Should I get back with my ex?

By Samantha De Bono


Generally speaking, break-ups aren't easy. It's normal to think about your ex, even the bad ones and in this day and age, you're likely to see their face (and often their body) all over social media, looking like they are completely over you and living it large. It's even worse if you have to live in the same neighbourhood, or work in the same building. But if after a decent amount of time has passed, you're still thinking about your ex a lot (in a healthy non-stalkery kind of way) and you know for a fact they are still thinking about you (in a healthy non-stalkery way) then it’s not impossible to try again.

But let's get real. You broke up for a reason, so how do you avoid reuniting only to end up in exactly the same state as you did before?

You both have to ask some serious questions first:

1. Why didn't our relationship work?

If just bringing up the subject with your ex starts a major argument, there’s no point continuing with the discussion OR the relationship. It is clear from this, that there is too much resentment, hurt and/or anger to start again and put yourselves through further upset.  However, if you can both look at the mistakes made in your relationship without blame or bitterness, you're on to a good start and if you can then understand and agree on what actually happened without apportioning blame, you stand a good chance of getting the relationship back without the previous drama.

2. Were there unforgivable problems?

If your answer to this question is something like: “you cheated on me constantly, you hit me, you got us into debt, you were abusive." It's probably safe to say it’s not worth returning to that relationship, no matter how good the sex was or how much you fantasise about your ex changing.

If your answer to the question is "no", then both of you could write a list of what you saw as the main issues, and then compare your lists. If none of your issues match up, it’s an indication the relationship lacked communication and while this is not insurmountable, it is important to sort out so that you don't fall back into negative patterns of behaviour.
Setting boundaries around some of the issues would be useful e.g. “I know you don’t like me going out with my friends, but getting together with them once a month can’t be a deal breaker.” Be clear on what the deal breakers are, so you both know exactly where you stand.

3. What will be different this time?

A reeeeeeally important question! if you answer this question with something like "they’ve got more money now so we'll be better off, their work-place drinking buddy left so he/she won't go out after work anymore" you're barking up the wrong tree. And if you cannot honestly see what would be different this time or how things with your ex will change for the better, then why would you go back?  You both have to want to be better partners, so you can create a better relationship in the long run.

4. How will our new relationship look?

This can be a very exciting time because it allows you and your ex to build something bigger and better than it was before and more importantly, create something more inspiring than either of you could make on your own. Making sure you are on the same page here is important. You both need to be clear in your vision and not presume your ex knows what you expect or want.
Where do you both want to be in six months, a year, three years—do your separate visions line up? If nothing matches (emotionally, financially, spiritually, sexually), reviving the relationship might not be the best course of action. Is there room for compromise in your separate visions? If not, then reuniting is very unlikely to be a good idea.

5. What part do I play in having the relationship I want?

Take a long, hard look at yourself here and ask yourself what you need to change/do/be to make the relationship work? Don't ask your ex what they need from you, this information should be clear from the points above, so focus on yourself and what you need to do to be a better partner in the relationship.  This information is such an important part of moving forward with a clean slate, otherwise, you’re both likely to fall into the same patterns that caused the trauma in the first place.

6. What could stop me from being the partner I need to be?

Once you know what type of partner you need to be to create your ideal relationship, examine your behaviour to see what keeps you from getting there. Does a need for external validation keep you at work and away from your family? Does fear of abandonment cause you to control your partner? Do your trust issues cause you to behave jealously? Are you angry or defensive whenever your partner disagrees with you? Whatever your answer to this is, is an indication of the personal goals you need to set for yourself to bring about the change you want.

7. What will we do this time if things don't work out?

At the risk of sounding like a Debbie Downer, we need to be realistic, not all relationships work. It takes maturity and wisdom to see when something is ending and to end it well.

If the relationship breaks down, agree to let it go with dignity rather than bring it kicking and screaming to an end. Try to step back and give the situation some air before the anger and bitterness sets the tone going forward. If you can both respect each other for at least giving it another shot and believe that each of you tried in the best way you knew how, then you’ll come away as stronger, wiser, and more compassionate people.

Explore these questions in couples therapy

A good couples therapist can help you explore all of these questions and more in a safe and confidential space where you can both focus on listening and understanding what your partner is saying.

A couples therapist can also see the unconscious patterns that are playing out between you that keep you stuck in cycles of negativity and destruction. This can help you achieve clarity which will assist in exploring whether you remain separated or decide to work on the relationship in a calm and considered way.