Even for the most accomplished Casanova, reclaiming love after it has been lost is a tricky endeavor. Nothing about it is simple, or straightforward, and contrary to what rom-coms have been telling you all these years, sleeping on her doorstep is not a no-fail route to changing her mind.
If she’s said goodbye, it’s possible she meant exactly what she said. But it’s also very possible she’s open to a full-fledged win-me-back operation.
Not all relationships end for the same reason. Women have an endless supply of unique reasons for ending things, many of which are often more complicated than they may seem. Your chief task post-breakup then, is to understand exactly why it happened. Chances are, if falls into one of two categories:
1. You messed up.
Admit it, you haven’t been treating her right. You’ve been neglecting her, either subtly (by not listening to her, making her feel appreciated, or spending enough time with her) or blatantly (by lying, cheating, or otherwise disrespecting her). You may have thought you were getting away with it, but you weren’t. The things she shrugs off day to day have built to a crescendo and she’s decided she deserves to be treated better. (Side note: Good for her.)
2. She’s doubting her feelings and/or doesn’t love you anymore.
This is less about the mistakes you’ve made and more about her personal satisfaction within the relationship. She may have decided that the two of you are not emotionally and/or intellectually compatible, or that she cannot imagine a future with you. Feelings are not stagnant. Her outlook on you and the relationship is perpetually in flux. Falling out of love is a sad reality that can rarely be redressed.
Her Feelings, Not Yours
Now that we’ve laid it out on the table for you, it’s time to get real with yourself. Which of the aforementioned categories apply to your situation? Have you just chased her away with your antics, or has she fallen out of love?
The unlikely good news: If it was you fucking up, you have a far better chance of reuniting. Just be warned, there will be significant effort involved. Your first plan of action is acknowledging your mistakes, and expressing regret. Think (really contemplate!) how your behavior has affected her. Let her know you understand the role you played in the relationship’s demise, and express sincere, painful regret.
If you’re in the latter camp, and your girlfriend has said things like, “I’m not sure what I want anymore,” or “I just need some time by myself to figure things out,” she’s likely questioning her own feelings, not yours. The appropriate (and most effective) response here is to tell her you understand her feelings, rather than try to talk her out of them.
Caring, Not Smothering
Particularly in situations where a woman is doubting her feelings, giving her space can do wonders. We’re not advocating playing games, or purposely shunning her. We’re talking about giving her what’s she asked for—space—and letting her figure out if that’s what she truly wants. This is incredibly difficult to do if you love someone, but it’s the only effective route to take in this particular situation.
Smothering her at the pivotal point in the breakup, and showering her with over-the-top displays of affection via incessant emails and text messages will not be effective. It will only seal your fate. Keep in mind, she already knows how you feel—now it’s time for you to let her figure out how she feels.
In scenarios where you’ve made the mistakes, she’ll be waiting and watching to see how you’ll address them. You should express how you feel, but still use the time apart to work on yourself, and get at the root of the issue. Why did you mistreat her? Are you truly capable of giving her more? Be honest with yourself before you make any effort to reconnect.
Post-breakup, there’s an assessment going on at her end. She’s judging how you handle the time apart. If her friends report back (and, they will!) that you’re crying whiskey-scented tears to anyone who will listen, that’s not good.
Use the time apart to work on yourself, mentally (by taking stock of your emotions) and physically. Go through the motions of moving on, even if you still hold hopes of reconnecting. Let her wonder what you’re doing without her and whether you’re dating someone else. It’s not about feigning nonchalance, or parading your resilience, but about creating questions, and at some level, fears. Nothing is more terrifying than the idea that someone you once loved (and possibly still do) is capable of happiness without you.
Don’t Do Her
As tempting as it is to rekindle the relationship by reminding her how good she had it (physically) with you, and regardless of how much you miss her/miss seeing her naked, sex with your ex is always a bad idea.
Post-breakup sex confuses the situation. Connecting during sex doesn’t change or fix the issues at hand. It only clouds your judgement, and it will inevitably flood you with incoherent, unreliable messages about your feelings and the relationship.
Plus, we know you hate to admit it, but it will hurt that much more when she packs up to leave after, when you wake up alone. Don’t get in the business of putting bandages on gaping wounds. It doesn’t help the healing process, and it will only hurt that much more when you finally rip the damn thing off.
Beware of Rebounding
We know we’ll be zero-for-two in your penis’s book when we say this, but trust, we have you best interests in mind. Okay, we’ll just say it: Don’t have sex with her or anyone else. You’re officially on a hump hiatus.
Hear us out. You can date other women (and you should), but you shouldn’t be using the space apart as an opportunity to sleep with someone new (or old, for that matter). If she hears about it, or even suspects it, you’re relationship status will be cemented. In stone. And concrete. And every other impenetrable rock substance.
Remember that classic Friends episode where Ross protests, “But we were on a break,” as an excuse for sleeping with someone else, and Rachel gives him the cold shoulder for, uh, several seasons? Don’t make Ross’s mistake. Hold off until you’ve given up, because if you do reunite, you know the first thing she’ll ask is if you’ve slept with someone else. You don’t want to start a new leaf with a lie, do you?
Read the Signs
Sadly, not every woman has the gusto to be straightforward. While it would be nice if she sent you a bluntly worded email saying, “Yes, I’ve moved on and there’s no chance I’ll look back,” or “Please try harder to get me back,” chances are she won’t be that transparent. Instead, you’ll be forced to interpret her current feelings based on her actions, and infer your shot at reconciling from that.
Some of the signs will be easy to construe: Is she still calling and texting you? Does she say she misses you, or seem sad when you’re around? Is she ice-grilling the girl you just walked into the bar with?
Other things are tougher to read. When she calls, is she only being polite, or does she seem to be fishing for personal details? Is she dating other people, and if so, is she doing it because she genuinely wants to move on, or solely to incite a reaction from you?
If you find yourself completely befuddled by her behavior, pull a sneaky move and talk to one of her friends that you trust, and that has seemed to support your relationship. Ask her how your ex is doing, and try to get her to spill about what she wants from you. Just keep in mind, her friend will likely report back, so choose your words carefully. Regretful but composed is a good image to project.
Prove You’re Capable of Change
Chances are, before you broke up, there were warning signs you’d been neglecting. Maybe she was dropping plentiful hints about how you were not affectionate or romantic enough. Or, maybe she constantly complained about how you never took her out and spent too much time with your friends. It may feel like it, but it’s unlikely this thing came out of left field.
Regardless of your perceived shortcoming, you need to take the time to show her you’re addressing it. If she broke up with you because she thought you weren’t ambitious enough, tell her about the jobs you’ve applied for in her absence and how well the interviews have gone. If you had an issue with honesty, tell her you’ve given serious thought to your behavior and the way it must’ve affected her, and you have a new outlook on the issue.
Your plan of attack will change depending on what the particular issue was, but the point is, you need prove that if she were to actually give you another chance, things would be different.
Even if she misses you, it’s unlikely she’ll reach out and be the one to make amends. Blame it on all of the bad rom-coms we’ve seen, but we all possess this (lame) secret fantasy of a misled boyfriend seeing the light, a dramatic scene in which he reveals, “Love is too weak a word for what I feel.” (Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, in case you were wondering.)
Okay, we don’t want you to be that corny or unoriginal, but we do need you to take a stand and show your feelings. If the idea of putting you heart on the chopping block sends shivers up your spine, consider that you might not really want her back that badly. But if you do, prepare to open up your rib cage.
Take her out and make your sincere feelings clear. Tell her you want another chance, and that you understand if she doesn’t give you one, but that you’ll spend forever making sure she doesn’t regret it. Put it all on the line and pray she takes you up on the offer.
Accepting the Truth
If the worst happens, and she laughs in your face, or worse yet, tells you she doesn’t love you anymore, you have to accept her words as the absolute truth. Don’t try to convince her to love you with rational reasons and an Excel spreadsheet detailing why you’re perfect for her. Don’t peddle your love to her like it’s an about-to-expire carton of milk. Save yourself the embarrassment: Walk away with your dignity intact. Not every love is meant to last forever.
Don’t be one of those terrible ex-boyfriends that refuses to see the situation for what it is. If you’ve done everything you could, and made your feelings clear, it’s time to let go. On the bright side, remember that rebound sex we argued against earlier? Now you can disregard that advice and sow your wild oats until the chasm in your heart has shrunk to a tiny wormhole.
Things may have ended, but on the bright side, it’s summer! You can start again here.