Last year, Maria* from Toronto rekindled a romance with her high school sweetheart after having been apart for more than 12 years. When asked to explain why they reunited, she said: “When we broke up, we both had a lot of growing up to do. Now, we’re both in a different place. It just feels right.” A year and a half later, Maria and her beau are happily married and have a baby boy.
These fairytale endings are few and far between in relationships, but they do happen. It is possible for couples to break up, get back together and stay together. Somewhere between hearing one of these stories and watching Love Actually for the 60th time, many of us have had a moment where we think of an ex and ponder “What if?”.
If you are toying with the idea of getting back together with an ex, here are five things you should ask yourself before you take the plunge:
1. Do you miss them or just the idea of them?
Being in a relationship with someone comes with a lot of great perks: you never have to worry about sitting in a movie theatre alone and there’s always someone to eat brunch with on Sunday morning. When you spend time dating someone you develop routines. Regardless of who ended the relationship, when you break up, the absence of this other person leaves a gap in your social life. This is a good time to evaluate whether you miss the person – their personality, the conversations you had, the way they made you feel – or, do you just miss the feeling of not being lonely?
2. Are you idealizing the relationship?
The further you get from the relationship and the ugliness of the subsequent break-up, the easier it becomes to idealize the positive aspects of your time together. It’s so much more fun to daydream about the butterflies you had when you first met than it is to remember times you weren’t happy or fulfilled. Take a moment to acknowledge the good times but also make a list of the bad. Once you have all the facts in front of you, it will be easier to see whether the positive outweighs the negative or vice versa.
3. What went wrong the first time and has anything changed?
Were the reasons you broke up circumstantial? For example, were you struggling with a long distance relationship but are now living in the same city? Or, did your problems stem from more fundamental issues that are less easily remedied? For example, if you have conflicting religious views that make it difficult for you to be together or for your families to accept. If it’s not likely that the circumstances will change, you have to decide whether you are willing to live with them and try to work through your differences.
4. Are you prepared to do the work?
We live in a world of instant gratification and quick solutions. While you’re fantasizing about all the great make-up sex you’re going to have, it’s easy to assume that once you’re back together, all of your issues will magically work themselves out. Rebuilding a relationship is hard work. You’re going to have to confront the issues you have as a couple and own up to what role you played in them. This can be a really difficult process to go through. You have to ask yourself whether you’re prepared for things to get a bit ugly before they get better.
5. Would you be embarrassed to tell your friends you’re dating again?
This is the Litmus test as to whether you should be dating this person. If you know your friends will react to the news with dropped jaws, concerned looks or offers to get your head examined, you might want to think this over. It’s important to make your own decisions when it comes to your relationships, however, your friends are looking out for you. When everything fell apart with your ex, these were the people standing by with consolatory margaritas. If you imagine them reacting this way it’s because you know that they don’t think this is the right person for you. Deep down, you probably know this too.
When considering getting back to together with your ex, it’s important to always be honest with yourself. It will save you a lot of pain in the long run. What lead to a happy ending for someone else, might not be right for you. Sometimes break-ups are just the universe’s way of tapping you on the shoulder to say, “Don’t panic. This person just isn’t the one.”
*Name has been changed
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.