Some of life's most perplexing questions — like, "Why is the sky blue?" "Is there a god?" and "Should I text my ex?" — only hit us when we're completely alone. Picture this. You've just finished watching New Girl on Netflix for the 12th time, and you realize you have a lot of time to yourself now. Like, a lot of time. Now, there’s nothing wrong with more time to yourself, but it does have the habit of putting most of us in a reflective mood. And that kind of reflection can, on occasion, lead to a rom-com style daydream of you and your ex.
During these moments of weakness, even your Netflix queue isn’t enough to distract you. You just miss hearing your phone buzz and picking it up to see that ~special~ someone popping in to say hey. (It really is the little things.) Now, the thought hits you harder: Wait, but actually, should I message my ex? Usually, your pride answers that question for you – with a resounding “no.” But, every now and then, that breakup-fueled daydream is too convincing to ignore, and post-breakup etiquette becomes less straightforward. Before you know it, you’ve already hit send.
No, you can’t take it back. (Well, not unless you turn your phone on airplane mode immediately.) But that’s not always necessary. Sometimes, contacting your ex can be a good thing – or, at least, a neutral thing. For example, if your split was amicable and casual texts back and forth don't set either of you back emotionally, it's OK. But this isn't the only rule. In fact, a lot of what makes an Ex Text™ acceptable is the timing. To keep things friendly and respectful between the two of you, experts recommend only texting your ex in four scenarios.
Want To Stay Friends? Text Your Ex A Few Days After The Breakup
If things ended cordially, you shouldn't wait too long after a breakup to send that first text. "That creates awkwardness," relationship coach Chris Armstrong explains to Elite Daily. Any lag in communication could build up unnecessary tension, which is the exact opposite of what you want. "Instead, it's best to build a nice and immediate bridge between the relationship and a friendship,” Armstrong continues.
Of course, that doesn't mean you should text your ex right away, either. Beyond being unnecessary, a rushed text can be confusing and hurtful to the recipient. Take it from me: I've walked away from breakups in the past only to receive three text messages from my new ex before I even made it to my car. I swear this is a true story. The breakup was at a frozen yogurt shop and my car was only parked about 20 feet away. It was a lot, and I felt emotionally drained – like I had just wasted my time on two hours of tearful conversation that fell on uninterested ears.
Once you’ve ended things, it’s better to wait a few days before reaching out with your platonic olive branch. Giving your ex some time to come to terms with the state of your relationship shows that you respect their needs and feelings. And if you’re hoping to make that transition from partners to friends, respect is key. Plus, giving your ex some space is so much better than texting them the dreaded “We can still be friends!” immediately after your split. Seriously, nobody wants that text right away.
If You’re On Good Terms, You Can Text Your Ex On Special Occasions
Friends text each other on their birthdays, so why shouldn't you and your ex? That's Armstrong's stance, anyway. "If you and your ex are still friends, absolutely text them on birthdays and holidays," he says. It’s an easy way to stay in touch without going overboard.
There is one caveat, though. Before sending that birthday or holiday text, do a temperature check on where you two stand. Base it off of your most recent conversations – if they were full of tears or mentions of getting back together ~someday~, skip the special occasion texts.
If one person wants to be friends while the other is still heartbroken about the breakup, a well-intentioned text could send the wrong message (or potentially put a damper on their special day). When one of you is still reeling from the breakup, Armstrong says, a text or any form of communication will only derail any progress that person has made and prevent them from moving on. Long story short: Only send that birthday or holiday text if you’re sure it won’t hurt their feelings.
If You & Your Ex Moved On A While Ago, You Can Text Each Other
Keeping in touch with an ex when you're in a new relationship is risky, but not impossible. Because there are now more people involved, it's important to consider everyone's feelings – not just those of you and your ex. Armstrong says there are two times you should avoid contacting your ex: when they are just starting a relationship with someone else and when you are doing the same.
That's not to say you can't be friends with them while one or both of you are in a relationship, but you should give each new relationship time to develop on its own. It's difficult to establish trust with someone new if you're still in constant contact with your ex. Save yourself (and your ex) that heartache by staying away during that time.
For A Platonic Vibe, Save Texts For Midday
There’s really no reason to send your ex a “good morning” or “good night” text. "Texting your ex in the morning or late at night is something I would not advise,” Armstrong warns. “Not unless you have a really strong post-relationship friendship.”
Those early morning and late night text messages typically suggest you share a more meaningful relationship. "We all know what communication in the mornings and evenings means between two people who have, or have had, an intimate relationship. It means good morning and good night in a not-so-subtle way, and you don't want to get those signals crossed with an ex,” Armstrong explains. If your goal is to keep things platonic, limit your texts to your ex to midday. Nothing says “friendship” like a lunch break text.
An easy way to remind yourself of post-breakup text etiquette is by immediately removing any identifying emojis and nicknames from your ex's contact. I know, I know; it doesn't sound like much. But it's a visual indication that shows up every time you open a conversation with them, reminding you things aren't the way they used to be. For me, it always helps me adjust the timing and tone of my text messages to match our new strictly friendly dynamic.
Chris Armstrong, relationship coach
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