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Factors to Consider Before Rekindling the Flame with an Ex-Spouse (Like Gizelle Bryant)
RHOP's Gizelle Bryant is dating the man she divorced over a decade ago. Here are tips from an expert on how to navigate these situations.
There is nothing better than having a healthy co-parenting relationship with an ex, but what if that relationship is so wonderful that it makes you want to be romantic with them again? Perhaps that was the case for The Real Housewives of Potomac’s Gizelle Bryant, who recently admitted at the Season 4 reunion that she is dating her ex-husband, Jamal Bryant.
Jamal cheated on Gizelle eight years into their marriage, when their three daughters were just toddlers. Gizelle called it quits because she didn't want to be disrespected and feared it would be an ongoing problem. Since the split 11 years ago, they have spent a lot of time together as a family when Jamal’s in town to visit their daughters, and recently they decided to try again.
This situation is fundamentally more complicated than just taking back an ex you haven't been married to before, especially if you share kids together. Licensed clinical psychologist and couples therapist Dr. Sarah Schewitz explains, "Reigniting a flame with any ex can be tricky because there are usually a lot of past hurts to overcome, but getting back together with an ex-husband is even trickier."
Here are steps to navigate it carefully:
Has there been personal growth?
Dr. Schewitz explains that one reason dating a person you divorced is harder is because “many divorces are messy and highly contentious, which leaves even more wounds to forgive if getting back together.” Also, “you can never be sure infidelity won’t be an issue in any relationship,” let alone one where that was the case previously.
However, Dr. Schewitz notes, “It’s a good sign if the partner who cheated is aware of why they did it and has worked to address the underlying communication issues that led to them cheating.”
If you do decide to go down this road, Dr. Schewitz suggests asking these important questions:
- “What personal growth work have you done since we broke up? How has that informed the person you are today?”
- “From your perspective, why didn’t our relationship work the first time around? What do you understand about why it didn’t work from my perspective?”
- “Are those problems from our past still present? If so, how do we plan to address them?”
- “If we get back together, how are you committed to making sure we don’t fall into the same patterns? What do you need from me to make sure we don’t repeat old patterns?”
Dr. Schewitz warns that “if they’ve done no personal growth work” since the divorce, she would “be very cautious about jumping back into a relationship with them again.”
Know it's a high stakes relationship.
Once you’ve worked through the hard questions, it’s important to take time and reflect on the risks of going down that path again. Dr. Schewitz notes, “The stakes can be higher, especially if you have children with your ex-spouse because your decision impacts them as much as it does the two of you.”
If you are currently in a good co-parenting place with them now, if you break up again, would you still be able to co-parent the same way? Additionally, “The stakes may feel higher because you’ve already taken the step to get married in the past… thus, it seems marriage could be on the table again almost immediately if getting back together.”
This can be tricky because it puts “more pressure on the relationship to move forward” earlier than it would “if you were getting back together with somebody you had never married in the first place.”
Consider the kids.
Gizelle admitted on the reunion that her kids are a bit confused by the new dynamic because they were so young when they split that they don't even remember what it’s like for them to be together.
Dr. Schewitz advises that a "divorced couple who wants to try again may not want to tell the children until they are sure they are ready to commit to each other.” Once they are, they can share with them “that while they had their differences in the past, they’ve both grown and changed and realized their love for each other hasn’t gone away,” explaining to them that they “have had time to work on becoming better people independently” and “they want to to try to be a family again.”
Being transparent is key — it’s important to relay to them that just because they are dating again, it doesn't necessarily mean they will get married again. She also advises sharing that “regardless if things work between them or not, they will always be there for the children and love them unconditionally.”
Can you be happily ever after… again?
Although it’s not very common for a person to remarry their ex, Dr. Schewitz explains that if a couple does “make the decision to marry a second time, they both know what they are getting into and hopefully, go into it with much less fantasy the second time around.” Also, a couple who has been married before knows exactly what can happen (both the good and the bad), so if they still want to move forward to make it work, “the likelihood of divorce a second time is much lower.”
The risks for divorce decrease if they have been apart for longer than a few years and “the older the couple is when they decide to get back together” because “as we grow older, we tend to mature emotionally and make less impulsive decisions.”
In Gizelle’s case, it’s been over a decade since her and Jamal divorced, so they are both in very different places than they were when it went awry the first time. Dr. Schewitz notes that the second time around, we “have a greater understanding of what marriage is like and thus, are less likely to enter a marriage under false pretenses.”
Hopefully this time is happily ever after for Gizelle and Jamal! Who knows... maybe Robyn Dixon and Juan Dixon will be the next to follow suit and remarry?!