If you have consumed any media in the last few months, you’ve probably been made aware of the fact that actor Ben Affleck and superstar Jennifer Lopez are back together. I know, I know: You don’t really care about what famous people do in their private lives, but hear me out, because this romance rekindling offers important lessons for us all.
Bennifer’s history is actually very intriguing from a couples’ therapist standpoint, and I can tell you that I have seen similar situations play out in my clients’ romantic lives as well. Getting back together with an ex is extremely tempting, and for some, I might even describe the urge as downright addictive.
What do I mean by that? I am referring to something called ‘repetition compulsion’ in which a person continues to create certain situations or engage in certain relationships out of a subconscious desire to recreate the same environment of their past trauma. It’s sort of like a criminal who goes back to the scene of the crime. Except in this case, we aren’t criminals, but rather just wounded people going back to the scene of our original wounds in a desperate attempt to heal ourselves.
We generally aren’t aware we are doing this. It’s not as though we are actively choosing to pick partners or create situations that are going to re-trigger our old trauma, but in a way we sort of are: I firmly believe that we are all here to accomplish important soul-work that often begins when we heal from and learn from our deepest hurts. Most of the time, we don’t do so right at the moment in time when the trauma occurs. Instead, we need to look back and intentionally heal that trauma later in the future. But sometimes we aren’t fully ready to do that. So our subconscious mind almost urges us on, leading us back into old patterns and guiding us to recreate the same situations and relationships which created our trauma in the first place. Our wounded hearts are like newborn babies crying out in a crib for attention, and as much as we may want to leave our hearts to ‘cry it out’ alone, we are subconsciously driven to seek out situations that we think can help heal those deep hurts.
No wonder getting back together with an ex can be so compelling. It isn’t just that we still have that same attraction and desire for one another, but many times, it’s as if we think we can fix not only the relationships but also ourselves if we just give it one more go.
Here’s the problem with all that: Many of us don’t get out of that subconscious zone and really start to plug into the fact that there is something much deeper and more profound at play. We aren’t intentional or aware of the healing that needs to happen, and so we just slip back into the old behaviors that caused us pain in the first place.
So inevitably, we just get hurt once again, and the cycle of pain continues.
That doesn’t mean I think getting back together with an ex is a bad idea. I truly believe in the concept of soulmates and the idea that people can be ‘meant’ for each other. But if you’re going to get back together with an ex, you have to really make sure that you’re doing so in a conscious, intentional way. You need to be willing to examine what you did to contribute to the breakup in the first place, and what steps you both need to take to ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes this go-around.
Most importantly, be willing to look at what this relationship has to teach you. Whatever discomfort or pain is triggered by your bond is a chance for you to look deeply at yourself and examine what lesson the universe might be trying to teach you. For example, if you have always struggled to trust your partner fully, it could be an opportunity for you to look closely at the fact that you have self-worth issues stemming from childhood. Anything your partner intimately triggers you is often a signal of an area of growth potential for you.
Now, sometimes getting back together with an ex is just an all-around bad idea. If there has been abuse in the past, or if your partner leads you to engage in dangerous or destructive behavior, you need to make a clean break and find someone else who will support your growth in a positive way.
But if you’re both willing to work together and be intentional in the healing of your hearts, then getting back together can work out. Yes, love can find a way, but we are the ones who need to author that love, and that takes time, conscious effort, and a willingness to work past our comfort zones.
Got any questions for me about this or any other sex, love, or relationship challenges? Email me at email@example.com or leave me a voice message here. I might answer it on my podcast The Language of Love.