How to Handle An Ex Who’s Not Open

what-to-do-with-an-ex-who-is-not-openYour ex tells you he/she is not ready to get back together just yet and suggests that the two of keep in touch as friends and see where things go. So you are emailing or talking regularly and you feel that you’re engaged in each other’s lives once again. You’re not back together but communication between the two of you is warm and friendly. You’ve even talked about being open and honest with each other because you value each other’s friendship. But then one day you find out that your ex lied to you.

He/she told you he/she was going out with friends but yet he/she was out on a date. You’re livid. Why would your ex lie to you? Why didn’t he/she just tell you the truth? Do you just keep quite and pretend nothing is bothering you? Should you ignore it since it’s really none of your business who your ex goes out on a date with? Should you confront him or her about his/her lies?

Now, most people would tell you “just get rid of the liar”. If lying (or cheating) was a major problem in the relationship, I’d say “lose the loser” too.

But if not, there are many reasons why your ex might not want to tell you he/she was out on a date with someone else.

1. The most obvious one is your ex didn’t want to hurt your feelings because he/she genuinely cares about you. Not a very good excuse for lying, but an understandable one.

2. If there is a history of jealousy, needy behaviour or any kind of emotional outbursts, chances are your ex probably feared that talking about his/her date with someone else would create an emotionally-charged situation, and he/she wasn’t ready for a shout-out, tears of tantrums.

3. Your ex thinks it’s none of you business. You’re not back together and so going out on a date with someone else is not like he/she is cheating on you.

If you’re hoping to get back together, shouldn’t being honest and open be something you both want?

I believe so! I also believe that you should talk to your ex about what you know but without completely ruining your chances of getting back together.

1. Whatever you do, do not accuse your ex of lying by omission.

If you didn’t discuss not going out on dates or seeing other people while you “see where things go”, you have no justification for calling your ex a liar. If you are like most people with poor communications skills, control or needy and clingy issues, you may think that it is “implied” that if you are “taking things slow” you will not be seeing other people. No it is not! Taking slow means taking slow. It doesn’t mean either of you should put your lives on hold unless you both agree to it.

2. Do not accuse your ex of lying unless you have concrete proof.

Accusing your ex of lying when you don’t have proof is like running against a wall really fast — head first! For all you know, unless you actually saw your ex with someone else on a date, your source may not even be accurate.

3. Go for constructive dialogue — and not a fight.

My advice is to go for the cooperative solution-oriented forward-looking approach. The use of an open, direct, non-confrontational, non-antagonistic and non-coercive approach radically reduces the harmful consequences of the traditional adversarial back-ward looking approach.

It’d sound something like this: “You know how much I care about you and value your friendship. We’ve had our ups and downs but look at us, we’re still friends. This past weekend, however, you told me that you were going out with your friends, but I found out that you were out on a date. I fully understand we’re not back together but for my own sake, I need to know that I can trust others by trusting myself. If you were out on a date, would you tell me?

4. Follow with a forward-looking empathetic response

Listen to your ex’s response without interrupting, then after your ex is done taking, follow with a cooperative solution-oriented response, “I understand. I’ve made mistakes in the past and some of those mistakes may have caused you to feel that you could not tell me you were going out on a date. I am working on myself and knowing that you can be open and honest with me about things such as this will give me the opportunity to practice being more trusting of my own judgement and of others. As my friend, I may need your help from time to time. Will you help me?”

Most people are generally more comfortable talking freely when you are asking for their help other than accusing them; and when you’re focused on the solution rather than the problem. And most people approached this way will likely face up and admit that they did actually go out on a date and tell you why they felt the need to lie about it.

The cooperation-seeking approach may at first seem like you acted “weak”. But a forward-thinking, forward-looking, cooperative approach that does not compromise your values (openness, honesty and trust ) has tremendous advantages.

1. You’re being totally honest;

2. You’re non-threatening and non-confrontational;

3. You’re telling your ex that you want him or her not to lie to you again;

4. You’re telling your ex that you want him or her to know you are working on yourself and becoming a “new you” different from the person he or she broke up with and;

5. You got your ex to agree on something you can work on together as a team.

Cooperative team work is essential to getting your ex back because it is the glue that binds two people together.

This is just an example of cooperative solution-oriented things you can say. What’s important is that you phrase your cooperative solution-oriented questions and sentences in a way that suits your personality, but keeping it direct and assertive. If your ex senses fear in the form of passive aggressiveness, he or she’ll counter attack and force you to back off, and you’ll end up feeling petty, insecure and angry.

More about handling potentially explosive situations using a cooperative-seeking, forward-looking approach, including more examples can be found in my eBook, Dating Your Ex.

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5 Comments

  • Thank you very much for your answer..

    In fact, when I asked if this could change, I meant if it’s even possible for him to change his ‘viewing’ of this characteristic… (he didn’t want to say what it is but he mentioned he has this problem of expecting perfection),and not me to change it..I love myself as I am..

    Thanks again..I respect very much your knowledge and will to help..

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    • Again without knowing what the characteristic is, I don’t know if his “viewing” of it will change.

      Sometimes therapy helps, and sometimes it doesn’t.

      I don’t think willingness to “change” means you do not love yourself as you are/or love yourself any less. Most evolved people I know are constantly “changing”, getting rid of bad/old habits, beliefs, traits etc, and becoming the best of themselves.

      As a rule, I don’t work with clients who expect their ex to change. By focusing on their ex’s “problem” , they are telling me the situation is beyond help since there is nothing they or me can do to “change’ their ex (or anyone for that matter). To me they’re giving up without a fight, and if they do not want to fight for their relationship, I’m not going to waste my time either.

      It’s hard to help someone who is telling you there is nothing you can do to help. Since they know their relationships better, I actually believe them. I’m trusting like that… (:

      View Comment
  • My ex and I were in a relationship for three years. He broke up with me for some ‘not clear reason’.After the break up he was still very nice to me, showing he cares etc. I was confused but thought to give him time. Untill yesterday he told me there is some ‘physical trait’ that he disliked on me from the beginning and he went to the psychiatrist to fight that, he realizes it’s irrational problem of his.
    I m shocked.Can this be ever changed or..I’m obliged to move on?

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    • If it can be changed depends on what the “physical trait ” he disliked on you is.

      I can understand the shock of finding out he didn’t like something about you from the very beginning, and feeling like he lied to you. By not telling you before he broke up with you, he deprived you of the opportunity to change, that is if the “trait” can be changed.

      But I can also understand where he was coming from. He probably thought/hoped that he would be able to overcome his dislike of that particular “trait”, but found that he just couldn’t do it, and ended the relationship. He may not have told you earlier because he thought it’d hurt your feelings. It may explain why he was nice to you after breaking up with you (or he could just be one of those people who will not act mean or turn ugly just because a relationship ended).

      Should you move on because of this?

      That’s a decision only YOU can make.

      If you do decide to move on, I hope you see that he didn’t purposefully break-up with you to hurt you, but did what he felt was best in the situation. If you do decide to continue the relationship, I hope that the two of you can have a heart-to-heart talk about how you move forward knowing what you now know.

      All the best, either decision!

      View Comment

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