Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck took pop culture by storm in the early 2000s, and their high-profile engagement sent the media into a frenzy. Now, nearly two decades later, the power couple were spotted together on a romantic getaway. Their rumored reunion has some wondering, is it time to send a flirty text to a former flame? When is rekindling a relationship with an ex a good idea?
Relationship experts say contrary to popular belief, exes are able to get back together and work it out more often than people think.
“Especially during COVID, it became more appealing to go back with an ex, or someone you already know,” explains Chloe Ballatore, who offers coaching on relationships and communications. “People were locked down, had more time on their hands to think and were also scared. It’s that sense of familiarity that pushed people back into defunct relationships.”
Reconciliation can be complicated, but experts say there’s nothing wrong with wanting to restart an old relationship as long as you go about it the right way.
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Only reach out when you’re in the right headspace
It can be hard to resist texting a former flame when you’re feeling lonely or emotionally vulnerable. But it’s important not to give into these temptations.
“Avoid making big decisions like these on an impulse,” Ballatore says. “Don’t do it when you’re drunk. Don’t do it at 2 a.m. I don’t recommend doing it when you’re in the throws of some emotional chaos.”
Joey Garcia, an advice columnist that specializes in love and relationships, adds it’s best to avoid reaching out to your ex during the times of day or night when you typically text that person.
“All you’re doing is stepping into a pattern that triggers both of you emotionally,” she says.
Instead, think it through and make a plan. A longer time apart can enable people to feel “more ready” to get back together according to Garcia.
“They’ve had time to reflect on themselves and the relationship and have their unmet needs handled on their own without depending so much on their partner,” she says.
Make sure you’re not mistaking nostalgia for true connection
Dr. Marie Murphy a relationship coach, says it’s important to figure out what you want from your ex, whether it be a committed relationship or casual sex.
“Ask yourself: Are you reaching out to your ex because you’re bored? Because it’s easier to stay with someone familiar? Or are you reaching out because you genuinely want to see if there’s a potential for reconnection?”
Natalia Juarez, a break-up coach and dating strategist, adds it’s common to confuse the two, because people have a tendency to fear being alone or to fear being with someone new. If you’re unsure of your intentions, tracking your thoughts about reconciliation over a two-week period can be a good idea.
“Every time you think about the relationship and think, ‘yes, I want to talk again,’ write an X on a piece of paper and put it in a box. When you think, ‘Oh no, no, no,’ put a 0 in the box,” Ballatore recommends.
“That’s a good way to track your feelings over a longer period of time to avoid being impulsive and susceptible to things like loneliness or nostalgia.”
Leave the past in the past
One of the challenges of dating an ex is addressing your history. Should you discuss the breakup? Is it OK to talk about what went wrong?
Experts recommend having this conversation before you officially get back together but advise against rehashing old drama.
“It’s great to talk about the past but only to a point,” Murphy says. “If you broke up and never talked about it, it’s important to discuss it for sure. But there’s always a line between talking about the past for mutual understanding and bringing up the past over and over again in a way that recreates old problems.”
She emphasizes your ex may have grown during the time apart.
“Allow your partner to be different. You have to let go of all of your old ideas of who your partner was and what they did and what they didn’t do,” Murphy says, adding that this capability is in our own control.
“Even if they change considerably, if we have the same old stories of them running through our minds, we’re the ones that are going to keep the relationship stuck.”
Continue with the cute dates and romantic gestures the second time around
Just like in a brand new relationship, Juarez, who has personally reconciled with her partner twice, says it’s important to continue going through the courting phase.
“There’s a tendency to regress to old patterns, and so many couples who get back together slip into complacency and basically become roommates,” she says.
Instead, “you have to actively build a strong relationship.” Juarez suggests having regular dinner dates or movie nights, along with meetings about how you can “do better and love each other more.”
Address problems head on
“Communication is key, especially since you might already know the problem spots the second time around,” says Murphy.
One way to express your frustrations in an amicable and non-confrontational manner is to use I statements to avoid blaming your partner.
“Don’t try to avoid conflict and let things build up. Instead, start with a compliment about how good your partner makes you feel. Then make your statement about what’s bothering you, and remember to solicit his or her thoughts at the end to see how they’re feeling.”
However, Garcia acknowledges that this journey isn’t easy, and you’ll have to work through the challenges together.
“You need a willingness to keep going together over the choppy waters because it’s not a sweet ride. When getting back with an ex, you have to love the person and relationship that much.”
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