Can getting back with an ex actually ever work out?

·7-min read
Photo credit: Gender Spectrum Collection
Photo credit: Gender Spectrum Collection

"Never look back" That's what they say, right? And most of us fully subscribe to this. Exes are exes for a reason, aren't they? And up until a few years ago, I was the world's biggest advocate of leaving the past in the past. I've never stayed friends with an ex and I'd certainly never considered getting back with an ex. Especially not after going through the rigmarole of getting over a break up. Hell no.

Whenever friends who'd broken up with their partners had a wobble, or said they missed them, I became their relationship drill sergeant - constantly reminding them why it had all ended and why they were so much better off without... And then I got back together with one of my exes. I know, it pains me to say it out loud. Not because they're the worst person on earth and I was ashamed, but because I went back on my word. My point is: it's easy to claim revisiting a former relationship is a bad idea and to dish out advice to your pals like you're the moral compass of the group, but when it happens to you, you realise actually it's not always such a ridiculous notion.

Getting back with an ex

Photo credit: monkeybusinessimages
Photo credit: monkeybusinessimages

I won't go deep into the reasons we broke up the first time. But our relationship just seemed to come to a natural end. After being friends for 10 years and then finally getting together, our lives had been running parallel for so long and then one day, we were just off in different directions. We were young, and had other shit going on that at the time that was more important than our relationship.

For two years, we didn't speak. Both of us saw other people, had casual sex things, and I even had a year-long relationship. And then we accidentally reconnected (cheers Tinder, you absolute LAD) and it just seemed right. Sure, fine, yep, I'll admit it: we aren't together anymore. But was getting back together the most stupid decision I ever made? I don't think so...

Lovehoney's sex and relationship expert Annabelle Knight says getting back with an ex can work out. But, she says, there are five key questions you need to ask if you're determined to rekindle a former relationship.

A guide to getting back together

Is getting back with an ex ever a good idea?

Never say never, sometimes a little space is all you need, Annabelle says. "However, always go back into a past relationship with open eyes - ignoring previous problems in the hope that everything will be wonderful this time around is just asking for trouble. If you're about to reignite an old flame it’s a good idea to take some time to evaluate what went wrong the first time around. For most cases the phrase ‘flogging a dead horse’ comes to mind - however there's always an exception to the rule and new research shows that more and more couples are making it work with an ex."

But, if you’re having thoughts about getting back together with an ex, the most important thing is to be honest with yourself, says Natasha Briefel from Badoo. "Why is it that you want to get back with your ex? Do you truly miss them and want to be together? Or do you just want somebody to chat to or a familiar face to comfort you? Have you had enough time to see what else is out there, and get to know other people? Perhaps you’re longing for love after over a year in lockdown? It’s crucial to think about your intentions before you make that step, and to consider your ex’s feelings, too."

Can a broken relationship ever be fixed?

This depends on the couple, says Annabelle. "If two people are willing to work hard, forgive and nurture their relationship, then it definitely can work. Both partners need to be completely on the same page and the lines of communication need to be well and truly open."

How can you make sure it lasts second time around?

So before you embark on your journey to second chance city, there are a few key things to consider.

Photo credit: Kevin Kozicki
Photo credit: Kevin Kozicki

Talk about absolutely everything beforehand

Annabelle says it’s a bad idea to get back with an ex if there’s any unfinished business hanging over your heads. "If there was a particular reason why your relationship failed previously then it’s a good idea to establish some mutually agreed ground rules about certain behaviours beforehand."

Natasha says that in terms of approaching the topic - it can feel daunting, especially if you’re not sure how that person feels. "The best way to do so is just to be upfront and honest about how you’re feeling, and what exactly it is that you want - whether it’s picking back up where you left off, or starting over and trying again. Clear communication is key. Remember also that your ex might need some time to think about it, so avoid going into the conversation with any immediate expectations - allowing your ex this opportunity will be beneficial to you both, so that you know you’re both making the right decision."

Once you’ve forgiven, forget

"You absolutely must leave the past in the past, learn from it by all means but don’t bring it up in the heat of an argument. Opening up old wounds for the sake of a quick win will only damage your chances of making things work. To try again you must be willing and able to move on if you’re to have any hope of having a future together," Annabelle says.

"Most second chance relationships fail because couples assume they can just slip back into the way things were. It’s really important to nurture this relationship just as you would with any new romance," she adds.

Natasha says to remember that if your ex isn’t on the same page, "there’s always someone else out there who wants to get to know you for you, and who you can make a new honest connection with."

If sex (or lack of) was one of the reasons why you split, how can you make sure you don't fall back into a rut the next time?

Keeping things fresh in the bedroom can be difficult; again, talking to one another is crucial when it comes to sex. This can be the most painful part of any reconciliation as no one wants to hear (or tell) home truths when it comes to sex. Sadly, the only way you can have better sex is to be honest. Be more adventurous as a couple, even if for you that means something such as a new position or change of scenery or experimenting with sex toys for couples.

Photo credit: Javier Zayas Photography
Photo credit: Javier Zayas Photography

Is casual sex with an ex is ever a good idea to get you through a drought?

If both you and your ex are on the same page then there really shouldn’t be a reason why you can’t go back for some fun once in a while. In saying that, this is rarely the case. In my opinion it’s best to stay away: if you’re just after a bit of fun, then download Tinder. Avoid any situations where people could potentially get their feelings hurt, no matter how little harm you think it can do at the time.

A survey of 1,000 people by Lovehoney found 43% of women and people with vaginas had had sex with ex while they were looking for a new partner - the main reason was because they missed physical intimacy (42% of respondents). And almost a third (31%) said they had sex with the ex because they hoped to get back together with their former partner.

Whatever you decide to do: think it through, talk it out and go in with your hearts and minds fully open.

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