While you probably broke up for a reason, your desire to slide back into their DMs pretty normal. “We are wired for attachment and also for new experiences,” says licensed marriage and family therapist David Klow, owner of Skylight Counseling Center in Chicago
There are two types of exes: The one you hope to never speak to again. And the one whose number is still in your phone with heart emojis next to it. But yeah, thinking about getting back with your ex is one thing-actually doing it is another. (Like…you sure about that?)
While you probably broke up for a reason, your desire to slide back into their DMs pretty normal. “We are wired for attachment and also for new experiences,” says licensed marriage and family therapist David Klow, owner of Skylight Counseling Center in Chicago. “When we can have a bit of both by getting back together with a former lover, many of us jump at the opportunity.”
Plus, it's just easier than spending hours swiping through Bumble. “We often aren't interested in someone new because we have to get to know someone new and that takes time,” says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship and professor at Oakland University in Michigan. “When with our ex, we already know what we like, or don't like, and how they act.”
It’s possible to have more success with round two, Klow says-you just need to approach it the right way. Here's how to get back with your ex without making a total mess of it.
1. Slow the eff down
Yes, it's super-exciting that you and your ex are hanging again. But, while Klow says there’s no proven formula for what speed you should move at, it doesn’t hurt to slow down and take a beat before you slap a label on things again. That gives you time to…
2. Figure out what you want
Orbuch says this is your chance to lay all of your cards out on the table, so don’t be afraid to get real about what you need to be happy in a relationship. She recommends asking yourself what your expectations are in a relationship, as well as what qualities you need from a partner.
You’ll also want to have your deal breakers in mind. “Then, share these expectations with your former partner and have your former partner do the same and share the list with you,” Orbuch says. “This is important for all couples to do together, but even more important when you reconnect with a former partner. Be open and honest.”
3. Go ahead and view it as a new relationship
“Yes, you've already dated and know one another, but time changes people,” Orbuch says. “So, get to know your former partner again, ask questions, see what they think and feel.”
“It is important for a couple to build on the past relationship, warts and all.”
This time around Orbuch suggests getting to know the person your partner is today, and checking that their underlying values and attitudes are the same as yours-not the opposite. “Partners who share similar attitudes and values are more likely to stay together over time,” she says. “It's okay to have different interests, hobbies, or friends, but it's the underlying values that need to be similar.”
4. Talk about what you did when you were apart
Now’s the time to speak up if you were with someone while you two were broken up. You don’t have to go into details. A simple, “I dated someone for a few months” is good enough-unless that someone was his best friend/coworker or anyone else that might trigger hurt or jealousy.
It’s important to at least mention it so that there are no surprises down the road, Klow says. If your guy is upset about it (even though, hello, you weren’t together anymore), then talk about it and address any concerns or fears-and then move on.
5. …and why you want to get back together
Are you frustrated because your last date tried to floss his teeth with a strand of your hair after dinner, or do you really think there’s something positive and healthy worth pursuing with your ex? If it’s the former, Klow says that’s not a great reason to run back to your ex. But if it’s the latter, go for it.
6. Listen to your intuition
If you found yourself ignoring some major issues the last time the two of you were a pair, then Orbuch says it’s important to nix that behavior.
“Perhaps last time you were in the relationship with your ex, you didn't see the red flags or didn't listen to your gut,” she says. “[Maybe] you thought things would change, you didn't believe in yourself or know what you wanted.” If you’re giving it a second go, be sure you also trust your instincts if things start to backslide again.
7. Cover old issues
So, heads up: It’s pretty likely that old fights and problems are going to crop up again-it’s best to get ahead of them. You don’t have to reenact your Worst Fight Ever, but you should discuss the issue behind it, plus what you’re going to do to avoid another one of those in the future. Talking about it when you’re both calm is key, says Klow, since you’re much more likely to get somewhere. “It is important for a couple to build on the past relationship, warts and all,” says Klow.
8. Have a trust chat
“Given that the two of you have a past, trust has most likely been broken,” Orbuch says. “In many relationships, breakups occur because one or both of the partner have betrayed the other. And, trust, once it's broken, is very hard to rebuild.”
“It is very common for couples to fall back into the same patterns which they found themselves in the previous time.\"
Because of that, Orbuch recommends couples looking to rekindle their relationship have a trust chat where you discuss what it means to trust one another and list realistic expectations for the relationship, as well as answer “what is fidelity and what does it mean to each of us as we go forward?”
During this talk, you’ll also want to decide what your definition is of commitment. “These are all questions that should be addressed in any relationship as you move forward, and even more so if you're getting back with an ex,” Orbuch says.
9. Don't expect everyone to be on board
Just because you’re ready to move on with an ex, that doesn’t mean your family or BFF will be quite as keen on the idea. “They will remember what was bad about your ex,” Orbuch says. “And, most likely because you've spoken negatively about the former partner to them, they will bring it up again as you announce to them about getting back together.”
When that happens, Orbuch says it’s important to remember that they have your best interests at heart. She recommends meeting their concerns with this: “I hear you. I understand your concerns. I appreciate you telling me.” Follow it up with the things that have changed about your ex and how you’ve discussed it all with your ex. You can also fill them in on your plan moving forward.
10. Know what you're getting into
Sure, people change, but they’re usually more likely to stay the same. Basically, don’t think that things will be different after the “getting to know you again” stage is over. “It is very common for couples to fall back into the same patterns which they found themselves in the previous time,” says Klow. Hated his habit of turning into a couch-loving sloth on Sundays? Odds are, you’re going to deal with it again.