We all have that ex. The one who got away. The one we think about and wonder what could have been if we had stayed together. Maybe they were super sweet and all around wonderful and it was just bad timing. Maybe they were a bad boy/girl and the lure of the forbidden is still there.
Whatever the attraction, we all have that one old flame that we occasionally wonder about. But sometimes, opportunity knocks and offers us the ability to have that second chance. Maybe you ran into your ex and started chatting after years of not seeing each other. Maybe you?ve been friends since the breakup and suddenly you started talking about the what if of your past. Maybe your ex called you out of the blue and declared their undying love and begged for another chance.
Before you know it, you?ve romanticized a reunion into a happily ever after that couldn?t possibly go wrong. But the fantasy in your head is probably nothing like the reality that would result from an attempt to get back together.
Before you reach out and start planning a future with an ex, you might want to ask yourself these four questions.
Some breakups are a result of circumstances. He?s in the military, you?re in college, and long-distance just doesn?t feel right to either of you. In a case like that, a second chance might work. But if you broke up because of cheating, lying, addiction or other significant issues, your second chance might be a nightmare in the making.
Remind yourself of the reasons you broke up. Do those reasons still exist? If they do, how do you feel about them now? Could you overlook them? Would overlooking them only lead to trouble further into the relationship?
It?s important to be really honest with yourself here. If you broke up because they cheated, don?t start romanticizing it and tell yourself that maybe what you found wasn?t proof of cheating or that they only cheated because you were working too hard. If you did something to contribute to the breakup, don?t tell yourself you can avoid doing it again unless you?re 100% certain of that.
Make sure you do this before you reach out to your ex. If you evaluate what happened and change your mind, at least you haven?t opened Pandora?s Box.
What does the future of a renewed relationship look like?
You evaluated the cause of the breakup and decided you still think you want to get back together. Let?s take a moment now to envision the future of this renewed relationship. And I?m not talking about that romanticized fantasy where you live happily ever after with never a hint of a problem ever again. Let?s envision the reality.
Does the reason for the breakup still exist? How will you deal with that? What happens when that reason crops up again and again and again and again over the course of the next year, five years, ten years, fifty years? Imagine having that reason coming up repeatedly. Are you still okay with it?
And what if that reason is a behavior that shows a lack of respect for you, such as cheating or dishonesty? How will you make peace with that? Can you make peace with it or would you have to swallow back your hurt, frustration, or anger time after time over the years?
Do you want kids ? or have kids ? with this person? How does this person feel about having kids? If you already have kids together, how might the kids react to this ? and what if it doesn?t work out? How will seeing Mom & Dad breaking up again affect the kids?
What if things get worse than they did the first time around? What if the behavior that caused the first breakup has escalated now? Can you deal with that?
Get brutally raw with this envisioning of your future. Imagine it at the very worst you can imagine it being. Are you willing to work through that worst case scenario to make this relationship work a second time? Is your partner?
This time you?re older, with more to lose. Is that really something you want to risk?
Photo by Etty Fidele on Unsplash
How will your family and friends react and feel about it?
It?s your relationship. Naturally, your own happiness should be the priority. But friends and family can be great barometers of whether this is a good idea. Our friends and family often saw things about our previous partners that we didn?t, but they kept it to themselves so they wouldn?t cause drama and problems.
How would they react? Would they be happy for you? Or would they caution you to go slowly and perhaps reconsider? Would they feel worried about your safety, mental health, or even physical health if you were in this relationship again? Would they try to get you locked up somewhere to have your mental health evaluated?
If you?re not sure, test the waters and ask one or two people close to you what they think. If the reactions aren?t good, you might want to reconsider. If the mere thought of telling someone fills you with dread, it?s probably a good idea to forget your ex.
Consider also that your friends and family may not want to watch you get back into this relationship. They may not want to see you go through what you went through before. Are you willing to risk losing relationships with other people you care about in order to be with your ex? Imagine your life without your parents, siblings, or best friend. Depending on how your relationship went the first time, it?s possible those who love you most may need to walk away because they can?t stand to see you make the same mistake twice.
Can you forgive and forget?
Perhaps the biggest question to ask yourself here is whether you can forgive and forget what happened before. A reunion with an old flame shouldn?t be a step back into the same behaviors as the past. It should be a new relationship. That means letting go of all that came before. Can you do that?
This goes deeper than forgiving an affair that ended the relationship. This is about being able to engage in a fight now that doesn?t involve bringing up that time he forgot your birthday nine years ago. It?s about not even thinking about that time. It?s about being able to truly see this as an entirely new relationship, with no baggage from the past. If you can?t do that, it?s probably far better for you to let your ex go.
Reconnecting with an old love can be very tempting. There?s comfort in the familiar. Sometimes we regret ending a relationship, wondering if we couldn?t have made it work if we?d tried just a little harder. But it?s also important to be brutally honest about the relationship you had and the one you imagine you could have in the future. Life is too short to make the same mistake with the same person more than once.
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