Getting back with an ex: Why some second chances can actually work

Professional women explain some of the positive sides to be found when people decide to revive a broken relationship

Getting back with an ex
Almost half of young couples that experience a breakup get back together, according to one study.Oleg Breslavtsev (Getty Images)

The return of Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck’s relationship 17 years after their breakup is the perfect example that, sometimes, second opportunities can amend mistakes from the first. Or work, at least. We cannot speak for the actress and singer herself, but at least she seemed to be happy with the development.

Lots of people cringe at the idea of getting back with their ex. But almost half of young couples that experience a breakup (aged between 17 and 24), get back together, according to a study led by Amber Vennum from Kansas State University, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. For people who are older, this situation occurs in more than a third of cohabitating partners and one-fifth of married couples. Sometimes there are unhealthy reasons behind these decisions, such as dependency or economic ties. But if this is not the case and there has been enough time to reflect on what went wrong, then it does not always have to be a mistake. On the contrary: there are several positive aspects of getting back with your ex.

One of these aspects is that you never really start from zero. And this means that there is no idealization. “In theory, you now know the person way more than the first impression. The falling in love part where everything is idealized is diluted,” explains Diana Sánchez, a health psychologist and sexologist.

You understand the needs of each one in every situation, and understand that being some time apart has helped you reach where you are now

Ferran Martínez Gómez, a clinical psychologist and sexologist, agrees: “If we start idealizing our partner in the first moments of a relationship, we now start being objective toward them from a place of tolerance, acceptance and acknowledgement of values, behavior and qualities. We know the positive aspects of our partner, but also the negative ones.”

Celia, 30, who got back with her partner after two breakups, confirms this. “The positive side of getting back with your ex is that you start from a place of knowledge, without having to woo, impress or please the other person because you already are acquainted and in love. Tension reduces as you already know that the person is into you, it’s no longer a mystery,” she explains.

Valuing the positive aspects, and accepting those aspects that we do not like so much or that annoy us, is important. Martínez Gómez says that “if we start from the positive sides of the relationship or our couple, we will have the assurance to compensate or accept whatever we found to be a conflict in the past.” Sánchez adds that we must find the person in front of us attractive, even when some aspects bother us. “Partners are the place where you enrich yourself thanks to the differences and not in everything being what we want. Conforming all the time to other people’s desires make others exhausted for not being themselves,” explains Sánchez.

Learning from mistakes helps

Another positive aspect is to understand where it all went wrong; this will avoid the same mistakes being repeated. “Love has already been there, it’s only a matter of recovering the positive aspects of the previous relationship that didn’t work,” explains Martínez Gómez.

“However, coming back to your ex wanting everything to work and not to give an answer to an emotional need or dependency requires some uncomfortable talks, and repairing damage that sometimes needs time and more than words to heal,” Celia adds. She and her current partner broke up because they were not “in similar places.” But they found each other again 18 months after having had no contact, and after both had gone to therapy. And all those things that used to mean conflict began to work better from both sides. “We were in a place where coexistence was very feasible and we enjoyed it,” she explains.

“At the end of the day, the best part is that you do become a team. You understand the needs of each one in every situation, and understand that being some time apart has helped you reach where you are now. There is more certainty that any issue can be beaten, and that there are way fewer insecurities,” she continues.

The reasons for a breakup matter

It is not the same to escape from a violent relationship as it is to leave a relationship where each partner is in a different place. Sometimes, people also break up due to being stuck in routines; for not working on the relationship; due to a lack of communication; an inadequate interpretation of a partner; a lack of respect, affection or sex, explains Martínez Gómez.

“Rebuilding a relationship from a safe place will imply not having to make an extra effort or risk with other partners; we already know each other and, therefore, we can have a better and more balanced relationship without having to start from scratch,” states the psychologist.

The sexual aspect is another positive point for exes. “Even when sometimes couples that have been many years together can feel how desire decreases, it’s less difficult because they already know each other. They know what the other person likes. They function naturally, different from the start of a relationship, because it is a learning process”, explains Sánchez.

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