Tempted By Your Ex?

What to do when your former love flies back into your life.

By Elsa Simcik

eth Winton of Houston was having a great evening with Kyle. They had gone to dinner, done some salsa dancing and now they were sipping martinis at a swanky bar. Perfect evening, right? Except one thing was bothering Beth: Kyle had broken up with her a month ago. She had thought this was a friendly outing, but what kind of friends gaze into each others’ eyes longingly?

So why didn’t Beth just ask Kyle what was going on? “I didn’t want to spoil the evening,” she confessed. “Who wants to have one of those, ‘Where are we in the relationship?’ conversations anyway?” Not a boomerang boyfriend, that’s for sure.

What’s a boomerang boyfriend?
A boomerang boyfriend is someone who sneaks back into your life without even an “I was wrong. You are The One for me!” Instead, he may just casually invite you to hang out. Or worse,
Immediately ask him, “Why are you calling?”
he could spontaneously appear at your house, ready to raid your fridge and mooch off your TiVo.

Why do they come back?
“There are certain needs that have gone unfilled,” says Steve Nakamoto, author of Men Are Like Fish. Without you in his life, “he’s not getting attention, he’s not being appreciated and he’s not getting love.” And the bottom line? “It’s comfortable” to fall back into the old pattern, says Nakamoto.

Indeed, boomerang boyfriends hope to pick up where you left off and—if you don’t force the issue—they’ll offer no explanation for their reappearance in your life. “Lots of times guys can’t fully articulate,” says Nakamoto, “They don’t know how to say things so that they won’t get misconstrued. So they just don’t say anything.” They know they want back into your life at this moment, so they slide back in, hoping to avoid any big-picture, emotionally probing talks.

Why do women give in?
Men aren’t the only ones missing the familiar patterns of a past relationship. Jean Fisher of Northern California, who’s had her share of boomerang boyfriends, says, “Time dulls the bad memories. So when the opportunity arises again, we think to ourselves, ‘I was probably just over-dramatizing. It couldn't have been that bad.’”

And many women “are hoping to get a better ending than before,” observes Dr. Brenda Schaeffer, author of Is it Love or Is It Addiction? “They may feel momentary relief from the pain they have been in and jump in much too quickly.”

Don’t let the relationship continue in this state of limbo.
How to handle the return of the ex
1. Don’t waste any time in bringing up the subject. For instance, Dr. Schaeffer says that the first time he calls, you should immediately ask him, “Why are you calling? What is different that you want to spend time together now?” Since he may tend to skirt the issue, you’ll need to stay focused: “Straight talk is a sign of mature love relationships,” says Dr. Schaeffer.

2. Besides just talking about the situation, Nakamoto recommends withholding sex until you’ve determined his motives. Then if he’s just back for one thing, you’ll have your answer: He’ll disappear when you don’t agree to hop back into bed with him.

3. Whatever you do, don’t let the relationship continue in this state of limbo. Dr. Schaeffer says to ask yourself, “Is it really in my best interest to see him? Do I trust him? How many times has this happened?” Then evaluate whether to continue seeing this person—or whether to pull the plug. Keep in mind that many men are habitual boomerang boyfriends: “I dated a guy for several years and we probably broke up and got back together ten times,” says Carrie Harrison of Austin, TX, “Each time we just continued like we had never broken up. I finally put my foot down and turned him away. Soon after, I met my husband.”

Carrie’s man was a habitual boomerang boyfriend. And he would have kept coming back as long as she let him. Dr. Schaeffer says there’s no reason to let someone back more than twice: “Once may be an accident, twice may be a coincidence, but three times means a pattern,” she says.

When a bounce-back boyfriend is a good thing
Incidentally, boomerang boyfriends don’t always spell trouble. Let’s consider the case of Beth and Kyle, mentioned above. Did Beth stop gazing into Kyle’s eyes long enough to ask him, “What’s the deal?” Yes: “After three very non-friend-like dates, I finally said, ‘You broke up with me because you weren’t sure we were compatible. What’s changed?’” she recalls. “Apparently, he wasn’t sure I was over my ex-boyfriend the first time we dated. Which, I have to admit, was true.” So the second time around is proving to be quite blissful for Beth and Kyle—now that they have everything out in the open.

Your ex-boyfriend may come back because he’s greedy. Or he may come back because he really changed his mind. Either way, don’t let him back without an explanation. And if you don’t like what he has to say, well, now the ball—or rather the boomerang—is in your court. Whether you hold onto it or toss it towards the horizon is completely under your control.

Elsa K. Simcik is a freelance writer in Atlanta. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Dallas Morning News, Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine and
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