Why do people get the urge to get back together with their exes? Even if things ended terribly and you know that it’s objectively a terrible idea to try again, why is there still a nagging voice in the back of your head suggesting that you guys give things another shot? You try to silence it, but it keeps on chattering. What gives?
According to licensed therapists, wanting to get back together with an ex–regardless of whether it’s actually practical or not–is very common. Family and relationship therapist Dr. Fran Walfish explains that being alone can be uncomfortable, which can make it tempting to go back to once loved you. Even though she says that “we are interdependent beings who need each other,” it’s important to approach a relationship as a “whole individual without the expectation of the other filling up gaps and holes… rather, two wholes equal the best couple.”
Therefore, it’s important to make sure you don’t want to get back together simply because you feel they “complete” you or because you are lonely. You’re a complete human yourself! Plus, hanging out with friends and (eventually) finding a few partner will take care of that loneliness–you don’t need your ex for that.
Psychologist Dr. Erika Martinez explains that the familiarity of an ex-plays a large role in your longing to go back to them. Even if the relationship wasn’t perfect, she says, it’s something that you are used to and it can be easier to fall back into a comfortable yet imperfect relationship than to find somebody completely new.
Basically, you can be motivated to return to your ex through fear.”It’s fear of going back to the dating scene, being open and vulnerable in a new relationship, or being heartbroken in a new relationship,” says Martinez. Other fears include not finding anyone better than your ex or being afraid that you let go of an important relationship without giving it a fair chance. Martinez suggests that a common reason for being hung up on a former partner is that “there’s still something left unresolved.”
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should get back together, though. There are ways to reach a solution that does not include going back to that person if you don’t think that they’re interested or if you don’t think things would end well if the relationship were rekindled.
It sounds cliché, I know, but time really does make things better and as more and more of it passes after your break up, you will be able to view that relationship more objectively and learn from it. What aspects did you like about that partner and which aspects of the relationship were toxic? Reflecting when some time has passed will help you make better decisions next time around.
You should absolutely stay away from your ex if they exhibited abusive behaviors, no matter how you think you feel about them right now. Martinez strongly relays that physical, verbal, and sexual abuse are all massive red flags and that relationships containing any type of abuse or manipulation should not be revived. Instead, there are resources that you can consult in order to help work through problems of the past but don’t call up your ex under any circumstances.
The psychologists do agree, though, that giving an ex another shot might actually make sense under some circumstances. “Maybe you had certain characteristics that led to the demise in the first go-around, and you’ve grown as a person, you’ve matured, you’ve changed,” suggests Martinez.
Walfish expressed something similar. If an ex “[demonstrates] genuine accountability and remorse for having hurt you” in the past and thinking about them has gotten in the way of your new relationships, then it might be time to give this person another chance.
Martinez highly recommends consulting a therapist before rushing into any decisions about whether to get back together with an ex. Talking things out may make the decision more clear and it’s helpful to get the professional advice of an objective, uninvolved third party.
In the end, whether or not you should get back together with an ex-depends on why you want to do so. If you’re lonely, scared of finding someone new, or have a history of abuse with this person, it’s best to stay away. If you and your former partner were simply incompatible at the time but have grown as people in a way that will make you happier together than before, it could be worth trying again.