Maybe it’s the alluring romanticism of The One That Got Away, or maybe it’s the lack of sex in quarantine, but if you’re thinking about getting back together with an ex, you’re not alone. Even though you probably broke up for a legit reason, human beings crave attachment and comfort. During a time that is so uncomfortable, it’s no surprise that you might be considering going back to what feels familiar, or maybe such a scary time has made you realize what’s important and who you want to have in your life.
Plus, if you grew up believing that Ross and Rachel would end up together (were they on a break?) or that Big and Carrie were destined to be together (no matter how many times they broke up and got back together), you know that a breakup does not have to mean the end. But how do you know if you two needed to grow and are now ready to have a healthy, happy relationship, or if you are just tired of swiping through Bumble and endless dates over Zoom? Here are eight questions to help you decide if going back to your ex is the right decision for you.
1. Why did you break up in the first place?
It’s easy to remember the highlight reel of all the good moments, but nothing ends without a reason. Since it’s easier to remember the good over the bad (nostalgia, you bastard!), you’ll most likely romanticize your past relationship instead of remembering the pain it caused you. The reality is that no matter what, we leave relationships for a good reason. Unless that reason is completely resolved (and you have solutions to prevent it moving forward), the same pain will sneak up again if you get back into the same situation. Instead of reflecting on the beginning and middle of the relationship (which is likely a supercut of happy memories), reflect on the end.
2. Have you truly forgiven your ex?
No matter why you broke up, there’s probably hurt on both sides. You might have trust issues, insecurities, built-up resentment, or all the above. While you’ll need to talk through past issues before you decide to give it another shot (more on that below), you should not bring up those past issues in new disagreements that come up in the future. When you bring up past arguments during new fights, it’s just repeating the cycle that broke you up, and might be a sign you’re not really over what happened in the past. Forgiveness is a process. If you’re not there yet, hold off until you’re ready to forgive them, or ask yourself if your gut is telling you not to forgive them.
3. Did you have enough space after the breakup?
Especially when you’re in the same social circle, work together, or just talk to each other frequently, you might not have had enough separation to get used to life without your ex. If you’ve been through breakups before, you know the hardest part of getting over the end of a relationship is often because that person was a part of your routine, like any other habit. Not having enough space from your ex prevents you from moving on because you never get a chance to break that “habit.”
Sure, missing your ex could be a sign that you really should be with them, or it might be a sign that you didn’t give yourself the chance to move on. Try muting or unfollowing them on social media, or ask friends to make separate plans without your ex for a while. If you’ve already spent enough time apart where you should be moving on by now but aren’t, the relationship could be worth trying again.
4. Have you fully discussed the old issues?
If you’re even thinking about rekindling the romance, first have a conversation with your ex about what went wrong and what you don’t want to repeat. Discuss relationship expectations, define your love languages, and talk about what trust and love truly mean to you. If your ex is quick to sweep things under the rug or act like it wasn’t a big deal, remember that even the smallest things led to the breakup; they are a big deal. Your feelings should be validated, and you should thoroughly discuss what didn’t work last time to make the relationship work this time. Not only should you make sure that the old issues are resolved, but you should also have a “what are we” chat like the beginning of any relationship. Be open about what you both truly want out of the relationship and make sure your values align.
5. Will you be OK with it if your friends and family are not on board?
You think you’ve been through ups and downs with your dating history, but remember that your support system goes through the ups and downs with you. Your friends probably cried with you after the breakup, unfollowed your ex on Instagram, and told you how you could do better. Your family might be protective of you, so they’ll want to prevent the hurt you experienced the first time around. Even if you’ve gotten over the past issues with your ex, that doesn’t mean your loved ones have too.
Remember that your friends and family have your best interests at heart, and probably only dislike your ex because of the experience you had with them. Understand where they’re coming from and listen to their advice. If you do decide to get back together, explain to your loved ones what is different this time around and your plan to avoid past conflict moving forward, but don’t expect them to be 100 percent on board right away.
6. Are you expecting your ex to be a different person?
Sure, some people change, and we’re all growing (or at least, that’s the hope), but here’s the ugly truth: your ex is still the same person. If their actions caused the last breakup (like cheating, emotional unavailability, lack of effort, etc.) or just made you unhappy, remember that they’re still the same person, even if the situation or timing is different. If that is the case and you’re still considering getting back together, you should see a lot more change in your ex than just a promise that it will be different this time around. Bottom line, get back together because you’ve changed (like you’re now truly ready for a relationship), not because you’re hoping that they have.
7. Do you miss the person or just the companionship?
Do you sometimes find yourself mindlessly dialing your ex’s number to share a joke you know they’d find funny, or thinking how much you miss the way they laugh? Maybe you miss their stories that went on and on or the way they held your hand when they could tell you were nervous. Or did you only start missing them when your last Zoom date sucked or since you’ve been feeling lonely while staying at home? Maybe you just miss having someone so much that you’re remembering only the good things in your previous relationship. It’s OK to miss those good things, but just because you miss them doesn’t mean they’re worth going back to.
With all the emphasis on being independent women (which we all are), we might sometimes feel ashamed to admit we just want to be in a relationship. But craving companionship isn’t a sign of weakness or dependence; it’s human nature (PSA: you can be a badass independent woman whether you’re in a relationship or not). It’s OK if you are a “relationship person,” but, at the risk of sounding cliché, there are other fish in the sea. And yes, that means fish who won’t give you a reason to break up with them in the first place. Rekindle the flame if you genuinely miss your ex, but not if you just miss the companionship.
8. How do you feel when you’re with them?
It’s easy to get caught up in how you feel about them, but how do you feel about yourself when you’re with them? Feeling safe, secure, lovable, and like your truest self when you’re around your ex is a sign that getting back together might be the right decision. However, if you feel insecure, jealous, or they make you feel lesser than and undeserving, no amount of loneliness is worth feeling like that again. Remember that life isn’t Friends or Sex and The City. No one’s going to write the finale episode for you, and you don’t have season after season to figure it out. In the end, this is your life, and if your ex did not help you make the most of it back then, they’re not worth wasting time on now.