Over the past few months, I’ve found that quite a few readers have felt stuck on a particular dilemma: Whether or not to reach out to an ex on their birthday or for occasions such as Christmas or anniversaries. Should I wish my ex happy Christmas/Holidays? Should I break No Contact and say happy birthday? Do you send a text? A card? A gift? Show up in a fur coat and no knickers?

Let’s cut straight to the chase.

Are you true friends?
Do you have an ulterior motive for reaching out to your ex?

If it’s no for the first and yes for the latter, halt. Do nothing.

With birthdays being the major source of angst, I’ve got four words for you: It’s not your birthday.

Like your average healthy relationship, a genuinely mutually fulfilling friendship doesn’t require pulling teeth or angst. You don’t have to keep trying to force the fact that you’re friends. There isn’t a need to keep reminding them to stop trying to get into your pants or screw you over. You don’t agonise about calling, meeting up, or sending a greeting card. Why? Because you’re friends.

This means that alarm bells should ring when you’re sat at home burning up copious amounts of brain energy over what to do.

For example: “It’s Phil’s birthday next week. I wonder if I should send a text or card? Or maybe I should give him that gift I was originally going to give him before the bastard finished it with me… But will he expect to hear from me? Or will he think it’s weird if he doesn’t hear from me? I’ve been trying to get him to meet up with me or at least talk, so maybe if I send him a message…

Hmmm, I still don’t know if I should just send a text or whether I should go for the full-on card? He’ll see that I’m thinking of him and finally respond. Ugh, what if he responds and asks me to meet up and we end up back in bed together? Or, jaysus, what if he completely blanks my message? Mortification! Ack, I don’t know what to do. I feel like I should send a message to show that I still care. I also don’t want him to think that I’m childish…”

This.is.too.much. Expending copious amounts of emotional, mental, physical and spiritual energy is a sign that you’re riding a train of thought that’s going to lead to pain and problems.

It’s a sign that you’re looking for an excuse to get noticed by someone who isn’t noticing you in the way that you want.

If you have to put this much effort into sending a greeting card or going for the low energy option of sending a text or posting to their Facebook page, halt. This is a sign that you shouldn’t be doing it. It’s not natural. It’s not you.

What’s downright scary is that often the person you’re expending effort on doesn’t reciprocate. One woman who’d spent a month trying to work out what card and gift to send had never had a gift from her ex during their four-year relationship! And so many people worry about this reaching out malarkey and yet, they’re not on speaking terms with the person and are often No Contact (NC)!

If you’re No Contact or basically aren’t on good terms, why are you sending a greeting? Doesn’t this defeat the purpose? Surely reaching out when you’re No Contact or this person is a source of pain sends mixed/conflicting messages?

When you dig deep (or maybe not that deep for some of you), the truth is that when you invest energy into 1) fretting about whether to send a greeting and 2) actually sending a greeting to someone who isn’t your friend/didn’t treat you well in the relationship, you’re far too worried about how you look. You’re trying to be The Good Girl/Guy.

In reality, when all is said and done, and you’re on your deathbed or have passed on, nothing and no one is going to come along with a printout of all the brownie points you’ve clocked up through life by doing things that are not actually in your best interests. You’re not going to hear “You’ve done so much good. According to my notes, back in October 2011, you sent a text to one jackass ex to wish them a happy birthday. In fact, as I flick through my log, I see that you’ve been such a good person. You always let people that may not have been thinking of you know that at least you’re thinking of them with a host of greeting cards, gifts, thoughtful texts, and a whole heap of boundary-busting.”

When you break, you break. This is not to say that exes don’t send each other greetings on big occasions but they fall into two categories:

1) They really are genuine friends

2) They use the opportunity to re-open the proverbial door, gain attention and even a shag, money etc.

If you’re contemplating sending a greeting to an ex that you’re not actually friends with, you fall into category #2. You are using an occasion no matter how flimsy, to send a white flag. Or more than likely, it’s a “Hey! Look at me I’m still here!” It might take the form of “Surely you can’t dare to ignore me now that I’ve sent you this card/message/gift and you’ll have to contact me now?” Or sometimes you’re shouting “I still want your arse!” loud and clear.

Be mindful in times of [their] crisis

Birthdays and occasions like Christmas/The Holidays aren’t the only sources of angst, though. Checking your motives when you’re tempted to reach out in response to negative events is vital. It’s one thing if you’re showing genuine concern. For example, “Just wanted to say that I’m sorry to hear about the floods and that I hope you and your family are OK. Take care.” But that’s incredibly different to when you reach out because you’re worried about whether they’re wondering why they haven’t heard from you.

Hard as it may be to hear, it’s not about you! If they’ve had a flood, the house is burning down, or whatever, they’re not burning up brain power wondering why someone who’s been No Contact with them for some time and that they may have in fact treated poorly hasn’t been in touch. That is unless it’s to think “Wow! It turns out they’re not as much of a compassionate doormat as I thought!”

Don’t be disruptive.

A few of exes tried to drop a contact bomb in on a big occasion. They either ended up taking over with their attention seeking or I ruined my day investing energy into their ‘effort’.

You can’t just carry on as if nothing has happened. Hard as this may be to hear, they may have someone in their life. Do you really want to be a conversation piece or a source of friction? Or maybe you do. If, for example, they used to cheat on their current or ex-partner with you, your contact is likely to be read as an attempt to test the waters for rekindling the affair.

Hold that gift.

Don’t buy it. Save your money, spend it on yourself, but do not buy a gift. It will cause you a great deal of disappointment and hurt when you come crashing back down to earth. It’s like trying to continue the relationship on an alternate universe. You go into this whole fantasy thing where you imagine how they’re going to react to your gift, how it will affect their thoughts and feelings about you. They’re actual reaction, that’s if they react at all, might be pretty awkward. It’s possible that they’ll be weirded out. And if they’re shady, the gift might be read as confirmation that they can mistreat you. Why? Because you’re trying to please them.

The thing that brings people back to earth about the dilemma of whether to reach out to an ex on their birthday or at Christmas, etc, is boundaries.

Whether it’s your boundaries or theirs, you sending that text, card, gift or whatever to your, might cross boundaries.

If you reaching out to an ex means that you ignore or flat-out disrespect your needs, expectations, desires, feelings and opinions, halt.

If you reaching out to an ex means that you’re busting theirs or their partner’s/friend’s/family’s boundaries, leave it be.

Don’t give to receive because that type of giving isn’t wholehearted. It has hidden expectations and may even be an attempt at guilting them into responding. Particularly on birthdays, which are a personal day, don’t turn it into an opportunity to get your foot through the door or to soothe your ego.

And if it’s them sending a greeting to you and you’re not on good terms, respond after the occasion has passed if you feel like it. There’s no fire!

So, when it comes to contacting an ex on their birthday or to wish them, for example, a happy Christmas, be honest about whether you’re friends. Be honest with yourself about whether you’re over them. Know your intentions.

When there’s true friendship and/or you’ve let go of the relationship and the pain, fear and guilt around it, you’re not going to use a text, card or whatever to gain attention. There’s no investment in a particular outcome. It won’t matter whether they respond or not because you’re being friendly without expectation.

If that doesn’t sound like you, don’t send the greeting. Or go and post on their Facebook page like every other Tom, Dick and Harry does/will. Just like when I’ve said “It’s just cake”, it’s just a greeting, and they don’t owe you a debriefing or excessive amount of acknowledgement. If you wouldn’t send this message on any other day, be real with yourself – you’re just seizing on an opportunity. Let it be.

Your thoughts?

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