To keep or not to keep — that is the question when it comes to your ex’s texts. On the one hand, holding onto those messages can serve as a pleasant reminder of the good times in your relationship. On the other hand, those reminders can make it potentially more difficult to move on. So, should you keep texts from your ex? Experts say it all comes down to your current feelings about the breakup, and your motivation for keeping them. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to suss out whether it’s the right move.
The first step is to dig a little deeper to determine your true motivation for holding onto those texts. And there are certain questions you can ask yourself in order to figure that out.
Fran Greene, a licensed clinical social worker and author of The Secret Rules of Flirting, and Michelle Fraley, a relationship expert, life coach, and founder of Spark Matchmaking, recommend asking yourself the following: What's the purpose of keeping the texts? How does it help me, or what am I hoping to gain? And how will I feel if I delete them?
If you can be honest with yourself in answering these questions, experts agree that you may get a much clearer sense of whether or not it’s a good idea to keep them. Above all, they say that you need to figure out if holding onto the texts means holding onto a false sense of hope for resuming the relationship (or is otherwise prolonging your post-breakup pain).
“It can lend a false sense of security,” says Greene. “If you don't press delete you could be re-traumatizing yourself every time you look at your ex’s loving words. Getting rid of reminders of ‘what was’ is fundamental to letting go. When you delete the pain of the past, it enables you to get ready for the love-filled future that awaits you.”
All that said, there are instances in which keeping the texts may not be detrimental whatsoever. If you feel confident that you are moving forward from the relationship, and are not tempted to re-read their texts again and again for comfort, then there’s no harm in not deleting them. Fraley notes that it’s fine to keep them “if reading the texts does not cause you emotional or psychological distress, but instead allows you to reminisce in a healthy and constructive way about the relationship.”
Still, there are several valid reasons why you might not want to hang on to those messages. Not only can they make it difficult to emotionally disconnect from your ex, but reading them may also lead to reaching out to your ex — which is obviously risky territory. Fraley advises getting real with yourself about your level of impulse control, where communication with your ex is concerned. If you know that spotting your text convo will inspire you to contact your ex, then deleting that conversation could help you to resist that temptation. She also notes that if you and your ex have an on-again, off-again type of relationship, then deleting their texts could help you to break the exhausting cycle.
“Keeping old texts can keep you stick in old patterns of maladaptive behavior that you may end up repeating in other relationships,” she explains.
Additionally, both experts agree that re-reading those texts can lead you to romanticize the relationship, thus making it challenging to leave it in the past.
“You broke up for a reason,” says Fraley. "Keeping and re-reading old texts may encourage you to distort your thinking and forget all the reasons the relationships didn’t work.”
Most importantly, Fraley stresses that if those texts with your ex make you feel bad about yourself in any way — whether guilty, ashamed, or just downright wounded — then it’s probably time to hit “delete.”
“Visualize taking a broom and sweeping out the person that broke your heart,” adds Greene. “Once you discard the texts, you might open yourself to a place where healing will happen and a feeling of freedom and peace."
So, there you have it, fam. Only you know whether holding onto your ex’s texts will delay your healing process or not. If you’re confident that they won’t cause you further heartbreak, then you totally reserve the right to keep them. But moving on from a breakup is already challenging as it is — and if you get the feeling that seeing them, reading them, or even just knowing they’re there will make things even harder for you, then consider the “delete” button your saving grace.
Fran Greene, licensed clinical social worker
Michelle Fraley, relationship expert and founder of Spark Matchmaking