Dating my ex-husband certainly didn’t happen right after I left him. He was too furious even to talk to me. When talking did start again, it was easy to see that we were not just separating temporarily to have space to fix things, we were filing for divorce and the war over assets began.
Exes typically fall into one of two categories: the kind we hate so much that we block calls and texts and avoid all social interactions, or the kind we have so many good memories of that we find ourselves reflecting on the flame that never went all the way out.
Even if your ex-husband made a muddle of your life and you were sure that your relationship had to end, emotional confusion can turn a cold heart back to your ex. Is it wise? Should we date our exes? What are the pleasures and pitfalls that we should watch for?
I had plenty of reasons for hiring two strong men to move my essentials to my own apartment. I felt like celebrating! Finally, after a decade in a decaying, untrustworthy, so-called marriage, I was free to explore what I only dreamed about living. But my exuberance didn’t last. Once the assets war began with mounting legal fees, and the search for new Mr. Right was a series of bad dates, my mind spiraled with self-doubt, wondering – ‘what the hell had I done?’. My ex-husband started looking a whole lot better.
Whatever is fueling your motivation to date your ex-husband, no matter how simple or complex, be clear about your reasons to yourself.
Write Down All The Reasons Why You Divorced
Before you leap into happily-ever-after fairy tales of dating your ex-husband, here are some healthy preparations and cautionary advice to help you avoid an abyss of new misery.
Did You Do Your Homework?
Doing your homework literally means taking pen to paper or word processing and writing an honest declaration of what you think happened to your marriage and why the two of you could not be together anymore. Writing stuff down settles the whirlpool of thoughts and feelings, giving focus, and helping you get in touch with truth (your current truth) – so write freely, then question what you wrote, dig deeper, edit, and force yourself to get brutally honest. The PowerPages in the MasterPlan Divorce Recovery Program stimulate this thought processing.
Make sure you also identify how you may have contributed to marriage problems. Where appropriate, are you willing to change and do better too? Have you forgiven your ex-husband for his behavior and the pain that you have felt? Do you have clear expectations of what you want to see happen, what you need to know from your ex-husband, and whether you can believe that the things that caused the two of you to part have truly come to a place where you can trust that those things will be resolved if you got back together?
Are You Healed And Ready To Take On Round 2+?
Healing from a marriage separation/divorce goes deeper than recognizing you miss each other and want back what you had. For example, let’s think of divorce as surgery. You wouldn’t leave the operating room without sutures and giving sufficient time to heal the open wound. Likewise, you can’t just put a bandage on your relationship by ignoring the issues that led to your divorce and expect everything to be fine. The tough topics that destroyed your marriage must be addressed, either before you start dating at all, or while you are dating before you decide to move back in together and give it another chance. You could talk in the office of a marriage counselor, if that’s more comfortable.
If you prefer to do this on your own, keep in mind that being honest with each other could send the romancing into a downward spiral – but if you both understand that the goal of gritty communication is to restore you, then it’s worth doing the hard talk. Portion part of the date into hard talk. Approach each topic with a calm clarity (which you achieved by doing your homework), so that you can both talk more than fight. Try to show your ex-husband that you have changed, to find out if he has changed for the better too. Know when to shut down the hard talk, which is, when it’s getting nowhere because you are repeating the same old argumentative stuff you always said to each other. Back off. Maybe you’ll both do better on a later date.
What Are Barriers To Dating Your Ex-Husband? Did He Cheat?
Extra-marital affairs are responsible for the breakdown of most marriages that end in divorce. In fact, it is the reason why Midlife Divorce Recovery began and a platform for many of our articles, including this one: Can a Marriage Survive Infidelity?. Studies show that cheaters are repeaters – at about a rate of 40%.
One of our clients wrote, “I dated my ex-husband for five years after divorce, and he continued to cheat with other women. I’d find out but still kept lying to myself that he was going to realize that I was the best for him and come back to me. What a waste of time!”
Was He Abusive?
No one should tolerate abuse, emotional or physical, and staying away from that kind of relationship is very important for your safety and sanity. Deep issues are usually to blame for the abuser’s behavior. Those issues aren’t corrected without professional help. If you were married to a narcissist, who made you believe that everything is your fault because they don’t take responsibility for any problems and always blame others, be very mindful not to get sucked into the things they say. Hold onto your own truth. Really consider hard if that life is what you want to go back to.
Substance abuse or addiction of any kind – alcohol, drugs, compulsive lying, gambling, or porn, can batter a marriage irreparably. It takes a toll on your relationship with your spouse, disturbs the financial equilibrium, leads to abuse and neglect, and leaves a negative impact on children.
When abuse, addiction, or adultery, were the reasons for divorce – a great deal of hard talk, with evidence of change, and likely time spent in professional therapy needs to occur before dating. Not meaning that other reasons that led to divorce are easier, like not being able to agree on money, or disagreements over child raising, or fighting all the time, just that those first three are identified by divorce experts as the most common reasons for divorce and the hardest issues to overcome. Simply, a rest from emotional distress and missing each other isn’t enough to make things work again between you in a reconciliation. You really need to question what your barriers are to a successful reunion before confusing your situation by dating your ex-husband.
Why Do You Want To Get Back Together?
Therapists and relationship experts say a few common things can keep us bolted to our exes, like: rising fears from not knowing what the future holds, having a tough time financially, or repeatedly remembering only the good times and the love once had when it was new, exciting, and at its best. Others say, it’s the idea of a new partner and the fear of being vulnerable all over again that scare us to race back to familiar arms. Your relationship ended for a reason, so why are you considering going back?
Get Radically Honest With Yourself About Why You Want To Date Your Ex-Husband
Some feel a spark of hope that dating might resuscitate years of lost loving. Some are lonely, they miss being in a relationship and are aching for companionship. They believe they will never get over how much they miss their ex-husband and could never fall in love again.
Maybe, in trying to pacify pain, some women are vengefully looking to prove something, to make the ex-husband realize that he should have done better in their marriage, to have the opportunity to blame him because the divorce was all his fault, or to make him realize that he should have fought harder to keep her because she is quite the catch. None of those reasons will successfully get a divorced couple back together.
Take It Slow: Don’t Jump In Headfirst
Deciding to date your ex-husband is obviously not an individual decision and before it happens there needs to be an open, candid, and transparent conversation between you. In other words, when your conversations hint that you might like to get together, discuss your motives, try to get to the truth about your ex-husband’s intentions before you meet up. Honesty is the best policy if you are also hoping to get honesty back. Remember, your ex-husband, if thinking about dating you again, probably has a lot of hurt feelings too, is not sure you can be trusted, and comes with a guarded heart also. So be straight with each other about why you want to date. Take it slow and think.
Can You Handle Getting Hurt Again?
If you are thinking about opening up your heart due to a resurgence of lingering feelings, will you have a cardiac arrest if dating fails? Be sure you are ready to accept another break-up if your dating doesn’t work into a reconciliation. Your divorce was one of the hardest times of your life, and the process is brutal. Exposing yourself to dating the ex-husband is giving the beast of divorce a chance to reopen that emotional wound again. You really need to think about whether you can handle that. Here’s a review of what to watch for:
- The illusion of fun entertainment – just like when you first met, having fun together while dating can inhibit your ability to see the relationship—and the individual. You could be tricking yourself and stirring up feelings just because you are having fun together again. Make sure your dating includes honesty.
- The mind games – Living with you taught your ex-husband how to manipulate you, push your buttons, in both good and bad ways. Make sure while you are dating that you filter anything that your ex-husband says or does against your own knowledge, because the ex-husband’s opinion might not be your truth.
- The revolving door – when couples let the ex-husband in and out of their lives through dating, this existence can keep them emotionally stuck for years, instead of shutting the door and moving on. Be clear with yourself about a timeline. How long do you plan on doing this and will you know if it is time to put an end to it, or whether you’ve had enough conditions met to continue?
- The sex – moments of passion can cause people to think they feel things that are actually only temporary or not true at all. One of you could hope there’s potential, but the other could simply be getting their physical needs met. Words spoken in moments of passion can confuse their way back into your heart and be very misleading. Unless you are clear about where you stand (or lay down) with your ex-husband, anything said, even if it sounds like it’s from a love song, needs to be fractioned for reality if it was said during moments of passion. Don’t confuse sex with real healing.
We can mistakenly hold on to a past love that we need to move away from solely because it is what we are most familiar with. Comfort zones can hold us back. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable and explore the unfamiliar to be able to find a new loving healthy partnership. Or, even just to investigate fun life as a single person.
Dating an ex-husband can certainly serve a purpose for resolve too. If you have been taking the trip down memory lane, listening to all your old love songs, thumbing through albums of happier events together, and beating yourself up with regrets, then maybe dating him will teach you that those reflections are simply the way you were, and not how you are together now. Lots of things can change people over the years. When you realize that things can’t go back to how it once was, it might make it easier to close that book and move on.
If you really must re-examine your past by dating your ex-husband, enjoy yourself. But if doing so messes with your confidence or the person you’ve been working hard to become, then maybe your past no longer needs you as much as your future does.