When you have feelings for your ex, it can feel like a pressure building in your chest. You MUST tell them how you feel or you won’t be able to take it any more.

But while spilling your guts will relieve the pressure, it can really hurt your chances of getting them back if you make this confession too early.

So then when should you tell them how you feel?

In short, the answer is you shouldn’t tell them that you have feelings for them, that you want them back, or even how much you miss them until you two have reconnected in a significant way and are talking about getting back together.

I know it may feel like the right thing to do and that you’re just being honest but if you really want another chance then you should definitely not take this route. There are a couple of exceptions here which I’ll explain later on but first let’s talk about why this is such a bad idea.

I think of it this way: your ex knows that you love them. Chances are you even begged and pleaded with them to take you back FOR this very reason.

But if “I love you” wasn’t a good enough reason for them to stay with you, why should things be different a week later? They didn’t end the relationship because you don’t have strong enough feelings for them. They ended it because the relationship wasn’t working anymore. 

So we’ve established that they already know how you feel. So then why do you feel this impulse to tell them anyway? Well the truth is, even though you may feel like you’re being honest, you’re actually sending a very different message than you think.

This “I love you” or “I still have feelings for you” or “I want to be with you” is coming in a very different context than it was the first time you said it, so it means something very different to both you and your ex.

What you’re really saying is “take me back.”

That’s right. You’re not doing something sweet or romantic or honest by sharing these feelings. You’re actually just trying to make them change their mind about breaking up. You’re putting pressure on them.

And while there’s nothing wrong with wanting your ex back the truth is that there are much better ways of achieving this goal that don’t involve you spilling your guts.

Here are a few reasons that this is not going to get the result you’re looking for. First, it’s extremely confrontational. Since you’re essentially asking your ex “will you take me back?”, you’re giving them an easy opportunity to just say no and close the book on this relationship for good. Many people are looking for closure after a breakup and you’re offering them it on a silver platter.

Even if they don’t say no outright, there’s a good chance they’re just trying to spare your feelings and you won’t hear from them as often after today. It won’t be until much later that you’ll both look back at the day you told them you still loved them, and see it as the moment when the relationship was truly over for good. 

What Your Ex Thinks When You Tell Them How You Feel

Another good reason not to tell your ex how you feel is that it comes across as weak and unattractive. This is harsh but it has to be said.

Think of it this way: this person has very clearly rejected you and your love. They’ve decided to take the difficult step of cutting off the relationship and moving on with their life.

By crawling back to them with your tail between your legs (and don’t kid yourself, this is exactly what you’re doing) you’re showing them that you’re low value and that you lack self respect.

You’re probably saying “my ex isn’t that cruel. They don’t see me that way” but the truth is that this all happens at a subconscious level so while they may still say all the right things, on some level they see this as pathetic. It certainly doesn’t say “I’m a confident person with plenty of options who would make a good partner” and that’s the kind of message you should be sending if you do want your ex back.

But what if your ex DID break up with you because you didn’t love them? Well obviously this isn’t the whole story or you wouldn’t want them back.

So what we’re really talking about is that they ended things because you never TOLD them you loved them, or you weren’t affectionate enough or you didn’t reciprocate their level of love and intimacy. In this situation, is telling your ex how you feel a good idea?

Unfortunately the answer is still no, even in this situation. That’s because your ex has already decided to end the relationship and they told you why…the cat is out of the bag.

If you suddenly show up and shower them with love and affection, it’s not going to feel the same way it would have even two days before they decided to dump you. It’s going to feel calculated, like you’re only doing it as a means to an end and it’ll be too little too late.

Imagine you forgot your mother’s birthday. She calls you up all upset the next day and chews you out for not getting her anything and not caring about her at all. You apologize and show up the next day with a great gift.

Is this going to erase your mistake and make your mother feel loved and cared about? Not really, since she had to scream at you to make it happen in the first place. It’ll take time and consistency to make this right again.

And this is exactly what you need in this situation as well. Instead of running to your ex with tears in your eyes, you need to make a plan and stick to it. In this situation, I always advocate for 30 days of No Contact.

Basically it’s about cutting all ties with your ex for 30 days, moving past the breakup and becoming a better version of yourself.

You’ll notice this is the exact opposite of what you probably want to do at this moment and that’s exactly why it works so well. Your ex is expecting you to run back to them crying, or at least spend your time lamenting your broken heart.

If you can upset these expectations by living your best life instead, you’re going to show them that everything they thought they knew about you was wrong. This isn’t going to be easy but it is going to be effective if you stick to it.

When You Should Tell Your Ex How You Feel

So I said earlier that there are a few situations where telling your ex how you feel is a good idea.

Well one is after you’ve completed a full 30 days of No Contact. But before you run back to them, you need to begin the re-attraction process slowly with a few text messages, then a few in person meetings to feel things out and eventually, when you two are regularly spending time together and they’re reciprocating your affection, you’ll know the moment is right to let them know how you feel. Hopefully they feel the same way and you two will be back together for good.

But there is another situation where telling your ex how you feel is the right move. And that is if YOU broke up with THEM and then realized that you want them back. They’re feeling very hurt and confused right now so they’re going to need reassurance. Let them know that you came back because you love them and want to be with them.

But obviously it’s not going to be enough on its own to fix this mistake. You’ll need to sort out why you thought ending the relationship was a good idea, why you’ve changed your mind and how things will be different this time around. And, of course, you’re going to need to apologize to them profusely and spend a lot of time rebuilding that trust that’s been lost.

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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