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Getting Back With an Ex: Insecure Edition

What do your Sundays typically look like? Odds are they usually entail brunch, football, spending time with family and friends, or planning ahead for the week. If you’re an Insecure fan, then I’m sure being tuned into #SeasonByeve and having a Black Twitter family reunion each week is also a part of your Sunday routine. As I scrolled down my timeline last week, laughing at people’s reactions to Issa’s shenanigans, I came across this tweet from one of my followers. It made me think about how often I hear of people getting back with their exes, whether it’s friends I know, clients of mine, or celebrities’ lives that are discussed in the media. By now we’ve all either known of someone getting back with an ex, or have done it ourselves. But is getting back with an ex always the right answer? How can you know when it’s a healthy thing to do vs. when it’s continuing a negative relationship cycle?

I remember being so excited when I thought Issa and Lawrence were getting back together last season. To me, it felt like perfect timing. They had spent enough time apart, without any contact. They had both focused on themselves, matured, and became a bit more stable in their lives. Plus it was clear that the love and chemistry between them had never left. So I was all for rekindling the flame. However, as I watched Issa and Nathan, I did not feel the same.

In my opinion, Issa and Nathan’s relationship seems to be one of convenience. They ended abruptly after Nathan ghosted her in Season 3. I’ve already discussed my stance on ghosting, so I won’t go into that. But in Nathan’s defense, he was struggling with his mental health and navigating having a bipolar disorder. I can understand stepping away from a relationship in order to regain mental health stability. However, he still could have communicated what he was going through before leaving. Eventually, he did return, apologizing and explaining what he had been experiencing that led him to retreat from the relationship. I appreciated the show highlighting mental health challenges and how they can impact romantic relationships. But by the time he returned, she had already reconnected with Lawrence and put him in the friend zone out of respect for her relationship. Even after she and Lawrence split, she continued to keep Nathan in the friendzone. Yet the past two episodes it seems Issa has been trying to change that. Now the reason I’m not here for this shift the same way I was with Lawrence, is because it doesn’t feel like there’s been as much growth between either of them. Issa just had him eating her tears, and Nathan had basically gone MIA after that situation, which shows me Issa is still not ready and Nathan is still avoidant. This leads me to my point: 

When Is It Not Healthy to Get Back with an Ex:

  1. When there hasn’t been any change. If you’re already entertaining getting back together with an ex, and have been in contact with them but notice you two are falling back into the same problems that were present in your past relationship, that may show that neither of you have adjusted your behaviors or thinking. If there hasn’t been any growth in either of you as individuals, it may be difficult for the relationship to experience growth as well.
  2. When you’re only doing it out of comfort. A lot of times, our fear can cause us to remain in situations that are no longer serving us. If you’re afraid of being single, or fearful of starting over it’s easy to stay where you’re comfortable. However, if these reasons are the only driving factors to rekindling this flame, then it may not be the healthiest idea to do so. You won’t know if you’re choosing to go back to this person out of genuinely wanting to be with them, or just out of fear of loneliness. That would be unfair to you and them.
  3. When there hasn’t been any accountability. For example, if there’s been no acknowledgment of wrongdoings or apologies and the relationship starts back up as if nothing happened to end it in the first place. This can lead to feelings of resentment on both ends, because issues were never addressed or resolved. If neither you nor your ex are willing to take accountability for past actions, how can you move forward?
  4. When the relationship ended for a clearly unhealthy reason. Staying in or going back to an abusive relationship is never healthy. While I don’t judge those who decide to do so because leaving an abusive relationship is not always an easy task, the fact remains that it is unhealthy to do so. If there was an explosive argument or situation that led to the breakup, let that be a reminder that the relationship ended for a reason. Another reminder is that unhealthy and abusive relationships do not only pertain to physical violence. If your ex would say hurtful things, manipulate you or threaten you in any way, and you were able to leave the relationship once before, why put yourself back into that situation? 
  5. When you’d be ashamed to tell family and friends that y’all are back together. Typically our family and friends know us pretty well and want what is best for us. They are the ones that remain throughout break ups and help nurture us back to ourselves. They are also the ones that are less forgiving of our exes than we are, since they weren’t in the relationship to begin with and most likely take our side. So when it comes to rekindling a relationship with an ex, I can understand there being some hesitancy with telling loved ones that you’re back together. However, there’s a difference between hesitancy and shame.  If you know those closest to you would disapprove of the relationship (not out of pettiness or judgement, but genuine concern for you) and you feel embarrassed to let them know that you two are back together, what does that tell you? 

When Is It Healthy to Get Back with an Ex:

  1. When there has been time and space. To heal from a relationship, I think there needs to be some time and space away from the person. This time and space can look different for each person. It may entail dating others or staying single, but the point is that there is time apart from this person so that you give yourself and your body time to detach from them. If after the time and space apart, you still find yourself having strong feelings for your ex, or that the love and chemistry is still there, then this could be a healthy sign.
  2. When there has been accountability. It’s very important for both of you to be able to have candid and open conversations around what led to the end of the relationship in the past, and apologize for any hurt or pain you may have caused each other. This way it clears the air, allows you both to see each other as accountable and able to recognize the mistakes you’ve made, and hopefully bring that sense of accountability into the new relationship.
  3. When there is forgiveness. Once both are accountable, the next step is forgiveness. Truthfully, forgiveness should occur whether you two decide to get back together or not. Forgiveness isn’t for the other person, it’s for you to be able to accept what has happened and let go of the emotional pain so that you can make room for healing and joy. But if you two do decide to get back together, forgiveness is essential so that you two don’t continue to throw past mistakes in each other’s face. Forgiveness allows for a fresh start.
  4. When there is intentionality. When going back to an ex, it’s important to take things slow. Do not rush right back to where you two left off, but take time getting to know each other again and what may have changed about each of you during your time apart. Besides taking things slow, intentionality can also look like communicating emotions and expectations of each other this time around. It may not be a bad idea to incorporate a couples therapist or another unbiased and neutral third party to help you two facilitate communication and understanding. 
  5. When there hasn’t been any abusive behavior. Not every relationship ends on bad terms. Sometimes people are able to still have love for a person and appreciate the time spent together but recognize the relationship is no longer working. If this relationship ended due to a natural course of life event, such as moving, or growing apart from one another, rekindling may be coming from a healthier place. If you don’t feel pressured, manipulated, or forced into resuming the relationship, that’s a good sign.