Here's Why Re-reading Old Text Conversations With An Ex Can Hurt So Much, According To Experts
Do you ever find yourself re-reading old text conversations with an ex and asking why you keep doing it? You know it's going to hurt, but for some reason you just can't resist scrolling down memory lane. If that sounds familiar, you're not alone. "It’s very common," Cherlyn Chong, a dating and breakup recovery coach for professional women, tells Elite Daily. While many people do it, looking back over old conversations can be painful, and actually slow down the progress of getting over an ex, she warns. “It’s a bad idea to do so if you’re still not over the relationship, because that can set you back and undo a lot of the work you’ve done on healing," Chong says.
Trina Leckie, breakup coach and host of the Breakup BOOST podcast agrees, and says revisiting old texts may make getting over your ex harder because it causes you see to the relationship through rose-colored glasses. "It is not a good idea because the loving texts will just make you miss your ex — as well as possibly make you feel as though your relationship was much better than it was. This is why it’s so important to instead focus on the reasons why you broke up and the bad things that happened during the relationship if you want to be able to heal from it," she tells Elite Daily. However, it’s not just positive texts that hurt, she warns, but negative ones may even be more painful, and even dangerous, to revisit. "If there were some very toxic texts, they can just further erode at your self-worth, which can be especially fragile after a breakup," Leckie explains.
Chances are, if you make a habit of returning to these old texts, none of this is new information. And yet, it's hard to stop. Is it OK to hold on to those texts, or is it healthier to clean the digital slate? I asked the experts what to do in this situation, and here's what they had to say.
Why it’s so painful to re-visit your old messages
First things first: Why does re-visiting these old conversations take such an emotional toll? According to Leckie, the reason is bittersweet. “It is so painful because the texts are proof that you had great times together. Reminiscing over the great times or when they would say sweet things to you can cause your heart to hurt so much more, because it just makes you want to have things back to the way they were,” she explains. It can also be hard to see how things went awry with the benefit of hindsight, while being unable to do anything about it. “The texts may also serve as a reminder of the arguments as well. You may start to blame yourself and overthink about situations that happened,” Leckie says.
Chris Seiter, a relationship consultant and breakup specialist, tells Elite Daily the desire to go back and re-read your text messages is also about chasing the feelings you had in happier times with your ex. “The truth is, most people reread old texts expecting to have the same flood of warm, fuzzy emotions that they had during the original conversations. What they aren't prepared for is the fact that those feelings will never be the same as they were the first time around,” he cautions. “It is painful because, instead of the flood of endorphins and dopamine, they are reminded of their loss, essentially reliving it on some level. So, they get a little pleasure followed by pain.”
Can any good come from holding on to old texts?
There are some upsides to dipping back into those memories — when you have some distance from the breakup and can use them as an opportunity for growth and learning, says Chong. “It can be healthy, even, to see how toxic a relationship was and why it was a good thing you broke up,” she explains. Plus, she says, you can also see how much you’ve grown and how far you’ve come since the split.
What to do about old messages from your ex.
So, the question remains: Should you hold on to old texts? Are the potential positives enough to outweigh the obvious drawbacks? “If you want to truly heal and move on, it is best to delete the texts,” says Leckie. “There really is no need to keep them, especially if you are having a hard time getting over your ex. This will likely just make it 10 times harder. When you want to move forward in life, you need to be able to let go of the past.”
Chong concurs, although she offers a compromise for those who are struggling to let go and delete all the texts. “I would advise deleting all of the texts, but you can save some and copy and paste them into a folder which you will never open until you’re significantly over the ex,” she says. “I find that letting go completely and erasing all evidence of a meaningful relationship can be too much for some, so this is a good compromise. There is some comfort that they are there for you to go back to, but you can fully concentrate on healing meanwhile,” she concludes.
The takeaway here is that while re-reading old texts from an ex is common, it's probably not helping you move on and heal. That said, if you can't resist peeking, don't be too hard on yourself. Everyone gets over a breakup at their own pace, so try to be kind to yourself.