After a break-up, what would you do when you receive a message from your ex asking, “How are you?” Your mind might start racing for possible answers.
However, there are many ways to reply in such situations, so it’s important to know what response works best for each individual.
According to experts, here’s how to respond to an ex asking how you are:
Wendy Sterling, CPCC, ACC, CDS
Certified Divorce Recovery Specialist, The Divorce Rehab
So many of us have been in this place, and yet we all struggle with formulating an answer that feels good to us.
You break up with your boyfriend, or you get divorced and move on, and then suddenly – Bam! They decide to contact you, usually via text, at that point when you are no longer thinking about them. And all of a sudden, that familiar ding and three words trigger a physical reaction inside of you “How are you?”
Panic sets in, and you start telling stories in your head:
- “Should I respond?”
- “Should I not respond?”
- “Maybe they want me back?”
- “Perhaps they want to apologize for making the biggest mistake of their life?”
You start “shoulding” all over yourself!
So first, take a breath. Just breathe in for four counts and slowly out for four counts. That is step #1. Or, as I say, you reclaim your power in the pause.
You can reply with kindness and respect
You are a kind, respectful, caring person and carry yourself that way with everyone in your life. Just because “he” texted you / reached out does not mean you throw your dignity and integrity out the window if you choose to reply.
You are a new person that he does not know now, and that is who you get to be in deciding how to handle his questions.
If you choose to reply, the next step is to ask yourself:
“What would I respond to a friend from my past randomly texting me?”
You would probably reply and say:
“Hey, I am well. How are you?”
Being polite, not overly anxious or rude. No tone to misread over text. Or perhaps you might send a “thumbs up” emoji or meme back? Replying with kindness and respect is the answer.
Another answer that does not leave the door open for a reply is writing back with “I’m great, thanks.”
This implies you are a kind person who has moved on, and they are not someone you think about anymore. It is a casual reply that acknowledges the text/message and allows you to be authentic to yourself.
The best response to your ex is no response
Other options to consider may make more sense given your breakup or perhaps where you are now emotionally and mentally. And that option is no response.
It may sound extreme or mean, even rude. However, if your breakup was traumatic or tough, you do not want to re-open wounds that have already been closed.
Connecting with your ex might trigger you, cause you to bring him back to the forefront of your mind, and bring the energy of the breakup back into your life.
The last thing you need is to be brought back into a world you left for a reason.
You never know why they are reaching out and reappearing in your life. The best thing you can do is take a moment and decide what the best next step for you is.
It isn’t about wanting to look good or being a people pleaser. Don’t feel rushed in making a decision just because we live in an instant gratification world (thank you, social media).
The goal is to gain a clear understanding of what feels best for you. Don’t let yourself be manipulated or coerced into old wounds that get to stay sealed.
Relationship Coach | Author, “Girl, You Deserve More: How to Break His Spell over You, Escape Your Toxic Partner, and Become Independent“
Question their motivation
A lot of this depends on the health of your relationship with your ex and how you broke up.
- Was there a lot of fighting, arguments, dishonesty, and manipulation?
- Was it an emotional breakup that was one-sided?
- Did both people mutually agree it just wasn’t a good match?
- Was your ex usually supportive or critical of you?
- If he was supportive, this is probably a genuine, well-meaning question.
If the relationship was generally unhealthy or ended badly, don’t expect much to change now.
Why now? If you must ask this question and are cautious at all, it’s best to proceed with caution.
Giving long, detailed answers and explanations may not serve you, especially when your ex has barely shared much about his life with you. Even if he has, question his motivation. Why is he reaching out now? This insight will shape the appropriate response from your end.
Sometimes a message like this can be a temperature check to see how you feel about him. “How are you doing?” is just an easy, lazy, and polite way for him to butt himself back into your life. It takes very little work and no thought on his part, but it opens a line of communication so you can start talking again.
Even though he may want something from you, he’s expecting you to do the heavy lifting and possibly make some confessions.
They just want to boost their self-esteem
Sometimes an ex just wants to feel good.
- He wants to hear that you still want him.
- He wants to hear that you haven’t found anyone else either.
- When you confess your feelings for him or that something he did still bothers you, he’ll know you’re still hung up on him.
You probably won’t get the response or closure you imagined. This will boost his ego but make you feel even worse.
They’re just looking for an easy hook-up
Maybe he is lonely and wants an easy hook-up. It’s not a great idea to fall for this unless you’re ready to get emotionally entangled with him again.
Keep in mind, he may not be ready to get emotionally entangled with you again. He may just want the physical relationship.
They genuinely care and wants to keep in touch
If your ex is a well-meaning person and it’s been a while since you last talked, he may genuinely care about what you’re doing.
Keep in mind that you can still remain polite and give short answers.
Since he reached out, wait to see what he wants to tell you before divulging your life details.
- Do you actually want to keep in touch?
- Do you like your ex as a person and friend?
If things ended badly, you still feel hurt, or you just don’t want to keep in touch for any reason at all, then don’t.
This is key: Remember that just because someone wants to talk to you doesn’t mean you’re obligated to respond.
You get to know someone very well while romantically involved with him. He had his chance to impress you. Obviously, he didn’t. Don’t think he will change now, even if he says he did.
Matchmaker and CEO, Exclusive Matchmaking
When it comes down to how to respond to an ex asking how you are, a lot
depends on how long ago you broke up, how often they try to come and go (yes, one of those situations), are they generally caring and it’s the holidays, and on and on.
One thing is for sure. There is some level of interest if they are reaching out to you.
You always need to realize that you shouldn’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to answer perfectly or to sweat over answering at all.
It’s just a message. So don’t let it hijack your thoughts.
Answer briefly and within a short time frame with a GIF or emoji
Nothing flirty, but send something—a happy face will do. It doesn’t take a lot of effort or thought process, and it’s not rude. If they wanted to accomplish more by sending the message, they needed to step up to the plate and be more direct.
Keep your reply short and sweet
You can always say, “I am great! What about you?” It works once again, and you don’t have to poll ten different friends to see what to say and how long to wait to send it.
You can choose to ignore their message
If your ex continuously breaks up and comes crawling back, don’t put yourself through it. That’s sabotaging yourself.
Related: 30+ Signs Your Ex Will Eventually Come Back
Maybe they are just a player, and you don’t need to feed their ego.
Also, maybe they aren’t a player, but they can’t decide what they are doing, and you don’t need to be sucked back in. After all, a message isn’t a lot of effort, and if they have truly changed, let them prove it to you in other ways that require more work on their part.
Always respond positively and take the high road when you do respond. Don’t be negative and ask why they are reaching out after behaving so poorly. That’s letting them know they got to you.
Always be the epitome of grace and polish if you answer. Remember, there is nothing wrong with not answering if they treated you that bad.
Licensed Psychotherapist | Toxic Relationship Recovery Expert
This is a critical time to really put yourself first
Breakups are tough. We know that.
But what can make it more challenging is when an ex reaches out, especially when it is out of the blue. This can leave you with all kinds of confusing feelings and not knowing how to respond.
There is no gold standard of how you “should” go about it because the reality is that your response may depend on the context of the relationship. What is for certain though is to take a pause and really think about what you hope to get out of this interaction.
You also really need to get real with yourself about how you are feeling about the end of the relationship. This is a critical time to really put yourself first.
In some cases, you may have to interact on some level if, let’s say, you are co-parenting, working together, having mutual friends, etc. Also, some people are able to have an authentic friendship or at least remain civil after both parties have properly grieved and healed from the relationship.
Related: How to Be Friends With Your Ex
But even in this case, asking for what you need and boundaries are still important! Even just saying “I still need some space” is valid.
You also have to consider if you are in a new relationship and if your new partner is okay with that kind of contact. If your ex-partner was a healthy individual, they should be able to honor and respect what you need to do.
However, in other cases, no response may be the best response! If the relationship was toxic or abusive in any aspect it is important for people to not engage and risk getting sucked back into that old dynamic.
This is especially true if you are feeling vulnerable and are still not over the relationship. This is a common pattern of manipulation where these individuals seek an ego boost and make you believe that this time it will be different by just innocently “checking in”.
These types of relationships tend to be highly addictive in nature and it is important to get support around this in order to move forward.
If you get a message like this, the first step is taking a step back and asking yourself:
- “Is this a pattern with this individual?”
- “How will I feel if I respond?”
- “Is this even someone that I want in my life?”
Silence is power! And don’t be afraid to delete and block if that means doing what will make you happy in the long run.
Co-Founder, Select Date Society
Move on if you think nothing positive will come out of the interaction
When you get a text or call from an ex asking how you’re doing, it’s essential to understand why your ex is reaching out in the first place. Usually, it means they are checking in to see if they still have power over you, a connection to you, or an open door to pursue things with you again.
Before responding, take time to think about their intentions and what you would want if you start communicating with them again.
These are some things you’ll want to consider:
- Was the relationship a healthy one or a toxic one?
- Were we interested in the same type of relationship and were our goals aligned?
- Will I be disappointed if they don’t continue communication?
- Do they have a pattern of starting and stopping communication?
If you don’t genuinely care about fostering a friendship or healthy relationship with your ex, the best response is no response at all. If nothing positive comes out of the interaction, delete the message and move on.
An ex is typically an ex for a reason. Remind yourself what that reason is, and keep space open for the right person in your life!
Liza Gold, LCSW
Founder and Director, Gold Therapy NYC
Ex-relationships can be complicated, and contact or interaction with former partners can invite a host of feelings, including:
- jealousy, and
If you bump into your ex, or if they reach out and ask how you’re doing, how you choose to respond may depend upon a number of factors.
Here are some ideas to weigh before responding:
Consider how you’re feeling toward your ex-partner
Are you feeling warmly toward them, or are you feeling angry? Are you excited for the opportunity to catch up, or are you feeling resentful? Take a moment to observe what’s coming up for you.
If your emotions toward them are positive or neutral, you might feel comfortable talking about yourself honestly. If negative emotions emerge, it’s perfectly okay to offer a closed response (e.g., “I’m doing fine, thanks.”)
Think of how vulnerable do you want to be
If you’ve been having a difficult time lately, will you want to share that with your ex? If you do, identify your intentions. What kind of response are you looking for, and is that response likely?
If you’re seeking your ex’s comfort, but that’s not a likely outcome, reconsider the decision to be vulnerable to avoid feeling exposed. Opening yourself up to someone who can’t or won’t give you what you need can trigger feelings of hurt, anger, and abandonment.
Related: How to Stop Being Emotionally Attached to Someone
Heal yourself by setting healthy boundaries
If you haven’t “gotten over” your ex, the most healing thing you can offer yourself is healthy boundaries. Be mindful of over-sharing, and instead, stick to niceties and small talk.
Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta, PhD, LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Choosing Therapy
It really depends on what makes you feel comfortable
Responding to an ex asking how you are all depends on the relationship dynamics and how this relationship ended. You definitely need to remember that there is no right or wrong in this situation, and it really depends on what makes you feel comfortable.
First, you need to decide if this is an interaction you want to enter. If this was an unhealthy relationship and ended with trauma, you do not owe that person a reason why you may not be responding.
If you feel you want to engage, you will most likely want to establish healthy boundaries.
Take your time and think about how this interaction will impact your life moving forward. You will also want to process your feelings and think about what you want to write back.
Consider these questions:
- Do you want to move forward and leave the past in the past?
- Do you feel you have closure?
- Are you entering a new relationship and you feel this may interfere?
Be assertive and use open and honest communication. At this point, you have nothing to lose and can only gain your own sense of self-assurance by being true to yourself.
Relationship Expert | Co-Founder, Platinum Poire
Respond to the message with warmth while asking how they are
It can be tricky when an ex reaches out to you, especially if you’ve started dating or seeing someone else. Depending on how things were left when the relationship ended, you can go about this in various ways.
- If you are dating someone else, respond with kindness and complete transparency
You can say something like, “I appreciate you reaching out, but I’m seeing someone. I wish you the best!” It’s short, sweet, and to the point. Thank you, next!
- Put the ex in the ex files
The relationship ended for a reason, and there’s no need to keep revisiting the past for nostalgia’s sake. Don’t respond to the message, and let your silence speak for itself. If your ex keeps reaching out, it may be necessary to block them from contacting you altogether.
- Did you experience anxiety or stress when you received the message?
Responding may not be in your best interest. However, you could go about this like, “Doing well! Take care xx.” This quick text says a lot without going into a novel entitled “Reasons Why You Should Leave Me Alone.”
- If you genuinely want to explore the connection or relationship again, go about it in a caring manner
Respond to the message with warmth while asking how they are. Fixate less on a future fantasy and more on what’s going on in your life. That way, the outcome will always be in your favor.
Laurel Roberts-Meese, LMFT
Clinical Director, Laurel Therapy Collective
Consider what the cost to you and your peace might be
When an ex reaches out, it can be difficult to discern if you want to reply because:
- you’re genuinely interested, or
- your attachment system is re-activated.
Our attachment system sends very strong physical messages to us, to the point where, sometimes, it feels impossible to override with logic or discipline. Sometimes we think that one more conversation will help us feel less pain, confusion, or anger about the loss of the relationship.
In my work as a therapist, I see so many people reconnecting and rekindling with exes they know aren’t good for them for the sake of “closure.” This isn’t usually a good idea.
If you want to talk to an ex for the sake of closure, consider that closure is most often something we give ourselves when we have found a sense of self and a sense of peace after a relationship ends.
If it’s been a long time and an ex reaches out, consider what their motivation might be, and respond accordingly.
Sometimes, wanting to return something to you or ask you a question is actually a front for something else. Consider if you actually want to give it and what the cost to you and your peace might be.
Success and Mindset Coach
You always have a choice; respond, not react
This is a topic that I recently had to deal with. And after being divorced for nearly four years now, it is something that I still have a bit of reservation with. We parted on not-so-good terms, and I had to do some deep healing from the relationship.
But, now I have come to understand that you always have a choice.
We all have experienced different circumstances and situations in our lives—those incidents rocked our world and made life look difficult, leaving us grasping and asking why.
It makes us think that all is lost and ask:
“What is the problem now?”
But, the reality is that I cannot control if the message comes.
I use my number not only for business but for many other verification purposes. While I could change that number to not receive the message, it is my choice to keep it, and to that end, when the communications occur, I look at it as a choice.
I can choose my response because that is internal; the response is always my own. The situation is external.
We may not be able to do much about what has happened in the past, but I always have a choice in the way I respond. It is my prerogative. It’s within your own domain. React or respond.
Responding comes from internal. “Am I going to be at peace with whatever I decide to do?” And the more I reach from the inside, the more peace I get from my decision.
I am in control, so I get to either give away the control by reacting or shift my control back to myself by responding.
Think what the better response will be; the more you reflect, the better you get at responding and not reacting
I am never quick to answer. Wait for a few minutes or a few hours to think what the better response will be. The more you reflect, the better you get at responding and not reacting. This will bring order and peace.
Now my situation may be different from some. In my situation, there is no issue of children or business that made it necessary to ask. But, it truly does not matter how or what the circumstances are.
Taking the time before you respond gives peace. If you do, it’s from a place of thought and peace. It’s something that you cannot ever get back by doing knee-jerk reactions. Having more peace and happiness within you, you get/are a better person.
I love the word better; it is a wonderful word.
When the goal is better, you will find as I do—this more happiness, peace, and a sense of well-being are restored quickly, and I can get back to love and being more effective. I rise to a higher vibration and control.
It also gets easier with time. It changes your attitude.
You can have everything you want by alternating the response and having an Attitude that you will find the “good” and not be reacting.
When you find yourself in those situations where your external circumstances change, do something different and respond, not react. Because you have a choice.
Lauren Debiec, M.A
Addictions Therapist, The Ohana Luxury Drug Rehab
How you respond depends on what you want
Exes reach out for many different reasons.
Sometimes they reach out just because they want to know how you are doing. They care about you and want to make sure that you are okay. Other times they’re interested in getting back together and want to see if you are dating anyone else.
How you respond depends on what you want.
Related: Should You Get Back Together with Your Ex?
If you want to move forward
Your first thought might be just to respond, “I’m okay,” but if you are ready to move forward, it’s best, to be honest, and set appropriate boundaries.
One way to do this is to say, “I am doing fine/okay, but I am ready to move forward. So, I would appreciate it if you would allow me some space to move on.”
If you want to get back together
If your ex continues to contact you after responding, it’s best to block them.
But if you are interested in getting back together with your ex and you believe that they are reaching out to do the same, you might respond like this:
“Hey, I’m doing great. Would you like to get together for drinks or dinner so that we can talk?”
This response is polite, and it sets a healthy and appropriate boundary.
Registered Nurse | Breakup Coach, The Heartbreak Nurse
Don’t get too caught up in the “what ifs”
Getting a “How are you?” text from an ex, depending on how and when the relationship ended, can cause a huge rush of emotions.
Your brain will likely want to know, “What does this mean?!”
The truth is this: It could mean something, or it could mean nothing at all. Could your ex be missing you terribly, realizing their awful mistake in letting you go? Maybe. Could they just be showing casual concern for your overall well-being? Also maybe.
The point is not to get too caught up in the “what ifs.” Take the gesture for exactly what it is: A simple question as to how you are.
Before you decide to respond, determine your intentions for the conversation.
- Is striking up a casual chat with your ex going to evoke feelings you’ve already worked hard to overcome?
- Will it make a difference when their motivation is revealed?
- Will you be upset if you’re interested in rekindling the flame, but they were just “checking in?”
If you determine that you are going to respond, a simple “Well, thanks” will suffice. The addition of “And you?” is totally optional. If it’s more than simply touching base, they’ll let it be known.
Author and Content Creator, Anxious Hearts Guide
An honest reply is always the best one
It can be really jarring getting a notification from an ex-lover. Seeing “How have you been doing?” on our phone can bring up any number of emotions. Panic, elation, disgust, or hope are all perfectly normal responses in this instance.
How we should respond has a lot to do with where we are emotionally in the post-breakup process, as well as what kind of an outcome we’re hoping for.
If you’re still reeling emotionally and unable to think clearly, you may need to ignore this message in consideration of your mental health or politely let them know that you aren’t ready to talk yet (Even if you’re hoping for a future reunion).
A no-contact boundary soon after a split is reasonable and necessary for some people.
On the other hand, if you’re feeling clear-headed, it may seem like there are a whole host of different ways that you could respond to their message.
Honesty, however, is always the best policy.
If the thing that you seek is an open, honest, true connection, feel free to let your ex know exactly how you have been. Whether it’s:
- “Fantastic! Happy and busy!” or
- “You know, just getting by. There are days that I really miss what we had.”
An honest reply is always the best one. Who knows, it could open up the conversation and lead exactly where you hope it would go. And if it doesn’t, they probably aren’t “your person” anyway!
Clinical Director, ChoicePoint
Respond only if you want to; nothing should feel forced
Take your time to respond to the message and consider the circumstances that lead to the breakup.
It’s important to test the waters initially to set the tone and to think carefully about the reasons behind the breakup.
- Was it mutual or one-sided?
- Always acknowledge your feelings.
- All emotions are valid. It’s okay to feel frustrated, angry, or clueless.
- Respond only if you want to.
- Nothing should feel forced.
- Don’t let them coerce you or intimidate you.
- Be honest while interacting and never overthink while communicating.
- If you are currently seeing someone, be honest about the relationship and inform them always.
- Be cordial, firm, respectful, and polite.
- Avoid persistent behavior from your ex.
- Draw and enforce boundaries early on.
- Ask them what they want.
- However, always focus on what you want rather than what they want.
- If they want to keep the conversation going, then assess the situation with a clear mind.
- Find solutions if you want to reinvite them in your life.
At the end of the day, it’s important to prioritize your mental health first. If you feel like the interaction will affect you negatively, block them and reach out to a mental health professional for therapy sessions.
Interior designer and Owner, Knobs
Acknowledge their message but don’t go into too much detail
It can be difficult to know how to respond when your ex asks how you are. On the one hand, you want to be polite and friendly, but on the other hand, you don’t want to give them the satisfaction of knowing that you’re still thinking about them.
Related: Why Can’t I Stop Thinking About My Ex?
If you’re struggling with how to respond the next time your ex contacts you, here are some tips:
- Acknowledge their message but don’t go into too much detail
You can say something like, “I’m doing well, thanks for asking.” This neutral response won’t give them any information about how you’re really doing.
- If you’re not doing well, be honest about it
You can say something like, “Actually, I’m not doing so great. I’m struggling with X, Y, and Z.” This shows that you’re not afraid to be vulnerable and still willing to talk to them about things.
- Keep it short and sweet
The key is not to get drawn into a long conversation with your ex. You don’t want to give them the satisfaction of knowing that they’re still on your mind.
- You can change the subject
If you don’t want to talk about how you’re doing, you can try changing the subject. You can say something like, “How are you?” or “What’s new with you?”
- Ignore their message
If you’re really not interested in talking to your ex, you can just ignore their message. They’ll get the hint that you’re not interested in talking to them.
Craft an appropriate response based on what you want from the situation
After weeks or months of having no communication after your break up, your ex suddenly contacts you and asks you how you are.
Being in this kind of situation can indeed leave you feeling confused. So, it is totally normal not to know what to do and how to reply.
As a relationship expert, I think it is best to avoid responding in a rush and to make sure to control your emotions first before sending your reply. Think about what you want from your ex and this situation first, and craft an appropriate response based on these things.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I tell if my ex has ulterior motives when asking how I am?
Detecting ulterior motives can be challenging, as people’s intentions are not always apparent. Pay attention to the tone and content of the message and the timing and frequency of their outreach.
If your ex is persistently reaching out or asking probing questions about your personal life, it could be a clue that they have an ulterior motive. Trust your instincts and consider discussing your concerns with a trusted friend or family member to gain additional perspective.
How can I ensure that my response does not give my ex false hope?
To avoid giving your ex false hope, being honest and transparent about your intentions is crucial. If you’re not interested in rekindling the relationship, make that clear in your response and avoid using language that could be misconstrued as flirtation or excessive affection. Keep the conversation focused on the present and maintain clear boundaries to avoid misunderstandings.
Is it a good idea to consult with a friend before responding to my ex?
Talking with a trusted friend before responding to your ex can provide valuable insight and perspective. A friend who knows you well and is familiar with the dynamics of your past relationship can offer advice on how to respond, what pitfalls to avoid, and provide emotional support as you navigate the situation. However, it’s essential that you ultimately make your own decision based on your feelings and boundaries.
Can I ask my ex why they’re reaching out after a long time?
It’s natural to wonder why your ex is contacting you again after a long time. If you feel comfortable and believe that asking for clarification will provide helpful insight, you can ask them directly.
You might say, “It’s been a while since we last spoke. What prompted you to reach out?” This question is open-ended and non-confrontational, so your ex can explain their motives without getting defensive.
Can my ex and I have a healthy, platonic friendship after responding to their message?
Although the transition from a romantic relationship to a platonic friendship can be difficult, it’s possible for some exes to maintain a healthy and respectful friendship.
If both parties have moved on emotionally, established clear boundaries, and respected each other, a friendship can develop over time. However, being honest with yourself and your ex about your intentions and expectations is essential to avoid possible misunderstandings.
How can I ensure that my response doesn’t lead to a constant communication cycle with my ex?
To prevent your response from leading to an ongoing communication cycle, be clear and concise and avoid sharing personal details about your life that could lead to further conversations.
Establish boundaries by explaining your intentions, and maintain a respectful distance in your interactions. If you notice the conversation is going beyond your comfort level, politely disengage and reiterate your boundaries.
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