Is there anything more confusing than trying to navigate communication with your ex? Whether your split was an amicable "thank u, next" breakup or more like World War III, you may not be sure how to move forward when it comes to staying in touch. So, when you're scrolling through Instagram and see that they're celebrating a big life event, should you text your ex to congratulate them?
It appears that there are a lot of unwritten rules surrounding proper etiquette with an ex-boo. And beyond etiquette, it's possible that the two of you left things open for friendship, or even the possibility of getting back together. However, this can change depending on certain factors, like how much time has passed or if either of you are dating someone new.
If you catch wind that your old flame is engaged, graduated from college, got a new job, is having a baby, ran a marathon, hit 10,000 Instagram followers, or is celebrating some other milestone, what are the rules? Should you text your ex to congratulate them? Here's how to decide, according to experts.
Dr. Darcy Sterling, a licensed clinical social worker and relationship expert, says it depends on what outcome you have in mind when you think about sending a congratulatory text to your ex. She explains that if you still have feelings for them and things would need to "be different in order for the two of you to work out in the future," it may not be a good idea to drop them a line.
On the other hand, if you're pretty sure that your ex still has feelings for you and know that you don't want to get back together with them, Dr. Sterling says not to text them "under any circumstances, unless you don’t mind stringing your ex along." So, think about the implications before sending them a message telling them how much they've been killing it.
Samantha Burns, relationship expert and author of Breaking Up & Bouncing Back, tells Elite Daily that if your breakup was a particularly painful one, it's a good idea to refrain from communication. "A breakup impacts us on a neuropsychological level similar to drug withdrawal, so sometimes even sending a short text can be like showing up to the bar when you’re trying to get sober," she explains. When you're scrolling through social media (or maybe even cyberstalking your ex) and you see some news about them that leaves you shook, you might be tempted to text them just out of curiosity, as opposed to genuinely being happy for them. If that's the case, it might not be the best reason to text your ex. Burns adds that "it’s easy to get sucked back into an on-again-off-again dynamic, or feel triggered by texting, slipping into a very negative emotional state." You're not in a relationship with this person anymore, so protecting your heart should come first.
It's possible that when you see their big news, you truly think "Yassss! I'm so happy for them!" Burns explains that "when you break up with someone, it doesn’t mean you automatically stop caring about them. You likely invested a lot of time and energy into supporting them in achieving their goals," so it may be second-nature for you to get stoked about their success. In that case, it might be fine to send them a message.
On the other hand, it's totally OK to pass on sending your ex a congratulatory text. Burns says that "not wishing them well doesn’t make you cold or heartless, it just means you’re prioritizing yourself and your own healing." Don't worry too much about whether they'll even notice if you've reached out or not. Post-breakup, your emotions should be prioritized. "It can be hard to see an ex go through big life events and pretend that you don’t care, but sometimes reaching out can cause more harm than good," she adds.
Before hitting send on that text, it's smart to also consider what exactly they're celebrating. Getting engaged or making it FBO with a new boo is a lot different than landing a new job or graduating from college. So, deciding whether or not it's a good idea to send your ex a "Congrats!" text will depend on a bunch of different things. Are either of you seeing someone new? If so, are your current baes comfortable with your ongoing communication? Do you want to get back together with your ex, or are you strictly friends? Were you looking for an excuse to text them, or are you actually excited for them about their big news?
If you've weighed out all your options and decide that yes, you are going to shoot your ex a congratulatory text, Dr. Sterling's advice is to "keep it painfully direct, simple, and devoid of flirting or mixed messages. Otherwise, you run the likelihood of provoking lot of drama." Additionally, Burns says to "take into consideration whether you’d be upset if they don’t respond, and question if that would just put you in a worse position."
I'm not here to tell you what to do. Only you can decide whether or not to send your ex a congratulatory text, sext, or even just a simple "What's up?" It may not seem like it, but there are no real rules when it comes to communicating with people you used to date. Every relationship is unique, and this includes post-breakup behavior. Just keep the potential outcome in mind, and do what you think is best.