Throughout a relationship, tons of “should I or shouldn’t I” questions arise: should I give it up on the third date? Should I say “I love you” back? Should I eat that second piece of cake in front of him? They’re all equally important — at least in their own way, at their own time. But perhaps the most pressing question some ladies deal with is the one that comes after the end of a relationship: should I get back together with him?
Let’s recognize one thing. Her Campus loves love. We do. There’s no denying it. But we aren’t going to give you a flat out “yes” just for the sake of undying romance. We’re also not going to tell you the answer is an unequivocal “no.” Sometimes taking a second go at a relationship actually does work. So, here’s what we will say: this question isn’t easy. It takes a whole lot more analysis and introspection than debating whether or not to indulge in another slice of funfetti cake (you obviously should).
But with advice from one of our favorite experts, Dating and Relationship Coach Lisa Shield, and stories from real college girls across the nation, we’re about to make the process a whole lot easier for you.
Recognize the Reasons for Your Break-Up
He wasn’t good enough for you may have gotten you through the tough times following your split, but it’s not exactly a reason for your break-up. The quicker you can pinpoint exactly why you broke up, the quicker you can determine if getting back together is a good idea.
It can help to get your thoughts out of your head and onto some paper. Try making a list of the issues that plagued your last relationship, and think about how (or even if) they can be changed. Be careful that you don’t focus only on what you think your ex did wrong, though, Shield warns.
“When there’s a conflict in a relationship, there's a chance that both of you are doing something to cause it,” she says. “If you don't look at your part, you are sabotaging your relationship. So before you get back together, also take time to reflect on what you can do differently and less on what you think your ex needs to change.”
“I recognized the reasons and realized it wasn’t worth it,” says Nicole from Wake Forest University. “I recently broke up with someone because he cheated on me, and I would never get back together with him. I initially wanted to see if things would work out between us because I missed physically being with him. But I knew I would be much happier with the next person who treats me the way I deserve to be treated, rather than stay in a relationship full of problems and lose my self-respect. Realizing how little he cared taught me to wait for someone who will actually put effort into a relationship.”
Get an Outside Opinion
Depending on friends and family to make a decision for you isn’t what we’re suggesting. Ultimately, that’s up to you. But hearing their thoughts on a possible reconciliation between you and your ex can be helpful.
“Everyone has blind spots and it can be hard, especially when we are going through something as emotional as a break-up, to see things clearly,” says Shield.
While there’s a chance you won’t like what they have to say, getting input from a trusted friend or family member will bring a new perspective to your dilemma. Limit the number of people you seek help from to two or three, though. Hearing too many opinions will muddle your thoughts even more than they were in the first place.
“If you’re too embarrassed or don't have anyone you feel you can talk to, you might seek the counsel of a good relationship coach,” adds Shield. Check your campus health center; many offer counseling services free of charge.
Take Things Slow
Though you have a history with your guy, you’re theoretically beginning an entirely new relationship. Let yourself experience all of the small relationship milestones as a new couple instead of going from zero to sixty.
Since you’re with the same person, it can be easy to strike up the same relationship — and that’s exactly what you’ve worked on not doing. “Give yourself space and time to get clear before you rush back in and fall into old patterns,” says Shield.
You also never know how you’ll feel once you get back into a relationship. “Every day your feelings about the situation could change,” says Shield. The only way you’ll be able to acknowledge those feelings, good or bad, is by slowly easing back into coupledom with your ex.
“We didn’t take things slow and ended up repeating the mistakes,” says Meagan* from Georgetown University. “I've gotten back together multiple times with the same guy. I always broke up with him because he kept cheating on me with the same girl. And because he always knew the right thing to say, I always took him back, thinking that it would be different. And it was different, at the beginning. He was sweet, witty, generous, adoring, charming; basically the guy I fell in love with. And then one bad fight about something random at the time, and he would resort back into his past habits of lying and cheating, and I would break up with him. This vicious cycle continued at least three other times before I finally wised up and broke it off for good.”
Understand It’s a Two-Way Street
Now what would relationship advice be without a little Sex and the City reference? Think back to the first movie, when Steve and Miranda agree to reconcile their issues by meeting on the bridge. For a moment, Miranda worries that Steve won’t come — but she goes anyway.
There is a chance your ex might resist or deny your efforts to get back together. But if it’s something you really want, you’ve got to take a chance and put your heart on the line.
“Sometimes our wounded pride can get in the way and make us push people away when we're hurt,” says Shield. “If you really believe in the relationship, you might have to make the first move to reconcile. The worst thing the other person can say is ‘no,’ but you'll never know until you try.”
Don’t Dwell on the Past
Because break-ups aren’t necessarily awful, hair-pulling, meltdown-inducing events, dwelling on the past isn’t an issue for every couple. But if you and your beau did end things on a semi-traumatic note (think: cheating, majorly divisive issues, etc.), you’ll need to let go of a lot of what previously happened if you want your revisited love to have any chance at surviving.
Getting over something is tough, but reliving it over and over again isn’t at all helpful. “Sometimes, you really do need to forgive and forget,” she says. “It’s important to understand that everyone makes mistakes. It's part of the process of growing and learning what does and doesn't work in a relationship.”
Hard as it may be, move forward in your new relationship. If issues from the past rear their ugly heads again, that’s the time to revisit them. But don’t hold back while waiting for that time to come.
“I let go of the past, and we’re stronger than ever,” says Courtney from Indiana University. “My boyfriend broke up with me last year, and I found out he started seeing another girl right after. When I confronted him, he almost broke down into tears. He did everything he could to prove that he was sorry until I agreed to speak to him again. When I finally did, he sat me down and told me that it took that girl for him to realize how much I meant to him. Almost nine months later we've never been happier. Sometimes I still think about what happened, but he reminds me every day how much he loves me. It may sound corny, but we love each other and that incident brought us closer.”
Every relationship is different, which makes the circumstances for getting back together completely unique to each couple. So, rather than take another’s experience and apply it to your own, put in some thinking time and come to your own decision.
What’s your opinion on rekindling a relationship with an ex? Have you ever done it? How did it work out?
*Name has been changed.