Question: I need your help figuring out whether I should go back to my ex or not. I don’t want to go back to the way things were. My question is: How do I know it will be different? How can I tell he has truly changed? Are there any signs I should be looking for?
The Love Doctor’s Answer: Great question. I’d need more details of your relationship e.g. how long where you together before you broke up, what kind of relationship you had — in terms of give and take, why did you break up, what do you think needs to change for things to be different etc. for me to give you a more detailed response.
In the absence of such information, I’ll give you some of the obvious red flags that should tell you your ex has not changed and things will go back to the way they were — or worse. Even if your ex is “acting different” now, things will only go back to where they were as soon as he believes he has you back.
This list of “don’t take your ex back (yet)” signs applies to men and women alike.
1. S/he has not completely accepted that you’re broken up and still talks like you’re still together or acts like you owe him/her something.
2. Contacts (in person, letter, cards, email, text or phone) are always about him/her trying to convince you that s/he has changed. Even when s/he is talking about you or the relationship, you get the sense he has no real interest in what you think, your needs or wishes.
3. S/he is still being controlled by neurotic neediness – e.g. contacting you because he/she thought you contacted him/her, then contacting you again to apologize for earlier on mistakenly contacting you, and then contacting you again – for whatever.
4. S/he is (still) blaming “someone else” (you, your friend (s), relative(s), “other man/woman” etc.) for the problems in the relationship, for the break-up or for the two of you not being able to “get back” together.
5. S/he is still obsessed with “fixing you” and talks like s/he knows you better than you know yourself. You feel like you’re constantly being “coached/counseled” by a life coach/relationships “expert”.
6. S/he won’t let you take any responsibility for your role in the break up. Says things like “You were great, I’m the one who messed up” or “You’re a wonderful person, I made you do x and y”. See this for what it is, “emotional bribery”. It takes two to create a relationship and it takes two to destroy it. If /she doesn’t get that simple fact, s/he still doesn’t get it. It’s that simple!
7. S/he is using your family/friends to get to you. Someone who can’t come up to you and “face” you has something to hide. I’m not talking about being “friendly” with your family/friends, it’s great to have someone who gets along with your family/friends. I am talking about hearing from your friends things like “She says she still loves you”, or “He says he wants you back” etc. Someone doing this knows that if and when s/he says those things to you, s/he won’t be believed (and for a good reason). So s/he uses people who you already trust.
8. S/he is still playing stupid mind-games with you and trying to manipulate your emotions (e.g. trying to make you jealous/angry; ignoring you (NC) or telling you s/he is moving on one minute and the next s/he wants you back).
9. You see obvious signs of the things that made you break up in the first place. From a distance they may not be like a “big deal” but when you get back together, it’s same-old-same-old all over again.
10. Last but most important of all, listen to what your gut tells you about s/he being the wrong person, the wrong relationship or the wrong timing.
If you’re really not sure and part of you believes that s/he really has changed, then give it a try, but take very small baby steps and be mindful of the above red flags.