You’ve done the unthinkable and called time on your relationship. But while you’re bravely trying to put it behind you, your phone suddenly lights up with a familiar number.
It’s your ex. Your heart skips a beat. They miss you. Your heart contracts. You miss them too.
Is it a sign you’re meant to be together, come what may? Or are those pangs of regret just part of the grieving process?
“There is always a period of adjustment after being in a relationship,” Durban-based clinical psychologist Cheryl Sol explains.
“If this is difficult it might feel easier to go back and put up with the ‘devil you know’ rather than struggle with unhappiness. Some people struggle with loss and cannot manage the intensity of their feelings through that adjustment period until you get over someone.”
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According to Pretoria relationship expert and sexologist Dr Elmari Mulder Craig, it’s likely these feelings stem from co-dependency and loneliness.
Instead of acknowledging what drove you apart, you can’t help “remembering the good things and not the reasons why you broke up in the first place,” she explains.
Of course, this may be compounded by your ex “playing on your feelings and promising everything will be different this time,” she adds.
But what if it really is the right thing to do?
First off, sit down and have a serious talk with your former flame.
“Whatever you do – the same things will not work if you do not reflect on what went wrong and address [these things],” Sol says.
There was a reason you broke up in the first place – can you work through those issues? Are they willing to make changes? Are you?
On that note, it’s important you take responsibility for your part in the breakdown of the relationship, Sol adds.
If you're unsure, speak to those who know you both, Sol advises. Your loved ones’ opinion of them is a good gauge of whether or not they’re the right person for you.
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“If all your friends or family do not like this person or their influence on you, then it might be worth reconsidering if you should go back.”
If you’ve been given the green light by friends and family but you’re battling to work through your issues, Dr Mulder Craig says couples counselling could work, particularly for ex-spouses.
“I think professional help is always a good idea. The problems that existed in the relationship will still be there and need to be addressed for such a relationship to have a chance to work.”
And depending on why you broke up, one or both of you may now be battling with trust issues. These need to be addressed too.
At the end of the day, you’ll know whether or not you should be rekindling the flame.
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If the relationship is clearly not good for you but you don’t trust yourself not to go back for one reason or another, Sol offers these tips to help you stay strong.
1 “Write up a list of all the things that makes this the wrong relationship for you or write a letter that you will not send that says ‘I say goodbye to you because . . .’ and list all the reasons. Read it regularly.”
2 You’re never going to move on if this person keeps popping up in your newsfeed. “Do not follow them on Facebook, Twitter or any social media. [Keeping in touch] slows your progress and makes you start to compete to get them back. Try not to have contact with your ex. It sets you back.”
3 Of course, extracting yourself from a long-term partnership may require more admin that simply a few “unfollows”. “Deal with the practical reasons that might get you going back,” Sol says. Were they supporting you financially, or you them? “If this is a formal arrangement like a marriage, you’ll need to negotiate a settlement, etc.” Make these tasks a priority to help you move on.
4 Those loved ones who weren’t fond of your ex? Spend time with them to help you affirm and support your decision.
5 You’re going to be lonely, sad or angry for a little while – accept this and know it’s not a sign you’ve made the wrong choice. “Use this as a time to get to know and understand yourself and what helps you feel better,” Sol says. “There is no instant fix for this. Expect your moods to be up and down for a while and get help if you become depressed.”
6 Don’t start worrying that you will never meet anyone else again. You will.
7 “Remember there is nobody that you cannot get over – if you give it time.”