You remember, don’t you, all those times you felt so close to him that time stood still.
There was no one else in the world. Just you and him. Love wrapping you in a cocoon of happiness.
There was only one thing you needed for it to be perfect:
The knowledge that this would last forever.
But he wouldn’t give you that. Couldn’t give you that.
He broke your heart.
And you were left with nothing but memories.
But those memories are worth more than you think.
They have the potential to bring him back to you.
And science says your chances aren’t too shabby.
Why We Love Reuniting with Exes
On-off relationships are everywhere these days. Couples break up, get back together, break up, get back together…
They’re especially common in young adults. One study found that nearly half of young adults have gotten back together with an ex.
Even among married couples, anywhere from 10 to 20% have split up and got back together again.
Perhaps because it’s hard to let go.
One study found that about half of those who break up are ambivalent about it. They have strong reasons to leave AND strong reasons to stay. They keep wondering if they made the right decision.
Which explains the phenomenon of “boomerang breakups,” where your partner breaks up with you one minute then is at your door the next, begging you for a second chance.
Dating site Elite Singles found that about half of us would give our exes another chance if they came knocking at our door.
Why do our exes exert such a powerful hold over us?
It all comes down to shared memories.
The Science of Unforgettable Love
He may be able to get rid of your picture and phone number, but he can’t get rid of the memories you made together.
Those memories live inside his brain—and yours—no matter how long you’ve been apart.
So you may not be his girlfriend anymore, but that doesn’t mean that part of his brain doesn’t still think of you as his girlfriend.
Love researcher Dr. Helen Fisher explains:
“The brain develops pathways based on learned patterns. So, if you laid down a powerful pattern that this person was your life partner, your brain can retain traces of that circuitry, even after you’ve bonded with someone new.”
Psychologist Nancy Kalish wanted to know how powerful those patterns were. So she studied married people who reunited with a lost love.
She found that 62% of them were unable to resist having an affair with their ex—even though they never intended anything like that to happen.
High school and college romances have the highest likelihood of being rekindled, because memories formed at that age are more vivid.
Are these affairs just flings? Do the flames of passion burn out once couples realize they’re not the people they once were?
In fact, if at least 5 years elapsed between the youthful romance and the rekindling of the affair, the resulting marriage has a good chance of lasting (76% compared to 40% for the average marriage).
But here’s the key:
The youthful romances that stood the best chance of being rekindled didn’t end because of fighting or not getting along.
They ended because of parental disapproval, being too young, moving away, or going to a different school.
These relationships lacked closure. Couples felt snatched away from one another before they had the chance to see whether they could make it work.
Will Your Ex Come Back to You?
If your romance ended because of life circumstances—he got transferred, your lives went in different directions, you wanted different things—then you have a better chance at rekindling the romance than if your relationship ended because of fighting.
If you didn’t get along back then, chances aren’t great that you’ll be able to get along now.
The relationships with the greatest chance of being rekindled are relationships that were fundamentally good. You loved each other. You made great memories together.
Time can even work in your favor. Years apart won’t make those memories dim.
So get in contact. Reach out via social media, which is a low-risk way of contacting someone you’ve lost touch with. Mention a shared experience from the past to trigger his memories of you.
But be warned:
Connecting with a long-lost love is not recommended if you’re currently in a relationship. Kalish found that former high-school sweethearts cannot reunite as platonic friends. The emotions are too intense.
In the age of social media, no one is lost forever. Couples can get married to other people, end up divorced or widowed, and find each other again.
As long as you have those shared memories, you’ll have part of each other forever.
I am 71 and my ex boyfriend is 68. We met online and dated for a year. We live 133 miles apart. He went through a divorce during our relationship. I was separated awaiting a divorce. Because I had to keep up my image, I was the one who always visited him. I have a business which prevented me from regular visits. When I had to cancel he would get mad at me. One time he insulted me by putting down my body parts. Another time he tried to blackmail me. In the beginning I made the mistake of telling him that I had financially supported my soon to be ex husband. He then asked me for a monthly stipend because he said his only source of income was social security. So I did give him money each month, pay for his groceries and pay for our meals out. I have rental property and more income than he does. The last time I canceled my visit he dumped me for another woman he met on a dating site and moved her and her cat right in with him. He said that I had neglected and hurt him for the last time and that he would never renter my psychotic world. He is on five psychotropic drugs for depression and anxiety. He did tell me on a email that he still had friendly feelings for me and we could be friends, but he would not respond to any messages from me as long as she was there. I did leave a message for him on Google chat and he has never responded. So now we’re no contact. He was definitely my soulmate and my best friend. My heart is broken and I don’t know what to do or how to get him back. I am going to a therapist and she thinks he may be a narcissist. I wish I knew for sure because then it might make it easier for me to just move on. Any help would be appreciated very much. Thank you.
My husband and I had been together for 16+ years. He’s always feared commitment. We have a 16 year old and 11 year old, but we’re only married 7+ years of the 16 we’ve been together.
My husband told me in February that he wanted a divorce. “I didn’t give him enough attention, I didn’t initiate sex, we didn’t have enough sex, and he didn’t feel desired, and I wasn’t supportive. We don’t make a good married couple.”
The week before Father’s Day he found out he had a brain tumor. He had a Glioblastoma removed a week later. He is currently undergoing medical trials.
The week he found out about the brain tumor, he had started talking to a new girl. Things with them seemed to have escalated and I’m not going to lie, I’ve already made some horrible mistakes in trying to get him back (prior to him seeing someone), and I have been less than kind about him seeing someone.
I’m working on all of my issues now, I just don’t know if this relationship can be salvaged. I want more than anything to have him back, but not sure now that he’s already set his eyes on someone else.
Hi James. I’ve recently gone through a breakup with the man I’ve loved for so long. We broke up because I was raped and wasn’t able to talk to him about the details. He’s blocked me on everything and won’t allow me back into his life because he thinks I had sex with another guy to hurt him. There’s one Instagram account he doesn’t have me blocked on but I want to get back together with the love of my life. I don’t know what to do and I’m in more pain than ever before. What can I say or do to explain?
Please help me. I’ve tried everything
It seems like his ego is getting in the way of our love and reconnecting at all. I’ve tried everything I possibly could and I know that the longer we’re in separation, the less he’s going to love me. I read your book but I’d like direct conversation with you because in a way it seems like you’re the best chance I’ve got.
After reading your book and this article, I have clearly realized I made some key mistakes that pushed him away when all was going well when we dated.
The usual – getting frustrated when he didn’t text immediately coming back from work trip, saying things to get his attention but actually in reverse was negative, making him feel guilty and obligated.
We didn’t end things properly, but it wasn’t a entirely bad last conversation we had. Just that I remember him saying he was not ready to commit now, he wanted a relationship eventually but he doesn’t know what he wants now. When I asked him what he didn’t want- he said he didn’t want to feel obligated and he wanted it to be natural.
Due to current situation of months of lockdown, it has actually made me rethink our previous experiences and my conversation, and your book now gives me courage if I ever were to see him again I know how I am going to react and engage him. Initially I was ashamed and hurt that I might have indirectly made him feel obligated so I stopped texting him. Now, I don’t know how best to re-engage him. Should I just continue to practice these conversations and work on myself until one day he texts me back and hopefully then I will be ready? Wait until our paths cross or add him on social media just to stay in contact virtually?
Hi Jamie. I think you are on the right track. You intuitively understand his perspective a little better than you did before, and this gives you an advantage whenever you begin to interact again.
The next step is simply to build propinquity (opportunities for interaction). The simplest way to do so is to open a private line of communication such as texting again or private messages on Facebook. You want to keep things light, triggering memories of positive experiences the two of you shared together. You want to send “just thinking about you” messages that do not imply any need for him to respond. Eventually, when his mood is right, he will respond to one of those messages.
When the time is right, you’ll notice and opportunity to ask for his help. Remember, it can be something small like asking his opinion about a certain purchase. This will activate his hero instinct in ways that are likely to draw him closer and possibly open his heart again to considering where things might go in a relationship with you.
Wishing you love and happiness,
Hi James, I have been in a not good situation lately. I really like this one guy I was seeing before I moved. Now we live quite very far apart. I feel like he is the one I want to spend my life with and I want him to be a part of my life. But I think it is not just him but me pushing him away from me. How can I start again with him and make him try and talk to me? Sometimes I feel like he’s already seeing someone else. Can you help me? I really want your help to get him back.
Share your heart, have you told him how much you miss him?
Maybe you push him away because something is incomplete and/or missing.
Stop hiding your heart. Show your feelings.
I am from India, I had a 8 years long relationship, we were happy with each other but things changed a lot when he went to some other state in India. The first year was good but in the second year I could see a change in his behavior he didn’t called me like he used to do and some how I could feel a detachment of love from his side. He used to be more friendly towards other women which was cool with me. But currently there is this friend of his with whom he is over friendly which I didn’t liked and he lied about lots of things to me just to meet her. I tried telling him not to lie but to tell me if shes just your friend which was ok with me but he didn’t and continued to lie. He told her I am his ex and there was no way I broke up with him, he used to tell that woman that we broke up and did everything possible not to let her know if we are back again but somehow she knew and she had no feelings for him. We are not in talking terms of a few days till now and he doesn’t want to talk to anyone. I have stopped calling him since the day he lied again to me i used to text him call him and none of it he answered. When i got to know everything about him from that same woman, we both were shocked as to why he’s lying and let me tell you they were not together and they were not physical and i know he used to love and still loves me but somehow things went totally different. I am shattered into knowing that he used to call me his ex. And now also he isn’t calling or texting neither am I. I need help.
I met a gentleman online and we hit it off great. He is a fireman, who became very busy with his two jobs. He has been divorced twice and was concerned he did not want to mess things up with us. As time went on, his job demanded him to be forced to work when they were short handed. I remained supportive and both understand and respect his job and told him so. Eventually our time together dwindled, but he tried to make time when he could. I did question him if he was still in for the relationship, as I wanted to see him more. I kind of regret it, as I think it pressured him to say he thinks it’s better to call it quits and said he enjoyed our times and hopes I understand. We agreed to keep in touch. When we text it lasts for 2 hours at a time. He also responds immediately to texts. I feel there is still a connection, as we were very connected and open. I feel I scared him off making him feel he wasn’t meeting my needs.
Maybe he just feels that he’s being forced to keep you at arms length because of his work commitments and that he’s not being fair to you. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care for you but that he can’t give you the time he wants to and that you deserve.
I want to suggest a few of our mini-courses by James Bauer & Amy Waterman. The first one is called He Loves Me But He Is Too Busy and the second one is When He Withdraws. The third mini-course I want to suggest is Keep Him Interested. I think they will help you with this crossroad you’ve come to and move forward into your future!
I just caught my bf of 5 years cheating. I got into a physical altercation with the girl I found him with. He told us both to leave him alone. I remember he kept saying he wasn’t happy and that I wasn’t listening to him. Now we’re broken up and I’m heartbroken plus he won’t answer any of my calls or texts so I’ve gotten no closure. I still want to work things out. Any advice?
Hey Rachel. I’m sorry to hear about that.
Does he know you are willing to work things out with him? He is probably feeling ashamed about his behavior (if not he should be), and that can cause some people to use anger as a social defense against having to answer for what they’ve done.
Some people in similar situations have found it can be helpful to just keep the lines of communication open without trying to fix any relationship problems (for awhile) so that you start to remember why you like each other. Otherwise, as soon as he sees your name pop up on his phone, it brings up all kinds of painful thoughts and feelings.
I have been in an off again, on again. When he can’t keep a job, he runs back to the same old girlfriend. He hides and then starts trying to contact me. He always needs a back-up. He is 75 years old and narcissistic. My heart is worn out. Ihelped him through a lot of situations including jail time. We have a three year history.
I met him on FB when he saw my profile and he made a friend request, I, we made good friends but as we got to know each other we became more than friends accepted it he is 58, I am 60 within a month, I developed feelings for this man and I accidentally revealed my developing feelings for him that was in April 2018 it was a nice friendship that grew into a relationship that grew by leaps and bounds we both fell into love but 3, months, later I suffered a heart attack, 4 days later, I had a quadruple heart bypass and my hospitalization kept me away from him for 5 weeks, according to his sister, he stopped eating and he became depressed because he thought that I left him, I could not tell him what happened to me until I got out of cardiac rehab. November 2018 we had a big fight and broke up for half of a day and worked our problems out. in late January, he told me that he was going to Africa with his sister but he really didn’t want to go but, as he explained to me that he was all she’s got because their parents died so I was ok about him going on this trip, I noticed that he is bonded to her and our relationship became rocky as he became demanding to me asking me to send him a cell phone and he was pushy about me sending him he cell phone just last week he asked me to cash a money order for his sister I said no I would not do that for him and he told me not to talk to him again until I made sense. so i said to him are you picking a fight with me? I told him that I could be nasty too and he then sais that if I didn’t stop sending him messages to him that he would block me, I decided to delete him from my Google hangouts but regrettd my decision and I don’t know what to do it will be a year that they have been gone to start this business and it is an open ened trip. I miss him but I am not sure if I should try and fix this mess or just move on. We had a sweet tender relationship with each other.
It sounds like you shared a lot of beautiful moments, and that some unfortunate miscommunication brought out the worst in both of your communication styles at a time when the relationship was most vulnerable.
Because of that, relationships like these generally have a possibility of being revived even though under most circumstances a break this long would stack the odds against a fast recovery. Still, time has a way of healing wounds.
Perhaps the best question to ask is whether or not you feel inspired to try. Do you feel inspired to put one foot in front of the other as you walk back toward this man? If you do, then perhaps that is the real variable you should pay attention to rather than the odds of success which no one can truly predict.
Wishing you love and happiness,
James, that is a beautiful response to this lady’s dilemma. Sometimes it is really hard to see the wood for the trees, and we need a guiding light to show us the way forward. You always provide that shining beacon of clarity to guide us onto the right path – something a lot of people must take great comfort from. I’ve been following your posts for a long, long time and have found them invaluable in sorting out my own dilemmas. I also use your insights when talking to “my” people on the drug/alcohol/mental wellbeing helpline who may be finding life a struggle. Thank you, earth angel, once again. Lorna (LaLa)
Hi Hollee, I found myself in a similar situation as you in a long-distance relationship. We also had a “sweet tender relationship” in the beginning, which is worth remembering. However, there were all sorts of misunderstandings – mostly due to his drinking problem, and the long-distance. I have not seen him now for two years, but tried to keep in touch occasionally by phoning now and then and sending little cards with nice comments in to boost him up. (He had blocked my mobile phone and landline, so I phoned from a friend’s house). After we “parted” two years ago he contracted cancer, and was also having huge problems with his 90-year-old mother who has dementia, and was very anxious, so I kept in touch to offer support, and said I would always be there if he needed me. Now, we have agreed to meet up in a couple of weeks, which I am excited about, and he seems to be too, but I’m also apprehensive. I will just take it easy and try not to pressure him. As for you, I would not give up on this man. Try to be nice!! Try to build the trust back up, and be supportive. Don’t forget that at our advanced age we have a lot of emotional baggage to carry around, and that takes a lot of sifting through to come to terms with. How about a trip to Africa to see how he is doing? You could take the cell phone and anything else he needs with you!! Best of luck. Lorna
So what are the chances of getting back together if he left you because he realized he “still loved his ex-girlfriend” and wanted to try to make it work with her? (All 3 of us are in our mid-40’s and no college/HS sweetheart connections involved.) They have a 3.5 year history, at least a year of it not very good…in fact she was mean to him, drank heavily, and in his words “was toxic”. He and I only spent a few short weeks together, however after 4 days he asked me to move in with him…and I did! We had so much fun, got along fabulously, have so much in common, just feel so comfortable together “like we have known each other for years”, and could talk about anything! The chemistry was fire-hot, everything seemed better than a fairytale until one day he “just realized he still loved her”. Yet, he said he thought we would have an amazing life together if we had met when he didn’t have feelings for someone else. He was, IS, the real deal. The guy I could see myself spending forever with. Genuine, kind, generous, affectionate, so handsome, and honest. Everyone speaks so highly of him, says he really is just that nice of a guy! So why does the nice guy want to be with someone that isn’t nice to him? What can I do? I love him to the moon and back, and just want him back. Oh Please Help, before she convinces him to propose or something more permanent. (He doesn’t want to get re-married.)
Hey Kari. That’s a complex situation. As you know, there are many factors influencing the chances of him returning to you. If she has been awful to him in the past, his starry-eyed infatuation with her may pass rather quickly once he remembers who she really is. He may have outgrown her in some ways. But only time will tell.
Hi Kari, Is it possible to just “hang around” on the outskirts of this relationship he has with his ex? Without pressuring him, somehow remind him that you are still there? But at the same time get on with your life and meet other people and friends. Yes, he may still have feelings for her, it is not easy to stop loving someone, even when you know they are no good for you, but hopefully, he will realize that she really is toxic and that you are a better option. I don’t know how you will do this, as these days communication is so different, but you may be able to think of something. I hope it works out for you – and don’t let pride get in the way!! Best wishes. Lorna