When you get a text from your ex, it can feel like the world stops. Why are they texting you? What do they want? What does it mean?

The feeling you get when you see someone from your past’s name pop up on your phone can be nauseating, exciting, scary or all three.

Depending on your feelings towards your ex–your hopes or intentions–how you respond to your ex’s message should vary. Feelings aside though, there are some rules to follow when it comes to texting them back.

Why Your Ex is Texting You

Before I get into the specifics about how you should be replying to your ex, we need to figure out WHY they’re reaching out.

This is going to really change the conversation so it’s worth thinking about. Let’s first talk a bit about the possible reasons they’re texting you.

They Miss You

The most common of those being that they miss you. 

Though they might not come right out and say so, if you haven’t been communicating with your ex then there’s a good chance they’re missing you.

I mean, you were a part of their life at one point, so it makes sense why they may be feeling a bit nostalgic towards you and the relationship.

They’ll start to miss you after they’ve had a taste of life without you.

And since meeting new people and making new connections can be tough, there’s a good chance that they’re reaching out because they have been thinking about you and missing you.

If they’ve already established that they miss you, then they may be reaching out to try to win you back.

If enough time has passed since the breakup for them to reflect on the relationship, they may be realizing what they’re missing out on and want to win you back.

That said, the words they text you may be written to pull at your heartstrings, but don’t take these words to mean exactly what they say.

For instance, even if they say, “I want you back,” then there’s a good chance that they’re feeling mixed emotions right now, and that this may not 100% be true so don’t jump back in with both feet and run to be by their side. Take it slow.

But since most people fear rejection the likelihood of them texting you those exact words are pretty low. Instead they’ll probably send you a message to test the waters, then depending on how you reply they’ll decide where to go from there.

They Want To Be Friends

The next reason your ex may be texting you is because they want to be friends. 

In this case their message will probably be pretty light hearted and friendly. They may choose to share some interesting news with you, or ask how you’ve been or what you’re up to.

This message is tricky because it could be a well disguised “I miss you” message, but if they’re throwing out the friend vibe, then you’ll be able to tell as the conversation continues.

I will stop here and tell you that being friends with your ex is almost never something that’s going to go the way you want it.

This is especially true if you want them back. In that case, do not agree to be friends with your ex. All you’ll do is make it easier for them to get over you.

At the same time, you’ll drive yourself crazy wondering if they feel something more for you than they’re letting on. Your feelings will get stronger while theirs will fade away as time passes.

And even if you’re totally over your ex, you should be careful about being friends with them. There are many factors to consider here.

Were you friends before you dated? Are your feelings for them REALLY gone or are you just kidding yourself? Are their feelings for you gone or are they using this as an opportunity to get close to you?

And what if it all goes perfectly and they end up being your good friend again?

What happens when one of you starts dating someone new and they’re not as chill about you being besties with your ex?

Are you going to drop your new friend for this other person?

Is your ex going to leave you high and dry to placate their new partner?

It’s a recipe for drama.

This is not to say you shouldn’t be friends with your ex if you’re both truly over the other person, but think carefully before you get too close or risk unforeseen consequences.

They Want To Hurt You

Next maybe your ex is messaging you because they want to make you feel bad, or hurt you.

This is an awful thing to do, but if your ex is feeling miserable about the breakup, or has any built up resentment towards you, then they may feel compelled to text you their thoughts.

The important thing to remember here is that whatever nasty things they are sending you, they are doing it out of hurt.

It’s important that you don’t take these messages to heart, or reply in anger. Instead know that they probably don’t mean what they’re saying, but for twisted reasons making you feel bad makes them feel better… or at least getting these feelings off their chest does.

But if your ex is sorry about how the relationship ended, or for something that happened while you were together, then this may be another reason they’re reaching out to you through text.

These messages are pretty easy to spot, as they’ll likely just admit to their wrongdoings and wish you well. They could be doing this because they genuinely feel bad for hurting you, or they may be doing it for their own closure.

After this conversation, there’s a good chance that you won’t hear from them again. Don’t get angry if you reply to this message and hear nothing back. If they’ve said all he wants to say to you then leave them be.

They Just Want Sex

And the last reason I want to talk about when it comes to your ex texting you is if they are looking for a booty call. 

This could be hard to spot at first because they may sugar coat their messages before implying that they want to hook up, but a big indicator as to if they are booty calling you is the time of their message.

If they text you in the middle of the night, or after getting home from the bar, then they could just be messaging you out of sexual desire.

If you want to rekindle your relationship with your ex, you don’t want to go down this path.

Like being friends, this sets you up for a different kind of relationship than the one you want, and because you’re giving your ex exactly what they want, they’ll have no incentive to take you more seriously. This is especially true if your ex is a man, sorry guys.

But if you’re completely over them and looking for a little fun, this can be okay. Just think through the possible consequences before you go for it.

How To Respond To Your Ex’s Text

Okay, so now that we’ve talked about some of the major reasons behind why your ex would be texting you, let’s now talk about what you should do about it. 

To keep this process as simple as possible let’s break this situation into three scenarios.

1. You want to get back together with your ex

2. You’re uncertain about whether or not you want to get back with your ex

3. There’s no way in hell you would ever get back with your ex

Keep your own personal situation in mind as we move forward. 

So, first things first. Your ex has just messaged you. How long should you wait before replying to their text?

Regardless of your feelings towards your ex, you should make a point in holding off before texting them. This is important for a couple of reasons. 

First, it will give you some time to think about what you want to say. If they’ve angered or upset you in the past, then your feelings may be running high right now, especially if you didn’t expect to hear from them, or haven’t in sometime. The last thing you want to do is blast off a text that is full of resentment or sadness. Even if you have no intention of ever patching things up and getting back together with them, take the high road and stay classy.

Since they know that there’s a chance you could react badly, by not doing so you’ll surprise them, and they may even realize what a good thing they’ve lost.

More on this soon though, but for now just remember that taking the time to think about the message you’ll be sending your ex is extremely important.

The second thing that not responding right away does is that it shows them you’re not sitting around, phone in hand, waiting to hear from them.

Even if you are, or you just so happen to be on your phone for other reasons, letting some time pass before responding will send the message that you’re busy with other things.

This will spike their curiosity, leaving them to wonder what exactly is occupying your time. It will also create something that is SO important in this process: anticipation. I’d say that you need to wait AT LEAST a half an hour to an hour.

If this isn’t someone you’re interested in talking to at all, then you can wait a longer amount of time. Six hours, a day, two days, or you can not respond to them at all.

Truthfully, when your relationship ended, your ex lost the right to expect you to stay in touch with them outside of an important situation. I know that phones make us feel like we’re accessible to every person on earth, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

When you do reply to them, the message you send is important. Since this isn’t a friend or family member who you can casually just blast off a text to, you’ll want to make sure that the message you send has the right tone. 

Now you may be thinking, “Dave, it’s a text… how the heck am I supposed to make it sound a certain way?” Well, here’s the thing.

When it comes down to it, texts are just words on a screen, left to be interpreted by the person on the receiving end. That’s why it’s fair to say that texting is almost less about the words themselves, and more about the feelings you get when reading them.

So, before replying to your ex’s text message, it’s important that you’re completely certain of the type of message you’re looking to send.

Do you want them to know that you’re open to chatting, or would you rather make it clear that the ship has sailed? Are you hoping to reignite a spark between the two of you, or are you fighting the temptation to tell them what a jerk they are? 

Knowing your end-game and intentions will help when it comes to choosing your words and communicating the right message.

It seems obvious but I think it’s so easy to let excitement get the best of us and respond without thinking. 

Keep It Short

Regardless of your intention though, keeping your texts short and sweet can help prevent any sort of confusion in your message. Why? Because the less you write, the less chance there is that he will misinterpret what you are saying. 

For example, let’s say that your ex texts you a short, “Hey, how have you been?”

Instead of rambling about how you’ve been since the breakup, diving into all the emotions you’ve felt and things you have done, keep your message simple.

A short, “I’m good, thanks! How have you been?” will do the trick if you’re cool with opening up communication lines between the two of you again.

Or even, “I’m great! I’m just in the middle of something right now and can’t really chat, but I hope you are well.” works well too. In fact, this second example works wonders for getting them thinking about what it is you’re “in the middle of” or even who you’re with.

Again, if you want to get back together with your ex, or aren’t completely against the idea of perhaps rekindling your relationship or just being friends, this is a powerful message to send. 

Ignore Your Ex In Certain Situations

And again, if you have absolutely no desire to talk to your ex when they message you then you may choose to ignore this text message.

As long as it doesn’t ask anything important, and it isn’t relaying valuable information, you can easily let it slide.

If however your ex texts you asking something that is important, or passes along some useful news, then do take the time to respond, either with the answer they need, or a short “thanks for letting me know.”

You don’t have to dive right back into communicating with them again, but it’s okay to show some respect and appreciation if you’re willing.

Also, always be sure to read your text message at least three times before hitting send, and better yet, read it out loud. Not only will it avoid making you look absent-minded or unintelligent, but it’ll also prevent you from needing to follow up your text with a corrected version or explanation.

Sure, it’s not the end of the world to have to do so, but it does take away from the original message. Since this IS an ex you’re messaging, you want to make sure that you come across as intelligent and well-spoken, regardless of whether or not you want to win them back.

Now that we’ve covered the basics when it comes to replying to this initial post-breakup text message, let’s talk a little bit about what you should be texting your ex if you do choose to keep the conversation going.

In this case it’s likely that you do want to get back together, because let’s face it, you’re not going to waste your time messaging someone you have zero interest in having in your life.

And especially if this is someone you HATE and only want to engage with to make fun of them or try to hurt them, then you should just end the conversation right away.

It may make you feel good for a moment but in the end it’s only going to make you feel worse. Be the bigger person.

If though, you absolutely feel the need to send them a message after they’ve reached out then you can choose to let them know that you wish them well but don’t see a reason to keep in contact. Simple as that. Don’t feel obligated to keep answering their messages from here on out.

Now, for when you ARE wanting to get back together, or are at least open to the possibility, there are certain things you’re going to want to keep in mind when replying to their text messages.

As I said, you’re going to want to send them a positive message. Even if you’ve been devastated since the breakup and feel like life as you know it has ended, you can’t convey that in your text message.

If you do, you’ll look desperate to get them back, or just pathetic…or both. That is not the type of message that will make them want to be with you again… remember, they could be on the fence too and a downer message like that is sure to help them make up their mind that it’s over for good. 

What will make them want to be with you is a message expressing how cheerful you are, and how busy you’ve been.

Sending the type of message that shows them that your life carried on after the relationship ended and it will let them see that you are a strong, independent person who doesn’t need a partner to complete them. That is an extremely attractive trait.

Keep The Conversation Going

Once the texting conversation begins to flow, you’ll still want to take things slow.

This will give you both the opportunity to do some thinking and decide if you want to give your relationship another try, and it’s also good for reigniting the spark between you.

When you message them, send the type of texts that you would in the early days of getting to know someone.

Yes, you know this person and you’ve already shared a relationship, but if you go right back to where you were before the breakup then you risk the relationship falling apart again – I mean, it didn’t work in the past so why go back there?

Instead consider sending them tester texts. These messages don’t ask for a reply. They’re just testing the water.

And because they’re not direct questions, if they respond, you’ll know that they’re into getting back together, or just keeping the conversation going and getting closer to you, which is what you want.

What these messages do is pass along information that you know they will find interesting, or useful.

For instance, you could message them something like:

“Hey, I just saw that there’s a huge sale this weekend on Nintendo 64 games. I know how much you love Banjo Kazooie so I thought I’d let you know.” Or, “I just heard that Michael Mann died! 🙁 sad, he was such a great director.”

Just make sure that the information is true or you’ll look a bit strange to your ex when they find out that Michael Mann is alive and well. 

Neither of these messages are overly romantic, but believe me, both of them are super powerful for testing the waters to see if they’re open to talking more. 

Don’t ask too much right off the bat. Remember, you’re just starting to reconnect. If you make them feel smothered the second they reach out to you then they may feel that getting back together would be a mistake and decide to move on.

Be wise with your words and keep them looking forward to hearing from you.

Dave Barker

Breakup Coach

About the Author

Dave Barker is a breakup and 'ex back' coach with over a decade of experience helping clients repair and improve romantic relationships.

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