Last week I was asked, should I text my ex? My answer: To know when to text and when not to, you should read this page. Then you can text your ex boyfriend or ex girlfriend (or not.)
Ignore at your peril!
When *should* you text your ex?
Talk about a question with a hundred different answers.
Luckily for you? All the answers are here.
- Introduction: To text or not to text?
- Why you want to text your ex
- When should you text your ex?
- When shouldn’t you text your ex?
- 8 things you should never text your ex
- Frequently asked questions
- Downsides to texting
- 12 things to do instead of stalking your ex
- The basics of texting your ex back
- Moving on to phone calls and a date (?)
Introduction: To text or not to text?
Do you text your ex or not? That depends. There are many considerations and caveats to cover before you get to the right answer that is right for you.
But take heart.
Did you know relationships follow certain patterns? It’s true. With underlying principles which apply to all. Regardless of sex or type of relationship it is.
This is how this article answers most of the circumstances people find themselves in.
Why you want to text your ex
Why are you texting your ex? Well, for one, the mobile phone is our most personal device. Of all the different ways to start a conversation, texting is king. It’s the popular way to communicate, especially for quick intereactions.
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 a convenient way to stay in touch (reply when you want to, and not when I want you to.) And the recipient feels 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.
Later, when the conversation flows better and you are emotionally ready, you can pick up the phone. Talking on the phone can help deepen the relationship. When your ex is comfortable having real-time contact. But not beforehand.
The psychology behind texting your ex (by an expert)
A psychotherapist knows why we fight to keep the relationship alive after a breakup. The reason? To avoid feeling alone and to distract us from facing our new reality.
This is no surprise!
Any expert can tell you that texting is a way to keep the connection alive. And part of the reason for doing this relates to a phenomenon known as, “Extinction Burst”.
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 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 painful. It is heartbreaking when your ex ignores you. You love them, and as 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. Which means texting your ex boyfriend or girlfriend 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 easier to pick up your phone and send a text. It takes less courage to text than to meet 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. To 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 it is okay to text your ex.
For example, if you just broke up, you both need space to regroup. And avoiding all forms of contact is the best idea.
Or, if your partner is upset with you, you will want to withdraw for a while.
Get yourself to the stage where you accept and seek nothing in return from your ex. Then you will have a strong position to work from no matter the medium you use to contact your partner.
Expectations are the enemy. If you’re needy and in pain, you may feel dejected and unapproved should your ex not respond or answer how you want.
Texting your ex is ok in only these 3 situations, according to expert
If the context is right, any situation can be OK to text your ex. But, after coaching hundreds of relationship clients, these three rules are good:
Rule 1: It is ok to text your ex after sufficient time has passed
Simple. Texting is a great way to restart the communication lines after a suitable break. Let the dust settle and your ex will be more receptive.
I can not stress this enough.
The important thing is timing…
How long a time is enough?
The exact timing 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 had been together.
The longer the duration, the longer the break!
I made a simple no contact time calculator which could be useful for you if you are stuck. I talk more about this with email subscribers.
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.)
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,) 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 more than that in most cases (keep the message short.)
If 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.) 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, and so on. And, they will know you are thinking of them. That’s a good result (though 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. Enough 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, it wouldn’t hurt to hold fire for a while longer. In other words, 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 and negative emotions will subside.
When you reach out, if you get signs your ex is still hurting and angry, retreat.
Whereas, 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, you have the green light to begin contact.
Special mention: Use self-awareness to check why you are reaching out. If it is to avoid processing the pain and grief of separation. stop. It is better to address that before you work the contact process.
When shouldn’t you text your ex?
OK, so when should you refrain from reaching out?
Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something.
Use the following 7 rules to determine when you should NOT text your ex…
When not to: The 7 rules
If you stick to these rules, you won’t go far wrong:
Rule 1: Do not text your ex immediately after you break up
You know it is bad to text your ex right after the breakup. It is better to wait for the dust to clear.
Caveat: If you broke up amicably, abstaining from contact is less important. And it’s the same if you share responsibilities like children, work, or bills. In fact, you must take care of your shared obligations! Which 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. Which means if plenty of time has passed, and it is a special occasion? Stay clear! Same if your ex is angry with you, or they were recently hurt by something you did.
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.
Rule 5: Consider not texting your ex if they are incapable of sharing responsibility (and has a pattern of that)
Do not chase a partner who does not have the heart and maturity to recognize their role in an equal partnership. I know that’s hard to hear. But, your future happiness might be at stake.
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
Should I text my ex? 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?
You should not text your ex 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, wait 3 weeks.
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?
If your ex is in a new relationship, you can still text them. While not ideal, it is far from over when your ex is dating.
For example, your ex might be in a rebound relationship. If you have not been apart long, they will not have gotten over you in time. Starting a new relationship too soon makes it a rebound.
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 texting your ex early in the morning or at night. You risk appearing needy 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 speaking in person or calling. For one, we can’t hear the tone of their voice!
- Texts can be misunderstood. Without a voice, which conveys more meaning than words, the content of a message can be hard to understand. And, if you miss a word out by accident, you can change the meaning entirely!
- If we share too much via texting, we will have less topics, stories, and conversations to enjoy in person.
12 things to do instead of stalking your ex
While you are waiting (or are in-between contact) you must not stalk your partner. Doing that could ruin your chances if your ex finds out.
Instead, do healthy activities and keep busy so you have no time to be obsessing over your ex.
- 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 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 use, who you are, and who your ex is. If you use one platform a lot, it may be suitable. But, if in doubt stick to plain text messages.
What about email?
Email has a different vibe. It is an option, a good one if your number is 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 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?
After no contact, it’s a good idea to use the first text to gauge how receptive your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend is. Are they hot or cold?
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” text examples 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. 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 should be to raise the good feelings your ex has for you.
This is why I recommend you stay clear of problems. If you have to talk about heavier topics, do so briefly and infrequently.
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 by the feedback you get.
Frequency wise, you might text once or twice a week. Or even every other week in the early stages.
If all goes well, you can increase how often you contact. But that does not mean your ex wants to be texted daily. Use your judgement here.
How to build attraction?
You can build attraction by removing what blocks the attraction. Remember how your boyfriend or girlfriend found you attractive beforehand. What changed since then is your actions, words, and attitude.
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 helps to be consistent.
Moving on to phone calls and a date (?)
Texting is 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 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, 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.
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 with your ex. 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. Nothing more. “Friends.”
People make a fuss about getting out of the friend zone and I understand why. But when you look closer at what is going on, it is really no problem.
On the journey to something more, you should expect to be friends for a while.
What if your ex has a new relationship?
If it is a rebound, all is not lost.
Rebounds don’t last. It is one person bringing 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.
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.