You’re thinking whether to get back with your ex. How do you decide if that’s a good idea or a really bad one? And how do you give your reconciliation the best possible chance of really making it this time? Join me to learn more.
Episode Table of Contents
- A Journey of Rupture and Repair
- The Place Where Mature Love Is Born
- Validating the Treasures of Who You Are
- The Foundational Pieces
Episode Introduction: Get Back With Your Ex
My ex and I are considering getting back together. Is it a good idea or is it a bad idea? And if we do it, what are the steps we should take? Stay tuned to the Deeper Dating podcast to learn when it’s a good idea to get back together, when it’s not a good idea, and how to give your reconciliation the best chance possible for surviving.
Hello and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. I’m Ken Page and today we’re going to talk about a huge and important topic: reconciliation. Every week I’m going to share with you the greatest tools I know to help you find love and keep it flourishing and to heal your life in the process because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of love and the skills of love are the greatest skills of all for a happy life.
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A Journey of Rupture and Repair
Something that so many of us have wondered about is should I get back with my ex? And it’s a huge question and there’s a lot to it and that’s what we’re going to focus on today, just some kind of rich reflections and suggestions about that subject. So I want to start out by saying love is a journey of rupture and repair, again and again. Minor ruptures, major ruptures and then repair. And that’s how love works.
So love is a wonderful thing and God knows repairing a broken or wounded or lost love can also be a really wonderful thing. And life is really all about trying again and so is love. So I just want to acknowledge that going back is a brave act. It’s hopeful, it’s inspiring, and in many cases it can really be worth the effort.
And it takes a special person to say, “I’ve made mistakes. You’ve made mistakes. This love has been precious and in reflection, remains precious. And I’m open to doing the work to try to do it better this time.” And it takes a special love to make it feel like that’s worth it.
So I want to start out by saying these things. I want to acknowledge the act of bravery and goodness and the kind of ongoing journey of repair that’s just part of love. But I also want to say, as we know, that going back in for more of the same is not a good thing. And we all at the time that we consider going back with an ex, there’s a hope for a new beginning, but there’s a fear of just a painful replay of what happened before.
When NOT to Get Back with An Ex
So there are two very reasonable assumptions we can make here. And those are that what you loved in the other person and what you loved in your relationship and what you loved in yourself in the relationship are all still there and what you didn’t love in your partner and in yourself and in the relationship is also still going to be there. And so, this is an opportunity for healing, but going in and imagining that things will just be different now is almost never a good idea.
So I want to start by talking about when not to get back with an ex, or at least not to get back at this point with an ex. And then, if these cases don’t apply to you or if you feel like you want to do it anyway, then what are the steps that you can take to give this new-old relationship the best chance possible to really make it this time?
Okay. So, first I’m going to talk about the reasons why it would be best in my opinion, not to go back at least now. The first is are there any active significant addictions? I’m not necessarily talking about addictions like food addictions or addictions like that. I’m talking about significant addictions that are really harmful and dangerous – substance abuse, addictions, gambling addictions, addictions like that. Not that food addictions cannot be really harmful, but I’m just specifying addictions that are really, really damaging.
And in my opinion, chemical dependency, alcoholism, gambling, these are some addictions, sex addictions, these are really serious addictions that can damage a relationship. And I would say that if there are active addictions, and I want to say either on your partner’s part or on your part, don’t go back now.
The Period of Extended Sobriety
Wait until your partner or you or both of you have reached a period where you can hold a period of extended sobriety and that you have ample support because otherwise, you will not have the control to have things not spiral down in the way they did before. You just won’t have that control. That’s just my opinion, but it’s also my firm belief and it’s what I’ve seen from decades of work as a psychotherapist.
Next, are there, on the part of you or your partner, any untreated, undertreated or unstabilized serious psychiatric disorders? I’m not talking about some degree of depression or some degree of anxiety. I’m talking about serious psychiatric disorders that are not stabilized. If that’s the case, give your relationship the best leg up chance it has. Don’t go back unless, and until, that condition is properly managed with ample support, once again.
So those are two places where I would say don’t go back until this is addressed. Here’s a third one. Has there been abuse? Now, if there has been serious abuse in my opinion, just don’t go back, period. If the abuse has been less intense and if you have really strong reason to believe that it won’t happen again, still don’t consider going back without the support of a good and skilled couples therapist, not waiting in the wings but helping you both begin to make choices about your future. And this would be a couples therapist with strong expertise in the field of abuse.
So I know I’m starting out a little heavy-handed with this, but I think these things are so important. All of the things that I just mentioned.
The Place Where Mature Love Is Born
Now, if none of these is the case and you’re still kind of thinking I want to maybe give this a try, I just want to share some reflection points, some questions, some things to think about for you and your ex to think about on your own, for your ex to think about on his or her own or their own and for the two of you to talk about together.
So Harville Hendrix , the brilliant couples theoretician once said that,
“In all relationships there comes a point that the thing you most need from your partner is the thing that your partner is least able to give you. And that’s the point that a lot of relationships dissolve.”
But what Hendrix says is that’s the place where mature love is born. That’s not the end of the relationship necessarily; that can be the beginning of a deeper bond because this is where you and your partner have to learn each other’s deeper emotional language.
And the thing that you most need from your partner is actually, the thing that they most need from you, is probably the thing that each of you needs in the deepest way to become the person that you’re meant to be. They’re seeing something in you and you’re seeing something in them that’s a way in which they need to grow.
Building a Solid Foundation For Your New home
So if each of you is willing to say, I’m going to commit to try to grow in that way. And if each of you was willing to listen to the wisdom of the other person’s needs, start out with a plan about how this time around, you’re going to begin to develop a shared language around the pain that happens for each of you when these needs are not met, and around how to meet those needs, and around the kind of support you would need to make that happen.
And going into a relationship with a beginning of a new shared language about that brings hope, brings stability and it brings a kind of amazing ability of intimacy maturity that goes a really long way in a new relationship. So next, if you go back, assume that the same problems will all happen again, or most of them will. Start from there. Start from the assumption that the wonderful things will probably happen again and the problems will happen again and expect that, expect that. And this time, be ready to struggle to do what you couldn’t do last time, to give what you couldn’t give last time, or wouldn’t give, and to get the help that you may not have gotten last time.
Because if you choose to reconcile, you’re going to have to make the choice not to do many of the mistakes that you made the last time. And what I want to say about that is it’s really, really important to have a therapist at the very least waiting in the wings. Maybe the two of you start with a therapist beforehand to just talk this stuff through. But the more that you get a sense that you’re not doing this impulsively, the more sense you will have that you will be building a solid foundation for your new home.
Crossing the Bridge
Now, if your partner, or you, or both of you are not willing to do that, that’s a warning sign. That’s a sign that things probably will go back to the same places they were before. And the other piece is that you’re now entering into this relationship with some scar tissue because you have both been hurt in the past and so it’s easy to say, “there’s baggage here” and it’s easy to say “I’m not going to be vulnerable in the same way.” But we need to be able to be vulnerable, we need to know that there’s a shared language. A bridge that is being built by the two of you from each side of the chasm that’s separated you to try to meet in the middle. And that goes a really long way.
And there’s a series of great questions to ask here. And I know this is a lot of work folks, but hey, this is going to be your future. It’s worth every drop of this work. So it’s good to ask what made you, and to talk about what made you break up in the first place and if each of you owned your part in that? Essential, essential. And what support are each of you going to get to change those patterns? What support are you getting, have you gotten, and will you get?
Allow yourselves the opportunity for a lot of hard, honest conversations. Because if not, you can expect more of the same, even if your external circumstances are better now because the negative kind of ingrained patterns that you’ve both hardwired into your connection are sure to come back in force even if life seems easier now. So while you’ve got hope and motivation, create a game plan for what to do when the old problems arise.
Validating the Treasures of Who You Are
And here’s a deep one folks. This is a question that I teach in my work, is kind of probably the most important and profound question that we can ask and that is, does my soul feel safe with this person? Does my deep heart feel safe with this person? Not safe that they’re going to be perfect but safe that they’re going to try to own their own stuff, safe that they’re willing to do the work and not run and not flee.
And you don’t want to go back until your sense of safety is solid enough and deep enough. Both of you are probably going to be kind of gun shy too because you both have been hurt and because the relationship ended. This is a time to give gentleness, to give kindness, to give compassion, to give compliments, to give appreciation, to give yourself – sexually, emotionally, romantically you when you’re ready, when you’re ready to do that, but to give your deep heart and your vulnerability when and if you think this is a good way to go.
Share with your partner your regret and how you might have hurt them. Share with your partner what you find sexy about them, what you find kind and beautiful and wonderful about them. Validate all of the treasures of who they are. That’s going to make a real difference. That’s something that we don’t do enough of in our relationships. And if it’s difficult to do that verbally, write them a card. Acknowledge all the things you adore about them because there’s got to be something really special here to make you consider going back. That’s worth honoring.
Circuitries of Attractions of Deprivation
Now again, if you’re not at the point that you’re sure you want to do this, that kind of response might be premature but those pieces that seem worth doing no matter what, whether you get back together with them or not, and those pieces that seem like they would be helpful if you do decide to get back together, don’t skimp on those.
Don’t assume that you’re going to coast on old good feelings or even the resurgence of new good feelings. Share all of those parts. It makes such a huge difference. And that’s for everybody, folks.
That’s for all of us in all of our intimate relationships. It’s magic to share those things with people. In my book, Deeper Dating and in the podcast and in all of my classes and intensives, I talk about the difference between two circuitries of attraction that we all have. Attractions of inspiration and attractions of deprivation.
Attractions of inspiration are the ones where your love and your desire is fueled by the ways in which your partner inspires you with his or her goodness or their goodness with the way they try to live in the world with the way they behave, with the way they treat you. That circuitry of attraction is the kind that can last. It’s the only kind that’s worth going back to.
Now, there are circuitries of attractions of deprivation as well, and those are fueled by that scratch, the itch, agonizing need to finally get your partner to love you fully or treat you well and those attractions of deprivation mimic real love and they create a relentless need inside us, but they’re not the kind of love that brings a future of joy.
Of course, all relationships have both aspects, but if you’re considering going back, ask yourself is this essentially an attraction of inspiration? And if not, reconciliation is probably not the best idea.
And here’s the last point that I want to share. It’s a really, really rich one. Often, we flee spouses or partners who are good and decent and kind and available, these attractions of inspiration. We feel bored, we lose desire, we get super judgmental and often that is because deep down, we’re frightened of real love.
It’s a phenomenon I call “The Wave” and I speak about that in my podcast as well and in my opinion, it is one of the greatest saboteurs of potentially good relationships. Usually, the wave occurs before marriage because it’s fueled by fear of intimacy, but it could be triggered by trauma and also by new challenges. For example, you’re going to buy a house together, you’re going to take the leap of getting married, you’re going to have children together and all of a sudden you get cold feet, fear hits you, and then all of a sudden your partner just seems a little bit less sexy or a little bit less desirable or their irksome qualities just get more irksome or all of a sudden, you want to be starting to have sex with other people.
And these are things that happen when we really meet the next level of availability in a partner or the next level of commitment. I know for me that in my marriage before we got married when we hit those levels of new things, I always got afraid. I always wanted to run.
The Foundational Pieces
But thank God I know that that’s something that happens for me. But if I wouldn’t have known that, I would have fled and at a later point I might’ve thought of that person as the one that got away or the one that I let getaway or the relationship that I was just not mature enough to have. So, I do encourage you if you relate to that, to listen to my podcast where I speak about that in more detail in episodes 21, 22, and 23 where I talk about healing your fear of intimacy.
So the ground of your new future with this partner should you decide to proceed is going to be built right here and right now, in the kindness you show each other, in the care you show each other, in the integrity of owning what’s yours and asking for what you need, learning the skills of how to share what your needs are, what your hurts are, and to listen to your partners.
Someone once said to me, he said,
“When we stand in front of each other, my right is always going to be your left.”
And I love that. And I think it’s so true because we’ll always see things from our side, that act of saying two things.
Claiming That Second Best Chance
I’m going to take the time to listen to your side and take it in and listen to that map that you have of the world. Because it’s going to be different than my map, but I’m going to take it in and I’m going to honor it and I’m going to validate it and then also saying, I am going to commit that whatever it takes, I’m here to do it. This time, I’m not going to leave. This time, let’s not leave; let’s really try this.
If you’re not ready to say that yet, because maybe you’re going to kind of start and see how things go. Absolutely, that makes perfect sense too. But do it with all of these foundational pieces in place because you’ll feel better about yourself and you’ll give this relationship a much greater chance for success.
So good luck because what you’re doing is brave and exciting and powerful and you want to give it the best chance it can possibly have.
So thanks so much for listening. If you liked this episode or any of my episodes, please feel free to subscribe on Apple Podcast and I’d love it if you could leave me a review and I look forward to seeing you next week on the Deeper Dating Podcast.