How to Tell If an Ex Is ‘Winter Coating’ You This Holiday Season

Photo:  Oleggg (Shutterstock)
Photo: Oleggg (Shutterstock)

The holiday season is ripe with nostalgia, so it’s not totally surprising that you might receive a text from a curious ex during this time. An innocent text is one thing but if an ex comes strolling back into your life, wanting to rekindle things as soon as the nights get a little colder, you might be on the receiving end of the latest dating trend called “winter coating.”

“Winter coating is when a former partner or lover from your past tries to rekindle your romance for the winter months in an attempt to avoid loneliness and other difficult feelings,” says Minaa B., one of eharmony’s relationship experts.

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Think of it this way: You grab your reliable parka when it starts to get chilly outdoors; however, the minute it starts warming up, you discard it because you no longer need it. Nice, right? While winter coating follows other cringe-worthy dating trends like cuffing and snow globing, the reappearance of an ex during the holidays does make sense.

“Break-ups are hard, and because of that, reminiscing about your former partner—even if you are the one who initiated the break up—is normal,” B. says. “During the holidays, this strong pull to rekindle a relationship with an ex may be due to holidays being a time for love, family, and connection, and if you spent the previous holidays with your ex, not having them around during this new season can feel difficult as you adjust to not having them around and may potentially have to explain to your family why your ex is not present this year.”

Factor in the emotionally heavy season and seasonal affective disorder, and it makes sense why people tend to feel lonelier in the winter. The familiarity of an ex also feels more inviting to most, especially if you’re feeling blue. However, that doesn’t mean you should immediately run back to your ex either. If your ex comes back with all the warm and fuzzies this winter, here’s what to consider before you answer that text.

Be clear with your intentions

No matter who you date—whether it’s an ex or a new partner—B. says it’s important to date with clear intentions, “and when you break up with someone, there is a reason why you made such a difficult decision.”

If an ex reappears and attempts to rekindle a connection, she recommends asking yourself: What has changed? What will be different now compared to before? Is the reason why you broke up still an active issue and has their behavior changed?

Another important thing to ask yourself, according to B., is: “‘Am I reconnecting with my ex because this is the easiest way to manage my sadness instead of dealing with my sadness?’ “Break-ups are heavy on the heart, and when they happen, it’s natural for people to look for quick ways to remedy their pain, and they assume getting back with their ex is the fix they need when really, they need to mourn their loss, manage the grief of their relationship ending, and move forward.”

What to do if you decide to answer the text/call

So your ex has texted you and wants to further connect. Before you get swept up with your feelings and visions of cozying up by the fire, B. recommends asking them the following questions:

  • What will be different this time?

  • Do you understand why we broke up and what needs to change for us to try again?

  • Why should we try to make this work again?

  • What are your intentions? What changes have you made that will help us move forward?

By asking these questions, you both will be on the same page from the jump and will know exactly where you stand and what to expect from the reconnection.

Signs that your ex is “winter coating” you

Even if you ask all of the right questions and have the best of intentions, your ex still might be “winter coating” you—maybe without even being fully aware of it. To be sure of the legitimacy of their reconnection, B. says to pay attention to the distance in time. “If you and your ex broke up in January and have had no contact the whole year then they reappear the week before Thanksgiving to ask how you’ve been doing and how you plan to spend the holidays, that can be a clear sign their motive may be to deal with their holiday loneliness rather than genuinely reconnecting with you,” she explains.

She also advises paying attention to exes who pop-up during the holidays and make references about gifts they hope to receive or share with you. “Chances are, they are looking for you to buy them something under the guise of getting back together. Other signs to pay attention to are your ex asking you to appear at family gatherings even though you’re no longer together or only making references to dating around the holidays but not into the New Year.”

Decide what you want

While B. says it’s possible to make things work the second time around with an ex, that also means something has changed that will allow you and your ex to make it work. “The issue that led to your break up in the first place needs to be addressed and resolved in order to feel like it’s possible to move forward,” she says. “You also want to ensure your ex intends to stick around even after the holidays to ensure this isn’t just a winter-coating situation.” So when your ex does come back around, she recommends being firm with your boundaries and deciding what you are willing to engage in and what you are not.

“Also, be brave enough to seek clarity and ask the questions you need to make sure this reconnection is due to genuine interest and wanting to get back together,” she says. “If you choose to shed your winter coat and move on from the relationship once and for all, reconnect with yourself and understand what you need and want before you start dating again.”

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