It’s the weekend. The thought of boozing it up at the club with the last of your single friends seems more unappealing now that you’re in your thirties. You’re a little lonely – plus a lot bored. And you haven’t had sex for so long that you swear you’re a born-again virgin. Right now your ex is looking preeeettty good. In fact, he looks like a saint compared to the slew of bad dates recently, from the guy who only spoke in analogies to the guy who couldn’t understand why you declined an invite to his house to watch a “DVD” as a first date.
The thought of left-swiping on Tinder or answering another pointless question on eHarmony makes you feel exhausted rather than celebratory.
So why didn’t it work out with him again? Because he sure is looking pretty perfect right about now!
During moments when the future looks daunting, our vulnerability can cause us to crave comfort and seek connection with someone familiar.
Understandably, the latest significant connection with an ex seems to be the answer to that lonely, empty feeling inside. Suddenly all the issues, turbulence and fights from the past seem to fade away into this new found appreciation for your previous love. You’ve changed. He’s changed. Maybe it will work this time around.
No, actually, it won’t. And here’s why.
The red flags that were there in the beginning are the same red flags that will cause your relationship to fail in the end.
Those insecurities, those unresolved trust issues, those clashes in values? Oh those minor details? Yep, those are the same problems that are going to peak it’s head into your everyday as soon as the initial surge of chemical reactions settle down and you’re back in reality mode. Unless some serious self-work has been done to identify, heal and move forward from those previous issues, it is only a matter of time until those issues are triggered again.
People don’t change.
Our nature, values, and principles generally stay the same throughout our entire lives. While our perspectives and life vision can shift, we generally have a core way of being that has been engrained through repetition, which makes it awfully hard to change, as we grow older.
We are a sum of our habits and our patterns have been reinforced through time. Changing those habits are possible, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
Authentic change that has a lasting effect (and doesn’t suddenly disappear when the adrenaline from watching Tony Robbins or reading a self-help book fades) comes from altering our every day habits. You are what you repeat. While I do not doubt the intention people have for change, I question the impact if that intention is not backed by actions, and reinforced by repetition. That, I believe is how your brain becomes rewired for meaningful change.
Dealing with the Symptoms Do Not Resolve the Root of the Issue
When we address only the symptom of a problem and not the root of the problem we only keep applying Band-Aids to an issue. Let’s use jealousy as an example. One partner can be overly jealous because she was cheated on in the past. One of her solutions may be to stop her partner from having contact with female friends. While this strategy may work to alleviate her anxieties for a period of time, eventually, that root insecurity and lack of trust will be triggered again. The couple can keep dealing with the symptoms or work on getting through the root of that insecurity that hasn’t been dealt with before. The latter is much harder to do as it takes courage, openness, discipline and hard work. Until you and your ex start dealing with those deep-rooted issues, you’ll likely just keep fighting the same battle over and over again.
You’re Reconciling for All the Wrong Reasons
You are not choosing that person all over again because there’s a clean slate and you think this is the right fit for you. You’re choosing the person because you don’t want to waste the time/effort/cost that has already been invested. Be wary of the sunk cost fallacy. As described in the book The Art of Thinking Clearly, by Rob Dobelli, this is when a person feels he has invested a lot of time/money/energy/love in something and the investment becomes the reason to carry on, even if dealing with a lost cause.
Forget about the investment and costs incurred to date. Look at your compatibility, your life vision, your values and your communication ability – are they aligned? Having a history with someone doesn’t magically result in N alignment of the fundamentals that make a healthy relationship.
You Have Chemistry But Not Compatibility
The chemical cocktail that comes along in the excitement of new love is intoxicating to say the least.
Chemistry with someone doesn’t necessarily equate to compatibility. The thing is, when you have sex with someone, your body releases chemicals that make you bond and attach. So even if you have different values, want different things and lack compatibility all ‘round, your brain is hooked on the person. Biologically, when you have sex, you release dopamine, the same chemical released when someone does cocaine. It’s addictive stuff. This may explain why during intimacy your rational brain can list a million reasons why you shouldn’t reunite with your ex while your reptilian brain urges you to get your next hit, drawing you back to the person.
Of course, it’s not impossible to have a more successful go at a relationship the second time around. People do grow and sometimes it takes losing someone to realize what you had. If you are contemplating going back to your ex, I hope that this is the case for you. Just be mindful of the traps we too often make, causing us to continue relationship patterns that don’t serve us.