So you’ve been out of a relationship for a while. But even though you’re committed to making the single life your hashtag-best life, between the endless swiping on dating apps, non-starter first dates, and ghosting prospective paramours (seriously, you could fill a haunted house), what you mostly feel is loneliness. It’s a tough world out there when you’re looking for love.
Which is exactly how so many people wind up getting back together with their exes. When you patch things up with someone you used to seriously date, you get to skip the whole, awkward get-to-know-each-other stage. That sounds nice and comfortable, doesn’t it?
But rekindling an old romance is also precisely the type of thing you’d scold your friend for doing. (Did she just forget all about those horrible fights?) So how is one to know if returning to an old love is right for them? Start by digging deep down inside yourself—past the anxiety about finding a partner, past the Friday night FOMO—to ask yourself these questions.
And, whatever you do, “go slowly,” says Michelle Crosby, relationship expert and founder of Wevorce, an online company looking to make divorce seamless. “This is so you can better see the line between just missing someone and doing the actual work to change the painful patterns in your relationship.”
Keep reading for the things to consider before getting back together with an ex.
Why did you break up?
Don’t be so quick to type *your spot* into OpenTable—you need to pump the brakes and reassess why you broke up in the first place, says New-York-based psychotherapist Jennifer Silvershein, LMSW. If the relationship was emotionally manipulative or abusive in any way, hitting refresh is not an option. (And if you’re feeling the pull, it may be time to reach out for support from a trusted friend, family member, or counselor.)
If this wasn’t the case, Silvershein says to ask yourself whether the driving factor was a non-negotiable (like say, wanting kids or converting religions), or something that can be worked on or changed. “Maybe someone was in grad school and didn’t have enough time for the relationship, but now something has changed,” she says. The timing might not have been right before, but time and circumstance may have brought your goals into greater alignment.
Does this person bring out the best in me?
If you want to return to your ex, Silvershein advises that you do so only if positive changes come out of it. “The next question to ask is if there’s really added value in getting back together,” she says. She recommends thinking about the type of person you are with the person. “Did they bring out your best side? Or did they bring out a jealous, insecure, negative side?”
Are you reconnecting for the right reason?
Sure, it’s easy to miss your ex when the dating scene is less than ideal. But a selection of only rotten fish in the sea is not a valid reason for giving your ex another shot. “Commonly, I see people getting back together because they fear there’s no one better out there for them or that they’re going to be alone forever,” says Silvershein. (Totally relatable feeling, TBH.)
Silvershein says it’s also easy to compare and despair. “A lot of clients will go on a first date and say it wasn’t as comfortable as it was with their ex,” she says. But the two are like apples and oranges—or SoulCycle and Barry’s Bootcamp. If you do SoulCycle 20 times in a row and then go to Barry’s, of course it’s not going to be as comfortable, Silvershein says. You don’t know what to expect and it’s a totally new routine. “It’s the same with dating. If you’re comparing everyone to your ex, no one’s going to be as comfortable or get you as quickly because nobody has as many reps in as your previous partners.”
Do your loved ones approve?
Of course you don’t need a green light from your friends and family (you’re a strong, beautiful, confident woman who can make her own decisions, thank you very much!), but hear me out. It’s hard to see things clearly when you’re in the throes of a breakup, and relationship amnesia can all too easily set in once you’ve parted ways—which is where your loved ones come in. “Lean on your friends and family that knew you when you were in the relationship, when you broke up, and when you were overcoming the sadness,” says Silvershein. “They have insight into what you were like and how you might be if you get back with an ex.”
But don’t just turn to your mom or BFF—it’s also important to have discussions with your ex, too. “If there are things you want to work on changing and they aren’t open to discussing it, that’s not a good sign,” she says. After all, those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them—and if there’s anything worse Tinder fatigue, it’s heartbreak.
If you’re on the other end of the relationship spectrum, here’s how to have a healthy breakup. And this is how to deal when you’re the healthy person in the relationship.