For Valentine’s Day, we’re celebrating the breakups that shaped us, in all their messy glory. Because love is just as much about heartbreak as it is about romance. Read all the stories from our Love Bites series here.
Rebecca had been with her boyfriend for a year when they split up, as she suddenly realized—as she puts it to Broadly—that she "hated him, and couldn't bear to spend another second in his presence." So you might be surprised to find out that a year later, Rebecca, who is 30 and from northeast England, had reconciled with her former partner.
"I tried Tinder after we split, but I couldn't really be bothered with it," she recalls. "Then, we bumped into each other in a nightclub, one thing led to another and after that we were back on."
However, she quickly realized it was a mistake. "I was 28 and thought 'I’ve had so many bad relationships, are you absolutely sure this isn’t the best possible one?' but actually I ended up having a sense of discomfort that eventually led to a blind panic about what I'd done [and resulted in me] getting back with him. I couldn't see a way out without being the bad guy and even fell out with a close friend who kept telling me he was bad for me and I was ruining my life staying with him."
Getting back with an ex has a bad reputation, but it is common. According to a 2016 survey, 54 per cent of British people get back with an ex-partner, on average attempting to patch things up two times. Another 2016 survey of 1,200 Americans found that 60 percent would be willing to get back with their ex.
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"Humans tend to be creatures of habit and it is always easier to stick with what is familiar rather than finding our way alone," says registered psychotherapist Toby Ingham. "It can feel very easy and safe to walk back into an old relationship rather than having to face all of the uncertainty of being alone and starting again. Making up can be very powerful, and can fill us with all sorts of feelings of love."
However, Ingham adds that there is a risk of failure due to the fact you're launching yourself back into something that didn't work the first time. "There is a possibility that the problems that were there before will still be there—the old arguments and doubts don’t get forgotten.
"If the relationship ended because of a disagreement about what you were going to do next, for example if one of you wanted to relocate, marry or have children, and the other didn't then I would advise trying to resolve those points first."
This is something Hannah, a 34-year-old public relations specialist from Brighton, UK, successfully did with her ex-partner Tom, 37. After reconciling five years ago, the pair bought a house, have a baby together and are getting married this summer.
The couple, who originally met when Hannah was a 23-year-old student, were in a relationship for a year and a half before she got a job in another city and they drifted apart. "A few months later, we got back together for two months, then split again," Hannah recalls. "However, we always stayed in contact, occasionally meeting for drinks whenever he was in my area for work. For some reason, we started chatting more and I started visiting him in Brighton—we seemed to organically just fit together again, and eventually, we were a couple again.
"Our main difference when we first dated was that Tom always said he didn't want marriage or kids, but before we officially got back together for the final time I asked him outright if he'd changed his feelings on that. When he said yes, the decision was clear cut for me."
Relationship coach Rebecca Dakin says difficulties can be caused if one person isn't willing to change—or has started dating somebody else despite their ex-partner still being in love with them.
"If you are starting to have feelings for your ex but they've moved on, it's important to work on yourself and bring your confidence back up," she advises. "Dealing with the end of a relationship can be a huge loss, and it's really easy for people to get stuck in a rut and end up feeling negative and resentful. Think about moving forward, and definitely don't rush into a relationship because they have."
However, Dakin adds that if a couple had a healthy relationship, but certain elements weren't working there's no reason why they shouldn't rekindle their love if both people are on board and want to make a change. "If the relationship wasn't toxic or co-dependent—situations which you can never move past from—if you decide to get back together and sort out the previous problems, you should be able to have a good, healthy relationship with one another.
"Even if a couple have split up due to one person cheating, it all depends on the individuals and their relationship, so it's hard to make a blank statement saying you should never get back together in that scenario. If you and your ex do get back together, make sure there's spontaneity, don't get stuck in a rut, and keep things exciting."
"When I was in my early 20s I was a very different person, and so was Tom," says Hannah. "I think sometimes you can meet 'Mr Right,' but they're not right for you at that stage in your life then you can end up splitting up."
However, for Rebecca, who is now in a happy relationship with somebody else, the thought of getting back with an ex is one big nope. "For me, it just takes all of the pressures and anxieties that come with a relationship and compounds them because you can never be truly honest or open because there’s a huge elephant in the room," she says. "Either you’re the dumper or you’ve been dumped. How can there be any coming back from that?"