Reuniting With Your First Love…on the Net

They say that you never forget your first love. And with the exception of yours truly, who would rather stick his tongue in a bear trap than even think about his high school girlfriend, many look back on their first romances with fond feelings. Although not everyone thinks of that relationship for more than a passing moment or so, some must wonder what it would be like to rekindle the romance they had when they were teenagers or college-aged.

Suppose for a minute that you could. What would that be like?

As of 2003, Dr. Nancy Kalish had studied over 2,000 “lost love” relationships. She said that three-quarters of first loves who reunite years later decide to stay together, even when the reunion begins as an adulterous affair. Normally, most marriages that begin as affairs terminate. How are these people reconnecting and why would the relationship work at a later date?

The web, of course, is where most of these meetings begin. When Dr. Kalish was doing her research in the early 2000′s, the most popular site for finding people from the past was Classmates.com. At that time, the site found that 36 percent of respondents had used the net to look up or contact a former significant other. And Dr. Kalish stated in an interview with the Boston Globe that while many people begin their search as simple curiosity, affairs can escalate quickly *. The interviewer, Carey Goldberg, noted an anonymous respondent from Dr. Kalish’s research to highlight this point:


“It’s like you’re falling in love all over again,” she said. Her first boyfriend found her on the web, and before she knew it, she was obsessed, and then lying to her husband, and then sexually unfaithful, and then caught by her husband – who, to her continuing gratitude, stuck with her instead of divorcing her.

Dr. Kalish brings up a very interesting point: “therapists tend to underestimate the powerful nature of such old loves, especially first loves. As a result, they tend to tell such patients that their feelings for their re-found loves are based on fantasy and that they can find the same feelings in their own marriages if they only try. But that fails to take into account that reunited lovers really do know and love each other, and a first love, in particular, remains unique. This is not about sex, it is not about the spouse or the marriage, it is not a midlife crisis,” she said. “The reunion is a continuation of a love that was interrupted.”

Carey Goldberg notes some research indicates that a teenager may attach specifically to a first lover in much the same way as a baby attaches to a mother. This hypothesis was given by Dr. Linda Waud, a Psychologist who wrote her dissertation on three reunited couples.

“There is an actual neurological attachment that happens between these individuals,” she said, “and that’s why it’s enduring and it never leaves your mind. It’s there forever and ever.” Interestingly, Dr. Waud herself reconnected with a long-lost love after 35 years apart.

In her in-depth interviews of the three couples, she noted that they had unusually intense sexual connections, which made her posit that sexual attachment may work with the same kind of specificity as baby-mother attachment.

Although a dissertation with only three couples makes generalization extremely difficult, she is onto something. I’ve made the very mistake that Dr. Kalish pointed out: that the former love is simply a fantasy and that one’s current relationship can satisfy this new need. And this is coming from someone who is not only a product of divorce, but someone who also spends most of his days thinking about why marriages fail, so I obviously thought I had some weight behind my advice. After I was wrong not once but three times with clients who ultimately chose to leave their marriage for their high school sweethearts, I had to rethink my position. There’s a possibility for a permanent footprint in your brain when it comes to your first love.
What does this mean for current relationships? With Facebook now in complete control of the human race, more and more people are reconnecting. Many will get back in touch with old flames, possibly their very first romance. Depending on how those conversations go – and yes, of course many of them will be simple hello’s and good-bye’s – casual chat may turn into flirtation, then a discussion about status and availability. And when the relationship moves from Facebook to IM to text to telephone and then to personal contact, the attachment that Dr. Waud talks about has perhaps manifested itself in a true rekindling of the romance, with much more backing than any affair could produce. For some, decisions will need to be made. If married, do I leave for what might be really ‘the one?’ Or do I stay and honor what I’ve agreed to while relinquishing what my mind had perhaps bonded to years ago?

Unfortunately I don’t have the answer to that question and I’m pretty sure that we could get a 50/50 breakdown if we asked enough people. Every person in this spot will need to answer it, however. And from what I’ve seen in my practice, it’s an agonizing choice, especially when the current relationship is at least somewhat satisfying. So essentially I’m along for the ride as people decide what is in their best interests as well as the other parties involved. This can take months, perhaps years, to weigh out the pros and cons, the practical and emotional changes involved in life-altering decisions like these, the risks involved in making the ‘wrong’ choice. In other words, watching a client grapple with a problem like this is very difficult to watch. Even if you think you know the right choice, you can’t give it to the client. He or she truly has to come to it via the self. It can’t be spoon fed. Some will leave their families and begin new lives with a former love, usually with a large amount of guilt. Others will stay put and feel that permanent imprint tugging at them. Either way, it’s not a particularly envious position in which to be.

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* I’d link to this specific article, written by Carey Goldberg, but it’s archived and you have to pay to read it. Hit up Globe.com if my piece doesn’t summarize it sufficiently for you or if you don’t mind spending the fee.

Related Post: Reuniting With Your First Love…On the Net (Revisited)

Update (11/20/13): I’m not sure if this is of interest to anyone, but I received this solicitation and agreed to post it. Consider it useful until early December, 2013:

Now Casting: People Looking For Missed Love Connections!

Do you believe that your one true love is actually someone from your past? Do you often think about “what could have been” with an old flame? Or perhaps someone that you met and felt the timing was off, but could have blossomed under different circumstances? Do you dream of reuniting with a high school or college boyfriend or girlfriend, but don’t know where to find them? Was there a person that you had a steamy vacation tryst with, but have never been able to track down?

If so, we want to hear from you! A major production company is casting for people who dream of working with an expert to make a love (re)connection with someone from their past. To learn more or refer a friend, please email us at MissedConnectionsCasting@gmail.com and a Casting Producer will be in touch ASAP.

4,464 Responses to “Reuniting With Your First Love…on the Net”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Harry,
    You are married. What can you offer her? She needs help. But if you admit to having a quick temper, and that is what hurts your relationship with your wife, what makes you believe that you wouldn’t feel frustrated with her problems on top of yours?
    She needs help. But I don’t think that you are the one who should be reaching out. The little fat comment slipped out but now that it is out there, it makes me wonder if you are seriously concerned or just being entertained by the attention.
    If her husband knows that you are still contactiing her and it is causing problems, I would send her a goodbye letter stating that you are sorry for her situtaion and that she deserves better treatment but that you don’t want to contribute to their problems so wish her well and move on.
    You stated that you are torn between your FL and your family. I am not sure I even see that there is a choice.
    Thank you for sharing your story. I wish you well. I hope you consider everything carefully.

  2. gonecrazy says:

    Torn,
    It did make me sad to read about your situation, especially about how you feel unsatisfied with your wife. I don’t believe love is a choice, as someone previously mentioned here. In my opinion love is not an emotion that is so easily controlled. I think you can make a choice to commit to someone, but you may never feel the same degree of love for them as you felt for another, if that makes sense to you. You might stay with someone because you have made the choice to be committed to them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you love them, right?

    The fact that you were never 100% faithful to your wife leads me to believe you were never happy, right from the beginning of the relationship. I wish I had an answer for you, but I don’t. In my experience I can see that some people just “click” instantly, and some just never do. So, regardless of the situation with C, I think you need to look at the relationship with your wife. You can’t spend your life with her just passing the time – you need to feel like you have love in your life.

  3. skeptic says:

    anonnn… Yeah… “every rose has its thorn” I was just talking about roses and thorns the other day while Spring cleaning in the yard.. saying to my husband how beautiful those roses are, but I hate that they always have thorns! (I left the branches for him to pick up cause they’re too jaggy!!) Good way to think of what our lives might be with our FL’s.. I’ll stick with our vegetable garden! Might not look as welcoming, but – wow, the deliciousness you get from it! ;-)

    Karie, J, and Kathy – I’m with Tess there! It IS nice to see it work out sometimes.. sometimes your FL and you ARE meant to be.. and even though that’s not how it worked out for me, I’m happy for you!! :-)

    Harry… Wow, seems you’re in a horrible situation and continuing to pursue your FL could really put her in danger.. and maybe for nothing, because you are married, too.. and you don’t sound like you’re sure you’d want to leave that. I do hope she comes to her senses and gets out of her abusive marriage, but it doesn’t seem you’re in a position to really help her right now.. and you could even be putting your own family in danger.

  4. Torn says:

    Gonecrazy, you explained it perfectly. I am trying to work on my marriage but its like the harder I try the farther away I feel.. But I have made the decision to be committed and try one day at a time to be happy with my blessings, so that’s going to be my answer.. The only unknown would be if she would contact me one day, I really have no idea if I will be able to resist. It’s easy to think that I will just ignore her like she did me, but everyone here knows the reconnection hits like a ton of bricks and we lose all rational control.. Also everyone that’s responded I’m sorry I talk about my own problems here so much, I’m just not used to having someone to listen and understand so thanks again for all the support! This has really changed my life just in this past week!

  5. Harry says:

    MY FL husband seems to be a psycho with alternate bouts of physical abuse, then crying like a child then doubting her character just on the basis of 2 phone calls she made to me and abusing. Her in front of children.

    Outside US divorces are real long drawn out procedures with cases extending upto 5-6 years plus additionally the social pressure of relatives n society is also there. Though FL is working yet her husband totally controls her in all respect. Her parents are also financially not strong n she can’t count much on their support. Till I contacted her she had virtually no hope but resigned to her fate.

    She knows that I cannot leave my family yet she is keen to continue her relationship with me right from where we we were inadvertently forced apart. She has faced lots of physical n mental abuse from her husband yet can’t gather courage to leave her husband due to her diffidence,lack of parents support, children n society.
    I too can’t fathom how can one tolerate such an abusive relationship over such a long time. She gets up at 530 AM is a working lady n works till midnight . She has to daily all the meals do all the household chores on her own n has to follow all the commands of the husband like a robot without any protest.

    My heart bleeds to see her in this condition. My marriage is also not a very happy one due to our constant bickerings but here separations is a sort of taboo specially after u hv been together for 20 yrs happiness does not matter.

    I feel she will be at peace if she separates from her abusive husband as she is an earning lady n can look after herself. But her hubby makes life difficult by crying in front of her n emotionally blackmails. She is my FL we have been I touch for last few months . I am totally besotted by her n want to help her out. FLAD is really effecting both of us. I am ready to support her emotionally n financially her if she separates .

    Had she been married to a prosperous caring husband n was well settled financially I would have been very happy n may be would have crushed my feelings.
    I also feel guiltyin a way as I cud not marry her 20 years back n her hubby totally manipulated his way to the heart of such a simple girl n has been abusing her over 20 years.
    Shudnt she separate from this drama queen multifaceted abusive husban d atleast irrespective of the fact that we 2 can be together?
    All alive welcome.

  6. J.R. says:

    Torn,
    I can’t sit back any longer. I just have one thing to say. I have been reading all the “well meaning advice” and say that only you know how you are feeling. If you are not happy with your wife. Tell her. Get counseling or move on. Everyone deserves to feel more than as if they are just sucking it up. But she is young too. I am sure there is some man out there that will see some good in her and feel lucky to have her. I disagree with Gone Crazy. I also believe that you can choose to make the effort. Marriages get stale. Hell friendships need to be worked on. You’ve got to pay the price and work at things worth working on. Now days too many people use feelings as a way out of things that really matter. And I am sure I know about that. I almost threw everything away because of a feeling. It was BS and I am lucky that I grew up and realized what was important before I lost everything.
    The one that I thought that I had feelings for went way back. Why I found this place here. For a while it was good. Maybe my experience of finding the flaws in the one that gave me >that feeling< the ones that I couldn't live without was my wake up call. Everyone's story is different but the best advice you have gotten on here is to look twice at your marriage before you throw it away and yeah love is a choice. You can choose it or not with your wife. If you choose to work on it. Work the hell out of it before you choose to chuck it. I am rooting for you son.

  7. Tess says:

    J.R.,

    Thanks for not sitting back any longer and chiming in. I appreciate reading everyone’s perspective. Somehow I think a lot of us are saying the same thing but in a different way. I also stated that he isn’t being fair to his wife, or himself if he is truly that unhappy. I also don’t believe he should throw it all away for fantasy girl either. I think that no one outside of ourselves can ultimately make us happy. We are all responsible for our own happiness first before having a healthy relationship with anyone. Otherwise you are constantly seeking someone outside of yourself to fill the voids.

    I think what Gonecrazy and you both posted said essentially the same thing. The way that I interpreted her post was yes love “the feeling” is not a choice. I believe that also. You can’t help how you feel about any emotion really. Just try telling someone not to be sad or mad. It doesn’t work! But she said commitment is a choice. I think that sounded the same as your statement about things taking effort, or at least similar. Of course every marriage or relationship gets stale. Trust me I have been married to the same person (that I love by the way) for 28 years! I wish that my world was never turned upside down by my mistake of reconnecting with my FL! I wish there was some way to make that “feeling” go away! I also have tried writing down all of his flaws, and trust me the list is long! I also wrote down 100 reasons that I love my husband and continue to come up with more reasons everyday. So far even though it has helped I still have him stuck in my head. I also get angry with myself because i know he doesn’t deserve another passing thought! So if you have any advice on how to get over this sooner it would really help a lot of us here!

  8. Torn says:

    J.R. I am staying with my wife and going to work at it, not being rude but I said that a couple times on here and that I’m just venting my feelings so I can focus on my marriage. I appreciate the concern and thanks for taking time to reply, I just don’t want ppl on here to think I’m going to throw away my family.

  9. anonnnn says:

    Tess
    Amen, Amen, Amen! I agee with everything you said. I think everyone basically is saying the same thing. But you said it pretty darn good!
    ;-) or would that be well? LOL.

  10. anonnnn says:

    By the way Gone Crazy I guess you were referring to my comment about LOVE being a choice. I had to scroll back to see what I said now and I was referring to the saying and my own situation. I understand full well that you can’t control the feeling. When it was happening in my life I couldn’t have controlled it if my life depended on it. But later the covept of choosing to make an effort to fall in love with my husband again helped me actually make the effort and that is what I was trying to explain.

  11. Tess says:

    I know like I said we all read the posts with a different pair of eyes. I think we also want to relate things that are said to our own particular situation even when it doesn’t apply. I know that I have! I think it may have to do with our need to find answers! Why all of us “so called” normal people found ourselves in this place. I try to take that into account before I let others opinions irk me. But we are all human and it is normal if something that is said strikes a particular nerve. Especially since some people are still raw with emotion. This is our safe place to vent, and there really isn’t a right or wrong is there? Aren’t we all just trying to do the best we can to move on or move forward? I don’t know maybe I am feeling this way because of the college kids that were stabbed to death today in Calgary. It really makes my stupid problem seem small right now when I think of those poor parents. It is holy week and no parent should ever lose a child to violence! It needs to stop! Ok I am done venting!

  12. anonnnn says:

    Tess you are right. I think that I at least reference my experience because writing about it is therapeutic as I think everyone has figured out here. Like lancing a blister, after getting our story out it is almost a relief to find others who say: “I GET IT” as I understand what you mean about the stabbings. So sad.

  13. Harry says:

    Friends ,
    Request your precious advice please.

  14. skeptic says:

    Hi All… Yeah, I agree we all read what we need to into the posts… It’s kind of like songs.. have you ever looked at people’s comments on Youtube, etc about the meanings of songs? They go from A to Z.. each person sees what they “need” to see in a song.. I often think if the songwriters are looking at those comments, they’re having a hell of a good laugh at some of those interpretations!! :-) And the way you interpret these posts may vary depending on your mood, too – or what’s going on in your life right now – or outside, like those stabbings (I hadn’t seen that on the news.. how sad.. there was a stabbing at a high school in Pennsylvania just last week, too… it’s a scary world!! :-( I was probably one of the people posting to choose to love, too.. and I know very well you can’t “choose” to love somebody you don’t.. “I can’t make you love me if you don’t” – excellent song! Anyway, I just meant you must have loved a spouse at one point if you married them – so you can choose to try to find that love again, especially when there are children involved. (Sorry for rehashing this, Torn… I know you said you were just venting.. as we all do here.. I’m just explaining myself here.)

    And yeah, we’re all just writing here to “get it out” and try to make sense of what none of us can fully understand – our feelings!! :-/

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