Lots of us have past relationships that we think back on fondly. You might even fantasize about what it would be like if that relationship had lasted or if you could get back together today. But what if you can?
Getting back with your ex years after your first breakup can be wonderful or it can be an utter disaster. Let’s look at how you can reconnect with an ex after many years and have a great new relationship.
Table of Contents
The first question to ask yourself if you’re considering getting back with your ex is whether you have a realistic memory of your last relationship. Are you able to look back at it objectively, or are you selectively remembering all of the good bits? Most of us do have slightly selective impressions of our partners and our exes.
If you want to have a successful relationship with your ex that lasts, it’s important that you’re able to be honest with yourself about your past relationship. This means recognizing the things that were fantastic and the things that weren’t, the things that he did wrong, and the ones that were your fault.
Check whether you have rose-tinted glasses on by trying to remember the boring, frustrating, or annoying parts of the relationship. Remember your typical week together. If you’re constantly distracted by specific fantastic events or holidays together, you’re probably not remembering the relationship accurately.
This point might be slightly contentious, but I think that there might be trouble in store if you start a new relationship with your ex but you still blame someone else for your first breakup. It’s ok if you disagree, but it’s definitely worth thinking about and drawing your own conclusion.
This is because I don’t believe that it’s possible to break up a perfectly healthy relationship. If you split up because someone else seduced him, he still made the decision to cheat. If it was because someone else spread rumors about you, there still wasn’t enough trust in the relationship to withstand that.
In my experience, someone else breaking up a relationship is always working on an existing weakness. If you want to have a good relationship with your ex, you need to understand the weakness in your relationship that led to your first breakup.
One reason for getting back together with an ex that is a red flag for me is when you’re trying to fix an old wound.
For example, if your ex cheated on you in the past, your self-esteem might have taken a big hit. It’s tempting to get back together years later to prove to yourself that he made a mistake. You feel as though your self-esteem will be healed by the new relationship.
This isn’t a healthy start to any relationship, and it makes it less likely that you’ll be able to deal with any of the baggage from your shared past. You run the risk of them treating you in exactly the same way, which can damage you further.
There are better ways to heal old wounds. If you have unresolved issues around your breakup, consider talking to a qualified counselor or therapist before you get back together with your ex years later. They can help you to explore your past and make an informed decision about your new relationship.
Sometimes getting back into a relationship with an ex, especially one from years ago, can feel like safety or even like reclaiming your childhood. Try to remember that everything is simpler when we’re younger, especially during school or college.
Your new relationship with your ex is probably going to be more complicated than it was the first time around. You both have more baggage now, and you might even have ex-spouses and children.
Make sure that you’re genuinely excited about your ex, rather than just responding to their connection to your past and the comfort that brings.
If there was abuse in your last relationship with your ex, be very wary of getting back into a relationship with him years later. There is a chance that he has grown and developed, but you’re still taking a risk.
When you get back into a relationship with an ex, it’s very easy to fall into your old behavior patterns and habits. If those were toxic, it might be more likely that this relationship will go the same way.
You also know that your ex is capable of being abusive. He might have changed, but that’s a big gamble to take. Leaving an abusive partner can be really difficult. I strongly suggest not putting yourself in the same position again.
Remember that you don’t have to date him just because you used to love him and he’s changed. Him changing his abusive behavior is great, but it doesn’t come with a ticket to your heart and/or bed. He needed to change because his behavior was morally wrong, not to win you back.
You weren’t responsible for his abuse. You’re not responsible for rewarding him for not being abusive. And if he goes back to being abusive if you won’t date him again, he had never changed in the first place.
Sometimes, you might feel tempted to get back together with an ex because you feel as though you treated them badly, either during the relationship or as part of the breakup. Again, a relationship isn’t a prize you dish out to reward someone or to make up for having hurt them.
If you feel residual guilt over your first relationship, try to address it before you get back together years later. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t get back together, but you’ll need to be able to work through your guilt if your new relationship is going to be healthy.
One of the biggest obstacles to having a relationship with your ex years later is that they might already be seeing someone or in a committed relationship. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to get back together with someone, even if the feelings are still there.
If you still love your ex, consider whether the time is right to talk about starting a relationship. If they’re happily married or in a stable relationship, you might have to accept that it’s time to move on.
Assuming that your ex is both available and interested, there are still some potential issues in your new relationship with your ex. Some relationship problems are solved with time and maturity but others might not be.
For example, he might have spent the years you were apart learning how to use the vacuum cleaner and fold his own socks. If that was a big problem in your relationship with him ages ago, you might find that things go a lot more smoothly now.
Other problems might not go away. For example, if you have opposite attachment styles, you might still find yourself in the anxious-avoidant trap.
Getting back together with your ex after years apart can be really confusing. Some parts of your relationship are going to feel really familiar while others will be completely new. This can become a problem if you expect the relationship to be identical to the one from your past.
This isn’t really a problem with the relationship. Instead, it’s a problem with your expectations. This is why the tips on treating this as a new relationship are going to be so important.
I’ve already mentioned that it’s easy to fall back into old habits. That’s a huge problem if your relationship was abusive, but it can still be a problem even if it wasn’t.
Dating an ex from years ago can have a similar effect to visiting your parents; you revert back to the behavior of your much younger self. Immaturity isn’t a great trait, so it’s important to avoid trying too hard to recapture your younger days.
One huge problem around getting back together with an ex from years ago is if you had children as a result of your first relationship. They might struggle to deal with you getting back together. If there are children involved, you might want to consider family therapy to help them adjust.
Not all past relationships suffered from a breakdown of trust, but if yours did you might find it extra challenging. Rebuilding trust once it has been lost is much harder than earning it in the first place and the wronged partner might keep bringing up past poor behavior.
Your ex probably won’t realize that you want to get back together, so take your time letting them know. It might be a bit of a shock, so give them time to adjust to the idea, especially if you were the one to break it off in the first place.
You need to know that you’ve worked through the problems you encountered during your first relationship and that there are no new surprises or different interpretations ready to trip you up. It's important to talk through what happened, rather than simply glossing over the past.
This does need to be kept in balance. You need to both be clear about what happened and feel as though you’ve resolved past issues, but you don’t want to focus all of your attention on the past. Make sure that you speak positively about the future as well.
Your past relationship was years ago. Getting back with your ex isn’t going to be like picking up where you left off, even if sometimes it feels like it is. You’ve both changed and it’s important that you respect that.
Treat this as a new relationship. Spend time getting to know who you both are now. Build new habits and signs of affection, rather than just relying on the old ones. Try not to be surprised when you realize that something about your partner has changed.
Resolving past problems isn’t easy, so make sure that you’ve been explicit about apologizing for anything that you did wrong. You might want to tell yourself that it should be “water under the bridge” after all these years, but an apology is an important step toward accountability and shows remorse and care.
One way to reconnect with an ex and overcome the shadow of your past relationship is to try something together that’s new to both of you. Rather than re-creating your first holiday, try somewhere neither of you has ever been before.
You could also take up a new hobby together or try a new activity. This lets you spend time together with fewer assumptions and expectations.
As well as finding things that are new to both of you, consider sharing new parts of yourselves. If you’ve learned a new skill, taken up a new hobby, or had a specific achievement, try to share this in your new relationship.
This lets your partner see you in a new light and makes it easier for them to appreciate the ways in which you’ve grown and changed.
One of the hardest parts of remembering that your relationship with an ex isn’t the same as the one you shared years ago is taking things slowly. It can feel artificial to avoid sleeping together on the first date, for example, if you spent months or years being all over each other.
This is especially difficult if you used to live together. You might not want to take things as slowly as you would in an entirely new relationship, but don’t assume that you should move back in together quickly, for example. Give your new relationship space and time to grow naturally.
Work with your partner to make sure that you both avoid falling back into old habits, especially bad ones. After all, your relationship from years ago didn’t survive. You’re going to need to make new habits and ways of behaving if your new relationship is going to last.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t do some of the same things now as you used to then. If he used to wake you up with a cup of coffee, for example, that might be a lovely thing for him to do now. What matters is that he thinks about it and that you don’t just assume that he will.
If both of you are alert to the risks, it’s usually relatively easy to spot the difference between recreating lovely aspects of your past relationship and mindlessly falling back into old patterns of behavior.
Studies suggest that approximately 40/50% of couples get back together after a breakup, but many (if not most) of those will be shortly after the breakup. Getting back together years later is different because you’ll both have changed.
Some people might judge you for getting back with your ex, especially if he treated you badly. It’s always your decision whether you forgive him or not, but it’s often helpful to talk to people who care about you to help them understand your decision.
There are definitely times when you should think twice about getting back with an ex, even years later. Be very careful if there was any history of abuse or violence. It’s also important to remember that this is going to be a new relationship. You’re not turning the clock back.
Getting back with an ex years later can be an incredible mix of the familiar and something new and exciting. You might have years of shared trust and love. If you can recognize that you’ve both changed and respect those changes, it can be a recipe for a happy relationship.
Let me know in the comments about any times you’ve tried to get back together with an ex and how it went. And remember to share this article with someone else who has a fantastic ex hovering in the wings.