Few things in life are as distressing as waking up and realizing the person you once planned your days with is now a stranger or the title Ex. Whether you are mourning the end of a relationship that lasted six months or ten years, breakups are as disorienting as they are heartbreaking.
A quick scan of our culture’s go-to breakup songs demonstrates that most people have the finding a new, hopefully even better, partner part of a breakup down (hello, Beyonce’s Irreplaceable).
The lesser-told story is about former couples reuniting, but it does happen. According to a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 2013, “over one-third of cohabiters and one-fifth of spouses have experienced a breakup and renewal in their current relationship.”
Before you unblock your ex on your socials or make up an excuse to send them a “thinking of you” text (we see you), know that in the same way, every relationship is distinct, so are the relationship dynamics that make sense for getting back with an ex.
We spoke with two experts on intimacy, about action steps you should take before you even consider giving your ex another try, and the relationship types that make the most sense.
Don’t Forget To Examine Your Role At The End Of The Relationship
When considering what caused a relationship to go south, people usually make the mistake of immediately pointing the finger at their partner. Jacqueline Sherman, Ph.D., a licensed Psychologist and coach in intimacy and relationships, encourages beginning with yourself.
“I do feel you can rekindle a relationship, but I think it does take some purposeful self-awareness and self-reflection around what was going wrong in the relationship, and it takes time to do that,” Sherman said.
Remove Your “Rose Colored Glasses” And Never Excuse Abusive Behavior
Nikki Coleman, Ph.D., a licensed Psychologist and coach for self-confidence in sexuality, emphasized the importance of examining your past relationship from a space of reality rather than romanticization.
“We can have a lot of really warm, positive nostalgia about all the great things and really underplay all the horrible things,” Coleman said. “Get really clear about what your needs were that were not getting met and your ability, capacity, and willingness to communicate how you can get those needs met again.”
Sherman and Coleman both mentioned the presence of any form of abuse in a previous relationship as a red flag in considering moving forward.
“If there’s any sort of exploitation or abuse or mistreatment intentionally on behalf of that partner, then that’s absolutely a no-go,” Coleman said.
Remember Your Ex Is Not The Only Person For You
If you made it to be in a relationship with your ex, likely, you think highly of them, but Dr. Coleman encouraged people not to fall into the trap of thinking that person is their best option.
“Never go back to someone because you think you can’t do better,” Coleman said. “If that is the motivation, then that’s probably more of an issue of you and where you are in your own sense of self-worth.”
Avoid Leaning Into Detachment
Readjusting to life without the presence of someone you were once so closely connected to will likely mean that you start doing more things alone, but too much newfound freedom can quickly become isolation. Sherman urged people beginning to feel the pangs of loneliness to not use that feeling as an excuse to get back with an ex.
“A lot of times what can happen is when you end a relationship, it can bring up a lot of grief, and so what happens for a lot of people is they end up circling back to the relationship, not necessarily because they’ve done the pre-work to get ready for the relationship,” Sherman said. “It’s because they’re wanting to just really avoid the feelings of loneliness.”
So When Does It Make Sense To Give Your Ex Another Try?
If you’ve evaluated your previous relationship for the truth or what it was, look at what else is out there. You still want to give your ex another chance; there are relationship dynamics that make sense to do so.
According to Coleman, experiencing “an enhanced life by being in that relationship, but maybe distance happened, circumstances changed, or something happened with career” are “the best conditions to reconsider being in a relationship.”
Sherman said that after leaning into both “self-work” and “self-reflection” using tools like therapy, “you can show up to the relationship as a better partner and a lot wiser regarding what it is you want and need from this relationship.”
We’ve all heard the infamous sayings telling us not to look toward the past, but if a person from your past can help you build a better future, who’s to say it’s wrong to reconsider?