Happy Holidays, have you texted your ex yet?
‘Tis the season for the re-emergence of lingering ghosts from relationships past––all of whom will reliably hover out from beyond the grave at some point this month to offer deeply essential and utterly urgent missives like, “U up?” or, “hey stranger!”.
For decades––likely since the invention of the storied “text message––this has been generally accepted behavior. We’ve long justified the former-lover-reprise as merely a symptom of the time of year––as if a shift in leaf-hue were the sort of thing that could forcibly draw your fingers to a keyboard to type the words, “Miss your mom’s pecan pie!” to a girl you cheated on with her childhood babysitter.
Alas, though, the impulse tends to go both ways––for as many ex texts as you’ve begrudgingly (or not so begrudgingly) received, you’ve likely felt a similar reluctant urge, come caroling season, to say a quick (incriminating) hello to some romantic relic of your past. So, the question here is not about who the culprits are, but rather, why we feel so wedded to dredging up our archival relationship files in the midst of the holidays.
According to the Washington Post, it has something to do with what the publication refers to as “Relationship Nostalgia Season” in which single folk mourn the absence of comfortable, well-worn partnership as their Instagram feeds breed an unusual quantity of family photos, engagement announcements, and unabashed pronouncements of romantic tethered-ness. On the other hand, there’s also a case to be made that that aforementioned nostalgia is merely a product of being home––arriving in a particular setting fraught with plentiful forms of holiday stimulus––all of which can immediately conjure memories of the last person you spent time with in this particular scenario .
Au contraire, according to eHarmony, the phenomenon is a result of natural, holiday-induced stress. Family time can often be, well, bad. And that sense of seasonal dread makes for an easy segue to loneliness––for which an old flame is the ideal solution, of course. In fact, the dating platform even came up with a title for the behaviour: “Marleying”––a nod to the ghost that famously appears to haunt Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.
I, personally, would make the case that the onset of colder weather drums up an immediate and thoroughly survivalist impulse to locate the nearest, affectionate human body with the capacity to provide warmth––and often, when single, the most logical option is a recent ex.
Of course, the ex text is not, at center, ill-intentioned. It can come from a genuine arousal of sentiment. It can lead to reignited flames––or glorious (and convenient) one night stands. For one writer at The Cut, it even acts as a way of reframing the more negative trappings of a past relationship: “If I am worth a happy holidays message, perhaps I was not such a monster in whichever relationship after all,” she writes.
Like with anything else, the guidelines here are obvious: Proceed with caution. Do your best to avoid the Former Lovers who are fully enthralled with their Present Tense Lovers. Probably shoot off your nostalgic telegram before you get hammered with your mom. And, well, know that your oddly placed outpouring of emotion may not be well received. That’s simply a risk you have to be willing to take.