Couples who get back together after a break up?
Try this scenario: They were sweethearts 25 years earlier, split up, led separate lives, had kids, and met again. Both divorced, they pick up where they left off – now in their 40s or 50s. Sound familiar?
Maybe the version you’ve heard involves a widow or widower, but the basics remain the same – what once fizzled is successfully rekindled – and sticks.
How many of us know of at least one couple who could tell this story?
Off the top of my head, I can name that tune several times over.
Getting Back Together After a Break Up
It used to drive me nuts when someone who didn’t know me would ask: “Think you’ll ever get back with your ex-husband?”
Like I said… that would be someone who doesn’t know me, or him, or our situation. But many of us do seem to harbor romantic notions that couples who appeared to be happy once can somehow magically get back together.
Naturally, we see movies and television that support attempts at a second (or even third) try. A few examples that come to mind?
Of course, there’s When Harry Met Sally. Not only do the actions of the characters eventually play out a breakup followed by getting back together, but I’m thinking more of the older couples whose stories are part of the background narration. They describe their meetings and marriages, and include at least one tale of a couple finding each other… twice.
This expression also comes to mind: “When I’m done, I’m done.” It reminds me of people who never look back – and not solely where affairs of the heart are concerned. Those words also echo a Sex and the City episode. If I remember correctly, Samantha offers them in a conversation with Carrie, as she proposes a 35th birthday party for her friend. Sam wants to know if she should invite Mr. Big.
At this stage, he is Carrie’s ex three times, and let’s not forget that Carrie went back for more with Aidan as well. Samantha notes… “Honey, when I’m done with them, I’m done” – or words to that effect. But I do wonder how many men and women return to an ex to try again – and why.
Why Do Couples Get Back Together?
So why do long-term couples or divorced couples get back together after years of separation? Why do former lovers return, wanting to pick up where they left off? Does the way things ended make a major difference, or is time the deciding factor? Is it unfinished business? Is it all a question of timing?
I recall a Modern Love column in The Times a few weeks back. In “A Second Embrace, With Hearts and Eyes Open,” we are treated to a personal account of a marriage that ends, a parting that is relatively amicable, and eventually – remarriage.
Thinking back, a male friend once pursued a relationship redo with an ex. More accurately, she pursued him, and she was the one who originally broke things off. Apparently she changed her mind and decided the break up was a serious mistake. She reached out and got him back, then several months later, she left him again.
When she tried a third time the following year – maybe she thought third time was a charm? – he politely declined. He’d had enough.
And her motivation?
I’d be hard-pressed to say. He was a great guy when they broke up the first time – and still a great guy after the second split. Had she gone through “the Grass is Greener Syndrome” – not once, but twice?
The Nature of Relationship Problems
I have my own theories, of course. The nature of the problems must be a critical factor.
If you discover your spouse is a serial cheater, are you likely to think that’s changed – even five years after you’ve split up? If there was an alcohol or other substance abuse problem and it hasn’t been resolved, are you really going to head back for more? If your values are dramatically different and no epiphany has changed either one of you, isn’t that a deal breaker – even 10 years out?
If your relationship drifted apart by virtue of careers, exhaustion dealing with kids, lack of TLC… is finding your way back to each other more likely? If there were external obstacles that challenged both parties and ultimately split them up, if some of the obstacles are no longer present, does that facilitate another shot?
Maybe events separated you at a time when you weren’t able to fight back. 20 years later, one or both of you may be in an entirely other space – emotionally, financially, philosophically.
What you fought over once is all but gone; what you loved about each other is tangible and accessible.
SHOULD You Get Back Together?
Whether or not you should get back together is a different question entirely. Those problems I mention? If they broke you up once (and nothing has changed), they’re likely to cause drama again, aren’t they?
I can think of several deal breakers that timing won’t address, including:
- serial cheating and lying
- unresolved addictions
- conflicts in belief systems and values
- emotional or physical abuse
And those are just a few to start.
The friends I know who went back for more (and regretted it) sometimes did so because of great sex. They thought that would be enough to blot out everything else that was unsatisfying. Others tried again because of great love. That doesn’t work if you’re trying to fix someone else (you can’t), not to mention if that love is one-sided. Some tried again because “there was no one else.” Personally, I don’t find that a very good reason.
In the examples I know of when the second chance seems to fly, they weren’t dealing with problems of the immutable type. On the contrary: The core relationship was solid. Life had matured them, perspectives had expanded, and circumstances had altered sufficiently so that once insurmountable impediments were no longer preventing an otherwise wonderful bond.
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