Most of us have dealt with an ex-spouse or ex-lover who just won’t stay away. How do you handle the “boomerang ex” who just keeps trying to come back into your life after days, weeks, months, or even years of being apart?

It can seem like an easy, attractive option – returning to a familiar situation, rather than starting all over with someone new. But is it ever really a good idea to reunite with an ex after your divorce or breakup? Can a failed relationship succeed on subsequent attempts to make it work? 

If you’re tempted to give it another try after a split or divorce, is there a right way to do so? Relationship experts weigh in with some cautionary tales, and some ideas to make it work when attempting to reunite with a former romantic partner.

“Breaking up with someone you care about is often a difficult and painful experience, but the decision to move on can be necessary for both parties,” said Megan Harrison, LMFT, of Couples Candy. “Reconciling with an ex could seem like a tempting option, particularly if the relationship ended abruptly or without closure.”

Navigating the odds of getting back together with an ex

“Couples who breakup and get back together may be able to stay together long-term; however, the majority end up breaking up again within a few months or years,” said Lisa Lawless, PhD, licensed psychotherapist, and CEO of Holistic Wisdom. “It’s important to understand that while a reconciliation can work out, it’s not always the best idea.”

“We often romanticize past relationships, focusing on the positive aspects while glossing over the negatives. It’s a form of self-protection but can also hold us back from moving on. That is why it is so vital to navigate the complexities of past relationships realistically,” Lawless advised.

A reunited couple holds hands.
(Shutterstock / Alraun)

Addressing communication boosts reconciliation odds

“Research has found that the success rate of a reconciliation after a breakup or divorce depends on the reason for the initial break-up in the first place,” said Harrison. “If it was due to a lack of communication or external factors such as finances, then there’s an increased chance of staying together (the second time around) if these issues are addressed and resolved properly. On the other hand, if infidelity was involved, then it could be harder for couples to move past this issue and trust each other again, so chances of reconciliation are much lower than when external issues were at play,” Harrison added.

Hartman agrees that the success rate of a reconciliation depends on the circumstances and involves many factors, such as “the length and nature of the relationship, how much time has passed since the initial breakup or divorce, and if any underlying issues have been addressed.”

Effective communication helps significantly.

“If both partners are open to talking honestly about what happened in the past and taking steps to prevent similar problems from occurring in the future, then it is more likely that the relationship will last this time around. Additionally, if both partners are still emotionally invested in each other and willing to work together to build trust and strengthen their bond then they may be able to make their reunion work,” Hartman said.

Reflecting on previous mistakes can lead to a better future

Hartman is cautiously optimistic that relationships can improve.

“Yes, the relationship dynamic can definitely change on subsequent go-rounds,” she said. However, “it is important to consider what was wrong in the previous relationship and think about how it can be improved this time around. For example, if there were issues with communication or trust, then it is important for both partners to work on addressing these problems and taking steps to ensure that they don’t happen again,” Hartman advised. “Additionally, if either partner has grown as an individual since the breakup, then this could also lead to changes in the relationship dynamic. Ultimately, any successful reconciliation will require both parties to be open and honest with each other and be willing to compromise in order for their relationship to thrive,” Hartman added.

Taking ownership and rebuilding trust for relationship rekindling

Harrison suggests couples make a concerted effort to work together closely and openly, if they decide to give the relationship another try.

“First, both partners should take responsibility for the part they played in leading to the breakdown of the relationship and commit to understanding their partner’s point of view,” Harrison said. “It is essential for each individual in the relationship to re-establish trust by being honest with each other and making sure that communication between them is clear and consistent.” 

The time apart during and after the official break-up period could potentially strengthen the relationship long-term, according to Harrison. “Relationships require work; taking some time apart can be beneficial when trying to reconcile, as it allows individuals involved a chance to reflect on what went wrong and how they would like things to look different moving forward. It also gives both parties an opportunity to assess whether they still want this relationship without being swayed by emotions from recent events,” Harrison said.

As with many relationship issues, resolution is more easily achieved via effective open communication, according to Hartman. “It is essential that both partners are willing to talk openly and honestly about why the relationship ended initially, as well as any changes or improvements they want to make this time around,” she said. Each partner must learn from his or her mistakes and take responsibility for the previous demise of the relationship. “Working together on building trust and strengthening their bond can also help increase their odds of making the reconciliation last. Couples should also focus on having fun together and spending quality time with one another so that they can enjoy being back together again,” Hartman said.

A woman hands a heart to a man she is getting back together with.
(Shutterstock / ProStockStudio)

 It takes two for a successful ‘take two’

According to Hartman, “both partners must be willing and committed to making it work. It will take a lot of open and honest communication, as well as trust and compromise, for the relationship to succeed this time around,” she advised. “It’s also important to anticipate any potential consequences that may arise from getting back together or staying apart. Both partners should think about how their decision will affect them personally, as well as considering any family or friends who might be involved if they go their separate ways,” Hartman concluded.

Tips for dealing with a boomerang ex

If your ex is persistently attempting to get back together, it can be tough to know how to respond. Be sure to carefully consider your own well-being, desires, and emotions before agreeing to open up the possibility of a reconciliation. 

  • Communicate clearly: Be firm but respectful when communicating with your ex. Express your feelings and make it clear whether you are interested in getting back together. 
  • Set boundaries: Decide what kind of contact, if any, you’re comfortable with and let your ex know. For example, you may be okay with occasional check-ins but not with daily phone calls or texts. It’s important to be firm about these boundaries and avoid engaging in any behavior that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Take space: Taking some time away from your ex can be helpful in processing your feelings and moving on. This can involve limiting or cutting off contact entirely, and focusing on your own life and well-being.
  • Seek support: Surround yourself with friends and family who support you and can help you through this challenging time and decision. Consider reaching out to a therapist or counselor for additional support.
  • Focus on self-care: Taking care of yourself is crucial. Engage in activities that bring you joy and happiness, practice self-care, and seek professional help if needed.

CEO shares personal journey of reuniting with long-distance ex

Jim Campbell is personally a proponent of giving true love a second chance.

“I’ve experienced a lot of things in my life, but reconciling with an ex-girlfriend is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do,” he said. He reunited with his long-distance ex of three years – they couldn’t make it work while going to different colleges. “We tried dating other people but never really got over each other, so after graduating college, we decided to give it another try,” said Campbell, CEO and founder of Honeymoon Goals.

For him and his significant other, “the second time around has been the best. The issues that caused us to break up before are no longer there: we both still love each other deeply and passionately – but now we’re also able to talk about things like politics and religion without getting into an argument!” he said.

The “amazing” experience of reconciliation was not without its challenges, however. “It’s hard to let go of the anger and resentment that comes with being hurt by someone who was once so important to you,” said Campbell. “And when you’re trying to make something work again after months or years of being apart, it can be hard to know if what you’re feeling is real, or just your own insecurity about moving forward without [the other person].”

Reflecting upon the entire experience, Campbell provides the following thoughts in sum: “Reconciliation is tough. But if you can get through all of that, then there’s no better feeling than finding yourself back together with someone you love again.”