“Ask a Priest: What If My Ex-Girlfriend Wants to Come Back?”

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Q: I’ve been in a relationship with this girl for over two years. During our time together she went to a few work-and-travel programs, each one for five to six months. At the start of this summer she went abroad again. A month in, she had doubts about our relationship and after talking about them she decided it would be better to break up. I tried to continue my life. I started going out with another friend. A couple of weeks have passed, and now my ex wants to get back together. I don’t know if I can forgive her. I know everyone makes mistakes, but I’m afraid she will change again. I also don’t want to fail my new relationship. I’m torn, what should I do? – M.N.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Romances and relationships by nature tend to be complex. Since I don’t know your ex-girlfriend’s point of view, I won’t try to be a referee here.

Nevertheless, it might be good to focus on a few points.

First, you mention, “I don’t know if I can forgive her.”

No matter whom you date or marry, a big part of a relationship is the ability to forgive the other person, perhaps many times. No marriage survives without a spirit of forgiveness.

If would be good to ask why you haven’t forgiven your friend. Forgiveness is an act of the will, not the emotions. It is understandable that you might still have wounded feelings, but that is different from not forgiving someone.

Moreover, the point of dating and courtship is to test a relationship and to see if the partners are basically compatible.

Perhaps you could give your friend the benefit of the doubt and assume she was trying to do what she thought was the honest and correct thing by breaking up.

In any case, if you can’t forgive her, what will happen when something goes awry in your current relationship? Will you not forgive her, either?

Next, you mention that you are afraid that your ex-girlfriend “will change again.” Well, yes, people can change. There are few guarantees in life.

Marriage for you would mean being committed to a woman who has her own limitations and weaknesses. The question is: Can you handle a degree of uncertainty in a relationship?

Lastly, you mention that you don’t want to fail your new relationship. What do you mean by failing the relationship? Does that mean you want to give exclusive attention to your new friend, to see how far the relationship develops?

The golden rule might be helpful here: If the role were reversed, and your new girlfriend had an ex-boyfriend calling her, how would you like her to act? Maybe that thought experiment could help guide you.

In the meantime it might be good to take all this to prayer. And ask God for a spirit of forgiveness. You will need it in any healthy relationship.

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