Why you should never go back to your ex after a divorce.

Even when letting go of the past is near impossible.

By: Nancy Lay-King, Guest Author for

A few months after inviting my soon-to-be ex husband to never come home again, and filing for divorce after finding him in the bottle shop with the girlfriend he’d insisted didn’t exist – a good friend of mine sent me an email with this cautionary quote: “Sometimes giving someone a second chance is like giving them an extra bullet for their gun because they missed you the first time.”

Having gone through something similar years before, she was sensing my heart and my head were in a battle and that the initial exhilaration of ending a tumultuous marriage had begun to wane. As I’ve come to discover this past year since filing for divorce, even a good decision can be extremely painful and it’s human nature to want pain to end.

I was warned by professionals from the get-go that this kind of grieving process would not be linear. All those steps from denial (which explains me staying in the marriage for its last decade), to anger, depression, then bargaining, and finally acceptance, would be like the Two-Step, one step forward and two steps back and believe me, there’s been a constant dance between all of my emotions. I would be hard pressed to say which part is the most difficult, though I certainly think being angry is the easiest. (It’s amazing how much you can accomplish fueled on nothing but sheer fury, but who wants to sustain that emotion and think they will be happy?)

No doubt about it though, the bargaining part is the big fat obstacle to moving forward.

Everyone wants pain to end.

The harsh reality of ending an irrevocably broken marriage is that it's all over, literally - the good, the bad, the what-if's; all those balls fall to the ground at once. What I began to feel almost immediately was a void and filling that void continues to be a hard climb, 180 degrees straight up. It's exhausting, so the heart begins to sell you on retreating, "Wow, maybe all of it including him, wasn't that bad."

After those initial weeks, the anger for me turned to depression, nothing but blackness. The fact that someone I had spoken to, been committed to everyday for more than half of my life vanished completely from my life, emotionally, physically, and, in every other way was more devastating than I had ever anticipated.  Then inexplicably,  just like seeing someone you love go through a painful terminal illness and feeling you won't be able to remember them otherwise, eventually happier times begin seeping back into your heart and head. I missed him, or some long gone version of him, and revealing that vulnerability to him gave him more opportunities to hurt me in ways I could not have imagined.


One of my closest friends, coincidentally going through the exact same thing as me, at the exact same time, had the added pain, besides finding out her husband of 13 years had been a cheating, lying piece of crap, to become the target of his escalating passive-aggressive behaviour.

He attempted every move in the book to control her feelings after she kicked him to the curb. Crushed by the sudden loss of a marriage she thought had been good, she did take him back, twice, and each time it ended in a worse way than the time before. As soon as he would get back into the house and into her bed, he'd sadistically change his mind, as though seeing renewed, more acute pain in her gave him immense pleasure. Bang-bang, right through her heart, until she felt nothing but pieces remained by the time she sat in front of a divorce judge.

"Missing him made it worse."

Even on that final day, he was still text messaging her asking for another chance. Her biggest regret by far has been realising what all of this has done to her child. Understanding that now, protecting her child gives her unbending resolve when his text messages start-up, as they do almost daily.

The friend who sent me the above quote also let her ex back in after he unceremoniously walked out on her. He had rented an apartment and had begun moving secretively then laid the news on her that it was over and walked out. She was initially so shocked and devastated that it took awhile to realise the full extent of her own denial leading up to his leaving.

When his new, better life didn't exactly work out the way he planned, he wormed his way into her home by courting her all over again and using her vulnerability against her in every way he could. The second honeymoon stage didn't last long though, and the ensuing fighting and anger between them virtually exploded. Nothing had changed; nothing had been resolved. The difference now was there was an exposed, gaping wound, and OOPS an unplanned pregnancy. Sixteen years later, the fights over child-support and every other issue between them continue, including periodic attempts on his part to reconcile.

Unless filing for divorce is a knee-jerk reaction after some truly isolated incident and the only thing hurt is your pride, versus a carefully explored option over a period of time with the understanding there is no other choice, getting from the beginning to the end of the process can be exponentially more difficult if you give in to moments of weakened resolve.

"Protecting your child becomes number one."

I would liken it to a game of walking across hot burning coals and if you make the wrong move, back to the beginning you go, and you have to start all over walking across those painful, burning coals.

Second thoughts are understandable, we're all human and who wants to give up the idealism attached to our relationships. Unfortunately, until we pass through the normal stages of grief, we have to keep the reason why it had to end in the forefront of our mind and heart. If you look at breaking up with the person you thought you would spend the rest of your life with scientifically, the truth is, it is an actual trauma and its severity affects primitive areas of the brain associated with motivation, reward and addiction cravings.

In other words, it's like trying to kick heroin.

In the final analysis, going backwards as in back to your ex, when trying to live a healthier, happier, more authentic life is only delaying the opportunity to be happy. For a short time there might be a sense of comfort that comes with the familiar, but what has really changed?

Did he get a personality transplant?

Have you changed?

The reality is, marriages are usually on their way to being over long before both parties fully realise or accept it. It's a long bumpy road full of sadness and pain, depression and melancholy, anger, and very often bitterness, but finally, acceptance and even happiness. Who in their right mind would want to keep going back and travel that same road again and again?

How do you let go of something in the past that was close to you?

This post was originally publish on and has been republished here with full permission. 

Want more? Try:

4 ways to respond if the ex bad-mouths you to the kids.

Psychopaths and Sociopaths: Do you know the difference?

Why men get more out of marriage than women.

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