What a Relationship Pro Wants You To Know Before Even Considering Getting Back With an Ex

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Jennifer Lopez and I have a few things in common: We're both brunettes-turned-blondes, we both love pole dancing (though one of us is, perhaps, better at it than the other), and we both recently got back together with dudes from our pasts. Unless you've been on a Jared Leto-style silent retreat for the past 24 hours, you've likely heard the news that, after a 17-year hiatus, Lopez and Ben Affleck seem to have rekindled their old flame. As someone who recently spent many sleepless nights wondering if I, too, should get back together with my ex, this kind of news gives me hope. It also raises the question as to whether or not giving someone a second chance can sometimes be a good idea.

While I can't pretend to know what's been going on in Ben and Jen's heads for the past decade and a half, I can speak from personal experience about letting an ex back into my life. While it's proving to be one of the best romantic decisions I've ever made, it wasn't exactly an easy process. It started with a lot of self-reflection, followed by some tough, open communication and tough, open conversations with concerned friends. In other words, it isn't quite as easy as firing off a "Hey, want to date again?" text. It takes work.

So if you're thinking about pulling a #Bennifer and rekindling an old flame, keep reading for some pro-approved tips on how to make sure you're doing it right.

1. Make sure you're through the heartbreak period of the breakup

Being sad and lonely after a breakup is pretty much inevitable, and there's an entire catalog of Taylor Swift songs to prove it. When you're in the thralls of dark, miserable moments, it's tempting to fill the void by simply getting back with your ex. But this, says Rainie Howard, relationship expert and author of Deciding To Love, is decidedly not a good idea. "Set aside time to heal yourself of heartbreak...which will allow you to be in a healthier space and to no longer be controlled by—or fearful of—the actions of another person, because your main priority is taking care of yourself," she says. "Give yourself time to heal so that you can clearly make the best decisions for yourself." Once you've moved through the sadness (which, for what it's worth, sucks), you'll be able to rationally decide whether or not this is something you really want to try again.

2. Consider why the relationship ended

When a relationship ends, it can be easy to look back at it with rose-colored glasses—which means you may conveniently "forget" that this person slept with your best friend or flew to Mexico the day after your dad died. "Always consider the reason the relationship ended," says Howard, who notes that this is an important step for evaluating whether or not you're diving back into an unhealthy relationship. Just because time has passed, "don't assume they are different," she adds. Because if you do, you run the risk of running into the same issues that broke you up the first time.

3. Take it slow

Don't expect to simply pick things up where you left off. "Treat the relationship as you would any new relationship: Take your time and start slow," says Howard. "Be sure to have boundaries and don't lower your standards because of your past relationship with them." If a significant amount of time has passed since the breakup, it's important to use this "slow" period as a time to get to know the new (ideally improved) versions of each other—and make sure that you really are a good match. "Let them know the areas of your life that have changed and evolved, and give them time to get to know the new you as you listen and learn what's new for them," says Howard.

4. Leave the past in the past

Most importantly, as you start to move forward in the second (or third, or fourth) iteration of your relationship, let all the old shit go. "Focus on where you are in your life now and don't allow yourself to dwell in the past," says Howard. Do your best to forgive, forget, and stay present so that you can start to build something new—and maybe even better than what you had the first time around.

5. Know when it's time to walk away for good

No matter how much you miss your ex, it's important to remember that not all relationships are worth revisiting. Before you start firing off "I still love you" texts, take some time to ask yourself the tough questions, and consider whether or not this person truly deserves a place in your life. "If the relationship was very toxic and abusive it's never a good idea to get back together," says Howard. "Also, if you still have deep trust issues because of infidelity or betrayal, it's probably not a good idea to get back together, especially if you just ended a recent heart-breaking relationship." Walking away can be hard as hell, but sometimes, it's for the best.

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