dating / Relationships

Why Do We Need to Break Up Twice?

Ever feel like you’re experiencing déjà vu with a pal who’s going through a break-up? You thought you’d heard and said everything there was to express about what’s-his-face, and then suddenly, he’s back, starring in Primetime Conversation. A few weeks ago she’d concluded that he was nothing but trouble. But now she’s wearing her rosy colored Ray Bans. What dose of delusion is she hopped up on? Why does she need to go through this, yet again?

Recently, my friend (we’ll call her Rachel) ended up in round two of a difficult relationship. After hearing all about her ex’s negative traits throughout their yearlong breakup, I wasn’t having an easy time supporting her decision to walk back into the fire. So I decided to do a little research on the matter—is this a common thing? What is the draw? I found a Psychology Today article that asserts: 60 percent of adults have gotten back together with an ex at some point. Searching my own relationship’s past Rolodex, I remembered a boomerang love from my early twenties. I think we broke up no less than six times. Oopsie, who was I to judge Rachel?

Reminded of my old erratic flame, I recognized myself in many of the classic pitfalls outlined by the experts interviewed in “On Again, Off Again.” One was going to my ex to comfort me, and basking in the temporary reprieve from the misery of the break-up when we reconciled. Another was the way I’d exaggerated his good qualities and faded out his bad ones during our separations. Convinced of how awesome he was, I’d worry I would never find anyone as great—even though I knew in my heart things weren’t quite right. And finally, I had become somewhat addicted to the highs and lows of the on again, off again dynamic. What can I say? I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic. But this kind of drama always comes at a cost.

In Rachel’s case, I could see many of those patterns, as well as a new one. With her, not only did what’s-his-face’s not so savory qualities seem diminished after some time apart, some of her own negative behaviors had improved. At the end of their relationship, Rachel, usually a powerhouse of a woman, had taken several uppercuts to her self-confidence. But after being alone and healing, she’d begun to resemble her old self—self-assured, motivated, and funny without always being sarcastic. With her new outlook, not to mention her new glutes—she worked though much of her pain on the Stairmaster—she fell into the familiar pothole of communicating her newfound clarity to her ex. AKA, calling him up to say: “See how well I’m doing without you? See what you’re missing? Shaft!”

And guess what? She was pretty darn attractive to him. The added ego trip of his renewed advances didn’t hurt. So it’s no surprise that when they reconnected to “talk things out,” the chemistry was electric. All the crappy parts of their past simply melted away. At least for one more knock down, punch ‘em out moment in the relationship ring. It wasn’t easy to see my friend once again vulnerable to the potential stresses and pain.

In the end, I don’t think Rachel will actually wind up back with her ex. She called me up the other day to say that their long-term goals still aren’t similar enough and he remains unwilling to compromise on her key needs. Of course, if round three is a must, I’ll still be here to support her.

As for what’s-his-face, I suggest he walks the other way when he sees me coming down the street.

First published on


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