Most of us have experienced the dreaded ex text. "Hi!" they message, as if it's a totally normal thing to do after weeks, months, or even years of prickly silence. "Just checking in!" In the past, they've used your birthday or a random holiday as an excuse. (Raise your hand if you've received a "Happy Earth Day!" ex text.) And now, they're using coronavirus as their way in.
When asked about their motivations for reaching out, most people said they just wanted to check on their former partners, wrote Justin Lehmiller, PhD, lead author of the study: "Specifically, they usually wanted to ensure that their ex was safe and healthy, or to see how they were coping emotionally." A smaller number of ex texters admitted they were testing the waters for a potential hookup, or wanted to see if their ex was dating someone new.
Listen, we get it: Quarantine can be lonely and boring. Many people are experiencing coronavirus-related anxiety. That's the perfect combination of emotions to make people want to reach out more — to anyone, even an ex.
Lehmiller didn't look into how many ex texts garnered a response. But we've got to believe that at least some of them went unanswered. "I heard from four different 'dating prospects' who ghosted me within the last two years, wanting to know 'what’s up' and 'how my quarantine is going'," says Kim*, 31. "I thought to myself, 'They must be really bored,' and then blocked their numbers." A power move, for sure.
"I think the first thing to remember is just because you receive one of these texts doesn't mean you have any obligation to respond," says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, MA, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the co-owner of BFF Therapy in Beacon, NY. "You can completely have a boundary here, and that might be the safest thing to do."
Ashley*, 36, has heard from two exes in the past couple of months. She ignored one, but responded to the other. "He hit me up over Instagram with 'Hope you are doing well with everything going on and Charlie [my dog] is hanging on too.' I responded because he was truly sweet man, and just seemed a little lost," Ashley said. "I also wasn’t super burned by him or the ending of our romance, so I knew I wouldn’t be putting myself at emotional risk."
The Kinsey Institute's quarantine texts-from-your-ex research is still ongoing. If you've gotten the urge to text an ex while stuck in isolation (or you've been on the receiving end), you can fill out the survey here.
But if your finger is hovering over the "send" icon, take a minute. "If you do want to respond, ask yourself: What is it that I actually want out of responding?" DeGeare suggests. "Think: Is there anything I could want or need, or anything I could get out of this that's going to serve me right now? If it's not a toxic ex and you guys broke up for different reasons, okay, you can talk to that person and check in." But if it is.... can we suggest QuarantineChat instead?