Several years ago, I remember striking up a text conversation with one of my ex-boyfriends. I don’t remember the content of that conversation, but I think I was just trying to catch up, or maybe I had a question he could answer. It might have occurred just before meeting my partner Phillip, or shortly after meeting him. Regardless, my memory of the event is as fuzzy as a pixelated dick pic, but my feelings of it are Claritin Clear.
My thumbs were busy on my iPhone, delivering a cheerful blue iMessage. In came his first gray message. I followed up with another blue message and he followed with another gray. As I read his responses, the feather-light feeling I felt at the beginning of the conversation started to feel like that gray tone.
I started to roll my eyes at his nerdy jokes like a self-centered teenager. I felt like barfing in my mouth whenever he referenced his political leanings. We power-tripped through a debate about our favorite comedians like boxers in a ring.
The words exchanged between us prompted me to enter a mental time machine called “20/20 Hindsight,” dialing back to various events in our relationship that reminded me why we weren’t together anymore. I thought he was arrogant. I didn’t find him physically attractive. He often had a runny nose that made kissing unbearable.
Moreover, we couldn’t find common political ground. He had rich parents, lived in a mansion, and seemed disconnected from reality. He denied climate change, which was like rubbing sandpaper against my environmentalist ways. We were also in our early 20s when we dated (the catalyst being friends setting us up on a bet), so our time together was really a stepping stone toward the people we would call our life partners.
I rarely say “never,” but I could never get back together with that guy. Would you ever get back with yours? Is it ever “advisable”? Based on the story I just shared and on this study (article version for mere mortals here) about on-again-off-again relationships being like an axe to your mental health, I would generally say “Hell no!”
Here Is Why
Yes, yes, we’ve seen some celebrities break up, get back together, and have an enchanted happily ever after. Prince William and Kate Middleton dated, broke up, found themselves back in each other’s arms, and then seemingly had a fairy tale ending. Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard broke up (albeit for three days), rekindled their love like a reliable, cozy campfire, and wound up married with two kids.
Hell, even one of my acquaintances got back with her ex 10 years after their breakup because timing was on their side the second go-round. Exceptions exist, but they’re only exceptions.
If you’re reading this while pining for someone who broke your heart, then I invite you to do a little introspection and examine the reasons you two are no longer. Did he say he’s not ready for a relationship? Did he fall for another woman? Was the long distance unbearable? Did he disappear without a trace? Does he come and go when it’s convenient for him? Is he trying to figure out his shit as a lone wolf? Was there too much relationship turbulence?
Whatever the reason, now I want you to imagine your ideal relationship. I’m guessing it involves unconditional love, little to no drama, tons of trust and commitment, fun activities together, intimacy, balance, patience, and peace, among other healthy ingredients. I imagine it looks less like a dramatic “Shakespeare in the Park” play and more like a Zen state of mind. My hunch is you two would fit together like puzzle pieces.
“Face it, your ex isn’t as great as you think he is,” Dating Coach Evan Marc Katz said. “It’s not that he’s not a great catch on paper. But in practice, he’s a terrible life partner for you for one reason. He was willing to let you go. Now it’s time for you to let him go.”
Not convinced? Then let’s bring this conversation to the home game: you. The study I mentioned at the beginning of this piece (here’s the version for mere mortals again) found that on-again-off-again relationships were “associated with increased symptoms of depression and anxiety.”
“We know that breakups are upsetting in-and-of themselves, but this distress is considered normal and is often temporary,” study co-author Kale Monk said. “However, a tumultuous pattern of stressful transitions in and out of the same relationship might have more pervasive implications for our well-being.”
So, the next time you feel an urge to regrow the dead plant that is your ex-relationship, check in with yourself: Why did you break up in the first place? How different would things be this time? How much might it affect your mental health? If you and your ex have a conversation about this, consider and be prepared for all outcomes.
In a Whackadoo World…
…where my ex and I would try to get back together, I think it would look like Judgment Day to the tune of the moody medieval poem “O Fortuna.”
While he was proactive and could make me laugh, we were incompatible. I’m a political liberal doing everything I can to go zero waste, while he is an unapologetic conservative libertarian who grew up with (what I consider) more than enough of his fair share. I could shove every chemical formula in his multi-degree’d engineer face showing what global warming-induced ocean acidification looks like, and he would continue burying his head in the sand like a cartoon ostrich. I would always prefer gifts from the heart (such as those made from scratch) over gifts from his wallet (such as an expensive necklace).
Our exes are often our exes for a reason, and ending those relationships allows us to grow from within and find the ones who actually immeasurably improve our lives. There is no substitute for self-love and another’s unconditional love in this one life we get, where time isn’t promised.
If the time is right and you need help leaving your relationship anxiety and insecurity behind for some delectable peace of mind, then hit me up toward the bottom of this page. I’ll be in touch ASAP.
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