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Should You Write a Letter to Your Ex after a Breakup?

A good friend of mine just went through a rough breakup. We all know dating is hard at every step in the process. From finding dates and meeting new people, to the actual process of dating (choosing date spots, getting to know someone new, falling for them…), and then—if it doesn’t work out—the process of a breakup is of course never easy.

I’ve been through my fair share of heartbreak and gay breakups and have handled them in different ways. There’s a ton of advice on different coping mechanisms for handling a breakup, and one thing you’ll find on a lot of those lists (mine included) is that it can be helpful to write a letter to an ex.

But here’s the important step in the healing process. Should you *send* that letter to your ex? My thoughts on this have varied depending upon the relationship type, how difficult the breakup was, and what you might want or expect post-relationship, but generally, here’s my answer.

Yes, you should write a letter to your ex after a breakup.

But, NO, you definitely should not send that letter.

One of my most toxic exes, a musician (of course), once showed me all the letters he’d received from his previous relationships—lovelorn notes blaming him for whatever failings there were, wishful notes, admonitions of love. I think he showed me the letters to prove that he was lovable and capable of some kind of hopeless romanticism, but these were deeply personal letters—ones I should not have read or seen.

That’s why I feel like I can’t and shouldn’t send a letter to my ex. And that’s the relationship advice I gave to my friend, but did she take it? Of course not. And maybe it’ll work for her own personal healing process (she’s doing fine now), but I don’t think that’s always the case. Below, a letter I wrote to this friend to convince her not to write nor send a letter to her ex…

travel journal

Dear Friend,

I know that writing a letter to your ex after a breakup can be an emotionally charged and somewhat tricky endeavor. You might be feeling a whirlwind of emotions right now – anger, sadness, nostalgia, or maybe even a mix of all these feelings. It’s perfectly normal, and I’m here to offer you some friendly advice on how to go about it. You know I’ve had to deal with this recently.

  1. Take Your Time:
    Before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), take some time to reflect on your feelings. Give yourself the space to heal and gain some perspective. Rushing into writing a letter when emotions are still raw might not yield the best results.
  2. Be Honest with Yourself:
    Before you start drafting, ask yourself why you want to write this letter. Are you seeking closure, trying to rekindle the relationship, or simply looking to express your feelings? Be clear about your intentions, as this will guide the tone and content of your letter.
  3. Keep It Respectful:
    No matter what led to the breakup, it’s important to maintain respect in your letter. Avoid blaming, shaming, or using hurtful language. Remember, the goal is to express your feelings, not to hurt your ex.
  4. Express Your Feelings:
    In your letter, share how you feel. Use “I” statements to convey your emotions, such as “I felt hurt when…” or “I appreciate the time we spent together.” Expressing your feelings authentically can help your ex better understand your perspective.
  5. Avoid Accusations:
    It’s tempting to point fingers and place blame, but doing so won’t lead to productive communication. Instead of saying, “You always did this,” try to frame it as, “I felt this way when this happened.”
  6. Acknowledge Their Feelings:
    Remember that your ex might have their own emotions and experiences from the relationship and the breakup. Acknowledge their feelings and be empathetic. This can go a long way in creating a more positive and open dialogue.
  7. Keep It Concise:
    While it’s important to express your feelings, try to keep the letter concise. Long, rambling letters can be overwhelming and might not get the attention they deserve.
  8. Edit and Revise:
    After you’ve written your letter, take some time to review and revise it. Check for any harsh language, unnecessary details, or anything that doesn’t align with your intentions.
  9. Consider Not Sending It:
    After you’ve written the letter, consider whether you really want to send it. Sometimes, the act of writing it is enough to help you process your emotions. If you’re unsure, set it aside for a few days and revisit the idea of sending it later.
  10. Talk to me:
    Reach out to friends like me, or a therapist for more professional guidance and support, during your healing process. They can provide valuable insights and help you navigate your feelings.

Writing a letter to your ex can be a therapeutic way to express your emotions and find closure, but it might not always lead to the outcome you desire. The most important thing is that you take care of yourself and prioritize your own emotional well-being.

Wishing you strength and clarity as you embark on this journey of healing and self-discovery.

Take care,