I’ve had several people reach out to me recently stating that they’re struggling to stay away from contacting or virtually checking up on their ex.
It makes sense.
After all, when are we most tempted to reach out to the person that once was a source of comfort and stability? When we’re lonely, anxious or bored. And right now, I think everybody is feeling some combination of those things.
Sometimes it starts with an innocent-sounding thought. “I just need to check up on them,” you say to yourself. “I need to make sure they’re okay.”
Yet, as with so many thoughts when it comes to our exes, this one isn’t rational when examined further. After all, you ex isn’t alone. They have family, friends, maybe even a new significant other to look after their well-being. That’s a job you either quit or were fired from. So why are you still trying to carry out its responsibilities? Furthermore, you’ve gone for some time now without knowing how they are doing. And until the crisis, you managed this state of not-knowing just fine. Why do you need information now? Besides, they’re probably stuck at home just like the rest of us.
Maybe you’re curious if they’re thinking about you, wondering if this increase in thoughts of mortality and the importance of loved ones has made them miss you. After all, it seems like the plot of some 2022 romantic comedy – exes meet up again through Zoom while in quarantine and rekindle their relationship from a distance. And then once the country receives the “all-clear,” they reunite and its happily ever after. Except that’s Hollywood, not real life. In the real world, you broke up for a reason and even though some distance flirting seems harmless, it may be disastrous for your expectations.
Perhaps you’re in a situation like I was in post-divorce, where there was no contact and I looked him up online hoping to find evidence that he wasn’t happy with his other wife. After all, if you’re going to signs of discord in their current relationship, the stress of a pandemic seems like a good time. Yet, at least as far as my social media feeds are concerned, the accepted rules of curating and filtering your life into perfection before sharing still seem to hold true. In other words, don’t expect to see much truth there.
Many of you are feeling lonely right now. Isolated. And so you reach out hoping for a connection with somebody that has a shared history with you. Yet all so often, reaching out to an ex only leaves you feeling more alone as you sense the growing distance between you as your lives continue to diverge. Remember there’s a difference between missing them and missing the memory of them. No matter how many times you reach out, you won’t be able to connect with the past.
You may have been keeping it together before the pandemic, but now with so many of your normal coping strategies banned, you may be finding it harder to cope.
It makes sense.
Every emotion is amplified right now. Everybody has less bandwidth to cope. It’s normal that your willpower is reduced and you’re trying to keep your impulses restrained.
However, that doesn’t mean that it makes sense to check up on your ex. Unless you want to feel worse, that is.
I don’t have any magical advice for those of you struggling to maintain your distance. Nobody does. But I can tell you that you’ll do better if you mitigate your loneliness by staying in routine contact with friends and family. Anything you can do to interrupt the steps between the urge and the initiation of contact will be beneficial (ex. If you tend to look at their Instagram at night before you go to sleep, lock your phone in your car overnight.). Write down reminders why you don’t want to make contact or search them up (How does it make you feel afterwards?). Exercise within the current allowed parameters to work off some of the excess anxiety. And finally, find something that you can dive into that will occupy your brain space and fight off boredom.
In each moment, you have the choice to reach out or to resist the urge. Be honest with yourself which one will make you better, not just for the moment, but the long run. You may scratch the itch, but at what cost?
This too shall pass.