What does it mean when your ex texts you happy birthday?

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If you wish you were back together with your ex, you might consider getting a birthday text to be encouraging. But how do you know how much you can read into it? For example, let’s talk about about a simple birthday text that communicates nothing more than “Happy Birthday.“

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There are so many unknowns:

  • Did he/she/they think of your birthday ahead of time, and decide in advance to text you on the day?
  • Or did they see the date today, and recognize — Hey, that’s my ex’s birthday?
  • Or did they get a preset calendar alert that reminded them?
  • Or did they hear someone else mention your birthday, and maybe participate in an actual conversation about you?

You don’t know if it was one of these things that prompted the text, or something else entirely. But whichever… hooray! You got a text!

It’s really not about what the text says, though. It’s about the fact that they thought of you. And whether or not they wish you were back together, you should recognize that it’s nice to have been thought of.

How much can you assume?

I am not a fan of assuming things. At best, you can assume that they thought of you. And maybe, at best, they think of you as a friend. That’s good. That’s something, especially if you didn’t already know it, and haven’t talked to your ex in a while.

For this instant, right now… just go ahead and feel good. It’s your birthday. This is nice. Enjoy it!

I guess, too, if you were thinking all along that your ex hates you, you can assume this rules that out. If your relationship situation was that dire, this text truly is good news. But I don’t think you should assume anything about the long-term future with this text. Really, I don’t think you can assume more than friendship here.

Yes — with this little text as encouragement — you can work to become more than a friend again. But you can’t expect it or demand it. This is a step forward, maybe a big step. But don’t push it and overreach on this one text. Try to be cool and nonchalant about it all.

What should you reply?

Well, first off, you should not take it as a cue to call them up and talk about the past. Clearly! Don’t do that.

Should you even reply at all? Your ex may be testing the waters — checking to see if you’re open to conversation, or even, wondering if they can bring up a difficult subject with you. If you reply, you could be opening yourself up to potentially having whatever conversation they’re wanting to have, and you might not like it.

So before you reply, decide now if you’re willing for your reply to lead to a worst-case scenario — re-hashing old issues or provoking new ones.

Let’s say you want to take that chance. After all, this is the best, most neutral opportunity for communication with your ex that you’re going to get.

So, what are your options?

  • You reply with a single word: “Thanks” …This is polite… the minimum required. Your ex will be the one wondering what YOU mean.
  • You reply with a single, slightly excited word: “Thanks!” Maybe even add emoji. Still merely polite, but your meaning is clear.
  • You reply with a little question: “Thanks! How are you doing?” or maybe, “Thanks! You doing okay?” This is safe. It still counts as polite small talk. This is the most restrained way you could attempt to continue the conversation.

Will you get a reply? What should you do if you get:

  • No reply to your reply? (Then the conversation is stopped. Walk away from it.)
  • A one word reply to your reply? (Don’t reply to it. The conversation is stopped.)
  • A leading reply to your reply, that has a return question for you? (Do reply. Don’t use more than about twice as many words as your ex used.)

It’s an actual conversation now, if you’re intending to reply to their reply. What can you say this time?

  • You reply with a more nosy little question: “Thanks! What’s up with you these days?”
  • You try to continue the conversation in a way that isn’t just small talk. Something brief like: “Thanks! I saw Dana the other day… said you were working for Home Depot now?” or “Thanks, are you still living over on Elm?”

Say whatever you want, keeping in mind that:

  1. If you want your ex to reply again, you have to say something open-ended, such as a question.
  2. It needs to be short. My guideline is you should never use more twice as many words as they used.
  3. It also needs to be neutral, but it’s okay to convey that because of your past relationship, you feel you have the right to ask something slightly personal. Asking about their current living or working circumstances would be an example of that. Or asking about a child or parent or dog or car.

From this point, continue the conversation following those rules. Eventually, when you receive no reply or a blunt reply, stop. Consider the conversation over. Otherwise answer their question and ask your own, keeping it short and neutral.

And this is important: Don’t be the one to propose seeing each other in person. That’s not neutral. But if your ex asks, feel free to say yes. Success!

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