Why people are reaching out to their exes during the COVID-19 level 4 lockdown

woman in bed texting her ex
One in three people have heard from an ex, according to a new study. Photo credit: Getty.

There's no doubt about it, these are uncertain times. The COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown has people reassessing their life choices, thinking about the past and dwelling on the unknown nature of the future. 

That has lead to a new phenomenon sweeping the globe that may otherwise be frowned upon - people reaching out to their exes. 

Writer Sara David first broached the topic in a tweet which went viral last month. 

"Ugh it's starting. Looks like quarantine means we're gonna wake up to a lot of 'thinking abt u' texts," she captioned a screenshot of a text from an ex-boyfriend. 

"Brace yourselves and put your phone on silent after midnight!!"

It's a real issue, according to a new survey out of the UK. 

Interested in how lockdown is affecting people's love lives, online marketplace OnBuy surveyed 1204 singletons, as well as 1492 people in lockdown with their partner. 

It turns out feeling lonely during self-isolation is common, with 38 percent of respondents having received a text from an ex during lockdown. 

According to the survey, the main three reasons behind the text are: To check in on them (45 percent), admit how much they miss them (32 percent), and "mistakenly text the wrong person" (22 percent).

It's not just an issue affecting the single. One in four partners surveyed admitted to going through their partner's phone without them being aware. For 71 percent of respondents, the reason was worry over their partner potentially getting in contact with an ex again. 

Mamamamia writer Maggie Lupin wrote about her own experience of receiving a text from an ex during the quarantine. 

"When he texted me around Christmas, I ignored it. When he texted me again in January, I reminded him that we were done talking and then ignored his response. When he texted me the other night during quarantine, I responded," she wrote. 

"'How is quarantine treating you?' he asked. 'I hope you're staying healthy.'"

"We'd spent much of the previous autumn fighting and getting back together. It was exhausting. We couldn't take it. We'd worn ourselves out. We'd decided we were going to stop talking.

"'I'm healthy,' I wrote him back. 'Just sitting in my apartment, watching TV, sipping red wine, working. You know, standard life.'

"Then, I added, 'I hope that you're healthy and doing well too'." 

Relationship expert Any Chan told the New York Post the impulse is understandable. It's normal to wonder how someone you were once close with is faring in isolation or to crave comfort from a familiar face.

But she says it's the wrong move.

"When we feel anxiety, boredom and loneliness, we reach for a vice to self-soothe," she says.

"Your ex is like a drug dealer, and you're fiending for a fix."