Should I Wait For My Ex and For How Long?

Question: My ex and I broke up because he was not happy with his life and needed to work on himself. We maintained contact and it’s been 50-50 initiating and also initiating dates. He has been open with me and has told me he is seeing a counselor for some anxiety related issues, has a new job and is working out. I am happy for him, but at the same time worried that since we’ve been broken up for almost a year, we might be falling into a friend-zone. Don’t get me wrong, I support him and all but for how long do I have to wait for him to work on himself? Thanks you.

Yangki’s Answer: I applaud your ex for realizing that he needs to work on himself and for not going NC while he does it. However, from years of experience helping people get back their ex, “I’m working on myself” though it sounds reasonably impressive isn’t always what is seems to be.

Some exes use “I’m working on myself” when 1) they want to keep you as “just a friend” and fear losing you if they let you in on their “agenda” or 2) don’t want to hurt your feelings by telling you “we will never get back together” or 3) if you’re having ex-sex, want the sex but not you. In these situations “I’m working on myself” is just an excuse, after all you can’t fault someone for wanting to improve him/herself or for wanting to be healthier/happier.

I am not saying this is the case with your ex, I’m letting you know that these words mean different things in different situations. The other thing with this is that it is hard to tell when someone will feel that there is enough work done because it is a continuous process.

Based on my experience with many of my clients, if you push and try to get him into a relationship before he feels ready, he’ll convince himself that you are the “wrong” person for him because you are putting you and your agenda before him and his agenda.

Use the contact space to keep yourself updated on what is happening in his life. But in addition, try to subtly find out if there is really a place for you in his “new life” after he’s worked on himself. One thing you can try is next time he talks about the “improvements” in his life, ask him “Is there any way I can be of help/support” (for whatever it is he is talking about).  If he dismisses your “offer”, that’s not a good sign. If however, he is happy “including you” in whatever he is working on, it means he still wants you to be a major player in his life. Go out of your way to be of help/support thereby creating a place for yourself in the “new life” he is creating for himself.

It’s important that you train yourself to relax, have your own independent life and concentrate on building a better and stronger relationship, and when it’s time you will know by the way you do things with each other. Something will be different. It could be that you’ll just see a look, a change in how much time you spend together, the hints your ex is giving about the possibility, etc. It could be anything that makes you think and feel that you haven’t felt or been that way with each other since the break-up (or ever before).

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  1. says: Emily

    I have changed so much since we broke up 6 months ago. I feel that I am exactly what my is looking for, but I think its too late.

  2. says: rlerner

    I have tried for nearly a month to get him back, however he told me last Mon that he simply does not love me anymore. That he feels nothing for me and is happy without me in his life. I called him Sun and he won’t take my call. How can you get back the affections of a man who is absolutely happy you are not in his life anymore?

    1. From what you wrote, it seems that something really terrible happened for him to say he is happy without you in his life. Without knowing what it is, I can’t say for sure you can get him back. There has to be some kind of positive emotional connection (however small) left for you to build on. In this case it seems there is none.

  3. says: Vinnie

    Broke up with ex march, cut contact with her for 2 months, made contact, chatted for 2 weeks, asked her if she wanted to hang out, she said no. I left her alone for another 1 month, made contact but no response. Contacted her after 5 weeks coz it was her birthday. Simple birthday card and got thank you back. Sent her a text but no reply. I think that shes not ready to talk to me now and it’s best to leave her alone for may be another 1 month then attempt to open lines of communication again. What do you think, love doctor?

    1. I think that doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is insane. In other words, whether you leave her alone for 1 month, or 1 year, is not going to change anything!

      Why? Because people don’t fall in love with you because you “leave them alone”. People fall in love because of how you make them FEEL.

  4. says: Hannah

    Yangki, I’ve learned a lot from your articles and books about loving without expectations or assumptions. I don’t know if it’s too late fro me and my ex though.

    1. I don’t have any background to your relationship, so I don’t know if it’s too late for you. What I do know is that sometimes just changing how we love, changes how we are loved.

      If you are still in contact and he/she is responding, just keep loving openly and honestly, without expectations or assumptions and see what happens. May be that’s just exactly the new change in you that’ll get your ex to think things can be different — and better.

  5. says: Pete

    We were broken up for almost 4 months. I dated a few women but the more women I dated the more I realized I was comparing them all to her. Nobody was good enough. Eventually I contacted her but it took another 2 months and a few texts before she finally responded. We now communicate 3 – 4 times a week but we do not talk about the relationship or about “us”, because I am so afraid to “mess up”. It’s hard because I want to tell her I love her and want her back. I wonder if you have any suggestions for me.

    1. You are right to be afraid. Talking about the “old relationship” does bring back some unwanted emotions and feelings from the past to the present. But that doesn’t not mean you should never talk about the “old” relationship or about “us”. It’s all about timing. My advice is always not to start talking about the “old” relationship or about “us” until you are somewhat sure that the “new relationship” has taken root. That way the “unwanted emotions” from the “old” relationship when they do come up pale in comparison to the new feelings brought about by the “new” relationship.