“My ex and I broke up three years ago. He was consistently unavailable due to his job’s demands at the time, and I was tired of waiting for him. Although I’ve had a few boyfriends since, we continue to catch up with regularity, and after the demise of my most recent toxic relationship, we ended up getting drinks, staying out late and sleeping together. And it was so good; everything I remember, but better. We’ve now been getting together—and sleeping together—multiple times a week for a few months. I’ve always been against getting back together with an ex, believing that you have to move forward in life—which he knows. But the spark is still there. Should I consider breaking my rule, or am I being crazy for considering it?”
Yes, I think you should consider getting back together; it’s rare to have sparks after a breakup (especially after three and a half years!). That said, I want you to ask yourself some hard questions and approach your ex with a lot of careful thought and consideration.
First, you just said you got out of a toxic relationship, which can be a disorienting experience. Oftentimes, when we’re hurting, we don’t make the most clearheaded decisions and we really do gravitate back to what feels soft and safe. So you need to ask yourself whether your ex is a cushion or if he could be a true partner moving forward. (Yes, you should always be moving forward; on that point, you are so, so right.)
Is he an old choice or a new choice?
Maybe your ex feels like a comfortable, familiar Band-Aid. He’s obviously been a fixture in your life for a long time (even if it’s in the background)—especially through a bad relationship—and that can make him feel like a stable male presence in some of your most vulnerable moments. It’s also incredibly easy to sink back into old routines, fueled by nostalgia or alcohol, when you’re missing companionship.
As such, the physical desire or sexual chemistry should not be the basis of this decision. The basis of any decision to get back together should be that you both are in a new place in your life, have maintained a solid friendship and have undeniable chemistry. The condition that is new, and changed, is that your ex can now support a full-fledged committed relationship.
Ask yourself whether he’s still the same distant workaholic or if he’s loosened up his schedule with the intent of forming a long-term bond. Would you be starting a new, different relationship if you got back together? People can grow, change and want to settle down, in just the same way that they venture through a period of life that makes it challenging. If he’s changed his mindset, he might be worth another look.
Do you still love him?
I know you said you don’t believe in getting back together with an ex. But sometimes we tout certain beliefs because we desperately want to believe them. Maybe you did not want to get back together with your ex, so you made yourself a rule to keep that boundary with him. You told him that rule because you weren’t ready (or you knew he wasn’t ready) to be together, and you wanted to make that very clear.
It’s time to remove that boundary because, in many ways, you already have by sleeping together. Is your ex someone you have always loved or never stopped loving? Is he a person where you’ve looked back on the relationship and thought, “If only...”? Did you break up not out of lack of love but because you knew the relationship wasn’t functional at the time?
If this is the case, you can approach your ex with vulnerability; you should tell him these things and clearly lift the boundary that you’d never get back with an ex (effectively, him). You can tell him your concerns about repeating the past and find out what he’s learned from your breakup and whether or not he’d be willing to try again in a new phase of life.
Like you, I am not a fan of getting back together with an ex—in less than a year. It takes a good long while for people to change or for situations to change. It takes true distance for perspective to grow between two people, where they can see why they weren’t a good fit or, sometimes, why they were.
Most of us will have multiple relationships in our lifetime. Of the hats we try on, some will fit better than others. If the first or second hat you try on is the best fit, you may not realize it until you’ve tried on three or four more hats.
If you have both changed, matured and grown into better partners for each other, there’s no reason you cannot revisit a relationship with an ex you still love, with whom you share the same values, have a friendship and have insane chemistry. From my POV, you would not be crazy for considering reconciling with your ex; you’d be crazy to blow past the idea without considering it.
Have fruitful conversations. Make sure it’s more than sex. But don’t let a great opportunity pass you by because of a silly rule. Break the rule if it’s smart to do so. In this case, it may well be.
Jenna Birch is a journalist and the author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, a relationship-building guide for modern women. To ask her a question, which she may answer in a forthcoming PureWow column, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.