Dear Virginia, My girlfriend and I split up nine months ago after constant rows, and I moved out. It was very painful for both of us. Since then we've seen each other quite a bit, got on really well, and neither of us has met anyone else. Now my girlfriend, who's moved into a new flat, has suggested I move back in and we give the relationship another try. I love her, but I'm worried that we'll just fall into the same old pattern, with the same problems. Is it worth a try? Yours sincerely, Mike

There is a slight wishy-washyness to your letter, Mike, that makes me sense an underlying reluctance to try again. Since your split, you've seen your girlfriend "quite a bit" and you say that neither of you has met anyone else as if it's just sort of turned out that way, rather than being a positive decision. It's your girfriend who's initiated the suggestion that you start over, rather than you, and you're worried you'll simply "fall" into the same patterns, without acknowledging that you need determination to make sure you don't.

Was this passivity of yours part of the reason you split up in the first place? If so, it's very important to explain to your girlfriend that the easy-going, happy-go-lucky and, by extension, rather leaf-in-the-wind side of your nature is something that's unlikely to change. It's what makes you lovable – and it's what makes you maddening at the same time. Unfortunately, if I'm right, it's unlikely you have the nous to sit down and anything with certainty, let alone set out agreed guidelines for your future behaviour.

But maybe I'm wrong. Then surely, before you even think of getting back to living together, you have to discuss with your girlfriend how you can both live with – or, better, avoid - those frictions that forced you apart last time. There's so much going for your both, it seems a shame not to try, doesn't it? You both love each other – well, that's something. Your girlfriend wants you back. That's another plus. Having been apart for nine months – and looked around – you haven't found anyone that either of you care for as much as the other, a promising sign.

Some changes to your relationship have been made already. If you get back together, you'll be living in a different environment, and it could be that the different space – perhaps it's bigger? – will make a slight difference. You're both nearly a year older. Whether you like it or not, you will both have grown up a tiny bit. And this time round you will have experienced what life is like when you're not togerher – a bit cold and lonely, it sounds.

Lots of couples have made a split before finally getting back together for good. But if you take the plunge, do work out, in an unemotional and business-life way, how, this time, the relationship will be stronger than before. You might even find that consulting a third party, like a counsesllor, might add a useful formality to these discussions, so that neither of you can wriggle out of facing unpleasant problems that might loom in the future.

Readers say...

You must be cautious

Thankfully you have asked the question before joining your ex in her flat. It seems to me that she appears to have some difficulty in accepting your real value as a friend (who happens to be male) rather than as a boyfriend. I think you are right to be cautious.

My suggestion is this. Under no circumstances agree to share her flat until or unless you have both sorted put the issues that led to the breakdown of the relationship first time round. Relate is a good place for you both to start. If this is not agreeable to her then walk away – you deserve better.

Elizabeth, York

It's worth a try

Of course you should give it another go. It sounds like you want to, so go ahead. You said that after your split you got on well. This makes me think that you both value your own space. It's also an indication that those arguments were petty squabbles, rather than serious, relationship-ending rows.

But before you move back, talk about what went wrong the first time, promise to communicate and to give each other room to live your own lives. Count yourself lucky that you've got a second chance and this time make sure you don't screw up! And by the way, something similar happened to me and my partner. My partner. We gave it another go, and seven years later we're still together.

C Mitchell, London W7

Learn from the past

The same thing happened to me and my partner. Our rows were due to lifestyle stresses, falling into bad habits and treating each other without respect. Moving out gave us both space to re-learn who we are as individuals, think about what we did wrong, and remember why we love each other.

Last year we got back together and the relationship is going strong – but we're still living separately for the time being. You both need to really understand what went wrong, and probably to change a bit, before you jump back into living together.

Katie by email

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