Why Convincing Your Ex Never Works… (and what does)

When you’ve shared a special connection with someone, it’s hard to let it go.

Especially when you know there’s still a lot of potential if he would just open his heart again.

You could build a beautiful life together.

If that’s something you want, then it’s only natural you would try to convince him that he should give the relationship another shot. After all, convincing him feels like the right thing to do.

Why would you not try to reason with him? Why wouldn’t you try to show him he’s making a mistake by pulling away?

Yet this is one of those times in life when our instincts lead us awry. Because convincing your ex never works. Fortunately, I know something that does.

Triggering feelings.

Here’s the thing, triggering feelings will always trump logical argument.

Why? Because emotions run the show. We humans are not as rational as we’d like to believe. That’s true of all forms of decision-making, but especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

(By the way, If you’d like laser-targeted advice about getting your ex to talk to you again, check out my Relationship Rewrite Method here).

Emotion. It’s your best shot at winning him back.

I care about all my clients. But I have to be honest, sometimes a client’s story tugs at my heart and it gets personal for me. That was the case with Leah, a mother of five, the oldest of whom was born when she and the father were both seventeen, just high school sweethearts.

I’ll admit there was a judgmental part of me that thought Leah and Joel had been incredibly irresponsible to start having children while they were still children themselves. But I soon forgot all about that as I learned of the beautiful family they had created together. These two clearly belonged together.  

And it was difficult to watch this beautiful family be torn apart by a short series of missteps and what I’ll call “almost-infidelity.” First by one, and then (in reaction) by the other.

Leah sought out my professional services first. Joel had moved out three months earlier. I could tell we had our work cut out for us.

Joel joined us a few sessions later. He was complacent with me and defiant with Leah. He had his mind made up. The hurt was just too great. But he claimed it was because Leah was “crazy.”

Leah, on the other hand, was not ready to let go of what they shared. She was going to fight for their love.

She had fire in her eyes every time she spoke directly to Joel in our sessions, demanding that he stop living the life of a bachelor, pursuing other women while her life began to look more and more like that of a single mother, just struggling to get by.

And this is where things get complicated for me. It was hard for me to maintain professional objectivity. You see, I wanted to convince Joel as well. I wanted to jump in with Leah and fight for this little family to survive.

Fortunately, I knew better.

So I privately began to teach Leah the techniques I’m going to share with you today. Let me show you the difference between convincing your ex versus triggering the right kind of feelings.

The easiest way for me to illustrate the difference between convincing your ex and triggering feelings is to offer you a simple list of do’s and don’ts. So let’s get right to it.

Don’t Do This:

  • Don’t argue that he owes you an explanation since you know he still has feelings for you.
  • Don’t tell him the relationship was going just fine and then try to get him to own his share of the blame for why things began to fall apart.
  • Don’t imply he owes you something after all you’ve been through together.
  • Don’t tell him real relationships take work and he needs to grow up.
  • Don’t try to prove you shared something special by forcing him to acknowledge specific examples from your past.

All that telling, convincing, and arguing will get you nowhere. In fact, it will simply reinforce the painful emotions that are driving him away from you in the first place.

Why? Because his brain will automatically come up with counter arguments.

For example, if you tell him things were great in the past, he will immediately test the truth of that assertion by scanning his memories for contradictory evidence. He’ll think of the fights, the frustrations, and other low points.

He’ll mention those problems. And this will reinforce your efforts to convince. You’ll end up showing him your worst side. Angry. Desperate. And if that goes on too long, you’ll become bitter, resentful, and maybe even sarcastic.

You know it’s true. This is how we all react when something matters to us deeply but the other person refuses to be convinced. This is not what I want for you to show him. Don’t try to convince.

Instead, let his emotions do the work for you.

Do this:

I’ll explain each of these briefly after listing the techniques.

  • Build a private line of communication.
  • Use private flirting but not broadcast flirting.
  • Be vulnerable about struggles interfering with your goals.
  • Throw rocks at his enemies.
  • Make time your servant.

Build a Private Line of Communication

Here your goal is simple. Completely eliminate any communication via channels where others can observe his responses to you. Then ensure you have at least one private method for communicating with him directly. Text messaging is the most common method for achieving this.

Why not communicate on social media channels like Facebook? Because privacy releases him from the human compulsion to remain consistent. We don’t like to appear inconsistent. Psychologists call this “the consistency bias.” Once we have publicly committed to something (like a breakup) we feel foolish showing any sign that we are wavering or may have even made the wrong decision.

So your job is to completely remove that threat by eliminating any communication in public settings.

Don’t talk to him in front of the kids. Don’t talk to him in front of your friends or his friends. Don’t ask him to meet you in a public place for coffee and a chat.

He won’t even notice you’re not communicating with him publicly. Without realizing why, he’ll feel more open to exploring where things could go with you.

Just send him a pleasant message once every four or five days. Something you knew he would find interesting, funny, or exciting. Nothing about your relationship. No convincing.

Only send the kinds of messages that gradually condition him to expect that pleasurable little rush of dopamine you get when you open your favorite email newsletter or text messages from a friend who is good at making you laugh.

Don’t demand any kind of response. Just keep the doors of communication open.

Use Private Flirting but Not Broadcast Flirting

I wrote an entire article on this one powerful concept. I encourage you to read it in its entirety here.

For now, I’ll just share this simple explanation.

Broadcast flirting is on display for everyone to see.

When a woman uses broadcast flirting, everyone around can see what she’s up to.

For example, it’s broadcast flirting when Debbie laughs at all Daniel’s jokes at the office party and purposefully compliments him in front of others. Exclusive flirting is different.

Think of it like an exclusive club. There are only two people in the club, and the two people share something exclusive.

This is another reason your private line of communication is a must. You need an avenue to bring up insiders-only stuff like an inside joke or a reference to a funny moment only the two of you would remember.

Any message like that evokes the right kinds of emotion. It evokes the emotions that naturally arise from feeling part of something special. No convincing is needed.

Be Vulnerable about Struggles and Goals

Once your private line of communication is up and running, it’s time to step things up a notch.

Many brilliant people have talked about the power of vulnerability, including Brené Brown who has recently popularized the concept while helping us all to understand its true power. But I have a more specific purpose in mind for you.

If you are honest about goals you care about, and the struggles that block your way, it naturally triggers his hero instinct. It increases the chances that he’ll want to come to your rescue in big or small ways.

And for men, being someone’s hero is romantic in ways that are hard for women to understand. It tugs at an ancient instinct all of us men share.

Throw Rocks at His Enemies

It sounds cruel, but I mean it metaphorically. We all want someone to have our back. We all crave validation more than we are willing to admit.

And guess what? Your private line of communication is the perfect opportunity for him to complain about anyone or anything that’s getting in his way.

When it comes to your ex, this is an ideal opportunity to put “the respect principle” to work.

The respect principle is the main topic of the downloadable relationship course that first made me famous as a relationship coach. Thousands of women have taken my course and used the respect principle to bring out the best in their man.

Simply put, men confuse the emotional sensations they get from love and respect. And if forced to choose, they would rather feel respected than loved.

So when the frustrated text arrives, recognize it as the golden opportunity it is. Because we will do anything for someone who validates our frustration and takes our side when we are feeling insecure.

Give him the impression that you hold him in high esteem relative to other men. He’ll love you for it even if he’s not ready to admit it.

Make Time Your Servant

Waiting is hard. Especially when you fear his heart may be taken by another woman at any minute.

But feeling pressured to fix things fast is one of the worst culprits when it comes to my clients pushing men into a corner and inadvertently triggering his instinct to fight or flee.

Don’t let time pressure be a master. Instead, make time your servant. Make it work for you.

The key to accomplishing that is to recognize that time is on your side. He’s already pulled away from you. That’s done. Now you need time on your side because it works day and night to gradually break down the emotional walls he has built up against the idea of getting back together with you.

Give a man and a woman enough time together, and something’s bound to spark romantic feelings eventually. Give it enough time, and your private line of communication will eventually present you with an opportunity to see each other again face-to-face.

When that opportunity arises to spend time in person, here’s what you’re going to do. Make long, deep eye contact. Less talking, more silence.

Silence carries great power between lovers. It speaks louder than words and often evokes emotion in ways that bypass the barriers of words.

Plus, sustaining eye contact while thinking loving thoughts toward him will cause your pupils to dilate. Humans subconsciously notice this small change and it triggers reciprocal feelings of attraction.

So use periods of long, sustained eye contact. Make him wonder what you are thinking. Let his imagination do the work.

While you’re at it, it helps to wear something new and different. It helps to differentiate the woman from his past and the woman standing in front of him now. If you have the opportunity, show up in something he’s never seen you wear before.

I understand your situation is unique. Some of my suggestions may not apply. Despite that, I hope you will find opportunities to use this understanding of the difference between convincing and evoking the right feelings in the man you love.

To your happy future,


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20 thoughts on “Why Convincing Your Ex Never Works… (and what does)

  1. Maha Fiuza Lima said:

    You have no idea how much I benefited from the “Secret Obsession” and the bonus. I had just started reading it when I got the message I was hopping for as I was afraid I had messed up a promising wonderful friendship. By that time I was on page 38. Carefully I responded and I had similar result as your sister.. I know I have to be careful since I just started, but I had no choice.; I had to respond and my beloved friend immediately replied and flowered me with love better than before. Thank you sooo much!

    • James Bauer said:

      Woohoo! I never get tired of hearing this kind of story. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Splendour said:

    Hi James, thank you so much for this helpful relationship tips you share.
    I met this guy online and we’ve been communicating for about three years now, only becoming kind of serious within the past year. He says he loves me and he’s always so helpful with advice and assistance when I need it and it’s within his power to do so. Did I also mention that i’ve never met him before as we live long distance from each other, though he claims to have seen me before on one of his trips back to our country from his base abroad. Now my dilemma is he prefers video chatting and most times asks me to send him my nude pictures which I did against my better judgement, though I made sure my face was carefully cropped out. Recently he started asking that we video chat naked and honestly I find the idea scary because i’ve come across women who were in a similar situation and their nude pictures and videos are today being used as tools of blackmail, by the same men who once claimed to love them. I’ve refused on many occasions to participate in this naked video chat with him and he usually backs off when I say no, but he still keeps trying and recently I find my resolve weakening but I’m still reluctant, though a part of me wants to please him by doing this with him. I recently sent him a long message telling him how scared I am and why I didn’t want to do the nude video chats. I know he has read the message, but hasn’t replied me yet. Now I’m wondering if maybe I pushed him away or if I’m right by holding on to my principles. Are my fears valid or are they unnecessary?
    Will be looking forward to hearing from you.

    • James Bauer said:

      It’s a good question. In many relationship situations, compromising to make each other happy is the key to a lasting relationship that meets each other’s needs. But not when it comes to your personal boundaries. He doesn’t need nude video chats with you to have a good relationship with you, and there are many reasons not to put that kind of thing out on the internet.

  3. Massi said:

    Hi James,

    I am pleased to see you addressing pulling back your ex. This is why I got involved in your course. My situation has gone to the extreme I don’t have any contact with my ex husband. We have been separated for over a month, he decided to end it and just disappeared. It got a bit messy towards the end as I had to get a restraining order against him. We aren’t allowed to see each other but we can contact via txt, call or email. I have all his belongings etc and have no way to contact him. He has changed his number, email and doesn’t have social media. I also don’t know where he lives only know where he goes to gym. This is the love of my life and I went crazy during the break up as I couldn’t understand why. I was reading your course notes and a lot of things made sense and I now know how to spark his hero instinct. However I have given up, I can’t apply the pull my ex back theory if I have no means of contacting with him. He has also started to move on and adding women on this dating app. He believes that living the bachelor life is better then being married as he doesn’t deal well with stress. I’m spiraling into a deep hole and can’t get out. How do you go about pulling back your ex with no means of contact?

    Kindest regards

  4. Anonymous said:

    Those 5 ideas fit him perfect!! I have thought about trying to get him to explain etc.
    I knew I really shouldn’t & after reading your advice I KNOW your method is best for this guy. I would almost think you know him personally, you have described our situation so accurately.
    Thank you!

    • James Bauer said:

      I’m glad that was useful to you! 🙂

  5. Amy said:

    I am in love with a man that says he loves me but his actions sometimes say otherwise. Right now our we are not together and that was his decision. I love him with all my heart but I don’t want to chase or beg a person to be in my life. I am devistated by not being with him. But I’m also scared to let my walls down again. Help please I am so confused

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Amy. It is my perception that there are too few people like you in the world. I’m talking about people who have a personal, sincere desire to love another person deeply.

      In other words, you are a rare gem. There are men out there searching for someone like you.

      Whenever our heart gets set on a specific person, it’s hard to imagine happiness with someone else. It’s hard to believe that the odds of finding true love is much greater if you open yourself up to a person you have yet to meet.

      If you are meant to be with this man, he will pursue you again, even if you busy yourself with the task of finding a new partner. A partner who is chomping at the bit, just hoping to find someone who has the kind of intense love you are capable of lavishing on another person.

  6. Marlene said:

    I have a question,
    I been with a guy for three years , but it has been long distance. I know a lot of people say they don’t work. But I love him so much , he recently took time off . Because the feelings haven’t been the same. It’s been a week since this break. The last time we talked he did said we were just working through this. But I don’t know how long I should wait, until I text him again?

    • James Bauer said:

      Marlene, some people find it helpful to write letters that you don’t intend to send. When you find yourself writing a message that emerges from the heart, you’ll know if it’s something you want to communicate to him.

      When you have something to say to him, that’s when you should text him. It doesn’t need to be at a specific time, but rather it should come when you have something meaningful you want to communicate to him.

  7. Laurie said:

    Hi James, my question is, when should you just let it be and stop trying? I feel like Im just making a nuisance of myself and creating unnecessary stress for both of us. I love this guy, but maybe I should just back off and give him space. If he wanted to be together, he would make some kind of effort….and he has stopped.


    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Laurie. That’s a good question, and an honest one too. It’s good to be honest with yourself about the situation so you can see your options more clearly.

      This is one of those “it depends” situations. Should you give up on pursuing this guy? It depends on a lot of things including the following:

      1. Have you triggered his hero instinct using the methods I teach in my course?

      2. Some men do not respond to hero instinct triggers. Those men are not worth pursuing because they are unlikely to make good long-term partners. So if you have triggered his hero instinct several times and given him space and time to interact with you, then it’s important to pay attention to whether he is the kind of man who wants to build his life in the context of a beautiful relationship with others.

      3. Do you have any propinquity with him right now? In other words, are there enough opportunities for natural feelings of attraction to emerge between the two of you?

      4. Is he in a difficult transitional period of his life where he is pursuing a mission that causes him to set aside all relationships, or just his relationship with you while he pursues other women?

      These are all important factors to consider as you decide whether or not to leave the door open for this man to return to you in the future. Sometimes it is better to cut your losses so that you can refocus your mind and energy elsewhere. But in the beginning stages of relationships it’s okay to have several suitors so you don’t put all your eggs in one basket until you see who is serious about building something real with you.

      • Angela Jarrett said:

        What you mentioned at the end… Having several suitors. I do not want to put all my effort into someone until I know it will be worth it. I have been hurt, and my walls are up at the moment. I have a lot of guys that are interested. I just do not know how to juggle all of them. I’d say at least three guys like me and I like them; one of them is my ex boyfriend of 7 months. We broke up a few months ago, and now he is trying to win me back. I do not know what I am doing. I feel like I am three different people: one part of me loves my ex and wants him back, another part of me wants a guy who came back into my life after ten years, and the last part of me wants the guy I met a few months ago. I am so confused and lost. I need guidance, if you have any.

  8. Rockell said:

    Thank so much for this James!!

  9. Anonymous said:

    I’ve been waiting for exactly this post to show up. Thank you so much for excellent advice and continually reminding me of how not to shoot myself in the foot…

    • Anonymous said:

      What if he will not speak to you and runs when he sees you. For Two years he has not spoken to me & runs when he sees me coming. So I feel hopeless. He doesn’t except texts ( flip phone). Or phone calls from me. What can I do? I can’t communicate with him.

      • jackie said:

        When someone ignores your call or text or runs when he see you, you should stay away from him. It’s self respect. That behavior is not worthy of you, that man doesn’t deserve you. Love yourself. He is not the last man in this world. Let time heal the wounds and pain in your heart. Let your strength defeat the weakness, for you will see, you will overcome all the obstacles that are triggering in your mind and heart. Letting go is the best, for you will also let yourself go and be free.

      • James Bauer said:

        If he is that dead set against communication, you might have to just start with a physical letter, snail mail. It’s slower because you can’t use the back-and-forth techniques I describe in Rewrite Your Relationship. But you can start to create a new kind of interaction that feels different to him than whatever he felt before that caused him to think he needs to run.

  10. Naomi said:

    Thank you!!!! This is such a helpful piece!!

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