What does it mean to be "marleyed"? And should you text your ex at Christmas time? Kia Handley and The Sugar Doctor talk about A Christmas Carol and the Ghost of Exes Past. Transcript Below...[Original recording on ABC website here]
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Ah, the festive season. A time when emotions run deep; love, jealousy, hatred, frustration, its magical! But instead of talking to you about how to get along with your family, you know what you need to do there. I want to talk to you about being ‘Marleyed’ today. Any idea what that means?
Relationship Coach Tara Whitewood is here, good morning
Tara: Good morning!
Kia: Had you heard the term “marleyed” before?
Tara: As I was just saying to you, I even had to go and refresh my context of who Jacob Marley even was…
Who is Jacob Marley?
Kia: [laughs] of course, Jacob Marley is the friend of Scrooge…who comes back to haunt him.
Yes, his business partner who passes away and after that is doomed to forever walk the earth because he is an awful man. And he comes back and takes Scrooge on this magical tour, with the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet-To-Come. So now were all on the same page...
What Does it Mean to be Marleyed?
Kia: Sorry, we should have said spoilers. [both laugh] If you haven’t seen A Christmas Carol. Spoilers there. Ah, Jacob Marley dies. What does it mean in modern context?
Tara: In a modern context, similarly, the ghost of your Ex-Past resurfaces at Christmas time. Slides on into your DMs, sends you an unsolicited text in the middle of the night, and ah, perhaps you start talking again.
Why do Exes Suddenly Appear at Christmas?
Kia: Why do we see people wanting to text your ex at Christmas? Is that a mixture of a lot of things? Alcohol?
Tara: I think so. Christmas is a really funny time. Because firstly it’s a real magnifier of everything. There’s this really heightened expectation based mostly on advertising and marketing. There’s also a lot of other stuff going on in the background, for example there’s loneliness for people, and there’s the contrast then of seeing other people with family. It magnifies loss or grief, if there’s a family member or someone who was really special to you who has passed away in recent times, or even a long time ago, you are always going to notice the absence of them when the family comes together.
In addition there’s the stress of work, financial pressure, and the triad of stress in a relationship which is money, religion and family. And all of this with alcohol added, it just becomes a really intense period of time for people. And I think it distorts the way that people view their own lives.
Is it Okay to Text Your Ex at Christmas?
Kia: Is there ever a problem with reaching out to text your ex at Christmas and saying “Merry Christmas, hope it’s a good day” or are there…
Tara: It’s a really short show today. Yes, I think it’s a problem.
Kia: Thanks for coming in, see you next year.
Why? Even if you have a relationship with this person?
Tara: Look if you already…, if you’re still chatty. That is, if you’re still friends, then you’re friends.
Kia: Different story.
Tara; If you’re friends, then I would put the ‘friends hat’ on, and forget that you’re exes. Different story. Because you obviously have a relationship that’s been continued. If there’s been a period of no or little contact, it’s kind of more, you know. Being Marleyed is more out of the blue, hey, and often its really casual..
Kia “Hope you had a nice Christmas, xx”
Tara: And it can kind of open that can of worms of those ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet-To-Be
Why is it Problematic?
Kia: Let’s talk about why, what is problematic about this. About reaching out, out of the blue, or maybe if you’re on the receiving end of that as well the emotions that can make you feel and the confusion.
Tara: So I think, if we were to look at the Christmas Past, or the exes past, often when you’re looking back the lens of time softens things. And you maybe don’t remember all the things that were bad.
Kia: our brains are really good at blocking out all the bad stuff.
Tara: Really good at blocking out the bad stuff. And then if maybe you’re experiencing in your present that you’re feeling lonely, and you’re lacking a bit of connection, maybe you want a bit of affection. Often we will just go back to the relationship that we know to the familiar.
Kia: Its comfortable.
Tara: It’s comfortable! You know what to expect. There’s some certainty there. Maybe there’s some things you don’t like, but as they say “It’s better the devil you know” so you know what you’re going into. I would suggest don’t do that. There’s a reason that you broke up, and it may or may not be a good reason. But if you were to be considering reuniting, and getting back together, this is not the time.
Kia: Don’t do it at Christmas.
Tara: Don't do it. Don’t text your ex at Christmas.
Why You Shouldn't Send That Text
Kia: Is that because it’s never going to be true emotion? Because there is so much going on?
Tara: I just think, I just don’t think that it’s a mature way to go about it. I think if you genuinely want to get back together you need a little bit of time and some conversations without all of the background noise of everything else that is happening. Especially when you’re on holidays and things can seem rosy, and lovely, and you go out for drinks and its fun and it’s Christmas…
Kia: Then reality hits.
Tara: Then when you go back to work,
Kia: Kids are at school…
Tara: Right? And maybe you haven’t resolved anything. If you really are thinking that in the long term you would like to reignite this flame then maybe just wait til January. If you can reply and say “hey, really nice to hear from you, I’ve got a lot on my plate, can we catch up in the New Year?” Anyone who is not kind of receptive to that, isn’t maybe ready to do the work that you need to do to resolve whatever happened.
How Being Marleyed Is A Selling Technique
Kia: How do we reply? Let’s say that we’re on the receiving end. Is it about ignoring?
Tara: It depends on the relationship that you have with that person. I am a big fan of just ignoring.
It’s kind of like, it really reminds me of that sales technique where someone knocks on your door unsolicited. And you open the front door and you say “hi”. Actually I say “no thanks, I’m not interested”.
Kia: Thanks for coming
Tara: But many people will follow the social convention of saying “hello”. To the stranger at their door. Who will then ask:
Kia: We’ll unpack that next week
Tara: Yeah that’s right, I need a bit of therapy around that [laughs]
They’ll then ask “how’s your week been” or something kind of unrelated, a bit of a non sequitur. Something unrelated to what they’re actually going to speak to you about. And it’s a sales technique – it’s designed to get you talking, and it’s designed to get you engaging with them, and it’s designed to take you towards the ultimate sale which is whatever they have, whether they’re fundraising, or selling a product, or religious, or whatever the reason is.
How to Reply if You Get Marleyed
And the text, the open ended text is the same thing. It’s designed to really engage you. There’s nothing you can say that will close that conversation. So if you would like for that conversation to be closed, then don’t engage. Is my suggestion.
It plays into all of those social conventions, the need that we have for reciprocity. You know, when you say hello to me it is very very rude for me to not say hello. And then does that make me a bad person? Or does that make me a rude person? You know maybe in some contexts,
Kia: There’s a time and place.
Tara: Times where it’s appropriate. You need to be able to maintain your boundaries. And the more you engage in that kind of, chit chat, small talk, with your ex, the more likely you are to have more and longer conversations.
Are There Rules to Follow for Friends at Christmas?
Kia: Do we need to have rules around this for people we’re hanging out with? When it comes to drunken late nights texts there are people I know who will take people’s phones and say “Right, when you hit a certain point…”
Tara: Yeah! I think that’s a really generous thing to do if you know your friend is likely to do that. For me, I've been in the past someone who would compulsively check what my exes were doing. Because when you’re going through any transition in your life, it is that real Ghost of Christmas Future, or Christmas Yet-to-Come. Almost like a sliding doors moment. Where kind of check in and you think “what would my life have been like if I had stayed with that person?” What would we have been doing?
It’s completely imaginary, it’s just this projection of what you think might have happened. So I block people on social media. Not because I don’t want for them to see what I’m doing, but because I don’t want to see what they’re doing.
Kia: It’s about your own mental health.
Tara: Exactly, my mental health. I’ll take their phone number out of my phone. I just think the higher the barrier is to get in touch with someone, the less likely you are. If you have to go and look up a number, or go in and unblock them then there’s that moment where you think “oh I did that for a reason, maybe this isn’t a good conversation to have”.
Kia: Alright, well now we know what being Marleyed is, and now we know what to do and what not to do. That is Tara Whitewood, our Relationship Coach here on ABC mornings.