In a world which allow us to stay connected with anyone, anywhere, through our phones, the internet and social media, keeping in touch with our ex-boyfriend or girlfriend seems unavoidable. So why not send a text every now and then? But it will always damage and weaken our new relationship, unless we have the same social circle, according to new research.
To some of us, this idea may seem odd. If a relationship has ended, we probably won’t want to be contacting our ex. Especially if we’re in a new relationship. But to others, this seems acceptable and not a big deal at all. You’ve been through a lot together, you’re still friends, so what’s the harm?
This situation can arise a lot in our churches. Many Christians would prefer to date another Christian and are therefore likely to date people from church. Makes sense. Sometimes, however, a break-up happens, and we then go out with someone else from the same church. There are love triangles everywhere, not to mention love squares and love heptagons.
So is it okay to text our ex, or send them messages, even if we’re in a new relationship?
A scientific study on this very subject (yes, people really have done scientific research on this issue!) found something very interesting. Ultimately, the more frequent communication someone has with their ex, the less satisfied they are in their current relationship. They were also less committed to their new relationship.
The only exception to this rule was when a couple who had broken up were part of overlapping friendship circles.
The main reason people gave for staying in touch with their exes was that they wanted a backup option if their new relationship ended, or because they still had romantic feelings for their ex. This naturally undermined the commitment and focus given to the new relationship, which meant it had less chance of thriving.
Texting an ex therefore always weakened the chance of a new relationship.
The only exception to this rule was when a couple who had broken up were part of overlapping friendship circles. Essentially, not communicating and texting was impossible because of shared friends and activities.
Importantly, if this is the genuine reason for communication, then actually, high relationship satisfaction in the new relationship occurs. Partly because the break up with an ex is seen as less negative and with more understanding. But the relationship with the ex must remain platonic and the new relationship needs space to thrive.
You may not be in this exact situation, but what is important to remember is that if we want to date people in our churches and find someone to build a healthy relationship with, then we need to accept that unfortunately, this will lead to some break-ups. In fact, realising you’re not right for each other shows a lot of wisdom and maturity.
But what if the break up is a bad one, do you keep worshipping at the same church?
Well, we need to remember that ultimately, God wants us to be united and reconciled. Dating should not lead to fractures. Easier said than done I know. But breaking up well is part of learning to date well (Read ‘What Do You Do If You’re The One Who Got Dumped?’). Also, if we want our new relationship to work, we need to be committed to it, and give it the time and attention it deserves. Otherwise it’s doomed to fail.
For relationships to work, we need to be committed.
If an ex goes to your church, and/or is part of your social circle, you may be on speaking terms, or perhaps even friends. If the reason you communicate is indeed because you have to because of social reasons, it could be a good thing. The reason is probably because your new friendship status, brought about by mutual social circles, allows/forces you to develop a healthy connection and not hold onto negative feelings.
This then allows you to gain closure about the past and let go of negativity. But if our new friendship status leads back to romantic feelings, we will not be giving our new relationship our full commitment.
For relationships to work, we need to be committed. In scripture, commitment is key, especially in romantic relationships. Having a ‘back up plan’ will undermine that and ultimately, set our new relationship up to fail. Which none of us want. (Read ‘What Makes Relationships Work? What Makes Them Weak?)
We need to make sure we are not texting our ex partners because we want security, or have ongoing romantic feelings for them, which will make our new relationships weak.
But is this easier said than done? Is it right to cut off all communication with an ex, unless it is socially impossible?