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Love Letters

Can I check in with my ex because of COVID-19?

Q. A coronavirus-related question for you, Meredith.

My boyfriend and I ended our relationship two weeks ago. We are both still very much in love with each other, but a few months ago I was offered a job overseas with a humanitarian organization that was a great career boost for me. He didn’t want to stand in the way of my professional aspirations, but he also didn’t want to be in an indefinite long-distance relationship, which I totally understand and respect.

On the day I left my home country, we parted ways very amicably, with a lot of sadness. Initially we agreed we would go no-contact so that we would each be better able to move on, but the adjustment from being best friends and partners to nothing at all has been tough. We’ve ultimately had a few short, friendly conversations via Whatsapp. Each time I reached out first, but each time he also said he was happy I did.

In these two weeks, however, so much has changed in the world because of COVID-19: countries closing their borders, my family and friends at risk, our daily lives changed completely. I’m working in a new job, in a conflict zone, away from my loved ones, which is all hard enough as it is, and I wish I could reach out to him more to check in on him, as well as to have someone to talk to about these things. I assume he is social distancing and working from home, but I don’t even know. My parents are elderly and extremely vulnerable with underlying health issues; if they get sick I will be prohibited from returning to my country, which is a horrible and stressful feeling. I just feel very alone and upset and need a friend to process this with.

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Can and should I reach out to him more (i.e. phone calls)? Or is that a terrible idea that will derail our breakup? I would not be doing this with the idea of getting back together with him at all, however, if I’m honest, I would certainly be using our emotional closeness as a crutch. But emotional closeness feels necessary right now.

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Overseas

A. It’s OK to check in. These are scary times.

Many of us want the comfort of knowing the people we care about are safe — or doing their best, at the very least. If hearing your ex’s voice will make you feel better, give him a call. This was not an angry, loveless breakup. Of course you care.

Please know that if you want the breakup to stick, this can’t become a routine. Pick a different person to be your “process” friend. Maybe ask someone else from home to put you on their daily “What does it all mean?” phone call rotation. Or look for someone you’re with right now who can agree to a nightly call. I’m really grateful for the “You OK?” texts I get from one or two people before bed every night. It helps when your check-in person is in your time zone.

I want to reiterate that this is a very strange and stressful time. We do need emotional closeness and the daily reminder that our loved ones are somewhere in the world, taking care, even if we can’t be next to them. The rules you set about contact with your ex might be irrelevant right now, and it’s OK if you want to change them.

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But again, you should choose another source for constant support. Find someone who needs this as much as you do.

Meredith

READERS RESPOND:

I’ve had a couple of exes pull the “corona check-in.” Honestly, I don’t love it, especially since I know one of them is using it as a pretense to try to get back together. I don’t like to stay friends with exes after the break-up. SURFERROSA

While it is entirely possible for you to contact the ex, you shouldn’t. You’re just using the coronavirus as an excuse to prolong things. You’re going to get yourself into the habit of finding some “special reason” to contact him. JIM-IN-LITTLETON

You are not checking in because of COVID-19. Go forward with your plan of no contact and find another support person/best friend/lover/boyfriend all in one combo person. SUNALSORISES

You are not being irrational. People are coping with a lot of unknowns and stress and it makes sense you want to contact with someone familiar who you trust. He is probably social isolated at this time and looking forward to sharing with someone he knows so well. The painful reality for you is that he is not going to be socially isolated for as long as you are. If you start relying on him for comfort, there will come a time in the near future when he develops a relationship with someone else and he will have little or no time for you. HEYITHINK

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Let him recover from the breakup, while also dealing with the difficulties we are all experiencing now. “I’m thinking of you, but I know we need to be on our own for awhile, please take care” could be an example of a message. Find other friends, and family, to be supportive and social with. JIVEDIVA

I also had a significant and amicable breakup two weeks ago where we agreed to go no contact. For me, I want to know that my ex is OK, but I realize that breaking up means I don’t actually have a right to that information, and wanting to know is more about my own relief than trying to help him. So I haven’t reached out. AUDREYLYN

I think you should just do the first thing — send a very brief message that says, “hope you’re doing well during this crazy time. Sending positive thoughts.” That’s it. As for YOUR emotional support, you need to get that from other people. Friends, family, fellow colleagues, anyone else but him. I get that you want to have mutual support with him but it’s not best for either of you to muddy the breakup. Don’t use a crisis to make bad decisions you wouldn’t otherwise make. You both agreed on space. Honor your word. BKLYNMOM


Send letters to meredith.goldstein@globe.com.