How to Rekindle A Relationship

Family couple lying on bed at Christmas

Arina Krasnikova / Getty Images

There are many reasons why you may want to revisit a former relationship. Perhaps you’re seeing your ex in a different light or circumstances have changed in your own life. Maybe you moved back to your hometown and want to check out a former crush. Maybe you’ve grown and realize that your last love was a keeper after all.

Or for some of you, perhaps you are in a long-term marriage that is worth reviving and you just need pointers on how to jumpstart it. Either way, you're looking to rekindle those special feelings between the both of you.

Here’s what to keep in mind if you desire to rekindle a relationship with someone you were fond of, dated, lived with or were married to before. And, for those of you currently hanging in there with a challenging relationship but are still committed to it, here’s how to get the relationship back on track.

Restarting a Previous Relationship

Sometimes after a breakup, the person you left behind looks more appealing. Seeing that significant other dating again and happy might just re-spark your interest. Maybe you're be swept up in remembrances of the fun times, happy vacations, and loving years. The terrible arguments and differing paths you were both headed in don’t take center stage in those memories. You might just be romanticizing your time together.

Consider the Reasons You Split Up

First, ask yourself why you both broke up. Was it your decision or their’s? What was the reason for calling it quits? According to Dr. Amy Keller, PsyD, MFT, “If you split up for seemingly good reasons (domestic violence, substance abuse, or chronic infidelity) ask yourself if you really want to throw yourself back in the mix?”

Our emotions help us make decisions and thrive but they also can take over our clear-sighted thinking. Clearly if the other person had complicated issues that weren’t addressed, you want to be wary about why you want to get back together.

Keller cautions, “Just because you miss someone doesn't mean that you are meant to be with them. This is how memory works with most people—we remember the good and the bad gets fuzzier in the distance.”

Ask Yourself If You Think the Relationship Can Actually Work

What if you’re questioning their potential? Maybe your love interest makes a good living, comes from a good family or is a good parent, and is overall a decent and kind human being. On the other hand, maybe they're also a workaholic who doesn’t keep their promises. Are you hanging on to the hope this person will change when they don’t want to change?

Make sure you’re realistically seeing this special person for who they are right now and not seeing them through rose-colored lenses.

Also, if you find yourself second guessing yourself and asking “if, then” questions, it’s time to look at your previous relationship objectively. As Keller reminds, see if you’re doubting yourself. Are you asking, "If I had only done more of something (e.g., been more patient, done more therapy etc.), then would we still be together?"

Keller says it's important to remember that these thoughts are indicative of the bargaining stage. This is where you might be blaming yourself or wishing you did or didn't do something, but it's possible none of that would have changed the outcome of your relationship.

Rather than allow our analytic minds to attempt to solve the problem of having pain, loss, and emptiness, per the above, Keller suggests we transform the process by thinking about what she calls "pain with a purpose.” The idea is to “use the pain, learn from the past, and let it pass.”

What If Your Heart Hurts?

If your heart aches for your ex, you may think it’s true love and meant to be. Though our hearts may be hurting, our brains are very much involved in our romantic affairs. Based on research about love, the brain is busily working away through hormones and neurotransmitters when it comes to sex, romance and attachment at various stages of a relationship.

You might enlist your brain in positive, future thinking and put your attention less on the past or present and instead on what you desire in the future.

Think about what kind of relationship you want to build together? How will you know you have this kind of relationship? Is it possible to create something long-lasting and solid with this particular person?

Creating a Healthy Dynamic

So, you don’t want to cut ties despite being broken up, separated, or divorced. Or, maybe you’re currently remaining in a relationship that has difficulties. Maybe it’s a long-term marriage, let’s say, but you want to find ways to revitalize it.

No matter the situation, you're interested in mending what was rickety in the relationship and create something healthier together.

Relationship and intimacy expert, Alexandra Stockwell, MD says, “When relationships end, it is usually for a good reason (even if one or both parties don’t want it in the moment).” She finds the main problem with restarting a relationship is the danger that people go back to an unhealthy and unproductive dynamic.

Andrea Stockwell, MD

The only time to consider rekindling a relationship is when both people have grown in significant ways, which means that the same people can now create a new relationship dynamic.

— Andrea Stockwell, MD

How to Create a Healthier Dynamic

Ponder if you both desire the same things in life and have the same values. If you both do, then you can both take small steps as they lead to big changes. Besides fighting better—yes, that’s really a thing—you can also rekindle a relationship by remembering to be kind and giving despite the strife and rocky road.

For example, surprise your loved one with little things. This could be as simple as making eye contact to show respect, sending a provocative text to them at work to add sizzle to your relationship or offering to run an errand you know your sweetheart doesn’t enjoy.

Often relationships suffer because we take someone for granted and get caught up in our work or families. Sometimes we forget to nurture our loved one or ourselves while in the relationship. Take the time to recharge and and devote some time to self-care. Then, make your relationship a priority.

Other Ways to Enliven and Restart A Relationship

Here's some other ways to strengthen and jumpstart a former or current relationship:

  • Go down memory lane and discuss how you met
  • Retell the story of how you fell in love
  • Say 'thank you' more often
  • Be more grateful and appreciative
  • Fire up the sexual aspects of the relationship
  • Set your resentments free
  • Defuse conflict when you can
  • Treat the relationship with energy and love
  • Participate in an exciting activity together
  • Be forgiving
  • Focus on healing

If you both put in the energy and time, you can look forward to a wonderful relationship sooner than you think.

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