Is it possible to successfully get back with your ex? Relationship experts weigh in on how to make it work
- To get back together after a breakup, make sure to have lots of conversations about past hurt.
- You should discuss what you've learned since the breakup and respect your partner's perspective.
The decision to get back with your ex shouldn't be a hasty one. After all, your relationship ended for a reason. However, that doesn't mean that you can't reunite with your ex and build a healthier relationship.
Many couples who have called it quits end up getting back together. In fact, a 2013 study found that over one third of couples who live together and one fifth of married couples have experienced a breakup and gotten back together.
If you and your ex want to give your relationship another shot, know that you're going to have to put in extra effort and take new steps to try to make it work this time. Here are eight things you should do to have a healthy relationship after getting back together.
1. Acknowledge past hurt
When getting back together, it's important to be able to talk about the past, even though this can be difficult and painful.
"There is a temptation to sweep it under the rug, move on, and not talk about it. When this happens, past hurts tend to fester and surface again in the relationship," says Gregory Cheney, PhD, licensed marriage and family therapist at Valiant Couples Therapy and Consulting.
Discussing past hurt and having these hard conversations can help foster a closer connection and improve your ability to communicate and work through rough topics, Cheney says.
2. Respect your partner's perspective
In relationships, especially post breakup, it's important to make space for both perspectives. This means that you need to step away from thinking that one person is right and the other is wrong, says Cheney.
This will allow both partners to express their feelings in a healthy way in a safe space. Be sure to be an active listener so you can really understand where your partner is coming from, and vice versa.
3. Discuss what you've learned since the breakup
While breakups can be very painful, they can also be a learning experience to move forward and discuss what you've learned and consider what you can change going forward, says Heather Browne PsyD, licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice.
Browne says some questions to consider are:
- How has the break-up changed you?
- What did you handle poorly in the relationship?
- How will you address these problems differently here on out?
- Where do you need to take responsibility?
4. Figure out how to make this time better
Browne recommends taking time to figure out how you think the second time around can be better than before. You will both have to actively work to change old patterns to make sure that getting back together goes smoothly and that you end up in a healthy partnership.
For example, Browne says you should consider:
- How will you talk and interact differently?
- How will you talk through things in a healthier way?
- How will you keep from falling back into your old habits?
- How can you support each other differently?
- How can you create a safer relationship?
5. Get curious about both yourself and your partner's emotions
It's important to make time for self-reflection. Cheney says you should try to work on understanding what is happening internally — including dealing with emotions you may be tempted to avoid.
"This type of self-reflection takes intentional steps. Try sitting or going for a walk alone. Take some deep breaths, relax inwardly, and tune into what you notice. A mindfulness app can develop the ability to do this on a regular basis," says Cheney.
Additionally, it's crucial to not only understand yourself, but to also understand your partner. "Developing an others-awareness can be just as important as developing self-awareness. Everyone tends to experience the world through different lenses. Healthy relationships work to understand how their partner experiences the world," says Cheney.
He suggests doing this in two steps:
- Ask your partner questions about how they feel in your relationship to communicate a genuine interest and desire to understand.
- Then, summarize their answers by reflecting back what you heard to them to minimize the potential for misunderstanding.
This can help improve your relationship because when both partners feel heard and understood, your connection can deepen, Cheney says.
6. Create time to connect
The pace and business of life can make it difficult to prioritize time with your partner.
"Creating time to connect is simple, but not easy. Time together does not happen without effort," says Cheney. In any relationship, quality time together is important, but it is even more so after getting back together while rebuilding the relationship.
Keep in mind that it isn't just the amount of time spent together, but the quality of that time. A 2015 study found that the quality of time spent together is a main predictor of relationship satisfaction, proving that just spending time together isn't enough –– the time has to be spent intentionally.
For example, Cheney says instead of binge watching a show together, try engaging in a hobby you both enjoy. Or, you can go for a walk together, try out a new restaurant, or explore a different location. Bonus points if you put your phones on "Do Not Disturb" mode so that you are both putting your full focus on each other instead of texting friends.
Actively creating time to deeply connect lets your partner know that they are a priority to you, and so is the relationship.
7. Make a list of the qualities that you both want in your relationship
To make this time around more successful than the first, it can help to sit down and decide what qualities you both are hoping for in a relationship, such as fun and passion, and then make a commitment for you both to strive for these qualities, Browne says.
This isn't about forcing your partner to be someone they're not – it's about deciding what you would ideally like your partnership to look like, and what steps you both can take to get there together.
You must also acknowledge that there will likely be some differences in the qualities that you each choose, and discuss how you'll compromise to handle this. For example, if a healthy lifestyle is something you value and would like to incorporate into your relationship, but your partner isn't into going to the gym or eating super healthy, you can still find a middle ground.
Browne says you can find activities that are active but not necessarily working out to enjoy together, like dancing or hiking.
Regardless of the scenario or qualities you want, Browne says you should be sure to talk it through so both of your desires are explored and met, and so it doesn't become a place to fight.
8. Disclose what needs to be disclosed
Healthy relationships are built on honesty and communication.
Even though it may be hard or uncomfortable, Browne says you should share anything that your partner might need to know that occurred during your break-up. This may mean sharing that you dated or were intimate with someone else.
Throwing all your cards on the table can ensure that something unknown or uncomfortable doesn't pop up later on, lessening your ability to trust each other, says Browne. Additionally, if you've hooked up with other people, you should get STI testing done before being intimate with your partner to practice safer sex.
When you're getting back together with your ex, be patient. Things likely aren't going to just pick up right where they left off, and the relationship is going to need some TLC in order to thrive.
Browne says you should remember that you and your partner are a team, and both of you can change the relationship in a positive way as long as you decide you want to keep the relationship going.
If you have trouble working out the kinks on your own, seeing a couples' therapist can be very helpful to provide new insights into the relationship and tips for moving forward.
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