven’t been together long enough to build enough of a foundation for her to want to put in the extra effort to make things work, and the relationship hasn’t gone on long enough for a lack of excitement to be “normal”. It’s best to move on in this situation.

When broke up because you lost interest, it’s a different story altogether. You need to overcome the hurt and rebuild trust, but if you’ve been together a long time, and you are the one who lost interest, not her, there’s a good chance you can make amends by explaining that you’ve matured and realize that a long term relationship isn’t a constant honeymoon.

The Red (5,b)

External social pressures can have dramatic effects on relationships. The worst situation when it comes to social pressures if she breaks up with you after you’ve been together for a long time. When it has only been a short while, there’s more of a chance she reacted impulsively and hasn’t thought things through. When you’ve been dating for a long time, the odds of that are nil. She stayed with you for a long time, despite the social pressures, but in the end, after weighing the options, she decided that breaking up with you was the right move. It is much harder to recover from that.

Frequently Asked Questions

We covered the basics, and gave you a rough guideline of how likely you are to get her back in 20 distinct scenarios. However, there are many other situations and complications that may arise. Here are some of the common ones, and how to address them.

We broke up and she’s dating someone else, what do I do?

If you broke up with her, there’s a chance you can still rekindle the situation, but you have to tread extra carefully. This means giving her more time than usual, giving her more space than usual, reconnecting even more subtly, and not making any overt attempts to get her to break up with her new man. If she broke up with you, and has moved on, the best bet is to only reconnect if they end up breaking up.

How much time is “Give it time”?

It depends on the situation, but typically we recommend at least three weeks, if not an entire month before you try to reconnect. Naturally, if she reconnects with you first, don’t ignore her.

I think I figured out what I did wrong. Should I apologize?

Couple on bed breaking up

Only apologize if your relationship ended due to a very specific event and you know with 100% certainty that was the cause. Many men think they “know what they did wrong” but they are often wrong. Furthermore, it’s unlikely to make a difference. The right time to apologize is before the relationship ends and for specific reasons. The whole “I now know what I did wrong” rarely works, unless you are 100% sure you know what you did wrong, and have an actionable, believable plan to change.

Our break-up truly was mutual, but now I regret it. What do I do?

If your break-up was truly mutual, as in truly 50-50 you and her deciding to end the relationship, you can still follow the road-map above. Your odds of success, as you might expect, fall half way between the a,b columns and c,d columns.

Is it really that easy to recover from infidelity?

“That easy” is a bit of a strong phrase. “Surprisingly easy” given the gravity of the circumstance is more accurate. Infidelity is often considered the ultimate deal breaker, but that wasn’t the reality among many of the men and women I spoke to. That includes those who said they would never take someone back if they cheated.

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