Picture the scenario. You broke it off with your partner and never want to see them again, let alone go back out with them. That's completely normal, and usually, it's for the best. But now they're back in your life and want to start over. Do you risk giving the relationship another go? Should you ever date your ex?

To begin with, you might want to look at my article on why you are obsessing over a previous relationship, to consider if you are being drawn back to your ex due to lack of closure or unfinished business, as opposed to the actual compatibility of you both. You could also be in the habit of getting involved in unhealthy relationships, and so it may pay off to ask yourself if bad relationships keep repeating on you, to ensure you are not returning to the same situation that is just going to cause you endless pain and heart ache.

So after considering all the pros and cons, your friends may think you're crazy, but sometimes it really does work out if you follow these guidelines.

1. Forgive and forget

You both know the reasons you split the last time. Infidelity, bad behaviour, lack of emotional connection – all good reasons for parting ways. But that was then, and this is now. Moving on means not falling into the trap of reminding each other of the error of your ways. Leave bad memories in the past and don't let them destroy your future. Live in the present and look towards tomorrow with hope and optimism.

2. Ask no questions, tell no lies

Accept that you both had your own lives when you were apart, and you probably both dated other people. Asking too many questions and digging into the gory details of everything that went on will only cause you pain. No matter how curious you are, make a pact to never question and never tell. The jealousy that will surface will kill your future happiness.

3. Make a fresh start

Reigniting that old flame will be harder than it looks. Start afresh with your slates clean. Let go of preconceptions and assumptions about each other. Remember: the past is a foreign country they do things differently there. Treat this relationship as if it was brand new. Try to learn new things about each other and begin again from scratch. Giving each other a fresh chance will open the avenues to happiness.

4. Be trusting, but always cautious

Was your partner trustworthy the first time around? They say a leopard never changes their spots. Well, that may or may not be true in a relationship. Sometimes your ex can change for the better, but sometimes they stay exactly the same. Caution should prevail, but avoid appearing distrustful from day one. Revealing your doubts may damage your relationship before it has a chance to grow.

5. Don't fall into the same traps

Change is never easy, but it is also never impossible. You need to avoid falling into the trap of repeating old mistakes. Break the destructive behavioural patterns that caused your break up last time. Analyse where you went wrong first time around and determine the issues that held you back from a successful relationship. Were you clingy, or possessive? Then avoid this by allowing your partner all the space they need to feel safe and comfortable. Were you emotionally unavailable and unromantic? Surprise your loved one with meaningful gifts and celebrate key anniversaries by giving a present that makes them feel special.

6. Protect yourself from instant love

Settling back into an old relationship is like putting on a pair of comfy old slippers. You know your ex inside and out, and the temptation to rekindle the old passion can be strong. But wariness is essential. Don't be tricked into falling under love's spell so soon. Slow down and think twice. You need to be sure your renewed relationship is the right choice before falling in love again.

7. Getting physical

You and your partner have been here before. If you're going to get involved again romantically, why not dive straight back into the physical side too? But hold on a minute. Slow down and take it easy. Jumping into bed with your ex could signal the doom of a blossoming romance. When it comes to intimacy between you, behave as if you were embarking upon a brand new relationship. Allow the physical side to blossom naturally over time. There are many reasons for sleeping with an ex, but only 14% of those who do so are looking for a permanent reconciliation. Proceed with caution.

8. Bringing it out in the open

You might as well admit it – when you first split with your partner you ran straight to your closest friends and family with your tale of woe. You aren't alone, we've all done the same. But remember, the horror stories you told your nearest and dearest are still fresh in their minds and they may not wholeheartedly support your current reunion. It's only normal that they are worried about your long term happiness and are afraid you'll be hurt again. Don't have unrealistic expectations of them. They are going to be sceptical and maybe hostile to your partner. Take the time to discuss your new relationship with your family and your friends. Ask them to give your partner another chance, and, no matter how they may feel, refrain from expressing any negative opinions. You're giving them a second chance, it's only fair that they do too.

9. Take the road less travelled

Old habits die hard and falling into your old patterns of behaviour is far too easy when you rekindle an old relationship. When you stick like glue to the way things used to be, you might find your relationship comes unstuck in the end. Lack of experimentation may hold you back from finding new happiness with your old flame. Both of you need to agree to be risk-takers. Make an effort to try new and unusual things you may never have tried together. This is a sign to you both that you are moving on into a bright future, and leaving the past behind. Be spontaneous. Take chances. Treat every moment together as a gift and seize the day.

In conclusion

Revisiting an old relationship isn't the right course of action for everyone, but sometimes it is worth the risk. But be prepared for the hard work and commitment that reviving an old love takes. For the best chance of happiness, reject the mistakes of your past and look firmly towards the future. You may discover that you are each other's soulmates after all.

I would love to hear your comments or answer any questions you might have about this post.

Yours sincerely,   


Dr. Carissa Coulston, Clinical Psychologist

BSc(Hons), MPsychol(Clinical), PhD, MAPS