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Texting your ex in lock-down? Here’s why

Amalie Sortland July 10, 2020

During lock-down, my friends and I frequently discussed the bizarre increase in messages from our exes and the general pull to reach out to people from our past.

The ‘texting your ex’ phenomenon has been widely discussed in the media for the past few weeks, as many people have been experiencing the same thing as us.

One such person is Amy Andrada, sociologist and PhD Candidate from Edinburgh University’s Centre for Research on Families and Relationships. She too has experienced getting approached by and thinking of her exes during these exceptional times.

More importantly, she is currently researching how covid-19 is affecting family life and personal relationships, focusing on the development of self based on gender, motherhood and femininity.

And so I reached out to Amy to talk about romantic relationships in lockdown, and specifically, the social forces behind this increased reconnection between exes.

So why is this happening? 

The main reason why people are reaching out to their exes is because of loneliness. 

“People are lonely because they are isolated, and they are reaching out to exes for familiar contact.”

As the lock-down environment dictates our options, and there are restrictions on in-person dating, the comfort surrounding an ex is appealing. It’s not surprising that people are reaching out to familiar situations in uncertain times like these. 

“It’s an amplified version of why people get back with their ex in a normal reality”, says Amy. 

People are forced to be with themselves, and the lack of interaction and distractions create more time to reflect on past behaviours and experiences. 

“Although this is painting a bleak picture of people, it’s understandable and unsurprising that people want connection in a space where there are limited opportunities for that”, she laughs.  

According to Amy, the ‘would have, could have, should have’ rhetoric has also likely had an impact on a small percentage of people. This idea is compounded by feelings of boredom and the restrictions on our current social life. 

These findings are consistent with results presented in articles from Insider, Psychology Today and ABC Life, suggesting that people are confronted by their own mortality and/or facing increased nostalgia in lockdown. People have an increased desire to make things ‘right’. 

People need physical interaction 

Although talking to an ex person in your life may give temporary relief to the loneliness, it won’t fill the void for physical interaction. 

“Even though non-verbal communication makes up 90% of our communication, there’s so much missing”, says Amy. “The essence of our senses – to be able to be around people and being able to touch, hug and feel them – has been removed by lockdown”.

It’s the human condition to want physical connection.

Although Zoom and other alternative means of interaction are designed as temporary substitutes to real life interaction, they are not replaceable.

“They are just a vehicle for the time being.”

Trend of people breaking up

The general lack of distraction has also had another effect. 

There is a trend of people in relationships breaking up, particularly those who are quarantining together. 

There are no friends or work to escape to, which compounds and heightens the existing issues (if any) in those relationships.

“There are no distractions anymore, so couples can no longer ignore their problems.” 

“Although covid-19 itself is not causing these issues, it brings spotlight to existing issues in the relationship, forcing people to confront their partners”.

Mental health and privilege

It’s important to acknowledge that the loneliness of lockdown is disproportionately affecting the mental health of people of privilege. 

Amy has found that for people with more positive social relationships, covid-19 has resulted in more negative mental health outcomes. 

These groups have usually had access to resources that have now been taken away. The unexpectedness of lockdown, and the general lack of transition period, has also compounded these negative outcomes.

“We often create this illusion that our options are limitless. However, these are usually limited and we don’t know how to incorporate that into our rationality.” 

However, being systematically isolated, lacking resources and feelings of loneliness are not uncommon for the lower class and minority groups of society. These groups have had to come up with alternative means of communication for a long time. 

Covid-19 is highlighting the situation of many groups that have already been isolating. It is exposing how difficult this life can be for the groups that have had the privilege of not experiencing isolation on a systematic scale before. 

Despite the hardship of lockdown, the widespread feelings of loneliness can hopefully inspire to “do right by these citizens” and “recognise the limitations of the structures designed to benefit more privileged groups”. 

Amy concludes: “For those privileged few, many of these limitations you’re experiencing for the first time are everyday life for most people. This shouldn’t be ignored, or continually ignored, as we crawl out of the effects of covid-19”.

Thank you to Amy Andrada and for your eloquent and thorough reflections on gender, family life, romantic relations and privilege for this article.

If you want to find out more about Amy and her research, you should check out the following links:

Biography and research

Social media: @quirkyacademic

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Recent Politics graduate from the University of Edinburgh.