Should You Text Your Ex If They're Struggling? Here’s What Experts Say About Reaching Out
I've never been one to intentionally keep tabs on an ex. If anything, it's the opposite — I try and cut all ties so I can get over them as quickly as possible. But imposing a total blackout, considering social media is everywhere these days, is next to impossible. Seeing or reading a few bits and pieces about them is almost inevitable. Sure, it's easy to ignore, but if I were to hear they were really going through something hard, I don't know if I could. I'd probably want reach out. But should you text your ex if they’re struggling? Or is it totally inappropriate to reach out to an ex when they're going through something rough after you've broken up?
Honestly, it's complicated. On the one hand, this is someone you once cared for, or even loved (and maybe still do). But on the other hand, you've made a conscious decision to not be a part of each other's lives anymore. It's tricky, and definitely a grey area. To get a better idea of how to handle this situation, I reached out to several relationship experts for their take on when, if, and how to text an ex if you know they're in need of support, whether it's because they're dealing with loss, heartbreak, or they're just down in the dumps. Here's what they had to say.
When to reach out — and when not to.
If you’re considering texting your ex because you know they're going through a rough time, NYC relationship expert and love coach Susan Winter tells Elite Daily that whether or not you go through with it should depend on what your current dynamic is with the ex, and how you left things. “The question as to whether to reach out to an ex or not depends upon your current level of comfort with each other. If the breakup was amicable and you're now friendly, reaching out in a time of crisis is the right choice. You're showing concern and support,” she explains.
Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples' therapist in Los Angeles, tells Elite Daily he agrees that reaching out to an ex who you're on good terms with is totally appropriate. "You can certainly text your ex when they are struggling if both of you agreed that you wanted to maintain a friendship after you broke up,” he says. However, he cautions against contacting a former partner who you have previously agreed to cut off communication with.
Winter adds that texting an ex you have unresolved feelings for, or vice versa, might not be the best idea. “If one of you still has deep feelings for the other, reaching [out] can feel like walking a tightrope between concern and torment. You care, and would like to support your ex. But you don't want your contact to inspire false hope for them, or yourself," says Winter.
What to say in the text.
Deciding whether or not to send a text is really just the first step. Next, you actually have to figure out what to say, which can be difficult. Again, Winter says it really depends on how you left things at the end of the relationship. If the situation is more tricky, she suggests sending them something brief, but warm, such as, "I've heard you're going through a challenging time. Truly wishing you well." While this might seem cold or brisk if you're friends, this is a good way to test the waters if things are more complicated. However, if you're on friendlier terms, Winter says you can be more specific.
Dr. Brown also favors a more direct approach. “You might simply want to say that, ‘I heard (or see on x social media) that you are having a rough time and wanted to let you know that I'm still here for you,'" he advises.
Potential pitfalls to avoid.
Despite your best intentions, reaching out to an ex could have unintended consequences that the experts warn to be mindful of. “Over-involvement is tempting,” cautions Winter. “You may feel guilty, or that you have a responsibility to 'be there' for your ex. Consider the entire arc of your relationship before you take action. Where do you both now stand, emotionally? How much is too much? How much is too little given your past. Expressing concern is one thing. Involvement in your ex's issue is another. Choose wisely.”
There is also the question of timing to consider, says Dr. Brown. “If you ended the relationship fairly recently, they may need some time to grieve and recover. If you reach out too soon, it could be a painful reminder that the relationship is over. This is particularly true if they still wanted the relationship to continue,” he explains. You also run the risk of giving your ex mixed signals. “Your ex could also potentially view you reaching out as a sign that you might be interested in getting back together,” concludes Dr. Brown.
Ultimately, the choice whether or not to text an ex who is struggling is totally up to you. As the experts agree, the key is just to make sure you are doing it thoughtfully, because sending an impulsive text may have the opposite effect of what you're going for. So, trust your gut, but be sure to think twice before actually hitting send.