Redaters Anonymous: Getting Back Together or Moving Forward?

a yellow rubber duckie floating in a bubble bath
Image by Cyron / CC BY

Somehow my ex-boyfriend CC is back in my life.

Until quite recently, I had never redated an ex while in polyamorous relationships. I could see circumstances where this could possibly happen. But when I thought of it, it was always surrounding obstacles that were largely external, situational. Like if one of us moved out of state, and it became unfeasible to carry on with the geographic distance.

But as far as factors involving any degree of personal incompatibility? I hadn’t ruled it out, but I didn’t see how it was possible for me. My life. My circumstances.

I’ve always been a person who moves on when things happen. I redated a few partners in the past while dating monogamously, and invariably the same things that were problems the first time became unworkable later.

An Ex for a Reason

Like the time my now-ex-husband Seth and I broke up for about a week. We were 21. Had been dating for about a year. And were about to lose our apartment after he’d spent the rent on video games. It was a true mess.

I rage quit everything. Moved out.

But then a week later, his friend Bob called me, concerned about Seth. “Can’t you at least come Christmas shopping with us? Seth wants to buy you a gift,” Bob said.

And Bob was so meek, so timid. This phone call was so out of character for him that I knew the situation required attention.

When I saw Seth sitting on the couch in the apartment we were about to lose, he looked like a statue. And a very sad one at that. Everything about him was heavy, dazed.

Bob had a pained look on his own face, that of the beleaguered caretaker. The dishes were piled up in the sink. Seth looked like he may not have moved from that spot for a few days.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” Seth said, with a tentative smile.

The three of us wandered around Wal-mart. Seth bought me a few varieties of Mr. Bubble and a pair of slippers with Elmo’s face on them.

“Because you need to relax,” he said. “You’ve been through enough.”

That night, we made love back at the apartment on the bed that we had shared just the week before. It hadn’t been that long, but I was intoxicated by the uncertainty. He was a stranger now but also familiar. And seemed to appreciate me in a way that he never had before. He was desperate. A little needy. And I liked that, feeling needed.

When Seth moved back in with his parents, they set him up with an accountability program for doing chores. Being responsible. He continued to be depressed but made good strides. And within 4 months, he had a steady job again. And 6 months after that, we moved back in together, this time a 40-minute drive away from work, our family, our friends. The year we spent living there was among our best time together. It’s where he proposed to me.

But predictably, the issues that broke us up for that 1-week spat came up again and again over the 9 years following that we were together. And are ultimately why we divorced.

They’re an ex for a reason, right?

CC 2.0, the Upgrade

And yet, I now find myself back with CC. Somehow, across the span of the 2 years that have passed since we broke up, we have drifted back towards one another.

CC version 1.0 was as green as they come. New to poly. The local kink scene. The works. He had that eager enthusiasm. He was the “kid in the candy store.” And he was most definitely under 30 (I hesitate to date folks under 30). But he wrote me such beautiful messages that resonated so powerfully with me that I broke my own rule to meet up for coffee. And yes, to date him.

I smiled outwardly. But of course in my own head, I was weary. Of everything, really. Still am, in a way. I bring my severity and my broken heart everywhere I go. It’s the perfect complement to joy, really. A background to offset it nicely. The best staging.

When I laugh too hard, the old wounds ache exquisitely. The pain reassures me that I am the same girl I was before even if I smile more now.

It was no different with him.

Anyway, it was a short passionate few months. And it ended.

*

“I don’t know why you’ve come back. Why you’ve forgiven me,” I said.

“You broke things off well,” CC said.

“But I harmed you,” I said.

“You most certainly did not,” he insisted. “It was the cleanest break I ever had. You were always good to me, even then.”

*

Me? I’m still the girl with the heavy heart. But CC 2.0? The 2 years have been kind to him. He’s learned a lot. He seems entirely different.

And maybe I am, too. I tell him much more truth than before. Digging down to a level of honesty where it sometimes hurts. And CC? Waits patiently for me to surrender it.

Redaters Anonymous

I spend a lot of time wondering what “getting back together” means. Especially in this instance.

Maybe we aren’t going back. Maybe we aren’t redaters, after all. But instead we’re moving forward.

This is the next wave of us that washes on the shore.

And yet, I find myself wondering: Is this just happening because we’re sluts?

Do we tend toward one another like we seek out all forms of light? Like plants turning towards the sun.

Or is this something that has to do with a resonance between us? The one I sensed before. The first time, before things got muddy. Complicated.

Is there something here?

I don’t know where it’s going. But I like it.

 

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3 Comments

  1. Do you have any sense to what extent re-dating is common? I have personal and professional curiosity having worked with open and non relationships re-daters as psychotherapy clients and having had people come and go in my life more for circumstantial reasons rather than a break-up. As you say, there is usually a good reason that people break up.

  2. Redating seems fairly rare.

    One thing I *do* see a lot of in non-monogamy is what are sometimes called “comet relationships.” In these, the parties see one another very infrequently (perhaps once a year or even every few years during conferences or work trips, basically whenever things incidentally line up). They might not even maintain regular contact via technology between connections. However, it’s not a lot like redating (at least how I’m experiencing it with CC) since there’s no breakup. It’s just an ebb and flow.

    And poly folks really do tend to maintain friendships with their exes to a greater extent than I’ve experienced in monogamous circle socials. But yeah, not so much redating. Which definitely contributes to how surprising this latest development has been.

    Although my anchor partner Skyspook saw the redating coming when CC and I started having lunch to work on writing projects together (whereas neither CC or I did; we were ambushed by it).

    I’m thinking/hoping what happened here was a mixture of CC’s lack of experience with polyamory and the way we used to communicate, which was not as clear as we both thought we were being. In particular, I had a nasty habit of not telling him when something he said offended me. I’ve started talking to him with much less of a filter (practically none), and it’s worked out a lot better.

    Only time will tell though.

  3. I wish you well in that new endeavor and I agree that there is not a lot of redating. Yes, a lot of friendships retained, no, not a not of actual dating of exes. One thing I have seen is more like a rebound hookup: relationship Y ends, person reconnects with person X (their ex), and it is fine for a while until they remember that there was a reason they broke up with X.

    I do know about a lot of Comet Relationships–I love the term–that work out very well and in one case worked out particularly well due to one half of the pair knowing that they probably couldn’t handle a Capital R relationship with the other half though sharing intimacy once in a while when they were in town was comfortable.

    You may be familiar with the Esther Perel quote (I paraphrase) oriented more toward monogamy though relevant: many people in the West will have 3 or 4 significant relationships in their lives and some of them will have them with the same person. It does sound like CC is at the 2.0 stage. People do change and evolve, we just have no control, when, if, or how the change happens. I really appreciate your candor regarding challenges like not being fully transparent and know that might have created problems. Bravo for transparency!

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