What To Do When An Ex Wants To Get Back Together

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated May 11, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

After a breakup, it’s normal to experience loneliness and grief for the loss of the relationship. It's even normal to think "does my ex think about me?" If your ex reaches out and wants to rekindle your relationship, these feelings can make it more difficult to evaluate whether getting back together is a good idea. Especially because, as professor and therapist Dr. Terri Orbuch emphasizes, old relationships are familiar and may seem easier than trying to get to know potential new partners. Taking the time to consider your past experiences in your relationship and evaluate what is motivating you to reconnect can help you determine whether getting back together is a good idea. A therapist can be a helpful support system in this process, as they can offer an unbiased perspective and help you weigh your choices.

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Unsure if you should break up for good?

I miss my ex: Validating your feelings about your past relationship

Ending a relationship is often painful. You might find you start missing your ex and are unsure of what to do next. It is important to recognize that your thoughts and feelings are valid. The healing process looks different for everyone, and your timeline will be personal and unique to you. Spend time reflecting on your past relationship at your own pace.

Your happy memories with your ex will likely not disappear after your breakup, which can make moving on confusing. Intentionally grieving the good and bad of your relationship can be helpful. Healing is an active process, and it will take effort to build your future without your ex. Moving on is not always easy, but having support from loved ones or an impartial party like a mental health professional can be beneficial as you move forward.

Is getting back with an ex a good idea?

It is common for a person to experience lingering feelings following the end of a relationship — so common that an estimated 34% of people get back together with an ex at some point. If you are considering getting back together with your ex, weigh your experiences with that person and evaluate your motivations to reconnect. Taking this time to think more deeply about the situation can help you determine whether getting back together is a good idea.

It is important to first ask yourself, was there emotional abuse, physical abuse, or trust issues in your relationship? If so, it is important to recall that violence is often cyclical, and abusers tend to use manipulation and remorseful behavior to continue relationships. These relationships are dangerous to reengage in.

Even in relationships without domestic violence, research shows that people in repeat relationships (also known as “on-off relationship cycling”) tend to experience lower levels of fulfillment, sexual and need satisfaction, and love than they did in the relationship’s first iteration. For these reasons, it is important to consider the following questions before getting back together with an ex:

  • Do you trust your ex?

  • Are you both willing to forgive each other for previous wrongdoings or breaches of trust?

  • Do you know what you need in a relationship, and are you both willing and ready to make necessary changes? 

  • Are you both willing to attend couples counseling?

  • What are your reasons for wanting to get back together? (A 2011 study found that repeat relationships are more likely to be successful if they occur because of new insight or growth rather than a desire to reduce loneliness, be with someone familiar, or make a former partner feel better.)

If you are having trouble answering these questions or weighing the pros and cons of getting back together with your ex, you might want to put some effort into understanding your emotions. Journaling is an effective method for sorting through emotions, but if you think you would benefit from a professional opinion, a licensed therapist can also be of service in this regard.

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Starting anew with an ex

If you have asked yourself the questions listed above and you think that getting back together is a good idea, there are a few steps you can take to help you rekindle a healthy relationship. These steps include:

  • Taking time for yourself.

  • Progressing the relationship slowly so you can assess your needs as you go.

  • Emphasizing clear communication.

  • Designating time to check in together.

  • Addressing the issues that you had in your prior relationship.

Though both partners may commit to making changes, it is often difficult to modify behavior in the long term without help. Consider attending couples counseling to work through potential issues as they arise. 

What to do if your ex will not leave you alone

If your ex is repeatedly reaching out, it can be difficult to know how to respond. This situation can be especially complicated if you start dating someone new and your ex expresses unhappiness about your new relationship. The decision of whether to stay connected with your ex depends on your relationship history.

If you are still grieving your relationship with your ex, allowing space and time to heal away from that person may be the best path forward. You might decide that, for your own well-being, it will be best to limit contact or institute a no-contact rule with your ex. Moving forward, consider taking the following steps:

  • Get professional help from a therapist to help navigate the situation.

  • Respectfully and firmly communicate your boundaries to your ex.

  • Consider blocking your ex’s phone number to prevent unwanted calls and texts. If you and your ex are active on social media, it may make sense to block them on social media platforms as well so they cannot reach out to you that way either.

  • Ask a trusted friend or family member to be a communication intermediary between you and your ex.

  • Establish boundaries with other friends who may be passing messages from your ex to you.

  • Focus on your own healing and practice self-care.

By following these steps, you can begin to move forward and create distance between yourself and your ex. It’s important to remember that, as an individual, you have a right to deny communication with them.

If you have decided that you do not want your ex to communicate with you, and they are ignoring your wishes, this behavior may constitute harassment or stalking. Harassment and stalking are both criminal offenses. Legally, stalking includes a course of conduct that is intended to intimidate another person, whereas harassment encompasses behavior intended to annoy or otherwise bother another person. If you sense you are being harassed or stalked, contact your local law enforcement authorities for assistance.

If you or someone you know is being harassed or stalked, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for free 24/7 support. 

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Unsure if you should break up for good?

Addressing mental health after breakups

Breakups are often stressful life events that can contribute to the development of mental health disorders like depression. On-off relationship cycling, in particular, is linked to prolonged distress in both same- and different-sex relationships. Reaching out for support can be helpful in learning effective coping strategies to help manage these challenging emotions and focus on taking care of yourself during this time.

One type of psychotherapy that is often recommended following a breakup is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). During sessions, cognitive behavioral therapists help clients identify and modify unhealthy thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, with the goal of teaching clients how to address unhelpful thought patterns on their own. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be molded to fit the needs of each unique person, meaning that licensed practitioners can help navigate the unpredictability of a transition out of a relationship or stabilize the circumstances of returning to the relationship.

If you would be more comfortable discussing your emotions from the comfort of your own home, online therapy might be right for you. Research shows that online cognitive behavioral therapy is often as effective as in-person cognitive behavioral therapy. Online sites like BetterHelp also offer in-app messaging, so you can reach out to your therapist the moment you are feeling overwhelmed, and they will respond as soon as they can.

Takeaway

Past relationships often cause lingering emotions, which can be complicated feelings of sadness, loneliness, and grief. There are questions you can ask yourself to help you consider whether getting back together with your ex is a good idea, and journaling about your thoughts may help you evaluate your options. If you want to better understand your feelings about your former romantic partner, you can seek professional help from a licensed online therapist. 

In therapy, you can discuss why you want to stop missing your ex and learn new strategies for managing your emotions. You can also explore healthy ways to reconnect with yourself, find closure, and move forward from a more positive place — whether your future is with your ex or without them.

Sometimes, staying separated is for the best. Physical and emotional abuse is never okay.

If you are worried about your safety, you should call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for immediate help. 

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