I never considered getting back with either of my ex’s.
Not that they were chomping at the bit to be with me again, either. There was far too much water under the bridge.
But many people do have fantasies about getting back together. They talk about what they did wrong — and wonder if they’d tried harder, would they still be a couple?
Certainly, many people who’re dating break up, and reconcile. Break up and reconcile. These relationships can be quite dramatic, and in fact, the very chaos of that pattern can be addictive. You can become so accustomed to life being full of traumatic, angry good-byes and reckless, seductive hello’s that a more normal relationship seems boring.
There’s even a diagnostic category of love addiction, with specific symptoms listed. The highly acclaimed treatment center, The Ranch, says this about the love addict.
Love addicts live in a chaotic world of desperate need and emotional despair. Fearful of being alone or rejected, love addicts endlessly search for that special someone – the person that will make the addict feel whole. Ironically, love addicts oftentimes have had numerous opportunities for the truly intimate experience they think they want. But they are much more strongly attracted to the intense experience of “falling in love” than they are to the peaceful intimacy of healthy relationships. As such, they spend much of their time hunting for “the one.” They base nearly all of their life choices on the desire and search for this perfect relationship – everything from wardrobe choices to endless hours at the gym, to engaging in hobbies and other activities that may or may not interest them, to the ways in which they involve others in conversations and social interactions.
Yet everyone can get legally divorced, or break up, far before they’re emotionally divorced. That process takes time, energy, self-reflection and detachment. Couples often don’t want to do the hard work of letting go, so they continue sleeping together, or meeting late at night at Sonic — even if they know they’re holding on to a memory of what was.
But let’s say you simply miss your ex, whether you were dating or married. How do you know if your continued sadness that the relationship is over, that they aren’t a part of your daily life, is normal grieving and that it’ll take time to emotionally divorce? Or how do you recognize that perhaps you’ve made a mistake that you now regret? And you’d consider another attempt at making it work?
Here are some things to consider when you’re considering getting back together.
1) Are you afraid of being alone or simply lonely?
Loneliness, or the fear you’ll not find another partner, can be much harder to handle than anyone expects. If you’ve got kids together, you may miss those moments that you used to share together — the moments that only the two people who brought these particular children into the world would find funny or tender. So first, you need build skills at handling being on your own, whether it’s single parenting, or enjoying solo Saturday nights. If you do, you’re far more likely to be assured “getting back together” isn’t based on fear.
2) Are you romanticizing or idealizing the relationship that was?
History and familiarity can be very comforting. You smile when he sings in the shower. You have a soft spot for the way she curls next to you. Memory can romanticize “the way we were,” and rediscovering passion can excite and seduce. What have you learned in the interim? What has changed enough for you to trust that whatever broke you apart would be different now?
You can focus on the changes your ex has made and quote those as reasons why you’re considering giving it a go. “He has a steady job now.” “She’s much more giving than she used to be.” But you’re own changes, your own growth are what you have control over. Giving the “new” relationship enough time to develop — to see if the two of you can build and maintain fresh patterns of communication and behavior — will give you confidence that this relationship has far more healthy potential.
3) Do you believe you and your partner have the capacity to fully forgive?
Forgiveness is key. Both partners taking responsibility for their end of whatever caused the break-up is vital for a relationship to reemerge. Talking through those disappointments and hurts, hearing not rationalizations, but acceptance of mistakes made, can be healing — whether it’s for emotional closure, or for actual reconciliation. But it has to be a two-way discussion.
4) How will you handle the reactions of others who supported you during the break-up?
Handling other people’s reactions can be difficult as well. The people that love you witnessed the devastation, heard about the fights, the affair, or the silent treatment. They may have misgivings that they either voice openly or express through detaching. This is true especially if either of you have trash-talked the other — it may be easy for you to forget, but others may need more time. The two of you may need to talk about how to help others accept and trust this new alliance, so that you’ll have their support.
If you do decide to try again, remember you’re building a new relationship, with fresh patterns of communication and different expectations.
You’re not going back, but forward.
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