Why You're Suddenly Hearing From All Your Exes During Lockdown
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"Hey, how are you?"
A matter of weeks ago, receiving those four fateful worlds from an ex might have raised an eyebrow, induced fury or even made your heart skip a beat.
But somehow, in this strange, new dystopian world we're living in, getting back in touch with the ghosts from our past has pretty much become the new normal.
A new survey, conducted by OneBuy, revealed that a whopping one in three singletons have already received messages from an ex partner during this coronavirus quarantine period.
And you only have to scroll through social media to see the rows of screen-shotted conversations to prove it.
"Ugh it's starting.......looks like quarantine means we're gonna wake up to a lot of 'thinking abt u' texts," one woman wrote as her inevitable message arrived. "Brace yourselves and put your phone on silent after midnight!!"
While another complained: "To the Quarantine Gods: Which one of you decided all my exes should text me this week??"
There's no denying that exes are creeping back onto the scene left, right and centre at the moment. But what is this crazy new phenomenon, and what should we do if it happens to us? Tyla investigates.
Thinking pragmatically, it shouldn't come as a surprise that we're popping up on our exes' minds during a global pandemic.
After all, when I think back to times in my life that I've sent or received regrettable messages, they all stem from one important emotion: vulnerability.
Right now, people are losing their livelihoods, they're worrying about their health, the health of loved ones, and they're functioning without a social life as they know it.
That's all before we've touched on the sheer amount of death and devastation surrounding us every day - and still to come.
Psychologist Emma Kenny explains: "For the first time in a generation, everyone in society is being faced with their own fragility.
"If your ex boyfriend or girlfriend is looking back on you and decides to make contact, they're probably in that carpe diem mentality. It's all down to the fatalistic experience we're going through right now - learning that life is temporary, and that we are all somewhat helpless."
Emma adds that in these mentally trying times, it's all too natural to enter a phase of "hyper-reflection" - aka, going over every choice we've made with a fine tooth comb.
When we're not binge-watching Netflix and scrolling mindlessly on Instagram, we're almost definitely letting our brains run wild, and punishing ourselves for arguments we had when we were 13, or selfish decisions we made when we were free of inhibitions.
This is partially, of course, because we're just so bored. But, needless to say, beyond this, there is a deeper reason we're all overthinking, and ultimately picking up the phone to send that text.
"When someone's life is losing meaning, then the one thing that they end up seeking is a real connection with what matters to them," she says. "In this mindset, we're after closure and resolution, and we often learn a lot about ourselves.
"When we're faced with mortality, it provokes an empathy and a nostalgia within us. It makes us reframe the people we've had in our life, and question the decisions we made that may have hurt somebody worthy."
While self improvement is no bad thing, and it's all well and good to reach out an olive branch and seek to heal old wounds, the issue is that this same mindset often causes people look back at memories "with a new sense of sentimentality and warmth".
Say, you're reflecting on a picnic on the beach you once had with your family: you're unlikely to remember the sand in your sandwiches and the ferocious argument you had on the way there.
And it's the same with relationships, she says.
The danger, then, is that your 'miss you' text is likely to have come from somebody who is looking back at your time together through rose tinted glasses - like in Bridget Jones' Diary, when she runs back to unchangeable narcissist Daniel Cleaver hoping for a 'happily ever after,' or in Friends when Ross pines after with Carol, despite the fact she's literally a lesbian.
"When an ex reaches out, they're not going to think of the arguing, or the issues you had before. They're going to think of the good times you had - the great sex, romantic moments and the times you made them laugh," Emma explains.
Touching on this very issue, Sami Wunder, a leading dating and relationship coach, warns it is this nostalgia that should be ringing major alarm bells.
"Right now, I wouldn't suggest taking a message from your ex too seriously - it has only showed up in exceptional circumstances," she says.
"Once this period is over, it will go away and distractions will come back. If someone only misses you when things get bad, you don't need them in your life. You need somebody who misses you everyday for no particular reason".
What to do if you get *that* text
It goes without saying that everybody's situations are different - but Sami suggests, when faced with the urge to reconnect, it's important to "remind yourself why you broke up in the first place," in order to weigh up whether an ex is worthy of a reply.
"It's easy right now to be vulnerable and think that talking to your exes is harmless, but reigniting connections means you might be setting yourself up for another heartbreak," she adds.
Essentially: while it is true that "communication between exes can give both parties temporary relief from loneliness," this must never be the reason that a conversation is maintained.
Of course, I know all too well that it can often be hard to take the high road when it comes to matters of the heart. And frankly, most of us are emotional and needy AF right now, too.
So, err, what if your finger slips and you accidentally reply?
"Obviously it's right to be wary," Emma Kenny argues. "But we're all human. If somebody you were once in a healthy relationship with reaches out, it can sometimes be quite beautiful. That message, however brief, says that, to them, even if just in that moment, you had meaning."
She goes on: "I guess the big thing is you be pragmatic about it. At the end of the day, if you want to reconnect, don't jump the gun and don't think of it anything more than a well-meant conversation.
"If you've ever been in toxic relationships, know that they will not have changed, and nor will the way they once treated you."
And if not? "By all means open that dialogue, but have your guard up and don't plan the wedding! Making peace with something or someone from your past can be hugely therapeutic - but always know it's got to start off without any desire for return."