How to Respond to an Ex Contacting You (30 Ways + Tips)

So, your phone just pinged with a surprise text from an ex, and your heart’s doing somersaults. You pause, your finger hovers over the screen, and a thousand thoughts race through your mind.

I get it. I’ve felt that sudden jolt, the rush of memories, the what-ifs and the what-nows.

Together, we’ll explore the dos and don’ts, the maybes, and the definitely-nots. This article is all about empowering you to make a decision that feels right. Let’s jump right in and nail down the best way for you to respond – or not!

Reflect Before You React

Have you ever sent a text or said something in the heat of the moment that you later regretted? Yeah, me too. It’s a pretty human thing to do. That’s why my go-to advice, especially when it comes to dealing with exes, is to pause and reflect before reacting.

I mean, our initial reactions can often be driven more by emotions than by clear thinking. After an unexpected message from an ex, take a walk, sip some tea, or do whatever helps you to chill out and think clearly.

This pause gives you the power to respond in a way that aligns with your true feelings and intentions, not just your knee-jerk emotional response.

Think of it this way: every message sent is a brick building the road ahead. Do you want your road to be paved with hasty, potentially regrettable decisions or with thoughtful, intentional responses? I know which I’d prefer.

Do Not Rush to Respond

Giving yourself that breathing space is key. Let’s not kid ourselves – hitting ‘send’ on a hasty reply can often lead to a “why did I say that?” moment. And nobody wants that, right?

So here’s what taking your time looks like: you’re giving your brain a chance to catch up with your heart.

  • Give it a day – or even just a few hours – before you reply.
  • Use this time to consider the message’s impact on you and your life now.
  • Is responding in your best interest, or is it just scratching an itch?

Remember, there’s no medal for the quickest reply. Your ex can wait while you get your thoughts in order. I think giving the dust a little time to settle can help you see things more clearly.

Do Not Respond When Emotional

Emotions can really cloud your judgment. If you’re feeling the heat of anger or the butterflies of an old flame, it’s wise to wait it out until the emotional weather clears.

What does keeping your cool look like in practice?

  • Talk it over with someone who can keep you grounded.
  • Channel those emotions into something constructive – like hitting the gym or painting.
  • Write out what you want to say and let it sit until you can read it back with a clear head.

We’ve all been there – ready to unleash a storm in a text. But trust me, that storm could drown out any real conversation. And that’s the last thing you need when navigating the tricky waters of chatting with an ex.

Be Certain You Know What You Want

Before you dash off a reply, it’s crucial to take a step back and ask yourself, “What do I really want from this?”. Understanding your own desires and boundaries helps you craft a response that aligns with your needs and long-term well-being.

Maybe you’re open to friendship, or perhaps it’s a firm “no contact” policy for you. Whatever it is, being clear with yourself first is key. This clarity prevents second-guessing and ensures that your response is in harmony with your values and current life situation.

Remember, it’s all about staying true to yourself.

Consult Trusted Friends for Perspective

Ever find yourself in a bit of a pickle and think, “What would my best friend say about this?” It’s because sometimes you just need that outside perspective. When it comes to exes popping back into your life, a friend can offer a fresh view and can give you:

  • Objective insight: They can spot things from an angle you haven’t considered.
  • Honest feedback: True friends will tell you if replying is a good idea or if you’re setting yourself up for déjà vu.
  • A reality check: They’ll remind you of how far you’ve come since the breakup.

A good friend helps you weigh the pros and cons without getting lost in the ‘what-ifs.’ So grab a coffee with them or hit them up with a call – sometimes, another set of ears can hear the answer you’ve been searching for.

Seek Professional Advice if Needed

Sometimes, the baggage from our past relationships can be too heavy to lift on our own, and that’s completely fine. There’s strength in recognizing when it’s time to call in a pro – a counselor or therapist who’s trained to help you sort through the emotional clutter.

  • They can provide objective advice without the bias of personal relationships.
  • Professionals have the tools to help you navigate complex emotions effectively.
  • They can help you build strategies for establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.

Seeking a therapist for persistent emotional puzzles is smart self-care. It doesn’t mean you’re broken; it means you’re proactive about maintaining your emotional well-being.

Remember, knowing what you want and taking the time to respond is invaluable. In the end, the sage advice of a professional might be the compass you need to navigate these choppy waters.

Find Out the Reason for the Contact

So, your ex decided to reach out. Before anything else, it’s helpful to figure out why. No need to turn into a super sleuth, but understanding their reason can shape how you respond. Are they looking to reconnect or just checking in?

Quick tips:

  • Just ask. A simple “What made you reach out?” cuts to the chase.
  • Consider the timing. Is there a special date or event that might have triggered the message?

Knowing why they’re back in your inbox helps you gauge whether this conversation is worth your energy. Think of it as deciding whether to get up and answer the door or to stay comfy on your couch.

Remember Why You Broke Up

Before you get caught up in the “they texted me!” excitement (or panic), take a moment to remind yourself why things ended. Breakups happen for a reason, right? Maybe you wanted different things, or perhaps there were some deal-breakers you couldn’t overlook.

Let me put it this way: if your relationship was a movie, this step is the flashback scene. It’s not about dwelling on the past or being negative; it’s about grounding yourself in reality.

Keep in mind:

  • The big reasons for the split. Deal breakers are usually still deal breakers.
  • How you felt at the end. If those feelings were relief or liberation, that’s pretty telling.

Be Mindful of Current Relationships

Say you’re dating someone else or even have a new circle of friends – you want to respect those relationships. They’re your present and possibly your future, so it’s key to keep their feelings in consideration.

If you’re in a relationship, think about how you would feel if the situation was flipped. Clear and open communication with your current partner can help avoid hurt feelings. After all, nobody wants to feel like they’re playing second fiddle to someone from your past.

Clarify Expectations Early In the Conversation

Once you get a sense of why they’re texting you, the next step is to make sure you’re both on the same page. This means being clear about what you’re comfortable with in this conversation. If you’re not looking to rekindle anything, it’s fair to say so. Or if you’re open to talking but nothing more, that’s okay too.

  • Be upfront about your comfort zone.
  • Let them know what you’re up for: “I’m okay with catching up, but I’m not interested in anything more.
  • It’s all about drawing your line in the sand early so no one gets mixed signals.

This chat is a two-way street, and it’s better to put up a ‘road closed’ sign than to have someone wander down a path that leads nowhere, you know?

Stay True to Your Feelings

This might be the trickiest part because feelings can be messy. But hey, they’re your feelings, and they’re important. When your ex reaches out, check in with yourself. How does this make you feel? Happy, sad, angry, or maybe nothing at all? It’s all valid.

Remember, just because they sent a message doesn’t mean you owe them any particular response. What matters is what you want and how you feel about it. So don’t be swayed by what you think you ‘should’ do. Stick to your guns.

If the conversation doesn’t sit well with you, it’s okay to say, “You know what, I’m not really up for this.

Listen to Your Gut

Sometimes, amidst all the noise of overthinking what a text from an ex means, your gut has already whispered the answer. That little voice inside you? It’s worth a listen.

Usually, it knows what’s up, even when your brain’s still doing backflips. So, take a second to be still and tune in. What’s your first reaction to their message? Unease, curiosity, peace? Trust these feelings. They’re often your subconscious, laying down some truth.

Your gut feeling might tell you to proceed with caution or go ahead and open up a dialogue. Whatever it is, honor that. It’s the inner you talking.

Treat Them With Respect

No matter how things ended or how you feel about your ex now, let’s keep it classy. Treating them with respect is crucial. Everyone has feelings, and kindness goes a long way.

Here’s what that looks like:

  • Stay polite. Even if you’re saying, “Thanks, but no thanks”, do it nicely.
  • Avoid the blame game. Talking about the past? Keep it constructive, not critical.

This isn’t just about them; it’s about you too. Staying respectful helps you maintain your dignity and ensures things don’t spiral into a conversation you might regret.

Be Honest With Your Ex

Now, being respectful doesn’t mean you can’t be honest. In fact, clarity might just be your best friend here. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, unsure, or just plain not interested in rehashing old times, say so. Being upfront can nip any potential drama in the bud.

There’s a simple beauty in honesty—it cuts through the maze of guessing games and second-guessing. And let’s face it, your ex reaching out is already enough of a surprise; you don’t need more surprises popping up because you weren’t clear.

Hear Them Out If They Want Closure

Sometimes, all your ex is looking for is a bit of closure. And, you know what? It’s okay to give them a chance to speak their piece. You don’t have to agree to a coffee meetup or a long chat, but hearing them out can sometimes smooth things over for both of you.

It’s kind of like when someone wants to apologize — it helps them move on, and sometimes, it might bring you some peace, too. Just remember, you’re under no obligation to change your feelings or decisions based on what they say.

Reaffirm Boundaries Firmly but Kindly

Setting boundaries is a key part of any interaction with an ex. When you’re clear about your limits, it helps prevent any confusion or mixed signals. It’s also a big part of taking care of your own well-being.

To affirm your boundaries, here’s what you might consider:

  • Clearly explaining what you’re comfortable with: “I’m open to being friendly, but I’m not interested in talking about getting back together.
  • Addressing any overstepping as soon as it happens: “I mentioned before that I don’t want to discuss personal stuff, let’s stick to that, please.
  • Reminding them, if needed, about these boundaries if they forget: “Just a heads-up, I’d prefer not to go into that topic.

You’re not being mean; you’re simply guarding your peace. And doing it with kindness shows that you respect both yourself and them.

Politely Decline Reconnection, If That’s What You Want

Deciding not to rekindle an old flame? Totally okay. It’s all about how you convey that message.

"I appreciate you reaching out and I've given it some thought. I feel it's best for me to move forward without reconnecting. I wish you all the best." 

Clear, respectful, and straight to the point. This approach lets you stay true to your feelings without dampening theirs.

Offer Forgiveness, If You’ve Found It

Forgiveness is a powerful thing – not just for the person receiving it but for you, too. If your ex is reaching out and you’ve reached a place where you’ve let go of the hurt, you might choose to let them know.

But remember, forgiveness isn’t about forgetting or saying that what happened was okay. It’s more like, “I’m no longer allowing this to have a hold over me.” And if you’re not there yet, that’s okay, too.

Take your time. Forgiveness is a journey, not a highway rest stop.

Use Humor to Defuse Tension

Sometimes, a little humor goes a long way, especially in easing a potentially awkward chat with an ex. Just remember:

  • Keep it light: A friendly joke can ease tension, but steer clear of sensitive topics.
  • Feel out the vibe: Make sure they’re on board with the humor, too.

A dash of humor can act as a gentle reminder that, despite everything, there’s still room for a smile. It’s not about brushing off the serious stuff but about smoothing the way for a more comfortable conversation.

Keep It Short and Sweet

Think of it as a text version of a quick handshake or a friendly nod — polite, to the point, and without opening too many old doors. You’re aiming to communicate your thoughts clearly without diving deep into the past or weaving through complicated emotions.

“Thanks for your message. I wish you well.”

That’s it. Simple and straightforward, and it keeps the conversation from going to places you might not be ready or willing to visit.

Ignore if It’s a Pattern of Toxic Behavior

When dealing with an ex, especially one that brought more downs than ups into your life, sometimes the healthiest response is no response. If their past behavior was hurtful or unhealthy, and you see a pattern that hasn’t changed, it’s not just okay to ignore the message – it might be the best thing you can do for yourself.

Here’s why:

  • You’re prioritizing your well-being: Saying no to negative patterns is a big thumbs up to your own health and happiness.
  • You’re breaking the cycle: Not engaging means you’re not repeating history. It’s your way of saying, “That part of my life is over, and I’m moving on.
  • You’re keeping your peace: Serenity and stability are treasures, and responding to toxicity can disrupt that.

Choosing silence can be empowering. You’re not being rude; you’re just looking out for number one – and that’s you, by the way.

Be Clear If You’ve Moved On

It’s as straightforward as it sounds: if you’ve moved on from your ex, it’s only fair that you let them know. Maybe you’ve started a new chapter in your life, or you’ve found someone who makes you happy now.

Whatever the case, it’s kind to be upfront about where you stand. It goes something like this: “I’ve moved on, and I want you to know that I wish you well, but our chapter has ended.

This way, you both can be clear on your status, and it stops any false hopes before they start. It’s about giving both of you the freedom to fully embrace where you are now without being tied to the past.

Decide If It’s Worth Your Energy

Dealing with an ex can take a lot out of you – mentally and emotionally. See, your energy is like a currency; you only have so much to spend, so it’s best to spend it on things that truly matter and bring positivity into your life.

Here’s what you want to think about:

  • Will this chat with my ex help me move forward, or will it set me back?
  • Do I feel okay after this interaction, or does it drain my spirits?
  • Is my time better spent on other activities or people who uplift me?

If the answers lean towards stress or nostalgia without any real benefit, it might be a sign to conserve your energy and focus on the parts of your life that deserve it more.

End on a Positive Note, Regardless of Outcome

No matter how the dialogue with your ex turns out, aim to leave things on a good note. Even if you decide not to stay in touch, you might say, “Take care of yourself“, or “I’m glad we could have this talk“.

It’s about ending the conversation with some kindness – that way, you both walk away feeling respected and at peace.

It’s not just good manners; it’s also about you. Ending positively helps you steer clear of any lingering bad vibes, creating a sense of closure that’s both sweet and simple.

Work Through Any Problems Before Getting Back Together

Thinking about giving it another go? Here’s a checklist to consider first:

  • Identify what went wrong before: Acknowledge the real issues that led to the breakup.
  • Communicate openly: Make sure you’re both willing to talk honestly about past and current feelings.
  • Seek growth: Both parties should have grown or changed in ways that address previous conflicts.

Reuniting is not simply about reigniting the previous relationship; it’s about confirming that the problems that led to the breakup have been effectively dealt with. Think of it as starting a new chapter, where both you and the other person have changed for the better.

Reply to Late-Night Messages the Next Day

Who hasn’t felt the urge to reply to a late-night text from an ex? But here’s the thing: those late hours tend to bring out the nostalgia and emotions in full force. The darkness seems to make everything seem more intense. So, if your phone pings when the stars are out, maybe hold off on replying until the sun’s back up.

Here’s why waiting is a good idea:

  • You avoid making decisions in a sleepy, vulnerable state.
  • It gives you time to think your response through.
  • Daylight has a way of making everything clearer.

It’s like when you have a big decision to make – sleeping on it often brings a fresh perspective in the morning. Plus, replying when you’re fully awake means you’re more likely to stay true to your daytime logic and feelings.

Leave the Past in the Past

Keeping the focus on who you are today and where you’re heading is key. If the conversation drifts into “remember when,” gently steer it back to the present. This doesn’t mean dismissing the past but recognizing that it’s a stepping stone to where you are now.

Keeping this boundary helps you maintain a healthy perspective and ensures that past issues don’t overshadow current conversations.

Be Careful of Falling Into a “Yo-Yo Relationship”

A yo-yo relationship is one where you and your ex break up and makeup over and over. It can be emotionally draining and confusing, kind of like riding a carousel a little too long.

Sure, it’s fun at first, but after a while, you just end up dizzy and in the same place. If you notice a cycle of splitting and coming back together, it might be time to step off the ride.

To avoid the yo-yo trap, here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Recognize the pattern.
  • Ask yourself if the on-again, off-again is really what you want.
  • Focus on building a stable, happy life for yourself – with or without a partner.

Suggest a Public Place if Meeting Is Considered

If you and your ex decide to meet up, choosing a public place is a smart move. It’s safe and neutral, and there’s something about being around other people that keeps the atmosphere light. You’re there to talk, not to revisit the past with intensity.

A coffee shop, a park, or a casual eatery – they’re all good spots. They’re places where you can have a conversation without the weight of privacy. Plus, it’s convenient to part ways when it’s time.

Don’t Talk About Your Dating Life

Diving into details about your current dating life can be tricky territory with an ex. It’s usually best to keep that chapter of your book closed during conversations with them.

This helps maintain boundaries and respect each other’s feelings. If the topic arises, a polite but firm “I’d prefer to keep that part of my life private” is a respectful way to navigate away from potentially awkward or hurtful discussions.

It keeps the focus on the two of you resolving your past and present without the complexity of additional emotional entanglements.


Frequently Asked Questions

My ex keeps contacting me even though I’ve asked them not to. What can I do?

If you’ve clearly communicated your wish not to be contacted and your ex persists, consider stronger boundaries such as blocking their number or social media profiles.

If you feel harassed or threatened, seeking advice from a legal professional or law enforcement might be necessary.

Is it normal to feel curious about my ex’s life?

Yes, feeling curious about an ex’s life after they reach out is a natural response. However, immersing yourself too much in their current situation can be counterproductive to your emotional well-being, especially if it hinders your ability to move forward. Maintaining boundaries, even in curiosity, is essential.

Should I meet with an ex who wants to return personal belongings?

Meeting an ex for practical reasons, such as returning personal belongings, can be necessary, but consider the emotional implications.

If a direct meeting could be difficult, you might consider arranging a neutral third party to exchange items or choosing a public place for the meeting to keep interactions brief and focused on the task.

If my ex and I have children together, how should we handle communication?

If children are involved, communication should remain focused on their well-being and necessary logistics. It’s crucial to establish consistent, respectful communication patterns for effective co-parenting.


Final Thoughts

Think of this as your own personal toolkit for when the past rings your doorbell. You’ve got everything you need to make a choice that fits where you’re at in life right now.

Ultimately, what counts is staying comfortable in your own skin. Whether you hit reply, draw the line, or opt for quiet, it’s about what keeps you moving forward. Here’s to making choices that make you happy.

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Jahrine is a seeker of knowledge and personal growth. When not exploring the worlds of self-help books and spirituality, she enjoys reading dark fiction and spending time with her beloved dogs. With diverse interests, including career development, travel, and poetry, Jahrine is constantly expanding her horizons and seeking new experiences.