Despite the lyrics to any Taylor Swift song, breakups don’t always have to be permanent, and exes tend to get back together more often than you think. At the same time, reuniting with a partner doesn’t have to be one person desperately wooing the other back in true rom-com fashion.
In fact, seeing a reconciliation as anything other than a combination of mutual growth and effort is a pretty unhealthy approach. “I would avoid the mindset of ‘winning’ over anyone,” says Dr. Mariana Bockarova, Ph.D., who teaches relationship psychology at the University of Toronto. “If your relationship is missing some key attributes, no one has won in the end.”
So sadly, this list doesn’t involve buying an all-leather wardrobe and sexily whispering “Tell me about it, stud” to your very-confused-but-kinda-turned-on ex before you burst into song and never have problems again. But if you’re down to be patient, here are nine ways to (maybe) get back together with your ex:
1. Give your partner actual space.
This one will probably be harder if you were the one broken up with, but trust, it’s important. If you can’t respect your ex-partner’s basic wishes of having some space, you’re not off to a good start in making them want to date you again.
Of course, if you’re trying to get back together, you eventually will want to reach out—but when? While Dr. Bockarova says there’s no concrete set of time to wait, a good rule of thumb is to break the silence when you feel more clarity about the relationship.
For instance, she says, if you were broken up with and have been blaming yourself for the split, only reinstate contact when you stop feeling that way. If you did the breaking up, only shoot a text when you’re certain that you miss your ex for the right reasons, rather than out of boredom or guilt.
2. Hold back on the badmouthing.
Obviously, breakups feel shitty. It’s only natural (and needed) to have a vent session with your closest BFFs.
However, you can be hurt without acting vindictive—especially if your ex is someone you already think you might want to get back together with. “Put yourself in your ex’s shoes,” Dr. Bockarova says. “Would you appreciate if someone you cared about spoke badly about you to all of your friends, [sent you] an avalanche of angry messages, or revealed secrets you had told them in a vulnerable state?”
If you ever want to open the door to dating each other again, spreading weird rumors or sending mean-spirited texts won’t do you any favors. Also, it’s just good practice for all breakups, regardless of your future dating intentions. It’s never good to divulge super-personal goss about an ex—plus, it won’t actually make you feel better.
3. Change your life before seeing if your ex fits into it.
In your time apart, you might feel a little lonelier than you used to, especially when you’re making weekend plans for finding activities to fill up a rainy Tuesday night.
But this—learning to like yourself just as much when you’re alone—is arguably the most crucial part of this process. Dr. Bockarova suggests investing in new friendships and hobbies and filling up your life with as much joy as possible, even if you’re still down about the breakup.
Once you’ve faced your fear of being partnerless, then, and only then, can you know if you genuinely want your relationship back. “If you only miss your ex when you feel lonely, or when you compare your life to those of friends in relationships but not in moments when you feel happy and confident, it won’t make for a very fulfilling relationship down the line,” Dr. Bockarova says.