Backsliding: What It Means + Why We Do It

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By Kate Paguinto


I am a serial backslider. For those of you who don’t know, backsliding is the act of going back to an ex after a breakup. It is incredibly self-destructive, yet such a difficult habit to quit.

For a long time, I convinced myself that I was doing this because I genuinely saw potential in that person and there was a real possibility of a future with them. But over time, I’ve become much more self-aware and I now realize that I do this simply because I get lonely. I’m not proud of it, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve never done it. 

I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve reached out to an ex just because a new relationship didn’t work out. That’s because it’s easier to seek comfort in someone you’ve already had than try to find someone new, when in reality we shouldn’t be seeking comfort in anyone but ourselves anyway.

Deep down, I know that I don’t really miss that person. I just need a distraction from the heartbreak I’m currently in. So why go back to old heartbreaks to avoid new ones? Because the old heartbreak is a pain you’ve learned to control. You may not realize it but the reason you go back to your ex is because in the back of your mind, you’ve already accepted that it’s over and there’s no risk of getting hurt again. Therefore, you are creating a false sense of security. A comfort zone. My inherent thought is “if they had feelings for me before, maybe it can work out again.” Spoiler: it won’t.

I know this because I’ve been on both sides of backsliding. Although it’s a toxic habit that I’ve learned to overcome, I know that my exes have reached out to me for the same reason. It’s not because they miss me. It’s because they just got their hearts broken and they need a temporary place to drop their burden. I’ve learned that I can’t be that person and I, in turn, can’t expect anyone to be that person for me. No matter how badly someone treats you, no one deserves to be used as a safety net. It only causes more hurt and confusion.

This is especially the case if the person on the receiving end of backsliding is the one who got their heart broken in the first place. They're the ones who needed to pick themselves up and heal, all while carrying the weight of a million unanswered questions. So when they finally get to a good place and their past resurfaces, it can stir up a lot of unresolved feelings. 

We all deserve so much more than that. We deserve to move on and be better versions of ourselves. We deserve to be with people who genuinely want us to be happy. We deserve to be at peace.

So the next time you think about reaching out to an ex, ask yourself this: Do I really miss you or did I just get used to thinking about you when I’m lonely?

writer photo

Kate Paguinto

Kate is a Content Strategist at Mend and co-owner of a small business called Dizzy Cactus. She likes puns, Wes Anderson, and the Oxford comma.

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