I’ve gotten back together with my ex-boyfriend.
He also happens to be the very first boyfriend I’ve had, and the only other serious relationship I’ve had. We were high school sweethearts and first loves. We dated for a couple of years, and then broke up at 19 when we decided we needed to be our own people and explore what life was like without one another.
Now, three years later, we’ve somehow found each other again. Not that it was hard—he only lives two minutes away from my house.
Moving back to my hometown after graduating from college has brought up a few uncertainties. Now, back in my familiar stomping grounds, I ask myself, “What am I doing with my life and why?” When I started seeing him again, I asked myself if I was doing it because it was convenient, or if my romantic feelings for him were still there. My internal monologue was rapid and loud as I tried to truly understand what I wanted.
After a bit of back and forth and off and on, we decided to give it another go.
The voice in my head has hushed since we made the decision—this feels right. But it’s also given me a lot to think about. When we feel ourselves falling for someone we’ve already fallen for, it can be really scary. Am I falling back into a trap? Am I making a mistake, or do I want this?
To help ease those concerns, I remind myself of these five things:
1. We’re not the same people we were three years ago.
Who is? We have both grown in our own ways and have found new forms of excitement. He’s found his passion in music and has dreams and goals that he is trying to meet. Drive and ambition are the sexiest qualities in my book. We’re both in our 20s and have endless opportunities in front of us. We’ve picked up new hobbies and incorporated new lifestyle patterns in our day-to-day routines. There’s something different about each of us, which makes this new-old relationship all the more fun to explore.
2. We both have a past—including past relationships.
He began a new relationship after we broke up, and I had my fun in college. Those are both tough pills to swallow, but it was what we both needed to grow and be who we are now.
It’s important to have open communication if concerns arise. If you have questions ask them; just be careful not to attack or antagonize your partner. Ask yourself why you’re feeling jealous or upset. Is it something that is truly bothering you, or are you just in your head? Of course, at the start, you’ll need to discuss the necessary sexual health history—leaving out the part about how many people each has been with, as that’s unnecessary. Other than that, it’s best to leave everything else in the past.
What matters most is that we are together now, in this moment, and we care about each other.
3. Respect each other’s autonomy.
This goes for any relationship, but especially one that’s been rekindled. Someone’s individuality is what draws us to them in the first place, right? If you start to do everything together and morph into one identity, you’ll become bored, codependent, and feel stuck.
As much I would love to be with him all the time, we would probably end up resenting each other along the way. As silly as it sounds, try to come up with a code word when you need a day to recharge. When you feel like you can’t be present with your partner, rather than lashing out, acknowledge it and take a couple of days to yourself to figure out what you need. Step back, take the time to internalize what’s going on, and move forward.
4. Don’t lose your voice.
A benefit of being in a relationship for the second time is that you can spot old patterns surfacing. I’m one of those people who constantly says “I’m fine” even when it’s clear something is bothering me. Instead of just denying my feelings, I’ve been working on expressing how I feel and letting him know what’s going on in my head. If anything, it’s made us closer and made our communication stronger. I feel more comfortable in my own skin and my insecurities can slip away when I’m with him, which is liberating.
5. Embrace the love you have.
Life is short; love the one you’re with. Who knows how long we will be together this time? It could be forever, or it could be limited. Nothing is ever certain in life, but what I do know is to love hard and have no regrets. Follow your instincts and don’t pay attention to what others say—even if they disapprove of this second round. You are the only two in the relationship (unless you come to a different agreement) and that’s all that should matter.
We both have a lot of growing to do, and at this point, it’s nice to have someone to share that with. If you’re thinking about getting back together with an ex, ask yourself why. Will this person appreciate and support where you are in your life, and vice versa? Or will you be stuck in the past?
Relationships are never easy and none of us are perfect. They take work. The best question to ask yourself is: do you want to grow apart, or are you willing to do what it takes to grow together? If you decide to dive back in, don’t be afraid to take it slow!
Author: Maria DeSalvo
Image: Pasco Olivier/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy & Social Editor: Nicole Cameron