The realisation that your relationship is doomed can usually be traced to a single, defining moment. In my last relationship, that moment came when I slunk into the living room to model my new black, dental-floss-width bikini. He failed to look up. I didn’t need further proof — he was not the man for me. But months after we had split up, and I remained single, I started to question my judgment. Time and distance had healed bad memories. I remembered he was decent, kind and reliable. Had I been a little too harsh? Are lingering doubts meaningful in the wake of a break-up, or simply a sign that you haven’t let go? Crucially, is it ever a good idea to get back with an ex?
“There has to be a remnant of feeling for you to get back together again,’’ advises Leila Collins, principal lecturer in health and social sciences at Middlesex University, in England. “When a couple decide to split up, perhaps the relationship was going through a very stormy time and there was no way of repairing it. When time has elapsed, people can become aware of what they have lost and reconsider. You may think, on balance, the good times exceeded the bad. ’’ Singletons often wear retrospective rose-tinted goggles. Hazy snapshots of intimate times past and shared moments lost return to mind, and can be very seductive. In time, the faults and foibles of your ex fade and you may find yourself contemplating a resurrection of the relationship, especially if you have not met a new partner. Yet if the initial attempt was serious and long-term but failed, why get back together? “There are people who look upon everything in the past with nostalgia and fondness,” says Christine Northam, a Relate relationship counsellor. A lack of detachment from the original relationship, or an anxiety attachment — where getting back together is not what you really want but it makes you feel safe — are also reasons why people hit reverse.
Self-awareness is an important tool if you want to fix things with an ex. You have a history and past prejudices, which can become a hindrance, or they can help you remember what went wrong last time so you can try to avoid the same mistakes. “I think the chances of success are the same for any relationship, and there is less trial and error than with a new relationship,” says Collins. “In the time apart, if you haven’t struck up another relationship, it’s a fair indication that perhaps you were very suited and there’s unfinished business. ” An unrealistic view of adult relationships or bad timing can also lead to a break-up that you might genuinely regret, adds Northam. “If you get back together you might both be in a new place. You could have grown up and seen a lot more, and be a slightly different person as a result. You might view the original relationship as a goer.”