Relationship remix: When is it OK to go back to your ex?

Nelly and Ashanti’s rekindled relationship had many feeling nostalgic this week, but is it really worth revisiting your ex?

This week, Ashanti and Nelly’s recent romantic reunion also reignited social discourse about reuniting with an ex. In love and relationships, the question of whether it’s ever acceptable to “spin the block” and give an ex-partner another try remains an ongoing debate.

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While conventional wisdom often advises against revisiting the past, romantically, it can sometimes be beneficial — after all, the heart wants what it wants. But for the sake of our hearts, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. With that in mind, theGrio spoke to relationship expert and licensed marriage and family therapist Beverley Andre about the nuances of this discussion and what to consider when contemplating whether you should rekindle an old romantic flame. 

All exes are not created equal

As Andre told theGrio, “The onus is on the person to be able to assess their own personal growth as well as whatever growth or change that has happened in their ex.” Understanding that every relationship is different, there is no universal guide on how to make this assessment. However, to limit some of the potential risks that come with getting back with your ex, Dr. Andre suggested asking the following questions before making a decision: 

  • What am I attracted to in this person? 
  • Is it nostalgia, or is it actual chemistry?
    “Sometimes people are still very much committed to the feelings that they had when they were with that person, the memories,” Andre explained. “Sometimes it’s that versus what’s presently happening.” 
  • Do I feel safe with this person? Do I feel heard? Do I feel that they care about my emotions — that they care about my peace and not disturbing it?
  • What am I noticing about this person’s actions? Are their actions aligning with their words? 

Be prepared to put in work

Should you decide to go forward and reconcile with an ex-partner, understand that it may not be easy; it requires communication, grace, and work. Though you may be familiar with this person’s mannerisms, ideologies and habits from when you were previously together, people change over time. 

“The acquisition of wisdom [also] comes with time,” Andre noted. “I think that if people were able to free themselves of the idea of how things are supposed to be — or how things are supposed to be done — it would allow them the freedom to exercise grace for themselves, as well as with their ex. Because then they’ll be able to be like ‘OK, let me really just think about this; at that time, did I have the maturity to really create and maintain a successful, healthy, loving, and communicative relationship? Did my partner have that?’” 

Most times, when reflecting on relationships, people find they simply did not possess the necessary skill sets at the time to maintain a relationship. So, in some cases, it’s fair to give people the benefit of the doubt when thinking about spinning the block. 

Recognize your triggers — and be honest about them

Regardless of whether you’re recovering from a case of infidelity or simply growing apart, coming back together is a balancing act between grace and work for both parties. 

“It is a new phase of the relationship, but you still have past experiences. You still have information about who that person was that informs what you do in the present,” Andre explained. “And if that information has now created a trigger, it is your responsibility to communicate that to your partner and say, ‘Hey, I feel really triggered by this exchange that I just saw. And I really would appreciate if you could correct that,’ or, ‘I would like to see these changes.’

“If their response is very defensive, that means [they] are not open to doing the maintenance repair with [you],” she added. “Healing requires maintenance. Repair requires maintenance.” 

If you’re going to be in, be all in.

Once you make the decision to repair a relationship, Andre says you have to stand on that decision. While it is natural to experience a level of self-doubt and concern over whether history will repeat itself within the relationship, constantly questioning it is the equivalent of having one foot out the door. 

“When you do feel like you’re going to flip-flop, communicate that to your partner. [Have] open communication about where you are because … things do come up,” said Andre. “[Those feelings are] valid because there are experiences that are tied to that. But what [you] decide to do is [your] responsibility, as is what [you] decide to communicate because [your] partner can’t automatically meet [your] needs if they don’t know,” she added. “If it’s unsaid, it’s automatically unmet.” 

Block out the external noise

“When you got so many people in the middle of [a relationship], it can be tough,” said Nelly when reflecting on his romantic history with Ashanti. 

This statement is true for non-high-profile relationships, as well. While seeking advice and guidance from loved ones is natural, Andre cautions against constantly desiring other people’s input, especially regarding your partnerships and personal happiness. When reaching out for advice, she suggests people ask themselves whether they are seeking advice to support their own ideas or to contradict them.

“Remember, the tribe is not responsible for your happiness. The tribe can inform and influence it, but they’re not responsible for your happiness,” says Andre. “People tend to already know what’s going to make them happy; they’re just not fully confident in choosing their happiness because of societal or relational expectations.”

One of the main causes for debate regarding reconciling with an ex is the fear of judgment. To avoid being the subject of criticism in the friends’ group chats, most people tend to hide their decision to officially get back together or even that they’re speaking to their former partners. 

“[Shame] is a driving force in a lot of people’s lives because people are unable to fully step into what their desires are. And when people see other people stepping into their desires, that’s when they judge them,” Andre added. “The freedom to be able to decide what’s best for [you] at this moment is [your] responsibility because, at the end of the day, it’s you and the other person.”

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Haniyah Philogene is a multimedia storyteller and lifestyle reporter covering all things culture. With a passion for digital media, she goes above and beyond to find new ways to tell and share stories.

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