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Rekindling an Old Flame—or Not

For some of us, getting back together with an ex may seem like a dream come true, but we might be doing ourselves a big disservice.

In the film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," two strangers meet on a beach. Drawn to each other, they spend the evening together and by the end of the night Clementine declares: "I'm going to marry you Joel, I know it." The two are former lovers who had their memories erased after a painful breakup. Free from the baggage of their old relationship, the former couple begins dating again, and the movie closes with them running down a snow-covered beach where their romance started—and started again.

The original script, though, ended quite differently. The scene showed the middle-aged Clementine having her memory erased for the umpteenth time after yet another nasty breakup with Joel. Without memories to guide them, Joel and Clementine were doomed to make the same mistakes over and over.

Many of us pine after old loves. In fact, some 62 percent of us would consider getting back together with a former flame. When viewed through nostalgic lens, the things that went wrong seem insignificant. Yet letting emotions like nostalgia take over can force you to relive past pain.

You can't erase your memory in real-life. But there are a few things you can keep in mind in case your ex sends an email message or comes around once again.

  • If you want to rekindle an old flame, you'll need to first discuss what went wrong the last time. Sometimes revisiting a past relationship can be a good thing, but only if you are able to communicate. Otherwise, old discontents will likely resurface—eventually.
  • Still pining for your ex? Getting back together may seem like a dream come true, but you might be doing yourself a big disservice. Part of post-breakup healing entails getting comfortable with the idea of being alone. If you haven't learned this basic lesson, chances are you're just missing a warm body.
  • It's been a while since the breakup and you're doing fine. Then you find out your ex has a new love. You think: "But we were meant to be together." Before you start emailing your ex, remember that jealousy is normal. So deal with it.
  • Do you really miss your ex or do you just hate dating? Your ex already knows your favorite movies, your food allergies and how you like your shoulders rubbed. Getting back together may seem preferable than another awkward first date. One of those dates, however, could blossom into a new relationship.
  • Remember why you broke up in the first place. If your ex cheated on you or treated you like a doormat, do you really want to sign up for more pain?
  • Are you trapping yourself with an on-again/off-again relationship? Sustaining a long-term relationship is commendable, but not if it's replete with multiple breakups. It's best to stop wasting your time on something that will continue to cause you grief.