They broke your heart when they said they were ending the relationship with you. You've been spending time mourning this loss, trying to recover. Then a few months later, they say they regret it and want to get back together. You're still in love with them, missing them like crazy. Do you get back together? Or walk away for good?
In my last relationship, I did it twice. He broke up with me twice and I took him back both times. You may be saying to yourself, "What?! Michelle, what were you thinking?" The truth? I wasn't. I was just feeling the love I still had for him each time, wanting to believe that things would be different without really looking at the facts of what was before me. This is the thing about love: it messes with our ability to think clearly and face the things we don't want to see. We listen to our heart more than our head.
Is it really so simple to write off every relationship when it doesn't work the first time, believing there's no hope for a second chance? I don't think it's quite so black and white. There are plenty of relationships that have found success the second time around. So how do you know when to get back with your ex and give them another chance? Here is my advice:
1. Get clear on what didn't work in your relationship the first time. It failed for a reason. Know what went wrong clearly. This may be difficult to look at but you can't know what to fix if you don't know what's broken first. Also, when I say get clear on what didn't work, this doesn't mean you sitting in your room, reflecting on your own, thinking about it. You and your ex need to both talk about this and be in agreement about what went wrong. You may be thinking that the issue was money and your ex may be thinking the issue was not spending enough time together. Both of your answers could very well be right and you both need to know what the other person thinks. Otherwise, you will be on completely different pages going forward and this could be a disaster.
2. Start fixing it. This is where push comes to shove. Some problems in a relationship may be insurmountable. If you broke up because one of you wanted kids and the other didn't and both of you still hold that same position? Don't get back together. If you broke up because the long distance in your relationship was taking its toll and neither of you have moved? Don't get back together. The second time around will only be successful if something is different. I say this to my clients all the time: nothing changes if nothing changes. If both of you are not committed to making changes to make the relationship work now when it didn't before, it won't work this time either. To make this step successful, both people need to determine what they are going to do different to address the problem identified in step #1. I repeat: both people. This takes a lot of communication because you both need to be in agreement about what will make the problem better. For example, let's say the problem was money. One person in the relationship thinks, "The way to fix this is to not spend so much." The other person thinks, "The way to fix this is to be better about paying our bills on time." Again, both people are probably right. But if they don't decide what the game plan will be moving forward they will each being doing two different things to try to fix the problem and this isn't working as a team.
Key point here: this is where you may likely realize that your ex is not willing to make changes. Sure, they may see the problems in your relationship, acknowledge them, and talk about them with you, but that doesn't mean they're ready to do anything about it. In therapy, we call this being in a stage of contemplation. They're contemplating the problem; they're not ready to solve the problem. Maybe it feels too big or they don't know how. If that's the case, the relationship will have no chance of surviving.
3. Give it time. Oh yes, it's so tempting to rush back into getting back together when the feelings are still there. Please, don't. Seriously. Do you know how long it takes to form a new habit and make a change? The research varies but most research says it takes about an average of 60 days. So even though you and your ex have talked about what went wrong and what you each are going to do to fix it, now you have to do it. And keep doing it. We all know the people who make a New Year's Resolution to go to the gym and by the time February 1st rolls around, they're not going anymore. You may be thinking to yourself, "I hate to admit it, but that's me." We are not perfect people: you're not and your ex is not. So give yourselves some time to prove it to the other person that you can do the change you've committed to do to improve your relationship. If you're struggling to make your change? Talk to a therapist, either on your own or with your ex to determine what's getting in the way and what else can be tried instead. But please, do not get back together until you both are doing a good job making the changes you've set out to make.
You may be wondering how long you should wait before giving it another chance. It really depends. I would recommend at least two months (to really make sure the new change is working), but it may take longer if slip-ups occur. At the end of the day, trust is broken when someone chooses to end a relationship. There's a lot of hurt and pain that comes from that. If you're still feeling bitter towards your ex, that's a bad note to resume a relationship on. You both need to make sure you've forgiven each other and talked through the hurtful things that have happened in the past so you're ready to start anew. Go slow. Maintain open and honest communication about how the changes are going. And above all, let your head rule your heart this time around.