Should you ever get back together with an ex?

Jenna Birch
Contributing Writer
Yahoo Lifestyle
Should you ever get back with an ex? (Photo: Getty Images)
Should you ever get back with an ex? (Photo: Getty Images)

In 2017, Hollywood saw the breakups of some of its most illustrious young couples: Chris Pratt and Anna Faris, Josh Duhamel and Fergie, Aaron Rodgers and Olivia Munn, Kylie Jenner and Tyga. And most important, at least for the purpose of this article, Selena Gomez and the Weeknd.

In the aftermath of this last split, both Selena and the Weeknd have started hanging out with their high-profile exes again — Justin Bieber and Bella Hadid, respectively. This post-breakup rebounding feels both deeply millennial and timeless. People have been getting back with their exes forever, but I think we’re going to see it more and more.

Life is long these days, commitment timelines are lengthening, and options seem endless. Sometimes you need to explore those options through dating and short-term relationships, gathering data about yourself and what you need in a long-term partner. Sometimes you meet someone potentially right when you’re a little too young and a little too inexperienced in love to know what you’ve found is special.

So what happens if you go through a breakup, you date a bunch and you wind up feeling emptier than ever? What happens if you think someone you left years before is actually the person you’re supposed to be with? Honestly, that might happen. There’s something about our early, formative relationships — something that’s hard to forget. In some ways, early in dating, we are likely to pair up with someone similar to ourselves in important ways and will end up on a journey with them toward becoming the person we’re supposed to be. Those shared experiences and that kind of history does not die easy.

Will Selena and Justin or the Weeknd and Bella make it? It’s hard to guess at this point, but I would not be shocked. However, I would advise each of them to think carefully before getting back together with an ex. If you’re ever in such a situation, I’d also advise the same. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you renew an old commitment.

Question 1: Has the problem that broke you up been resolved, or can it now be resolved successfully?

Whenever a couple breaks up and gets back together in just a few months, I always know it’s destined to fail. Why? Simple. There’s no way an insurmountable, breakup-causing issue will have suddenly and miraculously resolved itself in just weeks. I have never seen it done successfully.

What’s needed is time and perspective. Sometimes those two elements cause you to look back and understand, “I was being selfish when I wouldn’t compromise at all about career” or “the grass looked greener, and dating around didn’t make me happier; I was happiest with my ex.” When you approach the relationship for a second time, you need to do it from a place of perspective: X was the problem that broke us up, and I feel we can fix it because Y and Z. If there’s no plan for resolving the root problem, you’re just going back to seek comfort from a familiar person.

Question 2: Have you grown together in the interim, not apart?

With a breakup, you have to break apart two lives that are intertwined in many ways — from your daily routines, to your communication patterns, to the friends you share and activities you do together. From there, you have to rediscover who you are as an individual, apart from your partner, and grow on your own. Sometimes when two people grow alone, they become better partners; they have a stronger sense of self, know their needs and what they need to work on in relationships. But other times, when two people grow alone, they grow in opposite directions.

If you re-approach a relationship, you’re always coming back with the person you once knew in mind. Sometimes that person no longer exists. So if you want to try again with an ex, you have to be realistic about whether or not you’re looking for your former flame 2.0 — with new goals, new life experiences, and changed perspective. If you’re on two different trajectories, it won’t work and going back is probably a waste of time.

Question 3: Do you want this out of loneliness, or because you generally think your ex is the one for you?

Sometimes breakups occur because one person is figuring themselves out: not finished with grad school; might want to make a major move; considering a career change; hasn’t dated enough. It can be anything. However, I am all for moving forward in life. If you want to get back with an ex, do so because you’ve both finally hit your stride in life and you’re now moving in the same direction — forward!

Bad reasons to go bad to an ex? Prepare yourself, because there’s a laundry list: You’re lonely, you haven’t found anyone better, you’re looking for a soft place to fall, you want to hook up, you’re idealizing the person who used to be. Just remember, if it feels like you’re stagnating or going backward, you are. You cannot rely on an ex as an easy fix to uncomfortable feelings. Getting back with an ex should serve as a means to enhance your life, not reverse time; only get in touch again if you finally see how this person made you a better human being.

Question 4: Can you deal with the reason for the breakup, and are you willing to be brutally honest about the “in between” time when you were not together?

I’ve seen exes get back together and blossom but only if they were 100 percent committed to the reparation process. This means getting brutally honest about things you may not really want to know. Especially for the dumpee, it’s important that the dumper clearly and honestly explains why that person needed the split, how the individual has grown, the perspective that was gained, and how that he or she envisions the relationship can be great for both parties moving forward. Because when you’re dumped, you’re usually left with a whole lot of “why?”-related questions.

Exes who survive are typically brutally honest with each other. Who did you date in the interim? What did you learn? How was your relationship different, and why did you want to revisit it? If there’s ever a question, you have to be willing to confront it head-on with your ex and not shy away from things that person might not be super-receptive to — like if you had a fling with a mutual friend or acquaintance, or feel you had overly critical or idealistic expectations for a partner.

As they say, the truth hurts — but let’s be real. Uncovered lies and omissions hurt a whole lot more, because they undermine the relationship’s foundation of trust. Own up to what happened, and then move forward. It’ll either work from a place of total honesty, or it won’t be worth the second try.

Jenna Birch is author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love (Grand Central Life & Style). Her relationship column appears on Yahoo every Monday. To ask her a question, which may appear in an upcoming post, email to jen.birch@sbcglobal.net with “Yahoo” in the subject line.

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