The split was hard. More than hard. It was brutal. You cried more tears than you thought you had. You went through the searing pain of moving out and (supposedly) moving on. Your divorce is over (or almost over). But when you exchanged the kids the other day, you thought you saw something in your spouse’s eyes. A tiny spark of interest, perhaps? Or maybe you were imagining things. Either way, it got you thinking about whether getting back together with your ex might be something you want to try. Or is the very idea of reconciling with your ex completely insane?
You Want to Do What?!!!
It doesn’t matter whether your split was relatively amicable, or sheer hell. At some point, it’s only natural to start fantasizing about whether you and your ex should get back together.
You start remembering all the good times you shared. As for the bad times, well they don’t seem to be all that bad any more. Based upon your current, rather selective, memory, you start projecting a future that looks and feels very different from the loneliness you’re stuck with now.
You “see” your happily ever after. What’s more, it “feels” so right. After all, you married your spouse in the first place, didn’t you? Obviously, you had a reason!
On top of it all, if your spouse has suddenly lost weight, gotten into shape, or “leveled up” his/her game since you left, the attraction you felt when you first met is likely to come roaring back with a vengeance.
Yet, feeling that kind of attraction to someone you’re about to divorce has probably got you wondering whether you’re losing your mind!
You’re not. You’re also not alone.
Famous Breakups and Makeups
Lots of people breakup then makeup.
Film stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had a passionate, tumultuous, on again off again relationship. They married in 1964, divorced in 1974, remarried in 1975 and re-divorced in 1976.
The rock star Pink and her husband Carey Hart married in 2006, then split without divorcing in 2008. They started dating again in 2009 and have been together ever since.
Another rock star, Ozzie Osbourne and his wife, Sharon, were married for 33 years when they split in 2016 as a result of Ozzie’s alleged affair with his hair stylist. Months after the split the couple got back together, and are still together today.
The list goes on.
But, it’s not just rock stars and film idols who waffle back and forth in their marriages.
Studies have shown that a little less than half of separated married couples attempted to reconcile at some point. Some get back together. Most don't.
The bottom line is that if you’re thinking of giving your marriage a second try, you’re certainly not alone.
But, even knowing that you’re in good company still doesn’t explain why trying to put your marriage back together suddenly seems so much more possible once you’re already out the door.
Why Getting Back Together With Your Ex Sounds So Good
The truth is that heartbreak hurts. And, it doesn’t just cause emotional pain. According to science, our brain can’t tell the difference between physical pain and emotional pain. So heartbreak literally makes your heart hurt.
Breaking up also disrupts your sleep, throws off your heart rate, and stifles your appetite. It affects your immune system and can throw your whole body out of whack.
Add to that the fact that change is hard and being lonely sucks, and it’s no wonder that getting back together with your ex suddenly seems so appealing!
But, it’s more than just emotional pain that tempts so many people to reconcile with their ex. When it comes to marriage and divorce, there’s a whole lot more to it than that.
Most people take their marriage vows seriously. They don’t want to go back on their word. They don’t want to turn their kids’ lives upside down for no reason. Most of all, they don’t want to throw away the life they’ve built together if there’s still a chance that they can make it work.
With all that in mind, “trying again” often seems to make sense – especially when you and your spouse have been separated for a while.
But, at the same time, you’re not sure you’re ready to jump back into the frying pan.
After all, if you go through all the trouble of getting back together only to split up again, why bother?
What Are the Odds that Reconciling Will Work?
The problem with giving your marriage a “second chance” is that you can never be sure if you’re setting yourself up for a fabulous new relationship, or beating a dead horse. That’s because the answer to the question, “Should I try again?” is always: it depends.
Every relationship is different. Other than consulting a fortune teller with a kick-ass crystal ball, there is no definitive way to predict whether your attempts at reconciling with your spouse will end in marital bliss or a miserable divorce.
But there are things you need to consider.
5 Factors That Let You Know Whether Reconciling Will Work
1. The Reason You Split.
If you and your spouse split because of an affair, an addiction, or an enormous breach of trust, getting back together will be doubly difficult. Not only do you have to rebuild your relationship, but you also have to rebuild the trust that underpins that relationship. That’s not to say that reconciliation won’t work for you. But, don’t expect it to be a cake walk.
2. The Commitment You and Your Ex Have to Getting Back Together.
Unless BOTH you AND your spouse are you willing to work on your relationship, your reconciliation is not likely to go well. While that may seem totally logical, when you’re all caught up in the romance of reconciliation, you’re not thinking logically. Instead, you tend to see things as you want them to be, rather than as they are. Unfortunately, denying reality never changes it.
3. Whether You are Both Free.
Again, this seems to go without saying. Obviously, you and your ex would both need to be unattached before you could get back together. But again, never underestimate the power of wishful thinking. If you’re considering getting back together with your ex, but s/he is already involved with someone else, the first conversation you need to have is about whether your spouse is willing to get out of that relationship before jumping back into one with you.
4. Whether Both of You Have Learned and Grown
Breaking up changes people … and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, splitting up for a while can help you see things about yourself and your relationship that you couldn’t see before. You learn more about what you want, and don’t want. You grow and mature in ways you never thought about before. Sometimes it’s exactly that growth that allows you and your spouse to come back together and make your marriage work.
5. Are You Both Willing to Forgive Each Other?
Getting back together with your spouse may sound great on paper, but if either of you insists on hanging on to the hurts of the past, your reconciliation will likely be very short-lived. True, forgiving your ex can be hard. It also takes time. But, no one wants to live with a bitter, angry husband or wife. Unless you’re ready to let go of the past and truly forgive your spouse, you’re not going to be able to build a satisfying, happy marriage.
If you and your spouse can honestly say that you want to give your marriage another try, and you seem to have all the factors that will make your reconciliation work, are you home free? Does that mean you should give reconciliation a try?
Maybe. But, before you do, you would be wise to ask yourself whether getting back together will really be best for you and your kids.
Should You Reconcile With Your Ex?
Before you move back in with your spouse, or agree to give your marriage another try, you might want to take a moment to do a little soul-searching. Take some time to reflect on what matters to you, and what’s motivating you. When you do, ask yourself these questions:
1. Why do I want to get back together?
In reconciliation, motive matters. If the main reason you want to get back together is because you’re lonely, bored, or afraid you’ll never find anyone else, your reconciliation will start on shaky ground.
2. What has changed?
If nothing has changed, nothing will be different. You and your spouse might be happy for a few weeks while you’re both on your best behavior. But soon you’re going to end up right back where you started.
3. Is this relationship worth saving?
Some relationships shouldn’t be saved. If your marriage was toxic or abusive, getting back together could be the biggest mistake you ever made.
4. Is this a pattern?
If you and your spouse have split up and gotten back together a dozen times, then you’re not reconciling anymore. You’re just torturing each other.
5. Does the problem that caused the breakup still exist?
If your ex was having an affair and s/he hasn’t ended it, why would you even consider taking him/her back? The same thing is true if your core values don’t line up. For example, if you split up because you want kids and your spouse doesn’t, and both of you still feel the same way, what will reconciling accomplish?
While you’re answering these questions, consider asking your spouse to answer them too. If your spouse won’t answer these questions (or you're too afraid to ask him/her to do so), you may want to think twice about reconciling.
The Legalities of Marital Reconciliation
While putting any relationship back together is emotionally challenging, putting a marriage back together carries legal challenges as well.
For example, if you’ve already filed for divorce, what are you going to do with your divorce case while you’re trying to reconcile? Will your local court allow you to put the divorce case on hold for a few months? Or, do you have to decide right now to either move forward or dismiss your case?
While that may not seem like such an important question, it actually can be huge.
First of all, once you dismiss your case, it’s gone. If you later find that reconciling didn’t work, you’re going to have to start all over again. That means paying another set of court fees. It also means re-doing everything that you had already done in your first case.
If you just started your divorce and hadn’t done much in court yet, that may not be a big problem. But, if you already had multiple court orders establishing child support, spousal support, or anything else, ALL of those court orders die once you dismiss your case.
So, if your reconciliation doesn’t work, you have to start from zero in court.
At the risk of sounding like a cynical lawyer, that may be exactly why your spouse suddenly seems so eager to get back together. (Sorry!)
I’m not saying that you should always second guess your spouse’s motives. S/he may genuinely want to put your marriage back together.
But, if the court has ruled in your favor multiple times already, or if your spouse stands to get a better deal if you have to start your divorce all over again, you would be foolish to ignore that fact.
Like it or not, there are plenty of divorcing spouses who would gladly try to “reconcile” if they stood to gain financially by doing so.
For all of these reasons, if you do want to give your marriage a second try, you should definitely consider just putting your divorce on hold while you see if your reconciliation works. (HINT: It would also be good to talk to your lawyer first, too!)
What NOT to Do If You Want to Make Things Work
If, after careful consideration, you and your spouse do decide to give your marriage another try, you want to do everything you can to maximize your chances of success. That means that the fewer people you tell at first, the better.
While giving your spouse a second chance may make perfect sense to you, don’t be surprised if it makes NO sense to anyone else. As a result, your family and friends may try to talk you out of getting back together with your ex. They will remind you of all the horrible things your spouse has done.
They’ll also probably tell you you’re crazy.
That’s why keeping your mouth shut about your reconciliation, at least at first, makes a lot of sense. It will give you and your spouse the privacy and the space you need to see if you can work things out. It will also keep you from having to listen to “I told you so” if things don’t work out.
What About Your Kids?
Keeping your reconciliation on the down low is also vitally important for one particular group of people – your kids.
Children, especially young children, almost always want their parents to get back together. Because of that you might be eager to tell them that mommy and daddy are together again as soon as you can.
But, if things don’t work out, you’re only going to crush them again. That can make an already difficult situation a thousand times worse. For that reason, it’s better not to tell your kids anything until you’re reasonably sure that your reconciliation will stick.
To Reconcile or Not to Reconcile?
Deciding whether or not to give your marriage one more try can often be as nerve-wracking as deciding whether to get divorced in the first place.
By even asking the question, “Should I give my marriage another try?” you’re second guessing the decision you made to leave in the first place. Or, you’re trying to decide whether un-doing the decision your spouse made makes sense after all you’ve been through.
There is no easy answer.
Are you throwing away your chance at happiness if you don’t go back? Or are you throwing it away if you do?
Unless you have that fortune teller with a kick-ass crystal ball, you may never know.
What’s most important though is that, whatever you decide, you are at peace with your decision.
If not trying again will doom you to a life of second-guessing yourself, then giving your marriage another chance might make sense. On the other hand, if you know in your heart that your marriage is over, then going back just for the sake of giving it “one more try” may do more harm than good.
In the end, only you can decide what’s right for you.
This post was originally published in June, 2018 and revised on September 28, 2022.