Recently I wrote an article about "Recycling an Ex at the Holidays" on Huffington Post. It was inspired by my own experience of receiving an email from a former beau requesting my attendance at his office holiday party. It had been over 6 months since I had seen him. I pondered whether it was a good decision to be his date during the holiday season where both emotions and breakups are at an all-time high. Could we be just friends? Did he want to start over again? Should I accept the invitation? Was it just one date or will his expectations roll over from Christmas to New Year’s?
Shortly after receiving the email, I spoke with several women who indeed told me they were giving their former relationships another shot during the holiday season. They didn’t want to miss kissing under the mistletoe. I call this the “Recycling the Ex Syndrome” and it could be as popular as the famous Facebook breakup chart.
Why is it that the familiarity of an ex comes to the surface when one is lonely, has relationship problems of their own, or a holiday rolls around such as a birthday, Valentine's, or the period from Thanksgiving through New Year's?
You may recall the film “It’s Complicated” with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. I reflected on the theme of the romantic comedy where former spouses Jane and Jake had a hot affair ten years after their divorce was final. In the film, they called it "Divorced with Benefits," a play-on-words from "Friends with Benefits." Where did it all start? At the graduation of their son, yet another emotional special occasion day. This too, supports my recycling the ex theory.
I did agree to go to the holiday party with my ex this year as I knew it was an important day for him. He couldn’t take someone he only had one or two dates with. It would have been too risky. I only accepted after putting some boundaries in place.
So now I'll share my 5 tips on how to attend that special holiday event with your former beau or girlfriend to make it a better experience for all involved.
1. Don’t talk about what went wrong. You know the reason you broke up. He or she knows the reason you broke up. There’s no need to rehash the past and spend time going down memory lane.
2. Don’t talk about your dating history while you were apart. Perhaps one of you had a lusty affair and the other never got over your initial break-up. There’s no reason to compare bad date stories or wonder how many people your ex went to bed with. Keep the conversation on a need-to-know basis. They simply don’t need to know what happened during your hiatus.
3. Do keep the conversation light and easy. Just like your initial first dates, remember to leave the drama behind. You might think the familiarity should allow you to accelerate things, but being a “Debbie or Donnie Downer” will turn him or her away faster than you can imagine. Ask about his or her family and how work is going or talk about the latest accomplishments of your children.
4. Don’t try to pick up where you left off. Don’t assume your ex wants to get back together long-term. Try and look at this as a new friendship or the beginning of a new relationship that just happened to resurface during the holidays. Don’t start planning your future all over again and keep the expectations low. Live in the moment on your first date together.
5. Don’t sleep together. Avoid being overly affectionate in public the first time you see each other after a break-up. Unless you really want a “Friends with Benefits” relationship, don’t immediately end up back in bed. You may wake up regretting it in the morning when your emotions are at an all-time high, as you wonder where the relationship will go.
If things go well when you reunite over the holidays and you decide to start dating your ex, keep the communication going. Sending only a text message to say that you had a great time instead of calling the next day won’t win her heart. If you’re truly interested in pursuing the relationship again, pick up the phone and call to set up another date.
If you have personally experienced recycling an ex, feel free to share your stories and comment.
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