You open the door, expecting carol singers, and there they are. Your longed-for ex is standing right in front of you.
This isn’t a scene from Love Actually, but it should be – because Christmas is often when lonely exes regret splitting up.
Christmas loves couples, families, love and togetherness.
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Tracey Cox says you shouldn’t be surprised to get a call from your ex this festive period
Christmas isn’t kind to singles, orphans and those who don’t have someone to watch cheesy movies with.
Which is why people who haven’t given their ex a thought in three months suddenly find themselves fondly reminiscing, thinking ‘I wonder what they’re doing now?’
Two weeks and ten drinks at the office party later, they’re convinced they let the love of their life slip through their fingers….and end up outside your front door.
It’s terribly romantic at the time, especially if you’re feeling lonely too.
Not quite so romantic when January comes around, everyone’s back at work and suddenly your ex isn’t so needy, or lonely…or around.
‘You’re the love of my life’ turns back into the more familiar ‘I’m not sure about this’, and that ‘one last try’ has simply broken your heart one more time.
She says Christmas can leave people feeling lonely and pining for a former flame
It’s an all too familiar scenario for lots of people but what if the opposite were true: your ex was for real and you did end up living happily ever after?
Isn’t it worth taking a risk if you loved or love them still?
Yes – but only under certain circumstances.
Here’s seven damn good reasons to take a deep breath and go for it – and nine scenarios that should have you running for the hills!
BREAK OUT THE EGGNOG: IT’S WORTH ANOTHER TRY
You dumped them and realise you made a horrible mistake
Hindsight is 20/20 vision, and it’s often not until someone’s gone that you realise how special they really were.
If no-one’s come close to being half as nice, kind, sexy, gorgeous, clever (and whatever else you valued about them), you’ll be kicking yourself for a long time afterward.
If this is you and they give into an urge to call at Christmas, go for it!
In fact, if they don’t turn up at your door, turn up at theirs to take full advantage of that big, open Christmas heart to beg forgiveness.
You broke up for a reason and that reason has now gone or been fixed
You can make a sensible assessment of your chances of success by looking at the reasons why you split in the first place.
If you separated because of outside stresses – their job demanded too much time, they had family issues to sort out, someone close to them died and they lost perspective – it’s worth going back if the situation has now been resolved.
Stress affects people’s ability to think clearly and make good decisions.
If they’ve sorted out whatever was stopping them committing to you, it could have a chance of succeeding.
They’ve clearly thought it through, come up with solutions and are willing to work at it
Arriving on your doorstep saying sorry is great, but unless they’ll sit down and talk about why you split, forget it.
‘It’s enough that I’m here,’ is not acceptable.
The past needs to be resolved and there needs to be a genuine attempt to change the behaviour, attitudes or situations that caused the breakdown.
If they’re still flaky, avoiding your eye and dodging questions, wish them Merry Christmas and send them on their way.
She says there are occasions where you can consider taking a partner back but you never should if they treated you badly
You don’t expect miracles
People change but it’s rare.
They might promise a personality change but it’s more likely to be a personality tweak.
If you don’t really like or don’t want to live with who they essentially are, it’s not worth it.
All couples have issues and most fight about the same old things, time and time again.
If you were together a while, you’ll have an idea of what yours will be.
Can you live with them? Can they?
You’re fine with what made you break up
I’m not saying you’d accept it if they did it again, but do you understand why it happened and accept why they did what they did?
If you don’t and the reunion is going to be spent with you secretly seething, what’s the point?
You might as well have a boozy old singles’ Christmas and immerse yourself in family, food, fizz and films.
You now both want the same things
People don’t always fall in love at the same speed, so it could be you reached the ‘I want a real commitment’ stage quicker than they did.
Time apart works wonders for people who aren’t sure if they’re ready for the next stage.
Missing you horribly can be the wake up call they needed to realise they are happy forsaking all others/moving in/getting married etc.
You think you can trust them again.
This is key.
Even if they didn’t leave you for someone else, they still walked out and left you hurting.
Can you trust them to stick around the next time you hit a rough spot? Will they stick around for the hard stuff?
You quite fancy having them around for Christmas and don’t really care what happens after that
If yours was the opposite to the ‘big’ relationship that left you both shattered when you split, you’ve got much less to lose by reuniting for Christmas.
It was a quite nice relationship that drifted apart simply because it didn’t ever turn into the big one?
Why not snuggle up to watch Bad Santa?
It’ll probably drift apart for the same reason it did the first time but, you never know, you might discover something you didn’t first time around.
BAH HUMBUG – FORGET IT!
They turned up drunk, drunk texted, or drunk called
Sensing a theme here?
PINING FOR AN OLD LOVE?
Here’s four things that will make you feel instantly better:
1. Everything happens for a reason.
You broke up with your ex because someone even better is out there waiting for you. If they were so perfect, why aren’t they still by your side?
2. Most people miss being loved and in a good relationship more than they do the person they were in the relationship with.
Don’t fall for the ridiculous notion that there is only one person out there who will make you happy.
There are plenty of other people out there who will love you just as much as your ex and be just as great to be with.
3. You probably weren’t as happy as you remember.
Most people idealise past relationships, glorifying the good times and forgetting about the bad.
4. You get to go through the falling in love stage all over again.
Being a relationship is wonderful but being in that first, glorious beginning bit of love is out of this world wonderful.
Just think! You get to experience that all over again!
Listen, everyone idealises what they had with a significant ex when they’re drunk and lonely.
It’s how they feel stone cold sober that counts.
If you must, hear them out and bask in all their emotional outpourings of how much they miss and love you and want to get back together.
But don’t believe a word of it until you see them the next day (and the day after that if they’re really hung over – hangovers also make us emotional).
If they repeat and stand by everything they said clear-headed, that’s when you start taking them seriously.
(If you ended up giving in and you woke up with them, more fool you. Nothing more humiliating than watching someone wake up and look horrified when they realise what they did and who they’re with.)
They’re involved with someone else
I can’t stop thinking about you but did I mention I now have a live-in girlfriend/wife/wife and three kids?
If they’re serious about getting back together, make it clear you won’t even entertain the idea while they are with someone else.
If they say they’ll only break up with the other person once they know you will give them another chance, refuse.
This is called hedging your bets.
You can be sure they’ll be arriving on their current about-to-be-dumped partner’s doorstep when you hit a bad patch in the future, asking for the same thing.
If they’re not coming to you completely free and available, they’re just toying with the idea and aren’t serious.
They have no real reason why it should work this time around other than that they love and miss you
Love is not enough to make a relationship work.
You need good communication skills, commitment, things in common, compatible personalities – and that’s the tip of the iceberg.
Saying they’ll die if they have to live another day without you is all terribly romantic but unless they’re willing to talk things through and work hard at the relationship, it’s meaningless.
They’ve already had a second (and third and fourth) chance
Really? Another one? Are you a glutton for punishment?
They treated you badly
If they were cruel – mentally, physically or emotionally abusive in any way – don’t even think about it.
They try to sleep with you the first night you get back together
They’re horny, not sorry.
They’ve just been dumped themselves.
Everyone decides their ex wasn’t that bad when they’ve been dumped.
They’re coming back for a confidence boost and will be off again the minute they feel secure.
They say they’re willing to change but you suspect it’s all talk.
People will say anything to get what they want and if they know you well, they’ll know how to win you over.
Promises to change are just words – it’s their behaviour that’s important.
If you’re not convinced, set a deadline: they have until the end of January/New Year’s Eve to convince you.
Your friends and family will be horrified to hear you’re back together
Imagine turning up to your family for Christmas lunch with your ex in tow?
What would be their reaction if you turned up with your ex? Delight? Or disgust?
What about to your best friend’s Xmas party?
Your friends and family want you to be happy and if your ex brought you nothing but misery and they dislike them intensely, respect their judgement.
If you’re stuck and can’t move forward, a few sessions with a good therapist can work wonders. Find one at itsgoodtotalk.org.uk or relate.org.uk.