So. You and your ex have been over for a while, and you’ve availed yourself of all the typical resources: Internet articles and ads telling you how to win them back (in ten days!), blogs from the broken-hearted, and even advice to “hit the gym” and get past it.
Get past it? That’s kind of a loaded thing to say, isn’t it? It assumes that there’s no possibility of rekindling the relationship and that doing anything other than cutting contact completely is somehow unhealthy for the both of you. We live in a culture insistent on fresh starts and clean slates. It’s all about chasing down the dream, the next big thing as if we can only move forward and something lost can never be recovered.
Getting your ex back, then (as cliché as it might sound) starts with you and your rejection of this cultural mentality. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get your ex back – if you had something great, it’s only natural to want to return to it. However, if you’re currently desperate with desire, or if the breakup has made you destructive and negative, you are not in a good place to re-negotiate things with your ex. The last thing you want to do is reach out to them when you are despairing and angry. They’ll simply return the feeling, or they’ll become afraid of you and box you out even more.
And the process of getting yourself to a place emotionally where you can communicate effectively with your ex may take a bit of time. You may worry that your ex may use that time to find someone else or otherwise distance themselves, but you need to get in touch with these key components:
A) Why do I want him/her back? Can I evaluate my reasons rationally?
B) How can I heal myself, while still not buying into the “get past it” mentality?
C) When I reach out to my ex, will I be able to consider his/her needs?
And finally, to consider before the two of you get back together:
D) What can we do, and what have we changed, to prevent this exact same scenario from happening again?
These considerations are important, but it is even more important to be emotionally stable and secure before reaching out to your ex again and to have made a change. This may be vague, but it’s a mantra you need to repeat to yourself. Making a change is distinct from society’s “Ever forward!” mentality that would encourage you to move on from your ex, in that relationships always end for a reason. You need to rectify the reasons behind the breakup before trying to get back with your ex.
This makes it sound like the onus is on you, and none of the responsibility is with your ex. Of course, both parties must take some responsibility for a breakup. However, you can obviously only control yourself, not your ex. Making a change has to be on you.
And unlike the “get past it” culture that tells you to move on from your ex – as if that advice can somehow apply universally, ignoring all complex individual factors – we are not suggesting you take a potential loss. Making a positive change in your life does not involve any potential loss, only addition. Perhaps an addition that will make you a richer person, smoothing out the rough edges of your “puzzle piece” so you can fit well with your ex again.
There are no absolute guarantees. Hence, our first words making fun of the “Get Him Back in Ten Days” mentality – that’s tripe, and even fishier than tripe (tripe is a fish, get it?). But there is certainly no loss involved in making a positive change to your life. As we will expand on later, if you can consistently and convincingly show “proof of positivity” that your ex will see, it can overcome his or her initial, sometimes very strong tendency to believe the breakup was a good decision. That’s one thing we’ll cover here that you don’t see in many articles of this nature: the biases and tendencies that cloud human judgment. This affects everyone, not just your ex. People are notoriously bad at knowing their own needs and predicting their own long-term goals and desires.
Making a positive change and showing proof of positivity is key to changing the endgame with your ex. Here a concrete example of what these positive changes might look like more specifically, and how they might catch an ex’s attention. Here’s a story from someone we interviewed online:
I broke up with my boyfriend for a lot of reasons. It was mostly my fault. We were becoming sexually incompatible, but I didn’t try to change. He did! I didn’t communicate. He did! But there were other problems too. He always had a natural smell that I liked, but he never cleaned his place or washed his clothes or sheets. Or even himself! He also was a very picky eater and had a very bad diet. We broke up but stayed friends.
Then, on Facebook, I began to see him change over the next year. He built up a lot of muscle and showed “before” and “after” photos. I hung out (in a group of friends) at his house, and he made a great stir-fry for us. Even better, his apartment was clean!! We did get back together, after a while. I know that sounds shallow like I only cared about his appearance. But it wasn’t the photos as much as it was the positive changes in him. It made ME feel really happy, and like it was destiny. When we got together again, it was like we were getting a fresh start.
“Lexi” (L-ex-i? See what we did there?) seems like a decent person, but also a bit self-deceived. Why?
Well, Lexi seems to want to believe that getting back together was a sporadic and “destined” decision, motivated by renewed love and a fresh start. There’s that notion of “fresh starts” again. However, it’s pretty apparent on a second reading that Lexi is actually motivated by more than “destiny.”
As evolutionary psychologists will tell you, everyone is a little bit shallow. We prefer our dates to have symmetrical faces, everything-in-all-the-right-places-and-only-the-right-places. Of course, that doesn’t mean that partners choose each other and stay together only based on looks. They stay together based on mutual trust and respect, compatibility, values.
However, all people – including yourself – are subconsciously looking for the best candidate to procreate with and raise a child with. Even if you’re gay or childfree, this principle still holds true, in terms of instinct and subconscious psychological drives. The human brain (and all its little quirks, thoughts, and drives related to your potential partner and yourself) revolves around making offspring. It’s our one directive. We don’t mean to be overly cynical, here, of course. This is a drive like any other, like the need for food or rest, and we don’t lament how “limited” and “shallow” we are due to being shackled by these base urges, right?
So, we simply work and operate within the fact that our brains care far too much about baby-making. And how, by proxy, our brains care too much about beauty, strength, grace…the size of one’s, erm, assets…even if these things have far less bearing on everyday life than they used to. (For example, someone attracted to a man’s musculature is subconsciously looking for someone to protect a family from attackers, but in modern society that’s slightly less of an issue.)
Where are we going with all of this? Well, the simple fact that humans are always looking for a good genetic match. Even though the theory that people are attracted to those who look similar is true – you may have heard the creepy thing about how we’re attracted to people who remind us of our parents – we’re also attracted to genetic variance (to give our kids the best shot at fighting diseases). Again, it doesn’t matter if you and your partner never will (or logistically can’t) have kids.
But do you know what all this means? People are subconsciously (and consciously!) attracted to change. You and your ex may have broken up over a number of different things, but your ex’s brain is mentally trained to see a changed you as a new you; our biological hardwiring sees “outward, cosmetic change = good.” But it certainly does work.
By saying it was the photos that changed Lexi’s mind, we’re not trying to say that only appearance matters, or that the advice to “hit the gym” is the only path you can follow. Rather, we’re saying that you need to find your own version of the “Facebook before and after photo.” This could be intellectual, emotional, related to your behaviors and how you carry yourself…making a concrete, measurable change is the best way to re-impress your ex.