Déjà-Vu Dating

Reconnecting with an ex can be very tricky business—learn when to dive back in or swim the other way.

By Brian Underwood

ny guy worth his Gucci loafers knows that a good man is hard to find. That’s why the prospect of rekindling the flame with an old love is so appealing, especially if you’ve managed to remain friends with your ex. “When you’re lonely or going through a rough patch with a current flame, it’s easy to idealize a past relationship,” says Los Angeles-based psychologist Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D. But a happy ending with a former love isn’t impossible—it’s simply a matter of having a little bit of perspective and a lot of honesty. “It’s important to remember that there were probably very good reasons the two of you broke up in the first place,” says Thomas, and you’ll have to be careful to not repeat those mistakes when you go back for seconds. Here, four factors that must be in place for you to succeed in round two.

Reunion Requirement #1: One (or both) of you has changed
Whether he’s finally gotten a handle on his party-boy ways, you’ve tamed your inner control freak, or an outside obstacle
Make sure one or both of you has really changed.
to the relationship has been removed (say, your work schedules are no longer polar opposites), the circumstances that led to the split must no longer exist. “A good rule of thumb is to have observed these changes in yourself or your ex for at least six months before considering a reconciliation,” says psychologist Debra Mandel, Ph.D., author of Healing the Sensitive Heart. According to Mandel, that’s the amount of time it takes for someone to make a genuine change, which is vital if you expect to permanently conquer those old issues.

Reunion Requirement #2: You can talk about what went wrong
Sure, no one wants to dwell on past mistakes, but an honest discussion about your missteps the last time around is important to avoiding those same pitfalls. “Direct communication is always best, even though it can be off-putting and potentially insulting sometimes,” says Thomas. It’s not enough to simply observe change—you must be able to discuss why it was necessary for you guys to make the changes and come up with realistic solutions to avoid the same problems. And you must both be committed to not repeating them. “Avoid certain situations, people and places that might prompt familiar conflicts,” she says. That can mean compromise from the get-go, but hey, there are worse habits to start!

Reunion Requirement #3: You’ve both been single for a while
“Loneliness is the worst possible reason to enter back into a troubled relationship,” says Bill Merkel, Ph.D., a
Don’t just try to pick up where you left off.
clinical psychologist in Portland, OR. “Relationships don’t cure loneliness.” If you or your ex have jumped from boyfriend to boyfriend or have been moping solo since the split, there’s a good chance that you’ve been missing true companionship rather than the actual person. Mandel’s advice: Stay single and make sure your ex has been single for at least six to eight months. You’ll have some time to become comfortable with yourself and being on your own again, which will help you enter back into the relationship for the right reasons (to be with him), not just because you feel lonely (and long to be with anyone).

Reunion Requirement #4: You’re willing to go slowly
Like with any new passionate new love, it’s tempting to dive right back in. But taking things slowly at first may be the key to making the second time last, says Thomas. “If you try to pick up exactly where things left off, you may be setting yourself up for yet another disappointment,” she says. Think about it: Hopefully, the two of you have made some real changes to yourselves and how you approach relationships, and it’s important for you both to get used to these changes. Merkel recommends limiting your time together early on by scheduling actual dates and holding off on physical intimacy at first. “This will help you make better, more rational decisions, not just choices based purely on passion,” he says.

New York City writer Brian Underwood has written for Fitness, Organic Style, Passport and Women’s Health.
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