Looking back, the decision to end your relationship probably seemed rock solid at first. You thought you were doing the right thing for yourself. But if some time has passed and you regret breaking up with your ex, it can make the grieving process a lot more complicated. Not only are you missing your day-to-day interactions with them, but you’re also stuck with the nagging feeling that you may have just made the wrong move. Nevertheless, before you text your ex at 1 a.m. begging for a second chance, take a step back and think through your options.
After a breakup, the human brain experiences a rollercoaster of emotions. “Our brains are built for partnership,” explains marriage and family therapist Nicole Richardson. “We have learned through brain scans that our brains respond to breakups the same way they respond to broken bones and other forms of physical pain.” As with any major loss, getting through a breakup comes with its own grieving process. Even if you knew the breakup was coming, you can’t fully prepare for what it feels like. So, in those first few weeks and months post-split, your feelings of sadness can easily get confused with feelings of regret.
Ever heard the phrase “Love is a drug?" There’s real evidence to back it up. Love biologist Dawn Maslar likens the feeling of falling in love to the feeling of getting high, and then experiencing “withdrawal” symptoms after a breakup. “Early love has a similar effect on the brain as cocaine, and longer term love hits the opioid receptors of the brain,” Maslar tells Elite Daily. “Therefore, when we lose that love, it can feel like a drug withdrawal. To stop the feeling, we may run back to the relationship.” Even if you weren’t super happy with your partner, you got used to them being part of your life, and any big change can make you nostalgic for what you’ve lost.
TL;DR: Don’t expect to make totally rational decisions immediately following a split. Experts generally recommend a 90-day no-contact period with your ex, no matter what circumstances prompted you to end things. This gives your brain time to chill out and readjust. “If you have only been broken up for a few days and you are second guessing yourself, be patient,” Richardson suggests. “Self-care is the best way to love yourself through it.” During that time, try to think honestly about whether your relationship is really worth pursuing again. Was it making you happy? Did you feel supported and valued? Did your life have a healthy balance?
“You need to objectively assess what the quality of your relationship was really like, and identify what the key issues were to decide whether or not it’s even a good idea to pursue reconciling with your ex,” explains breakup coach and dating strategist Natalia Juarez. It’s easy to look back on the relationship with rose-colored glasses and remember what you loved about dating your ex, but it’s equally important to remember why you chose to break up in the first place. “If you have identified that your relationship is healthy and worth fighting for, then you can start planning out the best way to begin that conversation,” Juarez says.
After several months, if you still believe that breaking up was a mistake, it might be time to reach out to your ex. Richardson suggests this only if you’ve truly taken space from the relationship — no late-night texts or hookups with your ex that might mess with your closure. “[If] you are still second guessing your decision to end the relationship, it might be worth it to reach out to your ex and see if you can meet up (no alcohol) and talk,” she says. Explain your reasons for having this change of heart, and clearly lay out your rationale for getting back together. “If you feel clear that you know why you spooked before, and you have a plan for how to not do that again, it’s OK to reach out to them,” Richardson says. Approach the subject gently, especially if they’ve been hurt, and let them know you’re willing to answer any questions they may have for you. It’s best to have this conversation in person, where you can talk openly about your feelings without emotions getting misconstrued over text.
Of course, your ex may not want to see you again, and if this is the case, you need to accept their feelings as valid. “There is no way to be sure in advance that they will [feel] the same way and want to work things out,” Richardson notes. “Love and vulnerability are a gamble every time.” If reconciling with your ex truly feels like the right thing to do, it could be worth putting yourself out there and asking for another chance. But if those feelings aren’t reciprocated, let it go and move on.
Although this breakup might feel like the end of the world right now, rest assured that you will make it through the sadness. Each chapter of your life is leading you toward a future you can’t predict yet — and your love life is no different. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone looks back on certain choices with uncertainty and regret. What’s ultimately most important is that you learned from that experience, and that you can emerge wiser and more sure of what you want moving forward.