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I think all of us, at one point, are guilty of wondering if we should get back with an ex. It may have been a short fling or maybe it was your first high school sweetheart. Or you may even have been married to each other before! According to Psychology Today, 6% of married couples divorce and remarry each other. Around 10% to 15% reconcile but don’t get married again.
With Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck getting back together, reconnecting with an old flame seems to be on a lot of folk’s minds. Couple that with an apocalyptic pandemic and lockdowns and maybe the reasons you broke up are getting a little hazy in your mind. Maybe this time it could work. And it can! BUT, and this is a big but, a host of things need to have happened first to give you guys a fighting chance again.
The first thing we have to remember is that the breakup was for a reason. And there could be a lot of different reasons. It could have been a slow erosion in the connection and in communication. Many times, something precipitates the breakup. So you have to really understand what didn’t work the first time if you want the second time to work.
If you are thinking about conscious recoupling, ask yourself why? What has changed to make you think that it will work this time? Has there been a passage of time? A large change in lifestyle? It’s not enough to be able to identify why you broke up. You need to figure out what is better this time around that makes you think that it could work.
According to the Gottman Institute, 69% of problems in a relationship are unsolvable. These are things like personality traits, value systems, future plans, and other issues that just won’t change very easily. Instead of solving these problems and trying to change the other person, we must learn to accept that person for who they are.
To do this, we need better communication styles, an understanding of others and some self-work. No one is SOLELY to blame for a relationship ending. Have you learned what your triggers are and how to handle them in a mature manner? Have they addressed the issues that caused you to pull away in the first place? Without some work on both of your sides, you’re just going to go back to where you were.
There’s a big ol’ difference between lust and love. When we are in the puppy-love stage of relationships, our brains are flooded with the happy chemicals dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. We’re giggly, moony, we write bad poetry, we can’t get enough of their body, etc. But after 12 – 18 months, these fireworks hormones subside, and the relationship moves into a more mature, comforting love. This is usually when the rose-colored glasses come off. What we used to find a harmless quirk may start to get downright irritating. Their best behavior starts to wear off and you get to see them more for who they truly are.
If you didn’t have discussions on shared value systems before (money, where to live, kids, etc.) you may find yourself arguing more and more about these things. If your last relationship ended before you got to this point, you may not have even gotten into the meat of the relationship. You could be idolizing the lust and fun aspect of it and not the connection and intimacy.
When we look into the past, we may romanticize the good parts and forget the bad. Humans are built to forget pain. We remember the instance (breaking an arm skiing, giving birth, going through a bad break up), we forget the actual amount of pain. This is an evolutionary benefit, as we can’t just be scared of everything painful in our past. When we look back on a relationship, we tend to romanticize the best parts of it like a memory montage in our brain. Was it truly a good relationship that just ran out of steam or are you forgetting all the underlying causes.
Another reason we may want to jump is that we want to return to the comfort, ease, and shorthand of our previous relationship. People move through four stages of companionship: social, connection, comfort, and intimacy.
For many people who are just coming out of a relationship, going on dates and being social can be daunting. So they want to jump right over the first two and go back to comfort. But it’s a new relationship, and you have to move through those phases again.
There’s a big difference between a relationship that peters out and one where there’s rampant infidelity. One is much easier to address than the other. Mainly because in the latter example, there was a breach of trust. It may not have been an affair, it could be hiding financial purchases, substance abuse, overstepping boundaries, or something else. If trust was broken, it needs to be repaired for a relationship to work again.
There first needs to be absolute ownership from the person who broke the trust. After that, what is it they are doing to address the underlying issues that led to that breach? Rebuilding trust is haaaaaaard. Even if the person has done all the inner work and said the right things, can you forgive them? Or will you constantly look at them with resentment? You can’t have any lingering doubt that will fester in you.
So many relationships are all about timing. You have to be ready, she has to be ready, you have to actually meet each other and overlap schedules. There are a few ladies I dated in the past that were pretty phenomenal. Perhaps they could have been compatible for a relationship — but I wasn’t ready at that time. There’s a stupid phrase that “love conquers all,” which just isn’t true. I’ve seen couples in love who have to break up for a variety of reasons. One gets a job offer across the world. Their 4-year-old child is just taking up too much of their time for a relationship. A disease or mental illness puts too much stress on the relationship.
But sometimes, the timing works out. If you broke up over conflicting job prospects, or you weren’t anywhere physically near each other, or had different priorities, you may catch up with each other. You weren’t into long relationships in your early 20s, but in your mid-30s, that seems pretty cool! Maybe your kid is finally off to college and you run into your old college fling. Also, are you both single? It’s really not fair to destroy another person’s relationship in an effort to get them back.
There are so many more aspects of getting back with an ex that we can address. Did you diss her to your friends? What are they going to say now? How will you react? Is it out of fear of being alone? Are you doing it for someone else? We all have made mistakes in our past, but the key is to focus on how we’ve improved and how this second-chance relationship can work in the future.