The current crisis has most of us looking for comfort wherever we can find it. But does that mean we should get back together with a recent ex? The thought of quarantining with someone you’ve established intimacy with may be tempting, but it’s worth considering if that choice is worth the longterm consequences.
ok SO I broke up with my longterm partner about a month ago. our relationship was lovely, and we never fought/there were no big issues, but I just wasn’t sure that I was in love any more. We agreed to stay friends and have since hung out a couple of times and message relatively frequently, although it hasn’t been over the top and there has definitely been space. BUT now that all this pandemic stuff is happening, I really really want the comfort and feelings of safety that she brings. The idea of spending time with her and my family while we’re all in lockdown and isolation is a really, really, really good one. also my family misses her, lol. Is this a good enough reason to see if she wants to get back together? Is it irresponsible? help!
I got really sick at the beginning of October. It wasn’t anything special — just a very bad cold that turned into a sinus and ear infection — but it was the first time I’d been sick all year.
I spent most of last year celebrating my independence. I moved to Los Angeles, ended a 3.5 year relationship, and began building the community and life I’d always dreamed of achieving. It wasn’t easy. I still loved my ex and the life we’d built together. I missed my old friends and I missed New York. I missed comfort. But I knew I was doing what was right for me. I knew that I was being true to my deeper desires.
Then I got sick. I was living in my house in Echo Park that I share with four roommates all of whom I like but none of whom I feel close to in the casual sort of way that can only occur with time. As my sore throat and fever got worse and leaving my bed became more and more difficult I realized that for the first time in my life I was truly alone. I spent 18 years living with my parents and then most of my young adult life living either with my best friend or my partner — or both. But now it was just me and some roommates. I felt so sad and so scared and so lonely. I missed my ex so much.
We’re living through an incredibly scary time right now. Even those of us who are currently healthy feel the dread of possible sickness — not to mention anxiety related to people we know who are sick or who we’re worried will get sick, grief over people we know who have died or secondary grief reading about the deaths of strangers, an immense amount of economic anxiety, and, simply, the difficulty of being trapped in self-quarantine. During a time like this, the impulse to want your ex is like the impulse some may have to want their mom. It’s carnal.
I can’t tell you whether or not you should get back together with your ex. I don’t know her or you or your relationship. But it sounds like you’ve moved beyond having a romantic relationship with this person. It’s hard when that happens while you still like and love them. It’s even harder to stay true to that feeling when what you need right now — what most of us need right now — is as much comfort as possible. It’s also hard when you’re not able to be out in the world, meeting new people, looking for the next person who might give you the sorts of feelings you used to have for your ex and deserve to have again.
I’ll be honest with you. If this crisis was happening a year ago and I was a month post-breakup instead of a year and a month, I probably would’ve had the same impulse. I might have hopped on a plane the moment quarantine seemed possible and returned to easy comfort. It would have been a mistake. With time I’ve realized that as much as I loved my ex, our relationship ended when it was supposed to end.
Every day the past four weeks I’ve woken up and found my brain focusing on a new anxiety. Some days I’m worried about my mom who has an autoimmune disorder, some days I’m worried about the lack of precautions being given to prison inmates, some days I’m worried about people I know who are already sick, some days I’m worried about how people are going to pay rent, some days I’m worried about how I’m going to pay rent. This morning I woke up for the first time with the most obvious of worries — I was worried about getting sick. Specifically, I was worried about the experience of being sick and not being near anyone who would give me the comfort one can only get from family, a partner, or a best friend.
The ache I’ve felt separated from the people I love most turned into dread and panic. I imagined myself with shortness of breath, unable to move, navigating the discomfort of asking my roommates for help. I’ve felt lonely the past four weeks, but this loneliness was deeper.
And so I reminded myself to breathe. And so I texted a friend. And so I ate breakfast. And so I watched a silly show. And so I wrote this response.
There aren’t easy answers for the current moment. There’s nothing we can do to feel totally comfortable. And only each individual one of us knows whether certain actions that bring us short term comfort will be detrimental — emotionally or physically — long term. But there will be a long term. And before getting back together with your ex, you should consider what that would be like for you – and also for her. When this is over we’re all going to have to live with the choices we’ve made.
I’d recommend instead of getting back together simply appreciating the role your ex still plays in your life. I’d recommend appreciating that you’ve found a friendship with her that feels healthy. I’d recommend appreciating that friendship by texting her and FaceTiming her, but not making new promises you won’t be able to keep. I’m not saying that a virtual friendship will be as immediately comforting as an in-person relationship. I just think it seems worth it for both of you that you accept that discomfort.
I’m sending you love and support to wherever you are whatever you decide and reminding you — and myself — that we’re never as alone as it feels.
You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.