When I was nineteen, I broke up with my first love.
I was in my first year of college, whereas he was in the military, and we had slowly grown apart. Although it was heartbreaking, and we still loved each other, we decided to separate.
A couple of years later, we reconnected. At first, it felt as if the stars had aligned and that, this time, we would be together forever.
The first few months were excellent, but old problems began resurfacing. I realized that, ultimately we still weren't right for each other and said goodbye to my first love, and this time, it stuck.
The experience personally turned me off to ever getting back with an ex. However, I am close friends with several couples who have broken up and found each other again, and things worked out the second time.
When asked, the two couples stated several key components that made the relationship work the second time.
There is no hostility around the time they spend apart
My friend Mari broke up with her now fiance, Ryan, in their last year of high school.
Mari went on to have a long-term relationship with someone else, whereas Ryan moved to another state altogether. Eventually, Mari broke up with her boyfriend, and Ryan came back home to visit, and they ran into each other in their small hometown. Sparks flew, and the two decided to give it another shot. After a year of doing long-distance Mari moved out with Ryan, and they have been together ever since.
When I asked her if it was strange since they had separate lives, she accepted it.
As Mari puts it,
"Yes, there is naturally jealousy at times, especially on my end because it hurts to think that he was with someone else, but so was I. That doesn't diminish or cheapen our love for each other. The reality is that our timing wasn't right and that we were young and we needed to find each other again."
Ryan isn't quite as jealous, but he's straight to the point.
"To be honest… it just didn't matter. I knew that Mari was it for me, and even if I didn't have her then, I knew that I would find her again. There wasn't any other option for me. What happened in the past is the past and what matters is the here and now."
They were willing to work on their problem behaviors
I was friends with a girl from my hometown, Jamie, who met Nick at our orientation in college. Immediately he put the moves on her and came on extremely strong.
Within a week, they were together, and it became apparent that Nick had extreme jealousy issues. He began picking fights with Jamie's male friends, driving them to have horrific screaming fights, and Jamie eventually dumped him.
Freshmen year passed, we had a summer break, and Jamie and I ran into Nick in the college cafeteria in the fall. He seemed much calmer and asked if Jamie would be willing to have coffee with him. In the year they were apart, Nick went to a therapist and worked through the jealousy issues. Nick proved that he had changed, and regained Jennifer's touch with his actions, not just his words, and over a decade later, he and Jamie are married with two children.
When asked about their past, Nick says:
"Look, I was eighteen, and I wasn't the greatest guy when I started college. I wasn't expecting to meet my future wife at orientation, but I did, and when I lost her, everything just hit me. I'm far from perfect, but I realized that some things were within my control, and jealousy was one of them."
Jamie says with a laugh,
"If you had told me that Nick and I would end up together, I would have laughed in your face. When we broke up, I was outraged and hurt by his actions. But when we reconnected over coffee a year later, he simply asked me to give him a chance to show that he had changed. He said that I didn't have to believe him and that he didn't expect me to be his girlfriend but to go on a date. I realized that he had changed as time passed, and he slowly regained my trust."
Getting back together with an ex will not always end in "happily ever after." After all, people do break up for a reason, and sometimes you just aren't a good match with someone, and there is no reason to keep trying to force it.
On the other hand, if your relationship was healthy, the timing simply wasn't right, and the couple works on themselves, they may cross paths again later down the road.