It's been a month and a half since you called it off with your ex. You've removed all traces of them from your apartment and finally remembered how to order takeout for one person instead of two. As you go through your phone trying to find the automated text from your dentist about your upcoming appointment, you see it: your old messages. And though you're totally tempted to open them, you wonder if rereading old texts from your ex prevents you from moving on.
You've already unfollowed them on Twitter and muted them on Instagram, but knowing what to do with all your old texts can be a whole other can of virtual worms.
"There are a number of reasons we would want to reread the texts from our ex," Susan Winter NYC relationship expert, love coach, and author of Breakup Triage: The Cure for Heartache, tells Elite Daily. "[It's] a physical confirmation that substantiates their former affection. We can't stop thinking about our ex. We can't stop analyzing what happened. We obsessively hunt for a way to reconfigure the outcome to our advantage."
As Winter shares, reading texts from your ex can be a physical reminder that they cared about you and that your relationship was real and serious. Additionally, Winter says that if the breakup came out of the blue or your partner abruptly ended things with you, you may feel compelled to read old texts to try to find closure or a reason for the breakup.
As Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, and Host of 'The Kurre and Klapow Show' shares, breakups can come with their own type of grieving or mourning process. You spent time and energy building a life with someone you love and watching it end can be unbelievably painful. In the hours or even days after a breakup, Dr. Klapow shares that rereading your texts, or otherwise revisiting your relationship (looking through pictures or wearing their clothes) can be a cathartic way to start your healing process.
"In the early stages following a breakup, re-reading texts or reviewing digital parts of the relationship is a way to grieve, mourn, review, and bring closure to the relationship," Dr. Klapow tells Elite Daily. "It can help us face the tough emotions, process what has just happened and in many ways, become desensitized to the painful reality that the person is no longer in our life."
Though Dr. Klapow says that feeling occasionally nostalgic, or sappy or sad for your ex is a normal and healthy experience, feeling completely consumed by the past or overwhelmed with regret can hinder you from moving on. "What you shouldn’t do is allow the nostalgia to turn into any concrete action that you may regret," Dr. Klapow says. "With each passing day, the urge to reread and revisit should gradually fade. If it increases over the days and weeks and months following the breakup, then it is a signal that we are stuck."
For Demetrius Figueroa, dating and relationship writer and host of "A Mighty Love" podcast, looking back at old text messages may romanticize the past and prevent you from really processing what happened with your ex. "It’s easy to look back at old texts and dwell on how great things were and how great they could have been," Figueroa tells Elite Daily. "What if things didn’t go wrong? What if I said things differently? What if the spark never faded?"
As Figueroa shares, while it's OK to want to stroll through digital memory lane from time to time, it's important not to get swept up in thinking about what you could have done differently.
If you're getting the impulse to text your ex or reread your messages, Figueroa notes it may be more nourishing to reach out to a friend or family member instead. "Text a friend, text someone new, or if you can’t do either one of those, just remember all the reasons you stopped texting your ex," Figueroa says. "Watch a really bad movie or a trashy reality show. Read that article you’ve meant to read, or that book you put down all those months back. Do anything that will occupy your brain with thoughts of anything other than your ex."
While it's important to reflect on the past and learn from different experiences, accepting that your ex is no longer your partner can be crucial.
"If you want to look back as a way to move forward, remember that it’s OK to think of the good times, but that has to be balanced with thinking of the bad times as well," Figueroa says. "That’s the only way to move forward."
Dealing with a breakup can be hard, and healing looks different for everyone. Though rereading your old texts may be helpful right after a breakup, if you're feeling a little stuck in the past or having trouble getting over your ex, seeing their old messages may cause more pain and confusion. If you're feeling lonely, try hitting up a friend or going to see a movie. You are a gift to all those who know you, and you deserve to live in the present.