"Never look back" That's what they say, right? And most of us fully subscribe to this. Exes are exes for a reason, aren't they? And up until a few years ago, I was the world's biggest advocate of leaving the past in the past. I've never stayed friends with any of my exes (because I think there is literally no point) and I'd certainly never considered getting back with one of them. Hell no.
Whenever friends who'd split up with their partners had a wobble, or said they missed them, I became their relationship drill sergeant - constantly reminding them why it had all ended and why they were so much better off without.
...And then I got back together with one of my exes. I know, it pains me to say it out loud. Not because they're the worst person on earth and I was ashamed, but because I went back on my word.
My point is: it's easy to claim revisiting a former relationship is a bad idea and to dish out advice to your pals like you're the moral compass of the group, but when it happens to you, you realise actually it's not always such a ridiculous notion
I won't go deep into the reasons we broke up the first time. But our relationship just seemed to come to a natural end. After being friends for 10 years and then finally getting together, our lives had been running parallel for so long and then one day, we were just off in different directions. We were young, and had other shit going on that at the time that was more important than our relationship.
For two years, we didn't speak. Both of us saw other people, had casual sex things, and I even had a year-long relationship. And then we accidentally reconnected (cheers Tinder, you absolute LAD) and it just seemed right. Sure, fine, yep, I'll admit it: we aren't together anymore. But was getting back together the most stupid decision I ever made? I don't think so...
Lovehoney's sex and relationship expert Annabelle Knight says getting back with an ex can work out. But, she says, there are five key questions you need to ask if you're determined to rekindle a former relationship
Is it a good idea to get back with an ex?
Never say never, sometimes a little space is all you need. However, always go back into a past relationship with open eyes - ignoring previous problems in the hope that everything will be wonderful this time around is just asking for trouble. If you're about to reignite an old flame it’s a good idea to take some time to evaluate what went wrong the first time around.
For most cases the phrase ‘flogging a dead horse’ comes to mind - however there's always an exception to the rule and new research shows that more and more couples are making it work with an ex.
Can a broken relationship ever be fixed?
This depends on the couple. If two people are willing to work hard, forgive and nurture their relationship, then it definitely can work. Both partners need to be completely on the same page and the lines of communication need to be well and truly open. How can you make sure it lasts second time around?
So before you embark on your journey to second chance city, there are a few key things to consider.
Talk about absolutely everything beforehand
It’s a bad idea to get back with an ex if there’s any unfinished business hanging over your heads. If there was a particular reason why your relationship failed previously then it’s a good idea to establish some mutually agreed ground rules about certain behaviours beforehand.
Once you’ve forgiven, forget
You absolutely must leave the past in the past, learn from it by all means but don’t bring it up in the heat of an argument. Opening up old wounds for the sake of a quick win will only damage your chances of making things work. To try again you must be willing and able to move on if you’re to have any hope of having a future together.
Most second chance relationships fail because couples assume they can just slip back into the way things were. It’s really important to nurture this relationship just as you would with any new romance. If sex (or lack of) was one of the reasons why you split, how can you make sure you don't fall back into a rut the next time?
Keeping things fresh in the bedroom can be difficult; again, talking to one another is crucial when it comes to sex. This can be the most painful part of any reconciliation as no one wants to hear (or tell) home truths when it comes to sex.
Sadly, the only way you can have better sex is to be honest. Be more adventurous as a couple, even if for you that means something such as a new position or change of scenery or experimenting with sex toys for couples.
Is casual sex with an ex is ever a good idea to get you through a drought?
If both you and your ex are on the same page then there really shouldn’t be a reason why you can’t go back for some fun once in a while. In saying that, this is rarely the case. In my opinion it’s best to stay away: if you’re just after a bit of fun, then download Tinder. Avoid any situations where people could potentially get their feelings hurt, no matter how little harm you think it can do at the time.
A survey of 1,000 people by Lovehoney found 43% of women and people with vaginas had had sex with ex while they were looking for a new partner - the main reason was because they missed physical intimacy (42% of respondents). And almost a third (31%) said they had sex with the ex because they hoped to get back together with their former partner.
Whatever you decide to do: think it through, talk it out and go in with your hearts and minds fully open.
My ex and I broke up, the first time, after I discovered he’d been carrying on an email affair. This was senior year of college—we’d been dating since we were freshmen—and when I confronted him, he said he needed to figure out who he was without me.
He spent the next few months getting drunk and throwing things off the roof of his house, mostly beer cans, once a pumpkin, launched venomously into a snowbank while I shouted at him through the window.
We spent the next four years breaking up again, and again, and again, until we broke up for good when—surprise!—he cheated on me for what became the final time (although I would have taken him back that time, too, if he hadn’t fled our apartment with all his belongings while I was out of town).
All of that is to say: Whether or not we’ve met (hi!), I have strong opinions about whether you should get back together with your ex. I have eight years worth of strong opinions, eight years of self-flagellation, eight years of mental gymnastics performed to justify and excuse so much bad behavior and poor decision-making on both our parts.
Breakups are not a bad hair day; they do not just happen. If you’ve undone your relationship, in other words, you didn’t do so by accident.
And yet. The very woman to whom we owe the glorious rat-nest of glamour that is this website got back together with her ex, and rather successfully so. As Leandra rightly says, “every relationship is its own breathing organism,” and so, as much as I’d like to,
I can’t dish out slaphappy relationship ultimatums in good conscience. So instead, I’d like to offer some questions that I think are worth posing before you backslide into your ex’s DMs.
Are you sure, or are you just heartbroken?
Breakups can be liberating and restorative, but they are almost always sad, and being sad is hard. Very few of us would choose it for ourselves. Sadness is staying out in the cold when there’s a friend waiting by the fire with a warm drink. We’ve evolved to run toward that warmth. The rub? In the case of a breakup, that means running right back to the relationship.
The breakup hurts! You want to feel better! Ergo, undo breakup! Getting to the other side of the sadness may take years. In my case, shaking the sad meant therapy, a new city, a cliché tattoo, lots of crying on the subway, and a drastic haircut.
So if you’re questioning whether you should get back together, ask yourself: Am I sure I made a mistake, or am I just heartbroken right now? If it’s the latter, make yourself your favorite snack. Drink a glass of water. Call a friend. If you haven’t been outside today,
walk around the block, and then keep walking. Let your own two legs carry you a bit further than they could yesterday. Do any number of things that help you lift the veil, and then reevaluate.
What would you tell your best friend if they were in the same situation?
While no one can truly know what goes on behind the closed doors of a relationship, it can be helpful to ask yourself what you’d advise your best friend if they were you.
Was the breakup a long time coming, or a heat-of-the-moment decision? Are you full of regret, or nurturing a kernel of relief? We treat our friends with far more compassion than we treat ourselves, so if you’d tell your friend to give themselves a chance to breathe through the pain and see how they feel in the morning, maybe you should take your own advice.
And if your own friends respond to the breakup with a relieved sigh? Take that response to heart. Your ex may have wonderful qualities, but it’s worth asking why you’re the only one who sees them.
What would it take to fix the problems you had—and are both of you willing to try?
You’d think that would have been enough, but I was making excuses for him right up until the bitter end. That’s all to say that if your ex seems to want to get back together but is simultaneously unwilling to put in the hard work required to repair the broken parts
—well, that’s an answer in and of itself. On the other hand, if your ex is right there in the trenches with you for the long haul? The advice of a neutral third party has the potential to unlock a new and better way of being together.
Have you given the breakup enough breathing room?
If you’re considering getting back together with your ex, give it a week. And then another week. And then one more. Think of it like a 30-day return policy (or maybe even 90): You need some time to shake off the relationship cobwebs before you’re able to see clearly.
Honor whatever confluence of feelings and events caused the breakup—and the strength it took to walk away—by taking the time to evaluate whether getting back together feels truly right, or if it just feels easy. Your relationship is not a flash-sale clearance sweater;
if you and your ex are both committed to giving it another try, it will still be there when you come to that decision—together, and with the accumulated knowledge and experience won during your time apart.
What are you really afraid of?
I still dream about my ex, often. Last night he was renovating an apartment, and as I followed him through the vast space I realized none of his design decisions included me.
He was callous and cold, and I knew I would be forever unhappy, and I begged him to let me stay anyway. What becomes clear in these dreams is that I was more afraid of being miserable alone than I was of being miserable together. My desire for a relationship eclipsed my ability to see that we had long outgrown each other.
These dreams, I think, are my way of working that out again and again; of trying to help me acquaint myself with loneliness. I spent almost five years ostensibly single before I met my now-husband. I didn’t love being single, but by then I loved myself enough to know that I wouldn’t accept any less than a true partner, a good person, the kind of love I knew I was capable of giving.
Letting fear guide your decisions is a way of getting smaller and smaller as a person, until there’s very little of you left at all. The vast unknowable on the other side of your relationship is terrifying,
yes, but it can also be brilliant, an aurora borealis of newness and light, tap dance lessons and the weird shoes your ex hated, a solo vacation where you forget your passport on a train only to have it returned by a kind stranger.
Maybe your ex will be a part of that life; maybe they won’t. But you’ll be there either way, living, guided by nothing less than your own brave heart
As painful as a breakup can be, relationships usually end for good reason—especially when one or both of you are unhappy more often than not, and you'd be better off meeting someone new.
On rarer occasions, lingering feelings for an ex are so strong that "rekindling things" doesn't quite describe it, because that fire never went out. Even many seemingly-rock-solid celebrity marriages were preceded by a brief split: Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo and Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade, to name just a few.
Reconciliations can work out, but is it right for your situation? Here's some expert advice on the questions to ask when you're considering getting back together with an ex.
Is the main issue that drove you apart resolvable?
"The number one criteria that must be met is that something has changed," says psychologist Cortney Warren, PhD. "There is a reason that the relationship didn't work the last time you dated—maybe many reasons.
Whatever they were contributed to your previous breakup. So, if it's going to work this time, one or both of you must have evolved."
"Unless they fix what the situation was that broke them up to begin with, it's just going to happen again and again," says relationship expert Rachel A. Sussman, LCSW, citing possible differences such as religion or wanting to move away for a job.
Do you both agree on what your past differences were?
In order to work out the issues that caused the breakup, you need to agree on what those problems were in the first place. Failure to do so will bring the reunion honeymoon period to a screeching halt a week, a month, or two months in, says Sussman.
The couple has to have a really good talk," she continues. "They have to have a true understanding of the narrative of what broke them up. They should be on the same page about that narrative, and they should be on the same page about what needs to change."
Have you given each other enough space to know how to do things better this time?
Don't even consider getting back together until you've given your split some room to breathe, Sussman warns. "Has the couple had time during that breakup to reflect and change, and maybe work on themselves?" she asks.
"That couple has a greater likelihood of working it out than the couple who only broke up for two weeks and just gets back together out of insecurity, loneliness, or for the wrong reasons."
Is your ex open to getting back together?
This should probably go without saying, but exploring the possibility of reconciliation needs to be mutual. Too many movies portray the hero as "persistent" and "romantic" when he's actually exhibiting stalking behavior, as this Atlantic article highlights, while in real life, requests like "don't call me again" should always be taken seriously
f you do want to broach the topic, Sussman recommends reaching out to see if they're open to discussing it. "It's always good to take responsibility, say 'Hey, I've done a lot of soul searching and I've seen mistakes that I made, and I'd really like the opportunity to talk with you,'" she says. "So you're not asking for anything in person, just listen to what they have to say. I think that's always a good opportunity to take personal responsibility."
Are you afraid you won't find someone else?
This is one of those aforementioned wrong reasons to reunite, says Sussman: "It's fear. Fear of being alone, fear of never meeting anybody, fear that this is the last opportunity they're going to have, fear of dating."
Wondering if you'll ever find a match after a romantic disappointment is completely understandable. But that worry shouldn't guide your choices.
Will you ask your ex the tough questions?
This is particularly important if they're the one initiating a reconciliation, or they've disappointed and hurt you repeatedly in the past. "You can be skeptical," Sussman says, asking them things such as, 'what makes you think it's going to be different this time? Why should I believe you? How do I know you're going to be consistent in what you're saying?'"
Have you conveniently forgotten the darker parts of your relationship?
Take a cold-eyed inventory of your relationship. Did the happier times really outnumber the sad ones?
"Humans often look back on an ex with rose-tinted glasses and remember only the positive aspects of the relationship," Warren explains. "For many, we selectively remember only what was good about an ex and former relationship because the negative aspects of the relationship that broke us up are too painful or upsetting to hold in our conscious awareness.
" Instead of scrolling through old selfies of you two on a tropical vacation, you might try checking the transcripts—aka, your old emails and text exchanges—to better revisit what things were truly like.
"If it was a relationship where the good outweighs the bad, I'd be hard pressed to wonder, 'why not get back together?,'" Sussman says. "I've seen couples do it, and go on and get married, and stay married. It can happen."
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