So it happened: Your ex sent you a text asking if you could get together and “talk.” Your thoughts start racing—you’re already at the point when they apologized and you forgave them and drove off into the sunset—but getting back together with an ex is not something you should jump into. In fact, you can blame science for the feelings you’re having (you’re not the only one who has the sudden urge to rush right back into things). “We are wired for attachment and also for new experiences,” says David Klow, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “When we can have a bit of both by getting back together with a former lover, many of us jump at the opportunity.”
One study found that about one-third of couples living together and one-fifth of those married had broken up and gotten back together with the partner they’re currently with. But just because it worked in that instance doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing for you. In order to arm yourself with the information you need to make an educated decision, we’ve rounded up the five things to consider before getting back together with an ex.
Hear each other out
This is not the time to gloss over any hurt feelings you still may have. Now is when you need to discuss why you broke up, and whether it was just circumstantial—someone had to move for a job, you were just young—or whether you’re just not right for each other. Sometimes timing is everything. “I had a friend who dated a guy for a couple months, and he ended up disappearing on her … she was totally confused and hurt,” says dating coach Neely Steinberg, author of Skin in the Game. “A year or so later, he popped back up again, but this time around, he was ready and in a better place in his life to devote his time, energy, and heart to a relationship. They are married with two kids.” On the flip side, you should never get back together if there was any form of abuse—mental or physical—in your relationship.
Decide if you can forgive each other
Sure, it’s kind of easy to get all cozy again with someone you were so comfortable with, but if you’re not able to get over hard feelings, your relationship won’t be able to progress. (It’s the same if your partner can’t find it in their heart to forgive you.) Take the time to go through any resolved feelings you have, especially with the breakup process itself (if certain words were spoken, you can’t take them back).
Address your differences
Even though some weeks, months, or even years have passed, and you may have both changed in your own way, chances are that you are still going to have some of the same difficulties or differences. The problem isn’t that they exist, it’s how you decide to move through them together. Klow says that instead of going through all the emotions of your fight (or fights), you should focus on the reason behind them and take the time to discuss it when you’re calm. This way, he says, you’ll be able to make some progress.
Decide whether you’re both committed
If you’ve worked through any troubles and are good on that front, it’s time to decide if you’re willing to continue working on your relationship. Just because you’ve cleared the air of old problems does not mean that new situations won’t crop up as you move forward. “While you may be fully motivated to rebuild your relationship and believe you can make it work, if your ex-partner is not as fully dedicated to repairing your relationship, it is unlikely to succeed,” says Mariana Bockarova, Ph.D., author of Psychology Today’s “Romantically Attached” section. “Before jumping in with both feet, openly discuss your ex-partner’s thoughts, feelings, desires, and his or her willingness to rebuild the relationship and what revisiting it means for him or her.”
Set some ground rules
Since you’ve already been together in the past, it’s safe to assume you’re not starting from the ground up again. And it’s better to not think of it as a new relationship, says Klow. “It is important for a couple to build on the past relationship, warts and all,” he says. By coming to terms with your own reality—and that maybe there are some scars from the past—it’s easier for you to move toward the future.
Have you ever considered getting back together with an ex? Did you go through with it? Tell us whether it worked out in the comments.