I’ve experienced my fair share of breakups—in fact, my ex-boyfriend (of six years) and I broke up a whopping 15 times. Clearly, we weren’t meant to be… but we tried our best to fit a square into a circle until we finally realized it would never fit. We would never fit. The apologies, the third and fourth and fifth chances, the blind faith, the insistence that this time it would work out: all unwarranted. Unfortunately, we didn’t know any better, nor did we seek professional guidance. But today, we’re both better people and partners because of the experience. And we now know just how important it is to make mature, healthy, and educated decisions regarding our relationships—which is exactly why I called upon Dr. Fran Walfish, family and relationship psychotherapist, author of “The Self-Aware Parent,” and regular expert child psychologist on “The Doctors,” CBS TV. She’s here to answer five of the most common questions about breakups and help you make the best possible decisions regarding your relationship. Here are those five questions and her corresponding answers:
Q: Are there any obvious signs that it might be a good idea to get back with an ex?
A: “Signs that it might be a good idea to reconcile with an ex include: he expresses and demonstrates genuine accountability and remorse for having hurt you. Generally, it is a hurt that ruptures and destructs a relationship. Another sign is that your ex demonstrates change with continuity. Anyone can change for a moment. But being flexible and sustaining real change is the key we are looking for in a life partner.”
Q. Are there any obvious signs that it might be a terrible idea to get back with an ex?
A: “One sure obvious sign to not get back together with an ex includes: you keep getting blamed for all things gone wrong. There is no shared responsibility; you are virtually in this relationship alone!”
Q: Is there a timeframe you suggest a couple stay broken up for before considering getting back together?
A: “No, there is no specific time frame required to stay apart before considering and trying to reconcile. That being said, oftentimes it is useful to involve an experienced clean-slate third party such as a therapist, clergy, or counselor to help clarify and guide the process.”
Q: Is it possible to get back together with an ex after you have both slept with or dated other people since the breakup?
A: “Yes, it is possible to get back together with an ex after you have both (or one of you) slept with or dated others while broken up. If, in fact, the dating and sexual encounters occurred while ‘broken up’ no disclosures are required. You were single at the time. If, however, it was not clear that you were separating and moving on permanently, then things get complicated. I have treated couples specifically dealing with the myriad of feelings that emerge when fidelity is breached.”
Q: How can you tell the difference between being sad after a breakup and genuinely wanting to get back with an ex?
A: “Most people feel an empty, lonely, sad feeling after a breakup. Others may feel relief when the relationship has been filled with conflicts, anger, and fighting. The real question is how do you take your own emotional temperature and know the difference between neediness and the impulse to return to a negative relationship or the hope for an improved relationship with your ex? The answer is self-awareness. One must be brutally honest at all times, including when we experience our deepest pain. It is natural and absolutely normal to feel needy. We are interdependent beings who need each other. And we can only come to another person as a complete and separately contained, whole individual without the expectation of the other gilling up gaps and holes. But rather, two wholes equal the best couple.”
Explore the latest mental wellness tips and discussions, delivered straight to your inbox.
Start a Relationship with An Exceptional Counselor
- Skilled and caring professional counselors
- Accepting all major and most insurances
- High-touch customer service & premium benefits
- Same- or next-day appointments
- Ultra-flexible 23.5hr cancellations