Texting your ex doesn’t bode well for your current relationship, and we have proof. Recent research published by Personal Relationships indicates that 40% of the approximately 400 college students in relationships surveyed (mostly female) were in current communication with an ex, and that 40% demonstrated significantly less satisfaction within their current relationships. So before you send that 2 AM “I miss you” text (yikes), think twice, ladies and gents.
The research, led by Lindsey Rodriguez, assistant professor of psychology at the University of South Florida, was conducted over the course of two studies. Rodriguez was interested in examining friendships between former partners, an area of scholarship that, as the researcher point out in their discussion, is “limited at best.” The results of the first study were as follows:
“Specifically, those who communicated [with their ex] reported lower levels of commitment to their current partner, poorer adjustment to the breakup, and higher levels of romantic emotions toward their former partner.” (Rodriguez, et al.)
It’s critical not to conflate causation with correlation when interpreting this study—the results are not saying texting your ex causes you to have less commitment to your current relationship, but rather that these two conditions existed simultaneously in many of the respondents. The second study conducted by the researchers identified motivations for keeping in contact with an ex, falling into four main categories:
- Perceiving the friendship with the ex as rewarding
- Viewing the ex as a potential “backup” plan
- Maintaining the friendship because the ex is part of a larger social circle
- Feeling as if a major investment had been made in the ex
While overall communicating with exes corresponded negatively with current relationship satisfaction and marginally with lower levels of commitment, there tended to be a positive associate with ex communication and current relationship functioning if the respondent indicated it was for social network purposes.
In contrast, communicating with an ex for ‘backup’ purposes was bad news across the board, with respondents indicating “lowering satisfaction and commitment, marginally lower investment, and marginally higher quality of alternatives.” (Rodriguez, et al.)
It’s important to remember that this research has its limitations—college students are not necessarily indicative of the general population, and it would be unrealistic to expect, say, two exes sharing custody of children not to communicate regularly.
Every relationship is different, and brings with it its own considerations. But if you’re stuck in a cycle of letting your past relationships dictate your future, let your last text to your ex be this study.