It’s almost Christmas and work is finally winding down. Instead of using this time wisely to plan goals for next year or productively to wrap the presents under your tree, you’re doing what you do best: time-wasting on social media.
You scroll and scroll and – what’s this? – somehow you’ve made it onto your ex’s Instagram page (whoops!). It’s been a while since you last spoke so you think: let me just wish them an early merry Christmas. What’s the harm in that?
Because let’s face it, who hasn’t been contacted by an ex-partner or fling over the holiday season – or done a little festive messaging ourselves?
These dwindling days of the year are often a time for reflection and/or twiddling our thumbs. A time to think about the people you miss (or the ones you missed out on). And whether you’re single or in a relationship, it’s now we mull over who we really appreciate and want to keep in our lives. Or who we want back...
Chris*, 27, a product designer from Manchester received an interesting email just this Tuesday. The subject read “Hi Christopher.” It was his ex of a few years back reaching out to ask for forgiveness and apologise for past mistakes.
“I had forgiven her years ago so I was quite shocked when I saw the email,” Chris tells HuffPost UK. “She asked to meet up, but I replied and said this would be inappropriate. I think she’s still holding on to the past but I’ve moved on and hope she does the same.”
Sometimes the contact is not as chill. Savannah*, a 23-year-old doctor from London, only broke up with her partner at the start of 2022, but due to the nature of the relationship, it didn’t end on good terms.
Following their split, Savannah blocked the ex across several different platforms, but this didn’t stop him from trying to get in touch – and he recently attempted to contact Savannah through their joint Netflix account. She removed his profile, but he somehow logged back in and deleted her account entirely.
“He’s done that because he knows it’s the only way he can get through to me,” she says. “I would never want to get back to him again and he knows this, which is why he’s trying so hard.”
It’s not all unhappy endings, however. Laura*, a 29 year old writer from east London reached out to an ex-situationship fling last Christmas.
“We stopped dating a month before but, I really missed him so I texted him on Christmas morning. We live really close to each other so I wanted to press my luck to see if he would come and see me in the evening,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“Even though he didn’t visit me, we spent the whole day talking which felt nice and familiar. I have a small family so Christmas always feels a bit boring, I think I reached out to him so I could have some entertainment throughout the day.”
A few days later the former fling ended up visiting her. And spoiler alert: “We started dating again. So I guess you could say it worked,” she says.
Sliding into your ex’s DMs over Christmas ended up being a good move for Laura but is this really a time to be contacting past lovers?
Relationship and dating expert Christiana Maxion weighs in.
Why do people feel the need to message their exes during the Christmas holidays?
There’s usually a reason an ex tends to reach out during the holidays – and that reason might not necessarily be you, warns Maxion.
“It could be because they have ‘time’ on their hands whilst off work, stuck and bored within a family situation, or feeling nostalgic or maudlin,” she says.
“This will make them think about the potential for a new hook up or about a past love. They will then use any excuse to try and get back into your good graces. And they’re also hoping that the holiday cheer will erase bad memories and you’ll let them back in and engage with their contact.”
What if it’s you who gets the urge to message?
Maybe you’re like Laura and feel the pull to message someone you once dated? Maxion says it’s easy to remember the good times especially around Christmas, but an ex is usually an ex for a reason.
However, maybe your past relationship ended down to bad timing or a set of circumstances that have since changed.
Whoever makes the first contact again, Maxion advises asking yourself: “Do you still have feelings for this person? Are they [or you] trying to rekindle love or just seeking attention? Are they bored with family or actually interested in you?”
Being back home can conjuring up past feelings, she says, which can make you want to take a stroll down memory lane in other ways. “Let your answers inform you as to whether this is a truly good idea or not.” she recommends.
How should we respond if an ex reaches out to us?
“I would ignore an ex if you’re over them or in a new relationship. Silence speaks volumes!.” Maxion says. And if it feels like a sign to revisit things?
By all means, explore your feelings, “if you can be clear headed about it, disregarding the obvious ‘cheer’ and goodwill we fill ourselves with at Christmas.” But explore your motivations too, she adds.
“Make sure you ask yourself those questions – you’ll find your answer!”
* Surnames have been omitted to offer anonymity