Have you watched It’s Complicated, a film by one of my favourite actresses, Meryl Streep, who acts as the wife of a middle-aged couple with three adult children who have an affair after having been divorced, the husband at the time of the affair being re-married with a young family. I will not spoil the film for those who haven’t watched it, but I remember being a bit disappointed about the way it ended. However, recent events have made me a bit more accepting and understanding as to why the film ended the way it did and I must admit it was a realistic ending.
I thought of the film recently, when I reconnected with an Ex who suggested a comeback and because the offer came at a time when I was a bit vulnerable and lonely, I was tempted to consider it and did in fact consider it until I remembered why we broke up in the first place. Looking back at our history, I couldn’t believe that I had considered his offer and it made me more reflective and less judgmental as I could identify with some of the reasons why many of us go back into the arms of an Ex. There are several and varied reasons and I will venture to list some of them:
1. We haven’t gotten over them. I believe this is the foremost reason as it suggests that there exists some unfinished business between the parties, though, most often the feelings tend to be on the side of the partner who did not want the separation unless they were separated largely due to outside forces beyond their control. Those that fall into this category are mostly childhood sweethearts, couples separated by parental or tribal interference, distance (in the days before social media), etc.
2. One or both of the partners are in the midst of a relationship rut or an unhappy relationship that they don’t have the guts or desire to leave but wish to satisfy their need for a fulfilling relationship and who better but someone with whom they already have a history. This reason is somewhat persuasive as we often tend to look back at past events with rose tinted lenses preferring to focus on the good rather than the bad.
3. Safety and familiarity. I have found out especially in middle age that the saying “The devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know”, is very compelling and because there are so many unsavoury characters out there we tend to feel safer with an Ex who knows us and vice versa. Also, because parties are familiar with one another’s character or nuances, the awkwardness associated with a new relationship is absent and there is no need to dissipate much energy in pursing the relationship as partners simply pick up from where they left.
4. Revenge. Sometimes we go back to an Ex because we want to prove something to them and most often it is to let them know what they are missing by having let us go or it could be that we are trying to get back at them for something they did when we were together. This is normally the case with men who having achieved some success go after ladies that spurned and left them for someone richer. In the case of women, I have found out that it could be a need to show the men we have upped our game and are no longer the person they thought they knew.
5. Reassurance. I have found this to be a significant reason especially when we feel undesirable because of our circumstances, physical appearance and emotional well-being. In this situation, we go back to past relationships because we need the reassurance that we are still desirable and capable of attracting the opposite sex.
6. Sex. A lot of people go back for sex and it could be because the sex was mind blowing or because they need to satisfy a natural craving and it’s easier to sleep with someone they have slept with before. Sometimes Ex’s get together just for sex without any strings attached or so they think.
7. Loneliness and the lack of a companion. This can be a very compelling reason to go back to an Ex. It is said that having someone to fight with is better than having no one to talk to and I guess it explains why many people go back into the arms of an unworthy Ex.
Whatever the reasons we go back to an Ex we should be honest with ourselves to ask ourselves the question “What do I want from this” knowing fully well that our answer may be different from the other party. We must not because of the reasons listed above brush away the realities as to why the relationship ended because most often than not those same factors may still exist and will rear up again given time. We must also be clear that our Ex may have different reasons for pursing a comeback or agreeing to the renewed relationship and that their reasons may be self-serving and offensive to us.
Sometimes we are deluded into thinking an entanglement with an Ex may simplify our lives but most often the opposite is the case as it often complicates it especially where the other partner is a stable relationship and still wants to be in our lives or, when we begin to feel strongly towards them and our feelings are not reciprocated. We may think we can’t get hurt again by them but the hurt we experience may even be deeper, as it is likely that we pour our all into the relationship to ensure the second attempt works out. Finally, it may keep us tied down to the past without the benefit of moving forward as there is the possibility that we may develop deeper feelings and attachments which may be difficult to sever.
I am sure there are relationships that have worked out on the 2nd or even third attempt. I know of a couple that got married, divorced and remarried again and are very happy in their new marriage but most times it is a bad idea to go back to an Ex especially if the factors that led to the initial breakup are not addressed honestly by the parties except if it is to convey to our emotions the fact that our head knew all along which is that we weren’t meant to be together.