You were in love. It didn't work out. You split. Then one day something happens -- maybe your parent dies or you get sick or you realize you're tired of the dating game at midlife -- and you start thinking, "I want my ex back." No worries because there are about 58,000 "proven techniques" on the Internet to help you do exactly that.
That seems to be stuff of snake-oil con men but there are plenty of people who do want their ex back, and get them -- most recently Marie Osmond, who just re-married her first husband, former pro-basketball player Steve Craig. The two were married from 1982 to 1985 and had one child, Stephen, now 28 years old.
"I didn't want anybody to get hurt, you know if it didn't work out," Osmond told Good Morning America of their dating on the sly for the past two years. "And gosh, it just worked out."
For many divorced people having root canal would be preferable to remarrying the ex; after all, he or she's an ex for a reason. In Osmond's case, it was "mental cruelty" that drove her to divorce court the first time.
But then in 2010, Osmond's 18-year-old son from a second marriage that ended in divorce in 2007 committed suicide, and Craig was there for her. During a tragedy, we count on the people who know us best to show up, and he did. That's pretty powerful. But is that and a couple's shared history enough to sustain a remarriage?
Perhaps not; while about 45 percent to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce about 60 percent to 80 percent of second marriages divorce (although numbers vary on how many of those second marriages are to the former spouse or a different one with assorted children from different parents all trying to live happily a la the Brady Bunch under one roof).
Of the seven children Osmond, 51, had with second hubby Brian Blosil, five of whom are adopted, three are still young -- 15, 14 and 9. In a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous segment Osmond and Craig filmed shortly after Stephen was born, both Osmond and Craig note how "difficult" having a child is. "Becoming pregnant changes your free time. It's been enjoyable but it's also very difficult," Craig, 54, said at the time.
Sure, babies are difficult, but I wouldn't exactly call melding families with a 15-, 14- and 9-year-old still at home any easier. But maybe that's just me.
The bigger issue for exes who are remarrying is personal growth, as in has there been any? "Remarrying may be a good idea if, during your time apart, you've changed elements of your behavior that were causing the problems in your relationship. Then you're not the same person you were before and you have a better chance of success second time around," says U.K. psychologist Denise Knowles.
But if you haven't, it's too easy to slip back into old habits. "Do that and the relationship certainly won't last," she says.
And we all know how "easy" it is to change at midlife.
Of course, Osmond and Craig aren't the only ones to tie the knot again. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton did it, so did Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, Elliot Gould and Jennifer Bogart, Stephen Crane and Lana Turner, Eminem (Marshall Mathers III) and Kimberley Scott. And it's not just celebrities; according to research by Nancy Kalish, Ph.D., a psychology professor at California State University in Sacramento, about 6 percent of the participants worldwide noted that they married, divorced, and then remarried their former spouse.
In her book Lost & Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romances, Kalish, who studied 1,001 reunited couples from 1993 to 1996 -- many who married just out of high school -- found that 72 percent of those reunions were successful. There was an even higher success rate if they reunited with lost loves from when they were 17 or younger.
Science writer Rachel Clark, who chronicles her marriage, divorce and remarriage to her former husband on the Psychology Today blog, Marry, Divorce, Reconcile, believes the 6 percent is too low. So does Michele Weiner Davis, founder of the Divorce Busting Center and author of Divorce Busting and The Sex-Starved Marriage; she believes about 10 percent of the population remarries their spouse. "People in long-term healthy marriages experience many divorces over the course of their lifetimes, it's just that they never leave and they remarry each other," Davis says. "Marriage changes over time. We need to divorce our 'old' partners and start relationships with our 'new partners,' without ever leaving home."
That may be so, but once you do leave, the old Thomas Wolfe book comes to mind; you can't go home again.
And that's what Kalish found out in her ongoing study of rekindled romances in 2005 and 2006. Many of the reunions of the 1,600 couples she spoke to were disastrous, mostly because a lot of them were already married and still pining for their old flame. Some did more than pine -- they had affairs with them. Her research shows only about 5 percent of cheaters actually leave their marriage and marry their lost love.
Kalish's advice about getting in touch with an ex: "If you are happy in your marriage, and don't want to lose it, don't even try.''
And if you're happy as a divorced person, be very, very careful about romanticizing your ex. Even with all those "proven techniques" to get him or her back.