William and Kate. Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake. My mom and dad.
What do all of these couples have in common?
They broke up and got back together, and now they’re happily married. (My parents for 30+ years!)
Like all the best romance movies, it seems modern couples need a little drama in their lives. A 2013 study from the Journal of Adolescent Research found that nearly half of all teens and young adults got back together with a former flame (or at least hooked up with them), making me wonder why this is such a prevalent trend.
Although sometimes it takes breaking up with someone to realize what you had with them (thank goodness my father came to his senses, or yours truly wouldn’t be here writing this), I’ve often felt that if you had to end things, there was probably a valid reason.
I decided to ask Nicole McCance, psychotherapist and relationship expert, to share when it is or isn’t a good idea to give an old romance a second chance.
1. Don’t get back together when you’re lonely or sad.
“The reason most people get back with their ex is because they’re afraid they wont find better,” says McCance. “They also start missing them.” It’s easy to go back to what’s comfortable when you’re scared of being alone, but McCance says that if you rekindle your romance while you’re feeling lonely, it’s nearly impossibly to tell if you just mis companionship or the actual person.
If you miss cuddling, get a pet. If you miss going out with someone, call your friends. If you’ve been out on a few bad dates, let it roll off your shoulders. You need to get over the mourning period before reassessing.
2. Avoid relationship amnesia.
It can be easy to forget why you broke up with someone after some time has passed, which is another reason people tend to start seeing an ex once more.
McCance suggests writing down all of the reasons why you broke up and storing them in your phone. The next time you get “amnesia,” and go into denial about why things ended, review the list. Remembering the bad stuff will help remind you that you can find something better, but only if you’re still single when her or she comes along. Ask your friends for help remembering why your ex sucked if you’re really struggling. They should be able to help.
3. Timing isn’t everything.
McCance recommends you not talk to your ex for 60 days post-breakup. This is so you can have space to get a clearer idea of what it is you really want out of your next relationship. “When you’re with someone you don’t get clarity. When you’re alone you get hindsight,” she explains.
However, that doesn’t mean that after 60 days, you’re both ready to try again. “It’s quality time over quantity. Both of you need to grow and learn.” While there’s no time limit set in stone, McCance says that a couple of weeks usually isn’t enough to expect a drama-free reunion.
4. Make your needs known if you’re considering getting back together.
“If you want to get back with someone, be clear on your needs,” says McCance. Honestly communicating what bothered you about your relationship before can help your partner love you better the second time around.
However, it is tough for people to change, so she recommends asking yourself if you can live with your partner’s bad habits. For example, if you like to be in constant contact, but they hate texting and calling, can you learn to due without 24/7 communication because the other aspects of the relationship are good?
If you’re both able to compromise, make changes and accept one another for who you truly are, you could be in for a more fulfilling relationship the second time around. If you get back together before you’re both in a better space emotionally, expect an endless cycle makeups and breakups.
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