Let’s Go Round Again
This article was written a few years ago for soyouvebeendumped.com. I’m republishing it here because with Valentine’s Day fast approaching some of you may be considering getting back with an ex.
Sitting across the dinner table is the one you have loved, and maybe think you love again. Dinner was excellent, and the conversation, natural and sparkling, flowed like the wine. You remember all the good things in the past and begin to wonder why you are no longer with the person. They smile at you in that familiar way, your eyes connect with theirs and the old electricity is there. They look fantastic, and you have so much in common, so many shared experiences. You wonder about the years you have squandered and think that you were really happy and fulfilled. You yearn to get back into bed with them. A multitude of emotions spring up, and you really think it would be a good idea to get back together again.
The conventional advice would be stop, take a deep breath, and consider what the hell are you doing. Rebound relationships never work, do they? Even if they did, are you just taking the route of least resistance, preferring the potential misery of what you are familiar with, as opposed to taking the brave, if frightening step of going out there and finding someone with whom you may be happier and more compatible, and developing yourself as a person to boot?
Like so many romantic and emotional issues, the answers depend on the individuals concerned and the subtle (and often not so subtle) interplay between them.
Let’s review why exactly you may wish to go out with an ex-partner and the positives and negatives. And, if you do choose to re-enter a long-term and serious relationship, how to ensure that you don’t repeat all the old mistakes (assuming of course that you do wish to avoid repeating them.)
- They may have been the right person for you, but at the wrong time. As time moves on, and you have (hopefully) matured, you realise that they were in fact ideal for you. They feel the same way, similarly bloodied by experience. It helps if this feeling is mutual. This is the best-case scenario, and the one that is the most likely to work.
- They may have been the wrong person at that particular time. Now you both meet again and have changed sufficiently to be right for each other. This scenario is likely to work.
- You are lonely and emotionally low – the other person may be in a similar position and to drown your sorrows, you decide to go out with each other again.
- You meet the other person and are relatively indifferent. However, it is clear that they are at emotionally low ebb. You decide to go out with them for a variety of reasons, ranging from noble ones of providing emotional support and comfort through to assuming a more predatory role and simply using them for company or easily available sex (assuming you still find each other attractive).
- Pressure from interested parties – although neither of you are terribly committed, family and friends seem to think you make an ideal couple and forever try to persuade both of you to get back together, thus fulfilling whatever desires they entertain, potentially at your expense.
- Although you were attracted and do in fact love each other, your ex has a fundamental flaw, such as alcoholism, infidelity, a tendency to physical violence etc. This caused the termination of your previous relationship, and you still have the bruises (mental or physical) to prove it. You think you love them and they think they love you, but you know that they are unlikely to change and that there is no chance of the relationship actually succeeding.
- You take the pragmatic view that they will do for now, you know what you are getting, and can put up with the flaws for a while. After all, you can always move on when something better comes along.
- Your ex is extremely manipulative and knows exactly which strings to pull to prevent you forming another relationship or to merely get you back in the sack. This is the time to sever all ties, easier said than done of course.
In an ideal world, both of you will have sufficient self-awareness to know who you are and what you are getting into, how you may need to modify your behaviour to ensure the relationship succeeds and all that good cod-psychology stuff. Life, being sticky, messy and inherently unpredictable, is not of course like that. Depending on your personality, you may simply feel like diving in and giving it another go, or simply drifting back into it in a state of indifference and lethargy. Neither option is particularly conducive to a successful relationship. Any relationship is a bit of a gamble (a bit like life itself), so, just as with any gamble, you need to work out how to stack the odds in your favour. Here are a few tips to help you avoid the riskier excesses of getting back with your ex.
- The first thing to consider is to address the reason(s) for the relationship breaking up in the first place. Has time moved on so that these are no longer issues? Try romancing the person again, so you can clarify whether you do really like them as opposed to simply slipping back into the domestic routine, whereby you relate to each other quite differently (and possible indifferently). Try treating the relationship like a completely new relationship with a new person, about whom you have no pre-conceptions. Try dressing differently and maybe even trying different conversational approaches. Don’t simply move back in together and get wrapped up in the day-to-day running of your lives, mortgages, etc.
- Forgive each other for the past and forgive yourself. If you resent your partners previous behaviour so much that is surfaces during every argument, then you need to do some work on yourself before getting back together. Similarly, if you blame yourself for everything that went wrong, you may just set yourself up for the doormat treatment. Again, work on yourself to get the past into perspective. Don’t massage your ego by assuming that everything was your fault.
- You both need to want to be together and have a similar level of commitment to making it work again. Your interests and expectations may be different, but you need to find a mutually agreed baseline.
- You choose to be together because you want to be together, and not to live and act out other people’s expectations.
- To know what you want and need from a relationship, to feel loved and secure. Now you are in a position to ask yourself whether this person can deliver. If not, don’t even go there.
- Is there something that is so important and inviolable to you, a principle, idea, faith or belief, that if the other party transgressed it, would completely destroy the relationship? If you have any sacred cows, are you prepared to let the other person slaughter them for the long-term interests of the relationship? The principle applies to the other party of course. Something could have developed recently and may not have been an issue in the previous relationship. If one of you becomes a fundamentalist Christian, whereas the other is a committed atheist, matters of personal belief may not be the most constructive conversations to have. You need to consider how you draw boundaries around these areas, if you can, and work out what you would do if the other party consistently attempted to transgress them.
- You need to have similar values and aspirations. If you are a committed corporate animal, intent on ascending the company ladder and willing to perform all the socialising this entails, it may not help if your partner is a foaming at the mouth radical forever challenging the ethics of big business at dinner parties.
Going out with your ex can work and work very well. It is by no means all doom and gloom; so don’t just believe everything that others tell you about going out with previous partners. However, it helps if you know what you are getting into and why. The worst case scenario is that you simply reinvent an unsatisfactory relationship, with all the issues that accompany it – frustration, arguments, reduced self-esteem, time passing, and a massive opportunity cost in that you could be spending the time looking for the ideal person. These are all risks, and ones that you need to evaluate and look at reducing, if you wish to take this route.
On the other hand, your ex may now be your ideal partner. Don’t you owe it to yourself to find out?