It's Friday, post-bar, and you're scrolling through your ex's photos on Facebook—but only because you exhausted their Instagram feed already. By this time, your buzz has morphed into utter misery, and you're positive you will die alone surrounded by pizza boxes and a dozen domesticated ferrets. Who will probably eat you.
All because you broke up with that person. Could they have been your person? Could they still be? Maybe you're like Allie and Noah from The Notebook, temporarily estranged but destined to die in peaceful simultaneity while holding hands. You know the movies are excellent and reliable models for structuring love lives, so why not give round two a try? Getting back together with an ex is not unheard of. Maybe you're that couple.
Below are stories of those couples, as told by women. If we can glean any wisdom from their experiences, it's that reconnecting with an ex can either turn out very, very well (marriage! babies!) or very, very poorly (police involvement! animal cruelty!). In other words: Results may vary.
I met Davis when I was about 15 or 16 at a coffee shop. He was 20 and from Vancouver, but he was going to the college in my town. We started dating, and then as soon as I graduated from high school, we picked up two suitcases, hopped on a Greyhound bus, and moved to Vancouver, where we lived in a tiny attic suite. Then Davis's friend moved to Williams Lake to be a chef, and he asked if Davis wanted to come up and cook with him. I was about 20, and the move to William's Lake was awful. It was super isolated, we didn't have a lot of friends, and I was working in housekeeping at this awful hotel. We had no car, and we were on the outskirts of town, so we couldn't really do anything. When we broke up, we just said to ourselves, This isn't fun anymore, and we went our separate ways.
About ten years later, he tracked me down again. He was living in Kelowna, Canada, but all of a sudden, there were all these little excuses for him to come visit. He'd have a concert or something in Vancouver, and so we'd meet up, have a beer, and hang out. The visits to Vancouver became more and more frequent, and one night, I'd had a few drinks and said, "You should probably come sleep in my bed." I guess it freaked him out because he didn't accept the invitation. Then the next day, he just left! I was like, "Oh no, I totally just got shot down."
Then on a whim, we went to Mexico. Turns out we wanted to spend more than just a Saturday night together. We went to this shitty little dive resort in Puerto Vallarta. We talked a lot about what had gone on in our lives and why neither of us was married yet. Then we got super trashed on Mexican champagne, and suddenly I was like, "Well, you would marry me, wouldn't you?" The words just came out of my mouth, I don't even know where from, and he was like, "Well, yeah, I would." So we went to a vendor on the beach and bought two $5 Mexican silver rings and decided that we were going to be together.
When I was 15, my family used to frequent this fancy Italian restaurant. There was a water boy who worked there, and I had a huge crush on him. He had this really enigmatic, mysterious quality, so whenever I went there, I used to give him the eye. But we never spoke. Then maybe four years later, I started working at another restaurant where he was my supervisor.
After that first shift, he asked me to stay and help him clean up, but I was on high alert because I'd been told by friends that he was a huge womanizer. I told myself I wasn't going to fall for it. But I stayed, and when he asked me to tell him about myself, I said I was an opera singer. He said he loved opera—though if I had a nickel for every time a guy has said that to me, I'd be able to pay my rent this month. But he backed up that claim with a few examples on the spot, and I was like, "Well, this is heaven."
We entered this kind of tumultuous quasi-relationship. Really intense, romantic, and sexual. But he was also the kind of guy whose brain I always wanted to pick. I was completely infatuated—intellectually, emotionally, everything. That went on all summer, and when I went back to university, he told me he'd come visit, but he never did. So I decided to block his number and cut him off completely. But after three or four months, I was like, "Blocking someone's number is immature. I'm over it." I let him contact me again, which of course led to us getting back together—at least in some form. This pattern continued for several years. We'd reconcile at Christmas or in the summer, he'd promise to visit but wouldn't, I'd block him, unblock him, we'd make up, over and over.
And then bad things started happening. Once, we were pulled over by the police and happened to have marijuana in the vehicle. He swallowed the weed on the spot, and it was the scariest thing I'd ever seen. Then we hit a dog. We were driving on this narrow road, and suddenly this Golden Retriever came running out and struck the front of the car. I saw it fly through the air, literally, but he just kept driving. I was like, Aren't we going to stop?" And he said, "Do you want to stop and look at a dead dog?" and I said, "No, not really, I guess." So we drove until we got to the beach. He parked, and when I was like, "Oh my God, we hit a dog!" He said, "Poor dog, but what about my car?" He was worried he'd dented his car. In that moment I was like, "ohhh, Naomi. You have made a mistake. You have grossly overestimated this person." I saw the past three years flash before my eyes. I thought, that's it. It's done.
But of course, it wasn't. Last summer I was away in Europe, and he messaged saying that he loved me and wanted to finally work on getting serious. I said I loved him too, thinking that in telling him how I felt—even though I wasn't really sure how I felt—we could finally be a success. But once I came home it was the same old thing. A friend once told me something really insightful about him. She said, "I think he likes the thought of you and the excitement of the relationship, but I don't think he's going to want to get groceries with you on a Tuesday." But I can't lie to myself and say it's completely over. It never is.
My first boyfriend and I dated during my last couple years of high school. He was in college and a few years older than me. I lost my virginity to him. But little did I know, he had another girlfriend pretty much the whole time he was dating me. So when I was 19 and found out about all of this, I broke up with him, and we didn't talk at all for like four years. I never wanted to see him again.
Then last year, when I was 25, we reconnected at a party. It was very strange because I thought I completely hated him, but when we met again, there was a level of indifference on my behalf, I think because I'd seen and met so many other people during the time we'd been apart. After that night, we ended up hanging out a couple times, and he told me he was interested in being in a relationship with me again. I told him I didn't want that, but that I was OK with hanging out and having casual sex if he wanted. We did that for a while, and it was actually super rehabilitating for me, and maybe that's a selfish thing to say, but it felt really good to do things on my terms this time—especially since he'd cheated on me before. I realized I didn't actually care for him in the strong way I thought I had.
But, unlike me, he'd really caught feels this time around. It was a complete 180 in terms of power balance in the relationship. He was 29, all his friends were getting married, and so it seemed like he wanted the seriousness and commitment that he'd promised me initially, back when we first dated.
Then he basically proposed. I was away in Europe, and he wrote to me over messenger: "So I was thinking—you're 26, I'm 29, and every time I think of my future life and having kids, I see you there. Would you want to take this to the next level?" I told him that I wasn't done being single, and that I was not ready to tie myself to anyone at that time. I was trying not to be too brash, but maybe this wasn't the best approach because his response was something like, "take your time, keep me posted."
But having a second go with him was so healing because it allowed me to have complete closure. I understood that he wasn't really worth all I'd built him up to be when I was 19 and completely devastated by the infidelity and the lies. It felt really good to be the one calling the shots and putting the boundaries in place.
I met Rick in school, in a small mining town called Sparwood, when he threw a textbook across the table, and it hit me in the chest. I yelled at him, and he walked over to my then boyfriend and said, "What a cow." But we ended up being quite good friends after that. He was the guy who took me places when my boyfriend was busy, and when my boyfriend went away to school, Rick and I had a friendship that was just on fire. Within that friendship, we had a summer romance, and I ended up getting pregnant. I was 18 and hadn't cut ties with my other boyfriend, so I never said anything to my parents about the pregnancy. I just stayed home and worked on a surveying crew for eight months until they eventually found out—five days before I gave birth. Everyone was all up in arms—small town, you know—my dad kicked me out of the house. I went into labor, and Rick said, "I don't care who's baby it is, I'm here for you"—even though the baby was clearly his. He bought us a little trailer, and we moved in together and started a life.
So we had a beautiful little boy who was just everything to us. Then we had a little girl, too, and everything was great. He worked at the mine, and since my family were outfitters—fisherman, hunters, miners—Rick fell in love with the wilderness side of my family. But I wanted to be an artist, which was impossible there. I started working at an arts council and did everything I could to build the art community there. But everything I did, he went the other direction. So we went our separate ways.
Enter the first boyfriend. We reconnected, and I ended up moving to the Okanagan, Canada, with him. I brought my daughter with me, and Rick kept our son. Then one day, I was painting and got a phone call. My cousin Bob had been killed by a Cape buffalo in Africa. At the funeral, Rick walked over to me and took my hand, and—well, I can't even talk about it... It was like he was my soul. But I went back home thinking, Well, this can't happen. It's been ten years. This is stupid. We can't do this.
So then I went to Paris. I was dating a guy from California, and he sent me some tickets, and I didn't really want to go, but I went anyway—you know, it's Paris, come on. But then I got to Paris and just hated it. The guy I'd come with proposed to me on top of the Eiffel tower, and all I wanted to do was jump off!
So when I left Paris, I asked Rick to meet me at the airport. But he said no. He said, "You went with the other guy. You made your decision. I'm not coming." And I thought I'd blown it. I was like, "Oh no, I can't come back from this." But the day after I got back, he showed up at my house. He said, "OK, let's do this." And so we bought a farm together, got remarried on a ranch, and we've been together ever since.
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