I see you all chatting with your exes. A lot of my single friends are doing it. I’ve been seeing those Instagram stories. I’ve been seeing the snapshots of FaceTime calls and Zoom meetings. I see a lot of exes being back in touch. There happens to be a pandemic going on, and required social distancing. But there’s another pandemic happening in my opinion which is people getting back with exes! I call it a pandemic because it is a global outbreak of a disease that is spreading between people quickly and for which there is no immunity. That’s what getting back with an ex sounds like to me, don’t you think? It’s not good for us. Once we get one little symptom or make brief contact, we experience full-blown symptoms in a matter of days. Texting every day. Calling throughout the day. Possibly breaking quarantine to physically get together. Chatting with an ex is infectious, and a lot of people are doing it right now.
Look, I know that I’m privileged because I’m in a stable relationship. I have someone to quarantine with right now—someone with whom things aren’t complicated or messy or tumultuous. It’s just a solid, loving relationship. I don’t know what it would be like to be single during this pandemic. Even as I’m in this relationship, I have times when I feel lonely and depressed right now. One man alone cannot provide me all the socialization I need. Nor should he! We aren’t codependent, looking to each other for every type of support. We typically have lives full of other people—lots of friends and lots of socialization outside of the relationship. And that’s healthy. But, since I am used to that sort of dynamic and vibrant social life, having it be just me and him can be tough. I can’t imagine what it’s like for single individuals who don’t even have a boyfriend or girlfriend to get tired of right now. But, I’m telling you, people are getting back with their exes during quarantine.
There’s a bigger problem
Whatever your problems were with your ex, there are much bigger problems in the world now. The world’s problems eclipse your problems. People are dying. Hospitals are overrun. People are losing their jobs. In the same way politicians are putting their differences aside to acknowledge a larger enemy, so, too, are you and your ex.
So their issues seem “small”
So, right now, whatever problems you had in the relationship seem trivial. So there were jealousy issues. One person was a little controlling. One was a workaholic. One was a bad listener. But, now, you aren’t thinking about those problems. They seem like nothing compared to what’s happening in the world so they—falsely—seem like “nothing.”
Any company is better than none
Loneliness is a terrible thing. And a lot of us are facing it. Even I find myself wanting to talk to family members who I usually can’t stand, just because I want to talk to somebody. I’m ready to tolerate obnoxious acquaintances, if it means getting to have a conversation with someone I know. So, with the ex, there is the sensibility that any company is better than none.
But, that’s a sad standard
Of course, “any company is better than none” is a pretty bad standard for romantic relationships. You may not be looking at it that way right now, because you’re just FaceTiming. But, realistically, that may be on the back of your mind. And if your ex is just “better than nothing,” well, that’s not good.
It “doesn’t count”
You may be telling yourself that it doesn’t count because it’s not like you’re sleeping with the ex (at least you better not be!) You’re just FaceTiming. And texting. And talking on Zoom. And watching movies together on Netflix Party. And chatting on the phone. And chatting on Facebook messenger. It “doesn’t count.”
But…it’ll bite you in the a**
You can tell yourself that it doesn’t count all you want, but the truth remains that you’re getting re-attached. You’re getting used to the idea of your ex being a constant presence in your life again. When quarantine ends, it won’t be so easy to just stop talking to him. You’ll realize you got roped back in.
New dates had to stop
If you were starting to see someone before the pandemic started, that just had to stop. Maybe you had one or two or three good dates with somebody, but now, there can be no dates. All the cute date spots are closed. And you aren’t close enough to that person to risk being in physical contact with right now.
New relationships need physical touch
The problem is that, new relationships typically need in-person interactions to survive. It can feel weird to just FaceTime every day with a guy you went on two dates with. That’s not the natural progression of things. So, in place of those new relationships you were pursuing, the only alternative for companionship right now is the ex.
This bond is pre-existing
Your bond with your ex is pre-existing. You get to pick up basically where you left off (for better or for worse). You don’t have to do all the work of getting to know each other, the way you would if you were chatting with new dudes. And nobody has the energy for that work right now.
Mortality is on our minds
Naturally, mortality is on everybody’s brains right now. We’re watching the reports on the death tolls. We’re seeing the footage from the hospitals. We are thinking about mortality and death and how life is short. And when we think like that, we do stupid things, like talk to exes.
Life isn’t normal
Maybe your relationship couldn’t survive normal life. When balancing friends and family and work, your relationship with the ex was weak. It was too dysfunctional to carry on amidst regular life. But this isn’t regular life. You don’t have your typical social life and obligations. You can just focus on your ex. So the relationship is happening in a vacuum—not in real life.
But it will return to normal
Life will return to normal. You’ll have friends to see. You’ll get back to pursuing your goals. You’ll have other responsibilities besides talking to your ex. And for all the reasons that relationship fell apart in the real world before, it will fall apart again.
I get it. We’re lonely. It’s a damn lonely time. It seems like humans are just within arm’s reach—well, literally, with the six-feet-apart mandate. But we can’t touch them and we can’t socialize. In the absence of being able to make new friends, talking to an old “friend” can feel nice.
We want a dedicated caretaker
Everyone is a little bit codependent. No matter how close you are to your best friend, if she’s in a relationship, then her partner is her main focus. But we all want one person for whom we are the main focus. If you don’t have a partner, an ex can provide that feeling of being looked after.
We’re ultra compassionate now
A lot of us are feeling more compassionate than ever right now—perhaps more forgiving. That’s a good thing when it comes to friendships and family relationships, but not with exes. Of course, when we want to shine a positive light on every relationship, we may shine it on that with our ex, too.