One of the worst things about breaking up with someone, especially a long-time partner, is the loss of their friendship. My partner is my best friend, so they know just about everything about me and about the people in my life. This means we’ve developed a shorthand over the years that makes it easy to turn to them when times get hard. Besides that, we're a team. So I totally understand if someone's reflex, when times get tough, would be to fall back into that pattern with an ex. But is it OK to reach out to an ex when you’re going through a hard time? Is that ever really a good idea? I'm not so sure. Maybe your best course of action is to just put that phone back in your pocket and keep it moving.
Just to be clear, I am a true believer in being friends with exes, provided the relationship was not toxic, the breakup was relatively amicable, and enough time has gone by. But when it comes to reaching out specifically because you're going through a rough time, that's a little different and, to be honest, I'm not sure if that’s even OK. So, to help with this dilemma, I reached out to flirting, dating and relationship coach Fran Greene, author of The Secret Rules of Flirting and Dating Again with Courage and Confidence, to ask for her advice on when and if you should turn to your ex in a crisis. Here’s what she suggested.
How did the relationship end? Were you the one to call it quits? If so, Greene says reaching out to an ex when you're feeling vulnerable might be ill advised because they could be harboring some resentment. In fact, she warns it may actually be unkind to do so. “If you gave your ex their walking papers, it is cruel and insensitive to reach out to them when you need help,” she says. You might risk confusing them or may “get his or her hopes up and that is just not fair.”
If you can't contact your ex, what should you do? Greene has a few suggestions. Instead of talking to them about whatever you're going through, you could try processing your feelings by writing them down. “There are great outcomes to putting your thoughts and feelings on paper,” she suggests. “It releases your emotions, you gain insight, it feels good to be honest, it helps you process your loss, and being self-reflective is good for your soul.”
She also says you should open up to your friends instead, because “authentic friends help soothe the pain, wipe away the tears, and take us out to dinner when we need support and company. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
If neither of those options are going to offer what you need, Greene says you shouldn't be afraid to ask for professional help. “Seek out a therapist, she says. “Therapy offers techniques for managing stress, grief and self-defeating behaviors” — like calling your ex. “The agenda of therapy is focused only on you, your needs and your future,” Greene adds.
The most important takeaway is that, while it may be tempting to reach out to your former flame, it's not a good idea post-breakup — but that doesn't mean you have to go through a rough patch alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your support system and, if that's not what you need, then don't ever be ashamed to enlist the help of a professional.
If you or someone you know is considering self-harm or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
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