Dave reconnected with his ex-wife a year after the divorce papers were finalized. They’d both been in therapy and seemed to have a lot more insight than ever before—into themselves and what went wrong between them. What they did not realize is that having insight into what the problems were does not mean those problems won’t resurface. All the incompatibilities were still in place. They realized being “buddies” was not enough of a foundation for a romantic relationship. The second break-up did not involve the mess and anguish of lawyers—they were already divorced. But it sure was sad, and very hard to admit defeat.
Breakups are gut wrenching—no matter who initiates them. Many people are tempted by the thought of reconciliation—it seems to offer a way to “undo” the pain of the past. Some see it as a chance to make up for hurting someone; others see it as a way to heal the anguish they experienced.
Reconciliation is a big step that requires hard work and dedication. What you are looking at when you get back together is all the hard work that you either did not do last time, or tried to do without success. Reconciliation may seem like “no big deal” because—after all—you know each other really well already. But big changes are in store for both parties and a “make-up” after a “break-up” should not be entered into lightly.
Things to consider:
Time. How long ago did you break up? Was it long ago enough that you are able to think objectively, not emotionally? If you are considering trying again, can you view yourself as an observer of the past relationship and not a participant in it?
Look with clear eyes. Can you look your past relationship right in the face—I mean really see it—all of it? The good and the bad. The happy and the sad. Will you look at the factors that led to the end of the relationship? Maybe they are still in place. Maybe not. Dave realized “all that stuff” was still there, despite a year of intensive therapy for both of them.
Memories. Treat them with suspicion. Memory is notoriously unreliable. It is all too easy to rewrite history to fit an idea, expectation, or emotion (like fear or hope). Some people only remember the bad that happened to them. Others find it hard to hold onto the bad, and the good memories take over. That’s nice, but when you are thinking of giving it a go with the ex, that way of seeing the past can mess you up. Try hard to be objective and open about what actually happened.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you see a re-occurring theme in current behavior?
- What does the relationship look like now? Feel like?
- Can you forgive the past and start anew?
- Is it a healthy relationship for you? If it was not healthy before, can you be sure it will be this time?
- If things don’t work out, can you go through another painful breakup?
Perhaps most important: Why are considering reconciliation? Sometimes people want to get back together because they are lonely, have not found someone else, and miss the companionship. Or they are seeking security—emotional, financial…. For others it is about ego, especially for the “dumpee.” Is your memory of good friendship overshadowing other things? Or your memory of great sex?
More than getting together with someone you meet for the first time and really like, reconciling with an ex is fraught with potential pitfalls. The problems that might happen in a new relationship are theoretical. A past relationship that failed had problems—you know what they were. Are you sure you can avoid them this time?
Statistically, the odds are against the “redos”—and in my line of work I have found much truth to the adage, “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” When you reconcile, you are getting the same person you had before.
That being said, some relationships really can be repaired—and should be. The benefits outweigh the dangers, and a “let’s go for it” attitude is a great one to have, as long as you’ve thought about things and asked yourself the questions above. It is easy to go back to someone out of pity (his dad just died) or familiarity (you know all her likes and dislikes) or fear (what if I never find someone else). Don’t do that. If you go back, go back with a sense of adventure and the willingness to do the hard work.