Relationships are always easy — in the beginning. Both people are on their best behavior. They wear their fanciest clothes, are polite and put in boat-loads of love and effort. But sometimes, despite the initial euphoria and all those promises made, things don't go the way they were planned. Wants and needs change, life gets in the way, communication breaks down or someone makes a huge mistake. And then it's over as quickly as it started.
Relationships might end in a flash, but the feelings that were shared don't dissipate at the same speed. Why? Because no matter what caused the break-up, the good things in the relationship are still good and if they were really good, that will leave a space that isn't easily filled. Those good things get people to consider the question: "Do I get back together with my ex?" Once you're there, the process begins.
Stage 1: You Question If It's Worth Trying Again When it comes to past relationships, there is a harsh reality: You can't go back, as the past cannot be changed. Going back means only one thing: Repeating past situations and mistakes. When you revisit an old flame, you can only start a new relationship, perhaps with some history, but it still has to be new. Otherwise, you risk repeating behaviors and actions that broke you up in the first place.
Stage 2: You Worry It Might End All Over Again How do you know if it will work this time? You don't. Like any relationship, it has its own chance for success or failure. However, you already have the knowledge of what doesn't work with him, so you're ahead of the game. For a past relationship to work, each person has to have grown as an individual. Each person has to choose to work through the behaviors that led to the break-up. And enough time needs to have passed to allow distance and perspective from the old relationship. (How much time? That depends on the couple.) From here, a new partnership has the opportunity to emerge.
Stage 3: You Wonder If You Really Belong Together There are no guarantees in life and love, but unless you are getting back together for love and companionship, you are doing it for the wrong reasons. But there are some tell-tale signs things may not work this time around:
- Fear of failure. Many times, people want to get back together to prove they didn't do anything wrong, and that they can "make it work this time." If all you are doing is trying to feel that you can make a bad situation good for your own personal reasons, move on. Regardless of who did what to whom, you can't fix the past; you can only learn from it to improve your future.
- The past becomes the present. If your partner is exhibiting signs of past behavior, treating you poorly or isn't willing to discuss and work through the issues that broke you up in the first place, you'll most likely need to let him or her go. You can't create a relationship all by yourself. He or she also needs to be willing to do the work and put in the effort to make your new relationship great.
- Getting back together "for the kids" doesn't usually work. A relationship is entirely separate from kids and family, and it needs to flourish and work on it own. If you are considering going back for reasons other than wanting to be with that other person, you are likely setting yourself up for failure.
- Abuse. If they were abusive, you better think long and hard about getting back together. Abusers do what they do because of them, not because of you. As such, unless they have gone through the treatment and counseling they need to understand and correct their behavior — and they have practiced it away from you for a length of time — you are risking being hurt again.
Stage 4: You Work Hard To Fix What Was Broken Before For any great relationship, you need a combination of things: honesty, empathy, compassion, loyalty. But if you are starting over with a past love, you'll need all that plus a few critical things, which all relationships need:
- Open, honest communication. For so many people, "to communicate" means to speak and to explain a viewpoint in an attempt to share something important. That's partially correct. But to ensure things are discussed in a productive way — and to avoid miscommunication that can lead to future resentment and problems — listening is far more important than speaking.
- A willingness to be wrong. Too many couples get stuck in a place of being "right." And for many, being right isn't enough; the other person needs to admit that they were wrong. To change this, the couple needs to get out of a place of right and wrong. Instead, each needs to listen to their partners perception and experience regarding what is being discussed. It's not about being right or wrong, it's about understanding a differing viewpoint from someone you trust and love. And there is nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree.
- Discuss and release the past. Things happened in the prior relationship and you both know it. But for your new relationship to work, you'll need to let the past stay in the past. Discuss the breakdown openly and honestly so there is no misunderstanding, hidden resentment or distrust. From there, move forward with faith. There's no point in looking backwards unless you plan on going that way.
- Surrender control. Insecurity is often based on a lack of control, or on fear based on being unable to control the outcome. But the reality is we don't have control of others or their motivations, behaviors or actions; all we can control is if we will accept it or not — as we always have a choice. Therefore, put your best foot forward, but let go of controlling the outcome.
The bottom line: You can get back together with love, listening, and empathy as your guides. Just keep your eyes open so you can avoid past situations and mistakes.
More on Relationships on YourTango: