1 in 5 People Reached Out to an Ex During Lockdown

New Kinsey Institute study examines how quarantine affected our love lives.

Posted Jun 08, 2020

Anecdotally, I have heard from several people who said that they either reached out to or heard from an ex-partner since the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns and quarantines began. But just how many people did so? And what motivated them to reconnect with former partners?

 Wavebreak Media Ltd/123RF
Source: Wavebreak Media Ltd/123RF

Some of my colleagues and I at the Kinsey Institute conducted a long-term study to explore how the pandemic has affected people’s intimate lives (click here to learn more about our research), and our results suggest that reaching out to an ex was not a rare occurrence during this unusual time.

We surveyed thousands of participants from around the world several times starting in mid-March, and in one of our waves of data collection, we asked about whether they had reconnected with exes. We found that about 1 in 5 people said they had personally reached out to at least one ex. Of that group of folks, nearly half said that they had reached out to multiple exes.

In addition, about 1 in 4 people said they have heard from at least one ex. Of these folks, most said they replied.

Perhaps not surprisingly, single people were more than twice as likely to say they had reached out to an ex compared to people in committed relationships. Specifically, about 28 percent of singles had done so, whereas just 13 percent of people in relationships had. Singles were also more likely to have reached out to multiple exes.

So why are so many people reaching out to their exes right now? The single most common reason—regardless of one’s current relationship status—was simply to check in on them. Specifically, they usually wanted to ensure that their ex was safe and healthy or to see how they were coping emotionally.

However, a minority of participants reported reaching out for a range of other reasons, including feeling lonely or bored, wanting sex or a hookup, craving physical touch, checking to see if they were dating someone new, checking in on their shared children, and/or wanting to rekindle the relationship. I should note that participants could select multiple reasons, so sometimes there were multiple motives present. 

The odds of reporting these additional reasons varied based on relationship status. For example, singles were more likely than people in relationships to reach out to an ex because they were feeling lonely or bored, they yearned for something familiar, or they wanted to get back together.

That said, there were at least a few people in committed relationships who reached out because they were thinking about committing infidelity—they were looking for a hookup or to rekindle a past flame. This suggests that, for a small number of people, the pandemic may have shifted how they felt about their current relationship or made them reconsider past relationship decisions.

So if you’ve found yourself reaching out to exes lately, or if any exes have reached out to you, you’re certainly not alone. This seems to be a fairly common occurrence right now.