And yet, romance is not dead. There are new unexpected couples like Kylie Jenner and Timothée Chalamet kissing in public, setting group chats alight. And there are old flames reuniting, like Mia Regan and Romeo Beckham on one hand, and Stormzy and Maya Jama on the other.
With cuffing season looming — that time of year when the temperature drops and, we’re told, the urge for a partner to cuddle up with increases — people might be more likely than usual to rekindle a past romance. But that’s not the only reason why getting back with an ex might be tempting.
Why you might want to get back with your ex
Tasha Bailey, 34, psychotherapist, author, and mental health influencer, married her former ex this month. She and her now-husband were university friends when they started dating the first time. “We were both pretty young and too emotionally immature for a real relationship to happen,” she says. “We both got scared of the vulnerability and emotional intimacy that would be needed for a relationship.”
They ended things in their second year of university. “I thought we both felt it was pretty final. But he now tells me he had some hope [we’d get back together], and in my mind, he was always the ‘one that got away’,” she says.
They each entered other long-term relationships but found ways to reconnect platonically. “To be respectful to our partners, we didn’t properly re-establish our friendship,” Tasha explains. But after her partner’s seven-year relationship broke down, they reconnected on Instagram.
“One night I was ill and couldn't sleep, so he stayed up and we messaged each other through the night, catching up and remembering old memories. By the morning, he’d asked me on a date," she says.
Tasha says the date “felt like meeting someone for the first time, while also reconnecting with someone you have such a deep connection with.” They spoke about everything with such an ease that she hadn't experienced when dating other people.
“After that date, it was hard to not want to spend all our time together. And we both had the thought and feeling of ‘this is my person’," she says.
What are the benefits of getting back with an ex?
Feelings of familiarity and comfort are one of the main reasons why people get back together, says Kate Mansfield, a dating coach working with dating app Badoo. “You already know each other well, and there’s a history of shared experiences that can make the relationship feel safe and secure,” she says.
Personal growth and change during time apart can also help people resolve their own issues, leading to greater potential for a successful relationship with someone else, Kate adds. “Reuniting after personal growth can lead to a healthier and more mature relationship.”
When Tasha and her now-husband got back together, they’d been apart for eight years, during which time they’d both grown and changed. “I’d had five years of therapy and had become a therapist myself. He had experienced and recovered from cancer, which had made a big emotional and personal impact on him,” she remembers. “We both had to become more emotionally mature and more experienced with being vulnerable, which meant we finally had the tools to be in a relationship together.”
Tasha doesn’t regret the time they spent apart. “If those years hadn't happened, things wouldn't have fallen into place for everything that has happened since.”
If a relationship ends for practical reasons, a change in life circumstances can also bring exes back together, says Becky Spelman, psychologist and founder of Private Therapy Clinic. For example, being geographically close, having mutual friends or working together. “Sometimes it can seem convenient or practical to reconcile with an ex,” Dr. Spelman says.
When Brooke Liter, 20, and her boyfriend broke up after seven months together, it was largely because their circumstances changed: she needed to move to a different part of the country for a month for work. The relationship had moved fast up to that point. “I was extra clingy via FaceTime and he just wasn’t. It caused a massive divide and we ended up mutually breaking up," she says. "There were no hard feelings.”
Devastated, Brooke “held out hope” that they’d get back together “to keep [herself] sane and have something to look forward to.” While at the same time telling herself it was truly over, to “protect [her] feelings.”
“Every second sucked,” she says of their month apart. “I got off my flight and came home and saw his coffee cup in my sink and started sobbing. All I wanted was to be with him.”
Once Brooke returned home, her ex “seemed to be more interested in seeing [her] again.” He ended up coming over, and kept doing so in the weeks that followed — until the pair decided to get back together just under a month ago.
“We got back together because we both felt it was worth trying again. There’s an obvious soulful connection between us,” Brooke says. This time, she says, “Our communication is on a whole different level, I feel more connected to him. We’re very healthy in the ways we do things now.”
Time apart can make a relationship stronger
Relationships also rekindle when there’s renewed motivation to make it work a second time around. “Both may be more willing to put in the effort to overcome previous challenges," says Mansfield.
This happened to Talia*, 28, who first met her girlfriend through friends towards the end of lockdown. A few months in, despite “having a lot of fun,” they still weren’t “official” and “weren’t ready to be in each other’s lives fully yet” so they ended things.
Talia accepted it — she unfollowed her ex on social media for a “clean break” and didn’t message her. While the busyness of post-lockdown life provided a temporary distraction from the breakup, Talia thought about her ex “quite a lot.”
A break was just what Talia needed to work out what she wanted. “The time apart made me realize we were really good together, and it was just the post-pandemic busyness and hesitation that got in the way," she says.
One day last summer, Talia found her ex on a dating app and asked her out again. “We went for a drink to the same place we had our first date and talked about everything, agreeing it just wasn’t the right time the first time around," she says.
Without the post-lockdown excitement that swept them up the first time, they “took it much slower” the second time around and became official last Christmas. “We made sure to see our friends and not just each other, and focus on other things and not just us.”
Talia says: “The main difference is that we wanted to introduce each other to friends and family — that’s how we knew it was different this time around. It sounds cliché but we weren’t ready before, and I’m glad we ended it when we did and didn’t end up resenting each other. It means this time around is so much more positive.”
How do you know if this is right for you?
So, in what situations is it wise to follow Tasha, Brooke, and Talia’s lead and get back with an ex?
“Rushing back to an ex without careful consideration can lead to further heartache and disappointment,” says Dr. Spelman. “If the relationship ended because of issues such as abuse, manipulation, or a lack of respect, getting back together may only perpetuate a toxic dynamic.”
But, she continues: “If you’ve both genuinely addressed the issues that led to the breakup and have shown personal growth and maturity, a healthier relationship could be possible.
“And if the breakup was primarily due to external factors like timing or distance, and those circumstances have changed, reuniting may be worth exploring.”
*Names have been changed to protect identities.