Have you ever gotten back with an ex? How did it go?
April 28, 2021 5:22 AM   Subscribe

A few months ago, my partner of almost two years broke up with me. While it wasn't completely out of the blue since she had gone a bit cold and distant in the leading weeks, it wasn't like we had any relationship issues that had been brought up. I suspected her seasonal depression played a role in things cooling off, but when I asked about it during the break up she said she wasn't sure. Now she texts me out of the blue asking if I wanted to get lunch or dinner to catch up. I'm suspecting she's wanting to get back together and I'm not sure how I want to proceed. I quickly told her I needed to think about it and that was a few days ago. I've never gone back to a relationship that ended before and I'm not sure I can ever get over that she broke up with me without giving me a good reason. I know my circumstances are my own and no one can peer into my or her mind, but I'm looking for some advice or stories of people getting back together to give me some guidance. Thanks
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
yes, and it didn't work out because he was very resentful that I'd dated other people while we were broken up. Plus I guess there was always this doubt that, if he'd left me out of the blue once he could easily do it again. Which didn't exactly make me feel secure.
posted by EllaEm at 5:43 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]

I was in a marriage where we (but not really "we" in the mutual sense) agreed to take a break. That break ended up lasting about six months and during those months I tried to find numerous angles from which to view the break as positively as possible. One resource I found was the book The Sabbatical Marriage, and though I don't recall any of the specifics, I do have a feeling that it gave me a sense of hope that the relationship could come back stronger than ever.

It didn't, instead dying a nasty, vitriol-filled death two years later. In retrospect--at least for us--the pause was one of the signs that we needed to move on with our separate lives.
posted by El_Marto at 5:44 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]

I think you are jumping the gun. What are the chances that she just wants to get lunch or dinner and catch up? Everything else is so far not in evidence, so it seems to me that you are getting ahead of yourself.

I would take her at her word for now, and consider whether or not you actually want to get lunch or dinner to catch up. (It's okay if you don't want to.)
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:44 AM on April 28 [47 favorites]

The most important guidance is your own: what do you want?

If you want to get back together with her, then ask if that's what she's after and decide. If you want to be platonic friends with her, then agree to get together as friends. If you want FWB or something else, say so. And if you want to move on, decline and move on.

Since you asked for anecdotes, I got back together with a high school flame after many years, and while it took some time, the same issues popped up in adulthood that were there as teens, with heavier consequences. You're considering rekindling something a few months after a breakup that you still don't understand because your ex either doesn't know her own mind or doesn't want to tell you.

We are who we are; she is who she is. Do you want the same again, or do you want something different?
posted by headnsouth at 5:47 AM on April 28 [9 favorites]

I have. We celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary this year.

Doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea, but there are exceptions to it always being a bad idea. The year we dated initially was really rough for me for other reasons, and I’ve since realized that my depression cycles can really affect how I feel about our relationship. Even though I did the breaking up, I think he was feeling the end of the relationship at that time too. Neither of us had any specific plans when we started seeing each other again. We hung out because we wanted to hang out as friends, and then we just let it all fall naturally and this is where it’s taken us.

I don’t have a lot of advice, but... it does happen.
posted by obfuscation at 6:01 AM on April 28 [5 favorites]

Like obfuscation, I have, and it worked out; we've been together for nine years now and married for three. She ended our relationship early on because she didn't see a future for us—she was worried her family wouldn't accept her dating someone of another race/faith and we were just out of college, so still really young. We got back together in very similar circumstances to what you think might be happening: she asked me out to lunch, told me she thought she had made a mistake, and asked if I wanted to get back together. I had a hard time forgiving her for it, because I was very unhappy when she broke up with me, but I'm ultimately very thankful I did.
posted by protocoach at 6:12 AM on April 28 [3 favorites]

It depends a lot on the reasons the relationship failed in the first place and what has changed. Experiences in my own life:

1. Ended because we were grossly incompatible, we both said we'd change, we didn't, we broke up again for exactly the same reasons. (nothing changed)

2. Ended with a fizzle out, his mother didn't think I was suitable and he was trying to deal with being in the middle of family and me. He decided he did actually love me and stood up to his mom for the first time in his life, she took it well actually, we got married. (something changed)

3. Closest friends, ended because her parents didn't like him and they were in college and his friends convinced him that he needed to sow his wild oats. He realized he was being idiot, they celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary last week. (something changed)

The trick is what has changed since you broke up. That means you need to have a very clear understanding of why the breakup happened in the first place.

But here's the thing, you CERTAINLY don't have to. If you don't think you can get back together with someone who left you like that (and that is totally reasonable! not being able to communicate something that large is a pretty big red flag), you don't have to, you can say no. Take care of you.
posted by magnetsphere at 6:18 AM on April 28 [22 favorites]

The trick is what has changed since you broke up. That means you need to have a very clear understanding of why the breakup happened in the first place.

this is the most important bit - you need to know what the issues were that led to your breakup (so you can be confident they've changed, or that they could change if the two of you worked on them), or both of you need to be willing to do the work to identify those issues so that you can deal with them.

if figuring that out sounds exhausting and you can't think of reasons why it'd be worth going to that effort, you have your answer.
posted by inire at 6:25 AM on April 28 [8 favorites]

Unless you're leaving something out (like, when she broke up with you, she hinted about leaving the door open in future), I wouldn't assume that she wants to get back together. It could be that she actually wants to see how you're doing, or that she hopes that you can be friends, or even wants to apologize for breaking up for no reason. I'm also wondering if your thoughts about her wanting to get back together are your own wishful thinking?

Either way, figure out if you want to meet up with her. Do you want to see how she's doing, spend time with her that you'll never get back? It's ok to decline.

On getting back with an ex, this article might help.
posted by foxjacket at 6:37 AM on April 28 [9 favorites]

I spent most of my late 20s in an on-again off-again relationship. We'd date for a couple months, break up over something minor, and then get back together a couple weeks later. It seemed OK at the time: although I'd go on some dates during breaks, I didn't have to worry too much about whether they'd work out because I knew my ex and I would probably end up dating again either way. In retrospect, it was kind of exhausting. I feel like I wasted a lot of time trying to make something work that was never going to work. We were good friends who weren't compatible romantically, and so while we enjoyed each other's company quite a bit, that wasn't enough to deal with the things that come with being in a relationship. The best thing that happened was that she started dating someone (whom she eventually married) who was friendly toward me, so that we could still hang out but not have to worry about "being together".

Questions for you to consider: Did you want to continue the relationship at the time? Would you still be interested in dating her again, even knowing that she broke up with you for what seems to you like no apparent reason? Are you willing to keep dealing with that over and over? Are you just doing this because it's easier than meeting someone new? If she says that something you did caused the breakup, are you willing to change how you do those things?
posted by kevinbelt at 6:53 AM on April 28 [5 favorites]

Yes, my now-husband and I broke up 3x when we were dating, once about 8 months in, then at about 2 years in, then again at the 4 year mark. I guess the 3rd time was when we realized we were stuck with one another. We have been happily married four almost 3 years now but consider our relationship to be almost 14 years old. We don't count those breakups because I don't think we ever wanted to be apart for a second, we were just really struggling with our individual issues.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:32 AM on April 28

I had a friends with benefits type relationship in college that fell apart because I got more feelings than the other person. WE got back together about 3 years later and had a regular real relationship that lasted around 6 years. Its ending wasnt related to the first breakup and I don't regret getting back together with them even though it didn't end in forever.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:42 AM on April 28

I have gotten back together with an ex. It was a mess and I wound up just having to do the whole miserable break up over again. I have also had the opposite, where I got back together (the break up only lasted 3 weeks in this case as we both realized quickly that it was a mistake) and eventually married the guy and we are still together 20 years later.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:02 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]

I am in a similar sounding situation right now. Partner ended the romantic part of a relationship because I no longer fit into their life. Later, they requested coffee. I responded to a request like this with (paraphrase):

"What reason do we have for getting coffee in-person? If you have info or questions, could they be handled by email instead? I haven't changed. Has something changed at your end around boundaries, desires or perceptions?"

They didn't have a good reason, other than expressing sadness, and withdrew the invitation.

I am not willing to go back to have the relationship fail in exactly the same way.

(In the stories above that worked, I notice how many involved change for one or both participants.)
posted by gregglind at 8:09 AM on April 28 [7 favorites]

As mentioned upthread, I think it’s more to do with the circumstances surrounding the breakup. In my case, we broke up because we were both going away to college and we both thought it was unfair to the other to tie them down at a distance, but stayed friendly. After experiencing not being tied down, we agreed that being tied together was better. I’d be a lot more hesitant about breakups involving incompatibilities.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:22 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]

I definitely have a few of these in my social circle, but as others have observed what they all have in common is that the original relationship was generally as quite young barely-adults and the time apart (generally on the order of 2-5 years) was necessary for them to become fully-rounded adults. And even then, I think there's an element of luck that both parties reached the right time and place in their lives at the same time they had the opportunity to reconnect.

In breakup time, a few months is often the point where people reach some clarity about the real relationship and personal issues that led to the breakup. Some people mistake that feeling as some kind of impetus or at least a great idea to try again, but I think the most appropriate outcome is to feel those feelings and let them make you a better partner in the future with someone else. Certainly the ex is not the right person to process those feelings with; a therapist or uninvolved friend is best.

Some people do get really attached to the idea of "let's stay friends!" and the few-months point seems like a good time to start having lunch periodically or whatever, but I think any relationship over maybe 4-6 months not ended by true mutual agreement needs a cooling-off period of at least a year if not years before that's really feasible.

In summary, feel free to decline the invite.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:08 AM on April 28 [3 favorites]

I did. I did it against my better judgment, but I was so in love that I second guessed my hunch that he would repeat the same stuff (he did) and leave me in the lurch again (he did). I'm not saying I made the wrong decision to take him back, but I did make a bad decision. I'm glad I made that bad decision, though--I can say that now, a couple of years distant from the final split, which shattered me so thoroughly that it took me a very long time to get back up in more or less one piece--because I know I gave everything I had available to that man, to that relationship, and he treated it with the dignity of a burger wrapper. I'll never doubt that it could have ended any differently.

Whatever you choose, protect your heart and be well.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:17 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]

I know you asked for stories of getting back together.

Mine is not that - I did not get back together with my ex (we also had some on-again, off-again periods), and met my husband right after - we've been married almost 27 years now. He also stayed with the person-he-cheated-on-me-with after I did not get back together with him, and they have been married I think 24 years? Something similar. So, just a story from the other side, so to speak.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:19 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]

I can’t respond directly to the question you pose, but gregglind’s suggestion above — to ask “have you changed, or are you still the same?” — is an intriguing one.
posted by PaulVario at 9:19 AM on April 28

Jumped in to say that I just this past Saturday had a very nice lunch with my ex. We were together for eight years and broke up two years ago. He's an introvert and has some issues with depression and I've been genuinely worried about the effects of the pandemic and its attendant isolation on his mood and outlook. I reached out to him as someone who cares deeply for him and knows that he has few social connections. My intentions had nothing to do with rekindling the relationship. Perhaps see where you ex's head is at and then decide.
posted by simonelikenina at 9:46 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]

I did and it worked out badly. Few of the issues that had fueled the original breakup had been resolved and the other person and I were pretty young and not great at communication and compromise. After the original breakup we had made some effort to move toward a friendly relationship; after the second, the whole thing was scorched-earth and there was no coming back to some sort of friendly ex relationship.

Were I to consider it now I'd want to have a very clear sense of what had caused the breakup and what specific, clear things had happened to remove those issues. And I would take it very, very slow.
posted by Stacey at 10:57 AM on April 28

I'm only mentioning this because no one else has: ex sex is a known phenomenon.

After two years, she broke up with you somewhat abruptly, and you suspect seasonal depression played a role. Now it's months later, the weather's changed, and pandemic distancing recommendations aren't conducive to low-risk hook-ups with unfamiliar people. Think about how you'd want to proceed, if it turns out that a night in, or an ongoing FWB offer, is sparking her texting (rather than any desire to get back together or transition to simple friendship, as in other answers).
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:34 AM on April 28 [9 favorites]

I had a firm rule never to go back.

I broke it for my ex. I wanted to believe it would work this time. The fundamental problem had not changed, though, and so it didn't work that time either. I thought love would be enough to make it work, and either it isn't, or it wasn't really love.

I did this five times. Each successive breakup got harder to do, and harder to bear.

I again have a firm rule never to go back.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:54 AM on April 28 [3 favorites]

She could be reaching out to say goodbye F2F before she moves to another country. Or to let you know she's getting married. Or to let you know she was pregnant with your child. Anything really. I think you should gently ask her what she wants to discuss before you get together.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 1:13 PM on April 28 [5 favorites]

Yes I have and wasted four years of my life. Ugh.
posted by Coaticass at 2:49 PM on April 28 [3 favorites]

I asked for a divorce, but let my spouse talk me out of it.

Which was a mistake. It led to a cold, unhappy decade for both of us and after that we divorced anyway.

If you're a placator or have a history of letting yourself be walked over... be very, very careful here.
posted by humbug at 4:15 PM on April 28 [4 favorites]

I got back together with an ex for about a month or two last summer when covid case counts were low. It got about as chaotic and messy as I’d expected/feared and it is for the best that our second attempt didn’t last longer. But also I have no regrets because as a single, un-podded person in the middle of a pandemic, having some touch and physical connection with someone I have a history with was extremely nourishing.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:38 AM on April 29

First case: college boyfriend, very dramatic on-again, off-again relationship. As you might expect, ultimately ended poorly with hurt feelings all around and a social blast radius.

Second case: now-husband, both of us are conflict-avoidant and not naturally good communicators; lack of communication led us to break up very abruptly. Gave it another try a few months after that; we've been together for 12 years since, going on 8 married. Obviously no relationship is perfect, but we put a whole lot of time and energy into learning how to have a healthier relationship, including through therapy and premarital classes, and I think it paid off. Critically, no abuse or infidelity have ever been a part of the story.

So, like, obviously it could go any number of ways but I think it's important to go in with your eyes wide open and follow your gut, not your hopes. And nthing to ask what they want to talk about and think about your boundaries and limits in advance of any meetup. Post-breakup hookups are a cliche for a reason.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 2:11 PM on April 29 [1 favorite]

I've gotten back together with more than one ex. With one ex, he was wishy washy and could never quite make up his mind whether he wanted to be with me or not. That was exactly the disaster you'd imagine. (Finally broke that cycle dating a nice girl who convinced me how terrible he was for me.)
A much better time was breaking up with my sweetheart because we were going to college in separate states. Getting back together with the goal of dating didn't work for me (too hard to enjoy dating from a distance) but was great once we had a goal for after college (getting married and living in our hometown). We've been married for 18 years and I love every day with him. (But still miss him like crazy every time he goes on a business trip.)
So, my general rule is, only get back together if you know why this time is going to be different. You don't even really know why you broke up, I think you'll need to find that out before you can find out that it can't happen again.
posted by blueberry monster at 3:51 PM on May 2 [1 favorite]

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