My ex-boyfriend and I dated for five years, but broke up when he had to move across the country for work two years ago. He found a new girlfriend (way too) quickly, but they broke up a couple months ago. He recently came home and we went out to dinner a couple times, and now he wants to get back together. I'm a little hesitant, since he was so quick to end things when he relocated. I still feel the same about him, but I'm afraid I'll live in fear of him leaving again. Would it be stupid to get back together?
Jennifer Gatti, LMSW
You are likely dealing with one of two things here: Either he sees this as a second chance at the one who got away (you), or he's a serial monogamist who can’t be alone. The fact that he met someone else right away when he moved can speak to both. It may have been too painful for him to be without you, or simply, to be without anyone. But, this can’t be about him and what he’s thinking — although as women we love to try our best to figure that out every chance we get! — because we can’t really know or control it. So, what does your gut say, and (more importantly) what do you really want?
Check that you aren’t ready to jump back into his arms simply because they are familiar. Does he really hold the characteristics you require for a life partner or just a “right now” partner? If it’s the latter, you may want to weigh if it’s worth the months/years from your precious life.
Alexis Auleta, LCSW
You’re not stupid for wanting to get back together, but you should be smart about how you approach a reunion. First, you should definitely ask yourself (and him) if he’s really ready for a new relationship or just rebounding from his last one. Rekindling an old romance should only happen because both parties want to get back together — not because one of you wants a soft place to land after a hard fall. You’re both very vulnerable right now, so while it might be tempting to run through a field of flowers holding hands, I recommend you grab the nearest couch, order some takeout, skip the wine, and get ready to get real.
If you have nagging questions, lingering concerns, or just straight-up hurt feelings, now’s your chance to work them through with him. I know you might want to skip this part and just get back to the good stuff, but it’s very important that you make sure address past issues. A lot of people want to ignore the past to try for “a new start.” But, the truth is, unless you evaluate what went wrong in the first place, you’re just going to be picking up where you left off, which means the same fights as before with the intensity of two years of resentment.
Yes, unfortunately that’s a possibility. So, since it’s been two years, you may want to take it slow to make sure you don’t do more damage. A lot of things could have changed for the both of you that can be deal-breakers or a deal-makers. What you loved about him before (and him about you) may have changed, or maybe you have found you require new things from a partner. Make sure he still lives up to your needs.
You may also be tempted to go back with him through some sense of redemption. After all, he ultimately left your relationship for his career (and then another girlfriend.) That’s enough to make anyone feel rejected and heartbroken. When those who hurt us in this way come back to us it can feel like an old wound being healed by the one who gave it to us in the first place — bittersweet and confusing. Take your time here. You have nothing to lose. If he really loves you, he will wait for you. If he doesn’t, rest easy that you dodged a bullet.
Right — remember that you’ve both grown up in your time apart, so don’t rush back into full-on exclusive relationship status just yet. Instead, have fun getting to know each other again — be curious, have date nights, learn his new quirks. If you approach things this way, you’re more likely to move forward and let the past stay in the past. When you feel comfortable and confident that you’ve made the right choice, then you’ll know it’s time to move forward without fear. All of us take risks when we enter relationships, especially when it comes to love, so while there are no guarantees you won’t get your heart broken again, if you take your time rebuilding your bond and your trust, you’ll be better off no matter what the outcome. Best of luck!