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It's only Michelle Young's second week of being The Bachelorette, and her season is already overflowing with romance and drama. And while Tuesday night's episode was chock full of LOL-worthy moments — including a Bachelorette-inspired version of the game show, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader — Michelle also explored some emerging relationships with a few suitors, including a blast from her past, contestant Joe Coleman. (Related: How Michelle Young Navigated Red Flags During 'The Bachelorette' Premiere)
For background: Bachelor Nation was introduced to Joe last week, along with the 29 other suitors vying for her affection. But upon locking eyes, Michelle realized she knew Joe from somewhere else. As it turns out, Michelle and Joe connected about basketball and had messaged one another on Instagram before he ghosted her. He ultimately apologized and survived Week 1's elimination.
This week, however, Joe was invited to take part in a group date with other contestants: a 5-on-5 basketball game, with the winning team joining Michelle for an evening cocktail date. Although Joe was on the losing team, he received a "Most Valuable Player-esque" prize for his performance on the court and was invited to the afterparty with Michelle as a result. While the pair's past connection raised some eyebrows amongst the contestants (spoiler alert: Michelle confronted that drama head-on), the situation between Joe and this season's Bachelorette raises an interesting question: If someone from your past crosses your path again, is it wise to give a relationship another whirl? Or is it best to, in Michelle's case, put time and energy into getting to know new people? (Related: The 6 Relationship Lessons You Can Learn from 'Bachelor in Paradise')
Why It May Be Worth It
While there is a lot that goes into making a relationship work (such as trust, communication, etc.), a big factor is timing. There are so many incredible humans on the planet that folks could potentially develop relationships with — 7.9 billion people to be exact, according to Worldometer, which estimates the global population — but if both parties aren't totally aligned on their desires at the same time (for instance, settling down), it probably won't work out. Timing, in a sense, is everything (a bit of an exaggeration, but you see what I'm saying).
Keep in mind though, in Michelle and Joe's case, that the two were simply exchanging messages on social media and that they weren't in a full-blown relationship. Michelle re-connecting with a former flame that was never quite explored is one thing. When it comes to real-life relations, especially if you're pondering whether or not to give an ex one more try, think about the timing and where you both stand today in terms of what you're looking for and hoping for in the future. If aligned, it could be a possible green light. (See: A Relationship Therapist's Take On Getting Back with an Ex)
Looking back at The Bachelorette, Michelle and Joe's paths crossed a few years back when both were intertwined in Minnesota's basketball world. And while Joe "ghosted" Michelle on Instagram, he told her that he stopped replying due to mental health issues. Now that Joe is on the show, his and Michelle's relationship appears to be growing rapidly, and their connection seems undeniable. So, what is it about a few years that makes such a difference, and is it worth it? (Related: Why This Therapist Thinks It's Okay to Ghost People Sometimes)
I have to argue that it is worth trying if both parties want to unless, of course, there were unhealthy and dangerous elements to the relationship, such as abuse. But in the case of "your lives simply were aligned at the same time," this could be a chance to hit the reset button. For example, think about your 20s: the amount of growth, self-realization, and interests or hobbies you have, and your sexual preferences and even identity are likely to change. Meeting someone when you are 23 versus when you are 27 could create a very different relationship dynamic solely based on who you are during that time period. Perhaps when Joe first met Michelle, he didn't see her like "that" (i.e. as a potential partner). Now he's presented with a new opportunity of getting to know her in this unique setting and it's possibly shifted his perspective. Whatever the case may be with Joe, he and Michelle are vibing in the here and now.
The overall takeaway is timing is important. The situation unfolding between Michelle and Joe could be one of those times in which both parties are ready for more and want to explore. And (I think I can speak collectively for Bachelor Nation), it's going to be exciting to watch where their relationship goes.
On the flip side, however, there are times when reconnecting may not be the best idea. So, how do you know when it is or isn't in your favor to do so?
In Michelle's case, however, she really has no reason not to give Joe a shot. Given she's been interested in him before, and by this point, they seem to have a lot of things in common. She hasn't heard anything fishy about him (yet!), and he is widely known in the Minnesota basketball community (which she happens to love).
But let's say there wasn't an immediate interest or excitement from Michelle upon reuniting with Joe. Or perhaps nuggets from his past unsettled her. Maybe then she would reconsider giving him another shot. Strictly speaking about The Bachelorette, it may be wise to pass mainly due to the 20 other gentlemen who want to get to know Michelle. You see, the limited time she has on this show is critical, and if she's feeling apprehensive right off the bat, she should keep that in mind. But — as viewers have seen so far — she didn't seem to have apprehensions with Joe, so it's probably best for her to honor those feelings of curiosity. (Related: All of the Relationship Attachment Styles, Explained)
Now, let's turn the perspective to everyday life. When and when isn't the right time for you to potentially rekindle an old flame? This is tricky because people are complex, relationships are complex, and circumstances can vary. So, how do you know when is and isn't a time to give a past relationship another try? Here are the questions you need to ask yourself:
Why did you lose touch/how did the relationship end?
It's very common to lose touch with people from your past, whether they were part of your childhood or just a hometown friend. Sometimes, you simply lose touch, or you meet someone and don't follow up on getting to know them for various reasons or circumstances. Thinking about why you lost contact with whomever you're thinking about can help you figure out if re-kindling is a good choice for you — or at least help you know what one of the first conversations you'd like to have with that person is, should a reunion be in the cards.
What was the relationship dynamic? If you're questioning whether or not to reconnect with someone, ask yourself these questions: If it was a healthy relationship including good communication, trust, and respect on both sides — give it a shot! If it was unhealthy, meaning there was minimal respect displayed, some toxic or damaging behaviors, a lack of trust, or a foundation, ask yourself — can the two of you talk about what went wrong? Have each of you learned new coping mechanisms, such as naming and sitting with your own emotions and providing yourself with your basic needs so you don't repeat the past? If the relationship was abusive (physical, mental, emotional, financial, or any other form) however, in my opinion, it's best to let the relationship stay closed. The biggest thing you want to make sure of is that the communication is open, honest, and both of you are being authentic about what feels best to you at the time. Going back to a relationship that once felt unhealthy might take even more communication than just rekindling an old flame. It's not impossible — but just make sure you ask one another those tough questions (i.e. what are your hopes for the future and what does that include?) so the past doesn't repeat itself.
Do you miss this person?
Or did you not know them well enough to miss them? Michelle didn't have enough of a relationship with Joe to miss him. But that said, what is your situation like? Have you missed this person? Are you curious? One good reason to not start a relationship with someone is if you feel lonely. And while it's completely valid to feel lonely, make sure you are making relationship decisions because they are what you want, not just to fill a void as this could potentially lead to problems down the road. Curiosity is an excellent reason to start dating someone — if you've been intrigued by them at different times throughout your life and, if there is finally an opportunity to connect, why not? (Related: How to Build Intimacy with Your Partner)
What are your hopes and expectations of this person?
How about for the relationship? Is this someone you are interested in because you feel the genuine potential for you two to hit it off? In Michelle's situation, there was probably a bit of excitement (and possibly some confusion on her end) to see Joe show up — literally, a guy she was previously interested in, now on a show that could potentially end with a proposal. In your situation, what do you feel? There isn't really a wrong answer — all that matters is that you and this person communicate what you want and if it's the same things then bingo! That said, however, those same things don't have to necessarily be serious relationship decisions. In fact, wanting the same things could mean both of you are looking for a hookup buddy, and the timing works out for you to have fun together. Remember to be honest with yourself first. That way, you can best translate that honesty to the person you are interested in.
Are both people on the same page about rekindling?
The most important part of a relationship is communication (you've probably heard this many times, but that's because it really is!). Are you and this person on the same page? This is important to note and to focus on because if one person has been crushing on the other for years and the opposite party is just open for a quick fling, it may not be the right timing. Ideally, each person honestly states what they feel, what they are expecting, and verbally says they are down. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Then, communicate some more!
If there's anything Bachelor Nation has learned about Michelle so far, it's that she seems to know herself very well and she handles relationships with care, intentionality, authenticity, and loads of communication. There's no doubt that she wouldn't keep Joe around if she wasn't truly interested (let's not forget how quickly she got rid of Ryan last week). And, let's be real; there is absolutely no denying the connection between the pair. (Related: Can the Engaged Couples from 'Bachelor In Paradise' Make It In the Long Run?)
As circumstantial as it may be, it seems to be working out well for Michelle's situation. And I, much like the rest of Bachelor Nation, am eager to see where they go.
Rachel Wright, M.A., L.M.FT., (she/her) is a licensed psychotherapist, sex educator and relationship expert based in New York City. She's an experienced speaker, group facilitator, and writer. She's worked with thousands of humans worldwide to help them scream less and screw more.