Should You Get Back With Your Ex?
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck called off their wedding in 2003. Then, 20 years later, they got back together, tied the knot and appear to be thriving. On the other hand, Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello gave their PDA-packed romance another shot at Coachella 2023, two years after their breakup, only to reportedly call it quits again just months later.
Yes, these are celebrities, so what about you and your ex? You know, the one you feel yourself reaching for in times of doubt like a pair of perfectly worn sweatpants. After all, they're comfortable, reliable and usually forgiving.
'Dating someone new can feel scary, whereas going back to an ex may feel safer because you know this person and they know you.'
At one point your relationship worked—it was amazing and wonderful—but it ran its course and you broke up. Now they want you back. Can you make your Bennifer dreams a reality? Or will it crash and burn all over again?
Are you too caught up in the romance to see the truth?
Often, when you get back together with an ex, you get a rerun of the same euphoric phase you had when you first got together.
"Most couples make the mistake of getting caught up in their second honeymoon phase," said Gabriel Brenner, a relationship specialist and co-founder of the SimplyTogether blog who is based in Austria. "They believe because they feel good now, it means their previous problems are resolved. When, in fact, the issues are only slumbering and about to reemerge."
"Unless one or both of you has done some real inner transformation and brain rewiring, the same issues are likely to pop up again, even in a different form," said Ruth L. Schwartz, Ph.D., director of the Conscious Girlfriend Academy in Oakland, California.
Make sure promises of change are put into action
Don't simply take your ex's word for things being different this time, according to Avigail Lev, Psy.D., founder of Bay Area CBT Center in San Francisco. Make sure you see that they put their promises of positive change into action.
It should be clear that both you and your ex need to have improved communication, a better understanding of each other's needs and a serious commitment to dealing with past issues.
"Then there may be hope for a healthier relationship," Lev said.
"Pay attention to what their family and friends say about the way they've changed," said Nelly Sudri, the Miami and Los Angeles-based lead matchmaker and dating coach on Roku's "Match Me In Miami." "Often, people closest to you know you best. If their relatives and peers confide in you about their progress, that could indicate positive change."
Some red flags you should consider include the following:
- Your ex refuses to talk about the past.
- They won't admit their part in your breakup.
- They only want to focus on how things will be different this time.
"They have to be able to talk about what happened in the past to move honestly and wholeheartedly into the future," said Jeni Simas, a CTAA-certified relationship and intimacy coach in Baltimore.
When should you accept you cannot fix your ex?
You might find yourself holding your ex on a pedestal when really they're the same person you left.
"They are not going to magically change just because you're with them," Simas said.
While some couples have mended broken relationships and are stronger than ever, they tend to be the exception.
"This transformation requires a commitment from both parties to move forward," Sudri said. "Couples therapy and counseling can help heal heartbreak and mend a broken relationship, but ultimately you need to ask yourself if the juice is worth the squeeze."
'Unless one or both of you has done some real inner transformation and brain rewiring, the same issues are likely to pop up again.'
"Focus more on yourself than on your ex. You cannot change the behaviors of others," Simas said. "I feel like many women—myself included—seem to believe we are put on this Earth to be fixers. You cannot fix another person. If someone is showing you who they are, believe them.
"You can only change your reaction to the behaviors of others. You cannot change the thoughts others have. You can only change your thought patterns, which then impact your feelings which then impact your behaviors."
Are you simply afraid of being alone?
Sometimes we get back with an ex because we think they're our only option.
"If you still have the same limiting beliefs about your worthiness of love or your deserving of satisfaction, and your ex still takes advantage of that, no good will come from reuniting," Simas said.
"Dating someone new can feel scary, whereas going back to an ex—despite any existing drama between you—may feel safer because you know this person and they know you," Sudri said. "You don't have to be vulnerable with a new person again because you have already gotten past that stage with your ex.
"I do believe in second chances. However, there needs to have been growth and a mutual commitment to work together in a better way first and foremost."
Do they only want you because they can't have you?
You might find an ex reaching out after you've gone through some transformation in your life, such as a new job or financial success. In this scenario, Simas said to be cautious you're not opening up the door to someone who thinks they can remain as they were and ride off the coattails of your good fortune.
"If you can't trust them, you should not be with them," she added.
The same is true if you find your ex getting interested in you again just as you started to date someone new.
"They don't want you back or want to try to be better," Simas said. "They just want to possess you and don't want someone else to have you. Run, don't walk."
When you should never get back together
If your past relationship was toxic or abusive in any way––emotionally, psychologically or physically—you should never get back with that person, according to Brenner.
"You should especially stay away if your ex believes that their abuse is somehow justified," he said. "Because it is then very likely that these patterns will reemerge sooner than later and you'll find yourself trapped in the same situation and having to fight your way out again."
Do you feel your life would be more peaceful without this person in it? That's a good sign it's time to move on, Sudri said.
"Just because you love someone doesn't mean they're meant to stay on your journey," she added. "You can still love someone and recognize that they are not the one for you."
So, should you get back with your ex?
It is possible to get back with an ex and have a healthy relationship as long as you're both willing to put in the work, put your promises into action and learn from your past while accepting you cannot change each other.
Be warned, though. It won't be a successful relationship if you find yourself going back to your ex out of fear of being alone or dating someone new, or if your ex only seems to want you when they can't have you.
Remember, the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself and you deserve to be happy, fulfilled and have your needs met.