Should you get back together? It may be tempting to resurrect even the most tumultuous of unions, if only for the chance at having one heck of a crazy love story. But before you get swept up in the moment — and the possible drama — ask yourself these key questions before saying yes to an ex.
1. Who Are You and What Do You Want?
It’s crucial to get real with yourself about whether or not getting back together with your ex will put you on a path toward becoming the person you want to be and having the life you want. “Connect with your true self, go deep and get clear as to who exactly you really are and what you are seeking in very deep ways,” says licensed professional counselor and life coach Anahid Lisa Derbabian. This essential step is less about your ex and more about you being very clear about what you want in life — and whether he or she fits in with that.
While you’re soul-searching, really evaluate if your ex possesses the qualities you really want in a partner. “Ask yourself: Did being with this ex make you feel small or unappreciated? Can you achieve your goals with this person by your side?” says licensed psychotherapist Deborah Duley. “If not, it’s time to figure out how to heal the part of you that still misses what your ex represents.”
2. Do You Both Recognize Your Mistakes?
“Your ex must be willing to make amends to you and take responsibility for past actions,” says relationship coach Cindi Sansone-Braff, author of “Why Good People Can’t Leave Bad Relationships.” “If your ex is unwilling to do the necessary healing work, then don’t even consider going back or you’ll soon find yourself back in the same sinking Titanic all over again.”
What’s more, you need to own up to your part in the breakup and understand where you fell short. “Ask yourself: Have you done your inner homework, and do you honestly think that you’ve learned from this experience enough to get back in there and try again?” Sansone-Braff advises.
3. Have You Fully Expressed Your Feelings?
Getting it all out in the open — your fears, your anger, your lingering questions — is the only way to move forward with getting back together in a healthy, productive way. “You’ll know that you’ve expressed what you truthfully feel when feelings of emotions, confusion, stress and tension dissipate,” says cognitive scientist Dr. Vijay Ram. “Either way, once you have ‘talked it all out’ and feel relief, a lot of information will have surfaced. You’ll also be in a zone of detachment from the issue where you can more clearly put that information into perspective and decide what the best course of action is.”
4. What’s Happened Since Your Breakup?
Perhaps you joined the Peace Corps after you and your ex split and got some much-needed life perspective. Maybe your ex got help for the issues that plagues him or her (and your relationship). Examining the time you spent apart — and how you grew and changed (or didn’t) — will shed some light on whether you should give things another go.
“Promises are easy and change is hard,” says David Ezell, clinical director of counseling and wellness group Darien Wellness, which specializes in male psychology. “Is the reason you broke up actually different a few months or years later?” Get clarity on this and you’ll know if the relationship is worth pursuing again.
5. How Long Have You Two Been Separated?
The actual amount of time since your breakup is also an important aspect to consider. “If the answer to this question is ‘not long,’ then you must consider whether you two were really broken up,” says relationship expert April Davis, owner and founder of LUMA, a luxury matchmaker service. “If you are just going back and forth, then your partner is not an ex, but rather is a participant in your drama.” Ouch.
A good rule of thumb, Davis says, is that if you two have been separated for more than 10 percent of your life, then that’s long enough to consider getting back together.
6. How Will You Prevent Yourselves from Falling Back Into Old Habits?
The reasons for your breakup could come back to haunt you if you don’t make a conscious effort to make things different the second time around. “If you are committed with a reborn love, you two should be able to maintain a consistent approach in moving forward,” Davis says. But if you let yourselves slide or don’t talk about the changes you wish to make, you may suddenly fall back into the patterns that allow bad habits to rule your lives.
For instance, if you tended to hook up more than actually talk about your problems (or feelings), you may want to discuss the importance of verbal communication rather than sorting everything out in the bedroom.
7. If Cheating Was Involved, Could It Happen Again?
“While we all want to believe that people have the capacity to change, if infidelity occurred in your relationship and you two have separated, you have to ask yourself: What are you doing to ensure that this is no longer an issue?” Davis says. This means not only does the cheater need to be willing to be transparent about his or her whereabouts, cellphone use and other potentially shady areas of his or her life, but the person who got cheated on needs to know what it will take for him or her to trust again.
David Ezell, clinical director of Darien Wellness, warns not to take a cheater’s pleas to take him or her back without doing some digging. “If a man has struggled with monogamy in the past, I’d be very curious how three months later he is ready to commit,” he says. “What happened in 90-odd days that suddenly brought him to a very different view of commitment?”
8. What Does Your Intuition Say?
It’s all too easy to be tempted to get back with an ex, despite a little voice inside telling you it’s a bad idea. Especially if you’re feeling lonely or just don’t want to show up to family functions solo again.
But beware of a controlling ex who tries to convince you to reconnect, says relationship coach Cindi Sansone-Braff. “Is your ex pushing your guilt buttons to get you back? Is he or she blaming you for things that happened in the past that you know aren’t your fault? Is your ex giving you a lot of mixed messages?” she asks. “Some people are just master manipulators. If you know your ex to be this way in the past, there’s a very good chance your ex will be the same way in the future.” Follow your gut and run — don’t walk — away.
9. Can You Truly Forgive?
It’s one thing to know where you both went wrong in your past relationship. It’s another to recognize your mistakes and really, truly put the past in the past. “If you feel that you can never forgive this person for past behaviors no matter what he or she does, then taking this person back will never work,” Sansone-Braff says. “After a while this person will tire of bending backwards for you and will resent your inability to let go of the past and embrace the new life your partner is trying to build with you.” If you tend to be a grudge holder and know that you can’t let go of past grievances, don’t even consider getting back with your ex, she advises.
10. What Does Getting Back Together Look Like?
Before taking the plunge, figure out the state of your relationship and the pace you both expect it to take. “Ask each other: If you were living together before, are you moving back in? Are you dating? If you are dating, how often do you plan to see each other?” suggests licensed marriage and family therapist Jim Seibold. “The more you each understand your expectations, the less likely either of you are to feel frustrated with the process.”
To work out these logistics, he recommends that couples considering getting back together enter counseling together. This way there’s an impartial person who can help you navigate the situation and prompt you to think and talk about potential issues to make your new relationship successful.
What Do YOU Think?
Is getting back together with an ex usually a bad idea? What would it take for you to rekindle a relationship with an ex? Can people really change?