Getting Back With an Ex
The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Music Credits: “Nothing to Hide,” by Allah-Las
Getting Back With An Ex
If you’ve ever wondered about getting back with an Ex, you’re in good company. It’s very common to fantasize about reconnecting with an Ex. You might be looking for signs that you and your Ex will get back together, finding reasons to see them (do you really need that old toothbrush you left at their place?), or might be trying to figure out if you can be friends with your Ex.
Attachment Bonds Endure
Even if, in your heart of hearts, you know that the relationship had issues (or was even toxic) it’s very hard to break your attachment bond. We don’t flip off our feelings for someone like turning out a light. What does it mean that you still have feelings for your Ex? Or that you want to stay friends with your Ex? Is that a sign that you should get back together?
Stages of Healing After a Breakup
I’ve worked with many people as a divorce counselor and breakup therapist through their journey of healing from a broken heart, and heck, I’ve even written a book about it. (Here’s the link to Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to an ex Love, if you’re interested.) Because of this, I know that one of the stages of healing after a breakup is missing your Ex, thinking about your Ex all the time, wondering if you’ll get back together, and trying to maintain your attachment to them — even if it’s just “being friends.” Nearly everyone goes through this, whether or not the relationship is salvageable (or even healthy).
These feelings are confusing, and it can be difficult to know what to do. And, frankly, they can cause problems.
This swirl of painful feelings can lead people to cling to an Ex under the guise of “just being friends” (or worse, “friends with benefits”) which makes it difficult for them to heal, grow and move on emotionally. Similarly, I’ve seen couples spend way too long breaking up and getting back together, over and over, until someone wisely calls it quits for the last time.
But (and here’s the extremely confusing part) sometimes couples DO successfully get back together after taking a break, and can go on to have a positive new chapter in their relationship with each other. In these cases, the separation was a catalyst of personal growth for both of them. It helped them make positive changes in themselves, which allowed them to have a better relationship with each other.
It’s also true that some former partners CAN go on to have grand friendships with each other that they describe as being even better and more fulfilling than their romantic relationship ever was.
Can You Get Back With The Ex? Should You Be Friends With An Ex?
So how do you know whether or not you should trust those feelings that are making you wonder if you should get back with your Ex? Or stay friends with your Ex? And how do you know when those feelings are keeping you stuck in an unhealthy attachment, or leading you into another round of eventual broken-hearted misery?
That is the zillion dollar question, and that is why we’re devoting a whole episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to helping you work through it. My guest today is expert breakup counselor and divorce therapist Kensington O., M.A., MFT-C. Kensington is an experienced breakup coach who, among other things, runs our online breakup support group here at Growing Self.
She has worked with many people grappling with these questions, and has helped them figure out whether to get back together, be friends, or just work through the grief of relationship loss and move on. Today she’s sharing her advice with you so that you can get clarity and direction too.
Expert Breakup Advice Podcast
Should you get back with the Ex? Is reconnecting with an Ex a good idea? Can you be friends with an Ex? That’s what we’re discussing! You can listen to this episode right here, or find it on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Show-notes are below, and you can find a full transcript at the bottom of this post.
What’s your story? Did you get back with an Ex? Or try to be friends with an Ex? If not, how did you get over your Ex and move on emotionally? Share your advice with our community, or ask Kensington and me a follow-up question in the comments section below.
Wishing you all the best,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Getting Back With An Ex: Episode Highlights
Questioning whether or not ending a relationship was the right choice is a natural stage of any breakup. As breakup recovery counselors and coaches, we see this all the time at Growing Self. Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to an Ex Love” explains that it’s normal to question whether ending the relationship was right, or whether or not you and your Ex can get back together or at least stay friends.
This uncertainty and confusion around your relationship with an Ex can be especially intense in the winter, particularly during the holidays. You may have holiday memories that trigger longing for your Ex. You may have less to do in the winter, you may spend more time alone, and your thoughts may turn to an old relationship.
These questions are hard to answer, and the mix of lingering feelings for your Ex can make them even harder. After a breakup, it’s normal to not be able to stop thinking about your Ex. You may wonder if all that mental energy means something is unresolved.
To help you sort through the confusion, Dr. Bobby is joined by Kensington Osmond, a fellow MFT, divorce counselor, and breakup therapist at Growing Self.
Getting Back With An Ex
Kensington explains that losing an important relationship naturally triggers grief, and a normal part of the grieving process is questioning whether ending the relationship is really the right choice for you.
These feelings can be especially confusing when the relationship was toxic or just not entirely positive, as rationally, you likely know that the breakup was for the best. You can be addicted to a toxic relationship, or an unhealthy one, and powerful attachment bonds will keep you missing your Ex, despite what you know rationally.
Dr. Bobby acknowledges that some “breakups” really do transform into breaks, and couples reconnect and resume their relationship, hopefully having learned new things about themselves and each other in the process.
The key to knowing whether to listen to these feelings telling you to reconnect with your Ex, or dismiss them, is assessing whether you’re simply grieving and missing the person, or whether there are compelling reasons that the relationship may actually be right for you. Think through why the relationship ended and whether anything can be improved or resolved, says Kensington.
Missing Your Ex When You Were the Dumper
Normally the partner who ended the relationship had some time to disconnect emotionally before the breakup, and weigh out the pros and cons of staying together or calling it quits in the relationship. The partner who didn’t choose the breakup may be forced to wrestle with letting go of that attachment, when it wasn’t their choice.
Still, even if you were the one to end your relationship, it’s natural to miss your Ex and wonder whether you made the right choice, Kensington says.
Growing Self hosts a breakup recovery group for people working through the ends of their relationships, where other people grieving a breakup can offer empathy and support. Sometimes, these groups offer better support than family and friends, who may not understand how profoundly painful a breakup can be if they aren’t currently experiencing it themselves.
Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?
According to Dr. Bobby, the desire to remain friends with an Ex is often just the desire to not fully release the attachment. There may be a hidden agenda, or a clinging to the hope that if you remain friends, you’ll reconnect romantically at some point.
While there is no hard rule around being friends with an Ex, Kensington points out that it rarely works to shift from an intense romantic attachment to a friendship. The romantic element of a relationship needs time to fade away before a friendship can be formed.
Being Friends With an Ex
If you’re co-parenting or sharing a pet, you may have to be friends, or at least friendly, with an Ex. Or you may simply want to keep your Ex in your life as a friend.
Whatever a friendship with an Ex means to you, it’s important to think through what those friendship boundaries would look like and how close you want the relationship to be, Kensington says. It’s also important to think about whether holding on to your Ex will keep you from forming new romantic connections with someone else. This may not be a tradeoff you would make intentionally, but not wanting to let go of the attachment could influence you more than you realize, she says.
How to Be Friends With an Ex
People want to stay friends for different reasons after a breakup. The dumper may feel less guilty if they offer to remain friends, for example. They may also simply be hoping that they can continue seeing their former partner, without the commitment of a relationship.
This leaves the grieving/still attached partner in a very vulnerable place, says Dr. Bobby, because they may be willing to accept this “friendship,” rather than let go, which could slow down their healing.
The key to navigating this, says Kensington, is developing self-compassion, which will allow you to advocate for yourself and set healthy boundaries with an Ex. If you can be kind to yourself and put your own well-being first, you can avoid connecting with your Ex in ways that won’t be healthy for you.
Kensington emphasizes that this is a journey, not a one-step process, and that it takes time to release your attachment and establish a healthy friendship with an Ex, if that is your goal.
Staying Friends With An Ex
Social media can be particularly triggering for people getting over an Ex. Seeing a post from a former lover can feel a lot like relapsing from an addiction, according to Kensington. A picture of your Ex can put you back into a mindset that you’ve been working to escape. For that reason, consider unfollowing or even blocking your Ex, Kensington says.
Once your attachment system has died down a bit, it will be easier for you to assess from a rational place whether or not a friendship with your Ex is healthy for you. In the meantime, focus on letting go.
Reconnecting With Your Ex
There are certain situations when reconsidering a relationship is a perfectly reasonable choice, according to Kensington.
This may happen when the circumstances in you or your former partner’s life during your relationship prevented you from showing up in the way you wanted to show up. You or your partner may have since been able to do some growth work that could make another try worthwhile.
It’s important to remember you can only control your own growth work, and not your former partner’s, however. If they’re not interested in growing or changing, you can’t force them.
The key is thinking through these things intentionally together, and not just jumping back into bed on a whim.
Signs You and Your Ex Will Get Back Together
Before getting back with an Ex, look for real, tangible signs that something has changed for the positive, Kensington says. Think through the problems in your former relationship, and assess how they may have shifted since the breakup.
You may have a conversation with your Ex about what you’d like to be different in the relationship, and what has changed to bring that difference about.
Seeing real, intentional effort from your Ex (and yourself) to bring about positive change is a good sign your relationship may deserve a second try.
Back With Your Ex
If you do get back with your Ex, it’s important to take it slow, and really assess how the relationship feels this time around, as if it was a new relationship. There are stages to getting back together with an Ex — pay attention to where you and your partner are at.
Look for red flags and green flags that the relationship is struggling, or going well. Follow up on the problems you’ve run into in the past, and how they may have changed since your first experience with this person, Kensington says.
One of the most important things you can do to improve your own relationships is learning about your attachment style, according to Kensington, and how it affects your relationships with others. This can change how you respond to your partners, and create healthier relationship patterns going forward.
People fall into a few different categories when it comes to attachment styles, with some of us having a deep, driving need for intimacy and closeness, and others feeling uncomfortable with intimacy and closeness. “Secure attachers” tend to be pretty comfortable with closeness, and to not feel too preoccupied about their relationships.
The ways we attach to our partners affect how we respond to them, and becoming aware of your own attachment style can help you step back and respond with intention, rather than simply reacting.
Building emotional intelligence is another great way to grow before re-entering an old relationship (or a new one). Close relationships require talking about feelings. Learning to be more in touch with your own and aware of those of others can make those conversations easier for you. It can also help you manage your feelings in a way that’s better for you and your partner.
Getting Back Together After a Breakup
Unless you’ve done some work on yourself, and your partner has as well, the relationship is unlikely to feel much different from the first time around, according to Dr. Bobby. Good intentions and big promises simply aren’t enough to change old patterns for the better, unfortunately.
When people breakup, get back together, and breakup again, it’s likely because they haven’t found the tools to change deeply ingrained patterns — either theirs or their partner’s — that keep the relationship from functioning in a healthy way.
The most important thing to remember if you’re going through a breakup and thinking about getting back together with an Ex, according to Kensington, is that you’re not alone. This is a very common response to releasing a powerful attachment bond, and it can feel very difficult and intense. Listen to podcasts like this one, read about breakup recovery, and join groups of people going through what you’re going through who can offer you real empathy and support as you heal.
Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast
Getting Back With an Ex
The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Music Credits: “Nothing to Hide,” by Allah-Las
Free, Expert Advice — For You.
Subscribe To The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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