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Getting Back Together

How do you know if reuniting after a breakup is an awesome—or awful—idea?

Many wedded couples tell stories of temporary breakups on their journey to the altar. They parted ways briefly only to discover they couldn’t live without each other. Other folks reunite with an old boyfriend or girlfriend and go on to experience yet another breakup or, much worse, an unhappy marriage and even divorce. These people wish they would’ve stayed broken up and moved on to other prospects.

If you’re considering—or simply longing for—getting back together with a former partner, how do you know which way your story will turn out? Though you can’t predict the future, you can and should “look before you leap” to give yourself the best shot at lasting love. Start with these strategies:

Assess the level of toxicity in the relationship. Certain behaviors are incompatible with a healthy, long-term romantic partnership. These include addictions, emotional or physical abuse, and character issues such as lying, stealing or cheating. If any of these behaviors were present in your relationship the first time around—or if you often felt isolated, sad, trapped, criticized, belittled, or afraid—don’t go back. Consider your freedom, as lonely as it might seem right now, a gift.

Determine if your heart is overruling your head. Love and hope are powerful emotions, as is our fear of being alone. So it can be tempting to justify toxic behavior with the hope that things will be different this time. While change at a deep level is certainly possible, it’s not likely. Don’t set yourself up for more heartache by going back into a clearly toxic relationship simply because your heart is telling you to. In time, that feeling will go away. Researchers say that brain chemistry often keeps us longing for an old flame, but that sense of longing dissipates in about ten weeks (or even sooner).

Don’t revise your romantic history together. To get an accurate picture of your prior relationship together, avoid mentally airbrushing out the blemishes. No relationship is perfect—you did break up, after all—and it’s wise to recognize what was good and not so good the first time around. Approach the future by looking at the past with a clear head and open eyes, not through the colored lens of selective memory and wishful thinking. Of course, it might be that time and distance have given you a new perspective. You realize that the “significant” things that bothered you before are actually insignificant.

Ask yourself important questions. If you broke up with someone once, you want to make a calculated, well-considered decision before getting back together. That process is helped along by honestly addressing important questions, such as:

• During our relationship, did we bring out the best in each other? If so, why did we break up and what’s different now?
• Are we considering getting back together because we’re lonely, or do we agree that we had something special that is worth fighting for?
• If the issues that broke us up aren’t completely resolved, are we willing to consider counseling to work through these obstacles?
• What am I willing to change to make it work this time? Are the changes I’m considering healthy? Will they make me a better person, or are they unhealthy concessions?

If you’re debating whether to get back together with someone, remember: Reuniting with someone you’re pretty sure is wrong for you is never a healthy choice, even if it feels right at the moment. At the same time, some relationships are worth fighting for, and sometimes we really do get a second chance to take something good and turn it into something great.

Did you ever get back together with someone – how did that work out?