Staying in contact with an ex is, for the majority of people, fraught with issues. It’s not necessarily only negative breakups that cause the most stress, even splitting up on amicable terms can unleash just as much confusion about the right protocols to adopt post-relationship. When it comes to texting, often viewed as the safer alternative to any awkward verbal conversations, there seem to be a number of mental hoops people jump through before clicking send. How frequently can you text, what are the appropriate hours to do so and how much information about your new life should you really include? Whilst we’re not going to answer all those questions, we are going to address the ones that should come before them.
Cooling off period
Regardless of how amicable your breakup has been, we suggest that you observe a strict cooling off period before you begin texting each other as friends. It’s hard to fully grieve a relationship when you’re still communicating just as often as you did when you were together. You may also notice that the person who was ‘dumped’ tends to get the short straw when it comes to behaving like friends so soon after ending things. Constant contact can give them false hope that there’s a chance to rekindle the romance and a sudden silence when you meet someone new can feel like a second breakup.
So that neither of you feels shunned or ignored, agree that you’re going to cease contact for a few weeks, if possible. Give each other the space required to assess what’s happened and begin the true healing process.
When people text their ex’s, especially soon after a breakup, we’ll be so bold as to say they are rarely texting about the thing they’re texting about – if you get our drift. Perhaps you’ve sent a message under the pretext of collecting the 20pence you left on their coffee table, but actually what you really want is an excuse to show how angry you still are, to check how they are, or to stop yourself from feeling quite so lonely.
If you find your fingers hovering over the text buttons on your phone, the best thing to do is stop and ask yourself What’s my intention here? What is it you’re truly looking for from this exchange you’re about to attempt? What will it take to satisfy your needs and is it appropriate – and fair – to seek it in this manner? These are all massive questions for sure, but you need to take some control in your life at this point and figure out your motives before complicating things further. If your intentions are honest and pure, be clear about them with your ex, don’t wrap them up in false pretences.
If there is one thing you need to establish after a breakup it’s boundaries. Strong, sensible, healthy boundaries around yourself and the new life that is trying to emerge for you. Texting seems so low-key, so harmless, that in fact we forget it can be just as invasive and pervasive as a phone call.
If you’re the one who ended the relationship, spare a thought for the person who is maybe trying to get over the hurt and pain that no longer dating you has caused. Yes, you may want to check they are okay, show you still care or that you’re not a complete monster, but be mindful of how you do it. It’s not up to the other person to make you feel better about your feelings or to quickly forgive you. You can’t force this responsibility onto them. Show them you care, but don’t swamp them in your emotions.
If you are the one who has been broken up with, you must respect the boundaries of your ex also. Of course you want more of an explanation, maybe you even deserve one, but ultimately if they aren’t going to give it there has to come a point where you step back. Find ways to deal with the not knowing and ensure they respect your own boundaries by not accepting any mixed signals they may later give.
Lastly, it’s worth remembering that you will both eventually move on and the history you created will fade away. We want you to consider how you might react if you meet a new potential partner and you learn that they still regularly text their ex. Put the shoe on the other foot and think about how you’d feel if this were happening to you. Would you mind, or would you prefer they had a clean break once and for all?