So, a relationship ended but you’ve realized that’s not over for you. Well, you’re not alone. A May 2016 survey by Relationup (an app that provides live, professional, anonymous relationship advice) revealed that 63 percent of men and women ages 25 to 35 have tried to get back with an ex after a relationship ended.
After a breakup, most people make the mistake of trying to get their partners’ attention by engaging in the same sort of behavior that drove the two of them apart in the first place. Despite the fact that your partner felt you were too needy, you might decide it would be a good idea to text your ex to check in on them frequently, hoping that your engagement will remind them of what they’re missing.
If the breakup was due to drama, your first instinct might be to try to continue the negative connection. If uncertainty about your relationship drove you to be anxious and demanding, you might be propelled to engage in the push and pull of cutting off contact, later breaking your boundaries and reaching out again. Unsurprisingly, this seldom works.
Getting back together is actually about repairing what was broken (if that is in your control) and then finding out if your ex is willing and able to give things another try. But the repair process is complex; it involves taking responsibility and developing self-reflection and new coping mechanisms, so you don’t engage in old, unhealthy patterns. Here are four steps to help you work through that process:
1. Identify how your behavior contributed to the dissolution of the relationship.
You have to stop thinking about what your partner did wrong and start reflecting on your own actions. Being able to identify your own shortcomings will allow you to avoid repeating mistakes in the future.
2. Reach out and actively take responsibility for your contribution to the relationship’s issues.
Whether you’ve stayed in touch or taken a break, now is a good time to disconnect, reflect, and once you’ve really thought through how you feel and what is productive to say, send a note that clearly takes responsibility. It won’t defend or justify your behavior but simply state that you understand how you hurt them, how it negatively affected the relationship, that you really don’t want to be this type of person, and the ways you are working on yourself so as to avoid repeating these patterns.
3. Have zero expectations and give your ex some space.
Practice being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Don’t demand a response or reach out a second time if you haven’t heard anything. Be patient. Sometimes these communiques need to percolate.
4. Even now, focus on eschewing the behaviors that contributed to your relationship’s demise.
Pay close attention to your instincts when things get tough. You’ll inevitably be drawn toward the learned behaviors of your past, but the only way this strategy ever works is if you truly retrain yourself to respond differently in those situations.
If you want a fighting chance to reunite with a past lover, you cannot go back to them offering the same, broken relationship dynamic that you two had before. You have to learn a new way of being in relationship—one that is more rewarding for your partner and ultimately better for you. Even if your ex doesn’t want to try again, your enhanced capacity for self-reflection will help you grow and change, so you’ll be a better partner when the next relationship begins.