Although breakups are common and happen every day, there's nothing I would call particularly "normal" about them. Every breakup happens for many reasons, everybody handles them differently, and no two breakups are the same. Think of breakups as unique, sharp, little heartbroken snowflakes! So whether you put everything they own in a box to the left or continue to talk to your ex after a breakup, you need to do you. Only you know what you need to do to feel better and sometimes that means staying in touch with your ex via text or phone call.
That being said, some of our worst instincts can come out after a breakup. I know people who call all their exes and go out every night of the week, and I also know people who wear the same sweatpants for a week straight. (I am not telling you which one of these is me, so don't even ask.) One of the most common pitfalls of navigating a breakup is figuring out how to communicate with your now-ex. Is it healthy and productive to text them every now and then? Or is the occasional phone call an impediment to your ability to move on from the relationship?
I spoke to Shula Melamed, relationship and wellness coach, about staying in touch with your ex, and she says it depends on the circumstances surrounding your breakup. She says, "It is healthy, productive, and vital [to stay in touch] if you share a child, animal or business together." The ease and clarity of this communication can be a barometer for the health of the breakup. This rings true for me because I recently dated a guy who shared his dog with his ex, and every time they exchanged their pup, he was upset after their interaction. This was an indication that he may have had unresolved issues stemming from the breakup and that he might not have been ready for a new relationship.
Let's say you don't have any financial investment or living creature to share with your ex, but you still feel inclined to shoot them a text every now and then. I asked Melamed if that was a bad thing, and she says staying in touch with an ex is a no-no "if you still have unresolved feelings for them and the relationship has no chance of going anywhere because of lifestyle considerations or [the] inability to agree on how to navigate the relationship in a healthy way."
However, you might not have lingering feelings for your ex. You might have even been the one to call it quits. Even if you wanted to be on your own, that doesn't mean you won't miss the sound of their voice, or want to share a link to a cute animal video with them, or just simply see how they're doing. Before you hit "send" on that link, Melamed says, "Ask yourself why you miss them. Is it just because you want to get back together? Check yourself and be real about your intentions." If you truly want to be friends, that's absolutely possible to do, but you should approach the new friendship carefully.
If you want to do the friend thing with your ex post-breakup, first be sure that's something they're into, as well. Melamed suggests, "Ask them if they are comfortable embarking on a friendship and find out if it is fair and healthy on their end. You might have to have some awkward conversations but in the end it has to be fair and healthy to both of you." If your ex has lingering feelings or simply needs to be on their own with no contact with you for a while, you should try to respect that. Respect and clear communication could be the foundation for your new friendship together.
Melamed offers another great piece of advice about how to go about being friends with an ex. "Don't have sex! Don't get in the way of them having sex with anyone else!" That might seem obvious, but if your urge to stay in touch with them has any degree of possessiveness behind it, that could sabotage your efforts at a friendship. Of course, if they're someone you truly miss because you enjoyed spending time with them, it might mean that you two are better suited to be buddies anyway.
In that case, reaching out occasionally and staying in touch can be healthy and productive for the both of you. Melamed suggests being mindful that, "There are no hard feelings or romantic tension left between the two of you. If there is residual bitterness or romantic feelings, you could be putting you and your ex through unnecessary pain." So if you feel the urge to reach out to your ex to rehash old arguments, or dig up unresolved issues, you might not be in a place to pursue a friendship with them. But if you are both on the same page about your breakup, feel resolved with how things ended, and won't be upset by seeing a text pop up, go ahead and press "send" on that funny link.
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