For those of you who have been through a breakup, were you ever tempted to write a letter to an ex – to pour out your emotions? Many of us have been there. I know I have…
When we’re dumped, we can be left with a whole host of feelings and thoughts that remain unsaid, and all we crave is to just say it, all of it, once and for all. Been there? It’s only natural for us to consider writing a letter to an ex.
This is sort of a follow up/reiteration to a previous blog on the subject (5 Things to Consider before doing so. Note when I say “letter to an ex” – these days we probably mean email or some other digital version. I reckon only a few of you would take actual pen to paper for this but the same principles apply!
Letter to an Ex
The inspiration for this blog post came about because of a young gentleman, a few years out of a break up (of sorts) shared his story and the letter to his ex, just the other day…
“Oh boy!” – I thought to myself – as I read his intensely-heavy email to a woman he’s not even had contact with for more than a year!
While I respected his right to write, I suggested he might wish to change the stance, just a little bit…You see, I pride myself into putting myself into other people’s shoes. As such, I could just imagine how she might take such a heavy, intense, heart-wrenching email (not to mention after more than a year of silence…!)
NO SUCH THING AS “MISTAKES” BUT…
While I don’t tend to be a believer in “mistakes” or having “regrets”, I thought I’d share some things I have learned from my writing my own letter to an ex (to be honest there have been countless letters) and from more than a decade of dumpees sharing their own letter to an ex!
I will use “mistakes” in this instance, but only because I couldn’t think of a better way to write this piece. So if you’re considering writing a letter to an ex, then you might wish to consider some of these following points (or not – the choice is entirely yours), before you do!
MISTAKE #1 WRITING TOO SOON
First of all – our feelings do change over time – (in spite ourselves). As soon as it happens, in the early days and weeks, a lot of people want to beg them to reconsider, rant to them, threaten to hurt them (or themselves), guilt them, or a whole host of other emotional reactions.
My thought is – go ahead it and get all out of your head – onto the sheet or screen. Vent every single, solitary thing you want to say to your ex…but sit on it for a while.
Or if you need to say it then say it on a site like lettertomyex.com – instead. Just please don’t send it to your ex (yet). I’m telling you, that in my experience of more than a dozen years around here, things can change in a matter of weeks.
I have seen so many people regret acting impulsively when they felt like this. In some cases, it meant it cost them any sort of friendship or relationship later on, because it served to push the ex further away and reinforced the reason for the break-up to begin with!
I understand the impulse to pour your heart out, and say every last thing you’re feeling, I do, but the fact is, more often than not, how you feel in the early days/weeks/months – can and will likely change over time. With a bit of healing our perspective often alters dramatically.
Boy I remember (pretty vividly) writing the most raw, hand-written letter to the “so-called love of my life” just after he left me for his work colleague.
I was so hurt, betrayed, indignant, bitter and so forth. I poured every ounce of bitterness, bile, venom, anger, hurt, frustration, sadness, etc into that letter.
But months later, I thankfully hadn’t sent it. When I re-read it, I knew I didn’t really feel that same way as I had in the early days. A bit of healing toned down much of that rawness. Between you and me,…I still sent it, but at least I added a new page explaining I had felt that way “then”, but that I no longer saw it all the same way. I ended the letter with actual forgiveness and wishing him well (as I recall)….
He never responded (they seldom do) – but it didn’t matter because I sent it for me – not for any response from him. Why would he want to go back to address things or apologise for not loving me anymore and for loving someone else? I reckon he knew that he broke my heart, but at that point, it didn’t matter to him – he’d moved on!
That’s really so often the case. It really is.
Knowing what I know now – I’d probably just write it in a journal, and not bother sending that proverbial letter to my ex…But that’s just me!
MISTAKE # 2 – Blaming the Ex for Everything
Another common mistake is going through all of the ex’s perceived crimes. Reeling off things that were said and done – one by one – will simply put the ex on the defensive, and they won’t be able to actually hear what you’re trying to say.
A better tactic is to use the ole chestnuts “I feel” or “I felt” instead of you “you did” this, that and the other.
So instead of blaming your ex for any pain you’re currently feeling – try coming it from a place of “I’m taking responsibility for my own happiness”.
I believe on some level we are responsible for our relationships and our break ups. It’s never really ONE PERSON’S FAULT for a break up. Just as relationships take two – so do break ups. It’s not all your ex’s fault – nor is it all yours.
Yeah, I know many of you won’t like that statement, and will probably disagree. That’s totally your prerogative…I am just speaking from the perspective of the life and relationships I’ve learned over the last several decades…
I was able to investigate internally, and find in all my relationships and break ups, that I had contributed in some way. Maybe I’d been too much of a nag, been controlling, been too independent, or too needy, or just hard to be around sometimes.
Finding examples of my own short-comings or imperfections helped me to be more empathetic to my exes (even the one who cheated on me!) and to less likely to cast any blame.
Blame, to me is utterly pointless. You may not have had any say in the way things transpired (read: ended), but you are the one who has every say in what you choose to do with the experience now.
That’s an incredibly empowering shift.
MISTAKE # 3: Begging Your Ex
If you’re writing a note that is trying to cajole, convince, coerce your ex into being with you, I am telling you now it won’t work. It will only serve to make you look desperate, and frankly you shouldn’t want to be with anyone that you need to persuade to be with you. They should want to be with you, unquestioningly.
Begging anyone to be with you, reconcile with you, or stay with you is quite frankly demeaning. It is a way of external validation, and it puts your self worth in some else’s hands. That should never be the case.
If someone is really intent on leaving – let them go. Don’t try to write the perfect letter to “win” them back, because more often than not, even if you did, it would be short lived.
I’ve seen more success by the people who say “Ok, I love you, I will miss you but if you’re going – then go. I’ll miss you” — then those who say “Please don’t go. I’ll do anything. I love you. Please, we can make it work”.
Be honest, which would would you respect more? Which one is more attractive to you?
Begging is more likely just going to reinforce someone’s decision to walk away. The person who is always more appealing is the one who goes – “You’re leaving?…Ok, I won’t stop you” and then they start getting on with their life – and with the business of healing.
So go ahead and write it all out. Use the aforementioned Letter to My Ex site – or a journal – or what have you. Write it all out but just think twice about actually sending it to your ex.
Only send it if:
1) you truly have no expectation of a reply (and won’t be hurt if you don’t get one)
2) you’re not trying to “convince” them to meet up, get back together, love you etc.
3) you don’t have an expectation of miraculous “closure” by sending it (it doesn’t always work that way. In fact it seldom does…)
4) you can come across in a non-heavy, accusatory way. Start light and work up to the big dialogue!
5) as tough as it is to do – you actually forgive them. (I know, many of you will think “I’ll never forgive my ex Thea”. That’s your folly though…forgiveness is FREEDOM, for yourself, not for them.)
In all honesty, from what I’ve seen personally and professionally, the letter to the ex doesn’t tend to “make or break” things. I have had it re-unite me with one guy – but even that was short lived. [Often a break up has happened for a reason. Unless that reason has been addressed – it’s likely to happen again and again.]
If you do have some heavy dialogue to discuss – don’t let it be in your first letter or email to them. Consider sending a lighter, toe-in-the-water email first. Then perhaps you can arrange to meet up face to face to discuss some of these things in your letter.
Finally, one challenge with letters is that it’s there in black and white FOREVER, and once again, things change over time. Feelings. Perspectives. Attitudes. We’re not constant. We’re emotional beings. We’re always evolving.
So again – write it out if you must but truly think about this decision to send it.
Adopt Serena’s “48 hour rule” – before sending it. If you make any changes after the 48 hours – the the clock resets. Continue this until either you decide you don’t feel like sending it anymore, or it says exactly what you want to say, and that’s it.
Send it then, and only then.