I’ve spent the past year really concentrating on self-care. And not just the bubble baths and countryside walks kind – although definitely important in my opinion. The setting boundaries, making decisions that are healthy and not harmful, practicing a little self-love kind of meaningful mindfulness. As some describe it, I’ve been reclaiming (or establishing) a strong self-concept. But the return of the Ex always feel like the ultimate test to that kind of inner soul work.

They seem to pop up out of nowhere when you least expect with a nonchalant, “Hey, how are you?.” As if the months or years in between the last conversation and now were only a matter of days, and nothing of note happened in the middle. A million different thoughts and feelings come crashing down at once and it has sometimes, sent me into a bit of spiral. So being honest, I’ll admit I’ve been down that road in the past. My ability to uphold my morals in these situations have, I’m ashamed to say, not always been as strong as I’d have liked. Because I’ve always thought they came back for a reason; because of regret, missing me or realizing a mistake.

Do all the Exes eventually come back?

In the past seven years, a total of four Exes have knocked on my proverbial (and actually once, quite literal) door. So is this what dating is nowadays? Date. Breakup. Heal. Throw a message out there months later and see if someone responds. Become either FWB, annual hook ups, a situationship for a period of time. Someone to bunk down with over the winter, or just the weird occasionally send some messages and nothing more type situation?. Because it does feel like a modern dating norm.

But recently, when an Ex did this exact thing …. again, something of importance had occurred. I’d started normalizing thinking highly of myself.

I’m over the ‘return of the Ex’ trend

I know enough now to know that it leads nowhere good. That allowing a repeat isn’t growth or any form of self-care, it’s like self-harm. That there’s sometimes something a little egotistical about it for them – like the one who didn’t like the way he broke up with me, in so much as the fact I didn’t cry when he did. So he came back just to check if I actually really liked him at all (I had, I just didn’t see what crying my eyes out in front of him would have achieved).

Or it’s a want of a friends with benefits scenario – which then once for me became a ‘situationship’ style of relationship, and I fucking hate those. Be something or nothing, don’t be that weird shit in the middle.

Sometimes, I think they break up with someone else, get lonely and go into that instant cycle of ‘who’s next, who can keep me company for a little while’ and fall into the pattern of reaching out to an EX.

Every time. Every, single, time. It’s not about me at all.

The logic of the Ex-returning, baffles me

Sure, I have a range of crazy theories (like those above) all of which I’ve experienced. But whether I’m right or wrong on the actual reasons, there is something I have realized: I don’t need to know the reasons for the actions. Because the action, is never about me. It’s categorically always about them. Whether they need to connect with someone, easily. Or they want sex, casually. A relationship, short term to get over another breakup. Whatever the reason, it’s never, ever, ever about me. So if I’m practising a little self-care, because how is entertaining an Ex whose return has zero to do with my wants or needs, helping build my self-concept?

About a year ago, I just stopped entertaining it

I decided I wanted to halt this fucking weird cycle of Exes making a comeback, because it had become a repeated pattern that really wasn’t fun at all. The whole thinking that an Ex messaging meant something, when it always meant nothing – nothing but another chance to break you a little more or just leave you dazed and confused. And it always undid any kind of healing, made my boundaries and morals feel weak and hollow in the face of an actual challenge to them. I was just left with shame and anger that I’d allowed myself to go through the whole thing, again. So this is where I’m at now …

If I had to heal from you, I’m absolutely not letting you back into my space

Past me made those mistakes, pre the ‘self-love and care’ upgrade. But she has reclaimed herself with a little self-concept reorganization. The only thing your return is making me feel now is disappointment: Disappointment that I’ve allowed it in the past. Disappointment that you think I’m the same. Disappointment that you have not learned yet that your self-serving actions are wrong and you think that I’m still in that place to accept it. This is your lesson; I’m not. Don’t message with expectation of a reply, I am not at the other end like I used to be. Because If I had to heal from you, I’m absolutely not letting you back into my space.

You taught me that some people aren’t for me

That a break up is not a rejection, it’s just an ending. And that an end is not always an ending, it is also a beginning. And in my solitude I learned to love myself more than I ever had and more than anyone else ever could. Your absence has been a blessing and I treasure that I’ve finally realized how important I am. And this place I’m in doesn’t allow for repetition of experiences I know to have been poor or painful.

I will no longer lower my boundaries to accommodate disrespect and I will not adjust my standards to accept subpar energy. I refuse to have healed, only to allow you back into my space to undo any of that to serve your own agenda that has absolutely nothing to do with me. This is something I will not tolerate nor deserve. So if I had to heal from you, I’m absolutely not letting you back into my space.

I am going no other way than forwards

You are a part of my past not my future and so you have no space in my present. This is what self-love looks like. This is me, loving myself enough now to know when something isn’t good for me. I absolutely must and will choose myself from now on. First and foremost. Without doubt or hesitation.

I’m normalizing thinking highly of myself. Because I am worth more than unrequited energy that won’t be fulfilling. And holding space for you when you won’t do the same isn’t something I want in my life. You needing an ego boost, or to feel wanted by someone, is not my purpose for you. My purpose is to make myself happy and make decisions that benefit that. An Ex from the past, is not the way forward. If I had to heal from you, I’m absolutely not letting you back into my space.

It took until my mid-30s and a handful of Exes to realize how important I am

Dating didn’t help, it’s the toughest challenge to any kind of self-care and the biggest way my self-concept got torn down. I will never understand the logic in why the Ex makes a return, nor do I care anymore. The reasons why they message, what they miss, the mistakes they made, whether they are using me or want me, I don’t care. I’ve seen and heard what feels like it all. But I healed and moved on. I suggest they do the same.

How do you deal with the return of the Ex?

By Amy Roullier
By Amy Roullier

Amy is the Founder and Editor of The Authentic Optimist. She talks all things life. From the highs to the lows, to all those messy bits in-between. She is a writer, rambler, lover of carbs (her true soulmate) and she is especially passionate about dispelling myths about women in their 30s. Amy lives in Lincolnshire with her two greyhounds.