Redd Angelo/Unsplash

The relationship backslide: We’ve all done it.

It starts out innocently enough: A relationship ends, you fume or drink or cry or lick your wounds in some other socially acceptable way and then tell yourself that you’ve moved on.

You see your ex’s latest Instagram post or read an article that he or she might like, and you reach out. An innocent drink to catch up? Sure, you think. And before you know it, you’re back where you started: dating someone you know is kinda sorta wrong for you, but you just can’t help it.

I know we’ve all done it because I have done it, too.

The ex and I had a happy five months together, followed quickly by a miserable two months. We fought, and made up, and fought some more. Finally, we called it quits.

I honestly can’t remember who said the words first, but the message was clear. It was over.

I did what any sane girl would do in the face of the biggest breakup of my life: I immediately jumped back into dating.

I met one guy, then another, but it wasn’t long until I was missing my ex and my mind was focusing only on the good times with him. Wasn’t that winter trip upstate really romantic? Didn’t he do everything he could to make my birthday everything I wanted it to be? Remember how he made Valentine’s Day dinner and paid for my cabs home and did tons of other really sweet things for me all the time?

It’s this kind of thinking that led me to get back together with my ex less than a month after our catastrophic breakup, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Some will tell you it’s totally okay to go back to your ex?—?as long as you ask yourself important questions and make sure you’re going back to him or her for all the “right” reasons. Those reasons shouldn’t include comfort or loneliness or fear of putting ourselves out there with someone new. Well-intentioned folks will advise you to be honest about what you truly want, both with yourself and your ex. And that’s pretty good advice, isn’t it?

Well, no one gave me that advice when I experienced my own backslide. I didn’t consider that the decision to make up with my ex should come from some deep thinking and talking and committing to something new.

Instead, my backslide was pretty typical. We missed each other, and I felt like maybe I hadn’t given him enough of a chance before. I was sure we could work out our problems and build the kind of loving, supportive relationship I had always wanted.

After all, he supported me well enough…or so I thought at the time.

The truth is that my ill-advised backslide lasted a solid four more months before the same old problems, and worse ones, finally ended things. It started to dawn on me that he wasn’t in it for the kind of commitment I was looking for, and it was becoming painfully clear that this relationship was never going to be The One.

Being with my ex again in those last few months gave me something that our initial relationship never did: A sense of relief—of finally taking off the rose-colored glasses I had been wearing all along.

He never brought me flowers anymore.

He didn’t make as much of an effort to see me during the week.

He constantly put his needs above ours as a couple.

He stopped supporting my career and going out with my friends.

Worst of all, he stopped referring to me as his girlfriend.

The list went on and on in my head as I tallied up all of these old and new injustices. And so my patience grew thin, and our “getting back together” turned into a long and slow breakup.

By the time I finally said enough is enough, my so-called boyfriend was shocked. But I thought it was quite obvious. How had he not seen all the new problems that had sprung up since our backslide started? It boggled my mind.

And yet, I was still happy we’d spent that time together.

The backslide that everyone tells you is the root of all evil and the worst thing you can do to a relationship? Well, it was fantastic for me.

It gave me the emotional distance I needed to see our relationship for what it really was: a one-sided mess in which he constantly asked and I constantly gave because I was so smitten.

The second time around, I wasn’t smitten. The backslide that’s supposed to be a bad decision was the best decision I ever made. I didn’t do it for all the right reasons. I did it for absolutely ALL of the wrong ones. And it went great.

When we finally broke up, my head was clear. This time, I knew for sure it was the right decision for me. I had the freedom to actually move on emotionally, and I did so willingly and without fear.

Eventually, as often happens these days, we were able to be friends again. We’ve even hung out a couple times without any kind of funny business (you know exactly what I’m talking about here).

Plus, as a bonus that I can totally give my ex partial credit for, my emotional backslide and subsequent emotionless breakup led to growing up and eventually seeking out exactly the kind of relationship I wanted and knew I deserved. Lucky for me, I now have all of that and more. And I wouldn’t have found the real The One without that backslide with my ex.

So, I’m sending thanks to the ex, and raising a glass to “bad” decisions that sometimes turn out to be the best decisions EVER.