10 questions you need to ask yourself before getting back with your ex

Psychologist and relationship expert Briony Leo explains that sometimes rekindling an old flame ~is~ a good idea. But before you do, here are the questions you should ask yourself first. 

We’ve all got that one ex-partner that we just can’t shake off. Maybe they were your first love. Maybe your relationship ended due to circumstances neither of you could control. Maybe you still think about them (and not just late at night or when you’re drunk). It can all add up to a niggling feeling that makes you ask yourself ‘Maybe, we should we get back together…?’

Recently, ex-spouses Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston reunited on screen for a charity reading of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and we could deduce from the sheer number of memes it created that the world at large knows that feeling of being drawn to an old flame. And knows it well.

In Brad and Jen’s case, the internet has long held hope for these two getting back together – with the pair fuelling the fire that it might/maybe/could actually happen after their warm display of affection backstage at the 2020 SAG Awards.

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During the Zoom call, Jen coos to her ex-husband “Hi, Brad. You know how cute I always thought you were,” she recited. “I think you’re so sexy. Will you come to me?” It made even Brad blush. Julia Roberts’ elated/excited face as she watches the exchange taking place really does says it all.

But just because the internet seems to want to see these famous exes get back together, does it mean they – or heck, anyone – should seriously consider going back to an old love? Just because of a few stray sparks on a Zoom call?

One has to ask; will it work out better the second time, or did you break up for a good reason – a reason that perhaps still exists?

I asked psychologist and relationship expert Briony Leo for her professional advice on how to decide if restarting a relationship with an ex-partner is ever a good idea, and she provided 10 reflective questions that anyone should ask themself before diving back in the ring for round two.

Still thinking about your ex?

Often with ex partners, there can feel like there is ‘unfinished business’ – especially if the relationship ended in a non-mutual way. Sometimes there can be a lot of chemistry and shared values, and passion, but things end because of external circumstances, or one person wants to move on. I’d guess that if you have an ex who has some kind of pull over you, there are still romantic feelings towards them, or there is still hope for some kind of relationship in the future.

It might also be that we have a ‘soft spot’ for an ex, where we still want them in our lives, but not in a romantic way. The reality is that when we end a relationship, those feelings don’t automatically go away, and we might still hold some residual emotions even if we’ve moved on.

Does chemistry with your ex ~mean~ anything?

Chemistry with an ex-partner might mean that there is unfinished business – or that your current relationship might need some attention. It is really helpful – if you’re noticing that there is chemistry between you – to talk it out with someone to figure out whether this is to do with where you are right now (ie. are they offering something you’re not getting in your current relationship – or if you’re single, are they filling a gap for you and offering comfort and familiarity)?

We can sometimes fall into old dynamics and patterns, but if this is the case – and you are considering starting something again – it is good to reflect on what it was that ended the relationship in the first place – and whether that has changed.

Can a relationship ever better the second time?

There are always stories of this – of people finding happiness the second time around. Again, it is good to get the most objective sense of what is happening – and whether you have both resolved the issues that ended things in the first place.

Sometimes having gone off and had new experiences and different relationships can be great – because that involves learning and personal growth, as well as a shift in perspective. Additionally, it isn’t quite like starting from scratch, since you know each other already and are aware of how you are in a relationship.

Again, openness, honesty and the ability to be completely truthful with yourself is necessary here – are you seeking them out again because things are different, or because you are lonely or unhappy?

10 questions to yourself if you’re considering getting back with your ex

1. What were the reasons we broke up in the first place?

2. What has changed for them? For me?

3. How am I feeling in my life right now – could this attraction be to do with my unhappiness or dissatisfaction?

4. How are THEY feeling in their life right now? Could their interest be to do with something going on for them? (eg. they may have just gone through a breakup)

5. Knowing what I do about their negative qualities – can I live with these, or will this be a deal-breaker?

6. Remembering how things were just before we broke up – am I prepared to go through something like this again?

7. How open are they to talking about what happened in the past, and committing to doing things differently this time (possibly involving relationship counselling or coaching).

8. Have we dealt with the hurt and pain from the breakup – or will this come back to haunt us at a later date?

9. Looking five years down the track, are they the person that you’d like to be with – or are you taking a step backwards and away from the relationship you’d like?

10. Do we share similar values and goals? Do we have the ability to communicate well and trust each other – and if not, are we both willing to learn how to do this?

Briony Leo is an Australian psychologist, currently based in New York City, with specialist training in EMDR, Neurofeedback, Schema Therapy and ACT therapy. You can find here here.