You couldn't wait to announce your engagement to friends, family, and your social media network. But tell your ex? Now that's one talk you may not want to have. And while you may not have to spill the beans to a former flame, "telling an ex might be the most compassionate thing to do if you still have an ongoing friendship or even bump into one another cordially on a regular basis," says Kat Van Kirk, Ph.D., licensed marriage and sex therapist. Here, Van Kirk gives her best tips on how to navigate this tricky and uncomfortable conversation.
First, determine whether you have to tell him or her, she says. If you're still in contact with your ex — or his or her family members or mutual friends — you should "consider giving them the heads up on your pending nuptials," Van Kirk says. "But keep in mind you should use your judgment if you had a difficult break up or were married or engaged to them previously, as increased sensitivity may be required." If you suspect he or she would react in threatening way, avoid telling him or her and let the grapevine do its work.
You also need to "check your own motivations for telling your ex," she says, "to make sure it's not about your getting revenge or purposely hurting them in some way, and that it is to some benefit that your ex hear this from you." If your intentions are pure, "then you should proceed," says Van Kirk. "It needs to come from a place of integrity, compassion and need to know."
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Then, use the right form of communication to deliver the news. "Text messaging probably not the way to go," advises Van Kirk. "The rule seems to be the deeper the continued relationship, the more they deserve an in-person conversation." Another option, for an ex your haven't seen in some time, is email. "E-mail can be appropriate during certain circumstances as you may not seem them often or live in the same area anymore," Van Kirk says. "It does, at the very least, lend it self to further personalization."
Do you have an inkling your ex still harbors feelings for you? Then be prepared for a little backlash, Van Kirk warns. "Even exes who seemed to have handled a break up well may have a more negative reaction than you expect," she says. "This even goes for exes who broke up with you. Know that finding out an ex is marrying, even if it's been awhile since you've been together, can take some processing." So give them some space to react, she says. "Typically, exes will need time to assimilate this information and make sense of it," Van Kirk explains.
"Especially, if you know mutual friends and family members will be asking them about your pending nuptials."