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On this season of Vanderpump Rules, Jax Taylor proposed to his longtime love Brittany Cartwright, despite a previous breakup due to infidelity. While their love story and what brought them back together were unique to them, they are not alone in having restored a romance after a devastating breakup.
Personal Space spoke to licensed marriage and family therapist Pamela Monday, Ph.D., to learn how to ask yourself and your partner the right questions and discover if the relationship can return to a healthy state.
Before you launch into a serious sit-down conversation with your ex, the first step is to make sure the love you have for that person makes the relationship worth fighting for despite everything that caused the breakup. “We cannot and should not leave the past behind, unless all of the relationship issues have been resolved,” she advised.
According to Dr. Monday, something to consider is if you've been cheated on before by other people you have dated. If the answer is yes, analyzing why this is a pattern for you is important. Dr. Monday suggested asking, “What have I learned about myself?" These internal conversations can help to see if your behaviors are contributing to a partner acting out. Examples include: “Not talking about problems when they arise; not checking in with my partner about how we are doing as a couple; fighting often without resolution.” This doesn't excuse your partner's actions, but it can help end some destructive behaviors on your end and open the line for healthier communication moving forward.
If you discover the problem is dating the wrong type of partner, don't give them a second chance. However, if you think the person is still right for you, Dr. Monday suggested discussing these five topics to ensure the relationship can be repaired.
Do they express remorse and take full responsibility?
Dr. Monday explained that a poor response to a confrontation about past transgressions would be if they said: “I cheated because we haven’t been getting along for a long time.” That phrasing deflects accountability for their actions and instead places the blame on the relationship rather than solely on them. A partner who is truly apologetic will take full responsibility and will ask what they can do to regain your trust.
Have they cut off all contact with the other party?
According to Dr. Monday, it is important to know if your partner has had any contact with the other person involved. A good start to moving forward would be if your partner ignored texts and emails from the person with whom they cheated... and ultimately blocked the number. “If they haven’t put a solid boundary around the two of you, it will not be safe to lower your guard and trust again.” Dr. Monday noted that it is obviously a huge problem if the partner works with the affairee, and sometimes the only way for a clean break is to change jobs.
What type of relationship was modeled to them?
While this may seem irrelevant to your personal relationship, finding out if that pattern of behavior was modeled to them by their parents may predict if it is more likely to be a recurring issue. If the partner's parents had multiple affairs, that may be what they feel is normal, and chances are that it will happen again, unless they have a “moral imperative to be monogamous.” If that is the case, “find out what those moral imperatives are, and how disciplined the person is to do the right thing when no one is looking,” Dr. Monday explained.
Have they strayed in previous relationships?
If this is something you haven't discussed with your partner before, it is important to know before diving back in with them. If the partner has cheated on previous partners, or if they strayed from someone else to have a relationship with you, “beware of getting back together and only do so with professional help.” If this was the first time anything like that happened, it doesn't necessarily mean it won’t happen again if you get back together. Making sure you have a concrete plan in place to conquer that issue is key, and counseling can help.
Is there open communication for problems and temptations?
Making a commitment for open communication to resolve problems as they occur is the best way to avoid trouble in the future. Dr. Monday said that encouraging honesty and not freaking out if they open up to you about temptations is important. It should be OK for them to come to you and say: “I’m thinking about having an affair. What does that say about you and me? Let’s get to work on us.” While this may feel startling, especially if that person has a history of straying, opening that discussion and expressing the desire to work through it shows integrity. According to Dr. Monday, the partner being vulnerable enough to admit that shows “real trust and safety.”
If these questions have been asked and answered, and you are certain you want to get back together, be sure you have carefully processed these issues with your partner. Know what to do when disconnects happen in the new phase of the relationship, and learn how to “manage your own defensive fight/flight/freeze response so you can stay connected instead.” Also, make sure to listen so you can understand your partner’s point of view to work through the possible bumps along the way. Dr. Monday explained once you have that in place, there is no reason why you shouldn't get back together with an ex.
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