Are our exes in our past for a good reason – or, can getting back with an ex work out? As we watch Carrie rekindle her love with Aidan (the man she broke up with not once, but twice on Sex and the City), we’re watching with baited breath to see if third time really is a charm
But in the meantime, we’re talking to Capsule readers and the experts about their experiences dating an ex, what the outcomes can be and how you can give it your best shot at success!
Welcome to our series, The Love Diaries – a space for you to share your experiences, advice, fairy-tale endings, setbacks and heartbreaks. We’ll be hearing from industry experts giving practical advice alongside Capsule readers (You!) sharing your firsthand experiences with love – from the woman who cheated on her husband with a work colleague, one woman’s temptation now the love of her life is finally single (although she’s not), and the woman who forced her husband to choose between her and his girlfriend.
When an Instagram notification popped up from an ex-boyfriend who things had ended well with, nearly 10 years earlier, Chloe felt a buzz of excitement.
She and Tom had a fun, warm and affectionate relationship for about ten months before Chloe moved to London at 25 to do her OE.
She’d often wondered what had happened to Tom, particularly now that she was single again – and here, with two likes and a new follow, was her chance to find out. Might Tom be single again too? Could they pick up where they left off? Could love work out a second time?
“Alas, I should have learnt my lesson the first time,” says Chloe. “I wish I’d figured that out without having to give a second go, another two years and a failed engagement.”
Chloe says the allure of her ex was pretty compelling. “I’d been home for five years and wasn’t meeting anyone,” she says. “Being in your thirties, single in Auckland is hard.”
She says her memories of her relationship with Tom were more like a highlights reel – particularly seeing as they’d ended things on good terms.
“In reality, the relationship just hadn’t been going anywhere,” says Chloe. “Yeah, we were young, but at the same time we never had one discussion, not one, about him coming to the UK with me, or even me not going – even though we’d been together for nearly a year. That said something about our relationship.”
Despite things getting off to a good start – so good, they got engaged within a year – things started to gradually unravel.
“We didn’t have that much in common and were very happy – maybe too happy? – doing things apart,” she says. “When we split up again it was like the first time. Neither of us felt particularly upset about it and just got on with things.”
So when Chloe watched as one of the characters on her old favourite TV show went on a date with their ex, she had just two words for Carrie on And Just Like That:
Yes, after years (it’s years, right? It feels like years) of speculation, the moment finally arrived on And Just Like That, where Aidan Shaw resurfaced. Carrie emailed her ex (with a pretty cringe ‘Hey Stranger’ subject line) and next thing, the two were on a date on Valentine’s Day no less. And despite the fact the pair failed to make it work TWICE already, which included a broken engagement (and many broken hearts), the duo appear to have decided to see if third time really is a charm.
Bizarrely, when Carrie announced this to her two best friends, Charlotte and Miranda, who were there through all the ups and downs (including Carrie cheating on Aidan with Big – in a hotel, while Aidan was redoing the floors in her apartment for her! Plus how the pair shared a kiss in Abu Dhabi in the second movie – which we’re all apparently pretending never happened – while BOTH of them were married to other people?!?!), they barely batted an eyelid. It has to be one of the biggest plot holes of all time that neither of them raised an eyebrow and said, “Carrie. Are you sure this is a good idea?” (A spoiler alert for the latest ep if you haven’t seen it: finally Miranda does ask if things are moving a little to fast between Carrie and Aidan. AND in news I found very exciting, Carrie actually started questioning whether it was actually Big who was a big mistake – he was also an ex who she kept getting back with over and over again. Was she trying to make things work with the wrong ex??)
Because, Miranda would be right to gently question her friend: while the pull of getting back with an ex can be strong, it can end in tears. A massive 72% respondents of Capsule readers we polled who had got back with an ex in the past said that it was a mistake and the relationship did not go well.
Neuropsychologist Sanam Hafeez says that one of the problems with these sorts of relationships, is that often – like Chloe and Tom’s – there is a honeymoon period at the start. But, if you haven’t put in the work and are just enjoying the buzz of that honeymoon phase, it’ll quickly dwindle out, and leave you with a tough reality to face.
“Unless an issue was one-dimensional (like someone being jobless and now they are employed), most situations don’t simply disappear and people don’t change without making the effort to change and being shown how to change. It is unrealistic to simply say, let’s just start fresh,” says Sanam.
That might mean doing some serious work as a couple – as well as individually, to make sure you’re in the right space to rekindle the romance.
“Don’t just get back together if you are lonely or afraid you will never find someone else. There were reasons your relationship didn’t work out the first time, and something has to change to make it work a second time around,” says relationship counsellor and author Susan Zinn. If you hold on to old trauma, drama, and pain from the past, it doesn’t leave room for a new version of your relationship to occur. You will never forget what happened, but if you hang on so tightly to the past, it doesn’t allow you room to create something beautiful in your future.”
And while Chloe (and a fair few of us at home!) may be screaming at the TV for Carrie to make different choices, the experts all agree, that getting back with an ex can work out, sometimes.
Even the stats seem to prove it. One 2013 study found that more than a third of cohabitating couples in the US and one-fifth of married ones have broken up before.
Aucklander Jane can relate – she and her husband Mike broke up in the past, and were apart for four years.
“We got engaged and it didn’t work out,” she says. “In hindsight, I really wanted to get married because all my friends were getting married and having kids or buying a house. I wanted something too, but it wasn’t the right time for Mike and I. It was too much pressure.”
The pair ended the engagement, but didn’t totally break things off – they thought they might get back together and it was just temporary.
“We both ended up doing a lot of work on ourselves over that time and really growing up, without knowing it, I guess,” says Jane. “I changed careers over that time, and Mike spent a lot of time overseas.”
Then, four years after their engagement ended they ran into each other at a wedding.
“People talk about how getting back with your ex is that feeling like no time has passed and you ‘pick up where you left off’, but it was nothing like that for Mike and I,” she says. “We had both changed a lot, but the fundamentals were still there. We’d grown up where we needed to grow up. It made me realise that he was the right person, it’d had just been the wrong timing.”
Mike and Jane went on to start dating each other – slowly, as though it was their first time dating again. And two years later they got engaged (while Jane was newly pregnant). They now have three kids together and are planning on tying the knot next year.
“Aidan was always my pick for Carrie,” says Jane. “She just wasn’t in the right space when he was there to realise that he was the good one. I have every hope it’ll work out!”