There often comes a time after a relationship has ended that, looking back, you know it was all for the best. And there's other times when you still know this, but also remember that extremely cozy fireplace he has.
Image by Viktar Salomin via Stocksy
Exes are the worst. Except when they're kinda okay. And that mediocrity is sometimes enough to warrant getting back together. Other times it may be a shared history, or a sense of easiness, or at the very least the knowledge that you've already seen each other naked. Sometimes a breakup can provide the clarity you need to realize that it's worth giving the relationship another shot. Other times, getting back together simply feels better than not getting back together at all. But does it ever work out for the best? We asked people if they've ever had luck rekindling an old flame, or if they should have just lit the match and watched that relationship burn.
When my ex and I broke up the first time, instead of moving on, I really doubled-down on the relationship, and we quickly slid back into our same toxic routine. He moved to Stockholm for the first time three months later. Maybe that's why were able to get back together and stay together after we'd broken up. It's weird, but I recall that as my happiest time with him—when he wasn't around but we were still dating.
He would cook me these elaborate meals and I'd just eat my unhappiness.
Between my last year of college and my first year of grad school I moved in with some friends who were living in Portland. I got there in the summer and it was so great: beaches, cookouts, ice cream, and fire pits. I started casually dating a guy I wasn't that into but everything seemed so ephemeral and light. Then winter set in, it snowed four million inches, and it was just me and this guy who was way more into the relationship than I was. It was suffocating and I broke it off.
He was really upset though, and kept begging me to come to his apartment, which was really cozy and had a fireplace. Every time I'd go, there would be a fire going and he'd have cooked a huge meal complete with a cheese course. We got back together and I was awful to him. He would cook me these elaborate meals and I'd just eat my unhappiness. It didn't end for good until I left for grad school. I gained thirty pounds that year.
My mom had a boyfriend in junior high. They dated a few years, but she eventually dumped him because she didn't want to be in a serious relationship at such a young age. But she always talked about him. They remained in touch, but each married different people and had kids. After almost 30 years of marriage, my parents got divorced. My mom's ex from junior high was also in the process of getting divorced. He told her he'd been in love with her since they were 14, and they've been together ever since! It's been almost 10 years. He has just the right sense of humor and temperament to balance out my mother's neurosis. We love him and the grandkids call him Papa Joe.
My boyfriend and I had been living together for about a year, and it was just miserable. I finally got up the guts to end the relationship. We had a good, adult conversation about what would happen; I would stay in the apartment with a new roommate I had lined up, and he would move out. I stayed with friends for a few days while he looked for a new place to live. After about three days away with no contact I came back in the middle of the night and we had wordless, amazing sex—the best we'd ever had. In the morning, we decided not to break up. Two months later, he dumped me. He got to keep the apartment because he had a roommate lined up and I didn't.
I had this incredible boyfriend in college, but we broke up when I left to study abroad. I eventually met someone while abroad, and then decided to make it work long distance when I returned home. My ex wanted to get back together for years. At the time, I just wanted to be friends. Eventually he moved to Berlin, and found a girlfriend. Then I wanted to get back together with him. Then he returned home, and I had a boyfriend, and he wanted me again. A couple years later, he moved to New York. When I visited him, he told me he would always love me and that he just figured we were meant to be together when we were both 35, divorced, with a few kids in tow. After that, he stopped telling me he loved me, but to this day I still want to be with him. He currently has a girlfriend—probably the one he will marry and have kids with and then divorce when he's 35, so he can be with me. I'll be waiting.
About two years after we dated, I got back together with my college boyfriend. I had worked so hard to get over him and maintain a friendship that when our friendship somehow turned into dating again, I was very resistant to it. It was interesting to re-date a person I had idolized. In many ways, I was more mature by that point, and able to hold my own. It's rare to get second chances like that in life, and it was really rewarding to get that "second act," so to speak, to demystify a messianic lover. When he eventually disappointed me again, it was not nearly as devastating as it had been the first time. We remain, to this day, friends.
*Names have been changed.