This Is Why You Keep Going Back To Your Ex, According To Therapists
Once you've been in a relationship with someone for awhile, you might start to take for granted how well they know your quirks: How they can tell so much from a simple look, how they know exactly what snack will uplift your spirits after a bad day, and which concert you've been dying to go to. If you break up, then try to get back into the dating world, you realize exactly how tough it can be to start from scratch. If you want to get back together with your ex, for whatever reason, I understand how appealing it can be.
I was in an on-and-off relationship in college, and there were times even I questioned why I was involving myself in that seemingly endless cycle. Even my friends who knew how devastated I had been by the relationship's lows wound up supporting me through its highs. I had to learn for myself that it wasn't what I wanted long-term.
This isn't an experience unique to just me. Many people go back to their exes, and for many there are a variety of reasons for it. I spoke with Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, and Dr. Erika Martinez, a licensed psychologist, to understand why we actually do go back to partners from our past.
Walfish says that people return to an ex to stop feeling so lonely, and Martinez explains that one of the main reasons people return to exes is fear.
"People get back [with exes] because they want safety and familiarity," Martinez tells Elite Daily. "It's fear of going back to the dating scene, being open and vulnerable in a new relationship, or being heartbroken in a new relationship."
She also lists financial concerns and unresolved feelings as other reasons some people may go to an ex.
"People seek the safety of a comfortable financial situation that a particular relationship may afford," she says. Martinez says when someone returns to an ex, it can be that "there's still something left unresolved, or some additional lesson they need to learn in that relationship."
Before you go back to an ex, it may be helpful to sort through your exact personal reasoning to go back – and talk it out with an unbiased source, such as a therapist. "I try to understand what is motivating someone's decision, whichever way a decision happens to swing, I try to help them understand what's underlying their decision and bring those factors to light," Martinez says. "I bring that into their awareness, especially if they aren't already."
"Most people feel an empty, lonely, sad feeling after a breakup," Walfish says. "Others may feel relief when the relationship has been filled with conflicts, anger, and fighting. The real question is how do you take your own emotional temperature and know the difference between neediness and the impulse to return to a negative relationship or the hope for an improved relationship with your ex?"
Walfish says that you need to be self-aware.
"We are interdependent beings who need each other," Walfish says. "And we can only come to another person as a complete and separately contained, whole individual without the expectation of the other filling up gaps and holes. But rather, two wholes equal the best couple."
Talking things out with a therapist may help you make healthier choices for yourself and realize possible repercussions that going back to an ex can bring on, according to Martinez. She says that going back to an ex could make sense in some situations.
"If you've been in other relationships and still find yourself thinking of this person, you still find yourself having feelings for an ex partner, that ex partner is interesting and willing to rekindle, maybe that's an opportunity to go back and see if it it works at a later date," Martinez says. "Maybe you had certain characteristics that led to the demise in the first go-around, and you've grown as a person, you've matured, you've changed."
If you were hurt by your ex in the past, going back to them would make sense if they "[express] and [demonstrate] genuine accountability and remorse for having hurt you," Walfish tells Elite Daily.
Martinez says that a huge red flag to stay far away from your ex is if they've been abusive to you: this includes physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. If you've been in an abusive relationship, know that there are resources available to you, including the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline may be of use to you.
So before you go back to an ex, evaluate if you're returning to them out of feelings of loneliness, fear, or unresolved issues, or if you genuinely want to be with that person. If it's safe for you to return to them, then, it's up to you. Your dating life is entirely your decision, and if it's what you want, you should feel free to explore that.
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