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10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Getting Back with Your Ex

You might want to think these through before rekindling that flame.

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Why do I want to reconcile a relationship with this person?

Researchers at the University of Texas conducted a survey of 274 college-aged participants who had experienced an on-again, off-again relationship and found that most people predominantly got back together with an ex because of lingering feelings. Just make sure you aren’t mistaking those “lingering feelings” for loneliness or fears of the single life. “People break up for a reason,” says Joanne Davila, PhD, psychology professor and director of clinical training at Stony Brook University in New York and author of The Thinking Girl’s Guide to the Right Guy. “If [your reason to go back] reflects a sense of low self-worth, lack of confidence, or insecurity, that’s not a good reason to go back to an ex.”

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Could I potentially be happy with someone else?

Relationship experts say that people who have dated outside of the relationship are less likely to try to rekindle the relationship. “Keeping our blinders on and not being open to the possibility that there are other people might keep us trapped in this perpetual cycle of being in a relationship, breaking out, and getting back in the relationship,” says Sadie Leder-Elder, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at High Point University in North Carolina. “When we are in love, we don’t think about the other available partners because we are mourning the loss of a relationship.” She urges people to see if there’s anyone else out there that can bring them the same happiness as their past relationship did, but without the negativity. Try these dating tips to attract a new partner

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What do my friends and family think?

No one is better at giving you open and honest advice than your friends and family, so don’t be afraid to ask for their opinion on getting back with a former flame. Their sage love advice may just be the mental clarity that your head and your heart need. “They are informed outsiders who are more dispassionate and objective,” says Rowland Miller, PhD, psychology professor at Sam Houston State University in Texas and author of Intimate Relationships. “They get to watch the partners interact either with grace and tolerance or with sour and suspicious patterns.”

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What do I need in a relationship?

Every happy couple must maintain the four core relationship features: honesty, care, loyalty, and commitment. Write a checklist of the needs, values, goals, and attitudes that you look for in a partner and a relationship. Then scroll down the list to see if your ex meets any of the requirements. You can even ask your ex to make a list and swap to see if you share the same relationship values or desire similar traits in a partner. Think of it like you’re playing a matchmaker on the prowl for a suitable mate for their client. Except in this case, you’re looking to see if your ex is worthy of a second chance. At the end of the day, no one wants to waste more time on a relationship that doesn’t meet his or her needs. Here’s how you can tell if your relationship is solid as a rock.

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Is there a pattern of bad behavior?

Trust goes hand-in-hand with loyalty and honesty, two of the core relationship features. Relationship experts recommend keeping a watchful eye on patterns of bad habits, especially if a partner’s betrayal ended your love story. “Sometimes people cheat and it’s an isolated incident reflective of a problem in the relationship,” says Dr. Davila. “But for some people it’s a pattern. They lie, they cheat. They do this over and over again. The more something is a pattern, the more extremely cautious someone has to be.” Here are subtle signs that your partner might be cheating

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Do we accept each other?

Nobody is perfect.  You’re never going to like (or even love) everything about a person, but you should be able to accept their faults. “Being a part of a healthy relationship is to be able to be accepting of one’s partner,” says Dr. Davila. “If you can’t, then you should not get back together.” Pick your battles and figure out what flaws you’ll grow to accept in your ex. If every little thing they say and do still gets under your skin, then move on. 

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What am I willing to do to make sure we do better this time?

Make sure you take the time to self-reflect and take responsibility for your own personal role in the ups and downs of your on-again, off-again relationship. “Anybody who thinks ‘it was all my partner’s fault’ is certainly fooling themselves,” says Dr. Miller. “There is this human tendency to explain disappointments as someone else’s fault, but relationships are the combination of two people.” Think about what you need to work on to be a better partner. If you’re having trouble identifying your own shortcomings, ask a friend (or even your ex) to help you see what you could improve on. You both broke up for a reason and as much as you hate to admit it, that reason may be the person staring back at you in the mirror. 

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What makes this second chance different?

Make sure you sit down with your ex face-to-face to discuss how things will change. An in-person conversation may give you a tiny glimpse into your future as a renewed couple. “You have to be attuned to what they are doing in response to you,” says Dr. Davila. For example, if you’re chatting about how the two of you will communicate better and your partner keeps interrupting or blaming you, then you know the second time around won’t be any different. Actions always speak volumes in comparison to words. 

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Has enough time passed for a real change to occur?

People don’t change overnight. It takes more than a meager week or even months for someone to truly change their habits and attitudes. Make sure you move slowly to give yourself time to assess your ex and the situation because most people are always on their best behavior in the beginning of a new relationship or when renewing an old one. It’s easy to get caught up in the familiar comfort of a former love, but you need to take baby steps to determine if the changes will last. “You need to be open enough or brave enough to keep looking,” says Dr. Davila. “The mindset is, ‘I am going to continue to assess this relationship and if at any point I see that things are not going to change I can stop this relationship.’”

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Is there unfinished business?

For people who feel lingering emotions for their ex after a break up, they may feel like there were things left unsaid or that they could have tried harder to make it work. “People who experience a great deal of hurt at the time of break-up tend to be those who go back to the relationship,” says Dr. Leder-Elder.  “Some people want to test the waters to see that they haven’t left anything else on the table.” You must figure out if you have exhausted all your options to make it work or are prolonging the inevitable pain of heartbreak. The only two who get to decide when a relationship has come to an end are you and your partner. If you decided it’s time to move on, here’s how to get over your ex and move on for good.

Ashley Lewis
Ashley is an Assistant Editor at Reader’s Digest. She received her Master’s Degree from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2015. Before joining Reader’s Digest, she was a Jason Sheftell Fellow at the New York Daily News and interned at Seventeen and FOX News. When Ashley is not diligently fact-checking the magazine or writing for rd.com, she enjoys cooking (butternut squash pizza is her signature dish), binge-watching teen rom-coms on Netflix that she’s way too old for, and hiking (and falling down) mountains.