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The One I Know Versus The One I Don’t

I used to have this foolish rule when it came to breakups: No going back. Once a girl became my ex, there she remained for what was the rest of my life.

But then, at some point, I stopped mandating such a rule on myself and the girl. It wasn’t prompted by any one particular event. For me, the idea evolved out of style because of my maturation. I got older, got into more relationships, with more great women, and found not every break up didn’t mean the end forever, just the end for right now.

Now I’m here; single and actively dating girls I have dated before and girls I meet in the moment. The whole thing doesn’t have me confused. It’s not like I have to make a choice right away, and to keep it extra real, it’s not like any girl I’m dating is is going to choose me.  They are perhaps not thinking about things the way I am, still doesn’t make the pong game in my head between the girls I don’t know and the girls I do know any less intense.

There’s pros and cons to any choice we make regarding relationships, so let’s just not default and take the easy way out. We make a choice, and in the end we lose some, we win some, but in the end, we ultimately get some. That’s my motto. My other motto is, there is no winner, no universal “better”, it’s whoever is best for us.

Now that we have the semantics out of the way, let’s discuss a little bit.

The  idea of getting back together with an ex is always exciting, especially if that ex was good in bed. Just kidding. But if enough time has passed, everything about that old thing can seem new. With all of my exes, no less than three years has gone by since we last dated, so in a lot of ways, they are new people, but not so new, there’s mystery. There’s also some familiarity. Sure, they say familiarity breeds contempt, but it also breeds a certain type of comfort in which we can seek solace.

Of course, the thing that stops me from going there with a potential ex is the idea of meeting someone I haven’t met. In a weird way, getting back with the person I once broke up with (or who broke up with us) is admitting I had it wrong all along, and doing that is as much fun as a trip to the dentist. I moved on, and they moved on, and we both did so in hopes that someone who was more right for us actually existed. To get back with an ex is to say that person doesn’t exist, or I’m just tired of waiting for them to show up.

The thing is, I’ve never even met this person who doesn’t exist. I just make them up. They’re out there somewhere, but I don’t know where they are, who they are, or where they are, so continuing to believe they’re out there is like believing in Santa Claus. It’s all so childlike.

So who do I decide on, the one I know versus the one I don’t know? The answer is simple: I pick the one who picks me. We pick each other.

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  • BoomShots

    Just like you come to realize that once someone is your ex they stay your ex as a “foolish” rule, you will hopefully some day come to realization that picking the the one who picks you is a dead-end relationahip road. I have always concluded that people who have these zero-sum rules of relationships think way to highly of themselves and lack the real humility it requires to make relationships work. Not all your relationships that end are bad and not eveyone who chooses you values you.

    Been through my fair share of relationships and the personal dramas that accompany them and what I realize is how important a role timing plays in determining with whom, how and when we connect with another person. Plus how you do in a relationship is as dependent on where you are on development scale and how it aligns with that other person. Most importantly my most indelible relationships are the ones that make me learn more about who I am because I was challenged to go beyond my comfort zones.

    Some exes you will never go back to and some you hope to see again because of what they represent in our lives. Looking back is good because it reminds us to what to seek out as we go forward. Afterall those who deny history are bound to repeat it’s mistakes.

  • Tiffany

    Exactly, you never what or who is going to fall in your lap. An old ex may make you rethink things and rekindle something, but there is nothing like learning someone new. It makes things easier I think when you don’t know all the flaws in the beginning. Getting back with an ex might also remind you of why you broke up int he first place. The annoying habits they had then may annoy you more now. Like you said they will pick you and it will happen when it happens.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate

  • taurusitalia

    Never say never. Sometimes while in a relationship things go sour, and once you break up, you look ahead. But after significant time has passed & both matured, dating other people, etc. to “come back to each other” is kind of an intense idea. I wouldn’t be against it, as long as I can stay strong to myself.

    I think a lot of time people lose their individuality while in a relationship. And that is when things become difficult. It is hard to keep that balance of being true to yourself & to the relationship.

  • Lena

    Thank you for this. This isthe story of my most recent and current relationships. We broke up and ended up with our most recent exes. I hope that made sense … nothing like a good case of ping pong to describe relationships, eh?

    Anyway, there’s so much truth to what you said. Going back, especially when you fought tooth and nail to *not* go back is admitting you were wrong … sometimes it gives the other person the upper hand on some “I knew you’d come back b/c we’re supposed to be” type ish. But at the same time, it’s a huge leap of faith to go back into something you know might end up going south, especially when the perfect one for you could be waiting for you …

    But like the previous comments have said, it takes knowing yourself and what you want, then having the committment to go after both.

  • Babygurrl

    “I have always concluded that people who have these zero-sum rules of relationships think way to highly of themselves and lack the real humility it requires to make relationships work. Not all your relationships that end are bad and not eveyone who chooses you values you.”

    Boomshots read my entire mind…

  • Anonymous

    DEEP & INSIGHTFUL @ BoomShots. I couldn’t agree more. J

  • ChiCity

    I think as you get older you’re supposed to get wiser. Which means you understand that people come and go at certain times in our life for a reason. Some people even get the chance for a repeat appearance, however not everyone will get a repeat appearance (or will get denied if they try). If it’s been years since we’ve broken up and all I can think about is the hurt that you’ve caused chances are you won’t make a repeat appearance at this stage of my life no matter how much you profess that you’ve changed. Besides if my heart is just not ‘there’ I’m not going to waste my time. However if there is just something about you and we are both in different places in our life than we were before and both are willing to see what happens, then why not.

  • Wet Mag

    I’m in a similar situation. I’m newly single and it’s hard to really engage in ‘familiar’ situations. Especially since the situation was your fault (my fault). lol. Anywho I don’t know if i’d pick someone i’ve been with before because I have a certain complex about people viewing me in the best light possible—also for some weirdo reason I like learning about new people. But as you have said if you haven’t been with that person for 3 years—they are new. But as I said I have this Marie mother of God complex—I need to have that person think I’m someone better than the person they’ve dated before.

    I need therapy.

  • Don’t know it all


    You have it dead on and I couldn’t have said it better! Some times past relationships ended on circumstance and not fault so, why not go back and try? Life is too short and if love was really there and growth was established during the seperation then…. only good could come from two positive individuals.

  • **inquiring mind**

    Nice Boomy 😉

  • Leo knows best.

    I think its worth trying sometimes. It comes with maturity to know what what you had, you at one time did like and might work again.

    both parties have to be willing to move on though.

  • BrwnButterfly

    Hmmm….not really sure if I agree on this one. In my mind an ex is a ex for a reason whether it’s because of a certain situation or if its because we just weren’t good together. I guess it works for some people but I believe once we part ways its for good, we can still be friends but thats as far as I’m willing to go.

    @BoomShots:”those who deny history are bound to repeat it’s mistakes.”

    I think that this particular quote is why I feel the way that I do. To me getting back with an ex(in certain cases) is not me denying history, it’s me learning from it.

    Still….great post

  • Procrastigirl

    I think you make a great point. People do grow and mature and maybe breaking up with that person in the first place could have been a catalyst for those changes to occur.

  • Pascalle

    Great post Jozen and thoughts Boom. In my personal experience, I have gone back to one particular ex many times over the past 10 years, much to my detriment. But the one explanation I have is that it was something familiar, he already knew all of my secrets and eccentricities and it made it easier. Sometimes I am wearied by the initial unveiling of all of yourself to someone new. Call me lazy. Finally at 27 I am eager to meet new people, and leave most of my exes in the past, but as far as I’m concerned the door is always open; none of my breakups have been that dramatic and just as I have grown and matured, the hope is that they are also easing into adulthood and maybe seeing me in a new light.