How to Tell Your Ex You're Engaged: Tips For a Tough Conversation
Becoming engaged is a monumental life change. In its essence, it signifies taking your relationship to the most serious level: marriage. While making this move is undoubtedly exciting, it can conjure up some complications, especially if you have an ex-partner who is either still in your life or someone who still means a lot to you.
Even if you've broken up quite some time ago, the relationship that you might have had with an ex might still hold some meaning for you—or perhaps just one of you. So when you become engaged to someone else, tensions may rise, especially when your ex learns of your new permanent relationship status. For this reason, you might be searching for the right words to say or even just how to tell your ex you're engaged in general. Because this topic of conversation can be complicated, we reached out to relationship experts to get the scoop on how to tell your ex you're engaged to someone else the right way.
In this article:
Should You Tell Your Ex You're Engaged?
First thing first: It's a good idea to figure out whether you should even tell your ex about your newly-engaged status. There are some reasons to tell your ex you're engaged, especially if you have children together. If this is the case, remember that it can be very difficult for your ex-spouse to hear, knowing that someone else will be contributing to parenting your children. "Be aware that you can't control how your ex is going to respond, so stay regulated and kind, hopefully they can do the same," says Evie Shafner, Los Angeles-based L.M.F.T.
If you and your ex have maintained a friendship since your breakup, you may also want to tell them you're engaged out of respect. "If you feel like your ex reading about your engagement on Instagram would be a knife in the heart, or if you share friends, and they would hear it from them would be equally hurtful," Shafner says. "Even if it's hard for them to hear it from you, it could be the kinder cut of all, so to speak, especially if there was a lot of pain in the break-up, and/or if it wasn't mutual (you left them)."
How To Tell Your Ex You're Engaged
Actually telling your ex that you're engaged is the hard part. As you go about it, keep the advice of these experts in mind.
Ask if it's a good time to talk.
Before you blurt out news of your engagement, ask them if it's a good time to talk or catch up. "So often when we make a phone call, we do so at a time that works best for us, but just because someone answers a call doesn't mean they're ready to engage in a potentially complicated conversation or receive the news," says Teplin. "By asking if the moment you call is a good time to talk you're enabling the individual to prioritize their needs and comfort levels."
State a clear purpose for telling them.
It's a good idea to lead with the reason you're choosing to tell them yourself. "Without giving this clear purpose, it can cause some to fill in the blank with their own purpose, which may not be accurate," says Shemiah Derrick, L.P.C., relationship therapist and author of The Words Between Us Couples Journals. "If you just want them to know and hear it from you directly, state that to prevent it feeling like a romantic comedy plea to rekindle something that's not there," she says.
Be respectful and considerate.
Sameera Sullivan, relationship expert and matchmaker, recommends approaching the conversation with kindness and empathy, acknowledging the potential impact the news may have on your ex. "Be prepared to listen to their feelings and provide reassurance if needed," she says.
Keep it short and sweet.
"You don't want to treat them like a victim who can't handle the news and you feel terrible telling them, but rather that the information is coming from the place of 'I felt our time together warranted that I be the one to tell you,'" says Shafner. "If your ex hasn't moved on, you can have compassion about that; and sometimes a loving conversation with sincere apologies can help, but remember: it's not your job to feel guilty and try to fix them."
Teplin recommends maintaining positivity by using the sandwich technique: say two positive statements in between a potentially challenging statement. "For example, 'Hey [insert name] I hope you're doing well and enjoying your summer. I wanted you to hear it from me first that I'm engaged!! Wanted to make sure you heard it from me rather than [insert mutual friend],'" she says. "By sandwiching your big news that may spark a reaction within two positive or neutral statements you're enabling the reader to digest the information through a more positive or supportive lens."
When Not To Tell Your Ex You're Engaged
In some circumstances, there is truly no need to tell your ex you're engaged. For example, if the relationship ended poorly or if there was any abuse throughout your time together (physical or emotional), you don't need to tell your ex you're engaged, according to Jennifer Silvershein Teplin, L.C.S.W., founder and clinical director of Manhattan Wellness. "You want to make sure that you're not bringing up the potential for an unhealthy pattern to spark back up in your life during an exciting time," she says.
Also, if your ex is not an active part of your current life, there's no need to tell them you're engaged. "It may also be important to not to share this information in situations in which the relationship ended in a contentious manner or if the former relationship was toxic (including, but not limited to emotional or physical abuse)," says Marisa Cohen, Ph.D., M.F.T., relationship researcher, psychology professor and therapist.
Remember that you have no obligation to share the news of your engagement with an ex, and this is especially true if they are not an active part of your current life, notes Dr. Cohen. "It may also be important to not to share this information in situations in which the relationship ended in a contentious manner or if the former relationship was toxic (including, but not limited to emotional or physical abuse)," she adds. "If you have a boundary that excludes contact with your ex, it is important to maintain it."
At the end of the day, you really have to go by your gut. If you feel that your personal circumstance or past relationship with this person warrants your telling them about your engagement, then that's probably the right decision for you. It's a good idea to fill your future spouse in no matter what you decide so that they don't feel uncomfortable or slighted in any way by your decision.