Ross and Rachel did it. So did Carrie and Mr. Big. As did Miley and Liam (in real life), and, of course, Jelena. These are examples of couples—both fictional and real—who dizzied us with their off-and-on antics. Experts, including real ones and the so-called ones (otherwise known as your friends) might warn against getting back together with an ex, but is it really such a bad idea? After all, if you’ve once experienced such a close connection with an ex, isn’t reuniting with them what rom-com (and real) happy endings are made of?
If you’re considering getting back together with your ex, no doubt you have a lot to consider. Which is why we came up with a list of pros and cons to help you figure it out.
PRO: You’re already comfortable with each other.
No awkward silences or fumbled attempts at small talk are necessary here. Not only are you starting again from a comfortable foundation, but due to your connection, you’ll also experience the butterflies common with new relationships. It’s basically a win-win situation.
CON: You’re not as secure with one another.
Sure, you might be comfortable with each other, but that doesn’t mean you feel completely secure. Studies have shown that married or couples who had at one point been on-again/off-again—or what psychologists refer to as “cycling”— have more uncertainty about their relationship’s future.
PRO: You’ve seen each other at your worst.
The honeymoon period of dating often shrouds the true nature of your partner, as well as the true compatibility of the relationship. But with an on-and-off partner, you’ve seen each other at your worst. You’ve cried and you’ve yelled. Your partner knows that you can be petty about which Netflix series to watch, and you know your partner gets hangry. You know what to expect, so you aren’t entering a relationship with any idealistic expectations.
CON: Old habits die hard.
You might know how to push each other’s buttons, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing. It might be easy to fall back into a routine with an old flame, but if you aren’t both consciously choosing to break old patterns—especially the ones that caused your relationship’s demise in the first place—then you can expect to repeat the cycle again. Communicating what you both need the other to fix is a good place to start. However, people are creatures of habit, and if they don’t want to change, they won’t.
PRO: You have a special connection.
There’s a reason why you keep reconnecting with your ex. You probably had other relationships that you knew weren’t going anywhere, thus didn’t think twice about after their ends. But if there’s a special type of energy pulling you back towards your ex, there might be a special reason behind it. Maybe your gut is telling you he or she could be the one, but the timing was wrong before. That’s more than enough reason to give it a second shot.
CON: It’s harder to forget than to forgive.
You might forgive your ex for the pain he or she might have caused you, but that doesn’t mean you entirely forget it. Harmful words and heartbreak—as well as the emotional baggage attached to it—can be difficult to shake. Getting back together with your ex means facing the hurt and rejection you’ve experienced before, which can be a hurdle to your relationship getting off to a good, and lasting, start. If you aren’t willing to let go of the past, then you won’t have much of a future together.
Though they’ve been proven to be more stressful and confusing at times, the on-and-off relationships that are successful are the ones in which both parties allow their breakup(s) to serve as opportunities to improve themselves, both individually, and together. Instead of imagining what a relationship with an ex could be, openly negotiate what needs to work in order for you and your partner to grow together, rather than apart. Using a breakup as a time of growth and renewal, as well as applying the lessons you’ve learned in the interim, could give you the happy ending you deserve.