Broken Up One Day, Engaged The Next?

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Broken Up One Day, Engaged The Next?
How to make a relationship work the second time around—for good.

In the midst of a break up, the last thing most us might think about is walking down the aisle—unless maybe you've broken off an engagement. There were guys I've dated for years, and yet marriage would've been the last thing I thought about after breaking up. But when Joe, a boyfriend of only six months, and I called it quits, I couldn't stop thinking that things weren't supposed to turn out this way. I must've been on to something because in just a few months Joe came calling and his "let's get back together" speech was heavy. Something like: "I want to make this work. Get married. Have kids." Could it work after our difficult break up? And for good? Well, in under a year we were engaged. And as I sit here today I can say we've been happily married for almost two years. But what was different that second time around? What made it work? Well, first and foremost it was important we didn't fall into our old habits.

Things started great with Joe, but before I knew it we had stopped communicating and letting small resentments fester into bigger problems. It would've been much easier to deal with those small troubles when they happened than to tackle the built-up monster of problems we'd created. Heather, 29, says that a lack of communication and not spending enough time with one another was what lead to a break-up with her long-term boyfriend as well. "We weren't talking about the things that actually mattered," she recalls. "It started there and just continued to spiral." 

When Joe and I got back together, dealing with our problems head-on took work, but it has lead to better communication and understanding over time. Sometimes that does take compromise. The solution might not always be agreeable. For instance, if I start to feel like Joe isn't helping me around the house enough, or perhaps he feels that I'm nagging too much for his help, we talk about it and make some compromises. In our old ways we might have let it go on—him not helping and me continuing to bug for his help—until it erupted into a larger fight than those original issues ever warranted."