The marriage of Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck has given broken hearts the world over hope that maybe, this time, it could work out with their ex. But despite their seeming success (it’s still early days, after all), is it a good idea for you to get back together with your ex? Today you’ll learn my three rules for deciding if it’s a good idea to get back together with your ex and I’ve got an amazing free journaling tool to help you make a healthy decision.
Just like Camilla Bowles marrying Prince Charles gave hope for side chicks across the globe, the marriage of Jennifer Lopez to Ben Affleck has given millions of exes hope that they can make it work with their ex… this time.
It’s been almost 20 years since Bennifer first started dating, and a LOT has happened since then. They’ve both gotten married to other people, they’ve both had kids, they’ve both gotten divorced from other people, Ben got treatment for his alcohol addiction (and seems to be recovering), and both are in very different places in their careers and lives in general. Timing and individual work have had a lot to do with the seeming success of this hot Hollywood couple.
But what about you? Is it a good idea for you to get back together with an ex? The short answer is that it’s a long shot, but all things are possible as long as you follow a few simple rules.
Rule #1: Be realistic
Let’s get some bad news out of the way. If you look at the research (and you know I always do), it doesn’t look good for your reconciliation making it long-term.
Here’s what we know:
- Breaking up and getting back together over and over almost certainly dictates that this isn’t going to work out. These couples do the worst! It stands to reason that if you break up over and over, that becomes its own pattern. It becomes easy to leave, so these couples have more uncertainty and less dedication. The research has also shown that these couples end up with a lot of psychological pain (By the way, this particular research showed the same results for both same and different-sex relationships).
- Couples who get back together after breaking up have more fights and conflict, which results in a higher likelihood of verbal and physical abuse.
- Couples who break up and then later get married also report more conflict, less closeness, and less overall satisfaction.
- In many research studies, although some participants report more appreciation for their partner, they also report increased doubt, resentment, frustration, uncertainty, insecurity, and ambivalence in their relationships.
Rule #2: Ask Yourself Some Questions First
If you’re thinking of getting back together with your ex, there’s some serious soul-searching you need to do. Starting with these questions might make it clear right away that this is or isn’t a good idea. I’m going to suggest journaling one question a day and really dedicating some time to your answers, making sure they’re real and not wishful. I’m going to mention a few here, but I’ve created a free Should I Get Back with my Ex journaling prompts handout that goes way deeper, so make sure you download that today!
- What are the top five reasons I want to get back together with my ex? What’s important is that you look at the answers and make sure that none of them are from fear. For example, are you afraid you won’t find anyone else or anyone else as good? Do you hate being alone? Are you afraid others are judging you (maybe your parents) for being single? If any of these are in your top five, you want to get back out of fear, not love which is a setup for failure.
- Did your ex cross your boundaries often? If so, how are you going to do things differently now to hold your boundaries?
- What did your family and friends think of your ex? Were they supportive of the relationship, or did they encourage you to end it many times over the course of the relationship?
Rule #3: You Need to Change, Not Them
If you’re focused on the other person changing so you can now be happy reuniting with your ex, you’re making a mistake. This isn’t about the other person; it’s about you. In fact, you should assume that your ex has not changed permanently, so can you be OK with them as is?
This means you’ve needed to have done some work so you’re not thinking, feeling and reacting, the same way to them. The work you’ve needed to do is around boundaries, acceptance, and forgiveness.
Have you been to therapy to discuss yourself and this relationship?
Are you coming from fear or love? Are you coming from acceptance and openness? The answers to these questions are your bottom line.
Resources for Should You Get Back Together with Your Ex?
Dailey, R. M., Rossetto, K. R., Pfiester, A., & Surra, C. A. (2009). A qualitative analysis of on-again/off-again romantic relationships: “It’s up and down, all around”. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26(4), 443–466. https://doi.org/10.1177
Vennum, A., Hardy, N., Sibley, D. S., & Fincham, F. D. (2015). Dedication and sliding in emerging adult cyclical and non-cyclical romantic relationships. Family Relations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies, 64(3), 407–419. https://doi
Monk, J.K., Ogolsky, B.G. and Oswald, R.F. (2018), Coming Out and Getting Back In: Relationship Cycling and Distress in Same- and Different-Sex Relationships. Fam Relat, 67: 523-538. https://doi.org/10.1111/fare.12336
Halpern-Meekin S, Manning WD, Giordano PC, Longmore MA. Relationship Churning, Physical Violence, and Verbal Abuse in Young Adult Relationships. J Marriage Fam. 2013 Feb;75(1):2-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2012.01029.x. PMID: 24000263; PMCID: PMC3757923.
Dailey, R. M., Jin, B., Pfiester, A., & Beck, G. (2011). On-again/off-again dating relationships: What keeps partners coming back? The Journal of Social Psychology, 151(4), 417–440. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224545.2010.503249