Here’s a question with a hundred different answers: should I text my ex?
The answer, "it depends," would be an understatement because there are many considerations and caveats to cover before we get to the answer that is right for you.
But take heart, as giving you the answer that is right for your situation is the top goal of this article.
Thankfully, relationships tend to follow certain patterns, and there are underlying principles that apply equally to all, regardless of sex or the type of relationship it is.
As a result, this article explains most of the circumstances people typically find themselves in (hey, there’s always that unique and rare scenario that is difficult to predict.) Still, hopefully, your search will end here.
Why You Want to Text Your Ex
Why are you texting your ex?
Well, for one, the mobile phone is our most personal device.
And, of all the different ways to start a conversation, texting is the most popular communication choice by far.
You can send a message at any time, day or night, and they can reply (or not) at any time, day or night. It is therefore a convenient way to stay in touch (hey, reply when you want to, and not when I want you to,) which helps the recipient to feel less pressure to receive it!
And speaking of which? Less pressure is exactly why you want to text your ex, versus phoning them or knocking on their door. Especially after following the no contact rule.
It is the ideal way to start the reconnection process.
Only later, when the conversation flows better and you are emotionally ready, might you then pick up the phone occasionally to further deepen the relationship (at which point your ex is feeling comfortable with having real-time contact.)
The Psychology Behind Texting Your Ex (By an Expert)
A psychotherapist will reason how —post-breakup— we will fight to keep the relationship alive somehow, in order to avoid feeling alone and facing our new reality.
This is no surprise!
And indeed, any expert will tell you that texting is a way to keep the connection alive.
And so, people send text messages to avoid —or to cope with— the pain of breaking up, and of dealing with rejection.
For many, it can be a form of grief management (or perhaps a symptom of not managing the grief…)
As I see it?
If you call your ex and they do not pick up, it is psychologically hard to bare. After all, it is heartbreaking to be ignored by the one you love, and when you are already hurt, it can magnify the rejection you already feel.
Yet, if you text your ex, you have no immediate feedback of your success (or otherwise.) And so, texting is easier on your mind. And, if you are feeling needy, it is important to find a kinder way to test the waters, right?
Why Do We Feel the Urge to Text an Ex?
You miss them.
You would love to hear from them, but you worry they are not ready to talk. But maybe a text will be acceptable?
It’s also far easier to pick up your phone and send a text, than it is to get up the courage to go meet with your ex boyfriend or girlfriend in person.
It is also easier than having a real-time live conversation.
Lastly, it is a chance to check in with your partner with minimal effort and feel better for having done something.
When Should You Text Your Ex?
Context and sensitivity to what your partner might be feeling is key to knowing when to text your ex.
For example, if you just broke up, you both need space to regroup. And avoiding all forms of contact is generally the best idea.
Or, if your partner is upset with you, you will want to withdraw for a while.
If you can reach the stage where you accept and seek nothing in return from your ex, you will have a strong position to work from regardless of the medium you use to contact your partner.
Expectations are the enemy here: if you are needy and in pain, you risk feeling dejected and unapproved should your ex not respond how you want them to.
Texting Your Ex Is OK in Only These 3 Situations, According to Expert
If the context is right, then arguably any situation could be OK to text your ex. But, having coached hundreds of clients in relationships the world over, I can give you the following three rules based on experience to get you started:
Rule 1: It is OK to text your ex after sufficient time has passed
Texting is a great way to start up the communication lines again, AFTER a time period has passed by that is sufficient to let the dust settle.
I can not stress this enough.
The most important thing here is timing…
How long is sufficient time, exactly?
The exact timing here depends on the degree of drama and upset that was present when breaking up.
The more drama there was, and the greater the upset? The longer the break must be.
Another factor is how long you both were going out for.
The longer the duration, the longer the break!
In general though, a few weeks will be sufficient for most cases. After which, it will be safe to reopen the communication lines (with a text that tests the waters.)
Note: you can learn more about how long to go no contact for on my no contact rule page.
Rule 2: It is OK to text your ex on special occasions (if enough time has passed since the breakup…)
Special occasions throw people off. We don’t know what to do for the best. We worry what it may mean if we don’t send a text, e.g. "what if they think I don’t care about them?"
We also worry what it may mean if we DO send a message! E.G. "what if I ruin their day?"
But, in general? If sufficient time has passed (see rule 1) then it is OK to drop a simple message.
If it’s their birthday, for example, you can wish them a happy birthday. And, I wouldn’t say much more than that in most cases (keep the message short.)
So long the special occasion is not right after breaking up, you should be safe.
This is not a black and white rule of course (none are.) So, use your judgement. And keep reading, because other factors we are about to address may better inform your decision.
So again: if enough time has passed, you can begin to check in and wish them luck on tests, etc. And, they will know you are thinking of them, and that’s a good result (just don’t use these occasions as excuses to tell them how you feel!)
Rule 3: Texting is OK when your ex no longer feels hurt and angry
This is a biggie. You want your ex to feel comfortable hearing from you, right?
So that, when your name shows up on their phone, they do not freak out and want to run to the hills.
If they are emotionally unstable and broken, then it wouldn’t hurt to hold fire for a while longer (read: definitely put that phone down!)
Of course, it’s hard to read the situation, and you are not a mind reader. This is why we wait a while before making contact. The idea is that with time the hurt feelings will subside.
If when you reach out you get signs that they are still hurting and angry, then retreat.
Conversely, when you have evidence your ex is ready to hear from you, and they are calm etc. then it is safe to text. Simple.
If they are no longer angry with you, or gasping for breathing space, then you have the green light to begin contact.
Special mention: Use self-awareness to determine whether you are reaching out to avoid processing the pain and grief of separation. Because if you are, it is better to address that first before you work the contact process.
When Shouldn’t You Text Your Ex?
OK, so when should you refrain from reaching out?
Use the following 7 rules to determine when you should not text your ex:
Rule 1: Do not text your ex immediately after you break up
You know this by now. It is better to wait for the dust to clear.
Caveat: If you broke up amicably, and have shared responsibilities like children, work, bills, etc. then it is not so important to abstain. In fact, you must take care of your shared obligations, and that means communication lines need to remain open.
Where possible, it may be advantageous to wait. Where not possible? You must adapt.
Rule 2: Never send texts when your ex is angry with you
This overrules all other rules…
So, even if plenty of time has passed, and it is a special occasion? If they are angry with you, or they were recently hurt by something you did, stay clear.
Rule 3: Strongly consider leaving your ex well alone if it was an abusive relationship
If the relationship was abusive for you, your efforts are better spent moving on.
Ask yourself, "why would I want to get back in touch with an abusive partner?"
Rule 4: Do not start a conversation — text or otherwise — when you are feeling extremely needy
Avoid the urge to talk when you are not feeling good. You must not put your partner in that position. And, you only weaken your chances when you do so.
Rule 5: Strongly consider not texting your ex if they are incapable of sharing responsibility (and has a pattern of that)
I know that’s hard to hear. But, your future happiness might be at stake if you pursue a partner who does not have the heart and maturity to recognize their role in an equal partnership.
Rule 6: Refrain from contacting your partner if your motivation to do so is to avoid grief and pain
Your partner will not want to be texted if the reason is that you see them as a kind of pain killer!
Rule 7: Texting is not OK when your ex feels their personal space is being threatened
If your partner feels claustrophobic and controlled, they will not want to hear from you.
At least, not for a good while.
It’s difficult to guide you on this one without one-on-one interaction, but, you need to tread carefully. And follow as best you can what your ex will find acceptable.
8 Things You Should Never Text Your Ex
Certainly not if you do any of these:
- Fake accidental messages: "whoops, didn’t mean to send that." Oh come on…;
- Complaining: don’t whine or complain about ANYTHING in your messages;
- Requests for answers: don’t ask your ex to reply, or ask if they got your message. Just send, and let it go;
- Serious talk: don’t talk about the relationship or about what went wrong. Keep conversation light.
- Don’t say, "I’m thinking of you";
- Don’t beg or show signs you are desperate;
- Don’t apologize in a text: do that in a handwritten letter, or in person;
- One-word texts: check you are not sending single word messages!
Frequently Asked Questions
When should you text your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend?
Not at all to begin with. Then rarely after a decent break. Then, if they are friendly enough, a little less rarely. And, if the good vibes continue, you can increase the frequency.
When is it acceptable to text your ex?
If you have agreed to give space for 3 weeks, then 3 weeks later.
Or, if your ex tells you not to contact them, give it a month or so. And try again. And see what happens.
The point is, after a break, you can only find out by finding out!
Can you text your ex when one of you is in a new relationship?
Yep. You certainly can.
If they are dating, it is far from over for you. For example, it is possible they are in a rebound relationship. Especially if you have not been apart for long (meaning they could not have gotten over you in time before starting the new relationship.)
If you can, stay in touch while they are in the new relationship.
Can you text your ex first thing in the morning or late at night?
I do not recommend it. You risk appearing needy, for one, if you are texting late at night. And, like you have nothing better to do.
Downsides to Texting
Texting is far from ideal. Compared to speaking on the phone or in person, you are disadvantaged.
- You have a voice and that voice is easily misrepresented via the medium of text.
- Texting can be awkward and clumsy, especially if there is anxiety and neediness.
- Texts are usually boring and neutral compared to in-person and calling because we can’t hear the tone of their voice!
- Texts can be misunderstood. Without our voice —which conveys more meaning than text alone— the content of the message can be difficult to understand. And, if you miss a word out by accident, you can change the meaning entirely!
- If we share too much of our life via texting, then we will have fewer topics, stories, and therefore conversations worth having, that you can have in person later.
12 Things to Do Instead of Stalking Your Ex
While you are waiting (or are in-between contact) you must not stalk your partner, and indeed doing that could ruin your chances later if they find out.
Instead, do healthy activities and keep really busy so you have no time to be obsessing over your ex.
Here are some tips:
- Start a movement;
- Get a mission, pursue it;
- Develop a skill;
- Nurture a friendship;
- Spend time with family;
- Pour your energy into the man or woman in the mirror;
- Get in shape;
- Learn a language;
- Learn to play a musical instrument;
- Work more, save more.
The Basics of Texting Your Ex Back
Let’s now look at the deal with texting your ex back.
WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook, Viber, Line, Twitter, Snapchat?
So, what should you use to text?
Depends on what you usually use, who you are, and who your ex is. If you use one particular platform a lot, it may be suitable. But, if in doubt just stick to plain text messages.
What About Email?
Email has a different vibe. However, it is still an option though, especially if your number has been blocked, or you are blocked on social media.
Up until now, I have been talking about using your phone to send plain vanilla text messages.
However, you can technically achieve the same thing using the various apps and social media networks.
My fallback advice is to stick with the basic medium you both always use. And, only you will know what that is.
The First Text: What to Text Your Ex After No Contact?
It’s a good idea to use the first text to gauge how receptive —and hot or cold— your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend is.
Something simple they can reply to, or ignore, where either "responses" are plausible.
This gives them a chance to demonstrate where they are emotionally with you.
Popular “template” styles of text include:
"THE MEMORY TEXT" — the classic, "do you remember when…"
"THE ADVICE TEXT" — "hey, I need you advice about something…"
"THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM TEXT" — where you address what happened head-on.
Using Text Messages to Rebuild Attraction, Connection and Trust
You need to help your ex here. They might be hurt and broken. And, each time you speak about what went wrong, you risk bringing their mood down.
How to build connection?
Your strategy here should be to raise the good feelings your ex has for you.
This is why I recommend you stay clear of mentioning problems or at least only tackling heavier topics briefly and infrequently.
Frankly, if you can avoid misunderstandings and subjects that hurt, do!
Take your time:
You want to build the positive emotions over the days, weeks, and months that follow (do not rush this.)
Work according to your exes terms. Let them guide you forward by the feedback you get.
Frequency wise, you might text once or twice a week, perhaps. Or even every other week in the early stages.
And, while you should strive to increase the contact frequency (so long as it goes well,) that does not mean your ex wants to be texted daily. But, you must use your judgement here.
How to build attraction?
By removing what has blocked the attraction. Attraction is not something you build as much as you remove all that hinders its flow.
How to build trust?
Trust is built by doing what you say. It is that simple. If you make an agreement, stick to it.
It also helps to be consistent.
Moving On to Phone Calls and a Date (?)
Texting is really a stepping stone to more exciting and deeper methods of communication.
When you and your ex are ready, expect phone calls to bring you closer together as you can hear each others’ voices.
You can also escalate to FaceTime / video-calls so you can see each other.
Asking them out?
If the conversation has been going well, then you can ask them to join you for quick coffee.
Something that takes twenty minutes or so is ideal.
Grabbing a tea or coffee is a safe bet… as it is a public place and gives you each something to do (nibbles and a drink.)
Just don’t refer to it as a date. It is NOT a date. It is a quick catch up.
Later, when you have had a few of these meet-ups, you can begin to use texts for flirting.
Being Friends with Your Ex?
You can be friends. And, friendship is not going to close you off from anything more. That’s a myth.
You must not put your life on hold, but that does not mean you can not be friends with your ex.
It is a label, really. Nothing more. "Friends."
On the journey to something more, you can expect to be friends for a while. It really isn’t a problem.
What if Your Ex Has a New Relationship?
If it is a rebound then all is not lost.
Rebounds don’t last. Because it is at least one person bringing their baggage into a relationship, and ignoring that they are not ready for the relationship.
The result? Sooner or later the cracks show.
So, you can still text your ex when they are in a rebound relationship.
Just stay in touch and play it cool.
What if Your Ex is Getting Married?
If it is an advanced stage of a rebound, it adds a legal obstacle for sure…
Best to leave them to it, either way.
Let them find out by finding out.