“An ex is an ex for a reason,” you may have heard. Which is true in a way. No matter how much you’ve grown since then, there will always be some kind of rift after a breakup.
But sometimes the reason your ex is no longer with you can be fixed. The two of you go together like peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, or Tom and Gisele. Maybe the timing wasn’t right, one of you needed to grow, or you both needed a different view of the relationship. (Well, maybe.)
If you’re starting to feel like you really miss your ex, wait a second before acting on those feelings. We asked a relationship expert to break down the million-dollar question: when is it a good idea to get back together with an ex?
1. Your Time Wasn’t Right
Yes, it’s a cliche, but the right time is everything. Before a person can “get there,” so to speak, they may need to reach some personal growth goals, change their job or location, or date a few different people. “I had a friend who went out with a guy for a few months, but he ended up leaving her. “She was very confused and hurt,” says Neely Steinberg, the author of Skin in the Game and a dating coach. “About a year later, he showed up again, but this time he was ready to give his time, energy, and heart to a relationship and was in a better place in his life. They’re married and have two kids, but be careful: Steinberg says a lot of time needs to go by for this to be a good reason. Change doesn’t happen overnight.
2. You weren’t in the right headspace when you met.
Whether you met while you were with another guy or right after you broke up with someone else, you need to get over a breakup before you can start over. “When you finally got together, you might have thought you were ready,” says Laurel House, the author of Screwing the Rules and a dating coach. “But sometimes you’re emotionally tied to an unhealthy ex and not ready to open your heart to someone else, even if your ex was a jerk and the guy in front of you was pretty great.”
3. The breakup changed the way you look at things.
You thought that getting to know a new guy would make you happy. (Eureka!) But sadly, that hasn’t happened, and you’re starting to miss what your ex brought to your life. Steinberg says, “It can work if you’ve had a chance to step back and maybe look at the relationship more objectively.” He adds that it’s very hard to do this when you’re in the middle of it. “You may have gone out with other people and had some big realizations about your last relationship as a result.” In this case, being away from someone may make them miss them more…in a good way.
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4. You had the wrong priorities
There are things you want and things you need. Needs are things you can’t live without, while wants are things you’d like to have. “Maybe you mixed up what you wanted—a hot guy, a lot of money, and a lot of fun—with what you needed, which was someone who would support you emotionally and financially, care for you, and understand you,” says House. “Basically, you put the wrong things first.” For example, your ex’s constant spontaneity or unusual career path might not be a deal-breaker, but it might be a difference. If your mood has changed and your ex made you happy overall (and there weren’t any other time bombs), you might want to get back together.
5. You had to stick to a strict schedule
Life doesn’t go in a straight line from A to B to C just because you want it to. There are also your timeline, his timeline, and your timeline as a couple, and your timeline can’t win. “Perhaps you had a plan with certain important, self-imposed, time-sensitive parts, like proposing, getting married, and having kids,” says House. “He wasn’t ready to move at your pace, so you left to find someone else who could meet your needs.” But no one is as good as your ex, and you now think you broke up with the guy who could have been The One. If you were being unreasonable about something in a good relationship, take some time to think about whether you and your partner really want the same things and can start over.
If you decide that a second chance with an ex is worth it, make sure you go into it with the right attitude. House says that when one partner leaves the other, it creates an atmosphere of distrust, which leads to other problems, “like not being emotionally available, being cold, not caring about what makes you happy, and not caring about the little things that help keep a relationship going,” she says. “Fall before you rise. Fix that problem before you try to get back together. Yes, it may feel like you have to take 10 steps back to make one step forward, but that’s the healthy way to do it.
This means being honest about what went wrong the first time, why one person left, and how things will be different the second time. Steinberg says, “If you’ve been apart for a while and had time to think about what was going wrong with you and the relationship, and you’re still sure in your heart that this is the right guy for you, I think it could be worth it to give it another shot.” “Just be ready to talk about these things in an open, honest, and caring way.”