The pain that comes after a breakup is, sadly, universal. But that doesn’t mean navigating your feelings is easy. A widely used mental health inventory ranks separation from a romantic partner as one of the most stressful events in the course of adult life. Sigh.
It’s normal to get to a point where you consider what life would be like if you got back together. But breakups can leave all parties involved in a vulnerable state, which can make good decision-making hard. We think it’s best to consider expert opinions and ask yourself some helpful clarifying questions as you reconsider re-coupling.
1. What’s changed?
You probably broke up for a reason. Was it a heat-of-the-moment decision you now regret, or has something fundamental changed since then? If cheating was a part of the breakup, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal-breaker, although the underlying reasons that caused one partner to stray can’t be ignored.
Couples therapist Kelley Kitley told Women’s Health that serious issues like these should be processed with the help of a professional if you truly want to invest in a healthy relationship with your ex, no matter who or what you think was at fault in your breakup.
“Having a third party who is neutral and who can avoid the blame game is extremely beneficial,” Kitley said.
Be honest with yourself and each other about why you want to get back together and about what feelings and behaviors have (or haven’t) changed.
2. Are you putting someone else ahead of yourself?
It’s common for partners with ties that go beyond the emotions (like children or property in common) to feel pressure to be together for the sake of others or because sticking together is logistically less complicated than separating. Maybe your breakup hurt your former partner so badly that you feel compelled to get back together to make them happy, or perhaps your parents and friends loved—and still love—your ex. If this is the case, you need to be honest with yourself about your reasoning.
Marriage and family therapist Susan Pease Gadoua wrote in Psychology Today that her favorite piece of advice on the matter is: “The world doesn’t need more married people. The world needs more happy people.”
3. What’s motivating your temptation to return?
Lonely? Bored? Undersexed? Disappointed by the other fish in the sea who’ve passed through your net since the breakup? These in themselves are not good reasons to get back together with an ex.
Are you driven by your eagerness to “settle down” or return to a sense of stability? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have your romantic life figured out, but if there’s a possibility you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole because you’re just looking for a relationship in general, you’ll want to pause and reflect first.
That said, according to licensed marriage and family therapist David Klow, who spoke to Women’s Health about getting back together, if you truly see something healthy worth pursuing with your ex, it can be worthwhile to settle in and make sure to communicate, communicate, communicate. “It is important for a couple to build on the past relationship,” he said, “warts and all.”
You Do You
And while you’re in the business of asking yourself introspective questions, here’s another one: How are you holding up? Diana Kirschner, PhD, recommends these five ways of recovering from heartache faster: sharing, meditation, sleep, exercise, and even “having imaginary conversations” with your ex.
Finally, consider for a moment that there may be no absolute “right” or “wrong” outcome. There may not be a secret fate, plan, or way things are “supposed” to turn out between you and your former lover. The best you can do is ask yourself a few hard questions, communicate openly, and, ultimately, take care of yourself before (and while) making any big decisions.