By Rebecca Deczynski
When the holiday season comes around, it’s pretty natural to feel nostalgic, especially if you’re heading home to celebrate. Being surrounded by family and friends in an intimately familiar environment is bound to stir up some old feelings (or even boredom), and that may lead you to wonder if it’s worth reaching out to an old flame who just so happens to be back in town, too.
Reconnecting with a former fling is a deeply personal decision, and so much of that choice depends on your circumstances. There are many reasons why you may want to see someone you previously had a romantic or physical relationship with; maybe you’re unsatisfied with the way things ended, or you’re interested in pursuing the relationship again. Or perhaps you just want to hang out and catch up, or want to casually hook up. It can be an emotional decision, though. Here’s what experts say about what to consider before reaching out to an old fling over the holidays, and how best to go about it.
Understand why things ended
The first thing to consider is why you and your ex-flame parted ways in the first place. It may be you ended things for totally benign reasons, like communication was lacking or the circumstances of both people didn’t fully align (for instance, maybe a casual hookup ended just because you went off to college). In these cases, there can be potential to create a new dynamic, says relationship coach Silvy Khoucasian. Or, you can continue your old patterns, if that’s what you’re after.
But not every spark is worth rekindling: If a relationship involved any kind of abuse or a serious betrayal (especially one that went without an apology), it’s best to leave the relationship in the past. The same goes if your breakup wounds are still fresh, as you might not be able to look at the relationship objectively. Meeting up with your ex could lead to more confusion and hurt.
Consider why you want to reconnect
The holidays can stir up lots of feelings, so before reaching out it’s helpful to really think about why you want to reconnect. Therapist and dating coach Bree Jenkins gives the green light on reconnecting with a former fling because you’ve thought about the relationship and are interested in reconciling, reconnecting, or simply catching up. If you’re interested in reconnecting with a former hookup with the aim of getting physical, that’s totally fine, too, adds Khoucasian. Just be sure your intentions and boundaries are clear. It is, however, important to consider how you might feel if you have to separate again when the holidays are over—if reuniting will make parting again more painful, then reaching out may not be in your best interest.
You may also want to see a former fling during the holidays if you’re looking for a break from your family while you’re home. But Jenkins also adds that your reasons behind reaching out “shouldn’t be because of a lack of other options, and it definitely shouldn’t be about other people’s thoughts on your singlehood.” Those reasons can bring unnecessary and unhelpful pressure, and they may cloud your judgment about whether or not a former flame is really worth rekindling. If you feel like you’re not quite sure why you’re feeling the urge to reconnect with a former fling, it can be helpful to journal your thoughts or talk with a trusted friend.
Reach out to test the waters
If you’re interested in reconnecting, a simple text can go a long way. “You want to just get the ball rolling and see how the other person responds,” says relationship coach Natalia Juarez. Ask your former fling if they’d like to catch up with a low-stakes activity, like lunch or coffee. Your message can be brief—no need to spill all your feelings over text—but it’s a good idea to be upfront and direct, adds Jenkins. She adds that it’s perfectly fine to tell your ex that you miss them and to say that you’ve been reflecting on your relationship.
And if you’re interested in seeing a former friend with benefits, you can send them a direct text asking if they want to get together while you’re home. But be sure to manage your expectations: For whatever reason, a former fling may not be interested in reconnecting, and since you’ll only be home for the holidays for so long, things just might not work out.
Be clear and kind
No matter what you’re looking for—a hookup, closure, or just a chance to hang out—it’s a good idea to be clear with the other person about what you want, if and when you do reconnect. If you’re reconnecting with a hookup, it’s wise to have a conversation about boundaries, sexual health, and feelings (which can always arise, even if you don’t expect them to). “Just because you’re not in a committed relationship with someone doesn’t mean that you’re not in a relationship with them,” says Khoucasian. “Being kind, respectful, and honest will always be extremely important.”
If you’re the one reaching out to an ex, you’ve put a lot of thought into your relationship—so the other person will also need some time to think and reflect. Understand that if you do want to meet up with an ex, that doesn’t mean that they’ll want to see you or even be able to see you. And that’s totally fine! “Dating and love requires a sense of resiliency,” Juarez says. “But you have to just put yourself out there.” Remember, if a former fling can’t see you, it might not even be about you! The holidays are a busy time for many people, and sometimes, they just don’t have time to see people outside of their family.
Reaching out to a former fling over the holidays may not lead to an ongoing connection, whether it’s emotional or more purely physical, but it can open the door for a temporary reunion. Whatever happens, it takes a lot of bravery to put yourself back out there and to be upfront about what you want, and that’s something to be proud of.