How to Earn Your Ex’s Trust – Pt. 2

2. Personal Responsibility

It’s a human tendency to want to explain, defend oneself and set the record straight. We somehow believe that by “clarifying” things, we can get the other person to see things our way, understand why we did what we did, and hopefully want to give the relationship another chance.

In a perfect world and in some instances, explanations do have an impact. In the real world of break-ups, and especially in the initial stages of the break-up when emotions are still raw and blame is the menu of the day, explanations often come across as excuses, accusations, wanting to win the argument or have the last word. It doesn’t communicate emotional safety, and doesn’t rebuild trust. In fact it often makes things worse.

I’ve said it in my eBook and on many articles, bringing up the old relationship in the very initial stages of the process often works to your disadvantage. It tends to focus the attention on hurt feelings making it hard to move on from “what is wrong” to “what can be right”.

My advice is, re-establish contact, rebuild trust and goodwill, and only then do you bring up the issues in the old relationship.

The reason being that, people generally tend to be more emotionally open when they feel that you genuinely care about them, and not just trying to push through your agenda.

That said, it doesn’t mean that you can’t take responsibility for your part in the demise of the relationship. A straightforward and heartfelt admission of the role you played without all the lengthy explanations of why you did what you did, pointing fingers or labelling your ex “unavailable”, “a commitment phobe” or “damaged” in any way can be your most effective move in terms of rebuilding trust.

People who understand the value of personal responsibility in rebuilding trust and can demonstrate that they have learned from their mistakes often have a better chance of getting their ex to feel that it’s safe to emotionally open up again. From here things quickly warm up and start moving forward towards reconciliation.

When it comes to an apology — which in my opinion is more effective after things have warmed up a little and the other person is willing to listen — a brief and to the point apology expressed with emotion, regret and deep insight into one’s actions goes a very long way.

No explanations, no excuses, accusation or defensiveness. Giving reasons, explanations and trying to “share the blame” equally, not only cancels the apology, it often infuriates the other person even more.

The best apologies are those expressed in person, simply because emotions are more believable and have more impact in real time.

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5 Comments

  • Yangki, I signed up for on-going coaching with you a couple of months ago. Things have been getting better and I’m quite happy with where we are now. One of the things you said to me was that sometimes an ex can trust you but not trust that you know what you are doing. I have been showing her both and she has told me that did not think it was possible for her to trust me again. We talk everyday, spend weekends together and planning on a trip next month, but when I ask her if she wants to get back together, she pulls back for a few days. You talk about push and pull in your book and I think this is what is happening here. What is my next move?

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    • The way you describe it, it’s definitely push-and-pull. For now, stop asking her to get back together and just let things happen — they are happening in the right direction anyways. She probably just needs time to be sure she’s making the right decision.

      Continue showing her you know what you are doing because that helps instill confidence in the relationship. That seems to be where she’s still not very sure.

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  • I texted him two days ago and he replied last night, we had a nice conversation and I’m so glad he seems to still be open to contact. I will try to slow things down from now on 🙂 I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for this blog, I’ve been going through it for the past week and it’s helping so much!

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  • I stupidly sent him an email where I took responsibility and apologized for everything, hoping he’d appreciate it since, for once, I didn’t try to explain my actions or defend myself. He did, but his response was also incredibly harsh (he later said he regrets addressing only the negative things I mentioned) and I now realize I should have waited longer as things haven’t warmed up yet and he’s still weary about the idea of talking to me. I’m afraid I made a big mistake, my intentions were genuine but the timing wasn’t right.

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    • You’re absolutely right, timing of apology is VERY important.

      This is why in my Dating Your Ex eBook, I advice against apologizing very early on when emotions are still raw. Even if your apology is genuine, your ex is not ready to hear you out.

      If he is still open to contact, try as much as possible not to discuss the break-up or old relationship. Let the emotions settle and the memories of the negative events fade out somewhat.

      In short, if he is still open to contact, you can still make it work.

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