Written by Kiri Blakeley on CafeMom’s blog, The Stir.
The hardest thing about being in a relationship is probably trying to decide if you should end it. The second hardest? Whether you should give it another chance — especially if you’ve already separated. There comes a time in most everyone’s relationship when you think about throwing in the towel. And what if you do, but then your significant other wants you back? What if he promises to change? What if he swears up and down, back and forth, that that thing that tore you apart will never, ever happen again? Do you believe him? Do you risk getting your heart broken all over again?
If you’re thinking about breathing new life into a dead relationship, here are seven things you should consider first.
What happened to break you up? People break up for all kinds of reasons — everything from an affair to physical or emotional abuse to just not feeling like you have anything in common anymore. There are no right and wrong reasons to breaking up. Everyone has to weigh what works and doesn’t work for them individually. What you might not be able to stomach anymore, someone else might not see as a big deal. Think hard about what it is that broke you up and whether or not it’s something you can either forgive or live with — because there’s no 100 percent guarantee that it won’t keep happening.
Why do you want to reunite? Is it mostly because he’s putting so much pressure on you? Or maybe your kids are, or your family is? This needs to be your decision, not anyone else’s. Do you truly still love him and see a future together — or are you just worried about a single income, about being lonely, or about dating again? Consider whether you’d get back together if everything else in your life was going fabulously. If not, then you probably don’t really want him, but just a relationship. Even if it’s not a good one.
Look at the relationship as a whole. Sometimes when a relationship is bad, we end up breaking up over some silly thing — but that was really just the straw that broke the camel’s back. If you’re feeling remorseful because you ended it over a forgotten anniversary or an ex he contacted on Facebook, ask yourself if this is truly why you broke up. Chances are, it was much deeper than that. Are you both admitting and confronting what really went wrong as opposed to the “official” reasons for the split?
Is the problem a chronic one? Is what what broke you up something that keeps happening? How many chances have you already given your ex? Part of the conundrum of breaking up is that the ex can suddenly start to make all kinds of promises that whatever problems you have will never ever happen again. But if they’ve already happened over and over, the reality is that no matter how much your spouse wants to change, he may simply not be able to. Psychological forces often dating back to childhood have shaped this person’s habits. Those won’t easily be undone just because he wants them undone.
Can you truly forgive? If you decide to get back together, you can’t be throwing your ex’s transgressions in his face every time you want to win an argument. Not that the problem can never be spoken of again, but it can’t be your go-to “gotcha.”
Be friends first. Try being just friends with your ex first. This way, you can stay close enough to see if his behavior really has changed — without the bonding chemicals of sex ratcheting up your attachment and expectations. If he’s unwilling to give it a try again without sex being involved, then he most likely just wants to suck you back into the relationship and has no real intention of changing.
Watch actions, don’t listen to words. No matter how much your ex promises he’ll never touch another drop of booze, or another woman, or will definitely get a job this time, don’t listen to anything. Watch to see how he behaves. Remember it’s his actions in the relationship that will determine everything. And watch for changes before agreeing to another chance.
Remember that if you’re even remotely considering reuniting with an ex who has serious issues like addictions of any kind, or who inflicted physical or emotional abuse on you or your children — you must have outside help via therapy, support groups, etc. Physical abuse, especially, can escalate to the point where you are taking your own life into your hands if you keep going back. And abusers tend to be very good at making empty promises.
Have you ever given an ex a second chance? Did that work out?