Reinventing Romance: Dating an Ex

Is dating an ex a good idea? Should you go back to your ex-boyfriend? Our dating expert gives advice.

By Sherry Amatenstein, LMSW

Alas, prayers alone cannot ensure the success of an attempted reconciliation. According to marital therapist Beth Erickson, PhD, "In order for relationships to truly work, people need to share similar basic values, visions for their lives together, and at least some mutual interests." Adds Dr. Erickson, who is also a spiritual mentor and personal coach, "If couples are genuinely compatible but break up anyway, the bottom line is defensiveness." And if they don’t learn to detach their egos and stop needing to always be right, the ‘new,’ improved relationship will quickly resemble the old, unbearable one.

The secret, then, to getting back with an ex is for both partners to be different people in this incarnation. That doesn’t mean either partner should call upon a dormant personality to come to the fore; rather, both must do inner work. I interviewed Tara Cleten for my book, Love Lessons from Bad Breakups. She divorced Tom, her husband of 20 years, after he committed two infidelities. The pair remained cordial for the sake of their two daughters. Several years later, a financial crunch forced Tara to ask Tom to move back into their house — exiling him to the top floor and requesting rent. This arrangement continued for over a year. Tara, 58, recalls, "Since there was no [pressure] to reconcile we had wonderful times — lots of laughter and wonderfully heated and constructive conversations. I said, ‘How come we couldn’t fight like this when we were married?’ We also learned to clean up one problem at a time."

Eight years after their divorce, the couple remarried. "I knew Tom would never cheat again. He knows there are consequences to his actions," Tara says. She explains, "This is not the same marriage. This time around, I know he’s intelligent in some areas and stupid in others. I still love him, but I’m no longer a pleaser. And he’s no longer a taker. We are now an indestructible unit."

If you recommit in haste and for the wrong reasons, you won’t need a soothsayer to predict another breakup. But if you truly examine why the old relationship fell apart and begin the new one with commitment, clarity and — you guessed it — honest communication, the second time around just might be charmed.

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About Sherry Amatenstein

Sherry Amatenstein, LMSW, is the author of Love Lessons from Bad Breakups and Q&A Dating Book. She runs dating seminars around the country and does private coaching — not to help singles marry in 60 days, but to uncover their blocks. She has given relationship advice on the Early Show, Regis, Inside Edition, CBS News, VHI, BBC, and many other programs. Her philosophy is that the most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself.

Originally published on, October 2007.

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