Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Is It Ever a Good Idea to Get Back with an Ex?”

Awhile back, you posted an Open Thread on “What’s the Difference Between Loneliness and Missing Someone Specific?” and it made me think about each of my past relationships and the after-effects. I’ve seen so many friends and acquaintances get back together with an ex shortly after their respective breakups and it has not once worked out. I believe if you can get to the point of breaking up, it should not be taken lightly and forgotten as soon as you miss either the person or the company, which we know are two different things altogether. Do you have specific thoughts on getting back with an ex? Or is it completely situational?

I ask this because my most recent ex has been trying since we broke up months and months ago to get back together. But what keeps me grounded is thinking of what exactly I would be going back to. I wasn’t thrilled to be with him, I was upset a lot of the time from his lack of care and consideration, and the way in which he broke up with me makes my skin crawl (via a TEXT with no explanation, on my birthday, days after a cruise together in which I paid my own way as I did for everything!). So with that all that being said, do you find the manner in which the breakup was executed to also be one of the scenarios to think about when considering getting back together? — In Ex-ile

Whether or not to get back together with an ex can pretty much be determined by answering these TK questions:

1) Were you mostly happy when you were together?

2) Are the reasons you broke up still relevant?

3) Has enough time and distance passed that you have you forgiven him for whatever role he played in your breakup?

4) Do you trust him?

5) Does the matter in when you broke up say something about his character that you cannot accept in a partner?

6) Do you still love each other?

7) Do you have the same relationship and general life goals (i.e. marriage, parenthood, an apartment in the city vs. a house in the ‘burbs)?

If any of those questions give you pause, then there’s no point in getting back together. Reuniting with an ex can certainly be tempting, especially when post-breakup loneliness sets in or you haven’t quite moved on and in your haze of missing him, you’ve developed amnesia about all the ways your relationship sucked or the reasons you broke up in the first place. That why it’s so important to remind yourself of those things, as you have, before you behave irrationally. As for your specific scenario, I’m pretty sure you already know what the answer is, but in case you need to hear it from someone else just to be certain, then hear you go: MOA. You obviously don’t belong back with your ex.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

43 comments… add one
  • avatar

    kerrycontrary July 12, 2011, 2:43 pm

    Great list, Wendy! I personally will never get back with an ex after a horrible on/off situation with my first love/college boyfriend, and I usually cut off all contact unless it was a really casual relationship. That being said, these are great things to consider if you do want to get back with your ex.

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    Bethany July 12, 2011, 2:48 pm

    I think Wendy’s list is perfect. There’s not a thing I would add to it!

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    TheOtherMe July 12, 2011, 2:50 pm

    Totally situational. I know most people say that it’s never good to get back together with an ex but in my case, it happened twice and I don’t regret each time. The first one I was very young and I think that I just overreacted after a fight, it still lasted a while and we broke up again after more than a year.

    The second time it happened, the time apart made me realize that my life was so much better with him than without him.

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    artsygirl July 12, 2011, 2:53 pm

    There are some break ups which are healthy (just like disagreements) which allow both parties to step back and evaluate. This can be caused by a major life change or because the couple have gotten complacent and it takes the shock of realizing that you might not have this person in life anymore to decide that you are willing to compromise or sacrifice for your relationship. On the other hand if there are truly legitimate reasons for the break up (relationships end because of this far more frequently than in the first case) then no there is no reason you should get back. In fact you are likely to tread the same territory all over again. Yes there might be a honeymoon period where all your problems seem to have disappeared, but inevitably you fall back into your old patterns. The definition of insanity is to keep repeating same actions expecting a different result.

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    • avatar

      AKchic July 12, 2011, 2:59 pm

      *giggle* The definition of insanity applied to me and my mom: Me keeping getting pregnant and my mom hoping for a girl! Boys – 4; Girls – 0! Mom finally said “no more, please… I give up on having a granddaughter!” Then her husband jokingly said that if I wanted to have a girl (I don’t) that I could carry their daughter as a surrogate. I tell you what, we all had a good laugh at that, especially when I started singing “I’m My Own Grandpa”.

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        ArtsyGirly July 12, 2011, 8:50 pm

        I am doomed myself: my husband is the middle son of three boys, his father is the middle son of three boys, and his grandfather was the second of four boys. I am resigning myself to lots of trucks and football rather than volleyball and princesses.

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    AKchic July 12, 2011, 2:56 pm

    It truly does depend.

    I thought about getting back together with my second husband. Being young, he wanted a divorce (he was a few months older than me, but it was his first marriage). Then my sister dropped a Christmas bombshell. Told me to get checked for STDs because she’d slept with my husband right before our first wedding anniversary while I was recovering from neck surgery (I was in the next room for crissake!) and she didn’t know how long she’d had the STDs, so she was warning everyone.
    He tried to lie and say he never touched her, but she showed me the emails where he had told her not to tell me or I’d divorce him (my #1 rule is don’t touch my sisters). Sure enough, when the negative backlash hit her, she started telling everyone (including at my grandpa’s funeral 3 months later) that he “peer pressure” raped her.

    While I can forgive my ex his drunken, 21 year old indiscretion, I cannot forgive the lying he did to cover his ass, nor the fact that if he or I had an STD thanks to it, he would have allowed me to think that I brought it to our marriage from my prior relationships. At that moment, my younger sister, liar though she may be, had more honor than he did. My sister has too many issues for me to just forgive and forget, but I do appreciate the fact that she told me and was honest.

    My ex and I are friends. I have posted on the topic of my 2nd husband (and disaster of a 1st husband) before. It did take a while to get over the hurt of the lies, but I think that it made the separation and the decision to stay separated much, much easier. Otherwise, we’d probably have worked things out and stayed together. Had that happened, I wouldn’t have my 4th son, Eryx.

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    • avatar

      kerrycontrary July 12, 2011, 3:16 pm

      um. wtf. does stuff like this happen in real life? and why would you ever NEED to have a rule not to hook up with your sisters? That’s common sense.

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      • avatar

        emjay July 12, 2011, 3:29 pm

        Actually I think it happens a lot. My sister slept with 2 (yes that’s right 2) of then boyfriends, and her and I were very close until that. Now I have a nefew by her and my ex.

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        Yozi July 12, 2011, 3:36 pm

        Yikes.

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        AKchic July 12, 2011, 5:24 pm

        When you’ve got two sisters who feel the need to sleep with every guy they come in contact with – yes, it’s a needed rule. Especially when the older one (a year younger than me) would try to “date” every guy I dated after I dated him.

        I may be perfectly fine about open relationships and polyamoury, but my sisters are off limits. Period.

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        SpyGlassez July 12, 2011, 6:42 pm

        I’m glad there are so many years between myself and my sister. Plus, she and my BF just rub each other the wrong way, and she and I are so different physically that I know she isn’t attractive to him (even though in a lot of ways she’s the more attractive of the two of us – taller, blue-eyes, tanned, athletic, while I’m short, roundy, have had acne since I was 12, and I have muddy-colored eyes).

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        Maracuya July 13, 2011, 9:07 am

        Not mud, chocolate!

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      Marie July 12, 2011, 5:11 pm

      Uh,isn’t “peer pressure rape” an oxymoron?Because with peer pressure you at least consent(even if it’s reluctant),but with rape,there is no consent whatsoever.

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        AKchic July 12, 2011, 5:31 pm

        Don’t ask me. I’d never heard of it until then either. The way she described it, it sounded more like “pity sex”. I got two conflicting stories. He said he’d been drinking (which I can believe), and she seduced him (again, I can believe). She said he begged her until she gave in, but she never once said “no”, just avoided the question.
        When questioned, he gave more details and was pretty embarassed and matter of fact. My sister was evasive, defensive and confrontational.
        My sisters both flirt shamelessly whenever I would bring a guy around the house, even if he is pants-on-fire gay. The younger one is so bad that she flirts with our cousin. She encourages improper behavior and as soon as they don’t do what she wants, she claims she’s been taken advantage of. The middle one has grown out of it since she’s had a kid, is married and seems stable enough, but the younger one is still as bad as ever, even with a kid.

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      sarita_f July 13, 2011, 2:35 pm

      Please don’t take this the wrong way, AKchic, but I just LOVE reading your personal anecdotes. Most of them make me echo kerrycontrary – “does this stuff happen in real life?” So juicy :).

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      • avatar

        AKchic July 13, 2011, 8:03 pm

        Unfortunately, yes, yes, they DO happen. Some days, I really wish they didn’t! All I can say is: I’ve led a very colorful and full life so far.

        Right now, I need to go home and deal with a two year old who got into nail polish. He painted his pee pee purple. *bangs her head on the desk* The why and how I am not sure, but the laughter is really loud since I couldn’t help but snort in laughter and told two of my co-workers, who started laughing (one of which was the executive director of where I work), and then told a few others. Unfortunately, picture evidence online is prohibited, otherwise… the hilarity would be passed around. But – I can save the pictures for when he hits his 20s-30s so I can show him his early “art projects”!

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    spanishdoll July 12, 2011, 3:25 pm

    🙁 This is hard for me to read right now as I’m currently on a break with my boyfriend. We’re taking two weeks to decide whether we want to keep going (and head toward marriage) or decide that we don’t want to marry each other. I love him so much, but in my heart of hearts I know I probably can’t marry him!

    A huge chunk of me wants to “get back together” as I can’t imagine being apart from him…but this list solidifies what I know is right.

    Wah. :'(

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    • avatar

      Laurel July 12, 2011, 3:43 pm

      Even though it’s painful now, it’s a lot better than marrying someone you know isn’t right in your heart of hearts.

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      MissDre July 12, 2011, 4:31 pm

      Your heart must be breaking 🙁 hugs!

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      spanishdoll July 12, 2011, 4:59 pm

      Thanks ladies. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ll ever do, but I’m sure I’m making the right choice for both of us.

      …But it still sucks a big one, ha ha!!

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      • taurons

        atlimbo July 14, 2011, 1:18 pm

        I really admire your strength and your devotion to your and your SO’s long term well-being!

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        spanishdoll July 14, 2011, 2:32 pm

        Thank you for the kind words. It helps that we are both level-headed and care very much about the other person. We would also both rather end it prematurely, with fond memories, than run the relationship into the ground.

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    SGMcG July 12, 2011, 3:27 pm

    It really does quite depend on the person who is the ex, the nature of the breakup and a whole other bunch of decisions. I’m still friendly with my exes, but I don’t cry over the end of the romances I had with them. People enter your life for a reason, and if you want to get back together with those who left your life, you can do so – if they make you a better person than you were before.

    LW, in your case, you should MOA. It sounds like you’re much happier now without him than you were with. Also breaking up with you on your birthday?!? That’s just cold.

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  • avatar

    Jess July 12, 2011, 3:29 pm

    I have two separate friends who broke up/took a break a year or so befroe getting engaged. A la William & Kate. But neither of the breakups were ugly, they were just mutual breaks while the couples “figured things out”. I think the civility and control is important.

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  • bagge72

    bagge72 July 12, 2011, 3:41 pm

    Didn’t this LW originally write in about the whole birthday situation, and the cruise? I think I remember a similar DW either on this site or TF, about a girl who didn’t get a Christmas present, but was promised a cruise, and when it came time for the cruise she ended up paying her own way. I believe he broke up with her previously to Christmas aswell.

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    LTC039 July 12, 2011, 2:42 pm

    Um YES! I think it depends entirely on the type of person & situation when it comes to “getting back together” Your ex sounds like a lazy, mooching, douche. So unless he suddenly has a stable job & has changed his personality completely, then getting back together WOULD be catastrophic. I know plenty of people (including myself) that have broken up & gotten back together w/ an ex & it’s worked.
    The reason my ex & I broke up was because I was still so damaged from my previous relationship that I was suffocating him. It took that break up for me to realize that I needed to face myself & re-evaluate my behaviors. Now, 2 yrs later, we’re as happy as ever.
    It takes two mature adults, to asses what went wrong, prove that they’ve changed, & then try to make things work. If you don’t have the TWO people working together, yes getting back together is a waste of time. You know your ex, right? Has he proven to be a changed man?
    Go through that checklist & really sit down with yourself & evaluate things objectively.

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  • caitie_didnt

    caitie_didn't July 12, 2011, 3:42 pm

    Overall this list is fantastic, but #5 really stuck out to me as a great point. I’m not a big believer in being friends with exes and I’ve definitely told an ex boyfriend that we couldn’t remain friends or even be in contact because of the awful, shitty way he broke up with me.

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  • avatar

    justpeachy July 12, 2011, 3:18 pm

    I guess here’s where I’m stuck on this issue: I can only imagine one or two situations where a relationship ended in a healthy enough way for a second go around to work. I’ve known couples that didn’t want to do the long distance thing who made it work once they lived in the same city again and I’ve known people who take a break to get some personal issue in order, but outside of that, I can’t picture a relationship ending for a reason that also wouldn’t condemn the second go-around. And I think Wendy’s questions illustrate that perfectly.

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    • Roxy_84

      Roxy84 July 13, 2011, 2:52 pm

      Hmmm….I think there are certain situations. My sister got back together with an ex-bf a year ago. They’d dated for 2 years when she was 16-18 and he was 18-20. I never liked him, and he was a real jerk when he broke up with her. Now she is 24 and he is 26, and I like him soooooo much better. I was skeptical at first whether it was a good idea, but he’s fun and nice to everyone when he comes to family dinners, he’s really good to her, and she’s herself around him now when the first time I always felt like she was trying too hard to be something else. So, in that case it’s working (so far). I think because 5 years had passed, they were maybe too young (and dumb) the first time around, and he made a real effort to get her back. Obviously things may not work out, but, regardless, their relationship is much better this time around which counts for a lot.

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    • taurons

      atlimbo July 14, 2011, 1:08 pm

      I agree onthe LDR thing. My college sweetheart and I grew apart over the years and split up (his decision, and I was wrecked in only the way a completely dramatic 19 year old can *banishes the memory*). Post college we’d both grown up and gotten into our careers, both felt more settled and serious and ran into each other on a weekend that he was in my city for business; the sparks were there in a way they’d never been when we were kids. Post-weekend he invited me to visit his city and I did it on a whim, we had a wonderful time and he asked if I’d like to try to long distance thing, understanding our history of growing apart with divergent interests and very different social circles. I thought it was worth a try and we fell in love. But the length of the East Coast is really long and visting every other weekend too it’s toll on both of us (we each visited each other at least once a month). We split up after about six months of trying and through the time and distance he became my best friend in this world.

      Fast forward a few years, I had taken a year off to write and spend time with family and friends and had left my city to travel. Year end, it came time to decide where I would land and called my BFF to ask for advice. Out of nowhere we both sort of came to the same conclusion “why not his city?”. Three weeks later I had a job, an apartment, and a brand new city to call home. Two months later, I gave up said apartment and moved into his – it’s been perfect. Ten years of back and forth thanks to circumstance never being what they should, and we finally decided to give circumstances a swift kick in the rear!

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph July 12, 2011, 4:18 pm

    Dumped you via a text? Hell yes that says something unsavory about his character! How could you ever date a guy who shows so little disregard for your feelings? Be glad he showed his true colors now, and be done with him.

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      MissDre July 12, 2011, 4:33 pm

      My first dumping came via instant messenger online. My second dumping came via email. Lovely eh?

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        spanishdoll July 12, 2011, 5:01 pm

        Ah, my first bf dumped me over email. The one great thing about it is that you can always comfort yourself by pulling up the email and watching him prove how much of a douche he is.

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        SpaceySteph July 12, 2011, 5:15 pm

        I was semi dumped over email. My boyfriend emailed me while I was on vacation at a place with suspect cell phone service 1 day before I was planning to go back to our joint hometown (though not the city I lived in) to meet up with him for a cruise with his family… the email said “I think maybe you shouldn’t come back tomorrow. Call me when you get this.”

        When I saw it I freaked out, went to find cell phone service (at the top of the mountain) so he could tell me he just wasn’t feeling it anymore, that I was no longer invited on the cruise, and he didn’t think I should bother coming home. Nevermind that the non refundable plane ticket was already purchased or that two days before Christmas there was no other plane tickets to be had… so home I went. Now that I’m not in my immediate post-breakup state, I think this method (hint dropping via email, not waiting one goddamn day to do it in person) was incredibly selfish and rude and disrespectful and am grateful that I was saved from spending my life with such a jackass.

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      AKchic July 12, 2011, 5:39 pm

      The father of my first son was so chicken, he had his best friend dump me via phone for him. His words were “he says he doesn’t think he’s the father, you weren’t together 24/7 the entire relationship and you have a girlfriend, so it’s over”.
      He met MY son once – after a court-ordered paternity test proved he was the father, when my son was 4, and I had his parental rights terminated. My son is 11 now.

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  • avatar

    RMM0278 July 12, 2011, 5:00 pm

    Here’s the best advice I got on getting back with someone who dumped you. This is a person who took everything he knew about you — flaws, looks, personality, quirks, annoying habits, kindness, generosity, outlook on life, hopes, dreams, goals, etc. — and decided he didn’t want it in his life anymore. The fact this was done via text is even more damning. Anybody who can quickly walk away from you once will do it again.

    I get that couples aren’t always right for each other. People break up all the time, but there are many kind and sensitive ways to dump someone. The fact that this guy was -capable- of carrying out such indifference with your break up demonstrates that his cruelty is possible. (For example, I’ve broken up with people before, but I’ve never been so callous as this guy was to you. Yes, I could have done it that way, but I chose not to.) Breaking up with you via text was a gift. He has shown you who he truly is.

    I wouldn’t give much weight to him spending months trying to get you back either. What appears to be flattery isn’t always so. My hunch is that he’s probably lonely and misses having a caring SO. Maybe he didn’t think you’d take the break up at face value or maybe he was trying to mess with you. I don’t know but it sounds like you’ve got your mind made up anyway.

    I’d stick to your guns on this one. If you ever find yourself reconsidering your decision, do remind yourself of how he broke up with you and how indifferent he was during your relationship. If he did it before, he can do it again.

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    • avatar

      Marie July 12, 2011, 5:09 pm

      I agree.He wasn’t in the wrong for breaking up with the LW,he was in the wrong for doing it through a text message.He should have done it with more decency.

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    • avatar

      malorla July 12, 2011, 5:32 pm

      This!!!!!
      I have always been of the opinion that if a guy I was seeing, picked our relationship up, looked at it from every angle and decided it wasn’t what he wanted, then I would not just take him back, if he changed his mind, or “didn’t mean it” or whatever.

      If I break up with a guy, I have thought it through and know that I am done with us. Even in the initial lonely part after, I comfort myself with the fact that I’ve made the right decision by me and him.

      LW you’ve held out through months of pursuit for a reason; you don’t want him to catch you any more.

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  • avatar

    Marie July 12, 2011, 5:06 pm

    LW,it sounds like you know you don’t want to get back together with your ex so I won’t waste time telling you why you shouldn’t. However,yes,the way the break-up occurred shows how mature(or immature)a person is when dealing with situations.The way he broke up with you was pretty bad,but I think you already know that.

    I absolutely believe you can be friends with your exes,depending on the type of relationship you had and how the break-up occurred.I’m 21 and friends with the first guy I dated when I was 18-19.He started smoking again and smoking is a deal breaker for me so I broke up with him.I have no problem if someone I’m just friends with smokes but I can’t have that in a boyfriend.Anyway,we didn’t talk for a few months(not out of animosity though)but recently we started hanging out again.Now we text and meet up for lunch/dinner and/or a movie every few weeks.Things didn’t work out for us as a couple but there are still qualities about each other that make us enjoy one another’s company.

    My boyfriend(he’s my second bf) has two best friends,one of them being his ex girlfriend.Yes people.My boyfriend is best friends with his ex and it doesn’t bother me the least. One reason they’re still so close is because they were friends prior to dating so although things didn’t work out for them as a couple,they still had that friendship foundation to fall back on.She’s a sweetheart and intelligent.His girlfriend prior to her however cheated on him so they don’t speak anymore.

    I’ve heard of bitter nasty divorces.Then there’s a girl whom I used to be friends with.I remember going to her house for the first time in 10th grade for her birthday party and both her parents were there.They were so warm and friendly towards each other that I was shocked to learn later that they were divorced and the father was remarried!Apparently now they’re like brother and sister.

    In conclusion,the type of relationship(or lack thereof)you have with your ex depends on the type of relationship you had when you were together and/or before you were together. Break-up is included.

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    • avatar

      Marie July 12, 2011, 7:00 pm

      I just realized my comment doesn’t answer the question at all.Don’t know what I was thinking…sorry about that…

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  • avatar

    Flower White July 12, 2011, 9:35 pm

    DON”T get back with an ex! He dumped you very cruelly!

    My ex did “The Crying Game” with me-his ex gf was his ex bf even though I told him at the beginning that I didn’t date bisexual men. He kept the info hidden from me till I fell in love with him.

    Fast forward last week. I broke up with him last summer, in couples therapy. He emails me, wanting to see me for dinner and friendship. Says he misses me, hasn’t had a girlfriend in a long time… Um, I don’t think so!! He was very nice and kept trying. I told him no, we aren’t friends. THEN his real self emerged-the same rude mean deceitful man who lied about his past.

    Girl please. Ignore this dysfunctional man!!

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  • leilani

    leilani July 13, 2011, 10:54 am

    I got back together with my ex-boyfriend about 100 times. It never worked, but for some reason, we were extremely drawn to each other, and would always give it another go. I wouldn’t necessarily say I regret it, because I enjoyed being with him a good deal of the time, and we shared a lot of good memories. At the same time, the original problems that led to the breakups were never solved, and eventually, they would be the end of us again. I wonder sometimes where I would be now if I had stopped beating the dead horse a year or two earlier.

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