The Jungle is a column that uses social media to explore the wild and woolly world of relationships.
“Never go back” is probably the best second-hand advice that I never took. My friend’s mom – one of those moms who feeds everyone, whom everyone loves – used to say “going back” to a previous relationship was never the right, smart, or good decision. I’ve done it anyway, over and over, but I think of her maxim often.
I’m undecided about whether “going back” is always a bad idea – it’s semi-true that if it was “really right” the first time, it wouldn’t have ended, although timing and the circumstances of different eras vacillate so wildly. But I know for sure that it’s a habit, especially among people in their 20s or 30s who were unlikely to marry their first love, or even their second or third. When I asked about “going back” on Twitter, everyone who replied said they had, even though they shouldn’t have. In every case, it didn’t go well.
“Don’t” is the takeaway, at least according to my Twitter “@” replies.
@savvymercury tweets, “i have! it worked out well for several months, then the old problems returned. a break up is not couples counseling, it seems.”
“I’ve gone back,” @cassandrajowett tweets. “Second round was exactly the same. Exactly. Only I felt way more stupid for falling for it all a second time.”
@Afis8 was self-reflective about going back. She tweeted, “I have, a couple of times, and each instance resulted in failure for different reasons.” She writes “Ultimately rekindling things’ll never work unless sufficient time’s passed.” And, presumably, growth. Of her own re-relationship, she tweets that it “probably wasn’t strong enough in the first place to have lasted” and adds in an e-mail, “We were never right for each other, and now we were too defined in our own identities to be able to ignore that like we had when we were a bit younger.” Realizing that is growth of another kind.
Sometimes going back isn’t the problem; the first breakup is. “Jeremy,” who saw my tweet about going back, e-mailed about his “snap breakup”, where “suddenly you’re crying, getting your underwear on and rushing out the door.” This, of course, led to another try, and eventually another split.
So why do it? For known, ready comfort; to right wrongs; to capitalize on an existing connection; to see what would happen if the players were the same but the factors were different. The human need for do-overs and reimagining the past is powerful, but maybe it’s something we shouldn’t be putting each other through.