The latest Hollywood gossip is that newly-single Selena Gomez is giving her ex, Justin Bieber, another chance. While Gomez’s friends are reportedly worried about the pop star getting back together with Bieber, we’ve got to hand it to the guy. Winning back your ex—especially when you’ve allegedly been unfaithful—is no easy task, as any person who’s been in a similar situation can attest.
Some relationships clearly aren’t meant to stand the test of time, but there are other instances where it’s not so black and white. As relationship Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., told Men’s Health, it comes down to figuring out how and why a break-up happened, and then deciding where to go from there. Below are the steps you can take to figure out if getting back with your ex is worth it—and from there, how go about executing this seemingly daunting task. Biebz, listen up.
“You need to take a long and hard look at why you broke up,” Hokemeyer says. “Not being ready to be in a relationship is a whole lot different than being in a relationship with an emotionally or physically abusive partner.”
If a relationship ended because of abuse, it’s healthier to stay out of it. But if one or both of you were emotionally not ready, there’s potential to come back to that relationship more prepared. In the case of Bieber and Gomez, the two started dating when they were very young—as teenagers, in fact. It’s safe to assume they’ve both done some growing up.
After the ‘why,’ you need to think about the ‘what’ and ‘how,’ Hokemeyer says. The ‘what’ is the reason the break-up happened. “There’s a spectrum here from immature and petty complaints like ‘she didnt like watching baseball’ to major breaches in trust like infidelity and compulsive lying,” Hokemeyer says. Silly, immature reasons can be overcome.
The ‘how’ is exactly how the break-up happened, which can tell you a lot about the maturity level of both people involved. “Did it occur respectfully, or was it undertaken though passive aggressive or outright aggressive means?” Hokemeyer says you should ask yourself.
So you’ve decided the relationship wasn’t toxic, but ended more because of immaturity or because one or both of you wasn’t ready. Now what? Are you obligated to give it another go? Not necessarily, Hokemeyer says. A relationship is only worth pursuing a second time if your gut tells you it’s the right thing to do.
“If the thought of getting back together makes your stomach clench or feel nauseous, keep walking away,” he says. “If it fills with butterflies, start walking towards.”
It’s important to do frequent gut-checks—even during relationships—and to stay true to what it’s telling you.
So you’ve figured out you’d like to get back with your ex. Now what? It’s easy to make lavish promises, tell your ex all the things they want to hear. But that won’t cut it.
“Romantic relationships of value are felt experiences,” Hokemeyer says. “They’re not based on pronouncements or promises, but rather actions that make your partner feel seen, safe and valued.
“So instead of saying things will be different, show her how they will be different,” he continued. “Anyone can talk the talk, to convince her you’ll need to walk the walk.”
If a few changes—like picking up after yourself, keeping promises, or being a more engaged listener—were things she was looking for, make it a point to show her that you’re committed to making these changes. However, if she was looking for a completely different person, don’t change the fundamental you to win her over.
You’re neck-deep in trying to convince your ex to give your relationship another shot. But you can’t court forever. Give it 90 days, and then move on.
“In 90 days we get a nice slice of reality and can observe patterns of behavior and character traits that emerge from them,” Hokemeyer says. “If she’s not convinced in 90 days, cut bait and move on.”
If she’s playing games, it’s a sign she’s not mature enough for a serious relationship and you should move on. “Game playing typically involves her moving in, than abruptly pulling away,” he says. “In addition to being exhausting, this behavior is disrespectful and evidences a narcissistic character trait.”
Congratulations, you’ve successfully re-ignited a relationship! Now it’s time to make it last. In Hokemeyer’s experience, couples that get back together have a 50/50 chance of success.
“The outcome typically depends on the emotional maturity of the couple,” he says. “Couples or partners who are immature are still into playing games and look at relationships as sources of entertainment rather than investments that require work, negotiation and humility.”
Making a relationship last takes a lot of effort and attention. Good luck this time around, Biebz.