I’m a Marriage Therapist, and These Are My 5 Green Flags for Getting Back With an Ex
So often, we sense that getting back together with an ex is the wrong move. Perhaps the relationship became toxic beyond repair, or the physical chemistry was there but shared goals and values were not. Whatever the story is, the popular narrative is that it’s a mistake to go down the same path twice because things won’t be different, and to try is just asking for a disaster to ensue. Yet sometimes, the feeling that there is unfinished business with a person can signal that there might be hope that stepping back into the relationship could lead to a happy ending. And those signals, or green flags for getting back with an ex, are just as important to identify as signals that the book would be best left closed.
As a psychotherapist in private practice, I often work with patients on getting clear about their actions. We explore patterns of behavior, automatic emotional reactions, personal history, their relationship to the cultural expectations that impact them, and any unconscious defense mechanisms that might be working against them. The goal of these exercises is articulate their values, identify their true heart’s desires, and move through their lives with more peace and integrity.
Not exploring unfinished relationships can sometimes lead folks to miss out on the opportunity for great love.
I have spent over a decade helping people make thoughtful, positive choices about their partners and develop tools to navigate the complexities of what’s required to be in a relationship. Given that it’s possible for a person to grow and develop, I’ve absolutely seen instances when revisiting a past relationship that has potential and still holds a place in your heart is worth it. In fact, not exploring these unfinished relationships can sometimes lead folks to miss out on the opportunity for great love.
Below, find several green flags for getting back with an ex, along with questions to ask yourself before you make the choice to step back onto the path of navigating a relationship with this person.
5 green flags for getting back with an ex 1. You broke up because the timing was off
Let’s say things ended because you were living in different cities without an end date, and now you find yourself back in the same city. Or, if you don’t live in the same city, maybe you now work remotely and can make a move to their neck of the wood. And if you broke up because you were at different phases of life, with one person not ready to fully commit to the relationship, maybe it now seems you are equally available and onboard to give things another go.
If the logistic and emotional circumstances that led to the relationship’s demise have changed, that’s a green flag for getting back with an ex.
2. The external stressor that disrupted the relationship has passed
Perhaps you broke up in the midst of an extreme moment that has since become less charged (i.e., someone lost a parent and was consumed with grief, and now they have found their center and are emotionally available). As you’re weighing whether you might get back together, consider how this person has dealt with extreme circumstances—how does that make you feel. If the way things were handled did not work for you, before rekindling, communicate about how they might manage stressful situations in the future so as not to repeat damaging patterns.
3. Your values now align
Perhaps you have clarified your values through some self-reflection, therapy, or life experience, and something has shifted. For example, maybe in the first round of the relationship, you had different ideas about having kids, but now you’re on the same page. It’s important to get clear with one another about whether or not you hold complementary views on common deal-breakers, like religion, monogamy, politics, financial planning, and where to live.
4. Trust is possible
Either your trust in your ex was not shattered on the first go-around, or you believe it could be restored. If there was a rupture of trust in the relationship, before you dive back in, do some soul searching and ask yourself, “Can I trust this person again?” If an apology is needed, consider how can it be expressed so that it effectively resonates with whoever needs to accept said apology. Be sure that both parties are capable of seeing their part in the dynamic of the relationship and are able to apologize sincerely for any wrongdoing. Part of having trust is holding space for any pain that comes up in the process of reconciliation.
5. You can tolerate the vulnerability and challenges of the relationship
Every relationship has challenges and vulnerabilities; that’s what makes them rich. The question to ask is, “Can I tolerate the particular challenges that exist in this relationship?” Be mindful that you already know this person—and quite well. While I wholeheartedly believe in the human ability to grow and change, we are, in many fundamental ways, who we are. Can you love this person for who they are right now? Can you accept them with an understanding of their flaws, and hold those flaws with love and patience as you trudge through life together?
When the green flags for getting back with an ex are present, entering back into an old relationship can be thrilling, rewarding, healing, and absolutely the right move. Doing so requires a lot of bravery, honesty and some potentially challenging questions to ask yourself and your ex, all of which can lead to real depth and richness in a relationship. Be brave, be honest, and find the balance between being open and protective of your own heart.
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