At some point of another, most people have considered getting back together with an ex. It’s a prospect that pop culture has romanticized to the point that we think a reunion will always be a good idea. But in the real world, getting back together can be incredibly dicey, and can open up a whole host of new emotions for both parties.
If can’t get the idea out of your head, then listen up. There is a right way to go about this, and a completely wrong way. Ahead, we’ve chatted with a handful of relationship experts to work out if and how you should reconnect with a former flame. They’re a lot more trustworthy than The Notebook — promise.
Examine Why You Broke Up In The First Place
The reason why you broke up may point to whether or not it’s a good idea to take a second chance. “Many times we are nostalgic when thinking about an ex, and it’s easy to forget why things didn’t work out in the first place,” says Kelley Kitley, LCSW. But it’s important to remove those rose-colored glasses.
“While there are two sides to every story, there are often a few factors that are highlighted within a breakup,” says sexologist Megan Stubbs. “What makes this time different than the time before? And how will you communicate that to your partner in a way that might make them open to a second chance?” Try to be as neutral as possible in your recollections. Seeing your part in a breakup can help you figure out whether it’s a good idea to give things a second shot.
Figure Out If You’re Doing It for the Right Reasons
There are many, many reasons why someone may choose to explore a reconciliation with their ex. But a lot of the time, those reasons aren’t exactly good. “People often want to get an ex back because they think it will heal the pain they feel in the immediate moment,” says Brandy Engler, psychologist and author of The Men On My Couch. “If they were rejected or broken up with, it can be a strong impulse to want that person to accept you in order to heal the wound of rejection.” And that, of course, isn’t a good reason to get back together.
“Typically, when a relationship ends, there may be pain, sadness, or negative feelings on one side or both,” says Dr. Amie Harwick, MFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist in West Hollywood. “When considering getting back with an ex, one must consider if they can work through the differences.” And while we can’t directly tell you which are good reasons to get back together with an ex, it’s a smart idea to consider why you got together with this person in the first place. Are those the reasons you want them back? Do they outweigh the reasons why you broke up? Then there may be reasons to proceed.
Remember the Other Person’s Autonomy
Here’s the thing about relationships — they require another person with their own opinions and feelings. “I also like to get my clients to appreciate that your ex is a free agent,” Engler says. And your former flame’s ideas about the breakup may not match your own. “You need to give your former partner space to make a decision,” says Stubbs. “You have to respect their autonomy in regards to their feelings and timeframe.” In other words, while you may have easily come to the realization that you can’t live without them, they may not have the same feelings about you.
This is especially true if your former partner feels that you carry some of the blame in the breakup. “Maybe they need you to show more actions before they make a decision,” Stubbs says. They may also not want to get back together at all — and that’s a reality you’ll have to accept. If that does happen, it’s important to walk away respectfully.
If both you and your former partner decide to rekindle the flame, it’s important to take things slowly. “Dating is difficult enough, so with the added factor of shared history, it makes it all the more challenging,” says Stubbs. “This isn’t to say it’s hopeless, but don’t expect it to be an easy ride.”
Harwick agrees. “Honestly, more often than not, it doesn’t work out,” she explains. “There are always exceptions, and that usually happens when two people can communicate through past differences.” She says that therapy may actually be helpful in reestablishing a relationship. “It helps process concerns from the past,” she says.
Going back to an ex can be extremely difficult, but can also be incredibly fruitful if both parties are on board and ready to make the necessary changes. Whatever the outcome, though, communication is key. And remember, if things don’t work out, there are always plenty of fish in the sea.