You might say the conditions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic are a perfect storm for reconnecting with an ex. Containing the spread of the virus means practicing social distancing (or perhaps self-isolating), which can obviously trigger loneliness — and many might find solace in talking to someone they shared a meaningful bond with. If your ex texts you during the coronavirus outbreak, you might have conflicting feelings about how to respond. On the one hand, you're probably flattered, and hearing from a past love may feel comforting. On the other hand, it begs the question: Is now really a good time take a risk and re-ignite contact, given the already stressful circumstances?
Lee Wilson, a relationship and breakup coach, has gotten countless emails from people who have reached out to exes to "just to see how they’re doing.” Some, he says, have even moved back in together. Why the sudden turnaround? It mainly comes down to uncertainty surrounding the current pandemic. No one really knows how conditions will play out regarding the virus and its impact on everyday life in the coming weeks or months. Naturally, that makes people more drawn to things that feel familiar to them.
“The desire to be comforted by someone who knows us is at the top of the list — as is the need to know that the other person is all right,” explains Wilson. “In times of stress or strain, we are looking for some semblance of normalcy. Our ex represents a time when that intense stress or strain didn't exist.”
As Wilson points out, many people have a tendency to romanticize the past. If your ex was prone to this kind of idealism and sentimentality, they may be even more likely to reach out under the current circumstances.
According to Wilson, times of crisis can also put things into perspective for a lot of people. Suddenly, someone may realize that relationships are far more important to them than their career, or they may decide that a former partner’s so-called “flaws” aren’t actually a dealbreaker after all, because their positive qualities outweigh the negative.
"Breakups can be caused by simply one or both taking each other for granted and a time of stress can be a strong wake-up-call in that regard," Wilson explains. "Often times when a couple finds new appreciation for each other, the problems that existed can seem less important."
In other words, you know that old saying “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”? That seems to ring especially true RN, when many people are cooped up in their homes with far too much time on their hands to reminisce about the past and with fewer opportunities for human connection.
Laura, a 39-year-old startup founder, says she heard from not one but two exes recently — but she only opted to respond to one.
“One ex I had a meh relationship with and didn’t reply, because I didn't want to engage in conversation,” she explains. “The other is someone who I had great memories with, but the timing was just off. We have been talking every day.”
For some, the resulting loneliness has led to spending more time than ever swiping away on dating apps. The coronavirus outbreak isn’t exactly conducive to meeting up IRL, but many apps are adding features to make it easier to connect with matches virtually, such as video chat options. That said, Wilson points out that some may feel more comfortable reconnecting with an ex who’s familiar to them than a total stranger under the current conditions.
Clearly, there are many reasons why an ex might have slid into your DMs or fired off a text in recent weeks — and if you've found yourself on the receiving end of these messages, you're not alone. A quick scroll through Twitter should provide some reassurance that lots of people are in the same boat.
If you're struggling to figure out how to respond to your ex, Wilson recommends taking the time to getting honest with yourself about your motivations. Are you thinking about engaging with your ex so you don't have to feel alone? Or do you merely find comfort in communicating with someone who you cared for, and want to make sure they're OK?
"I'm not against contacting your ex during this time or other similar times of true uncertainty and unrest," says Wilson. "Just be careful that you monitor and know your true intentions since wanting your ex back can cause you to grasp at excuses to justify contacting them."
A friendly and caring exchange may provide some much-needed comfort during this time — provided you feel confident that communicating with your ex won't be harmful to your emotional well-being. However, if you feel that engaging with them might trigger some false hopes of getting back together, or that you're simply too vulnerable right now to let them back into your life, Wilson suggests at least delaying your response so that you can get some more clarity on what feels right for you. For example, you might tell yourself that you'll wait until tomorrow to respond — and reward yourself for holding off somehow.
"The desire to contact them could be less by then and you could avoid it all together," he tells Elite Daily.
If you haven't yet healed from the breakup, your ex didn't make you feel good about yourself, or you simply don't have any interest in resuming contact with them, Wilson says there are other ways to combat your loneliness and dodge the temptation to respond. First, he advises reaching out to someone else instead — like supportive friends, family members, or coworkers. Then, while you're waiting to schedule some FaceTime dates or other virtual catch-ups, he suggests finding some healthy distractions — like exercising, reading, spending QT with a pet, or participating in a favorite hobby.
It's only natural to crave connections that boost feelings of normalcy when the future feels so uncertain. However, it's important to consider how you’ll feel about your decision to respond (or not respond) down the line when this outbreak eventually comes to an end. In other words, look past the instant gratification of reigniting an old flame, and dig deep about your needs before texting them back. Are you just looking for a sexting partner? Do you miss their friendship? Or are you secretly hoping you’ll get back together? The more honest you can be with yourself, the better your chances of figuring out whether your ex will actually be able to fill those needs. While you’re at it, it’s a good idea to make sure you and your ex are on the same page in terms of your expectations. Don't be afraid to ask why they got in touch, and be prepared to explain your intentions in chatting with them.
Hearing from an ex is already confusing AF, but during a global pandemic, it's even more complicated. There's no right or wrong answer in this situation, and ultimately, it's up to you to decide whether their text warrants a response. One thing is for sure: During such a stressful time, your number one priority should be taking care of yourself. If communicating with an ex supports that goal, then feel free to indulge that nostalgic streak. If not, however, it may be time to figuratively wash your hands of the past and seek comfort, affection, and reassurance from the other available loved ones in your life.
Lee Wilson, relationship and breakup coach