The One Who Got Away

By eHarmony Staff

The One Who Got Away

Five reasonable, rational ways to try to “reel in” someone you loved and lost.

Someone once said that romance is like a can of spray paint—once the propellant is gone, it’s done with and over. Fuggeddaboutit! That would certainly seem to be conventional wisdom, judging by how things typically work. Break-ups are usually a one-way street. But not always.

Granted, it is important to avoid clinging to something that is gone for good. In that case, grieve your loss—or let your anger run its course—and then move on. But sometimes it’s possible to back up and take another run at a relationship that just needed a hiatus to allow both people to re-evaluate and regroup. If you think that describes you but you have no idea how to rebuild a bridge that seems thoroughly burned, take heart. Here are five steps for reclaiming the love you thought you lost:

1. Start fresh if you’re going to reunite with an old love, you should approach the situation as a “fresh start” and not just “picking up where we left off.” This means letting go of what’s in the past and looking ahead, with a clean slate, to future possibilities. The idea is to loosen your grip and realize that, if you don’t, you may strangle the very thing you long for—another chance. The truth is, your old relationship is dead and shouldn’t be revived as it was. If you still hope for a future together you must release the past and start over.

2. Understand what really went wrong. If you want to build a house that will last a lifetime, and your first attempt collapses around you, wouldn’t it be wise to figure out WHY before trying again? The same is true of starting over after a relationship falls apart. You must courageously examine yourself, to identify your faults and weaknesses. True, success depends upon changes in both of you, but the only shortcomings you can correct are your own.

3. Enter “rehab.” Knowing where you need to improve is only half the battle. The other half is to take active, effective steps to fix them. If you decide your appearance was part of the problem, then join a gym, update your wardrobe and cut down on fast food. If self-confidence is an issue, find a qualified therapist to help you along or at least read books on how to develop self-esteem. Were you too controlling? Take a meditation class to learn to chill out. The point is, it will take more than words to earn a second chance. You must have evidence that the changes you’ve made are real and permanent.

4. Give it time. None of the above will happen overnight. Furthermore, the dust and ash from the collapse of the old relationship must settle before either of you can see clearly into the future. In other words: Don’t rush it! Resist the temptation to start sending him text messages again, or to drop by her favorite coffee shop when you know she’s there. Patience is key to success, as the ancient Chinese saying implies: “Forcing a project to completion, you ruin what was almost ripe.” Time will mellow your old conflicts—and allow your new potential to mature fully before you put it to the test.

5. Make a move. Eventually you’ll have to reenter his or her life. When you do, be fresh and original. Accentuate the new-and-improved you. Be adventurous, creative, and daring. Assume nothing about his or her preferences. Think outside the box that your old habits had formed around your relationship. Plan a date as if it were your very first and you had one shot at making an impression—because it’s true.

Yes, there is a reason you broke up. But there is also a reason the other person was attracted to you in the first place. To find that potential again, let go, do the work, take your time—and then put your best foot forward.

More: Relationship Killers: 9 Phrases to Nix Now

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