Can You Ever Make It Work With An Ex?


Does getting back together ever work? Not if you're "going back". You have to start NEW. 

The starting point of relationships is easy. Both people are on their best behavior. They dress their best, act their best, and put in boat-loads of love and effort. But sometimes, despite the initial happiness and the promises made, things don't go they way they were planned. Wants and needs change, life intervenes, communication breaks down, or someone makes a huge mistake. And then—it's over as quickly as it started.

Relationships might end like a candle being blown out, but the feelings that were shared don't dissipate with the same speed. The reason behind this is simple: 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 ultimate question: "Do I get back together with my ex?"


"Is getting back together a good idea?"

When it comes to past relationships, there is a harsh reality: You can't "go back", as the past cannot be changed. Going back meaning 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.


"But how will I know if it will work this time?"

You don't. Like any relationship, it has its own change for success or failure. However, you already have the knowledge of what doesn't work with them... so you are ahead of the game.

For a past relationship to work, each person has to have grown as an individual. The behaviors that led to the break-up need to have been worked through by each person by choice and with a concerted effort to make changes for themselves. 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. 


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"How will I know if it's not a good idea to get back 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:

  • Not wanting to be a 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 whom did what, you can't fix the past; you can only learn from it to improve your future.
  • The past becomes the present. If they are exhibiting signs of past behavior, treating you poorly, or aren't willing to discuss and work through the issues that broke you up in the first place, you'll most likely need to let them go. You can't create a relationship all by yourself. They need 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. 

"Okay. So how do we avoid the mistakes we made 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—things all relationships need:

  • Open, honest communication. For so many people, "to communicate" means to speak... to explain a viewpoint in an attempt to share something important to them. 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 a 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; 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.