How do I know if I genuinely miss him, or I just miss someone?

Me and an ex have been back and forth with each other. I still love him and he still loves me. Everything in my gut is telling me to be with him again; however, all of my friends think that it wouldn’t be a good idea. The relationship was never harmful, physical or mental. I just don’t know if really I miss him or I miss the idea of him. The only thing I know for sure is that I love him and still think about him frequently.
Asked by Dukiepookie

Thank you for your question. Thinking about reconciling with an ex is an incredibly common experience- sometimes it even leads to a more fulfilling relationship with a person with whom you've had differences in the past. It sounds like you have a strong feeling that trying again with this person would lead to a different outcome this time. You specify that the relationship was never physically or mentally harmful- which is an incredibly important factor when you're thinking about going down this path. However, you also mention that none of your friends are supportive of this move, and that can also be important information to consider. Your community has presumably seen you in relationship with this person and since the relationship has ended- and they may be seeing something that you're not. So what do you do?

The big question that hangs over any reconciliation is "why didn't it work the first time?" If you want to avoid the problems that led to the dissolution in the first place, you and your ex need to have an honest and transparent conversation about what went wrong and how you've each grown in ways that will address those issues in the present. Communication is key to any healthy relationship and mismatches in communication are a common reason that couples find themselves ending things. Before you can really move forward into a new relationship, you have to be able to tackle the difficult conversations in a healthy way. This being the first of many difficult conversations you will inevitably have. Each of you needs to take accountability for your part of what happened the first time around. 

If you believe, or have had honest discussions and know that you can navigate this reconciliation using healthy communication strategies- then you need to think about your personal motivations for wanting to pursue this. There are times when we want to get back together with an ex because it's comfortable, because we miss having someone in that role- though not necessarily that particular person. What is special about this person that is missing from your life now? If you have trouble answering that question- that might be part of your answer. This might be a good time to enlist outside input- whether from your existing support network or a mental health professional. Perspective is crucial. 

If you decide to try again- take things slowly. Don't try to pick up where you left off- this is a new relationship and needs to be treated as such. Give yourselves time to get into a new routine- check in with each other about how the changes you've agreed to implement are going. Don't jump into major commitments right away- get to know each other again. You have reasons to believe that things will work out differently this time, but you need to make sure you're right about them. You want to make sure that relationship 2.0 will survive the honeymoon period and withstand any future tests. Agree to a check-in point where you can openly discuss your experiences thus far and give each other real permission to engage in radical honesty. 

If you've realized that you're missing having someone rather than missing THIS someone then spend some time investing in yourself. It's okay to want a partner. It's also okay to enjoy being single. There is no "right" way to be in the world. Regardless of your relationship status make sure that the life you build for yourself is one that you are proud of inviting someone else into. And if you decide to give this relationship another go- don't neglect the things that have given you joy as a whole, independent person. Relationships flourish when you each have your own lives and you work together to align them in a healthy way. 

Good luck!