A breakup is never easy, even in those best-case scenarios when a split is categorically amicable. Still, when a breakup is mutual, you can pretty much bank on it that one person is just a tad bit less mutual about splitting than the other. But so is the way of the world. Now both halves of that dismantled couple are left to move on with their lives and find happiness elsewhere.
The minutes turn into hours, the hours into days, the days into weeks and so forth. Time passes, slowly at first, but picks up pace the farther away you get from when one of you first called it quits. Then, like clockwork, seemingly at the moment you decidedly move on and make peace that whatever you two shared is now over, that person magically reappears to stir your emotional pot.
Whether it is with a text, an email or a larger overture such as a gift or flowers, the very fact that this person has made contact starts you wondering exactly what is on his agenda. Will there be reconciliation, a return to the status the two of you once shared? A new beginning forged? A strengthening of the previously stagnated relationship that now brings the two of you into a new phase?
You know you owe it to yourself to check it out, just to see what the deal is. No expectations, right? RIGHT? Wrong. Of course, that is not what happens. You have history together, a pattern, for however long you were together, sort of together or hoping to be together.
I always joke that they all come back. They being those pesky exes of ours, that is. Those we once had a relationship with, those we once had a non-relationship relationship with and those with whom we shared a spark that was never fully explored. I am not innocent here. I have very much been a part of the collective “they” myself, popping up many months later after a parting of the ways to likely disrupt someone else’s well-earned status quo.
But as with most everything else, there is a method to the madness. Exes come back for a reason, and the reasons are varied. Understanding why your ex suddenly manifested is critical to maintaining emotional health and guarding those boundaries we work so hard to establish. Here are five common explanations for why exes reemerge, and the reasons we must tread carefully when they do.
1. Sex. After being in a relationship and enjoying a steady stream of sex (and, if that person is returning, likely good sex), going out into the dating pool and finding said enjoyment elsewhere requires an unspecified amount of time, effort and money. And, still, there are no guarantees that a) the payoff will be ascertained, and that b) the reward will be worth what was expended in the process.
Before jumping back in the sack, better to ask what the relationship goals are this time around to avoid any regrets you may have later. Remember, sex does not equal relationship. If it is monogamy you seek, never offer the benefits of such without the commitment you want, expect and deserve.
2. Ego. Dating necessitates developing a thick (or thicker) skin because dating and rejection inevitably go hand-in-hand, whoever you are. It is during those times of rejection when we oftentimes become reminiscent of the relationship we once enjoyed, even though that relationship may have been troubled or the timing was simply off for it to continue as it was.
When an ex reappears, it is often because he experienced rejection elsewhere accompanied by the inherent need we all have to feel cared for and desired. Listen to what your ex says. Has your former significant other experienced relationship success (according to his own definition) after your breakup? If not, be careful. You never want to be someone else’s back up plan.
3. Familiarity. Spending time with an ex may feel like slipping into a pair of old sweats – comfortable. It is easy, unlike those first dates that can be filled with awkward moments and uncertainty afterward. Take that former romantic interest into the bedroom for some good old-fashioned sex with the ex, and that romp you share may very well be even better than you remember. That is because you both have already shed your inhibitions and know what each other like and do not like.
But let the buyer (or renter, as the case may be when no commitment is established or reestablished) beware. The issues that initially caused your split continue to exist. Until they are dealt with properly, understand you are likely no better off (and perhaps even a bit worse off after conjuring up all those old feelings you already worked through) than you were before your breakup. And, as we are all aware, familiarity may also breed contempt.
4. Confusion. The mind and the heart are two distinct organs. Whether a breakup stems from the heart or the head makes no difference so long as the two are not acting in unison. Inevitably, what occurs is a state of confusion where the returning ex is unsure if the decision to split was the correct one. As this individual sends mixed signals because of his own confusion, you become confused as well.
Do not sit by silently and let someone play with your emotions, even if the behavior is unintentional. Everyone deserves a straight answer. Ask for one. Better to have a conversation first before delving deeper into an affair that is doomed to fail. If your ex bailed once chances are that he will bail again. Request that your ex figure out exactly what he wants. Until then, advise your ex that you are not in the position to be strung along.
5. A second chance. Sometimes it takes an ex losing you to realize how much you mean to him. Agreeing to give that past relationship a second go can be nothing short of elating. But keep in mind your previous relationship failed for a reason. Identify those areas still needing attention. Work on them, in earnest. It just may pay off.
However you choose to proceed when an ex returns, do so with caution. Because a “dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up.” –Mae West