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 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 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 and a Casting Producer will be in touch ASAP.

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12,864 Responses to “Reuniting With Your First Love…on the Net”

  1. Down the Rabbit Hole says:

    Bob the 8th: my FL is not happy in his marriage and stays out of guilt. I was unhappy in mine until FL and I reconnected. After giving my husband an ultimatum to treat me better or I would leave, ironically, I am much happier now. And my husband is too. I guess we are both trying harder and started over. Whether it lasts is yet to be seen.

    Yet I still pine for FL. And he wants to be with me but will not allow himself that option. There has been emotional neglect and abuse in both our marriages. I finally recognized it in mine. He has not.

    This may be of little consolation to you, Bob. FL and I both know we are unhappy (I’m happier now) in our marriages. It is an even more intense heartache than prior to the reconnection.

  2. Have Faith says:

    Forever Gregs girl

    There is no way to convince someone to leave their spouse. If they leave it will be because it’s something they really want to do. He may never leave even if he loves you. If he doesn’t leave do you think you would really be satisfied being strictly online friends? And even that may not be possible now that his wife knows about you.

    There are no easy answers to these situations. If he is able to keep in contact with you but stays with his wife you can bet you won’t be happy with that either. Since his wife became so upset after reading your messages to each other those messages must have been romantic, so if he keeps in touch with you it will surely be behind his wife’s back.

  3. For you,1000 times over. says:

    Forever Greg’s Girl.

    There is so much more involved with just having someone leave their spouse because of….you say he was married 4 times, I’m not sure if I read what happened the other 3 times, but it seems that either he needs to be married or falls in love a lot.
    I also believe that if you’re meant to be together, you will be but not by “convincing him to leave”. If that were to happen, you might have bitten off more than your relationship can handle.
    If it was that simple many if us would have done that already and rode off into the sunset on our white horses holding hands with our true loves.
    I do think you can be honest about your feelings though but you would have to let him take it from there.
    As far as being an internet friend forever….that’s difficult. You will find yourself lonely when you’re not talking back and forth and will find it hard to move on and find someone who will love you and be there for you, because everyone you meet, will not be him.
    So that’s a hard decision for you to make. You’re are essentially losing out on years of what could be a very happy life, although its hard to see it now.
    I am talking from my own personal experience, as we all do on this site. I also believe that if you truly love someone, you want what’s best for them , even if it doesn’t include you.
    Easier said than done, but if you think through all the possible scenarios realistically, that is the bottom line.
    I don’t know if that helped you or confused you but in any case I wish you the best with your decision and outcome.

  4. Rob says:

    Since men mature later than women the odds of finding a couple who weren’t next door neighbors and reconnected after youth — having the exact same feelings for one another– probably rare. But I reconnected with the only person I ever loved. At 32. She was the first person I ever kissed. Never felt anything like that before. Holding her hand as a kid made me feel something that I can’t describe. Yeah, maybe it was infatuation or hormones. But I refuse to marry until I feel that way again. And I’m closing in on 40. After a few weeks when we were 16 she moved on but I never forgot her. Not seeing her for 14-15 years. Thought about her every day in that time but refused to believe I was crazy. She was short, flat chested, and by society’s standards probably not very appealing but for some reason she was and always be the most beautiful thing in the world. There have been a few really amazing girls that I have dated but couldn’t commit to because of this and I was too ashamed to ever admit, but people get Lonley sometimes and need companionship. That is all.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Rob, if you reconnected with her at age 32 and now you are almost 40 and not with her, that must mean it didnt work out between you two. Did she not have the same feelings at you?

  6. Bob the 8th says:

    Rob, you are absolutely correct when writing “people get lonely and sometimes need companionship”. I too (although I had kissed girls prior to my first love) have never felt the same “extraordinary feeling” that I felt when kissing my first love (whom I refer to as my “true love”) in any other. I only wonder if the same can be said for her, “does she feel the same”? Does my true love also battle with missing my kiss as I do hers (and holding her in my arms and the feeling of knowing this is “where I need to be” – that is, in her arms. Does she want to be in my arms again?). I did marry but it was only because my true love had already married, and this left me extremely lonely and depressed. Some people handle loneliness better than others. I am not one who handles loneliness well. And now that almost 35 years has passed since my true love broke up with me, I am glad I married because I would have been lonely for an extremely long time. My wife loves me more than I deserve. I am so grateful for her love. This is the reason why I prohibit my self from taking steps to do more in making contact with my first love. I have sent her 4 letters of these 35 years (the most recent was 9 years ago), and she has never answered or responded in any way to any of those letter. I may reach out to her again in the future, but it will probably be at least 5 years down the road. My 2 youngest are moving away to college next month, so I don’t think this particular time would be a good time to make any major changes in my life. Let’s say she did actually respond to my “reaching out to her” the next time that I do? I want to “financially be there” for my 2 daughters as they go through college and then there’s the future possible marriage of both daughters, so it may even be 10 years before a possible “reaching out to true love” can practically be carried out. Just some thoughts. I made it through another week of being apart from my true love, and still don’t know if she has any feelings for me. I had to check in to carry out a little bit of therapy for me – just reading other posts and being able to express my thoughts is so helpful.

  7. Forever Gregs Girl says:

    I am still at a stalemate with my guy. But a bit of progress. I told him other than texting covertly he could make his facebook stuff public so we can keep up with each other but not comment on anything so his wife won’t figure it out. So, he did. He used to post daily but he has only 1 in like 3 weeks. He is getting comments from his family like , what is going on and why isn’t anyone hearing anything about you. I reached out to a mutual friend for some help. Found out some interesting stuff. She won’t help intervene because my guys brother reached out to her about 5 years ago to get help breaking up the marriage of his first love and she refused. It took my guys brother 3 years to get his now wife to leave her husband. Now they are blissful living in a tiny town on the east coast. So, there is precident for this in his family. While my guy and I were apart and searching for one another he did marry 4 times. He sent photos of all his exes. They could be my sisters we all look a lot alike. He married them cause he knocked them all up. Except current wife…married her because of a death bed promise to his best friend. He promised to take care of her for him. It surprised everyone he knew since he never even said he was dating or even considering another woman. So, there is a lot of guilt. He won’t say he loves her or even happy. So, I have been on all these relationship sites now looking for help and am going to try a new tactic. We are both musicians. So, I am getting back heavily into my music with a new band as well as starting a new public group on facebook talking about music and sharing videos and stuff. It is all public and he will see me chatting with all these men as well as the dudes in my band that are all half my age and I know it will drive him nuts! I am also not going to initiate contact for the next month and see what happens. I do appreciate the comments but I have no desire to be with another man. I have been totally alone for over 20 years now, waiting and looking for him. If I wanted another man just as a companion I could have one easily but I choose not to. I can count on my fingers how many times I have been with other men and 2 of those times I got my 2 kids. Every time I felt like I was settling for something I did not want and hated it. I still see nothing wrong with us being intense friends on the internet. Who knows maybe I can find a way to get under his wifes skin so she leave him. By the way, we are both in our mid 50’s so no one has little kids or grand kids. All our kids are in their 30’s and grown so no families are being busted up. He is not just my first love but my only love and he told me the same thing. That is why I don’t get this guilt he has to stay in that marriage except for that born again Christian thing he is going through. This is a good place to vent even if no one has much advice to offer. But, where there is life there is hope.

  8. Wishing it away says:

    Gregs girl,
    It sounds like a lot of immaturity in you regarding the jealousy plants on FB. I don’t think that it will work. Also, born again Christian isn’t a “thing” you go through. The unconditional was just wiped away by that comment.
    You seem flippant about it. Also, the death bed promise is still a promise and it must mean something to him if he’s careful enough to defend it to avoid detection.
    Even with as little as you have shared, I can tell it isn’t likely to happen. He’s been silent on Facebook for a reason. He’s living his life and doesn’t want you to know just how full it is.

  9. The rest of the story says:

    Greg’s girl, if he has been married 4 fours times that means he was divorced 3 times as well. It certainly appears that he had no problem leaving those other 3 wives, or maybe they all left him. Either way he doesn’t have a very good track record. Ask yourself this – who marries someone because of a death bed promise? Do you really think someone would even ask that of their friend? Do you think that sounds realistic?? Cuz I sure don’t. Maybe you should be questioning what this guy is telling you because to me it sounds like a fictional story that he heard on a movie or something. But that’s just me…

  10. Disbelief says:

    I admittedly was in a 10 month relationship with my 1st true love. He and were first loves when I was 14 and he was 15, in high school.
    30 yrs later, we were hooked up via Facebook. We messaged often, liked and commented on each others post…until one evening we exchanged phone numbers and in a few moments after, we were talking on the phone for over 2 hours.
    By the end of the phone call, he had booked a flight to visit me in Houston Tx.
    We enjoyed his 5 day stay, and soon very after he boarded his return flight I found myself selling everything I owned and leaving my home to be with him. He lived in a very small town in Alabama that only had a population of approximately 2,000.
    We began again and couldn’t find our hearts anymore sure and anymore in love like never before…until a secret was unfolded.
    After short 3 months of being in this culture shock of such a small town from leaving Houston, it was brought to my attention that he was involved in group sex. Mw4m. He was into prostitution solititation as his job carried him traveling from city to city and state to state taking pictures fora Christian based photography company.
    In such disarray, I held on to what I knew for 3 months then decided I could not carry his sin any longer being the Godly women I was.
    I left after being there for 10 months total, broken in my faith have struggled everyday since.
    I know in my heart I completely did the right thing, even with a shattered heart 6 months later.
    Do 1st loves, really truly love?

  11. PleaseGodCanIBeWithL says:

    @the rest of the story,
    The deathbed promise was to take care of her….not necessarily marry her.

    @Greg’s girl,
    I agree with Wishinf It Away, it seems like you are playing games like a high schooler, trying to get your way. This will not help you in the long run. Also, I am also a born-again Christian. It is not just a thing he is going through. He has been changed into a new person.

  12. The rest of the story says:

    She clearly states that he married her because of a death bed promise. Taking care of someone does not mean marrying them. I think this Greg guy is using the supposed death bed promise as an excuse as to why he can’t leave the marriage. More likely he just doesn’t want to leave.

  13. Down the Rabbit Hole says:

    @Greg’s Girl: not to pile on or seem judgmental, but engaging in manipulation to get what you want isn’t the best idea, imo. Greg is not an object to be won. You have made your intentions known to him. If he is not happy in his marriage he will find you again. I’m not religious so cannot speak with certainty to the Born Again path he says he has chosen. However, some of my Christian friends are very devout and those who have gone through tough times turn to God later in life and remain steadfast in their desire to honor their comittments.

  14. Fool's Chasm says:

    I moved to be with my LL about three months ago, and I’m checking in and updating. I never shared my backs story before because I was afraid. The back story is that we met when we were 18, but we were in basic training, and we were both really unconfident and unsure. We were the kind of best friends who everyone knew liked each other, but we would both deny it. I’ll never forget how it made me feel to see him smile though. To this day, no one has ever made me feel that but him. like the idea of seeing santa claus when you are a child, or finding a pot of good at the end of a rainbow haha. I don’t know how I could take that feeling for granted back then. I tried saying something about how I felt once we were in training for our jobs, but he said he couldn’t date me, and wouldn’t explain (he’s not a great communicator, and I make assumptions.. So I’m not a great communicator either). I felt completely discouraged and moved on. He says he was devistated that I dated someone else. He felt like I gave up too easily, but I wasnt very confident myself. He says he realized about a year later that he’d made a huge mistake, and it was his biggest regret ever since. He says he was just afraid of falling in love and it inevitably ending becuase of our jobs. He didn’t date a single girl in the military and looked for me when he got out, but I was married. He eventually got someone pregnant and married her. He did look me up about six years ago, but I had just gotten remarried, and I never thought he had any feelings for me. All of this time, I had thought that it was an unrequited crush on my part. I knew how he made me feel, and it hurt that it was one sided. I caught him up on my life, but didnt make any effort to talk to him. I let my fb acct close when I lost my password and didnt think about him much for awhile. Then I reopened my Facebook acct a couple of years ago for different reasons. I looked him up right away bc it had nagged at me that I closed it right after hearing from him, and I missed him. It happened that I was passing through his part of the country on a trip, so we made plans to have dinner, just as friends. His wife came also, and she and I got along well. It didnt matter that she was there though, the connection between us was still the same. It never mattered who was around when we were younger, and nothing had changed. We talked and talked until the resturant closed and then he and I kept messaging. I told him how I used to obsess over how to tell him that I liked him back then. I thought it was funny to look back on. I thought I was okay with everything, and had made peace with him not wanting me that way, but he didnt think it was funny. He confessed that he’d felt the same and that it had broken his heart when Id moved on. He said that he had always felt that we had belong together and that he had made the biggest mistake of his life, and that he was still in love with me and would leave his wife for me, if I wanted. It was a long road after that. I had alot of trust issues with him, and he didnt have the easiest time leaving his wife (that’s an understatement. It was very difficult because of the kids, and it really hurt me) but he did do it. We have been together three months, and we still have our issues to work on. It feels worth it though, and we both feel like it’s what we are meant to do. I know I can’t love anyone the way I love him. Maybe there’s something to that chemical bond stuff, since we met in basic training, except I think I knew the first time I saw him smile. His family likes me, eventhough I butt heads with them. They say that they haven’t seen him happy like this since he was a teenager, and that they hope I’ll bring out the real him. It’s still hard, but I’m so happy to be with him, and it feels like I am living my real life now.

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