How do I win my ex back?
August 19, 2012 10:53 PM   Subscribe

First date with ex-boyfriend went well... what's the next step to eventually winning him back?

After a six month breakup, my ex boyfriend and I recently reconnected over coffee, at my suggestion. The breakup was amicable (he broke things off, stating he wasn't ready for a serious relationship at the time), and we decided to remain friends. We've been in sporadic email contact for most of the time since the breakup. I have a feeling the meeting went pretty well, as he gave me a hug beforehand and afterward, said it was really nice to see me, and we laughed and joked throughout the meeting. We didn't talk about the breakup at all, and based on how comfortably we were talking with each other, it almost seemed as if the breakup never even happened.

Given that he seems friendly, should I make a second move and ask him out to a movie? If so, how long should I wait before I contact him? Or should I just wait for him to contact me? I'd really like to date him again eventually but would not want to rush things; I'd rather develop a solid friendship first, which is what was lacking when we first started dating. What should my next step be toward eventually winning him back into my life?
posted by enantio to Human Relations (33 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Wait, what makes you think now is any different for him/you than last time? Has something in his circumstances changed that makes you think he'd be open to a serious relationship now?

I'd suggest doing nothing; it is unfair to yourself to raise your expectations of anything more than friendship since that is what he's offered.
posted by arnicae at 10:58 PM on August 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

You can't really manipulate him into wanting to get back into your life. He gave you hugs, that's all. Unless he brought up the breakup being a mistake, you're reading too much into all of this.

Date other people.
posted by discopolo at 10:59 PM on August 19, 2012 [11 favorites]

Unless he's also interested in getting back together -- and you don't indicate that he is -- I can tell you from way too much experience that trying to develop a friendship with an ex while nursing a (one-sided) secret agenda to win them back is virtually always a pathway to crazymaking, heartache, and misery.

Friendships are most certainly possible between exes (I'm very good friends with most of my exes), but only when BOTH parties are over each other and have moved on personally/emotionally/romantically. It doesn't sound like those conditions are in place for you.
posted by scody at 11:01 PM on August 19, 2012 [14 favorites]

Did he say he's ready for a serious relationship now? And with you? Or did you tell him you're no longer looking for a serious relationship? If none of those things happened then you just had a nice encounter with your ex, full stop. Move along.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:02 PM on August 19, 2012

Here is what has worked for me in the past in a similar situation. Do not contact him for three or four days. Do your own thing during this time and just let him be. If he contacts you during this time, it is fine to reply but don't pester him or anything like that. It is important to show that you have a life outside of him and that you are a complete and whole person without him. Then, after three days of no or very little contact, call him and propose dinner and a movie, at X time on a day two or three days in the future. If he says no, ABANDON THIS IDEA AND LEAVE HIM ALONE. If he says yes, you are fine to proceed. Tell him you will call the day before to remind him, and then go no-to-low contact again. Keep all of your promises - DO call him and remind him of your plans together, DO pay if you have offered to. Repeat these outings weekly. Make it clear that these outings are dates by picking up the tab. Have fun on the dates. As long as he keeps saying yes to your weekly offers of dates, proceed, but the moment he says no, end it.

This worked really, really well for me.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 11:07 PM on August 19, 2012 [9 favorites]

Your first priority here is to ascertain whether either of your positions have changed.

In other words, has he decided he's ready for a serious relationship?

Have you decided you don't care and just want casual sex or whatever?

Be really honest with yourself/selves about this.

If the situation has truly changed, then you can go to the next step of figuring out whether it's possible to go on.

Hint: your opening question of "winning him back" implies that you haven't changed your mind about what you want.

Has he?
posted by Sara C. at 11:07 PM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I DO have to say, however, that if it is the ex from this question, you are going to have a hard time dating him like you would a new person you have just met, which is what my previous advice is based on. His reasons for ending his relationship with you seem nebulous ("he doesn't want to hurt you,") and more like he just isn't interested in dating you, period. You are probably more likely to be successful with a new person than revisiting things with this particular ex.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 11:30 PM on August 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

I broke up with my ex boyfriend, and every time we've gotten together since the breakup, he's taken my friendliness to mean that i might want to get back together. It was awful, and i ended feeling like i couldn't be his friend at all.

I was friendly with him mostly because i knew that i'd broken his heart and i didn't want to hurt him more by being stand-offish. It's break up guilt. Almost everyone gets it, but the dumpee almost always misinterprets that guilt to mean something more. You're probably misinterpreting.

But here's the thing: the person who initiates the breakup kinda needs to be the person who rekindles the relationship. Your boyfriend decided to not be in a relationship with you, but you never decided that you didn't want to be in a relationship with him. In other words: your position on the 'relationship issue' hasn't changed, and it doesn't need to for you to get back together. His position does need to change, and he needs to be the one to change it. You can't do it for him.

If he wants to get back together, he'll make sure you know, you won't have to figure it out. If you try and pressure him or look for signals, you're just going to push him away.
posted by Kololo at 11:31 PM on August 19, 2012 [32 favorites]

Dude, that wasn't a date. That was exes meeting over coffee. There's no indication the dude is interested in getting back together with you. He probably was seeking reconciliation.

Is he more emotionally available now? Is he more interested in a serious relationship? Why do you think this second time around will go better for you than the first? Because he'll be different--or because you're going to tell yourself that you won't be bothered by the things that bothered you before you broke up? Because the latter is a really bad plan.

Have you worked on building connections with other people? On making new friends, meeting new people, dating other guys? If not, why? If not, I would be concerned that your continuing efforts to get this guy back aren't about him but about being lonely. Being lonely is a terrible reason to try to get back together with an ex.

As for the actual prospects of getting back together with him, you say you want to be friends first before attempting to rekindle the romance. How is that going to work? I guarantee that "taking things slow" with an ex is pretty impossible due to the history. Really the only way is to pretend to be not interested him while you guys are being "just friends" and that is horrifically manipulative. And if he figures out your true intentions it's quite likely he'll feel hurt and used. Also, what are you going to do if he's flirting and dating and banging other chicks? Grit your teeth and keep pretending to be "just friends"? Would that be healthy? (answer: no)
posted by Anonymous at 11:48 PM on August 19, 2012

Yeah, it doesn't sound like you went on a date; it sounds like you went for coffee as friends with your ex. If you want to date him again, you really need to tell him that specifically and have a conversation about it. Maybe he will say yes, but maybe he will say no.
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:57 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Two hugs end-capping a bit of time spent together, I know you want it to mean something, and I know that in your shoes I'd want it to mean something, which is why I hope I'll bring any problems here, like you did, to get the hard-edged but almost certainly correct angle on this.

Pretty much all but one answer in here has amounted to "Let it go." You can print out that one answer and staple it to your heart but that's certainly not the group consensous.

Waving someone goodbye when you really care for them can stab you, damn sure does me. Breaking up is hard to do. Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:57 PM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh yeah, and regarding meeting with exes:

Do not assume that a good meeting with a recent ex indicates interest or that rekindling the relationship is a good idea. Meeting up with an ex is a lot like meeting up with best friend you haven't seen in a while who stabbed you in the heart last time you saw them, only made worse by the sexual tension. Which is to say they know you so well and you have such a deep emotional connection that the meeting will only go really well--you feel the other person is getting you and everything is perfect--or really badly--everything is awkward and tense because both of you can't stop thinking about how much you hurt each other. An awkward, tense meeting doesn't mean that other person doesn't still share that intimate connection. And a smooth, wonderful meeting doesn't mean the underlying issues that caused all that pain isn't there. It's just the nature of the heightened emotions and close relationship that the interaction can rarely stay neutral, it will just go one way or the other and which way it goes is not indicative of whether you guys are actually good to give it another try or not.
posted by Anonymous at 11:58 PM on August 19, 2012

Well, he wants to be friends - and you want to be friends - so maybe start by being friends.

Build your solid friendship first.
posted by heyjude at 12:29 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just another data point here, but I also just had my first meeting with my ex after breaking up 6 months ago, and it also seemed to go really well. We had a lovely dinner and chatted for a few hours. Lot's of talk about how it seemed like I'd changed, seemed like I'd grown, etc, etc, and after we met a friendly email saying she was glad she met me. I hadn't gone into it with any notion that she wanted to get back together with me, but after that, a small part of me thought, well, just maybe?

But long story short, a few days later she wrote me again to tell me she was moving in with her new boyfriend and was super happy with him.

The point of all of this being, a nice meeting with an ex doesn't really mean anything beyond that single meeting being a nice time. And, as you still have feelings for him (like I do for my ex), this is just going to mess with your head and make the already difficult task of moving on with your life that much worse.

So my advice, unless he approaches you and tells you in no uncertain terms that he'd like to get back together, let this one go. It's way, way too easy to waste months, or even years, pining after a relationship that has run its course if you're not careful. You're still very young , and will have lots of chances to meet lots of other nice people.
posted by tokaidanshi at 12:35 AM on August 20, 2012 [9 favorites]

You can't really manipulate him into wanting to get back into your life.

This isn't "manipulation", what a weird accusation. If "let me develop a relationship with a person I'm romantically interested in and see if they start to feel the same way" is manipulation, the only non-manipulative alternative is arranged marriage.

OP, what you're doing is okay and logical, but you need to be realistic in your expectations. That wasn't a date; that was catching up. Sara C. summed up the situation nicely.

I'd add this variable to the equation: maybe he wasn't interested in a serious relationship, or maybe he wasn't in a serious relationship with you. It totally fine to pursue this guy; he's and adult and he's obviously capabale shooting you down if it comes to that, so please don't worry about any "maniuplation" non-sense. But you need to realize you may get your feelings hurt all over again. If you are willing to risk that, good luck to you.
posted by spaltavian at 5:45 AM on August 20, 2012

The only way you'll ever get back together with him is if the underlying "trouble spot" in your relationship gets resolved. Assuming your ex was serious about not wanting a serious relationship (and didn't mentally add the words "with you" to the end of that sentence) then either he needs to change and start wanting that, or you need to change and start wanting a casual relationship.

There's room for negotiation between those two poles (monogamish/open relationships, etc) but given that he broke up with you rather than initiating a negotiation process, I don't think you'd ever get a deal that you would find acceptable if you tried to compromise in this manner.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 5:48 AM on August 20, 2012

It wasn't a date. It was coffee with a friend (or an ex you mutually agreed to be friends with).

If you try to develop a friendship with the end goal of getting back together, you stand to waste your time and his. If he doesn't also want to get back together, you also stand to piss him off and lose him as a friend when he discovers that you never actually wanted to be friends but were just manipulating him.

Regardless of all that, if you want to get back together with him, you must discuss the breakup. He said he didn't want a serious relationship, and that is something that you must address (by the way, there's a good chance that mean that he didn't want a serious relationship with you specifically). This was a dealbreaker for him and I assume for you, and there are no indications that it has changed, so it would be beyond foolish to try to reconcile without finding out where you're both at.

I also think you should consider -- and consider discussing -- how the relationship went down, with him going incommunicado and then after the radio silence breaking up with you without ever discussing any concerns or difficulties he or you together were having.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:59 AM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Let's get one thing straight first. Does he know it was a date? Was the word "date" ever uttered by either one of you before or during the meeting? If not, sorry, but it wasn't a date.

Reading this question made my heart ache a bit because if nothing else, I sure know what this feels like. You would probably benefit from taking a look at some of the excellent answers I received in that thread (particularly this one by Famousmonster). They really helped to open my eyes to the fact that if you have to "win" someone back, whatever you end up with isn't going to be what you want. Do you really want to be in a relationship with someone you have to persuade to stay with you? Think about the doubts you'd constantly be harboring -- what if he's only with me because he feels sorry for me? What if he's unhappy and won't tell me? What if he does it again? You'd be constantly on edge. That doesn't sound like a recipe for happiness to me.

Look, take it from one broken heart to another -- don't chase this guy. He doesn't want to be caught and you'll just end up hurting yourself. Be friends with him if you can handle it, but only if you're absolutely sure you can handle it. A good test for this is to think about how you would feel if he introduced you to his new girlfriend. Are you pleased and happy for him? You can be friends. Are you crushed beyond all measure? You need to stay away a bit longer. Either way, you need to reconcile yourself that even if you do become friends, there's a considerable chance he's not going to change his mind and take you back.

Good luck. I know it hurts, but you can make it through this.
posted by fight or flight at 6:41 AM on August 20, 2012 [11 favorites]

Unless you where the one who dumped him, how could you know the same end wouldn't occur? Even if he assured you?

Protect yourself from another inevitable heartbreak. You deserve better.
posted by horizonseeker at 7:10 AM on August 20, 2012

Based only on the information you've provided, it sounds like this was an amicable meetup with an ex over coffee and not really anything more. If you're still not over the guy and still wanting to be with him, then your brain is going to start doing some pretty serious confirmation bias: Every slightly friendly gesture will be taken as confirmation that he wants to get back together and every sign that he doesn't will be ignored.

I mean, I can't guarantee that he doesn't want to try again or whatever, but if this is the ex from your recent questions then please consider this: You'd recently started dating as of mid-November, and as of mid-June you'd been broken up for four months. So: You were together for about four months and you've now been broken up for half a year, so since you've been broken up for longer than you were together, it's not hard to imagine that he's pretty much moved on in the romantic sense.

Again, this is based only on what you've given here. If there's more information you've left out, that would help, but bear in mind that the only thing that would really change my answer would be a clear and unambiguous sign that he wants something more than to be friends. I mean something like him literally saying, "I might want to date you again." But I'm pretty sure that you'd have included something like that if it had happened.


Given that he seems friendly, should I make a second move and ask him out to a movie?

Not if it's going to be making a move, no.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:07 AM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Does he even realize that you were on a date? Since you noted that you want to develop a friendship before trying to move things into romance-land, I assume that you didn't use the word "date" when you invited him out. I suspect that he feels like this was just a meeting between two friends and that, while he might now be ready to be back in your life as a friend, he doesn't necessarily have any intention of getting back into a serious relationship with you (or anyone else) right now.

If you truly want to be friends with him, even without the possibility of getting romantically involved, then sure, go out with him again (but don't call it a date and don't "make a move"). If, eventually, things look good and you want to see if he is interested in a romantic relationship then you'll need to ask him if he is interested. He may not be, so if the only reason you're interested in remaining friends is because you're not over him and you're secretly hoping to get back together: stay away. He may have absolutely no intention of ever wanting to date you again and you're potentially setting yourself up for a huge disappointment if your sole motivation for the entire situation is to "win him back" rather than genuinely wanting to be friends (regardless of what might come of that friendship).
posted by asnider at 8:15 AM on August 20, 2012

As an anecdote, I had dinner once with my ex-girlfriend which I broke up with 4 years earlier. We hadn't really kept in contact that much, some flirty emails and IM-exchanges, usually when either of us broke up with someone. We had dinner (including her 2 year old daughter, so not really romantic), connected awesomely. I had grown a lot from my commitment-issues, at the end she proposed to split the bill, I refused and paid, at which point she mentioned it would be a date. Queu hand-holding, sneaking in a kiss when her daughter was distracted and voila, married for a year and a half now.

So yeah it can happen, but it was pretty clear for both of us after 30 minutes with eachother. (it also helped that she was going to leave the country, so it would be more of a short term affair. Didn't happen of course but it lifted the whole "I don't know if I can handle the hurt of a breakup" anxiety.)

Big difference was I changed a lot, and told her that. To answer your question, your next and first step is to ask him if he's ready for serious relationships now, otherwise it will not work at all.
posted by sebas at 8:44 AM on August 20, 2012

I'm with those that are thinking that this wasn't a date, and that his being friendly towards you is at best a sign that he wants to be friends, not that he wants to rekindle the relationship. Your first step, then, should be to ascertain whether we are right, or you are. You can probably quickly establish this by asking him out on a date. The length of time you wait or who contacts whom first really doesn't matter -- what matters is what he says in response to your "do you want to go on a date?"
posted by sm1tten at 9:55 AM on August 20, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses, everyone! I should clarify my original question by saying that I've changed my mind about wanting a serious relationship since the breakup. He did email me (before we met for coffee) and tell me he still doesn't think he would be ready for a serious relationship, and I think I'm okay with that. I'm hoping we can continue to get to know each other (with little commitment or anything scary), kind of like a courtship. Part of me feels he was scared away by my wanting a serious relationship because we didn't develop this "friendship groundwork" before we started dating, and I want to develop it now. Any other insights as to how I could best proceed?
posted by enantio at 11:04 AM on August 20, 2012

Enantio, i don't think you're really paying attention the answers you've gotten.
That update doesn't change anything. In fact, now that we know that he specifically reminded you that he doesn't want to be in a relationship with you just reinforces the recommendation that you stop trying to see this guy as a future boyfriend.

99.9% of the time, saying "i'm not ready for a serious relationship" actually means "i don't want a serious relationship with you". He does not want to be your boyfriend now or in the future.

The lack of a 'friendship groundwork' before you started dating is tricking you into thinking that you have a problem you can fix. He already knows you well, he's already made a decision. There is nothing to "best proceed" towards, because there is not a future relationship with him.
posted by Kololo at 11:12 AM on August 20, 2012 [9 favorites]

The best way to proceed is to proceed as if this chapter in your romantic life has ended. Listen to what your ex told you.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 11:33 AM on August 20, 2012

Honestly, I don't really believe that you no longer want a serious relationship. I think you are playing a mental trick on yourself because you're still hung up on him and are willing to take crumbs.
posted by timsneezed at 12:12 PM on August 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

kind of like a courtship

To be blunt: actually, this is nothing like a courtship. He is not interested in a romantic relationship with you. He does not see friendship as an opportunity for him to court you, nor for you to court him.
posted by scody at 12:26 PM on August 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

In my mind, courtship is the exact opposite of "not too serious".

In any case, to prove you're ok being not serious with your ex, you need to be dating other people. So start there. And if you do get another shot with your ex, don't stop dating other people.
posted by itesser at 12:55 PM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm hoping we can continue to get to know each other (with little commitment or anything scary), kind of like a courtship.

Except that's not really like a courtship at all. Courtship is, essentially, dating. During a courtship, you're getting to know one another with the intention of getting into a serious relationship (assuming that things work out). Ideally, yes, you will become friends through this process -- it seems weird that anyone would be in a long-term relationship with someone who they don't consider a friend -- but courtship =/= developing a friendship.
posted by asnider at 12:56 PM on August 20, 2012

Anything gradual or no-pressure is just likely to be you leading yourself on. the young rope-rider has it. Just put your cards on the table. I am generally in favour of seduction performance art, but it is just inappropriate and painful in certain situations and this is one of those situations.
posted by tel3path at 3:27 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It seems as if the majority of posters on here are in favor of me just moving on, and part of me agrees. I guess I'll leave it up to him if he wants anything more, as painful as this is.

Thanks to all of you for reading and taking the time to respond!
posted by enantio at 3:40 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you got your answer, but I'll weight in too, as a guy who's been in your ex's shoes.

Your question here on AskMe is why I don't go out for coffee with my ex's anymore.
posted by el_yucateco at 8:21 AM on August 21, 2012

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