Getting Back Together With Your Ex: What Are the Chances?

Couple Head to Head

Breakups are one of the most challenging, painful experiences we must endure in this life. Everyone who puts their heart on the line and falls in love has been through one before. Many of us have multiple breakups under our belt – some worse than others.

Now, you’ve reached the stage where you’re considering getting back together with your ex – either by taking them back or by doing whatever it takes to get them to come back. The former is a much easier position to be in than the latter. Not that either is particularly fun.

Whatever your specific situation may be, you found this article for a reason. You’re thinking about getting back together with your ex and worried about whether it’ll work out. Maybe you need some strategies to help convince them to give you another chance.

Either way, I’ve got you covered. On this page, we’re going to look at decades worth of research studies on this topic, so you know exactly the kind of odds your relationship is up against. After we examine the stats, we’ll talk about how to use that knowledge to make your ex want you back.

But first: make sure that’s what you really want to happen. After all, you broke up for a reason. Make sure feelings of loneliness and uncertainty over the future aren’t playing tricks on you before committing to reuniting with your ex.

Are You Sure That’s What You Want?

Noelle Nelson, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of Dangerous Relationships: How to Identify and Respond to the Seven Warning Signs of a Troubled Relationship, has some encouraging words for exes considering giving it another chance.

“As long as there aren’t serious issues such as abusive behavior in the relationship and each partner really cares about the other, a second chance at a successful relationship could work. Communication is the foundation,” she explains. Nelson also encourages some self-examination before exploring this path.

“If you are considering reconnecting, be totally honest with yourself. Examine your motives for doing so. Don’t get back together because you’re lonely. Don’t get back together because you’re bored or that you’re afraid you will never find someone else.”

Are you sure you’re doing this for the right reasons? Before you get too invested in courting your ex all over again, answer these five questions. And be honest and objective with yourself; don’t fall into the trap of looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses or idealizing your ex.

1. Why Did You Break Up?

There must be a reason you’re not still together. Why did the relationship come to an end? Was the breakup a long gradual process, or a sudden reaction to a nasty fight? Did a single event such as someone cheating cause the split?

The nature of your breakup will determine the probability of you getting back together.

  • If you still love each other but got worn down by long distance, that’s an easy bridge to repair once you’re living nearby again.
  • If someone cheated, that kind of betrayal can be much harder to overcome.

The best-case scenario is that your breakup was caused by unfortunate circumstances that weren’t anybody’s fault, making reconciliation a breeze.

But don’t worry, even if the rift was caused by more serious issues like communication mix-ups, financial problems, or other lifestyle habits, you can still bounce back. You’ll just have to prove that your ex’s concerns are acknowledged and that you’re making some progress to fix them.

So, is this thing salvageable?

2. How Long Were You Together?

As you’ll see when we’re analyzing research data, the longer a relationship lasts, the better the odds you’ll be able to revitalize things. It takes time to develop deep emotional connections, and once they’re formed, they’re not easily discarded. After a few years, both partners have significant investments in each other – emotionally and materially.

If you didn’t live together, you at least have a bunch of belongings at each other’s homes. Usually, it’s during the process of separating from each other’s day-to-day lives that couples change their minds and decide to stay together and try again. You don’t realize the full extent to which your lives are entangled until you’re attempting to undo it.

So, how much history do you have together? How many years were you and your ex together before the breakup?

3. Was the Breakup Amicable or Nasty?

On the surface, this may seem the same as question one, but it’s not. The reason behind a relationship ending is different from how you both handled the breakup itself.

  • For example, you can split up for the most innocent, understandable reason – like living across the country from each other — and still lash out bitterly and cruelly.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, some people get cheated on, yet find it in themselves to leave the relationship with poise and dignity.

How’d you treat each other once it was decided that you were breaking up? Was there a vicious fight in which one or both of you said hurtful things? Are apologies in order before you can even consider starting over?

If you were married, was there a custody battle? Did one party’s lawyers go for the juggler? Did you fight over the assets in the divorce settlement? Or, by some miracle, did cooler heads prevail? Were you able to maintain your respect and admiration for each other throughout the breakup?

The fewer the wounds that need to be healed, the smoother getting back together will be.

Couple Back With Back Looking Sad

4. How Long Ago Was the Breakup?

Just as the duration of your previous relationship factors into your chances of reuniting, so does the amount of time you’ve been apart. The right length of time to wait before getting back together is largely dependent on the nature of your breakup.

An angry bitter split might require a longer period of healing and forgiveness. When negative emotions were high, it often helps to get some distance between yourselves and everything that was said.

For other couples, a few months might do the trick. Maybe a little alone time is all you need for some perspective, then you can come back together more appreciative of what you bring to each other’s lives.

As I’ll discuss later, the poll data suggests that most couples who get back together, do so within the first six months of being broken up.

5. Have Either of You Dated Someone Else Since?

Once additional people are thrown into the mix, the process of reconciliation can get complicated. Are you someone who needs to know if – and who — your ex dated – while you were separated? Do you need all the details before you agree to try again? Or would you prefer they tell you absolutely nothing? How will your ex feel about your dating habits since the breakup?

In the past, whenever I got back together with an ex, it was usually shortly after meeting someone new. I’d try to start dating again and end up missing my girlfriend. Sometimes you need that contrast to fully appreciate what you had.

And when I’d hear that my ex-girlfriend was talking to someone new? Nothing got me back in line quicker. Of course, a lot of the time, it depends on who your ex starts dating and what they do with them. For some people, once certain lines are crossed, getting back together is off the table.

So, it just depends on what both parties do with their time apart, and how much jealousy they can each handle.

Getting Back With an Ex: By the Numbers

You’re here to figure out your chances of getting back together with your ex, and I want to help. That’s why I scoured the internet for every bit of research performed on the topic I could find. In this section, I’ve compiled a variety of resources ranging from legitimate scientific research printed in academic journals to casual polls conducted online. Taken together, I think they provide a decent look at what you’re up against, depending on the specific details of you and your exe’s split.

By the way, you are not alone in this pursuit of another chance with your former partner. One thing I learned researching for this article is that “get ex back” is always a popular search term on Google Trends. Its popularity has hovered between the 80th and 100th percentile for the past 12 months!

2009 University of Texas Research Study

In 2009, a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Texas conducted a study of college students’ relationship habits. One of Prof. René Dailey’s findings was that roughly 65% of the college students polled had broken up with a partner and eventually gotten back together again.

If you’re a college student, that’s an extremely encouraging number. However, it’s not consistent with the data we see for that age group in other polls. Might there have been something unique about Professor Dailey’s students at UT that skewed the results?

I suspect the more likely explanation is that the younger participants in the online poll further down this section had worse luck rekindling failed relationships than their peers, on average, since they joined a site called Perhaps your average co-ed gives a relationship a second chance 65% of the time.

2015 The Associated Press Poll

2015 poll conducted by The Associated Press surveyed 1,240 individuals about their past relationship experiences and feelings about former partners. Included in the survey was the question: “Have you ever gotten back together with an ex after a breakup?”

41% of the respondents said that they had. So, significantly lower than the students at UT, but fairly consistent averaged together, we end up right back around 50% — which seems to be the right answer.

2012 Journal of Adolescent Research

In 2012 a group of researchers named S. Halpern-Meekin, W. D. Manning, P. C. Giordano, and M. A. Longmore published a paper in the Journal of Adolescent Research titled Relationship Churning in Emerging Adulthood: On/Off Relationships and Sex with an Ex.

The study found that roughly 44% of men and women aged 17 – 24 had broken up with a significant other and gotten back together again later. That number doesn’t look too promising for the younger generations, but it’s not horrible. A little worse than a coin toss.

Plus, it’s closer to the results for that age range that were collected by the in-depth online poll we’ll discuss soon. Maybe the students at the University of Texas are truly more forgiving than their peers elsewhere.

2013 Kansas State University Research Study

According to a 2013 study conducted at Kansas State University by Amber Vennum, an assistant professor of family studies and human services, about 37% of couples who’d lived together when they broke up, got back together again.

Her research also found that most people who reunited with their ex thought that their partner had changed for the better in some way. Many believed their significant other would improve their communication skills.

That second paragraph is crucial. We’ll talk more about the things you need to do to win your ex back further down the page.

California State University, Sacramento Marriage Research

According to the book “Lost and Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romances” written by Nancy Kalish, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology at California State University, Sacramento, if you were once married to the ex you’re hoping to get back, your odds of finding future happiness are significantly improved!

Kalish says that she studied “1,000 couples worldwide who have reunited after many years apart,” and that “reunions are quite common, and the flame can reignite at any point.”

Over four years of research, she discovered that married couples who reunite after getting divorced have a 72% chance of sticking together for life. Of course, only 10-17% of the married couples in her studies got back together after being separated. However, 40% of separated couples at least attempt some form of reconciliation.

So, if you’re married, the chances of getting back together aren’t great. On the other hand, if you do manage to reconcile, the odds are greatly in your favor that you’ll make it work!

2017 Social Psychological and Personality Science Research

In 2017, groups of researchers from the University of Utah and the University of Toronto co-published a series of studies in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, asking participants whether they want to stay in their current relationship or leave, and why.

  • 66% said they wanted to stay due to the intimacy and dependence they’d developed with their partner.
  • 38% gave “unfaithfulness” as their reason for wanting to leave.
  • 49% of participants considering leaving were still conflicted about breaking up.
  • The findings are consistent with the roughly 50% rate at which separated couples get back together again.

Popular reasons for wanting to remain were an emotional investment in the relationship, family duties, believing the partner will change, and fear over the uncertainty of what would follow a breakup.

While these results aren’t directly related to getting back together with an ex, they provide some useful data on what drives people to break up or stay together. Many of these same thought processes dictate whether someone will give their former partner a second chance. I also found it interesting that the researchers claim that separated couples get back together about 50% of the time.

Sounds like you’ve got at least a coin-toss chance!

Kevin Thompson’s Website Survey

Perhaps the most fascinating statistics compiled on this topic are the result of a survey conducted by Kevin Thompson’s website Ex Back Permanently. Thompson polled 3,512 of his readers to learn all about their experiences attempting to get their exes back – seeing as that’s the site’s purpose.

Based on the results, 15% of the site’s readers got their ex back and stayed together, while 14% rekindled the relationship, only to break up again later. Here are some other highlights from Thompson’s poll data:

  • 33.28% of the women who took the survey got their ex back compared to 23.47% of men.
  • 28.02% of gay respondents got back together with their ex.
  • 11% of men answered that they broke up again after getting back together; %15 of the women surveyed broke up again.
  • The 18-24 age group had the lowest rate (12.5%) of getting an ex back.
  • 18 to 24-year-olds that got their ex back also had the highest likelihood of breaking up again (17.4%) within a year of getting back together.
  • The 50+ age group had the most success (18.4%) staying with their ex after reuniting.
  • Most couples got back together within 1-6 months of breaking up.
  • 34% of readers who got back together and broke up again said they still want their ex back; only 27% of the people who never got their ex back said the same.
  • 77% of the readers who got back with their ex were happy that they did; 23% were not.
  • 53% of participants who stayed together after reuniting credited “self-improvement” as the reason; 50.8% said “time apart”; 43.2% answered “no contact.”

Your odds of getting your ex back are also strongly correlated to the length of your relationship.

The relationship lengths used were < 3 Months, 3-6 Months, 6-24 months, 2-5 years, and > 5 years.

Here’s what the web survey found:

  • Up to 5 years, the longer the relationship lasted prior to breaking up, the better the odds of getting back and remaining together.
  • Relationships lasting between 2-5 years have the best chance of getting back together and staying (17.2%), as well as the highest rate of reuniting and breaking up again (16.8%)
  • Couples who were together for over 5 years were slightly less likely (16.1%) to reconcile and stay together.
  • However, the 5+ year relationships were the least likely (10.6%) to break up again if they got back together.

Where do you and your ex fit into these different demographics?

What Can You Do To Get Your Ex Back?

Okay, you’ve asked yourself the five questions at the top of this page and decided that you still want your ex back. Now, based on the details of your breakup and statistical findings, you’re confident that the odds are in your favor. All that’s left is for you to sell it to the ex.

I’d like to do my part and equip you with some potent strategies to reignite the old spark and get the most out of your second chance.

Because you can’t bring the same “you” to the game as last time – they wound up single.

“Obviously, since your relationship didn’t work out the first time, something has to change to make it work the second time around,” Noelle Nelson reminds. “Otherwise, the same conflicts that caused so much trouble will re-emerge. Each partner has to understand and be willing to work on whatever caused the breakup in the first place.”

So, how do we maximize attraction and show the ex that you’ve become the version of yourself they always wanted you to be?

Give Them Space

I realize this tip might seem counterintuitive after we’ve been talking about getting your ex back this whole time. But it’s not – in fact, this might be the most important step of all if we’re ever going to convince your ex how much they need you back.

For starters, you need the time to start implementing the lifestyle changes you’ll be showing them later as proof that you’re growing and addressing certain issues.

Of course, the main function of the “no communication” period is to make them reflect and face a reality without you in their life. When you introduce your intention to “give each other space,” the delivery must be believable (even though you don’t really want to stop talking) and should specify that cutting off contact is what’s best for you both right now, but that you hope to be friends eventually.

Done well, being the first to suggest “no communication” should incite the fear of missing out. Suddenly, they’re forced to consider you not needing them. And rather than gradually falling away, at a pace they’ll comfortably get used to less and less of you, you’re forcing them to confront the void you’ll leave when it’ll be most disruptive to their routine.

Plus, having the backbone to enforce those boundaries will make you appear stronger and more disciplined – which is attractive.

Understand Why You Broke up the First Time

You must also make a concerted effort to fully understand the root causes of the breakup. Not what the fights were about, necessarily, but what triggered the feelings that led to the problems. So often, relationship frustrations will build up over time and explode during an entirely unrelated argument. The anger gets misdirected, leaving half of the relationship confused. And if you can’t address the root cause, the problems will keep returning at seemingly random (to the recipient) moments.

This step will require a mixture of deep reflection and introspection, as well as some very honest conversations after your period of no contact. That time away should release tensions and make it easier to dissect the core issues in your relationship, so you can finally fix them.

Remind Them What They Liked About You

Before you get back together, you must reintroduce your ex to the person they fell in love with in the first place. As we grow comfortable and complacent in a relationship, we often show our partners less and less of our fun, easy-going, charismatic side. You get stuck in a routine and get used to them always being there and stop caring about making an impression. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of familiarity.

You must use humor and positivity to start breaking those emotional walls back down. Even when your ex is being cold and unfriendly, you keep it light-hearted and refuse to engage on that level. You can’t show offense or react defensively. Keep laying on the charm.

Eventually, the resistance will fade, and your interactions will take on the flirtatious tone of when you first met and started dating. It won’t be long until your ex sees you as that person again. At that point, it won’t be long until they’re contemplating giving the relationship another try.

Improve Yourself

You can’t convince your ex to give you another chance directly. That’ll get old very quickly and come across as needy and desperate. Attraction doesn’t work that way. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to talk your way into another relationship.

The smarter approach is to focus on improving other areas of your life and letting your ex see the changes you’re making when you talk. Over time, they’ll start thinking about getting back together on their own.

Try to become the best version of yourself. If you’re out of shape, work out. Update your wardrobe or get a haircut. Start that project they saw you put off for years. And upgrade your attitude at the same time. So that when you talk to each other, you’re a confident, positive person with a bright future ahead.

But never say, or even suggest that you’re doing any of it for them. You must do it for yourself first. If seeing you as a winner again renews their attraction, that’s an added bonus. Trust me, they’ll sniff it out every time if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

When you’re genuinely in control of your life and the master of your own destiny, there’s nothing more attractive.

Work On Yourself

Don’t Force It

You’ve given your ex their space, identified the core issues in your relationship, been funny and charming on the phone, and dedicated yourself to improving multiple facets of your life – now what? Unfortunately, it’s not up to you.

The worst thing you could do is point out all the changes you’ve made and beg for them to take you back. That’s as good as undoing all your progress.

Similarly, don’t rush to social media to advertise what an amazing new life you’re living. You can’t be inauthentic in any way. Otherwise, you’ll come across as manipulative and it’ll backfire.

All you can do is stay the course and hope for the best. The tragic reality is that sometimes you can’t reignite old feelings. If your ex lost the feelings they once had, they may not come back. At a certain point, it’s like a switch gets flipped and there’s nothing either of you can do about it.

That said, stay positive – it’s not over until it’s over. Your ex might want you back but they’re taking it slow to see if the changes are real or if you slip up. Plus, everything you’ve been working on will make it that much easier to find a new significant other, even if it’s not your ex.

Be Happy With the Life You Are Living Right Now

Breakups are agonizing, but they only hurt so bad because they were preceded by something so great. You must learn to appreciate the entire journey, even when it’s not exactly what you want.

When you focus on the positive and know how to find happiness even when the conditions aren’t perfect, you’re invincible. Plus, it’s an outlook that the world finds extremely attractive.

Maybe you get your ex back, maybe you don’t. But by embarking on the journey of self-improvement, you’ve ensured that the heartbreak wasn’t a waste. I can promise you this though: a positive disposition won’t hurt your chances of getting them back.