Ask Bea: Questions to ask yourself before you send that text to your ex

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Getting over a relationship is hard, especially one that ended on negative terms. What might be the most difficult aspect of this is the urge to text them after it’s over. You may have picked up the phone and re-typed the text a thousand times, hitting send only to be filled with regret hours later. This concept isn’t really unusual, and it makes sense why we do it.

According to an article on Yourtango, that impulse to text your ex can be considered a behavioral process called an “extinction burst”. In the article, it’s defined as “a temporary increase in the frequency, duration, or magnitude of the target response.” Like when you maniacally push the buttons on a broken vending machine or a slow elevator even though it’s pointless. Consider your ex the broken vending machine. In order to keep sane in these situations, I’ve given myself a couple of parameters to avoid having regrets. Here are questions that you should also probably ask yourself before you send that text to your ex.

Is this really for closure?
Closure is the ultimate scapegoat when it comes to the reasoning involved in contacting someone you’re no longer speaking to. But sometimes, it really is because we haven’t gotten everything off our chests yet. If that’s the case, there’s something else you could do instead. Writing unsent letters is an underrated habit I’ve been doing for years. It’s like a journal entry with a letter heading. Sometimes I throw them away after I write them, or I burn them because it’s weirdly relieving as it is symbolic. Just don’t postmark them unless you want to become Lara Jean in “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before”.

Are you in any way emotionally vulnerable?
If you’re listening to the likes of Post Malone or Sam Smith, I heavily advise you to change to another playlist. Also definitely don’t drink and text (or drive while doing either). And if you do any of these things, call your best friend or a trusted confidante instead. Feelings need to be felt and should be embraced without the risk or fear of negative repercussions. Take time to sort your feelings out while at a time and space where you are safe physically and emotionally.

Are you okay with not getting a response?
This question came from a close friend when I was conflicted about reaching out to someone I was no longer on speaking terms with. I found that this question forced me to admit that I did want a response or some form of validation. This question helps put a label on intentions, which we often try to hide or lie about.

When I asked Brody Hunter, a UVU sophomore studying English, “What do you tell yourself to convince sending a text to your ex is a good idea?” He responded by saying, “I normally tell myself […] that he’ll feel bad for me so he’ll respond. It’s more of a thing I do to get sympathy.” Which I think we can all relate to.

According to the Yourtango article, and the extinction burst behavior, sending that text might bring you another step closer to peace of mind- if they don’t respond or give you any positive reaction. Logically, you’ll eventually stop pressing the button on the broken vending machine once you realize it’s not going to change anything. But if they do respond, is it worth it?

I asked Brody “In retrospect, has texting your ex after a bad breakup had a positive or negative effect?”

“It’s usually a negative effect. [laughs] If I do get the sympathy I was looking for, it’s fleeting. As it should be. It’s not fair to put someone in that situation.”

Could reaching out hinder or hurt me and/or my ex?

It’s hard for anyone to admit their faults, but the reality is that oftentimes in bad breakups and relationships the blame is shared. Maybe not equally, but since a relationship is between more than one person it definitely requires accountability from all parties included. There might be times when we were the one that had toxic habits, as it often happens in unhealthy relationships. We are all flawed in some way, and in order to progress we need to accept and forgive our mistakes as well as the other person’s. Even if we weren’t the toxic one, we all deserve to move on and find happiness.

If none of these questions help those urges, the logical thing to do is delete their number (and them from all social media). If you want to cheat yourself a little, you can write their number down someplace you’ll hopefully eventually forget about. But nothing is as tempting as the accessibility.

Need advice? Send questions to Bea at: [email protected]