“It could all be so simple, but you’d rather make it hard.  Loving you is a battle, and we both end up with scars.”  One of my favorite songs from L Boogies’ iconic, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.”  The couple in the song has a volatile, love-hate relationship that neither one can seem to let go.  A difficult road to navigate, dealing with exes is a spotty ordeal.  This is especially true when one person is unsure of their feelings and the other one is still hurt.

One of my sister-friends was married for about 9 years. She and her husband had one of those fairytale relationships. Both were successful, smart, gorgeous and they were each other’s best friends.  Everyone wanted to be them and be around them.  I always accepted invitations to their fabulous and legendary parties because I knew I’d be hearing about it for months if I didn’t.

Fast-forward, and 7 years into the relationship my sister-friend found herself depressed and at a personal crossroads.  She couldn’t put her finger on the problem and started acting out in her marriage and with her friends.  Fortunately, she was able to keep her behavior at work in check, but everything else around her was crumbling.

 We all tried to help her, however, no one was ever able to break through, including her husband.  Ultimately, she thought it was her marriage that was the main cause of her unhappiness and so she asked for a divorce.  Her husband protested for about 2 years and then, finally gave in and granted her the divorce.  It was clear to all of us that it wasn’t something he wanted to do, but he also loved my sister-friend enough to set her free to find her way.

Once divorced, my sister-friend began to explore her issues.  The divorce hadn’t done anything to help and she was even more despondent after.  She was clearly in crisis.  Finally, she sought professional help and discovered she was clinically depressed.  She went through treatment for 3 years and over the course of that time began to resolve and heal her wounds. 

Recently, we were at a party and her ex-husband was there.  They’re still friends and so they spoke and hung out a bit.  After their conversation, my sister-friend ran over to me and said, “I want [my ex-husband] back!”  I actually wasn’t surprised the way she was giggling and smiling at him during their conversation.  “But, I think he’s still hurt,” she lamented.

I had to agree with her because I had witnessed the hell she put him through.  “Still, if you’re serious that shouldn’t stop you from trying,” I encouraged.  I told her to invite him out to dinner and see where that went.  But, I also cautioned her to make sure she genuinely wanted him back before taking him down that road.

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It’s really difficult when it comes to ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends, ex-anything! Feelings can get confused with familiarity.  And, my sister-friend had not been having the best luck in the dating game.  I didn’t want her to twist the safety of her ex-husband with a true desire to rekindle their relationship. 

 “How do you know the difference?” she asked.  I asked her to describe what she was feeling.  She went on to list all of the things that made her ex-husband a great man and a great husband.  It was different than when they’d first met.  Back then, all she could think about was getting him naked – it didn’t matter whether he took out the garbage or not. 

I brought that up to her and she seemed even more confused.  She admitted that the attraction wasn’t as it had been when they first met, yet she was still attracted to him.  “Is it even supposed to be the same?  We were married for almost ten years,” she said.  Good point.  I certainly don’t know the answer to that one.  Quite honestly, most people that I know in long-term relationships speak of fading sexual energy and chalk it up to being natural.

All things considered, my hopeless romantic came out and I encouraged her to go for it.  See what happens!  And, she did.  They went out on a date and had a great time.  She said that during the date she started to feel those same emotions she’d felt when they’d had their first date eleven years ago.  With that said, her ex-husband was very cautious about rekindling their relationship; he still had battle wounds. 

Since then, they’ve been out on more dates, but are not dating each other exclusively.  I think my sister-friend is enjoying it and trying to discover what her real feelings are for him.  I’ve encouraged her to be very open no matter what as that is the only way no more damage will be done (or at least no major damage).  I’m rooting for them!

We all have been there before; you run into an ex and he/she is looking great and those feelings start coming up.  The question is: whether you truly are still interested or is it the familiarity that is attractive?  Unless you know for sure it’s the latter, I say go for it… the ex-factor!