Speaking of ex temptation, unless you switched off from last month’s news cycle (and really, who could blame you?), you’ll know June’s biggest celebrity story: Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck are back together after almost two decades.
It was peak early 2000s. The pair dated, got engaged, and even sparked that trend of power couples merging their names into one easy mononym. Brangelina? Forget it. It was all about Bennifer (Well, until they broke off their engagement in 2004).
But all this initiated a fascinating conversation: Exactly why do people so often go back to their exes?
We are but creatures of habit
Once you’ve been in a relationship for a while, you take your partner’s quirks and idiosyncrasies for granted. That’s precisely what makes the thing so great. There are a thousand words behind that one look over dinner—and you know the whole damn story. You know the one snack that will lift their spirits when they storm in after an awful day at work. You know the exact page in their favorite novel where they cry because the protagonist dies.
So when you break up, the realization of just how little you know about every other human being on the planet—even your own family—can be overwhelming to say the last. You feel entirely alone, you’ve got to start over. So when your ex pops up on Instagram or sends you a text, the temptation can be just too much to resist.
Now let’s be clear here: There’s nothing wrong with getting back with your old flame in itself. Sometimes it’s the best possible decision for both of you. Maybe that’s what’s happened with Bennifer (yeah, we’re gonna make that a thing again). It really may be that things were left unresolved, but after years apart you’ve both independently discovered who your one true love is. But just as often—if not most of the time—exes reunite out of loneliness, or because of a powerful sense of yearning for safety and familiarity, be that emotional, physical, or even financial.
Studies show the extent of the ex temptation
According to a 2017 article published in the journal Sociopsychological and Personality Science, a remarkable 54% of people who’ve been through a breakup return to their exes within five years. This figure stays consistent even between times, countries, and cultures.
Researchers from the Universities of Utah and Toronto found that most people who self-described as being on the verge of splitting up with their partners were unsure about doing so primarily because of their fear of leaving behind so much intimate familiarity. 66% of this same group also admitted simply feeling too emotionally dependent on their partner. It’s little wonder, then, that so many people rekindle the flame down the line, even years after the breakup: Often, their ex has simply never been far from their mind.
Are rose-tinted glasses really your best accessory?
It’s easy to warn our friends against the ex temptation, but when it happens to you, well—good luck disregarding that potent whirlwind of nostalgia, those visceral memories of heady days in the haze of love. No matter the toll the breakup took on you, the allure is sometimes too great to refuse. It’s nothing to be ashamed of though—we get it. Who else in the whole world knows you like your ex?
But if nothing else, just ask yourself this:
Why would it be different this time?
What’s changed with you? With them? How much have you both grown as people- in maturity and your respective outlooks on life and love? Do you now want the same things when you didn’t before? How well do your dreams and aspirations align now, compared to then? And what about the reason you broke up in the first place?
Talk it out—with someone other than your ex
You probably don’t need much encouragement to discuss the situation with your friends and loved ones. But if possible, why not speak to a therapist too, or some other objective party? The latter will draw out your innermost feelings about your ex- thoughts and opinions you maybe didn’t even realize you had. By diving deep into your psyche under the guidance of a professional, you stand a much better chance of ultimately making the choice that’s truly best and healthiest for you.
And when you do open up to your ex about how you feel, don’t hold back on the honesty. You’ve done this all before, the heartbreak, the tears—and you know you can’t go back to that place. So tell them if they hurt you. See how they respond, and whether they admit responsibility—even show remorse. But also, be prepared to accept with humility if they tell you the same. Either way, though, be warm, and kind. Tell your ex to their face what you miss about them, what you loved about them—but then take some space and time to reflect on the conversation, alone. (Unless you’ve already fallen into a hopelessly entwined embrace.)
Well, if Bennifer can do it…
17 years apart really might work in J.Lo and Ben’s favor. They couldn’t have asked for any more time apart to consider their feelings for one another. Also very important is this: They’ve both been in relationships since. They have a solid scale against which to measure every one of their old flames—so we can certainly lean toward optimism in hoping they know their own hearts and each other’s.
Whether you’re getting over an ex, thinking about rekindling the flame, or ready to meet someone new, we can help. Maclynn International is an elite, multi-award-winning New York-based matchmaking consultancy. We’re experts at bringing together highly compatible singles—even after one or both have been through tough breakups.
So get in touch today, and prepare to settle your internal debate once and for all under the guidance of our specialists: Is your ex truly The One—or is it time to move on for good?