Have you ever been Marleyed? Chances are you have – and you’ve most likely done it to someone else too. In fact, so many British singles are getting in contact with long-lost exes over the festive period, dating site eharmony coined the term – inspired by the moment in A Christmas Carol when Scrooge’s long-dead business partner Jacob Marley reappears to him as a ghost the night before Christmas. No surprise then, the most popular time for Marleying an ex is Christmas Eve…
Almost 8% of us will contact our exes this week; apparently spurred on by travelling home, feeling lonely and subsequently nostalgic about former relationships. Returning to your hometown increases the likelihood of running into old flames, while revisiting all the places you used to visit together can make you want to reconnect.
So is Christmas enough of an excuse to ditch months, or years, of ‘no contact’ and message an ex? According to Rachael Lloyd, a relationship expert at eharmony, it isn’t. “Just because you’re at home visiting your old haunts, it doesn’t mean you should feel compelled to haunt a former partner,” she says, pointing out revisiting a relationship that ended because of a lack of compatibility could result in the same issues rising all over again.
Natalie Lue, owner of Baggage Reclaim – a business dedicated to helping people overcome breakups and toxic relationships – agrees: “The likelihood is, if you’re contemplating making contact with your ex, you’ve become nostalgic about the relationship, created illusions and become distanced from the reality of why you broke up and what your relationship (or lack of it) was actually like.” Natalie believes the repercussions of contacting an ex, whatever your motive, can last a lot longer than the festive period and seriously impact your sense of self.
“Going backwards only decreases the odds of finding a new, long-lasting relationship,” Rachael confirms, revealing it’s far better for your self-esteem to use the holiday to spend time with family and friends who really care about you.
But there are many London singles who claim Marleying an ex helped them find the closure they didn’t get when the breakup was still fresh. Jasmine* tells us she felt empowered when she contacted her ex before Christmas. “It allowed me to close the door on something,” she explains. While Ellie* reveals it helped her see why a devastating breakup was actually a good thing: “I contacted an ex the Christmas after we broke up and it led to some back and forth messaging,” she said. “But after a while, I found myself getting annoyed at the same old things that irritated me when I was in a relationship with him, and actually felt glad we’d broken up."
If you do choose to throw caution to the wind and message an ex, one thing you’ve got to brace yourself for is the possibility you won’t hear back. “I went home to my parents’ for Christmas and was missing him so I messaged saying so and he didn’t reply,” recalls Emma*. “It made me feel worse… We’d left things on relatively good terms when we broke up, and now I felt like I was being ghosted a whole year afterwards.”
While experts and friends might advise you against Marleying an ex, what should you do if an old flame gets in contact with you? According to eharmony’s research, one in ten singles have been Marleyed at Christmas. Some, like Dan*, saw it coming: “I’d heard from mutual friends she was single again and hadn’t seen her post anything about her boyfriend on social media for a while, but getting a message from her when she must have known we were both home for Christmas confirmed it,” he says. “In the end, I decided not to reply. We hadn’t spoken the entire time she was in her last relationship, so it seemed a bit strange hearing from her now.” Others, like Caitlyn* are suspicious there’s a sexual motive behind out-of-the-blue messages. “I’ve heard from him on Christmas Eve both years since we broke up,” she tells us. “We’re both still single and I know he’s been at the pub with friends when he’s contacted me, so in my head it’s a booty call,” she says.
At the end of the day, it takes more than a text at Christmas to rekindle a relationship. If it’s you who’s tempted to Marley an ex, think about what you hope to get out of it before popping back into their life like a ghost from Christmas past – is it fair on them, and you, to make contact? And if it’s your phone buzzing with a message from an old lover, don’t feel pressured to respond unless you genuinely want to be in touch. A text, call, email or tap on the shoulder in a busy bar is not a big romantic gesture screaming “I want you back in my life!”. Frankly, if they’re truly sorry you broke up, they won’t wait until Christmas to tell you so.