Should You Respond If Your Ex Texts You? An Expert Weighs In
Getting a text from your ex can really throw your whole day off, and if it does, try to be gentle with yourself. Communicating with an ex via texting and other forms of digital communication like your DMs or even email can be complicated for myriad reasons. First of all, if you weren't expecting it, it can throw you off because you don't always open your phone or social media with your guard up. It's also OK to feel torn about whether you should respond if your ex texts you, because it can be confusing AF. So, should you respond?
"A text from an ex you still care about may send you into a serious session of overthinking and wondering what it means (i.e., do they want to get back together? did they realize it was a mistake?)," says Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Licensed Psychologist and author of Questions That Need Answers: After the Breakup. Exes can be fickle people and their texts equally as unpredictable — they could be texting you about a random jacket they need back or randomly profess their love for you. Either way, processing and moving past this experience, though challenging, is entirely possible.
To decide if you want to respond or not, consider taking the following steps first to evaluate how you feel and how you should proceed.
Process how you're feeling.
"I think it's important to be gentle with yourself and your feelings, so if the text brings up some stuff for you and then the day goes downhill after that, allow it to happen and then develop a plan for how you'll try to have a better day tomorrow," says Bradford. It can be pretty jarring to be contacted by an ex, regardless of what they have to say.
Sometimes just getting the notification can raise you heart rate alone, says Trina Leckie, breakup expert and host of the podcast breakup BOOST. Both experts recommend taking time to process and calm down before deciding about if you should respond. That way you can rely more on logic, instead of any reactionary emotions you might have.
Consult friends, family, or a therapist.
When you've calmed down slightly and had a moment to think, Bradford recommends you discuss potential feelings with someone that isn't your ex. Whether you screenshot the text and send to your BFF or talk it out with a family member or therapist, any outside insight could be beneficial in deciding what to do next.
Bradford also notes that communication with an ex can fall on a broad spectrum. In cases where you often have to talk to an ex because they might be in a bunch of your classes or your friend group, consider setting strict boundaries for how, when, and what you are to communicate about. Discussing with family and friends can help you understand what you do and don't want when it comes to communicating with your ex.
Manage your expectations.
"Make sure your expectations are minimal in responding," says Leckie. "Many times, exes text just to test whether they still have access to you." By taking a moment to think through your feelings and thoughts regarding their out of the blue text, you can make sure that your hopes for the conversation don't skyrocket to a place where you're bound to be let down.
Exes can exist in your life in complicated ways. They're people, yes, but they also represent a lot. An ex is someone that represents a lot of memories, and some of them may be painful. When an ex pops into your life, it forces you to navigate communication with them as well as your feelings and memories of them. This can be tricky if you have hopes surrounding things they may say or do. For instance, if they acted poorly and owe you an apology, it could feel natural to get your hopes up when they name lights up on your phone. Managing what you expect from them can be a helpful tool in protecting your feelings and heart from being hurt by them again.
Consider blocking or muting their number.
After you move past this specific incident, whether it goes well or it really bothers you, it could help to consider what sort of communication you're comfortable having with your ex. If you're extremely hurt over the way things ended, for instance, Bradford recommends cutting off all contact to allow yourself to heal. If you feel relatively comfortable being in touch, you could always set their number to "do not disturb" on your phone, so that, if they text again, their message won't hit you entirely out of the blue.
It's great that you're taking the time to research how to work through something like this. Overall, make sure you are being gentle with yourself throughout all of this because you deserve it.