Nothing catches you off guard quite like an unexpected text from an ex. Whether you broke up three weeks ago or three years ago, seeing their name pop up on your phone screen out of the blue is sure to send you for a loop. Are you supposed to feel excited? Hopefully? Angry? An even better question: How the heck are you supposed to respond, if at all? Knowing how to react when your ex texts you randomly always depends on the situation, like the length of time that has passed since you last spoke or why exactly you two split in the first place. In any case, you’ll probably want to find a middle ground between, “I never stopped loving you,” and “New phone, who dis?”
“A text from an ex you still care about may send you into a serious session of overthinking and wondering what it means (i.e., do they want to get back together? Did they realize it was a mistake?),” licensed psychologist Dr. Joy Harden Bradford previously explained to Elite Daily. So before you fire back a response, think carefully about what it is you want from that ex, which is likely one of three things.
If You’re Open To The Idea Of Getting Back Together
Perhaps the breakup was amicable. You decided you were better off as friends, or that you wouldn’t work out in the long run, and you mutually decided to part ways. But now that ex is suddenly hitting up your phone, and you’re wondering whether you two may have made a mistake by calling it quits. First things first: Figure out if your ex is thinking that, too, or if they’re just looking to hook up.
As Bela Gandhi, president at Smart Dating Academy, previously told Elite Daily, “If they’re texting you that they want to hang out, that they miss you, that they’ve made a mistake… then they want to get back together. If someone is only texting you between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., this is probably not a person who’s looking to be in anything serious with you.”
If your ex’s text seems to suggest the former, go ahead and reply, but be sure to manage your expectations and keep your response (somewhat) casual. By saying, “Hey, stranger. Long time no chat. I’ve missed talking to you,” or, “It’s great to hear from you. We should catch up over coffee,” you can express your interest without coming on too strong and facing potential disappointment.
If You’d Like To Be Friends Eventually And Nothing More Than That
If the first thing you feel after receiving an old-of-the-blue message from an ex is nostalgia rather than longing, it’s possible you miss them as a friend, but not a lover. As tricky as it is to stay friends with an ex, it can be done. Even if your old partner’s text seems to suggest they want something more than friendship, you are not obligated to return the sentiment. Remember what you want, and respond in a way that makes your intentions clear.
Samantha Burns, dating coach and author of Breaking Up & Bouncing Back, agreed that “it’s definitely possible to cultivate a friendship with an ex.” As she explained it, “You’ll know you’ve moved on when you can treat texts with your ex with the same expectations of any other friendship — without all of the amped up emotional reactions.”
If you feel confident that staying on good terms with you ex is not only possible, but desirable to you, respond in a way that is friendly and free from suggestiveness. Try, “It’s so weird that you just texted — something hilarious happened the other day and I almost texted to tell you about,” or, “I’m glad you texted. I’ve been dying to discuss the new season of our fave show with someone.” Make it known that you miss the friendship aspect of your relationship, but you don’t have any desire to rekindle the romantic aspect.
If You Want Nothing To Do With Them
It’s possible that a message from an old SO pops up on your phone and the only thought you have is, “Nope.” Whether you were hurt by that person, you’re still trying to get over that person, or you’re totally over that person for good, you’ll want to find a way to shut that convo down before it can begin. I’m always in favor of taking the high road — there really isn’t anything to gain from being nasty. Just keep your respond brief, detached, and straightforward, and they’ll likely back off.
To make it known you’re not open to starting up a relationship again, platonic or romantic, text back in a way that is short but not-so-sweet. Saying, “I’m not sure it’s such a great idea for us to keep talking,” or, “I need some space, and I would be grateful if you respected that,” lets your ex know you aren’t necessarily bitter, but you’re definitely not interested.
However, as Burns told Elite Daily, you may be better not responding at all. “A breakup impacts us on a neuropsychological level similar to drug withdrawal,” she pointed out, “so sometimes even sending a short text can be like showing up to the bar when you’re trying to get sober.” If ignoring that text message is what’s best for you, then just delete that text and move on.
In responding to an unexpected text from an ex, you’re opening a can of worms, and no matter your intentions, you should practice caution. “I think it’s important to be gentle with yourself and your feelings,” Bradford said, “so if the text brings up some stuff for you and then the day goes downhill after that, allow it to happen and then develop a plan for how you’ll try to have a better day tomorrow.”
If responding will bring more harm than good, it’s probably better not to respond at all. But if you think you might be ready to give your relationship another try, even just as friends, then choose your response carefully and see what happens.
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