Do Exes Come Back Or Is It Just Wishful Thinking?

By: Nicola Kirkpatrick

Updated December 21, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Ema Jones, LCSW

Do exes come back? You receive a lot of mixed messages when you begin wondering about your chances of getting back with your ex. Depending on your age, the type of situation you are in or your marital status, your chances of getting back together run from ten to sixty-five percent.

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How do you know if your ex will come back?

Breakups can be difficult and confusing times. After all of the time and energy that you put into getting to know someone, seeing it all fall apart can be devastating. The fact that the other person is also going through this makes the experience more difficult to navigate. As you decide what to do to move forward, it's only natural that you might debate going backward instead. That may or may not be the best thing for you and your ex.

Love at Different Ages

Your age doesn't tell who you are but there are some trends and big signs that might explain your specific situation based on your stage of life. Teenagers often make and break the deal several times before actually deciding on a long-term relationship. Teenage impulses are strong and those pheromones are pumping 24/7. If you're between the ages of seventeen and twenty-four, you have a 44% chance of getting back together with your ex. This may sound - and feel - pretty chaotic, but it's a natural part of understanding the person that you're going to be and the kind of relationship that you want to have.

College students are the most likely to return to their partners, even if their relationship has not yet been formally documented through marriage. They tend to take their studies seriously and commit themselves to a long-term career. This tendency reflects in the way they commit themselves to their relationships. If you've been in a long-term relationship with a college student or a graduate, you have a 65% chance of getting back together if the relationship ends. This process is also easier on older young adults who have a better idea of who they are and what they want from life and love, and who are in a period of physical development in which their hormones and moods are more stable, making it easier for them to make more sustainable decisions.

If you are a late baby boomer, your chances of reconciliation don't appear too good. Baby boomers continue to have the highest rates of divorce with very little chance of the couple getting back together. This doesn't really mean that younger people have quit divorcing, however. It only means the baby boomers have been around long enough to record a pattern of their behaviors and arrive at statistics.

On a more hopeful note, statistics also state that more people who married in the 1990s celebrated their fifteenth year of marriage than those who married in the 1970s and 1980s. If you're in your thirties or forties, you've got a fifty-fifty chance of your ex coming back.

Is Getting Back Together a Good Thing? How Do You Know if Your Ex Will Come Back?

It can be. All relationships are different. Sometimes, things in a relationship can go sour because of unpredictable, one-off problems or misunderstandings. If one of these blindsided your otherwise healthy relationship, putting it back together is probably a good thing.

On the other hand, some relationships end because the people were incompatible and the relationship was never really going to work out. Dead ringers for relationships like this are any kind of abuse. If the relationship ends because one of you was in danger, you should let it end and move on - as hard as that may seem.

Still, it can be hard to know whether the relationship is worth revisiting or not, especially in the complicated time just following a breakup. The following sections will provide questions and prompts that should help you decide whether or not to revisit your relationship with your ex.

Was it Love or Something Else? How To Tell The Difference

Rocky relationships that eventually dissolve usually have a serious underlying issue - big signs could be abusive behavior, poor communication skills or something else. Unless you feel fully equipped to handle the stress and the guidance counseling necessary for seeing your way clear to a healthy-ever-after, you may feel it's better off for everyone involved to just let the relationship go.

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This is more easily said than done. You've invested your emotions into the relationship and you've become comfortable with certain routines. You look forward to particular occasions. In trying to understand what went wrong, you might face some uncomfortable truths both about yourself and about your significant other; but coming to terms with these truths is exactly what you need to make the relationship work.

Was it me, the other person, or a combination?

We often hear it noted that "all relationships are 50/50." That is typically interpreted to mean that both the health and dysfunction in any given relationship should be equally attributed to both partners. While this seems reasonable on the surface, it's not necessarily accurate. While it is absolutely true that every strong, permanent, relationship is dependent upon both partners contributing to the health and well-being of the union, it is definitely possible for one individual to lead any relationship into destruction, despite the health, commitment, devotion, or persistence of the other person. One person's repeated infidelity, addiction(s), or any other individual issues, can make remaining in a relationship difficult, if not impossible. So if you find yourself in a broken relationship, it can be wise, healthy, and appropriate to take some time to evaluate whether there are changes you wish to make to better serve the relationship, or whether this is a time in which you should be thankful an unhealthy relationship has ended.

Of course, it is always very wise to be willing to consider anything and everything about yourself you might be able to change, improve, develop, mature, or otherwise grow to be the best version of yourself. We all have room for some personal growth. Since you really only have control over yourself, it's also most productive to focus your attention and efforts on yourself, at least initially. You're unlikely to regret spending time and effort in personal development, especially in terms of relational health, since we all long for some type of meaningful human interaction. So choose to learn as much as you can from this most recent relationship (and all your past relationships, for that matter). Some of the questions you might find helpful in this regard are:

  • What are the most positive attributes I contributed to this relationship?
  • What could I have done differently (or better, with greater maturity, less selfishly, that might have served the best interests of the relationship) that might have made a positive difference in this relationship?
  • What have I learned through this relationship? What have I learned about myself; about my partner; about relationships, in general?

Sometimes, the primary issues in a relationship are more about the other person. Even though you have no ability to directly control, or change, such characteristics, it can still be very helpful for you to be aware of them. Gaining a more complete and accurate understanding of such aspects of the other person may help you better accept that the ending of this relationship may actually be in your best interest. It can also help you to avoid getting involved with someone with similar traits in the future.

Or, if you do have the opportunity to get back together, you have the ability to amend your own expectations of the other person, keeping in mind what you learned from the past, so you are less disappointed and frustrated by dynamics you cannot control. Most important is your willingness to accept what you cannot change, or to choose to not re-enter a relationship. It can be very disappointing, and "crazy-making," to focus on things you simply cannot control or change. To this end, you may find questions such as these to be informative:

  • What did my partner contribute to our relationship (both positive and negative)?
  • Knowing what I know now, would I choose this person again?
  • What do I wish was different, and the other person, myself, or about the dynamics between the two of us?
  • Are we really a good fit for each other?

This may be an excellent time for you to review what is most important to you in a serious relationship. You may want to create a "non-negotiable list for prospective dating partners." This is a way for you to consider those characteristics which are mandatory for you, one way or the other, in any long-term, or permanent, relationship. It's to your benefit to be clear about such parameters before entering, or re-entering, a dating-specific situation, since it's possible for us to fall in love with virtually anyone, whether they happen to be a good fit for us, long-term, or not. So what are those qualities that you MUST have in your partner? Must she have a great sense of humor? Must he be an outdoors person? Must she share your faith? Similarly, be honest with yourself now, about anything that is a deal-breaker for you. What about smoking, drinking, gambling, cursing? Do yourself a huge favor and rule out anyone who does not meet your foundational criteria. This is most respectful to both you and your future dating partners.

Wondering If Your Ex Coming Back Is Wishful Thinking?
We Understand. Chat With A Licensed Mental Health Professional Online Now.

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Whether a break up is causing you more emotional trauma than you know how to deal with or you simply want some help learning about yourself before getting back into dating, a professional can help you. Have you considered counseling or therapy? It can be expensive and inconvenient, especially if you don't think that you have a serious problem like depression.

However, online counseling is convenient and affordable. It may sound strange because most of us are more familiar with in-person counseling, but online counseling comes with the added benefit of being able to seek help whenever you need it, even from the comfort of your own home. Below you can read some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people who have been helped with similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"I've tried other counselors that I liked but didn't seem right for me but Margaret has been amazing! I love her honesty, compassion, and realness! It was really easy to open up to her and she's helped me get through a very tough breakup that nobody else could seem to get me through. I would recommend her to anyone! She makes it so comfortable to talk to her as if you've known her for forever!"

"I've never been to therapy and so was really hesitant about opening up at first. But Whitney has just been so great! I signed up for Better Help because I was going through a breakup with problems I knew stemmed from problems with myself. I knew I felt unhappy in my relationship but could not for certain say why. Therapy with Whitney has been so great in helping me become more self aware and reflective. And, of course, the break up was hard at first. But every day, with Whitney, I was able to feel a little bit better than the day before."

Moving On

Recovering from a breakup can mean a lot of different things, but the goal should always be to move on healthily and productively - whatever that means for you. Hopefully, this article has helped you sort out some of those confusing feelings and has given you some ideas for where to go next. When in doubt, reach out to a professional. Progress is possible.


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