So you’re fresh out of a relationship where you were constantly controlled, stonewalled or even demeaned. But much as your ex was a prick, you find yourself missing him. That’s understandable, actually—as your partner he was a big part of your life.
However, if you find yourself wanting to be with him again in spite of the way he was with you, you should be alarmed. And to make sense of these feelings, you ought to dig deep into why you want him back.
Why you want to go back to someone who’s no good for you
According to Brian Lim, a couple and family therapist at Relationship Matters, there are two common reasons as to why you want to reconcile with an ex even though the relationship was painfully toxic. The first one? Emotional comfort.
“Human beings are creatures of familiarity. We often behave in ways that we’ve grown accustomed to doing without thinking,” he says.
“We can become so accustomed to being in an unhealthy relationship that being emotionally unattached from a familiar relationship can become stressful and anxiety-inducing.”
The second one is physical comfort. Oxytocin (the love hormone) increases the bond between two people during physical intimacy, so if you guys have been “close”, you’re probably physiologically attached to your partner. This adds to why you find it hard to completely leave the relationship even if it was glaringly unhealthy.
“The physiological attachment can be confusing. While the body is familiar with the physical intimacy, the [positive feeling] is incongruent with the [negative] emotions of being in such a relationship,” says Brian.
When it might be OK to go back to a “bad” ex
We can scrape the bottom of the barrel and still not be able to find a reason as to why you should be back together with someone who brought you more hurt than joy. But if you must give it “one last chance”, it should be because he’s willing to change and/or you’re both willing to compromise.
“It’s important to remember why the relationship failed in the first place. We can then learn how to repair the relationship and not repeat the same mistakes,” says Brian.
“If both partners are keen on making the necessary changes in the way they communicate and behave towards each other, perhaps there will be enough consideration for getting back together.”
He emphasises that it’s crucial that a couple not only learns how to deescalate conflict, but resolve differences amicably. So if these are things you can see your ex doing along with you, it might not be all such a bad thing to give the relationship another go.
Want to move on? Here’s how to make it easier on yourself
Really miss your ex but believe that you’ll be better off without him? Good on you. There are a couple of things you can do to make this heartbreak less agonising.
“Be connected to family and friends who love and care for you,” suggests Brian. “Also be kind, gentle, and forgiving to yourself.”
He adds that while you’ll probably be temped to reach out to your ex to find out how he’s doing, you should take time to feel completely comfortable with yourself before deciding on whether or not you should maintain a friendship.
As a general rule, there should be no contact for at least three months.
“How effective the no-contact rule is, and for how long, may vary from one relationship to another. Regardless, remembering the reasons as to why the relationship did not work in the first place can help you make the first step to moving on,” he says.