Real Advice with Real Talk: Should I get back together with my ex?
Dear Real Talk,
I’m thinking about getting back together with my ex, and I want your thoughts. Do you think you can successfully get back together with an ex? Is this a good idea?
Missing an ex
*I want to give a disclaimer that the advice in this column does NOT apply to relationships that are abusive.*
Dear Missing an ex,
I have so many things to say about this, so I’m going to organize my thoughts into why you should AND why you shouldn’t rekindle with your ex. To avoid my own biases, I also crowdsourced thoughts from friends, coworkers, and the Real Talk community. Whether you should or should not get back with your ex is so nuanced, and so personal.
Speaking of personal, I have my own experience of recoupling with an ex; and I am still grappling with whether or not I am glad that we got back together. If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t think we rekindled for the right reasons. We started dating when we were so young (like 14) and had a very rocky relationship for years. When we broke up, I spent the start of college glued to my dorm room bed eating goldfish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I valued myself less because I felt rejected, unloved, and very hurt (both from how I was treated during the relationship and the breakup). Part of me wishes I had healed from that and just moved on.
Two years later he reached back out, apologizing for everything. He was treating me the way I had always wanted. We dated for another two years. If I’m really honest with myself, I had a gut feeling just a few months into those two years. A feeling that indicated, while the validation and princess-treatment was nice, I was not actually happy in this relationship. But years of history, “trauma bonding” experiences, and “sunk-cost-syndrome” kept me in it.
Ultimately, while I value our memories, we were not meant to stay in each other’s lives (note to self: your relationship should not cause you massive anxiety). I do question, would I have ever really learned that lesson if we didn’t get back together?
I think before you get back together, start by asking yourself a number of questions about the relationship. Questions to ask before you get back with your ex:
- Why did you break up?
- Are the reasons you broke up still relevant?
- How did you both handle the end of your relationship?
- Have you both taken accountability for what went wrong at the end of your relationship?
- Why do you want to get back together? (besides the fact that you love them).
- Have you taken some time and space after the breakup to self reflect? Have they?
- Do this person’s actions match their words? Do yours?
- Are you on the same page about what you both want out of your relationship?
- Are you both in a place in life where it is sustainable for you to have a healthy relationship? (Take into account mental health, emotional maturity, bandwidth in lifestyle, readiness for commitment).
I believe that the answers to these questions reveal most of what you need to make your decision about getting back together with your ex. Successfully rekindling with an ex requires time and space to reflect and understand the intricacies of your past relationship. Both people should be bringing the same energy to the table: excited to be there, willing to admit wrongs, choosing to look forward instead of back.
One of my very best friends went through a break up with her boyfriend of a year after a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings. They both took time to separately heal, and a few months later came back together and decided to give it another go. She said the secret to getting back together comes with a person that you can see yourself building a long lasting relationship with. After many honest conversations about their relationship, two years later they live together and are talking about getting engaged soon. I look up to and admire their relationship. They communicate about EVERYTHING. They understand each other’s boundaries, love and respect one another for who they are, and put a lot of energy and effort into maintaining a healthy relationship. The proof is in the pudding, it definitely can work.
While there are a myriad of success stories we can look to (Kristen Bell and Dax Shepherd, Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos to name a few), I think the idea of “right person, wrong time” is often a false hope.
There are too many reasons to count exemplifying why you should leave an ex as an ex. They’re an ex for a reason. We need to knock it off with the romanticization of TOXIC relationships (I’m looking at you Chuck and Blair). Time and time again we watch movies like the Notebook where exes come back into each other’s lives and live happily ever after. But, more often than not, the rollercoaster of off and on signifies a toxic relationship that should be left behind. It is hard to heal from hurt and betrayal with the person who hurt and betrayed you. It is hard to rebuild trust. It is near impossible to move past any doubts you may have of whether this is the right person for you. There are so many wonderful people out there who you have yet to meet.
Just because you had a codependent relationship doesn't mean you should be together. Just because you’re bored and lonely doesn’t mean you should be together. Just because you miss them certainly does not mean you should be together. As a reminder, breakups are supposed to be sad. They are going to be sad even when they are for the best. Lean on friends, family, your therapist, your dog– read books, watch movies, listen to music and podcast. Feel the feels.
But sometimes, we have to rekindle with an ex to realize they are not the person for us. I did get back together with my ex, and I don’t think I regret it per say, but I also don’t think it was a good idea. I believe no time is truly wasted time, and my life would be a lot different if we hadn’t gotten back (not sure I would have taken the leap to move across the country, nothing like post-breakup courage). I polled our Instagram community on if they had ever rekindled with an ex, if they stayed together, and if they regretted it or not. Interestingly enough, most people did not regret getting back together with their ex, even when it didn’t work out. They were echoing my sentiments that even if you do get back together with an ex and regret it, you’re likely to leave the relationship with a fresh perspective or a positive takeaway.
One woman shared that she was in a 4 year relationship and broke up because she was not ready for serious next steps. After a year apart, they got back together.
“I think if we hadn’t tried again, there would have always been part of me that thought we were great together and it was a wrong-place wrong-time situation. Getting back together made me realize that we just truly weren’t compatible. It helped me close the door permanently on it and I honestly have never second guessed it. For this reason, I’ve never thought of it as wasted time. There’s always something you can learn from any situation, and I’m glad I got the concrete closure I needed to move on.”
Another woman shared why she is glad she got back together with her toxic ex, and how it made her realize her worth.
“At the time I thought he was the only person who could make me happy and I never thought I'd be able to find someone else. The stress of getting back together on his terms made me reflect on our problems and opened my eyes to behaviors that I never noticed before. Getting back into the toxic relationship made me not only realize that I don't need another person to be happy, but also that I wasn't a good person when I was with him. I worked on myself a lot after I ended things and I couldn't be happier.”
It’s ok (and very, very normal) to miss your ex, but it doesn't mean you should get back together. Here’s to looking forward, no matter what you choose.
Real Advice with Real Talk