It’s been a few months since you talked to your ex, and in your mind, emotions must have settled, right? Or, maybe you were seeing someone and it kind of faded. Too much work and travel, not enough time and you simply haven’t spoken in a couple weeks.
You open the text and thoughtlessly type, “Hope you’re doing well!”
Delete it, immediately. There’s a reason this meme format featuring Future, the king of toxic behavior, is already a classic.
This summer, Andrea Castillo, a 37 year old Brooklyn native, got one from someone she’d already blocked. He reached out from a new number but his name still came up with a suggestion of who it was.
She responded. Admittedly, she says her boundaries may not have been that great when they were on and off in the past, but they never had that final, end-all conversation. Feeling like she was in a better place, she says, “I thought, ‘You know what? Fuck it. Let’s have a conversation.’”
“It didn’t seem like there was any real intention to have the conversation because all the weeks that passed with this like back and forth and no date has been set,” she says. “Not even a phone call has been made. Not even a phone call? Like come on, bro.” She’s since blocked him again.
Jillian Tuttle, the GM at a New York cocktail lounge, just received one from someone who’d taken her out on a date earlier this spring. Even though they’d communicate pretty sporadically, she said, “We would at least talk every week and after not talking to him probably for two weeks, I received, “hi, I hope you’re doing well.” She was immediately annoyed but otherwise busy. Later, she responded, “Are you writing me a work email?”
Najah Alara, a 25 year old Toronto native currently living nomadically in Mexico City, has received a few as well. One came from a “terrible ex” a month after the relationship ended, so she brushed it off and didn’t respond at all.
“The most recent time, I felt like there was still something there, so I actually did respond because he started the conversation,” she says. “I responded, ‘Thank you. How’s everything with you?’” He left her on read, and within a month, he responded to another story with the heart eyes emoji.
“I have received a lot of them, and it’s gut wrenching,” Rachel Iwaniec, a 34 year old New Yorker, said.
Even though senders of the “hope you’re well” text may come with good intentions, it’s apparent it’s rarely the thought that counts to recipients. And, one has to wonder, how much thought really goes into a text so void of substance that ChatGPT would likely come up with something better.
“I guess I’m checking back in on them,” Dushawn Tucker, a 43 year old Durham, North Carolina resident, said. “We split up on good terms, or on good terms on my end. It wasn’t like it was on bad terms. It was more a parting of the ways.” He intentionally sends it as a statement to check in, and says he likes to be on good terms with all of his exes.
Sometimes, they do come with a little more thought. “Mainly for me, [the reason for reaching out has] always been around a family thing. So, it’s something that I’ve done with their family or something I did with their friends or their relatives, mainly outside of just our interactions,” Matt Thomas, a 30 year old New Yorker said.
When he saw something that was relevant to an ex, it made him wonder how she was doing so he shot the text – Hope you’re doing well! “The response was, ‘I am.’ Period. So, that didn’t go off too well,” Thomas says. He was “salty” about it.
If you hope I’m doing well, either ask me how I’m doing or keep it to yourself and hope that from your heart.This line of “checking in” has always irked me, personally. If you hope I’m doing well, either ask me how I’m doing or keep it to yourself and hope that from your heart. I don’t need to know or put any thought into your hopes for me. I’ve responded “thank you” and was then berated for not responding to that sender with my own well wishes to him, and I’ve also said “ask me then.” That individual said, “Omg, duh. Lol. How are you?”
One, I didn’t want to entertain any sort of conversation and the other I did. But, I came to ask myself, had I really slept with someone so conversationally inept? Have we all?
In a study done by The Maastricht Journal of Liberal Arts on emotional labor, researchers concluded women that date men experience “a conscious activity of ‘holding in check’ their own emotions” and this is punctuated by “a paradoxical effort of the women to ‘pull’ their partners emotions from them, who tend to be hesitant to show them.”
This shows up even after the relationship ends, specifically in the seemingly harmless “hope you’re well” text. The intention to check in without asking leaves the receiver to lead the conversation, or “pull” their former partner’s emotions out because the initial text doesn’t ask or share anything.
Both Thomas and Tucker shared that in these instances the relationships ended for a reason and they aren’t trying to get back together, rather just be nice or connect in a different, more platonic way.
“Asking hope you’re doing well is more ambiguous. It’s more of a catch all, maybe,” Tucker said. “It doesn’t seem doesn’t seem as abrasive as a question is. That sounds more like you know something is going on. For me, personally, it seems less brazen.”
He has, however, also tried to send one to someone that the relationship ended badly, and the intention was to smooth things over should there be an unexpected, in-person run-in. “If you see someone out in public, you don’t want there to be any undo drama or distress to the other person and things like that,” he says. “I guess, I just don’t want to be seen in that unfavorable light.”
For Thomas, he said he’s trying to say, “I know we’ve been through some things and I want to let you know like there’s no bad blood. I really do hope you’re doing well. And then, hopefully, you can understand we had a good time. We were great people. I have no ill will towards you. So, you can see me in that light of open, if things do happen, and you need to catch up or you have something going on in your life. I’m here for that.”
I think that’s what was frustrating. It could have meant several different things.”Why not just say that? Thomas says, “Well, I’m not going to pour my soul out. What if they think I’m trying to get back into another relationship situation?”
The man that texted Tuttle eventually defended himself by telling her that she knew what his intentions were when he sent hope you’re doing well to her. “I didn’t know what the intentions were. I think that’s what was frustrating because it could have meant several different things.”
She asked herself, “Is it ending or over and you just want to be amicable or you’re trying to restart a conversation? Can you sense it’s awkward and you don’t know how to jump into a new normal?” This is the emotional labor.
Alara has also sent them to one person, an ex she’s co-parenting their cat with. He’s in a tough spot emotionally with personal and family things going on. They don’t keep in touch too consistently outside the cat’s need, but she’s sent it two or three times to check on him.
“I told him if he ever needed to talk about anything emotional or whatever, he could always reach out. And, I know he’s not that he wasn’t the type of person to talk about his feelings,” she said. Admittedly, she does care about him, but conversely, hates to be on the receiving end of this text. “Even though he had the opportunity to turn it into a deeper conversation, I was hoping he wouldn’t,” she said. “I didn’t really want to know.”
Even the way she reached out stems from her tempering her own feelings and trying to pull his out. Yet, Alara also candidly shared that there’s another reason she sent it. “I care about how people view me after a breakup, and I especially care about him, and how he thinks of me,” she said. “I wanted him to know that I care.”
For those that have never sent this text, the opposite rings true. “To be very honest, I never cared to be in good graces with any of my exes,” Castillo says.
“I feel like my actions [during the relationship] speak for themselves,” Tuttle says. “If I did something wrong, I wouldn’t send a ‘hope you’re well text.’ I’d say what needs to be said.” This could address that she’s had some time to reflect, and that reaching out like this could also be inherently selfish. “Even if it was two years later, sometimes I think that people deserve to know if you feel like you’ve made a mistake, or like hey, I really handled things poorly, or I wish that had ended things in a different way.”
Iwaniec has also sent them, but she’s only done it as a response, never to open a conversation because a statement doesn’t leave much to engage with. An ex of hers wouldn’t stop reaching out to her and her friends once the relationship ended.
“I’ll just write back to him, “Thanks, hope you’re well,” which is just basically saying fuck off,” she says. “It’s a polite way to say never contact me again.” Especially in this case, where she’s already said not to contact her again.
She said she’d never open a conversation with it. “We’ve never talked like that to each other.” It feels sterile, cold and like a cowardly, temperature check. “Why are you talking to somebody that you have gone on a date with, have complimented, had sex with like you’re reaching out to an old colleague or a mentor?” Tuttle asked.
Nick Moran, a 24 year old from Chicago, recently got one from a friend he had a “complicated” falling out with. It left him perplexed and prompted him to discuss how both he and his friend could’ve handled it differently with his girlfriend. Ultimately, he says, “His inability to acknowledge the situation of our friendship really took me back, and I think what he intended to be a nice message probably did more damage than he expected.”
The bottom line is, if you’re going to reach out to someone you’ve dated or simply once had a very close relationship, don’t forget to sound like you care. Consider your intentions, and if they’re not centered in playing the “good guy,” avoiding conflict or seeing what you can get away with, include them into the message.
A bare “hope you’re well” text is a great way to show you can’t acknowledge your recipients’ feelings, experience with you or the reality of your connection (or lack thereof at this point), and truthfully, the women you’ve dated want you to stay away or send the feelings they likely had to work so hard to get out of you in the past. Time may heal all wounds, but time alone doesn’t repair connections. Meaningful and effective communication does.
Ironically, when I asked Tucker what he thinks when he receives them, he says, “For the most part, people have ulterior motives in all things they do. So, whether they’re bad or good, there’s always a motive.”