Reviving Old Flames | Should You Swipe Right on an Ex?

man thinking with phone in hand with swip icon to the left of him

There you are, swiping through potential matches on a dating app, just minding your own dang business, when BAM! Your ex pops up in your feed. Depending on how your relationship ended, chances are you feel one of the following emotions:

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  • A lil bit nauseated – gross, I never want to see their face again, swipe left and throw your phone across the room.
  • Confused – you literally just broke up!
  • Angry – see the one above.
  • Intrigued – hmmm, we did have a lot of fun.
  • Excited – they were the one that got away–or whatever reason. 

However you react when you stumble upon an ex on a dating app, it’s for sure a surprise—unpleasant or pleasant. You know how you look when you walk through a spider web? That physical reaction is kinda what happens on the inside. It’s unexpected, and you don’t know how to act without looking ridiculous. The good thing is that no one is watching you go through this ordeal like they would be if you freaked out at the aforementioned spider web.

Anyway, there you are, your swiping finger hovering over their profile if you haven’t already swiped left faster than a gunslinger, and you are caught between curiosity and the urge to toss your phone into the toilet and flush.

Should you swipe right on an ex and revive an old flame that burned out? Your gut reaction is probably screaming, “DON’T YOU DARE!” But we aren’t you—we are gonna play devil’s advocate and see if swiping right on an ex is a smart move or a no-no.

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The Case Against Nostalgia Glasses

First off, let’s talk about the elephant in the room who is holding a sign saying, “This might not be the best idea you’ve had.” Trying to rekindle an old flame can seem appealing when you are viewing the relationship through those sneaky rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. Those glasses have a tricky way of filtering out the not-so-great times, like those fights over whose turn it was to take out the smelly garbage or the way they snored like a chainsaw or slurped their soup. Those quirks may have been endearing at first, but eventually, they ended up irritating you and causing you to lose out on your eight hours of beauty sleep.

To us, swiping right on an ex is like reheating yesterday’s coffee; yes, it’s coffee, but it’s not going to be as good or even palatable, and deep down, you know you want (and deserve) a fresh venti espresso. You and your ex ended for a reason (or reasons), and unless those reasons have vanished into thin air like a magic trick (spoiler alert: they have not), you’re just signing on to a sequel that nobody asked for and won’t come close to the original.

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When It’s Tempting to Swipe Right on an Ex

We exist in a world of nuance, and love is nothing if not super complicated. There are, dare we say, certain scenarios where swiping right on an ex doesn’t immediately qualify you for a Darwin Award. These situations are the exception, not the rule—very rare, like finding a first edition of Jane Eyre or liking a movie adaptation more than the book, but they do happen. Here’s when you are not out of your mind for considering giving it a second go!

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Significant Time Has Passed

We’re not talking weeks or even months, but years during which both of you have genuinely grown, evolved, and maybe even glowed up. If the person you swiped left on in the past has changed and matured—and you have, too—there’s a chance that Round Two could be less Titanic and more Definitely, Maybe.

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The Breakup Was Circumstantial

Sometimes, relationships end not because of any lack of love but due to circumstances beyond your control—long-distance, career moves, or personal issues that needed all of your attention at the time. If the stars have realigned and those circumstantial things are no longer in play, who’s to say the flame can’t be rekindled? Proceed with caution, though. Stars are fickle and have a tendency to move again, or Mercury could be in retrograde, whatever that means (astrology followers say it’s when things get wonky).

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Mutual Respect is Still There

If you both managed to part ways without turning into archenemies, spending your time plotting each other’s downfall, there’s a foundation of respect and possibly love that never quite went away. This does NOT mean you’re destined to be together, but it says that a conversation (yes, a real, grown-up conversation) might be worth having.

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How to Not Get Burned

If you’ve weighed all of the pros and cons, watched every love expert video about this topic on TikTok, and still feel like swiping right on an ex is what you want to do, here are some fire retardant oven mitts to help you handle the flame without getting burned.

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Think About the Past

Take off those nostalgia goggles and really think about why things didn’t work out. What’s changed? What hasn’t? Are you both willing to address and work through old issues?

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Communicate Openly and Honestly

If you mutually match, tamp down the urge to go full speed ahead into romantic banter. Take things slow and have an honest talk about your intentions, feelings, and expectations. There is a time for subtleties or reading between the lines, but this is not that time. You already have a history with each other.

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Set Clear Boundaries

If you do decide to explore this revived connection, do it with clear boundaries in place. What are you both comfortable with? What’s off-limits? How will you handle it if things start to go south again?


Protect Your Heart

Look, you need to keep your guard up at first. You can certainly hope for the best, but prepare for the worst—the possibility that the second verse might be the same as the first. Self-preservation isn’t being selfish; it’s necessary in some situations, like getting back together with an ex.

Making the Best Choice

In the grand scheme of things, swiping right on an ex is about as advisable as texting them at 3 a.m. after four too many glasses of vino. But love isn’t always about making the safe or “smart” choice. It can be messy and risky, and sometimes, it’s about giving someone a second chance—even if that someone happens to be your ex.

Just be sure that you aren’t sacrificing your future happiness for the comfort of the familiar. After all, there’s a whole world of undiscovered non-ex’s out there, and one of them might turn out to be a way better match for you.

Abigail Langton
Abigail Langton

Abigail Langton spends her time deep diving into the facts readers want to know about current dating apps online. You'll find her breaking down the latest price points and how to stay secure dating online.