About a year and a half passed, life was fun focusing on school and friends and terrible hook-ups, and then we saw each other at a spring football showcase before the season started. We became friends and slowly inched into dating again. And now, a lot of things have changed. He’s transferring out of his grad school and wants to follow me to my internship, and we both have been talking very in-depth about longer-term goals (like marriage, jobs, etc.) for the both of us. We initially thought we were too young (we still think we are) to discuss things seriously like that before. I can say with full confidence that I haven’t been this happy and openly communicative in a relationship ever before!
The problem is, I can’t seem to convince my family and close friends that it’s OK for us to date. (…Is it?). Even Google says not to date an ex. I made the mistake earlier of overindulging them with a lot of the nitty-gritty, petty things of our relationship when I was younger, so I get their bias. My family is very overbearing. They like to tell me what to do and what choices to make, and they get very disappointed and angry if I don’t follow them, to the point where I have felt suicidal for not choosing their path. (But they come from a place of care and concern.) With them like this, I’m not sure my happiness is truly worth it.
My ex and I have discussed why we broke up twice, whether it will happen again, what will we do if it doesn’t work out, and whether we are really willing to try this again despite the risks. And we decided that we are. If it ends up being a mistake, that’s OK; the world won’t end.
But with everyone — including Google — saying dating an ex is an absolute no, I can’t help but feel hesitant. I feel fine around new people who don’t know we’ve dated before, because we just look like a normal couple. But to my family and a couple of friends, it usually comes back to “What are you, stupid?”
So, how stupid am I for dating an ex? For some reason, I feel like I have to have some kind of validation to stand up for myself and my (stupid) choice to re-date my ex. — Ex Effect
You know what, if your family’s opinion weighs so much that the thought of disappointing them has made you suicidal in the past and you’re wondering whether your own happiness is “worth it,” I’d say your problem isn’t your relationship with your boyfriend; it’s your relationship with your family. And considering you’re also concerned about your friends’ opinion, as well as what Google, of all things, says about your personal life, it’s safe to say that your self-esteem is probably pretty rocky, too, and you don’t have much confidence in your own decision-making.
Since you’re 22 years old, in a new relationship with an old boyfriend, with graduation — not to mention the rest of your life — just two short semesters away, I hope you’ll take this opportunity to dive head-first into adulthood and quit worrying so much about being “stupid.” This is the age when you’re allowed to be a little stupid. And it’s certainly an age when you’re allowed to take some relationship and career risks. Because everything at 22 is a risk. When you’re just starting out in life and you don’t have anything figured out and everything is a great big question mark — from what kind of job you’ll land when you’re out of school to when and with whom you’ll settle down — every move feels like a risk. And it’s so important to give yourself permission to make some mistakes. Making mistakes is how you learn — not just what’s “right,” but what’s right for you.
You might learn that your old/new boyfriend is right for you. Maybe he’ll be the guy you’re meant to be with forever. Or maybe you’re just meant to be with him for a little while, but it’s that little while that you’re together that you learn what qualities you love in a partner and what qualities aren’t such a good match. And maybe it will be the lessons you take from this relationship that propel you into the life you’re meant to live, and if you listened to your family and your friends and Google, you’d miss out on this relationship and its lessons and all of its potential.
Above all else, you should really be listening to your gut. If it’s saying this guy is the right person for you right now, then listen to that. And if, deep down, you have a nagging feeling, echoed by your family and friends, that your boyfriend is better left in the past, listen to that. Maybe there’s a real reason all these people are warning you not to get involved with him again. Maybe there’s a real reason you’re turning to Google and to an internet advice columnist to validate a decision you’re having trouble owning. But if the reason is simply because you’ve been conditioned to believe you’re stupid, let that go (get some counseling if you need help letting it go) and give yourself permission to be an adult, even if it means making mistakes sometimes.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.