‘Spinning The Block’: When Should You Get Back With Your Ex?


In light of Ashanti and Nelly possibly rekindling their previously soured relationship, this raises the age-old question, when, if ever, should you get back with an ex? Is it a good idea, or should reconciling and trying again be avoided at all costs? The answers to these questions should start with introspection and reflection on your situation with your ex-partner to assess if pain points have improved so that you won’t fall into similar patterns or deal with the same issues. Also, it’s essential to understand why you want to get back together in the first place. 

Licensed professional counselor ad sex therapist Nikquan Lewis, MS, LMFT, LPC, suggests asking yourself and your previous partner the following questions: Are your values, principles, and morals in alignment? Is building a new relationship possible? Have you both done the work necessary to heal and move on from the previous relationship? Have you and your ex taken time to collaborate and define a healthy relationship, and are you both willing to take the time and effort required to build one? 

“Successful rekindling with an ex consists of asking yourselves the questions above, taking steps to heal yourself, and identifying if a healthy and satisfying relationship with someone you have a history with is possible—the content of history matters.  If building emotional safety is not possible due to past events, then the relationship shouldn’t be a consideration,” she says to ESSENCE.

Lewis adds, “Be clear and direct with your wants, needs, and boundaries and ask for clarity as it relates to theirs. Make sure that your relationships represent who you are in the present and not who you were in that past relationship by verbalizing your values, principles, and morals, especially regarding what ended the relationship. Compromise, but don’t sacrifice yourself.” 

Emotional safety is another crucial factor when reconsidering reuniting with an ex; Beverley Andre, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist, relationship coach, and founder of BeHeart Counseling Services, agrees. “Any woman that believes their previous relationship is worth the time and energy, and can be emotionally safe where trust can be re-established, should consider reuniting. If the breakup was due to natural circumstances, such as being in different stages of life or being long-distance, then getting back together may be a worthwhile consideration,” she says.

However, Andre notes that if the relationship ended due to a breach of trust or infidelity, she would caution against getting back together unless a decision is made to pursue individual and couples therapy, as this could set a precedent for repeating a cycle of hurt and mistrust. “Many women considering returning to an ex might wonder if there are any determining factors women must consider before returning to their ex. Andre believes trust should be the number one factor. “A woman considering going back to their ex should assess whether the previous breakup was a character or competency issue. I love Stephen Covey’s description of trust, which says trust is based on character and competency. I add my spin to it by adding consistently as a measure of time,” she states.

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She continues, “Was there an issue with trusting your ex’s intent and mindset, or did they struggle to communicate? The first issue connects to the posture of their heart; the second aligns with a limited skill set. You can learn to communicate better, but a character issue requires personal work.” 

Another essential factor, according to Andre, is time and allowing previous indiscretions to breathe. “Time is another essential factor. It’s important to give enough time apart to reflect on the relationship and heal from any hurt or resentment that may have occurred. Returning to a relationship too soon may not allow for enough time to address the underlying issues that caused the breakup in the first place. Both persons may need to experience more life to gain maturity, wisdom, and the necessary skill set to participate in and support a healthy relationship,” she says. 

The Pros and Cons of Returning to a Previous Relationship

According to Andre and Lewis, the pros are history as there’s a sense of security that comes with the familiarity of knowing each other’s likes and dislikes, families, friends, and even communication styles. “Returning to a previous relationship can also lead to a deeper connection since there is a foundational understanding of the other person’s needs. You can’t dismiss the power of nostalgia and its ability to speed up emotional bonding,” says Andre. 

The cons are slightly more apparent, as residual resentment and unresolved relationship trauma can hinder romantic growth. “Possible unresolved hurt/relationship trauma that could lead to resentment, lack of trust, unforgiveness, unhealthy relationship habits, possible lack of boundaries, growing apart during separation, confusing feeling comfortable with being complacent and fear of starting over,” says Lewis. 

Misconceptions About Returning to a Previously Expired Relationship 

Despite others’ opinions, people can and do change. According to Lewis, people can change if they do so with clarity and do the work to grow into someone who reflects their principles, values, and morals. Making positive changes and communicating effectively can lead to healthy and renewed relationships.

How Can Women Not Feel Embarrassed Or Wrong About Returning To An Ex?

According to Lewis, they can’t. “We don’t control the feelings that come; our power lies in what we do with them.  It is ok to feel whatever comes, including embarrassment or feeling bad. The goal is to not sit in those feelings but also process what is attributing to those feelings,” she says. 

Andre adds, “Deciding to rekindle a romance with an ex can bring many emotions, including feeling bad or embarrassed, which can be connected to shame. Shame can play a part because the optics of a woman returning to her ex is socially frowned upon, especially if it was a “bad breakup.” 

She continues, “If a woman experiences these emotions, I recommend leaning into them and having a conversation with herself that focuses on the present and the choice she’s making that aligns with her desires. If there’s outside judgment from friends or family, she should enforce her boundaries concerning respecting her freedom of choice and right to privacy. If the judgment is internal, she should practice self-compassion and be kind to herself instead of letting her inner critic condemn her choice.”

Here Are Signs That Your Partner Has Changed, According To Andre: 

  1. They can handle talking about the hard things. They take responsibility for their part in the original breakup. They also try to avoid rehashing previous issues or pointing out past mistakes.
  2. They have made positive changes to improve themselves, like attending church, finding better friends, or learning more about themselves through therapy.
  3. They consistently show up and reciprocate feelings, which could be anything from pouring into your love language to responding to messages promptly without being too demanding.

If You Are Considering Reuniting With Your Ex, Keep These Tips From Andre In Mind: 

  1. Identify your emotions surrounding the decision to get back together. You must be honest about your deepest desire, the pros and cons, and the impact of every possible choice.
  2. Get on the same page with your ex. Make sure both sets of expectations align and that you have similar goals and values for the evolution of the relationship.
  3. If a competency issue led to the first breakup, brainstorm solutions for help, like seeking a couple’s therapist so that you can work on things together. If it was a character issue, surround yourselves with other like-minded couples.
  4. Be fully committed. You have to own the choice to get back with your ex. There may be a lot of opinions that counter what you believe is best. Both you and your ex should be comfortable with the decided direction of the relationship.

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