If you're using lockdown to get back in touch with your ex, don't

It’s the modern-day Cinderella story: boy matches with girl, they go on some dates and it starts to go somewhere. 

Sex, and the promise of a new relationship feels good. She tells her friends – ‘it went so well!’ – and looks hopefully towards the next date, only for him to quite suddenly disappear into the abyss. 

She wonders what she did wrong. Was she too keen? Not keen enough? Overdressed? Not pretty enough? 

Then two years later he reappears, uttering those all important words: ‘Long time no speak! You don’t have to reply, but…’ 

This particular move has been given plenty of labels already: zombieing (speaks for itself), submarining (in which a ghoster confidently emerges months later acting like nothing happened). Now, it’s had a lockdown makeover. We’ve entered the age of the F**kboy’s Reckoning*. 

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Allow me to explain. 

The world has gone topsy turvy, which means that business as usual for anyone — f**kboys included — is no more. For a lot of us that has resulted in an excess of free time. Time to twiddle your thumbs. Time to think. 

Unfortunately, though, all that thinking time has translated into a surge of repentance for many f**kboys who — starved of access to new wanking thinking material while stuck at home — have been finding solace in delving into their repertoire of past lovers. 

Faced with all their past wrongdoing and unable to distract themselves with new lovers, they’re emerging repentant for their sins — and they really want you to know.

Over Easter (quite fittingly) this happened to me. Someone I dated a few years ago who later disappeared into thin air was resurrected in my DMs, apparently not dead afterall. 

At first I read the message outlining his contrition over wrongful behaviour and I couldn’t place the name — I’ll leave it to you to decide what that says about the calibre of his contemporaries.

‘Ohhhh….HIM’, I thought eventually. His crimes had not been too serious… comparatively speaking. We had been on a couple of really good dates a few years ago before he ghosted me. 

‘Okay’, I thought, ‘But why now?’ Why was he getting in touch in the middle of a global pandemic years after the fact?

There’s something almost comforting in the predictability of it — in the inevitability of the return. These ‘boomerang boys’ you lobbed out into the ether that are now on their return voyage back from the abyss to tell you they’re ‘really f**king sorry — honestly’.

They hope you don’t mind them getting in touch. They apologise for disturbing your life — it’s just….it’s just they’ve been thinking. About what went down with the two of you. About the part they played, or the way they left you. They had some stuff going on, they’ll say, but it wasn’t fair, you didn’t deserve it. 

‘Sorry’, they’ll say, and then reassure you that they’re not looking for anything in return, just that they feel compelled to apologise.

To any f**kboys out there edging towards a moment of reckoning, I have some advice: keep it in your notepad pal

Now, you might be thinking, ‘that’s nice isn’t it, that they want to repent, to apologise’. Of course, I can’t speak for everyone. But, for me, it’s a hard ‘no’. 

Yes, it is nice to be apologised to for pain you have been exposed to at the hands of another. But make no mistake about it, this behaviour is more about appeasing the conscience of the ghost, rather than a selfless act to rebalance your emotional health. 

There’s a self-importance to it all that is wildly frustrating — not only are they asking you to let them off the hook for something they did in the past, but there’s also an assumption that whatever form your engagement took was so meaningful that it would provoke a deep hurt only remedied by the grand gesture of their apology.

Perhaps the lockdown and the whole dystopian scenario currently playing out in countries all across the world has thrown his life into sharp focus. That sitting alone with his feelings has caused him to reflect on past behaviours and recognise wrongdoing. Good. That’s honestly productive behaviour. The thing is, I don’t need to hear about it.

Because to ask someone to forgive inexcusable behaviour that caused them hurt in the past — apropos of nothing — means shifting the emotional legwork involved in reaching a resolution back onto them. 

Not only that but it also doesn’t consider that maybe the person doesn’t need reminding of sh***y past behaviour inflicted on them in a time of global crisis. But mostly because it’s a paper-thin grasp at a bit of attention when they’re presumably at home feeling lonely… and in need of some tit pics. 

Of course, maybe it’s genuine. And I’m not arguing for a lack of repentance. It’s an expressly Good Thing to recognise past mistakes and learn from them. It’s how we grow as humans. 

The point is, you just don’t know what the context is when you barge into someone’s life unannounced and, ultimately, any apology like this has very little to do with its subject, and everything to do with easing the sender’s own guilt.

To any f**kboys out there edging towards a moment of reckoning, I have some advice: keep it in your notepad pal.

If you really must reach out, try a simple ‘Hey how are you?’

Simple, effective and gives the other person the power to engage if and when it feels safe and comfortable to — it puts the ball in their court. If they’re ready for or interested in your apology, your message invites them to let you know.

But if not, then maybe — just maybe — sitting with your feelings and reflecting on your behaviour is enough. Maybe instead of asking forgiveness you could make a commitment to never treating someone like that ever again. Just a thought.

For the moment, my f**kboy has been left on read. Although I might send him this article as a response. 

*There are definitely female and non-binary versions of this character, but I speak from personal experience here.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk 

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