After an affair-induced breakup, a reunion that led to cohabitation and a reluctant engagement, another breakup, and an illicit kiss in Abu Dhabi, Aidan Shaw and Carrie Bradshaw have once again reconnected. Yes, diehard fans of Sex and the City are all abuzz with the latest plot twist on And Just Like That, myself included. Shaw (played by John Corbett) and Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) had such sweet and easy dynamic — until infidelity and opposing views on marriage came into play. Which begs the question: Is this reunion, even more than 20 years later, a good idea? And, more importantly, is getting back with an ex ever a good idea?
In digging into this controversial topic, which I’ve personally contemplated several times when I think back on some of the ones that have gotten away, I consulted with both relationship experts and friends and colleagues who’ve actually jumped back in for round two. And, as you can imagine, the feedback and insights were, for the most part, quite a mixed bag, dependent on one’s situation and history.
“It is crucial to evaluate the reasons why the relationship ended in the first place,” prefaces Kalley Hartman, licensed marriage and family therapist for Ocean Recovery. “Did you and your ex-partner have fundamental differences or values that could not be reconciled? Did either of you cheat or engage in other behaviors that caused significant harm to the relationship? If these issues were not resolved, it might be best to avoid rekindling the relationship as the same problems may resurface.”
The therapist explains that, before making a decision about reuniting with an ex, one has to truly be honest with themselves about the “why” behind this move. Are you genuinely interested in rebuilding the relationship, or are you feeling lonely, nostalgic, or seeking validation? “In the end, the decision to reunite with an ex is a deeply personal one that only you can make,” explains Sam Holmes, relationship counselor and the editor of relationship platform Feel and Thrive. “It requires honest self-reflection, consideration of past dynamics, and a realistic assessment of the potential for a healthy future together.”
And we all know that trusting your instincts is easier said than done. Sometimes, it’s helpful to have a good ol’ list to help guide your decision, especially when the relationship in question has a lot of history, baggage, and deep-rooted feelings attached (here’s looking at you, Aidan). Ahead, some insights from experts and those who’ve gone through the reunion rollercoaster to help you navigate this complicated relationship crossroad.
When It’s A Go
External Circumstances Caused Your Original Breakup
Sometimes, couples split because of situations and circumstances that cannot be controlled and can make it incredibly difficult or even impossible to stay together. “If the split occurred due to long-distance challenges, career obligations, or family issues, it's worth exploring whether those barriers have been resolved,” says Holmes. “If the underlying cause of the breakup no longer poses a significant challenge, reuniting with your ex could lead to a fresh start and the opportunity to build a stronger foundation.”
Reflection & Growth
It’s true that time can heal wounds — maybe not all, but many. Such can be the case with a relationship that perhaps ended as a result of differences, bad timing, or unresolved conflict. People can indeed evolve and mature, and if this is the case with an ex, it could be a solid reason to bring them back into the fold. “Consider whether both you and your ex have individually grown and addressed the issues that led to the breakup,” says licensed therapist Meriam Njah. “We sometimes meet the right people at the wrong time, and it's possible that we need to go on our growth journeys before being able to be together with someone once again.”
Homes seconds this notion, adding that if personal development has been made, it's possible that the issues that plagued your relationship before may no longer exist. “Taking the time to reflect on whether you've both grown into more compatible individuals can provide insight into the potential for a successful reunion,” he says.
Compatibility & Shared Values
At the end of the day, shared core values and compatibility will determine if you and your ex (or anyone for that matter) are able to make it work. Setting aside physical attraction, chemistry, curiosity, and any other secondary factors is crucial here. At some point you need to consider if you and your former partner are actually on the same page about some key life principles. “Assess whether you share similar values, goals, and visions for the future,” says Njah. “More often than not, our values are more set in stone than other aspects of a relationship (example: romanic spark), so if you align with someone on their values, it's more likely that you'll be able to create a life together, and work out the other differences.”
Yes, there’s a reason communication always comes up as a common factor in healthy relationships (even if it often elicits an eye roll). If you and your ex are truly entertaining the idea of exploring a future together, you have to actually discuss it honestly. Talk about what worked before and what didn’t work before, what’s changed or been mended now, what you both want in a relationship and in a partner. “Honest and open dialogue can help you both address past grievances and determine if there is still a spark worth nurturing,” says Holmes. “If you can have mature conversations about your expectations, fears, and desires, it may indicate a willingness to work through challenges and a genuine commitment to making the relationship flourish.”
When It’s A Hard No
This likely goes without saying, but physical and emotional abuse are not only valid reasons to walk away from a relationship but also to stay far away from it. “One of the characteristics of abusive relationships is that they lure us back in after we break out of them,” explains Njah. “If you find yourself reconsidering a relationship that was once abusive, run the opposite direction. Chances are, you are being lured into a toxic pattern.
Loneliness Or Emotional Dependency
When thinking about rekindling an old romance, check in with yourself first. Think about your current state and the motives behind your curiosity or interest. Are you genuinely drawn to this person again, or are your feelings connected more to loneliness or a need for validation? If the latter is you answer, you need to shut this door. “If you're considering getting back together simply because you're afraid of being alone or you rely on your ex for emotional stability, it's important to take a step back and assess whether this is a healthy foundation for a relationship,” says Njah. “Conversely, if you are getting back because you feel like your ex needs you and you feel bad for leaving them, that's probably a sign that you're not fit to create a healthy relationship together.”
Now this reason is murky in that it’s not a cut and dry circumstance, as there are plenty of couples out there who have been able to work through infidelity successfully. However, again, before reconnecting with a cheating ex, think about the effort and work it’s going to take to reclaim what was lost. Like communication, trust is a key factor in a longstanding, healthy relationship, and if you’re going back into things with any sort of doubt or distrust, you’re likely heading down the wrong path. “Infidelity can cause significant harm to a relationship, and it may be challenging to rebuild trust after such a breach,” says Hartman. “Consider if you are willing and able to forgive your partner for their past actions.”