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Let the experts share their take.
Sure, the third mercury retrograde of the year might be officially over, but the fact remains – messages from a former flame or a missed call from an old lover can pop up any time, any place. Happened to you and now wondering what to do when your ex texts you? You might be tempted to block their number or delete the message. But according to the experts, this might not be the best move.
Fun fact for you: this retrograde season, an ex came back into my life – quite literally – via a comment in an old shared iCloud album. (Friendly reminder to check who you’re still sharing an album with). I wasn’t sure how to react, so asked two of the best experts in the business to share their insight.
Keep scrolling as clinical psychosexual and relationship psychotherapist, Jordan Dixon from the Thougthouse, and Kate Daly, Co-Founder of amicable and host of The Divorce Podcast, share their advice. Don’t miss our guides to how to cope with being cheated on, the best dating sites, and best sex apps, while you’re here.
What to do when your ex texts you: your guide
It’s a question we’ve all had to figure out at some point or even help a friend decipher. But what would a therapist recommend? First things first, Dixon reminds us that “every relationship and every break up is unique to us” – so how you cope with being contacted after the break up will be unique, too.
First – reflect on how the relationship ended
It’ll likely depend on how the break up went. Some breakups are very complex, with one or both parties ending up heartbroken, and some couples are able to break up amicably without any tears.
Everyone is different and there is no simple answer. So while your friend might welcome a call from their ex and be ready to reconnect, you might feel differently.
“There is a no one size fits all with how to handle communication with our exes. There are no rules, there is simply what works for us, there may be mistakes on the way but mistakes can offer us valuable learning,” shares Dixon. What works for you may not work for your friends, but the following steps will help you figure out what’s best for you and your circumstance.
Then, assess how you are feeling
Further, she believes that your body will normally indicate the right answer to you. “The truth lies within us and our bodies,” Dixon explains. She recommends pausing, breathing, and observing our emotions rather than reacting straight away.
As a therapist, Dixon suggests being curious as to how your body responds to the message as it can give a great deal of insight into what we need. “A self-scan on how our body feels is a good start,” she recommends. “Take a moment right now, to see if is there anger, sadness, joy, or all three emotions?”
This gives you more time, clarity, and insight, she shares, but most importantly, “more freedom to choose how you wish the relationship with your ex to be, and more freedom to communicate this with loving boundaries both for ourselves and others.”
Ask yourself: how does it serve you?
Being in contact with an ex can be a distressing time, that could bring up unwanted emotions or memories. “You can go into fight, flight, or freeze response,” shares the therapist. Learning how to identify these feelings as separate from yourself is a valuable tool for managing these kinds of situations.
Take the time to process your emotions and exactly what you are feeling. Ask yourself this: what do you actually want? You may want to get back with your ex, remain friends or never speak to them ever again. “Also remember that what you need at any certain point in time may change, so it’s up to you to communicate this and to create it,” Dixon reminds us.
Still not sure how to respond? Reflect with these five questions
Daly reckons the below five tips are the essential questions to ask yourself before taking any action.
1. Is it safe to reconnect?
This will likely depend on the reason you and your partner broke up and how it all happened. If the relationship was abusive, it is not safe to reconnect.
Daly warns, “if abuse was involved, ignore all communication and do not acknowledge receipt of it. Never reply by saying “I am not going to answer any further communication from you” or words to that effect, as you are starting a dialogue. Instead, simply do nothing and ignore it,” she advises.
Do: save the communication somewhere in case it’s required for the purposes of securing an injunction or non-molestation order, she goes on.
2. If it is safe, is reconnection welcome?
Next question: how did you first respond when the text came through? It’s useful to reflect on why you may have reacted in that way. If you were excited, nervous, or confused – why may that be? The main thing here is to think about it before you respond.
“Take a minute to think about whether you want to respond,” advises Daly. “Don’t just react to the message. Instead, think about any consequences of responding practically and emotionally. If you choose to connect, then respond rather than react. There is a difference between firing off a text you may regret and responding when you know how you feel.”
3. Do I know why my ex is reaching out?
Good question. You can’t mind read, but you can think about the timing. Is it late on a Friday night? Is a birthday or Christmas coming up? Or have you just announced a new relationship?
Daly’s advice is to adopt a business-like tone. “Keep it cautious and professional until you know why your ex is reaching out. Are they on the rebound? Are they offering friendship? The relationship you once had is no longer there and a little bit of professional distance can be a really good place to start.”
4. Are you willing to tell your new partner your ex has reached out?
This one’s important. If you are in a new relationship, do mention early on that your ex has reached out.
Why? “As it’s important not to keep secrets,” shares Daly. “It erodes trust. If you feel that you don’t want to tell your new partner, then address why. It could mean that you have unresolved feelings about your ex, which might mean the message is best to ignore.”
5. Do you want to rekindle?
The biggest question of them all. Do you want to get back together? If you don’t know the answer to this one, Daly suggests thinking about the reasons why the relationship ended before, perhaps even writing them all down. Then, reflect on if anything has really changed.
“Will the same issues still arise? Do you know what you are looking for in a relationship and can this person match that?,” she guides.