The dating pool is huge and indeed with many fish in the sea but more often than not, we find ourselves reaching out to an old flame, paying no heed to why it ended in the first place. While we have ex's we never want to think about again, we also have past relationships that we fantasise about. There is normally a reason why it didn’t work out, so why do we still have the urge to go back even when past experience says otherwise?
The Comfort of Familiarity
For some, the vastness of the dating pool seems too overwhelming to delve into. Adding a pandemic into this mix has resulted in a lot of people reaching out to their ex-boyfriend/girlfriend.
Craving this comfort could be also why some people find it tougher to open up to someone new. Dr Erika Martinez, a licensed psychologist, tells EliteDaily, how focussing on the familiarity you once had may keep you from meeting someone new as the old relationship is always on your mind. We normally question the breakup and entertain the idea of going back to familiar territories. When Taylor Swift sang “Wondering if I dodged a bullet or just lost the love of my life” we all felt it.
Ignoring the bad
Comfort could be what keeps us in a relationship but there are certain factors that cause couples to breakup because of how damaging they are to a relationship. Habits like Excessive drinking are known to end 50% of relationships. However, when a survey conducted by casino.org asked 1000 Americans about what factors would they be willing to look past to get back to their ex, the results were shocking. 69% of respondents said that they would be willing to overlook their partners 'Excessive drug or alcohol use'. 63% said that they would be willing to overlook their partners lying habits in order to get back with them. This proves that we would go to any lengths to seek the familiarity and comfort we once had, forgiving the problematic habits that further deteriorate a relationship, tend to play a small role when an individual is determined to get back with their ex. This determination could also be a result of the isolation they feel after a breakup.
We are never getting back together (except maybe when we are lonely)
Facing bouts of loneliness after a relationship has ended is not uncommon. This is when our vulnerability causes us to reminisce about past relationships. If we fail in comforting ourselves, we seek affirmation externally and end up reaching out. From just wanting emotional support after a rough day to missing their company, we all have been there and reached out to our ex.
The loneliness that you feel when you're home alone on a Saturday with no one to binge-watch a new Netflix show is real. It is also when we are most likely to reach out to an ex. Shriya (whose name has been changed upon request) shares with Bingedaily why she found herself reaching out to her ex-boyfriend when she felt this kind of loneliness - "We broke up a few weeks ago and mutually decided not to stay in touch. However, after months of doing various activities and spending countless hours together, I felt a huge void in my life. While I always had people around me, it was the small things that made me feel lonely without him. The trip to our favourite coffee shop or bookstore did not feel the same anymore. I was missing his presence and that made me reach out to him."
Craving the emotional connection that you had with them is completely normal after a breakup. The real dissonance occurs when you also miss the physical intimacy you shared.
Sex with an Ex, yes or no?
Hooking up with an ex is a widely contested topic. Even your friends could have opinions on the decision you take but it is important to remember the intention with which you choose to go down this road in the first place.
One of the reasons you may consider having sex with an ex is that you often find yourself pondering over the relationship and the intimacy that was being shared. These lingering feelings of love and attachment, are common, especially in a couple that has been together for a significant period of time. Speilmann and colleagues talk about how this Romanticisation and idealisation of the past relationship could be an integral factor in engaging in a sexual relationship with your ex-partner.
One common advice we are constantly been given is "If you want to get over them, do not get under them".However, Clarissa Silva, a relationship expert, has another side to bring to light. She tells bustle that sometimes this idealisation of our ex and the past relationship, is what prevents us from moving on from them. Engaging in sex is like one of the last straws that you need, to know that it is time to put the relationship in the past. However, deciding boundaries and expectations is essential. Being in a physical relationship with an ex for a long period of time may unknowingly harm chances of finding a new partner or even cause future relationship problems. Surveys say over 44% of people have sex with their ex, so if you're feeling guilty about it, Don't. We have have been there, done that.
The On-Again/Off-Again Loop
We’ve either been in or seen people in volatile on-again/off-again relationships where no one can keep track of whether the couple is together or has broken up, for the 10th time. This occurs when the couples are aware of the conflict that they face in the relationship but are too attached to each other to breakup because of it. This repetitive nature of breaking and patching up is basically a case of ‘I cannot be with you or even without you’.
On the other hand, a Study explains that for some couples, the on-again/ off-again cyclical pattern could be just what they need. It may help them solve the foundational issues that cause inconsistencies in their relationship further strengthening their bond. However, if this pattern echoes instances of jealously, mistrust and negative interactions, there is a high chance that the relationship could turn toxic and only cause pain to the people in it.
The romanticisation of unstable relationships
While media has taught us to look out for our ‘Knight in shining armour’ and ultimately create high standards of what we want from our partners, it has also helped romanticise problematic relationships. The first such example that I can think of is Ross and Rachel in Friends. As viewers, we rooted for them to get together but as the storyline progressed we realised how toxic they were for each other. Throughout the show we see them get jealous, sleep with someone else or sabotage each others relationship. Only to ultimately, sleep with each other out of loneliness and then have a child. This perpetuated the notion that it is extremely normal to get back with your ex. I could be farfetched but it is a widely held opinion.
Ultimately, it is just a fictional show and should not have a profound influence on your life. Looking back, however, so many of my friends would idealise that relationship. This warped idea of relationship standards could sometimes be the very reason we settle for less.
Right person but Wrong time?
I've heard timing is everything and it definitely is, especially when it comes to the success of relationships. While the right person could be someone who complements you in every way, the right time could be when both of you are ready to commit to making the relationship thrive. However, in a real world we have rarely seen the miracle of one. Career, family, finances and a different state of mind could be just some of the reasons why the timing of your relationship feels wrong. We can all relate to the sadness over losing a person,who checks all our boxes, because they are heading in a different direction than us. This could be why you find yourself reaching out to someone who you thought was ‘The One’.
We need closure. Or do we?
Grieving the end of a relationship takes a lot of time and patience and closure is integral in the grieving process. Closure at the right time prevents us from spending sleepless nights wondering 'what went wrong?'. Dr Patrick Wanis, in his audiobook, Get Over Your Ex Now! Talks about everything related to your ex and closure. One of the main hindrances in moving on from an ex is the anchors and associations we form to them. This refers to thinking about your ex-partner when you hear a certain song or watch a certain movie. It’s something we all have done while listening to that one sad Drake song. So how does one find closure from that? The key is not to constantly relive a relationship that doesn't exist anymore. Focussing on creating new memories with a new partners and the good times ahead, could be just the closure you need from the past.
However, the focus should not be on immediately finding a new partner. Engaging in a rebound relationship for the wrong reasons may only result in another failed relationship. This could be the time to focus on yourself and your priorities.
What is this pattern trying to tell you?
If you keep finding yourself reaching out to an ex, it is a sign that you should take a breather and introspect on why you are doing so. Continuously reaching out to someone from your past, could be an indicator that your life at present is not satisfying. This could lead to not wanting to re-enter the dating world. Loneliness, low self-esteem or co-dependency could be also some factors which hold you back in the past. This is why time should be taken in understanding these feelings yourself and seeking support from family or friends if you need.
When should you use the ‘Block’ feature?
Blocking an ex is a common feature after a breakup when you do not want to hear from or see them again. It may make sense but should you do it? If the person from your past, is toxic and has inflicted any kind of physical, verbal, emotional and/or sexual abuse over you, blocking that person is one of the first steps you can take to eliminate them from your life.
Blocking an ex who only reaches out when they're horny at 1am or is trying to get back with you just because ‘they're bored’, is often encouraged , especially by your friends. Its better to block their number and/or social media because the graves of certain relationships are not worth digging again. In fact, is any old relationship worth resurrecting again?
When is it OK to get back with an ex?
While getting back with an ex may seem enticing, it is also tricky. The first and most important aspect that you should consider is the emotional state you are currently in. Being in a stable state of mind while taking such decisions is integral. The urge to get back together to work over past mistakes and towards creating a new long term relationship is a positive sign and could mean that you and your ex-partner are heading in the right direction. Creating new healthy relationship boundaries with communications and plans for the direction of the new relationship is also a positive step.
Some say going back to an ex is like 'Repeating the same mistake but expecting a different result every time'. However, if both of you have learned from those past mistakes and are willing to put in the required commitment, time and effort, it may just lead to a better result of the relationship working around this time. While doing this requires wisdom, there is also wisdom in knowing when some relationships are just not worth it.