Dear Dr. Jann: My spouse and I broke up last year after years of fighting and arguing. At first it was a relief, quite honestly, but now I’m not so sure. Getting over it, even if it was a bad relationship, has been more difficult than I thought. I just don’t know how to be happy anymore and every time I see the kids it brings me down further. To make matters worse, I think she may have found someone new. My old life doesn’t look so bad to me right now. How do I tell my ex I think we made a mistake by splitting up?
Dr. Jann: Breaking up is no fun. It hurts, even if the relationship hasn’t been good for a long time. And, second thoughts about breaking up are quite common. A little time starts to heal those old wounds, the anger begins to melt away, and you find yourself wondering why you broke up in the first place. Experts say it takes at least two years to recover from a divorce — and it’s my experience it’s really more like three or four.
With this in mind, be careful this just isn’t a personal pity party. Few want to be alone and if you have yet to find a new relationship, you may just be lonely—when you are lonely it’s natural to fall back on something familiar. Plus, if she has found someone new she cares for, that may be making you jealous and there’s nothing like a good dose of jealousy to stir those old feelings once again.
Understand, however, if there were big enough problems to cause a break-up, time may heal the hurt, but it doesn’t solve the problems. Even though the dust has settled, those problems are still there and promise to return with a vengeance if you don’t openly confront what caused the break up in the first place. Therefore, if you are really serious about getting back together, start with counseling, both individually and together, to help you decide if reuniting is really what you want to do. If she has moved on, go to counseling alone. Sounds like you may need an ear and a plan for your future and a counselor can help you get a clear idea of what is best.
If you do agree reconciliation is a possibility, make a pact to take it slow in front of the kids. Although it may seem natural to hang around the house or even sleep over, be careful how you portray your relationship until you know your exact plans. This will be tough. The possibility of getting back together is very exciting and you’ll probably want to share it with your kids as soon as possible. But remember, you’ve already put them through one break-up. Make sure you’re positive of where you are going this time or the good you’re trying to accomplish by getting back together may be overshadowed by the emotional distress caused by a second break-up.