If there's anything that pop culture can teach you, it's that breaking up doesn't necessarily mean it's over for good. It's not uncommon for couples to call it quits and a few years (or months, weeks, even days) later, decide to give it another go.
But what makes them think that it's going to work on try No. 2? The reality is that spending time apart to regroup can teach both partners quite a bit — and there's a chance that, if they've learned from the situation, they can get back together with clear minds and open hearts to really make the relationship work.
We talked with couples who've gotten back together to share what they've learned that's helped them make their relationship successful the second time around. Here's what they had to say.
1. You have to openly communicate.
"We're both military members (I was a vet and reservist), and, while we were stationed overseas, my husband found himself dealing with something he wouldn't or couldn't talk to me about," says Carol Gee. "An already quiet man, he had always had problems talking and sharing. Six months passed when I asked him if he saw whatever he was dealing with ending anytime soon. When he replied, 'no,' I asked to return to the U.S. Working full time with two part-time jobs to make ends meet, I spent my time trying make a life for myself. I loved him and, because I felt we were meant to be together, I was unable to commit to a serious relationship while separated."
In the meantime, Gee says they stayed in touch when they could.
"Until he realized we were better together than apart, we would remain apart," she says. "Two and a half years passed. When he had an option to retire from the service or accept a stateside assignment, he asked to visit so we could talk. During his visit, he decided to retire. He said all the right things, he still loved and missed me and he asked if I would give him another chance. I suggested we take it one day at a time — that he needed to talk to me about what is going on with him in the future."
In March 2019, they celebrated 46 years together. Counseling throughout the years helped them to "really hear each other," and today, Gee says, they're happier than ever.
2. You may have to go through growth.
"Second chances can work — I am living proof that rekindling with an ex can work out," says Penelope Lynne Gordon, founder of Evouq. "My husband and I have been happily married for almost 14 years now. But going back more than a decade, he was an ex-boyfriend who broke my heart into a million pieces. That breakup/life crisis actually turned into one of the biggest self-growth journeys of my life. I hired a coach and trusted the process, and I completely changed who I was. Read: Total 180!"
Gordon says she morphed from "a very insecure girl with a bad case of abandonment issues" into "a whole, healed and confident young woman." And her ex-boyfriend came back. She says the reason is that they both changed.
"Let me get real with you: Good relationships don’t break up. So some major changes and shifts have to have taken place since your breakup in order to give you a fighting chance at success with round two. What kind of personal development have you both focused on? How have you both changed? How will it be different this time? What do you want? Have you gotten really clear on what it is you actually want?"
She recommends grabbing a journal and writing out exactly what you want in a relationship. Then figure out how many of the things on your list you know your ex will fulfill, she says.
"If you’re ready to give it another go with your ex, then make a promise to each other to remain fully in the present and to not bring up pain from the past," she goes on. "Constantly bringing up the past and throwing past failures into each other’s faces is a recipe for disaster. Focus on the present and on the potential of your future together."
3. You have to build trust.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.