Many of us paused or even regressed during quarantine. In March, when coronavirus first hit, I revisited my past self when I escaped to my childhood home in Texas, to quarantine in a spacious bedroom that put my New York apartment to shame. I felt content and sheltered as I scrolled through my Twitter feed, tucked in the comfort of my stuffed animals until I was shaken up by what appeared to be some type of backsliding trend. People were sending and receiving ‘concerned’ ex texts with an obvious ulterior motive.
As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months without a concerned check-in or a thirsty late-night text from any of my exes, doubt began to creep into my mind. Was I the only person whose exes weren’t lusting over them during these dire times?
Although I certainly wasn’t looking to rekindle any old flames, I felt the ping of pandemic-fueled neediness. I also grew a little jealous of those who were getting all of the attention. Was I not a memorable enough ex to text during the apocalypse? Should I text my ex? Confident that I wasn’t the only one feeling some type of way, I decided to investigate and found that there were others who also felt weirdly rejected by the people who were out of their lives for a reason.
“I wasn’t sure if the problem was me or them,” says Anthony Paramo, a 25-year-old from Austin, who sheds light on the limitless possibilities of why our exes haven’t texted us. Were we bad partners? Did our exes move on? Could neither of us swallow our pride and text each other? I had to get to the bottom of this. Why would someone want to opt-out of texting their ex if that ex hadn’t been replaced? “I wanted 2020 to be a fresh start and I was going to stick with it,” says Ricky Pacheco, a 31-year-old from Charlotte, in response to why he didn’t text his ex.
Mia McDonald, a 25-year-old living in New York City brought up the point that even people in happy relationships seem to crave the ex text, “It’s ridiculous that I care at all because I’m in a serious relationship, but I have a mix of emotions of being relieved, surprised and offended that I wasn’t on his list of exes to text.” So, why do we care?
“Subconsciously, we want to know that we matter and that we’re important,” says Santa Rosa-based psychologist Carla Manly, explaining that one of our main neurological instincts is to feel wanted. “It’s not that we wish to get back together with an ex, but we want to be remembered and know that our relationship mattered to them.” As a Sagittarius who loves to receive attention, this definitely resonated with me. Do I want to be with any of my exes again? Definitely not. Do I want them to still want me? Of course I do.
“Given the way that the pandemic has affected us, it can make people feel all the more isolated. And that sense of isolation can lead to self-doubt that says ‘you’re not worthy enough for someone to check in on you’,” says Manly.
Seeing that we’ve become a tad salty that our exes are doing just fine without us, how exactly do we acknowledge this feeling and move on from it? Manly advises that we should look within and ask ourselves if our exes symbolise an underlying feeling. “What are we looking for? Is it sex, companionship, connection? Are we projecting our needs onto this person or does this person actually mean something to us? Once we break it down, the true answer may be different than how it appears on the surface.”
After our interview, I let Manly’s words of wisdom sink in. I didn’t expect our conversation to bring me a revelation, but there I was, reaching for a pen and paper to 1) understand why I felt this way and 2) take stock of what I was truly looking for. After realising that I was feeling nostalgic being back in my hometown, seeing the people and going to the places that were part of my routine when I was with my exes, it made sense that they were on my mind. And once I reflected internally, I realised that I did indeed miss companionship and true connection.
A few months later, after changing my surroundings and becoming more honest with myself, I was grateful that I didn’t receive any ex texts because that wasn’t what I truly wanted. Instead, I was using the memory of my exes to fill the void of being bored and lonely. Sounds familiar, right?
Being in quarantine has given us ample time to reflect on the past, a time that feels closer than the unforeseeable future. If it’s okay to gain the quarantine fifteen, also known as weight gain, then it’s more than okay to long for attention from the people who once gave it to us. The next time we find ourselves wondering about our exes, whether it be in quarantine or any other moment in time, we must take a step back and ask ourselves, ‘is it my ex that I’m missing, or do they symbolise something deeper?’
As likely as it may seem, no exes were hit up in the making of this article.