Charlotte had finally broken up with her boyfriend of four years. All her friends—including me—were relieved. “Bob” had been bad news. Now Charlotte was sitting in my kitchen, sipping a gin and tonic, and confessing that she was considering going back to him.
The mind has a funny way of spinning reality. I remembered my own break up. Observing my mind-talk, I was surprised at how often my thoughts grew into tall stories. In one, my ex desperately missed me and wanted to get back together. In another he was actively dating and had totally forgotten about me. At times, I would even tell myself our breakup was only temporary. My girlfriend Kelli set me straight.
“You’ve been thinking that getting back together is impossible,” she said. “I’d like you to entertain the idea that it’s not.”
She continued. “Jump into the fantasy that you’re reunited and see how you feel.”
I took her advice, and afterwards I felt like I’d been sprayed with cold water. There was no going back. We had split for a reason, and that reason had not changed.
“Tell me what would be different if you two got back together,” I asked Charlotte. “What has changed?”
Charlotte thought a moment, “Nothing really. I just miss him.”
I totally understood.
“Missing him and getting back together are two different things,” I pointed out gently. “Imagine being back with Bob. Go ahead. Imagine it!”
She closed her eyes.
“OK,” I said. “You guys have been back together for five months, and you’re having dinner at your condo. How do you feel?”
“I have a knot in my stomach,” she said.
“Do you still want to get back together?”
“No!” She laughed.
Going back to your ex is a fantasy many people entertain after a break up, no matter how bad the relationship was. Most agree it’s a bad idea. “Putting sour milk back in the fridge doesn’t make it drinkable,” my girlfriend Kelli likes to say.