35 Ideas on What to Say to an Ex Who Hurt You

Breakups are never easy, and dealing with the aftermath can be an emotional minefield, especially if the relationship ended on bad terms.

Written by Kate Holmsy. Updated on 35 Ideas on What to Say to an Ex Who Hurt You

We’ve all been there. Breakups are never easy, and dealing with the aftermath can be an emotional minefield, especially if the relationship ended on bad terms. For many, the real challenge starts when an ex who hurt you reaches out or you bump into them unexpectedly.

How do you respond? What do you say?

It’s a moment that can leave you feeling vulnerable, angry, sad, or a mix of all these emotions. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you navigate this tricky terrain.

Drawing from various research and expert opinions, this article will offer you 35 different ideas on what to say to an ex who hurt you.

Whether you want to keep the peace, express your feelings, or simply move on, we’ve got something for everyone. Let’s dive in.

1: Understanding Your Feelings

Before you decide what to say, it’s essential to understand your emotions and what you really want from the conversation. Here’s a closer look at how to handle different feelings:

  • Anger: It’s normal to feel angry after a breakup, especially if you were wronged. Channeling this anger into a constructive conversation can be challenging, but it’s possible. Focus on what you need to say and avoid attacking or blaming.
  • Sadness: If you’re feeling sad, it’s vital to express these emotions honestly. Let your ex know how you feel without getting overly emotional.
  • Confusion: Breakups often leave us confused and questioning what went wrong. If this is the case, you might want to ask for clarity without expecting an immediate solution.
  • Research into emotional intelligence shows that understanding and expressing our emotions can lead to more satisfying interactions.

2: Keeping It Civil

If you aim to keep things civil and foster a respectful conversation, these strategies will help:

  • Stay Calm: Maintain your composure, speak clearly, and avoid escalating the conversation.
  • Choose Your Words Wisely: Aim for words that reflect how you feel without attacking or demeaning your ex.
  • Set Boundaries: Make it clear what you’re comfortable discussing and what topics are off-limits.

Several studies affirm the importance of civility and empathy in interpersonal relationships, even in challenging conversations.

Strategy Pros Cons
Staying Calm Eases tension Difficult to maintain
Choosing Words Wisely Fosters respect Requires thought and care
Setting Boundaries Protects your feelings May be seen as limiting

3: Moving On

Moving on is the ultimate goal, and these tips might help you find closure:

  • Express Yourself: Share what you feel and what you’ve learned from the relationship.
  • Focus on the Future: Shift the conversation towards your life now and what you’re looking forward to.
  • Know When to Walk Away: If the conversation isn’t productive or becomes toxic, it’s okay to end it.
  • Moving on can be a complex process, but studies have shown that focusing on the future and self-growth can ease the transition.
3 Moving On
EdZbarzhyvetsky via vistacreate

4: Seeking Closure

Seeking closure is an essential step in healing and moving on from a painful breakup. Here are some ways to approach this delicate topic:

  • Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage a conversation that allows both parties to express themselves.
  • Share Your Perspective: Explain how the breakup affected you without blaming or attacking.
  • Agree to Disagree: If a consensus can’t be reached, it’s okay to agree to disagree and close that chapter.

Research indicates that closure plays a significant role in emotional healing after a breakup, but it’s a process that varies greatly among individuals.

Strategy Pros Cons
Open-Ended Questions Facilitates dialogue May lead to disagreements
Sharing Perspective Promotes understanding Could become emotional
Agree to Disagree Ends discussion amicably Might feel unsatisfying

5: Responding to Provocation

Unfortunately, not all conversations with an ex will be calm or respectful. If you find yourself faced with provocation, these strategies might help:

  • Stay Grounded: Focus on your breath, and remind yourself of your purpose in the conversation.
  • Use “I” Statements: Frame your responses using “I feel” or “I think,” which can prevent the conversation from becoming an attack.
  • Seek Professional Help if Needed: If the situation escalates and becomes abusive, don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance.

A study by the American Psychological Association emphasizes the importance of communication techniques to defuse potentially explosive interactions.

6: Embracing Growth and Self-Compassion

Beyond the hurt and anger, there’s an opportunity to grow and learn from the past relationship. Here’s how you can embrace this:

  • Reflect on the Lessons Learned: Think about what the relationship taught you and how you can use those insights in the future.
  • Emphasize Self-Compassion: Recognize that it’s okay to feel hurt and that healing takes time.
  • Invest in Yourself: Use this time to focus on personal growth and self-improvement.

Engaging in self-reflection and self-compassion has been linked to increased well-being and resilience in the face of adversity, according to multiple studies.

Strategy Pros Cons
Reflecting on Lessons Encourages growth May be painful to recall
Emphasizing Self-Compassion Promotes healing Requires patience and time
Investing in Yourself Boosts confidence Might require effort and resources

7: The Importance of Timing

Timing can be a crucial factor when engaging with an ex who hurt you. Here’s how to consider the role of timing in such a conversation:

  • Assess Your Readiness: Ensure that you feel emotionally ready to have the conversation. If it feels too soon, it’s okay to wait.
  • Choose the Right Moment: Opt for a time when both parties can focus on the conversation without unnecessary distractions.
  • Recognize When It’s Too Late: If time has passed and you’ve moved on, evaluate if the conversation is still necessary or beneficial.

Various psychological studies have emphasized the importance of timing in communication, especially in emotionally charged situations.

8: Utilizing Support Systems

Don’t overlook the power of a support system when dealing with a past relationship. Here’s how to make the most of those around you:

  • Consult with Friends: Sometimes, friends can provide perspective and support that helps you decide what to say.
  • Consider Professional Guidance: A therapist or counselor can provide expert insight tailored to your situation.
  • After the Conversation, Reflect with Support: Debriefing with a trusted friend or professional can help you process what happened.

The positive impact of social support on mental health is well documented in psychological research.

Strategy Pros Cons
Consult with Friends Free and friendly advice Bias might be present
Consider Professional Guidance Expert opinion May require time/money
Reflect with Support Aids in processing Requires openness
8 Utilizing Support Systems
IgorVetushko via vistacreate

9: Taking Care of Yourself

Self-care is an essential aspect of handling any emotional situation, including a conversation with an ex who hurt you. Here are some self-care strategies:

  1. Prioritize Your Emotional Well-Being: Make your feelings and mental health a priority before, during, and after the conversation.
  2. Engage in Activities You Enjoy: Spend time doing things you love to lift your mood.
  3. Consider a Break from Social Media: Taking a temporary break from social media may reduce stress and anxiety.

The role of self-care in maintaining mental well-being is widely recognized by mental health professionals.

9 Taking Care of Yourself
IgorVetushko via vistacreate

10: Embracing Forgiveness and Letting Go

Forgiveness isn’t about condoning or forgetting what happened, but rather a conscious choice to release resentment and find peace. Here’s how to explore this path:

  • Understand What Forgiveness Means to You: It’s a personal journey, and what it means to you might differ from others.
  • Consider If and When to Forgive: Forgiveness doesn’t have to be immediate. You can take your time to decide when or if it’s right for you.
  • Express Forgiveness If You Choose: If you decide to forgive, you can express it directly to your ex or keep it private as a personal act of healing.

The power of forgiveness in healing and personal growth has been the subject of extensive psychological research.

11: Creating Boundaries for Future Interactions

If future interactions with your ex are likely, establishing clear boundaries can make those encounters more manageable. Here’s how to set those boundaries:

  • Define Your Boundaries: Clearly identify what you’re comfortable with in terms of communication, social interactions, and shared responsibilities (if any).
  • Сommunicate Your Boundaries Clearly: Be transparent and direct about what you need from your ex in future interactions.
  • old Firm to Your Boundaries: Don’t be afraid to reinforce your boundaries if they are not respected.

Boundary-setting is a fundamental aspect of healthy relationships and personal well-being, as supported by multiple studies.

12: Rebuilding Trust in Yourself and Others

After a hurtful breakup, rebuilding trust can be a slow and challenging process, but it’s essential for future relationships. Here’s how to approach it:

  • Work on Self-Trust First: Focus on rebuilding trust in yourself, recognizing your value, and trusting your judgment.
  • Take Baby Steps with Others: Slowly rebuild trust with others by starting with small commitments and gradually building up.
  • Learn from the Past: Reflect on what went wrong and use those lessons to inform how you approach trust in the future.

The process of rebuilding trust has been a vital area of study in psychology, and experts emphasize its importance in personal growth and relationship development

Strategy Pros Cons
Work on Self-Trust First Builds inner strength Can be a slow process
Take Baby Steps with Others Gradual and controlled Requires patience
Learn from the Past Informs future relationships May bring up painful memories

13: Moving On While Honoring the Past

Moving on doesn’t mean erasing the past; it means learning from it and taking those lessons into your future. Here’s how to achieve this delicate balance:

  • Recognize the Positive Aspects: Even painful relationships may have had positive aspects; acknowledge them without romanticizing the past.
  • Learn from the Mistakes: Reflect on what went wrong and commit to avoiding those mistakes in the future.
  • Focus on the Present and Future: Concentrate on what you can control now and plan for the future.

*Psychological research on resilience emphasizes the importance of learning from past experiences while focusing on the present and future.

13 Moving On While Honoring the Past
IgorVetushko via vistacreate

14: Connecting with Others

After a breakup, reconnecting with others can be a powerful way to heal and grow. Here’s how to foster new connections:

  • Rekindle Old Friendships: Reach out to friends you may have lost touch with.
  • Explore New Hobbies: Join clubs or groups that align with your interests.
  • Consider Professional Networking: Engaging in professional networking can be a productive way to expand your connections.

Studies have shown the importance of social connections in enhancing overall well-being and happiness.

15: Navigating Social Media Post-Breakup

Social media can add an extra layer of complexity to a breakup. Here’s how to navigate this:

  • Consider a Temporary Break: A brief hiatus from social media may help in healing.
  • Adjust Privacy Settings: Control who can see your posts and what you can see.
  • Avoid Impulsive Posts: Think twice before posting something you might later regret.

Social media’s impact on emotional well-being during breakups is a topic of ongoing research in psychology.

16: Being True to Yourself

Staying true to yourself during this emotional time can be empowering. Here’s how:

  • Identify Your Core Values: Reflect on what matters most to you and stick to it.
  • Avoid Pretending: Don’t feel compelled to act “fine” if you’re not.
  • Embrace Authenticity: Being genuine with yourself and others can be healing.

Authenticity’s role in mental health is well-documented in various studies.

17: Preparing for Unexpected Encounters

You might unexpectedly run into your ex, and preparation can ease the stress. Here’s how:

  • Have a Mental Plan: Think through how you might respond if you bump into your ex.
  • Rely on a Support System: Let friends know if you’re feeling uneasy about possible encounters.
  • Practice Self-Compassion: If an encounter does happen, be gentle with yourself afterward.

Various therapies, like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy focus on preparing for and managing unexpected emotional triggers.

18: Reflecting on Your Part in the Relationship

It can be empowering and healing to reflect on your role in the relationship without self-blame. Here’s how:

  • Acknowledge Your Contributions: Recognize both positive and negative aspects of your role.
  • Avoid Harsh Self-Judgment: Reflection doesn’t mean self-criticism; be fair to yourself.
  • Create a Path Forward: Use your insights to foster personal growth.

Self-reflection, when done constructively, can lead to profound personal growth, as demonstrated by psychological research.

Self Reflection is ESSENTIAL in your RelationshipSelf Reflection is ESSENTIAL in your Relationship

19: Recognizing When It’s Time to Completely Move On

There comes a point when it may be time to completely move on. Here’s how to recognize and embrace that moment:

  • Listen to Your Feelings: Your emotions will often guide you to understand when it’s time.
  • Evaluate Your Progress: Reflect on how far you’ve come since the breakup.
  • Embrace New Beginnings: Look forward to new opportunities and relationships.

The stages of grief and moving on are well explored in psychological literature, providing insights into when and how individuals find closure.

19 Recognizing When It’s Time to Completely Move On
HayDmitriy via vistacreate

20: Cherishing the New You

Embrace the growth and the new person you’ve become through this journey. Here’s how:

  • Celebrate Your Strength: Acknowledge how strong you’ve been through this process.
  • Identify New Qualities and Skills: Reflect on the new qualities and skills you’ve developed.
  • Look Forward with Hope: Embrace optimism for what the future holds.

Positive psychology emphasizes the importance of recognizing personal growth and looking forward with a hopeful perspective.

21: Exploring New Relationships

When you feel ready, exploring new relationships can be an exciting next step. Here’s how to approach this phase:

  • Take Your Time: Don’t feel rushed; move at a pace that feels comfortable to you.
  • Be Clear About What You Want: Knowing what you’re looking for will guide your choices.
  • Stay Open-Minded: Keep an open mind to different types of people and experiences.

Research in relationship psychology highlights the importance of self-awareness and readiness to form new connections.

22: Rebuilding Your Identity

A breakup can shake your sense of self. Rebuilding your identity can be an empowering process. Here’s how:

  • Explore Your Interests: Delve into hobbies or activities that resonate with you.
  • Set Personal Goals: Set achievable goals that align with your values and interests.
  • Embrace Your Independence: Celebrate your autonomy and the freedom to make choices just for you.

The process of identity reconstruction post-breakup is well-studied in the field of psychology.

23: Managing Shared Responsibilities

If you have shared responsibilities with your ex, managing them can be complex. Here’s how to handle this:

  • Create Clear Agreements: Define who is responsible for what and put it in writing if necessary.
  • Maintain Respectful Communication: Keep conversations focused on the shared responsibility.
  • Seek Mediation if Needed: If you can’t agree, professional mediation might be an option.

Effective communication and conflict resolution strategies are essential in managing shared responsibilities, as evidenced by communication research.

24: Dealing with Mutual Friends

Navigating mutual friendships post-breakup can be tricky. Here’s how to approach this:

  • Communicate Your Needs: Let friends know what you’re comfortable with regarding social situations.
  • Avoid Forcing Sides: Don’t ask friends to choose sides between you and your ex.
  • Respect Their Choices: Friends may still maintain a relationship with your ex, and that’s okay.
24 Dealing with Mutual Friends
HayDmitriy via vistacreate

25: Rediscovering Joy and Happiness

Rediscovering joy might feel challenging after a breakup, but it’s a vital part of healing. Here’s how:

  • Pursue Passions: Engage in activities that make you feel alive and joyful.
  • Connect with Loved Ones: Spend quality time with friends and family.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques can enhance your overall sense of well-being.

26: Cultivating Resilience

Building resilience can turn a painful experience into a source of strength. Here’s how to cultivate resilience:

  • Embrace Growth Mindset: Believe in your ability to grow from challenges.
  • Seek Support When Needed: Leaning on friends or professionals isn’t a sign of weakness.
  • Celebrate Progress, No Matter How Small: Acknowledge every step forward.

*Resilience and growth following adversity is a well-studied aspect of psychology.

27: Re-establishing Trust with Future Partners

Building trust with future partners is vital for a healthy relationship. Here’s how to approach this:

  • Communicate Openly: Share your feelings, needs, and expectations with new partners.
  • Start Slow: Build trust gradually, taking one step at a time.
  • Reflect on Past Lessons: Use what you’ve learned from past experiences to guide you.

Research in relationship psychology emphasizes the importance of trust in forming secure and fulfilling relationships.

How to Rebuild Trust After it's Broken | Relationship TheoryHow to Rebuild Trust After it’s Broken | Relationship Theory

28: Finding Closure on Your Own Terms

Finding closure might require effort, but it’s a personal journey. Here’s how to find closure on your terms:

  • Define What Closure Means for You: Closure looks different for everyone; understand what it means to you.
  • Create Rituals if Needed: Some find rituals like writing a letter (even if not sent) helpful.
  • Seek Professional Help if Necessary: If closure feels elusive, professional guidance might be beneficial.

The concept of closure and its role in emotional healing is a frequent topic in psychotherapy research

29: Seeking Professional Help if Needed

Sometimes, professional support is essential in the healing process. Here’s how to approach seeking help:

  • Recognize When You Need Help: Persistent distress or difficulty functioning might signal the need for professional assistance.
  • Find a Qualified Therapist: Research therapists to find someone who fits your needs and preferences.
  • Embrace the Process: Therapy can be challenging but incredibly rewarding.

The effectiveness of therapy in dealing with relationship-related trauma is supported by a plethora of studies in clinical psychology.

29 Seeking Professional Help if Needed
IgorVetushko via vistacreate

30: Understanding That It’s Okay to Still Care

It’s normal to still care about someone who hurt you. Here’s how to manage those feelings:

  1. Acknowledge Your Feelings: It’s okay to still have feelings; denial can hinder healing.
  2. Set Boundaries for Yourself: Knowing what’s comfortable for you can prevent unnecessary pain.
  3. Focus on Your Healing: Concentrate on what you need to heal and grow.

31: Turning Pain into Creativity

Channeling your pain into creativity can be a profound healing process. Here’s how:

  • Explore Different Mediums: Painting, writing, music—find what resonates with you.
  • Express Without Judgment: Let your emotions flow through your art without critiquing.
  • Share If You Feel Comfortable: Sharing with friends or publicly can be empowering.

Art therapy and creative expression are well-established therapeutic techniques in mental health.

32: Cultivating Forgiveness

Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting; it’s a personal process that may lead to peace. Here’s how to cultivate forgiveness:

  • Understand What Forgiveness Means for You: It’s a deeply personal concept, so define it for yourself.
  • Consider the Benefits and Drawbacks: Weigh what forgiveness might bring to your life.
  • Seek Support if Needed: Professionals or support groups can help you explore forgiveness.

The psychology of forgiveness is a rich field of study, showing its potential benefits to mental and emotional well-being.

33: Reconnecting with Yourself

Reconnecting with yourself post-breakup can be a transformative experience. Here’s how:

  • Spend Quality Time Alone: Reflect, journal, or simply be with yourself.
  • Explore Nature: Connecting with nature can be grounding and healing.
  • Invest in Self-Care: Treat yourself kindly, physically and emotionally.

The practice of mindfulness and self-connection has been shown to contribute significantly to well-being.

33 Reconnecting with Yourself
AlexLipa via vistacreate

34: Managing Shared Parenting (if applicable)

If you have children with your ex, managing shared parenting is crucial. Here’s how:

  • Put Children’s Needs First: Focus on what’s best for the children, not personal disputes.
  • Communicate Effectively with Your Ex: Maintain respectful and clear communication.
  • Seek Professional Support if Needed: Family therapists or counselors can help navigate complex dynamics.

Research in family therapy underscores the importance of effective co-parenting strategies for children’s well-being.

35: Creating a New Vision for Your Life

Creating a new vision for your life post-breakup can be an inspiring process. Here’s how:

  • Dream Big: Allow yourself to envision what you truly want in life.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Break down big dreams into achievable steps.
  • Embrace the Journey: Understand that it’s a process and enjoy the path to your new life.

Goal-setting and envisioning a positive future is an essential aspect of personal growth, as outlined in positive psychology literature.


The journey of deciding what to say to an ex who hurt you is undeniably fraught with emotion and complexity. It requires courage, insight, empathy, and an awareness of both your feelings and those of the other person involved.

This guide has offered 35 tailored ideas to navigate this delicate situation, focusing on understanding your emotions, keeping the conversation civil, moving on, seeking closure, responding to provocation, and embracing growth and self-compassion.Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and these ideas can be adapted to suit your unique circumstances.

By being intentional with your words and actions, you can turn a potentially painful encounter into an opportunity for healing, growth, and self-discovery. Your future self will thank you.

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Kate worked in "The Fashion Magazine" for four years as a freelance writer and loved to consult and help people with their style. How to create your own style, how to look beautiful, and select trendy colors for your hair - these are just a few of many issues Kate will happily explain in Beezzly Beauty blogs!
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