Is It Ever A Good Idea To Get Back With Your Ex?

Some people have that one ex they never really got over. No matter the reason for the breakup, there's still a yearning to know that person again. Whether it's a few months or, in the case of Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, a couple of decades, some people just manage to find their way back to each other. And some, like Lopez and Affleck, don't just get back together but take it even further by officially tying the knot (via CNN).

But while getting back together with an ex may seem like a good idea, especially if enough time has passed that you can look back on the things that caused the breakup and are able to learn from them, not everyone will agree. Like all those friends and family members who held you as you cried when that certain ex broke your heart. You may be able to forgive them, but others in your life may not. That's why before you actually make the jump back into the relationship again, it's important to examine the past and ask yourself some serious questions.

"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," marketing director of the dating app Badoo tells Cosmopolitan. Ultimately, it's complicated, but there are ways to approach the situation that can make it easier.

The complications of getting back with an ex

Also known as relationship cycling or relationship churning, getting back together with an ex isn't without its complications. For example, these couples have a higher rate of conflict, including physical and verbal abuse, especially in younger couples, per an excerpt published in the Journal of Marriage & Family. Those who break up and get back together over and over again with little time in between are also more likely to suffer from psychological distress — just think about the emotional and mental turmoil such a vicious cycle can take, according to research in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Science.

Further research on the topic has also found that each time you get back together with an ex, you're both creating more uncertainty about the relationship, lowering expectations for the partnership, and there's a lot of doubt about a future together — even if neither one wants to admit that the doubt is there (via American Psychological Association).

"As the years go by and you haven't met anyone else you've connected with on the same level, it can be too easy to look back on a previous relationship, thinking it was 'the one'," dating expert Hayley Quinn tells Refinery29. "Don't." So, sure, going back to an ex may feel like home in many ways — because there's no denying that familiarity is comforting — but what's lying underneath that is dark and not healthy for either one of you.

When getting back together actually works

Elizabeth Taylor famously married and then divorced Richard Burton just so they could get married again one year later. Then, the pair divorced again one year later. Had Richard Burton lived longer, would they have had another go at it, and would it have worked? Who knows. But, yes, getting back together with an ex, if both partners have done the work that needed to be done, can possibly work in certain situations. 

"Sometimes, with the wisdom of years and experiences in other relationships, people feel like, 'oh gosh, maybe I can work through that gridlock issue we had'," couples therapist Michael McNulty tells the BBC. "[But] people need to know what their irreconcilable issues were before, and really take an honest look at whether or not everything's different now." If it's just a matter of time passing and romanticizing the past with little to no regard to fixing or at least recognizing what led to the breakup, then you can't realistically expect it to work the second (or third!) time around.

As writer Graham Greene so eloquently put it, "Like some wines, our love could neither mature nor travel." In other words, sometimes things are better left in the past, where you can view them from afar, and not get caught up in the possibility of pain and turmoil again. But, hey, if you believe in your heart you are the next Bennifer, then go for it. Just make sure you know the risks and emotional work involved.