Sometimes we fall in love, it doesn’t work out, and everyone’s fine to leave it at that. However, occasionally, one or both parties can’t quite let the other go completely.
This often results in years of wondering what would have happened if you had tried to work things out and stayed together? Wondering then turns into pining, and then suddenly, that person becomes your Moby Dick. The one that got away.
After years of ruminating on this past relationship, many couples opt to give it another go, and surprisingly, a lot of them make it for the long haul this time. According to Dr. Jane Greer, New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, they last about 40 percent of the time. That’s a pretty large percentage when you consider how many people give it another go for the wrong reasons.
But what does it mean to get back together for the right reasons? How do you know it’s going to work out this time? Relationship experts Dr. Greer and Hunt Ethridge along with a number of happy second time around couples have some great advice on the subject.
1. You have to realize their importance in your life
Getting back together with someone just because you miss them is not nearly strong enough of a reason. Dr. Greer told SheKnows, “There must be an awareness of how much the person means to you and how important they are in your life. You have to realize how attached you are to them, and that you want to continue to share your life and be involved with them. This awareness is crucial because it will motivate you to work harder the second time and be more willing to compromise and respond to each other’s needs.”
2. Time (and maturity) can change everything
For some couples who got together when they were young, sometimes a chunk of time passing can be enough to wipe the slate clean, so to speak. Jessica, an attorney from California told us, “Currently creeping up on a very wonderful year with a girl I dated 10 years ago in college. So far so great. Pretty much everything is way better when you’re not two moron babies in your early 20s…”
3. You need to fix what wasn’t working before
The only way a rekindled romance lasts is if both parties address the thing that made them break up in the first place. Hunt Ethridge, an international dating and relationship expert, said, “Whatever it was that wasn’t working before needs to be fixed. That can be timing, emotional maturity, distance, an individual failure (cheating, lack of connection, etc.) or just the unfortunate slow death of romance.” If the original problem isn’t attended to, the new relationship will likely fall apart as quickly as it blossomed.
4. The rubber band effect
Full disclosure: This is how my fiancé and I got back together. We dated on and off throughout college and for a little bit afterwards. Then we split because he had to go “find himself” in Europe. A year after his return, we saw each other at a wedding, and everything clicked back into place. Eight years later, he popped the question, and now we’re getting married in October.
Ethridge calls this “the “rubber band effect” of one person seeking out greener pastures, or not thinking that they are truly meant to be together, and then realizing what they had that they had given up, regretting it and snapping back stronger and more sure than they had before. Many times this can be the wake-up call that truly makes someone sure that this is the person that they want to be with.”
5. You can’t go back, only forward
According to Ethridge, “If you want to try to rekindle something, you have to start at the beginning again. Many times, couples try to jump back to where they left off, without going back and trying to patch the holes that caused it to fracture.” Simply put, you have to want to build off of what you had, not go back and try to recreate the “good” parts of your past relationship without acknowledging the bad.
Catherine, a New York film editor told us, “My ex and I got back together after two years apart, but it was really just because we were both lonely. Neither of us were really willing to put in the work, we just wanted to be reminded of the good times we had together. The relationship lasted about a month.”
6. Communication is key
If you’re not willing to talk out the nitty gritty of the breakup, why you did the things you did and what you’re going to do differently from now on, you might as well not even bother trying again. Dr. Greer says, “There also must be a level of trust that they’ll communicate as openly and honestly as possible moving forward.” For many couples, a lack of honesty is a part of what broke them up in the first place, so if that doesn’t improve, you can assume the relationship won’t either.