When our future is unknown, we tend to look backwards for answers instead of basking in the beauty of the present. But the truth is, more often than not, our instincts were correct the first time and that old relationship did end for a good reason.
At the start of every new year we engage in deep reflection of our lives and evaluate where we stand based on the unattainable goals we made for ourselves in previous years. Do any of these declarations sound familiar – “I want to be married by 25, and have 3 kids by 32” or “I’m going to buy my first house at 28” or one that hits close to home – “I will be fully self-employed by 30”. As these deadlines come and go we either readjust the goal to fit our personal situation, totally disregard the notions, or wallow in self-pity over being “behind” schedule. For singles who are feeling pressured to meet their goal of finding a mate soon, there’s always the temptation to revisit old relationships and try to make them work better the second time around – relationship recycling.
Recycling partners is an extremely popular concept that is usually adopted when we realize that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side. There are many situations where exes rekindle their flame and the result is a loving, happy & healthy relationship. I’m living proof, because it just so happens my current relationship is a product of just that. However, there are also those instances (the majority in my opinion) where the past should have never been revisited and both partners end up even more jaded than they were initially. Certainly the majority of my exes would never be granted a round two based on the circumstances of our departure.
Upon this new year, a few of my single girlfriends began going through their lists of boyfriends past and analyzing which ones were “recyclable.” After hearing various stories of discontent, one situation in particular really resonated with me because of the over-dramatization of her circumstances and her indulgence in self-pity.
“I am going to die alone. I guess I’ll just adopt a child or try artificial insemination since my biological clock is ticking, and there are NO good guys in existence.” These were the words coming from this beautiful and independent 29 years young woman during ‘happy hour’ a few weeks ago. As we further delved into her crisis, she began to dissect her various intimate relationships of the past to establish where they went wrong, and determine which ones were options for taking another stab at making it work. Two hours and 4 Sidecars later, she came to the conclusion that while she had been dating for nearly 14 years, only two of the guys she’s been with were “recyclable”.
After stalking both of their social network pages to determine if they were in fact available, she reached out to the one that was obviously single. They had hung out a few times since their break-up nearly 3 years earlier, but the physical attraction just wasn’t there, and although he had attempted to enter into a serious situation, she was always into someone else (she has a thing for hot asshole musicians). Suddenly though, she was now committing herself to the daunting task of developing feelings for this “good on paper” man because he was available, safe and recyclable. Ultimately, after investing a few weeks into this project, she stayed true to herself and ended the situation before anyone ended up hurt. Today she is back to indulging in self-pity.
Is it the loneliness and fear of dying alone that gives us the desire to want to revisit the past? Are we punishing ourselves for having ‘veered off’ the roadmap we created many years ago? When our future is unknown, we tend to look backwards for answers instead of basking in the beauty of the present. But the truth is, more often than not, our instincts were correct the first time and that old relationship did end for a good reason.
But let’s say you are going to partake in the recycling of a partner from your past. What should you do? First of all, take the time to get to know them all over again. Go on dates, have late night conversations that last for hours, allow them woo you as if this were actually the first time you’re getting together. Don’t fall into unhealthy old patterns that you may have had together the first time just because it feels familiar. For example, if you used to drop everything for him every time he called, make a concerted effort to keep living your life independently, and fit him around your schedule. Or, if you tended to treat his time as less valuable than your own the first time around, take notice of it and give him the respect he deserves. You might find that breaking old patterns produces a completely different romantic result the second time around.
And most importantly, never ever get back into a situation out of desperation. True love won’t blossom on a foundation of fear and anxiety.