Lots of articles with headlines like this one promise that if you learn certain tips or tricks, you can woo back a boyfriend who left you. Some of these tips may even work, temporarily or for the long haul. But, as a psychologist who works with couples, I wonder how many of the couples I see in counseling are together because one of the partners read about these “tips” and resuscitated a relationship that wasn’t very healthy in the first place.
When you break up with a partner, it can be extremely painful, and it can feel almost like a death. Many people want to end this pain as soon as possible by somehow luring their ex back. Unfortunately, when you’re consumed with getting someone back, you’re not thinking much about why things originally ended. There is always a reason why your relationship failed, and diving back into it isn’t usually a healthy long-term decision.
After a relationship ends, most people don’t take a hard look at their own contribution to its demise, and instead blame the breakup on one fight, rather than a systemic issue. In many cases, a relationship ended because one person wasn’t invested in the relationship, or because there was too much conflict, or the two people were incompatible in one of a million possible ways. These are deep issues, and there is no way to make them magically disappear if and when you can lure your ex back again.
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The tips themselves are frequently manipulative. Some tips advise you to fake a lack of interest, or act like you’re moving on quicker than you really are. This is designed to make your ex jealous. Others advise you to be more openly flirtatious, or teasing, to spark some curiosity and interest. Sometimes, people try to change their appearance to get an ex’s attention. Some of these may indeed “work.” But what’s the end goal? If it’s a genuine and authentic relationship, then building it on manipulation is a bad choice. Moreover, the same issues that initially led to your breakup will likely surface again in only a few weeks or months. Sometimes it only takes a few days!
Generally, people who are consumed with the idea of winning back an ex are people who are not very confident in themselves. When you’re insecure to start, it seems cataclysmic to be rejected by a partner. That is why you feel it’s a matter of life or death to get your partner back; only then can you feel good about yourself again. This is a hamster wheel, though. When you depend on external validation for your self-esteem, you’re always trying to please everyone, to get approval, and to do whatever it takes to keep a partner invested. This leaves you more and more disconnected from your own priorities, values, and self.
Instead of trying to find magical tips that will bring your ex back, take some time alone after a breakup. Think, and even write in a journal, about the relationship. Think about why it ended, and what each of you contributed to the problems. Think about whether this latest breakup is indicative of a pattern that you can trace, connecting other relationships. Often, you can trace these patterns back even before romantic relationships into childhood. For instance, a woman who had an emotionally detached parent is much likelier to find herself consistently drawn to emotionally unavailable partners. It’s not conscious, it’s just what she is familiar with on a deep, subconscious level. Thinking about the connections between your early life, your relationships, and often even your friendships and other interactions, can be illuminating and can help you move out of toxic patterns. If you start to realize that you have brought many issues to your relationships, it can be very useful to explore this with a therapist.
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If you truly feel that you and your ex could have a good relationship again, contact him directly and apologize for your part in the breakup. Say that you realize that you two had issues that stemmed from both of your behavior, and own your part. If your ex can own his part, then that could be a positive sign. If he can’t, or if he avoids the conversation, just leave it be. Life is too short to try and win back a person who doesn’t want to be in a healthy relationship with you. It is far preferable to do the hard work internally that can give you a healthy relationship with yourself.