Getting Back With Your Ex: Why Is the Idea So Appealing?

For many, getting back together with an ex is a real possibility, while for others it's just an idea to fantasize about. However, the idea does often appear quite attractive. These are the main reasons.
Getting Back With Your Ex: Why Is the Idea So Appealing?
Cristina Roda Rivera

Written and verified by the psychologist Cristina Roda Rivera.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

The idea of getting back together with your ex can be appealing for a couple of reasons. For example, it might distract you from the present if things aren’t going so well for you. Or, it might protect your self-esteem by reminding you that, in the past, you were good enough for someone to love you.

We might say that the idea of going back with an ex-partner distracts us from the present, and transports us to a happier time. 

However, wanting to go back to your ex may be due to self-deception and various thought biases. On the other hand, if your feelings for them remain, getting back together with them can save you an awful lot of time searching for a new partner.

In this article, we take a look at the main reasons why you tend to play these imaginary games -and sometimes even carry them out in reality.

An implausible but exciting idea

As a human being, you rarely completely choose your options. You probably work too long hours. Your apartment might be small and dark. Furthermore, perhaps you live in a city where you find yourself repeatedly doing the same things. Over time, you mature but this also often brings with it feelings of boredom and failure.

In the midst of this reality, you watch romantic movies and reality shows and read novels that portray toxic relationships where people repeatedly break up and get back together.

Furthermore, social media shows you the profiles of your oldest and most recent exes. Therefore, it’s extremely easy to lose yourself in your thoughts about your past relationships.

Worried woman looking out of a window

Better the devil you know

Sometimes, you feel like you can’t be bothered to go through the process of looking for another partner. You’re exhausted with failed blind dates or dates with friends of friends. It’s all too complicated.

However, laziness is a deadly sin, and getting back with your ex may not always be advisable. Particularly if it was a relationship full of painful memories. Nevertheless, you might think that even feelings of pain and sadness could fill the emptiness. For this reason, you might find yourself returning to an ex-partner who was, in reality, absolutely disastrous.

Rebuilding a relationship can certainly be tempting. You might even see it as your goal, anticipating a fairy tale ending. In fact, research suggests that as many as 50 percent of couples break up and get back together. Therefore, you may well be tempted to give it a try.

Returning to familiarity

One of the biggest advantages of recycling a previous relationship is that you generally know what you’re getting into.

Couples therapist and director of The Gottman Institute, Michael McNulty says that every romantic relationship has ‘perpetual differences’. These are points of potential conflict, such as navigating a shared living space, money, sex, children, friends, family, and more.

McNulty claims that, according to research from the Gottman Institute, these perpetual differences account for 69 percent of the problems most couples face in their relationships. That’s why some people may want to get back with a previous partner or simply try to put up with their current one.

Indeed, although you often enter a new relationship expecting it to be better than the last, this won’t necessarily be the case. Therefore, be cautious if you’re in a relationship and you’re thinking about leaving. That’s because you’re basically trading 69 percent perpetual differences with one partner to 69 percent perpetual differences with another.

If you get back together with your ex, at least you already know what those perpetual differences are. Hence, getting back into the rhythm of your relationship may seem less complicated than meeting someone new and starting from scratch.

Couple talking about the spaces in the couple

Celebrate what’s changed but don’t lose your identity

Another benefit of getting back with your ex is the ease with which you’re able to fall back into certain routines. For example, you probably already trust them, albeit in the most pragmatic sense, and know, for example, that they won’t steal from you.

At the same time, getting back with your ex can give you an idea of how much you’ve matured. With them, you obtain a before and after snapshot of your own evolution. As a matter of fact, one of the most common reasons for exes to restart their romance is because they feel like they’ve grown up and matured. In other words, they weren’t ready at the time, but they are now.

Sometimes, with the wisdom of years and experiences in your other relationships, you feel that you can solve that once insurmountable obstacle or maybe it no longer even exists. Furthermore, your exes are a part of your history, and you may want to return to those places where you were once happy.

As you can see, getting back with your ex can have both advantages and disadvantages. You may see it as a new opportunity, thanks to the experience you’ve gained in the passing years. This is especially the case if your ex is, essentially, a good person.

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The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.