Here’s some news – I’m sort of seeing my Ex again. He’s been in my gaggle for a few months as the Ex-Boyfriend Who’s Still Around, but things feel like they’re getting into serious territory again. If I’m being honest, he’s back in Boyfriend Prospect territory. It remains to be seen if this is a good idea or not…
I keep wondering, how do you know if you should or shouldn’t go in for Round Two? Even after my ex and I broke up (he broke up with me the first time), I couldn’t help feeling like whatever we had wasn’t over. We weren’t done yet. So here I am. But a big part of me is waiting for this to crash and burn, and for me to be left brokenhearted. Again.
What do you think? Does giving it another try with an ex ever actually work? Or am I just wasting my time, thinking it will turn out differently than before?
Stuck on the Merry-Go-Round of Love
Here’s the short answer: YES! It can work.
My parents broke up once, while they were still dating. Like, locked each other in hotel rooms, showed up at parties uninvited to beg forgiveness, had their siblings act as bodyguards, “broke up.” And they’ve been happily married for over 30 years now. Not bad, right?
Of course, there’s also a long answer: It depends. And your two questions – “is it going to work?” and “is it a waste of time?” – may have entirely different answers.
First, let’s get the tough stuff out of the way. What if it doesn’t work? What if your relationship fails again? What if you crash and burn and yell and cry and fight and attack and dry heave and basically kill each other?
Well, what’s so bad about that?
Obviously, you never want to purposefully put yourself in a bad or dangerous situation. But if the worst that can happen is that you’ll end up with a broken heart, then let that fear go. You’ll survive, and you’ll never have to face that double whammy of regret and the thought of “what if?” What if he was the love of my life? What if we had tried again? What if the timing had worked out better the second time around? What if I’d given it a shot?
Even if it doesn’t work out – all you lost is a little time! Chalk it up to a learning experience and move on.
Now let’s talk about how to actually make it (more likely that it will) work. It really depends on the conditions of your reunion:
Good Conditions for Getting Back Together: You now live closer to each other. One or both of you isn’t working quite so hard and has time for a relationship. Your travel schedules have calmed down. Some traumatic personal experience that left one of you dealing with extraordinary issues is over. You’ve individually learned and changed and grown in real, identifiable ways.
Basically, if you broke up in the first place because of circumstantial reasons – aka the timing was bad – then, as long as the circumstances have changed, you’ve got a shot.
Bad Conditions for Getting Back Together: Someone cheated. You have major personality or lifestyle differences that neither of you have any intention of compromising. You’re both lonely, and being single is a lot harder than you’d thought. It’s been six weeks, and you haven’t met the new love of your life yet.
In any case where you’re getting back together because the alternative - being single – isn’t appealing to you, you’re destined to fail. The old issues will rear their ugly heads again, neither of you will have worked on anything, and you’ll continue spinning around on the merry-go-round for fear of a little loneliness and discomfort.
Similarly, if your trust in the other person is already broken, then you’re going to find it impossible not to bring that baggage into the second round. And guess what? You will never 100% trust someone who cheated on you. Sad, but true. You’ll think that you’re cool with everything, and then he is going to stay late at work one night, and you’re going to FREAK. OUT. and think that he’s doing it all over again.
I know, I know: people can change, cheaters aren’t always cheaters, blah blah blah. I agree with that. Free free to date some guy who cheated on another girl. But that guy who cheated on you? Don’t go back. It’s not going to work. Because you deserve to be in a relationship where you’re not constantly fighting fear, worry and “crazy girl” feelings. And unfortunately, you’re never going to find that relationship with someone who’s already broken your trust. No matter how much that person would love to go back and un-break it.
Okay! So what if someone wasn’t “ready” to be in a committed relationship and wanted to play the field? And now has a change of heart and wants to give it another go? That certainly happens to many couples in their 20′s and 30′s. Can the former oat sower be believed? Can it work?
This brings us to the how-to section of this column. If you want to live happily ever after (the second time around), then here’s what I’d recommend:
5 TIPS for Making A Second-Round Relationship Work
**Ask yourself - and each other – why you broke up in the first place.
Both of you should be 100% clear and on the same page about why it ended last time. The conversation may be awkward, but have it anyway. Make sure that the reasons are explained, the apologies are given, and the groundwork for a fresh start is put in place.
**Have a concrete plan of action for how you’re going to do things differently this time.
Now that you know why it didn’t work out the first time, plan to fix it. Was someone working too much? Then promise to work fewer hours. Was someone immature? Stop showing up late, eating food out of cans and getting wasted four nights a week. Was someone eager to play the field and sow their wild oats? Um, get over that. Be clear with each other about what changes need to be made, and then make them.
**Let go of all the old stuff, throw away your baggage, and allow yourself to get excited again.
Don’t beat yourself up for giving it another go, and don’t beat your significant other up for stuff that they’ve already promised to work on. Start this (semi-)new relationship with all the butterflies and hope that you would expect from a new relationship. Give it a 100% shot! Because if you come in saddled with baggage and harboring residual anger and hurt behind a facade of forgiveness, then that little argument about burnt pancakes is going to get real serious real quick, and you’re going to make each other feel guilty and miserable.
**Be more open, honest and communicative than you were the first time.
No more games! You already played those, and look where it left you. And besides, what do you have to lose? If you tell your significant other how you’re feeling and get a funny look in return, then you’ll just break up again! Been there, done that. And by the way, the chances of your relationship working the third, fourth or fifth time around decrease drastically. This is your last shot. Don’t let stupid miscommunications screw it up.
**Don’t pay too much attention to what your friends think. (I know, blasphemy!)
In the spirit of giving the relationship a real try, don’t let other voices confuse things in your brain. Your friends love you and were there for you when you were upset and pissed. You moved on, but they internalized all the bad things you said about your ex and hated him for it all. As good friends, it will now be hard for them to forget everything, and they’re going to be suspiciously looking at you when you reunite, wondering how you could ever go back to that douchebag. So just look the other way and follow your gut! No one ever thinks that things are going to work out, until, hey, they do.
WTF?! BOTTOM LINE: Getting back together with your ex can work! But only if the conditions are right and you’re both actively committed to improving upon your previous relationship. But even if it doesn’t end up working, then it’s better to give it a try and close that door permanently than to spend your life wondering “what if.” So go for it! Unless he cheated on you.
As a parting thought, let’s be honest – you should only reunite with your ex within reason. If it doesn’t work the second time, then be done with it. Don’t become one of those annoying couples who are constantly on-and-off. Either make it work, or don’t.
Any guy who you date and break up with a million times is holding you back from finding something better. We ALL tell ourselves that it’s not happening to us. But no one believes you (and you shouldn’t believe them).
Are you “broken up” but still talking and/or hanging out all the time? Are you constantly comparing other guys to him? And not to the fond memory of him, but to the version of him that’s sitting right next to you at a bar this very second? Fail.
Stop talking to that guy. Give yourself a set amount of time (six months has always done the trick for me) where you sever contact with him. This will put things in perspective, rid you of that addicted feeling, give Time the space it needs to heal, and open you up to other (better-for-you) guys. And if you’re still drawn to him after all that time…then fine, I guess you can give it a 7th go-round.
Jess is the co-creator of The Gaggle, alongside her childhood best friend Becky Wiegand, and is the author of the book - yep! - The Gaggle. She never tires of hearing your post-dating stories. She wants you to enjoy your love life, and is full of advice on how to do so.
The-Gaggle.com is a website that explores modern romance in the Millennial era – which, let’s be honest, looks nothing like we were taught to expect. We feature essays, advice and social commentary with humor, compassion and brains, and we vow never, ever to publish a piece called “The 10 Best Ways to Satisfy Your Man in Bed”. Do click here to submit your work to us. We love you.