Can I get my ex back?

When someone breaks up with you, lots of emotions kick in. Unless you wanted to break up too, there is usually anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, desperation and a whole lot of other painful emotions.

If you’re still in love with your ex partner, you’re probably in shock and you can’t believe they don’t feel the same any more. It hurts. Like hell. Your heart feels like it’s truly been split into two pieces. You feel lost and nothing makes sense without them.

You can’t think of anything or anyone else. You can’t imagine living another day without them in your life. And you can’t possibly imagine you will ever be happy again – unless they come back to you.

The only thought in your mind is: how can I get my ex back? And fast, please!

When you’re in that state you can’t consider moving forward as a viable option. The only way is – back, and away from the pain. And not back to where you were at the time just before breakup – when things were already falling apart, you were fighting a lot or feeling awkward with nothing much to say. No, you want the good times back – the laughter, the great sex, the cute messages, the amazing fun you had when you first fell in love.

The reality is, in most cases this is never going to happen. And even if it does, it probably won’t be as good as it once was.

What will happen, and that’s for sure, no matter how impossible it sounds to you now is – you will eventually move on. You will find someone new, most likely better-matching – once you allow yourself to believe there is someone better for you out there. (Of course there is. It’s just now, when you’re in that breakup low, you can’t see it ever happening.)

Many people come to me with the question from the title. Many expect me to give them a formula that will somehow magically bring their former lover back. If I am this love and relationship expert, I must have a few tips up my sleeve they haven’t thought of yet.

But the only tip I have in this case is: feel the pain, live through it as best as you can, and move on as fast as you can.

Relationships really do fall apart for a reason. And people who reject or leave us do that for a reason too. Reason being – they simply don’t feel the connection (anymore).

The fastest way to mend a broken heart is to understand it’s not about you. It’s not your fault, and it didn’t happen because you did something wrong. You are not unlovable, and you’re not the reason your relationship fell apart.

The fact that someone left you means you two are not such a great match (anymore). Maybe you were good together when you first met. But it simply isn’t the case now.

When you hold on to “what you once had” you are living in the fantasy of the past. Remembering the good and ignoring the bad stuff. Filtering the movie of your relationship through rose-tinted glasses.

Why do we do this? Because we are still in love. And therefore we simply can’t see the whole truth. Our feelings are too strong and too biased to let us see the reality.

And that’s OK, for a while. But you shouldn’t let it last too long, because it will stop you from finding someone new and having a happy love life. You’ll keep comparing every new person with your ex, and nobody will ever live up to the idealised memory you have of them (read more about getting over a significant ex here and here).

Another equally important reason we want someone back so badly is because we are afraid we won’t find anyone new. Or better. Or both. So rather than admitting it’s over and it wasn’t so great in the first place, we keep our minds occupied with various how-to-get-them-back plots.

But – nothing you can say or do can change someone’s mind once it’s been made up. And nothing will make them tip over unless they themselves decide they want it. You can’t change or influence another person’s opinions, thoughts or feelings – you can only decide what you want to feel or think about the situation.

Your ex partner may or may not come back to you. But they won’t come back faster if you put your life on hold.

So bearing in mind that the only life you have control of is your own – what is the best and easiest you can do?

It may sound easier to linger and wait for them to change their mind. But this means you’re tying your happiness to someone else’s free will. It usually leads to prolonged periods of desperation and anxiety because all you can do is sit, wait and hope they’ll be back. Which doesn’t sound that great, does it?

Or you can decide to do your best to continue your life without them. This will initially be much more painful than hoping and lingering. Hope soothes the pain and makes us feel like we have something to hold on to. Even if it’s an illusion.

If you decide to give up that hope, it will initially hurt more. But – it is more likely to stop sooner. You will wake up one day feeling a bit better, and then again a bit better – until one day you get up and wonder why you felt so bad in the first place.

And if your ex changes their mind in the meantime, you can still take them back.

Although I think you probably won’t be that keen any more.


Do you think it’s possible to change someone’s mind and make them fall for you again?
What do you think works best when you have to get over someone?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts in the comments section.


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16 Responses

  1. Arelle87 says:

    This article is wonderful and so true. It is especially hard to move on when there was no closure and no explanation given one day we were fine and talking about spending the rest of our lives together. Then next day we got into an disagreement and we were done. I feel hurt,angry and sad. But the crazy thing is that he wanted to get back together I would and then I just feel stupid. I know feelings don’t have a time table but I want to reconcile all of my feelings and move on but I don’t know if I can.

    • Petra says:

      Hello, it is very hurtful to be left without a closure. But we must find a way to give one to ourselves. Your partner leaving you the way he did only shows he did not deserve you. And that realisation can be a start for emotional healing – when you become aware that you can do so much better than him, and it was actually his loss. If you want to read more on this topic – I wrote a post on closures, check it out here.

  2. Ms Jones says:

    Hi Petra-

    I am replying to your comment “how do I get my ex back”. It is so timely as it has it has taken me so long to try and forget about him. In the meantime my beloved Godmother passed away (we were very close) leaving me very sad and that left me with a LOT of healing to do. Of course I began to miss him more again. Well, naturally he was not there for me at all which says a lot. Your post comes at a very timely moment for me. He has been away on a tour for quite some time, which concluded just yesterday. I keep wondering once the activity of that tour settles if he will get in touch with me again. What will I do? I have been alone all this time (2+ years) and have not dated anyone – for some of the reasons you stated in your article. Also I just don’t meet too many guys around here (NYC) my age (56) that I can really relate to who are single! Quite a trick! I would really like to meet a man and am trying to be open to the possibility of something good happening. Before I met my ex I was alone for nearly 5 years save a short fling I had with a young guy who was here for the summer.

    It is hard to recognize that a person who was once so in love with me that I thought I would marry (neither of us had ever been married and we discussed that) could change their feelings just like that. I believe I have been living in hope because the pain is just too much, with all the other difficulties I’ve had to face. Now I am just taking it a day at a time and not really looking. If he comes back it may be because he knows I had such strong feelings and he may just taunt me, which would be a disaster. He was so sweet when we met, but over time it went sour. I like to think about the sweet things, but I must not forget the sour if I am to move along. The “boomerang” effect is something that happened to me in a different relationship some time ago. That guy kept coming in and out of my life. I am too old for that and it was very emotionally unsettling.

    Anyway, thanks for the very timely note Petra. The world works in mysterious ways to bring us help when we need it most.

    Ms Jones

  3. La Passionista says:

    Good advice as usual Petra. Just to play devil’s advocate a little – why is it an illusion to hope that your ex will return, but not an illusion to hope that you will meet someone else one day? Not that I disagree with the former, but I have a hard time believing the latter after 15 years on my own and alternating between trying and not trying everything I can think of to meet someone else.

    • Petra says:

      Good question! Thank you for posting it. The reason it’s more of an illusion to hope your ex will come back is because you are depending on someone else’s free will – and we can’t control other people’s decisions. When it comes to meeting someone new, it’s a much more open and flexible desire, and one that can be fulfilled in many ways with multiple people. It’s similar to wanting a specific job with a specific company, as opposed to wanting a job that will be a good fit for you – many more choices, right? Or wanting to make a lot of money by winning the lottery, as opposed to wanting to be in a good financial situation. The key here is to open your mind and heart to possibilities by getting yourself ready for a relationship with someone who’ll be right for you, which gives you control over the outcome. When we are focused on a particular person, the decision is in their hands. And even if they are a good match for us – there is always many more options, similar or better matching, so why wait for them to change their mind? You could be waiting all your life – and that is truly soul-destroying.

  4. recentlyheartbroken says:

    Thank you Petra for the article. My boyfriend broke up with me recently. I was in love with him but he wasn’t anymore. I’m grateful that we can communicate the issues and get full closure. I’m going to work on myself to become a better person and leave the past as the past. Whatever happens in the future, I want to become better, not for the hope that he will come back, but for myself and my future partner.

    • Petra says:

      Sure – it is always hard to get over a breakup, and especially one you didn’t want. But it is good you got some answers, that really helps us to move on faster. I am glad you decided to look inwards – working on yourself and growing as a person is always the best way to get the best and most loving relationship! With yourself and with others. Take care.

  5. Angel says:

    It’s been 13 year since myself and my ex parted. I have had a couple of other relationships that were very unsatisfying. I still love my ex very much. The pain of seperation gets worse not better. It still feels like yesterday that we were together. I feel very confused. We shared the unique bond that comes with first love. Facebook keeps us connected and its a blessing and a curse. I know his good and bad qualities, his good and bad deeds and I just love him regardless.

    • Ms Jones says:

      I run into friends of my ex from time to time. They are the ones that introduced me to him. Now he will not speak to me or answer a phone call. We were very close for many years and he just walked out of my life. It is very easy these days with Facebook and the Internet to follow your ex. It does, however, make it that much more difficult to move on. I remember and old boyfriend I dated in my 20’s (I am now in my 50’s). We were friends for 2 years and dated another 5. He married another woman and has 2 sons. In those days I was able to find out what was going on and turn the page. Nowadays people send you a text message – or not – and just walk away. You can hunt all through the Internet to find out what they are doing. Don’t torture yourself. Human beings are still the same as ever. While the Internet has many positive uses, it can also be a trap for you to get hooked into keeping your ex in your life. Let it go. Pretend there is no Internet. Do not check his Facebook page. Did he marry someone else? Is he coming back to you? What is really happening? Let that be the thing that informs you what to do next. I know I loved my most recent ex so much I can hardly believe he left and I am not a young woman. I believe he made a mistake but it does me no good to “follow” him. Just this weekend one of his old pals was visiting from out of town. It was as if I went back in time. For what? The man is not there anymore. For whatever reason, he is gone. I miss him and I loved him but I still have my own life. Do yourself a favor and do not follow the guy on Facebook or the Internet. Just don’t do it. I know it is difficult to find any compatible man, believe me. I can understand that very well. The feelings are strong. For me, every time I try something new and it doesn’t work out I think of my ex. But he’s not here! For me, following the guy on the Internet or Facebook is NOT helpful. The less I know about his whereabouts the better for me.
      Good luck and you are most certainly loved by others who appreciate all you have to offer. Almost impossible to imagine finding someone new, but really take a close look at the situation. Is that man coming back? If not, do yourself a favor. Remember the good and bad times, and then turn the page. You can do it.

    • Petra says:

      Wow that is long. You definitely still have a strong emotional bond and it keeps you from connecting to someone else. Is he in a new relationship or in a similar situation as you are? If he is unattached as well, or has been mostly unattached for the last 13 years – what is the reason you don’t get back together? If he has moved on, you should do it to (provided of course you want it). I know it seems impossible from where you stand now, but trust me nobody is one and only and once you allow yourself to stop comparing and living in the past, you will surely experience love again.

  6. Ms Jones says:

    I spoke out of turn Petra. I just assumed the partner had moved on but remained in contact. By all means if they are both unattached after all this time, what is stopping them from getting back together? That is a good question too. Good luck Angel.

  7. andre says:

    My ex and me have been together for a short 3 months. We met in lisbon and we had both the best time of our lives. But she lives in australia sydney and went back to Australia. We have since been chating on viber everyday until i couldnt bear the distance anymore so I went to sydney visit her, but our relationship didnt end very well, my ex works at doctors without borders she is always traveling. When I left sydney I showed some insecurity in keeping the relationship further, i told her i didnt know if i could handle being far away from her 9 months a year, we didnt officialy break up, butvi know she was angry with me not conforting her i would wait for her. when I came back to portugal my ex and me agreed on being just friends but my ex started ignoring me for one month. She had left to ethiopia for a vaccination campaign and was very busy. During that period I would ask for her news and she would barely reply. I was always initiating contact. After one month I went crazy and ask her to give me another chance and she said it would not work between us. I was in shock and we quite argued for 2 weeks blaming each other, I begged her that I would make it work but she always insisted it wont work. So i gave her 10 days nc and she contacted me that she missed me, so i asked again for another chance but she kept saying that it wouldnt work between us. After 1 month chasing her and 10 days no contact, we argued one last time and ended on bad terms, she told me she had left ethiopia because she was pregnant and was now in paris to abort, then she blocked me on facebook and asked me to live her alone. That was the last time i heard from her…. I send her an email the same day and asked her to marry me and keep the baby. But she didnt replied. I dont know if she will ever talk to me again. I have now been in no contact for 15 days and I have received 6 anonymous calls during the no contact time. But nobody speaks and then hang up…I have never ever received anonymous phone calls before, I am not sure, I think its her. I dont know what to do…

  8. An says:

    The last time I emailed you was a few weeks back on another post. I was going through my first heartbreak with this girl of 2 years. I have finally accepted the fact that I needed to move on. I’ve also gotten the closure I needed to hear from her. So I do feel a lot better. I am no longer dwelling over on the “what we once had” and all those happy memories we shared but instead looking forward. But there’s always this tiny tiny hope in the back of my mind that maybe I am able to make her fall in love with me again. We both knew that we both loved intensely and hard for each other. Even though she has already been in a few relationships with other people, she considered ours sort of her “first love” also just because it made her love the most out of all the relationships she’s been in. Although, she has told me that she doesn’t have feelings for me anymore and that it faded, she said that it could be there but it will just probably be hard to get back just because she is also trying to get over it. I just feel like once we have established such strong relationship and bond with a person, that connection will always be there. We both agreed that we still want to remain friends in the future just because we were so close to one another we practically became best friends who knew each others inside and out. And i feel like a connection like that isn’t easy to find with many people, it takes a lot to have two people to know each other’s inside and out right? But nonetheless, I am not doing anything at the moment to pressure her in trying to win her back. Just simply focusing on trying to move on and live my life. Hence, we are both 24 years old and are still so young and still have our whole lives ahead of us. But I’m just saying that this is always going to be in the back of my mind. Let me know what you think of this Petra! I do appreciate your insight and your response!

    • Petra says:

      Maybe you’ll stay friends, maybe you won’t. Right now you want it so badly because you are still in love with her. Once you’ve moved on emotionally – you will see what’s left. If you both feel like being friends, why not? But you can’t be friends if one of you wants more than friendship, or both. It simply won’t work and it will be hurtful. I agree we can’t connect deeply with many people – but the key here is that you are the one who has the ability to connect and love, and that means you are capable of it, and you will find it again. Those who seek to connect deeply, always find a way, and always find a person. It’s our fears of connection, rejection, getting hurt, being let down that prevent us from finding love. But if you know you can do it – and you’re not afraid of trying, you will definitely find it again. Your first love feels like the greatest connection you’ll ever have because it is first – you can’t compare it to anything else. But trust me if you keep looking for the real thing, it can only get better. As we grow and mature, we learn about ourselves, about love, relationships, life – and we become better and better partners, and subsequently find better and better matches.

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