Emotional wounds come out in quarantine

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people scour for a source of comfort, support or love. It’s a month into social distancing, and now our exes are trying to reconnect via technology. So, what do we do when faced with this urge to respond?

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Just the other day, I ate some Nature Valley granola I am fond of and went through unread messages while sitting on my bed. I was scrolling through Instagram direct messages, responding to professors’ emails and thumbing through the news. Then, I visited my texts — there it was glaring at me from bright artificial light: a message from my ex-boyfriend. R.I.P to my broken heart, again.

His message was not full of intent or cuteness but it read so simply: “What’s up?” And there I was in utter disbelief and outrage in my half-empty childhood bedroom. A few ideas quickly spun in my mind as my heart pounded.

I thought maybe he was texting me because he was lonely, sad or confused about our global circumstances. When the whole world shut down, maybe he didn’t feel safe and he was reaching out to me for comfort. This made my breath quicken and my heart race. How dare he come to me for comfort while I’ve been here sad because of him. Then, a few thoughts circulated: what if, just what if, he was texting me because he missed me. Yes. He missed me and… cue love story music he loves me. He loves me immensely.

I was thinking then that it would be the most perfect moment to pull out a sunflower and do the ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ trick, because there is no more relevant cause. He could love me. Or he could not love me. I sat there stunned on my bed with an insatiable mind and thought, ‘really, this is all too much.’ Of course, I should acknowledge that my life is not some rom-com where the main character decides to finally commit to the one person they’ve spent the whole movie running from. Point blank, I think those rom-coms are lies. When does a messy love affair ever turn into a happy, healthy relationship? The answer is rarely ever.

More than that, I was happy my ex texted me because it has me figuring out ways to cope with wanting someone during the pandemic. I knew I must be honest with myself and ask ‘how much pain did that one person cause me?’ Would it be worth visiting repressed emotions for a few casual messages?

It is fair to proclaim we are all lonely at the moment. From my ex, I could seek delightful conversation and banter, share old photos and possibly start feeling nostalgic. Perhaps, we could feel comforted by one another. But this brings me to my second question, is it good for me in my long-term future? With my ex, the answer is and will always be, no.

Suppose he did some personal reflection during his spare hours of social distancing and decided that I am the love of his life. That does not mean I should run back and accept him. There are reasons why the breakup occurred in the first place, and life is too short for reconciling differences with the one person who badly hurt me. It’s difficult to pick up and move on from a person I care about, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

People might ask, ‘what’s so bad about a few text messages after all?’ A friend of mine said, “well, I am not perfect either.” They have made mistakes in their past relationships, so they don’t feel like harping on exes for their mistakes. They told me if their ex-boyfriend communicated with them, they would be ‘pretty chill’ about it. I believe this is why honesty plays a significant role in proceeding with exes.

My friend Michael told me his ex sent him a notification on Venmo asking for money. They don’t communicate, so it came to him as a surprise. There’s no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has created this gray area for how we approach our exes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, communicating with an ex is sometimes mandatory. Suppose you have kids with your ex and you need to coordinate schedules. Also, not everyone fits into the ‘break-up tragedy’ category. There are people who end serious relationships and leave with pleasant feelings towards their ex. Social distancing is tough. I think it’s perfectly fine to reach out to someone who you consider to be your friend.

There is no longer the constant distraction of everyday life to forget that you are missing someone. Thus, I believe missing someone can be a huge explanation for why exes reach out.

It also goes further than just missing that one person. We miss every aspect of regular life that we had before COVID-19 and social distancing.

Though some argue that social distancing is excessively boring, I believe this allotment time must be turned positive. It can be taken for self-reflection and contemplation. Instead of blowing up on my ex for randomly texting me, I can use this vital time of social distancing to properly heal from a bad breakup.

We should focus on future goals. Even in the relationships that ended ugly, there are significant opportunities for growth.

The point is, right now, our emotions are high and sensitive. These days, it is important to put oneself first and not tolerate situations that could provoke old, emotional wounds. In fact, we have memories of past relationships for one reason: to remind us how much better off we are.

Edited by George Frey | gfrey@themaneater.com

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