We’ve all been there. We’ve all had relationships that felt great, that met our needs at the time, that made us feel fulfilled and happy, but also ended so horribly that the idea of post-breakup communication was out of the question. Then, months, or years later, something happens. It’s almost inevitable. Because we men are creatures of habit and because we can’t let you women just move on, there’s a good chance that at some point we pop up and try to reinsert ourselves into your lives. We do damage, leave … and then we reappear.
Any good detective will tell you that criminals who are guilty can’t help but return to the scene of the crime; neither can we. When we know we’ve done wrong it’s in our nature to reappear for a number of reasons.
1. Sometimes we want to show you that we’ve changed, and are better people.
In this case, because we’re not trying to get back together with the woman, this is a ridiculously selfish reason to come back into her life. The guilt of what we’ve done is so affecting that we want you to know that we aren’t really that person any longer or that we never really were that person. We want you to see us for who we are and to know that we’re not the douche-bag we pretended to be when we were with you. In reality, we’re really great people – really – we are – our current girlfriends can attest – we really have changed. I’m sure that makes you guys feel great – knowing that you were the only person capable of bringing out the worst in us. Knowing that we’re not really interested in what you had to go through to heal or in knowing how you’ve moved on, all we want is to be able to sleep peacefully at night knowing that you know it wasn’t us now, it was us at that time in our lives or, it wasn’t us at all, it was you (don’t worry we forgive you). Or it wasn’t us, nor was it you, it was just the ‘we’, that brought that out. Either way, if this is why we’re reappearing, it’s probably best if we just stay gone.
2. Sometimes we want to see whether or not you’ve changed.
Contrary to popular belief, we men are human. We do catch the vapors every once in awhile. The only thing better than meeting an awesome new woman is meeting an old girlfriend who now seems way more awesome than she was when you were with her. I’m sure social networking sites like facebook go a long way in exacerbating this. An old flame uploads new pictures and, voila, her phone turns into the “hey, it’s me, it’s been a minute…” hotline. When we’re interested in getting to know the new you our interest is not genuine. It’s more of a novelty. We want to prove to ourselves, and to you, that we didn’t make a mistake the first time around. That you’re not really that different, that the thing about you that always annoyed us is still there just below the glossy airbrushed surface of your new professionally taken profile pic. We want to find out whether you’ve been doing hella squats and that’s all you back there or whether that’s just an awesome camera angle. We want to know if that nonchalant confidence you exuded when you jetted off after briefly chatting with us when we bumped into you on the street was actually real confidence or the product of many-a-night spent practicing everything you’d say and do should you happen to randomly run into us somewhere. Again, if this is why we’re coming back, it’s selfish and we might as well stay gone.
3. Sometimes we’re just being manipulative.
Here’s a secret about some of us men I probably shouldn’t be telling. Sometimes, we just want control. Many of us went through a period in our lives where our most valuable talent was our ability to exert an unhealthy amount of control over the women we were dealing with. The thing about having that sort of control is that it makes it impossible to build any sort of lasting relationship. If we can control you, we can’t respect you. We can pretend to, but, in reality we don’t. The two things women reading this should take from this point are:
1. Never let a man have full control over you unless that man has married you.
2. If a man who once had that sort of control over you reappears, we probably just want to see if we still have it.
Be honest with yourself. If you’re unsure of whether or not you really are free, then when we come back, you need to run. Just run. Don’t be embarrassed, don’t try to prove to us that you’re free, just run the other way because you’re about to go through that same thing you went through all that time ago. I wish we weren’t this way, but sometimes, some of us are.
4. Sometimes, we realize what we’ve lost and are ready to be whatever we need to be to get it back.
Of all of the reasons a man might reappear, this is the most rare. Sometimes, without us really realizing, a woman can carve out a perfectly round little space in our hearts and lives. We leave her, thinking she’ll be the only one who experiences any loss, but, really, we lose too. Try as we may to fill that spot she left with the square pegs of another woman or of other women, there’s always a certain amount of emptiness that remains. And maybe one day we wake up and decide we’re going to give it another go. All we can do is reappear and hope our spot is still reserved.
Some say “all’s fair in love and war” and I agree to a certain extent, however, the fact that all is fair, doesn’t always mean all is right. As men, I think we sometimes have to take responsibility for the damage we’ve done and respect the fact that our women are entitled to rebuild themselves in whatever way they see fit. We also have to be responsible about how we decide to return to their lives. We have to think about whether we are returning because we think we can ‘help’ them, whether we’re returning because of our own selfish motives, or whether we’re returning because we think there might be a real chance at a lasting “we” this time.
Fellas, have you ever popped back into the life of a woman you’d been with previously? How did things turn out the first time and how did things turn out the second time around? Ladies, have you experienced any of the above scenarios, or maybe one I’ve missed? How do you approach rekindling old flames? As always, feel free to over-share in the comments.
This post originally appeared at SINGLE BLACK MALE.