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.

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12,814 Responses to “Reuniting With Your First Love…on the Net”

  1. Have Faith says:

    Bob the 8th

    You believe that knowing that she returned your feelings would make you feel better,but there is a good possibility that you may feel even worse. Most of the people posting here already are aware that their FLS do return their feelings and I don’t think that knowing that has helped any of them feel better about their situation. They still feel that longing regardless, and knowing that the feelings are returned may make that sense of loss and longing even stronger.

    I think we all can identify with the realization that we can’t just stop loving someone. But letting go doesn’t mean to stop loving someone. Sometimes it means letting go of the hope that things will work out eventually. I guess it’s when we reach that point where we are able to accept that someone will not be in our life, whether that is due to death or because they choose not to be. The reason why they are no longer in your life doesn’t really matter. It’s when we accept the loss of that person that we are able to let go.

  2. WILLIAM says:

    Bob (the 8th),

    When I saw your most recent posts, I just had to respond!

    Especially with respect to this part:

    It’s almost as if I can not escape the reminders and memories of my FL…it’s such a “small world”. Is it a cruel trick? Or is it meant to be? In other words, does this love I still possess so strongly for my “true love” (my FL) work in its own way to keep me connected to her?

    [W: Those words really “nail it” for this aspect of FL/LL (FLAD). Unfortunately, I can relate to that all too well !! In fact, that might be the KEY FACET of my own FLAD story. There are just SO MANY connections! You might have read this from my most recent post (on Jun.4):

    “BTW, I think I’ve said this before, but I have encountered so many out-of-the-ordinary connections or ‘two-degrees-of-separation type’ things with respect to my FL that I am BEYOND CONVINCED that it is some kind of ‘destined’ test…some of the things are just uncanny or unexplainable…and if I wasn’t already a ‘believer’ (in a higher power), then I certainly would be now! Some of the things are just surreal…they blow my mind!”

    I will now share a few examples, beginning with one similar to the marriage of your FL’s son to the daughter of that celeb you follow. Only in my case, the marriage is between my FL’s younger sister (and only sibling) and the son of one of my father’s friends who was originally from my father’s hometown (which was some 20 miles or so from the hometown of me, my mother, my FL and her parents). This son of my father’s friend is also the nephew of another of my father’s friends. And, my father knew these people well before my FL or her little sister were even born! And, he had also mentioned their names and told me stories about the good old days…well before my FL’s sister had ever met her future husband!

    Next, I must mention the person who first told me that my FL’s father was in ill health, the same person who also notified me of his eventual death (THE VERY THING that led to the reconnection and set all these FLAD things in motion). This person was and is one of the closest family friends that we’ve ever had in our community (he might even be THE closest). In spite of this closeness, however, I had never known that he was also close to my FL’s parents (they had traveled together to attend various drumline presentations). Similarly, our close family friend wasn’t aware of my feelings for FL. In fact, he didn’t really know her or her little sister all that well (only the parents). But after this all happened, and my world was turned upside down, I felt the need to disclose these feelings to my close family friend. I just told him that I felt he should know, since he had a special connection to both of our families.

    In addition, I should mention that a few years after the reconnection, I became aware that one of my mother’s closest friends from high school was also very close with my FL‘s mother (she is FL’s mother’s golfing buddy). This friend is part of a family that several of my other family members are also close to (and is someone my mother remained close to up until my mother’s recent death).

    There are also many other “head-scratching” connections between my FL and I, but I’ll just stop there for now (since those three aforementioned ones are more in line with the situation in your recent post, Bob).

    I think you all can see from this that I’m just not meant to “escape” my FL! It would be bad enough if she was a FL that I loved very deeply, but someone who I didn’t have such coincidental connections to. But, for some reason, I keep getting even more “reminders” of her from ties that I never even knew were there! So Bob, just remember that you are not alone!]

    Not possible: “You have to wonder about the connections and passing each other, even at a distance, all along the path of life.”

    [W: I wonder about it nearly every day, trying to contemplate why we have this special “closeness” at a distance, wondering why I must be tested (and tortured) this way. “So close, so close and yet so far” (from the Bob Crewe/Kenny Nolan song “My Eyes Adored You” that Frankie Valli took to #1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQjOT7PTzK4)]

  3. Bob the 8th says:

    William, the song you referred to “my eyes adore you” is so real to me (when it comes to my “true love”). Although I did hold her in my arms and passionately kissed her, and even progressed a little further than that in our physical relationship, we never did go to far in our physical relationship (we both made a commitment with one another to keep ourselves until marriage), and it was difficult – but we were able to keep that commitment (plus our relationship began when were in high school, so an unplanned pregnancy would have made things real complicated). So this song resonates because she is my true love, but a love which has never been fully realized. And for the last 34 & a 1/2 years since our relationship ended my eyes still adore her – she is so close at times, and at times she feels like she is a million miles away.

  4. Down the Rabbit Hole says:

    Bob the 8th: you resemble my FL in a lot of ways. We broke up about 34.5 years ago. One thing he has said to me repeatedly is that he had to know if I still cared for him. The wanting to know. Sadly, I tend to agree with Have Faith on this one. If my answer had been no, he may have been able to be content with life as it is. Now I see the pain and frustration, and I feel it too. It is incredibly hard.

  5. Bob the 8th says:

    Down the Rabbit Hole, “Incredibly hard” sums it up well. I wasn’t prepared to have my heart broken, and I did not anticipate loving more than one person in my life. Once I discovered love (in my senior year of high school) I didn’t want anything else. I intended to “see that love thru until the end”, but this was not to be – it takes 2 people to choose to take that path. I am even a bit upset; upset because I feel like life was “short-changed” – because I have spent most of my life separated from my “true love”. And yet I would choose to do it again (if I had the opportunity) – how could I not – nothing in life has compared to the moments I spent with my “true love”. 34 and a half years ago – the last time I heard her pleasant voice, her warm laugh, looked into her “enchanting eyes”, kissed her lips passionately, and held her in my arms. It’s not that I haven’t tried to “get over her” – I just discovered after many years that it is a useless endeavor to do that – my heart has always continued to ache and desire to be reunited. It may or may not happen, but I won’t know until the end (one day when I am “pushing up daisies”). Thanks for all of your input – Have faith, William, & Down the Rabbit hole – just corresponding with each of you helps (it’s like “therapy”).

  6. Down the Rabbit Hole says:

    Bob the 8th: my FL and I have shared almost identical sentiments. I am the one who broke it off in our senior year, after almost 2 years together. Not because I didn’t love him. But because I couldn’t love him enough. It felt like all or nothing, and I was too young, too selfish. He loved me very much, more than anyone since. And still does. And I adore him. We have overcome the hurt of the past but cannot bridge the present circumstances.

    I too remain hopeful. At the very least we remain friends.

  7. PleaseGodCanIBeWithLL says:

    DTRH,
    Be glad that your LL has remained friends with you. For my LL our reconnection has been too much for him and he has gone into hiding. He asked for a recent pic and I sent him one in April. Sent him two messages a few days later, he hasn’t read them. He did warn me if this became too hard for him, he would shut the whole thing down. He has not unfriended me on FB (where most of our communication occurred), so he isn’t totally done, but it still hurts to be shut out like that.

    Or maybe my pic was too ugly for him and he is now done with me. lol It was actually too good of a pic of me….took a selfie with my friend’s phone and the angle and lighting made me look way better than real life…younger and thinner than in person. lol Unfortunately he didn’t read the message I sent afterwards telling him my friend took some pics of me to give him the “big picture” of what I look like now and I would share them a few at a time for “full disclosure”, but I was afraid of what his reaction would be. Maybe it is better he is ignoring me after a good picture. If I would have sent a bad pic first, I would really feel awful.

    Still being shut out of his life really hurts. Then again, the whole situation between us is wrong to our current partners, so maybe I am just getting what I deserve for dallying in this emotional affair with LL.

  8. Down the Rabbit Hole says:

    Please God: we have gone through a 6 month NC period after his wife discovered our reconnection. It was very painful, like a death. For both of us. Then he contacted me again out of the blue. He finally had a chance as his wife literally would not leave him out of her sight. Just to let me know he was ok and to ask how I was. And after that contact was a limited to quick hellos every couple weeks. Did get a chance to see him a few months ago for just a few minutes. A quick hug. Both of us cried for days after.

    I feel for you. It is very very hard to go through the NC. Could it be your LL is stunned by the picture and has retreated to regroup? Perhaps he is sorting through and needs space. I never expected to hear from my FL again. And now we talk regularly. If your LL never wants to talk again or has no feelings for you, he would have unfriendly you. Hang in there.

  9. Down the Rabbit Hole says:

    Please God: I should add that I also relate to your comment about dally in the emotional affair as wrong for the partners. I feel remorse and guilt for his wife and my husband, as does FL. And yet we cannot seem to completely let go.

  10. Love of My Life says:

    In my opinion, when you reconnect with a first love and he/she is the true love of your life, you can never completely let it go. We are in our 60’s and live on opposite coasts so don’t see each other very often. At our age it is hard to break off a long standing marriage even if there is no love. It is 6 years since we reconnected. For the first 4 years there were a few ‘no contacts’. Two years ago, after a month long NC, we decided that we needed to remain connected in some capacity for the rest of our lives, even if we are never able to actually live together. There are times that I get a little discouraged but they don’t last long and I will never give up hope because he is ‘the love of my life’.

  11. PleaseGodCanIBeWithLL says:

    DTRH,
    The feelings between LL and I are mutual. NC makes me doubt that in my mind, but my heart knows the truth.

  12. PleaseGodCanIBeWithLL says:

    DTRH,
    The feelings between LL and I are mutual. NC makes me doubt that in my mind, but my heart knows the truth.

    LOML,
    I totally understand about not being able to completely let go! Even in my “angry years” (angry at LL) even when I wanted to let go of him, I couldn’t.

  13. Love of My Life says:

    Yes Please God …. I could never let go of him since the breakup 45 years ago, always on my mind and in my heart.

  14. Have Faith says:

    LOML
    If you are somewhat satisfied with your arrangement with your FL then of course you shouldn’t give up hope. I think Bob the 8th, whose FL refuses to respond to him, is only torturing himself by constantly wondering if his FL still has feelings for him. If she does or if she doesn’t really doesn’t matter if she won’t respond to him. Of course he can’t stop feeling the feelings he has for her, but I think in some cases we have to eventually accept reality (that she doesn’t want to talk to him) for our own peace of mind.

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