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.

7,018 Responses to “Reuniting With Your First Love…on the Net”

  1. gonecrazy says:

    While I won’t argue that counselling is a bad idea for Adam, I have to say I believe there is more at play here than a simple broken heart. I am one of the women who is ‘your mother’s age’ so I guess I have a bit of experience.

    We have all suffered broken hearts at some point, and recovered from them. The older people here recovered and went on and had happy lives, no regrets. At least that was the case for me. I barely thought about FL for 25 years, then suddenly the past came crashing back to me. I believe that is how this happened for most of the people here – whether it was triggered by a FB request or repressed memories returning, some thing triggered the past to come back.

    We are not people living in the past or living with regrets. We are people who got married, had families and productive lives for many, many years. More years than you have apparently lived on this earth. I realize you are only trying to help Adam, but I think he needs more than medication. I think he needs people who can understand his feelings.

  2. Adam says:

    I have gone to counseling and all they do is try to figure “what happened when I was young” or “was my mother neglective”. I had a normal bringing up, and have had a couple broken hearts and got over them in a year or less.. But this is not the same, it’s been 8 years and there was never a breakup because all we did (other than our night we hooked up and messed around) was talk on all the time for a year on and off.. And neither of us showed our true feelings until it was too late and another guy came along.. But we still had on and off communication until I cut it off for 3 years.. During which she got married.. Then I contacted her and feelings were still there but she was committed to her marriage. It wouldn’t be as bad if I still had the chance to try and find someone I connect with but I’m in a marriage that I am misserable in.. I have actually thought about my wife cheating on me and physically having sex with someone else and it didn’t phase me at all. I am checked out of this marriage, just can’t bring myself to hurt my wife because I have already done that so much before.. But I’m on the verge of having to because I can’t handle being this distant from her and having to act like I’m happy and close to her.. Emotionally speaking..
    But I’m not gonna make a decision like this without giving it some time first.

  3. Pragmatic Dreamer says:

    Adam: I’m so glad that you’re doing better. Please listen to Don’t Do It, gonecrazy, and neverends. They have shared such wise words. I, also, think that your hectic work schedule and lack of sleep can take an enormous toll on your ability to deal with the tough emotional challenges you’re faced with. For myself, when my son and I were struggling in a huge way with the emotional repercussions of dealing with “H,” finding the right counselor was so very helpful. Not all professionals are equally good at setting aside their own agendas or their checklists and truly helping someone to think through a troubling situation. I was blessed to find that when I needed it most; I hope that you can, too. But whatever you do, please keep “talking” here to your FLAD “support group,” and don’t ever give up. The only thing certain in this life is its uncertainty; you have no idea what could be right around the next bend!

  4. Pragmatic Dreamer says:

    Part 3 (of 3): The end of my story (…finally!)

    I was mourning the loss of my friendship, when I encountered a complication to my grieving process. Ever since I figured out that I have a problem recognizing faces, I’ve been concerned that I would walk right by Friend and not know him. And really, it’s only Friend that I’ve worried about for all of these years; people I’ve wanted to keep in my life are pretty much still there, and I only have a difficulty recognizing someone I haven’t seen in quite awhile. I was afraid that if I ever seemed to rudely pass by Friend, he might think that I either was purposely ignoring him or that he just wasn’t important enough to me to remember! I’ve been plagued by recurring nightmares for all of these years. They are variations of the same theme: I’m searching for Friend, and I can’t find him. The dreams are all vivid, memorable, and very disturbing to me.

    Throughout the remainder of fall and through all of winter, my dreams increased –like a train picking up speed, they became more & more frequent until I was having them nearly every night (before finding Friend, I’d probably averaged about 1-3 of them a year)! I started to find it so much harder to fall asleep because of dreading these nightmares. By the time spring rolled around, I was seriously sleep-deprived and weepy.

    I’d gotten just about all I could from my journaling –insights into how Friend was my “safe person”; he was always the one I’d turn to when life felt overwhelming (all of those escapes to “our spot” during college were about retreating somewhere safe WITH someone who was able to make me feel safe). So, it’s natural that I’d fear missing a rare opportunity of reconnecting with someone so special to me by seeming to rudely pass him by. I began to feel that my bad dreams might have been my subconscious mind’s way of telling me that I HAD already done this, which might explain why Friend didn’t want to renew our friendship, but there was no way for me to know unless I asked!

    There were SO many reasons why emailing him again would be a bad idea: he didn’t want to hear from me, so that would be annoying to him right off the bat; I’d promised not to bother him (I very rarely even MAKE promises because I’m normally so committed to keeping them); Friend might think that another email was just a push to try to get him to see me; I would have to admit to having my embarrassing facial recognition problem, which would be extremely uncomfortable for me to talk about. There was only one reason to do it: it was the one & only thing that I was pretty sure would end my nightmares.

    I struggled for weeks with my decision. My bad dreams were obviously not going to go away on their own, though. So I broke down and did it.

    Now, I have spent my entire life developing the ability to edit myself (both verbally & in writing). I had actually become pretty good at it –until all of the stresses with “H” began. In these last few years, I’ve just found that I have to work SO much harder to do this! When I’m feeling extremely emotionally vulnerable (like then & like right now), I just seem to lose any progress I’ve made in inhibiting my communication style –writing too often or too lengthy emails (sometimes understandably annoying the recipient with my excessive wordiness …lol)!

    Toward the end of March, I sent my email that was, of course, far too long, and there was no way around the fact that Friend was going to be irritated by receiving another email at all –let alone a really long one. In the email, I awkwardly explained about my facial recognition problem and my bad dreams and that they were so negatively impacting my life. I told him that I hoped that the nightmares would no longer be an issue for me if I made him aware of my problem.

    I tried to let Friend know that, though I was still sad that he hadn’t wanted to renew our friendship, I was accepting (and grieving) the fact that he had probably changed in some significant ways and simply wasn’t interested in reconnecting –or even curious enough to want to see me just once. It seems like he’s in a really good place in his life right now, so I told Friend that I wasn’t holding onto any hope that he would change his mind about me in the future, but I’d always keep a special place for him in my heart and hope & pray for his continued happiness.

    I really attempted to make it clear that my email was NOT a solicitation for more contact with him. My hope was that he had at least enough good memories of our relationship to do me the favor of reading the email and responding with only a “yes” or “no” answer to the query: Have you seen me anytime since [that university event of his where I had last seen him ...that I knew of]? I figured that if Friend’s answer was “no,” great! If it was “yes,” I’d be very sad (and very curious about the particulars), but I was determined to –under no circumstances– email him again. I’d just have to accept it and try to move on. To further cement the fact that I wasn’t going to bother him again, I thanked him in advance for his help and apologized one last time for disrupting his life.

    Friend answered my email about a week later. It BEGAN well; his answer was “no,” he had not seen me. However, then he went on to write MORE (ironically asking him for a one-word answer triggered the longest reply yet –though still very short & succinct). I had tried to brace myself for whatever Friend’s response could be (including no answer at all), but nothing on earth could have prepared me for this ridiculous email!

    His main points were delivered with an arrogant and condescending tone –covered in a thin veneer of politeness:

    1) He accuses me of pushing for a romantic relationship with him, claiming that he remembers our friendship and that I was a nice person but denying that he ever had any romantic feelings for me.

    2) He tells me not to write to him again, as I’ve made him feel “very uncomfortable” …since he’s gay.

    3) Oh, and basically, he thinks I need professional help.

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ….yeah!

    For awhile, I could barely process what he had written to me (it takes a lot to stun me into silence, but he did it)! All I could think was, “THIS is not my Friend.” This couldn’t have been written by anyone I knew –or would even WANT to know! This is not the wise, insightful man who saw (way before I did, back in our youth) that I was on the wrong track with my college major, my intended career …and my choice of husband! And this email was not written by the kind, caring young man who rubbed my back and tried his best to comfort me (pushing himself out of his own comfort zone) when I was so sad about my Love #2!

    The only other thought I could completely process was, “Wow, my girlfriend is going to get to give me the biggest ‘I told you so’ ever!”

    I was also freaking out on a really basic level because Friend’s email triggered a knee-jerk reaction in me (my own kind of PTSD response). What “Friend” (and now I use THAT term loosely) had done to me in this email was the exact same thing that “H” first did to me (before I knew that he had Alzheimer’s). “H” would say something untrue –that didn’t even make sense– but then be all calm and adamant about it and try to make me feel like there was something wrong with me!

    For example (not an actual conversation, but similar enough):

    “H”: The sky is pink.
    Me: (Looking around) It sure looks blue to me.
    “H”: Are you trying to tell me that I’m wrong about what my own eyes tell me?
    Me: I’m simply saying that all I see are blue skies …and not a cloud in them today!
    “H”: We’re going to have to make sure to get you to the eye doctor soon then (His voice filled with arrogant condescension)!

    So my first coherent thought is, “Maybe something is seriously wrong with ‘Friend’!” For a minute, I was worried and thought how incredibly sad it would be if “Friend” ended up with dementia, also! But then I remembered that “Friend” seems successful in his career –which he really wouldn’t be able to be if he was sick. But that still leaves me with just a huge question mark!

    Since this email, as a whole, triggered such traumatic emotions, I knew that I was going to have to break it down into its main points in order to wrap my mind around it (hence, the list above). I had the additional pressures at that time, though, of trying to make sure our income tax returns got finished, that bills got paid, and the paperwork for “H’s” transfer to Medicare for his disability went through (so much for avoiding stress)!

    I decide that I’ll have to tackle them backwards (easiest to hardest, for me). So #3 first. The only help I needed was a “yes” or a “no” from him –that’s it! But okay, this one is the easiest because I remember “Friend” telling me that (probably due to low self-esteem), one obstacle he encountered when trying to connect with someone was that if the other person expressed interest in him, it automatically made him think less of the person –that something must be seriously wrong with them– and, essentially, to run for the hills! But I thought that that only applied to romantic relationships –oh, wait… that’s right; he thinks I was asking for a romantic relationship (#1, which I’ll be tackling later). Of course, this means that in our youth, Friend was perpetually attracted to the unavailable girls in his life (of which I always either was one …or was trying to be, and he found it safe to tell me he loved me only after I was THE most inaccessible of all: married)! [Even now knowing #2, I can’t help but picture “Friend” with a typically inaccessible, secret female crush, whom he calls a “friend!” And I can’t help but wonder: if this is still true for him, how in the world did he get into his “serious relationship?”] In an odd way though, this all sort of makes sense, so I can mentally check #3 off the list.

    #2 –Wow. I have to admit: this is a really weird one. My first problem with this is how he delivered his news! I mean, really… WHO does that that: I’m gay …so go away? I know this is a controversial topic (and I’m not trying to start a debate here), but when some people would talk about “losing” loved ones to the gay lifestyle, I’d think, “Well, if you don’t shun them, you won’t lose them.” Apparently, I was wrong about that –if this is the way to come out to someone who is supposedly “a nice person” & an old friend (I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that “Friend” doesn’t have many old friends in his life)!

    Especially frustrating is that there were just so many other options for telling me this news. The most obvious choice: he could’ve simply ignored my initial email. I would have assumed that this person either didn’t know my friend or that Friend either didn’t remember me or wasn’t interested in reconnecting. Or he could’ve written back with a message like this: “Yes, it’s me; I changed my name. I really like my job here even though it’s pretty demanding. I’m also in a serious relationship with a really great guy. My boyfriend/partner/husband & I have been together for ___ weeks/months/years. Between my job & relationship, I’m kept extremely busy. If you get a chance, send me a life update on how you’re doing. Best wishes…” blah, blah, blah. Right off the bat, THAT would have made it clear that he wasn’t wanting to renew our friendship, and it would have given me the chance to say goodbye (and he would’ve received only 1 instead of 3 goodbyes)! AND even missing those opportunities, when he wrote in October and told me that he was in a relationship, I would’ve thought that he could’ve managed to slip in that little detail. But instead, “Friend’s” email sounds like he’s upset that I don’t know ….something that he seemingly went out of his way NOT to tell me! So, yeah …I’m beyond frustrated with him.

    Then, I’m feeling so very offended that “Friend” would assume that I’d no longer want to be his friend if he’s gay, but I take a second look and realize that that’s not what he’s saying. “Friend” is saying that he doesn’t want to be MY friend since he’s gay!

    At first, I just don’t get this at all. It does clearly illustrate for me that he doesn’t remember much about our friendship. Mentally, I go to one of my massive piles of memory chips and pull out a very clear and intact little video clip from –I would guess– about halfway through our 5-year relationship (give or take). I can’t access exactly when or where the memory is from (the missing edges giving me nothing to connect it to), but the two of us are sitting outside on something rough (like a concrete planter or something), and it’s either nighttime or very overcast, because the background isn’t sunny. We’re sitting very close together, each with a leg touching, so it was probably a little chilly out. We weren’t holding hands for most of the conversation, but by the end, we definitely were. And Friend is telling me about something that had recently been very disturbing to him. A guy had hit on him, and Friend admitted to being so shocked that he probably over-reacted a little, and the guy had gotten defensive, claiming that Friend had been giving off a “gay-vibe.” Friend had been very upset about this and said that it wasn’t the first time that someone had accused him of being gay. Friend was visibly upset when relating this story to me and sharing his thoughts about it.

    Back then, I at first kind of wondered if he was trying to tell me something about himself, so I made a point to let him know that I’d always want to be his friend whether or not he was gay –even though it would be a little bit of a weird adjustment for me! This made him even more upset. He said that he thought that it was so unfair that just because he wasn’t some big, beefy, sports-loving, beer-guzzling, macho-type, that the world seemed to want to stereotype him as gay. He turned to me and asked very earnestly at one point if I thought that he gave off a gay-vibe. I gave him my honest answer, that no, I saw him most definitely as straight, but that when we’d first started spending time together, I’d kind of wondered if he might be gay –only based on the fact that I’d never hung out with a guy for that amount of time without him eventually hitting on me. Friend had been almost angry when I said this (because of his ASD issues with touch, I was sure). He asked –in effect– if I needed a guy to be all over me in order for me to know that he liked me. I told Friend that it did make the intentions clear –as long as it wasn’t done in a creepy or pushy manner. Holding hands or occasionally putting an arm around someone (to me) CAN be romantic but can also be done with a really close friend, but to try for a kiss made it apparent that the guy wanted to me more than friends with me. Friend was dejected by this info (I know that this all had to have been before our one attempted date). I told him that it was obvious to me that he wasn’t gay, considering that he was always noticing and commenting on other girls. And I pointed out that I’d never even seen him notice any boys. And Friend had seemed relieved to have my confirmation.

    We went on to have a really in-depth discussion about how unfair our society can be, always trying to pigeon-hole people and slap labels on them! Women who are into more traditional “male” interests have a tough time but not nearly as much as men who are into anything that’s been labeled as a more “feminine” interest! We talked about this for a really long time and seemed to be completely on the same page as far as our views (which tended to walk the line between liberal & conservative viewpoints, in many ways). We transitioned into sharing more personal things, and Friend confided secrets from his past and wishes for his future (which, of course, I would never dream of sharing with anyone …ever!), and I felt honored to have his trust.

    In light of my memory of this conversation, though, I have to say that I was very surprised that he’s now gay –but not completely shocked. Obviously, “Friend” came to a different conclusion over the years, and I certainly wouldn’t have held that against him. If only he could’ve just been open & honest with me about it! His partner couldn’t possibly be jealous of me if he’s gay, so why wouldn’t “Friend” have been willing to reconnect with the “nice person” who he remembers being friends with?

    Ah, but since I clearly remember him showing and ultimately sharing that his feelings for me WERE more, I’m left with the big question of how real his feelings were for me 30 years ago. Does this mean that he was mistaken –he only thought he had feelings other than friendship? Were his feelings sincere at the time, but he has since changed in considerable ways? Or did he really know back then and was just using me to try to fight against his fear of being gay? Does he even know what the truth is? Well, it’s not like I can ask him! –And one side effect for me from this news is that it makes my entire “box” completely moot.

    So now I’m down to #1. And THIS one is the deal-breaker …because it’s clear that hurting me has to be his intention here. He denies that he ever had any feelings –not even qualifying it with any type of acknowledgement that he had once declared that he loved me. Instead, he turns it around and claims that I am asking him for a romantic relationship!

    So, feeling a little paranoid, I go back and re-read the emails that I’ve sent to him …with a fine-tooth comb… analyzing what I’ve said and how I’ve said it to find out if he has any legitimate reason to think this –and I find nothing (one advantage of my excessive wordiness is that I’m not often criticized for being a poor communicator)! Except for the gender-specific references that were unique to our friendship, none of the things I wrote couldn’t have also been written to any other of my close friends (and actually, after my health scare, some of the things I wrote were EXACTLY like what I communicated to other friends: their importance to me and words of appreciation for what they’ve contributed to my life)! In my emails, the only things I had asked “Friend” for were friendship and honesty.

    Of course, it’s very ironic that he’s accusing me of communicating feelings for him …that I’m not even sure I have! Obviously, I have a lot of love for this man –just not necessarily romantic love. Plus, his October email told me that he’s in a committed relationship, so even if I’d been positive that I felt more than friendship for him, I would NOT have been trying to lure him out of it (demonstrating once again that he doesn’t remember me at all). I had to wonder if HE had forgotten his own difficulties with touch, because knowing that limitation makes it obvious enough that HE would’ve had to be the instigator of anything remotely romantic. AND referring back to #3, since I clearly remember him, if I’d been making some romantic play for him, I’d have known that I’d have had to “play hard-to-get” (be that inaccessible one again) –and I just don’t play manipulative games like that. No, I wanted to be his friend, so with my characteristic open-hearted honesty, I shared with him like he was still the person I remembered him to be (apparently, a BIG mistake, but I’m almost positive that one of the things that Friend used to like about me was that I “wore my heart on my sleeve”).

    Taken as a whole, I was so frustrated, hurt, and angry that “Friend” would deny –what I had already demonstrated that I remembered! So, this is the email I sent in April in reply (I would never feel comfortable posting someone else’s letters in a public forum, but I’m okay with posting my own words):

    “I was shocked to get your email; I wish I knew what in the world you were talking about!! I had tried to express that I was sad that you weren’t open to being my friend (FRIEND not being a euphemism), and the fact that you’re now gay is totally irrelevant –since last time I checked, gay men have close friendships with women all the time –and, in fact, knowing that you were gay would’ve meant not having to deal with the whole jealous-husband-thing! You know, all I had pictured was getting to have the fun of sitting down over coffee and hearing about some of your life-adventures, music, and travels –and amusing you with the tales of the unusual jobs, antiques collected, and surprising hobbies I’ve enjoyed over the years. I pictured getting to meet your Significant Other and being able to see you in a happily serious relationship (whether with a man or a woman wouldn’t have mattered one bit) –or if you were between relationships, I figured that could’ve worked in my favor, since you might have been more likely to have some free time/space in your life for a “new, old friend.” And I certainly would’ve liked to have had the opportunity to be someone that you could think of as a true friend (the “safe-person” that I’d spoken of earlier), that you could really be yourself with –and not someone that you felt you had to get dressed up for and try to impress (like a date)! So I’m very sorry if you don’t have a frame of reference for that kind of really great, supportive, platonic relationship, but that was all I was asking for.

    No wonder you felt “very uncomfortable” with the overly familiar tone of my emails; I thought that I was writing to a friend –someone who used to care– and I shared accordingly. Considering that you don’t actually seem to remember anything about me or our previous relationship (since a complicated friendship that began with you nervously asking for my phone number at [our mutual place of employment] and ended approximately 5 years later with a heart-rending phone call, where you told me you loved me –with quite a bit of hand-holding, some lap-sitting, an attempted kiss, a marriage proposal and some fairly intimate conversations about hopes for the future in between– doesn’t quite coincide with your statement that “there was nothing in our friendship that was, even slightly, romantic”), it really does feel as though an extremely condescending stranger read my mail and, in consequence, misjudged me. (Perhaps “some outside help” is needed for that repressed-memory problem! ..Sorry, but condescension tends to be contagious.)

    Don’t fear; I am deleting your contact info from my address book as soon as I’ve sent this. I suppose that I should at least thank you for finally removing your “mask of politeness” so that I could plainly see your lack of openness, honesty, and kindness (all three of the traits I find essential for any friendship). And on the plus side for me, I no longer have any fears or regrets about you and am now sleeping so much better –so thanks for that.

    My friend, [Friend’s old name], wasn’t perfect, but there wasn’t an arrogant or mean-spirited bone in his body, and that’s the person that I will continue to miss. To avoid future annoyances in your life, [Friend’s new name], I’d suggest that the next time someone contacts you looking for their old friend, you may want to just tell them the truth and say, “Nope. Sorry. Don’t know the guy.”

    Goodbye. ~[Dreamer]”

    Sometimes when I looked over this email, I’ve thought that I was too harsh –and other times, not harsh enough! That probably means that I got it just about right.

    After I sent it, I told myself, “Okay, now at least I don’t have to worry that I’ll see him anywhere!” THAT was short-lived, though. The weirdest thing happened, mostly during the month of April. I began seeing men who reminded me of “Friend” almost everywhere I went (…pretty absurd when I think about it; so many faces that might have been his)! I found this to be particularly disturbing, since –even if I could be capable of recognizing him– he has now made things so unnecessarily awkward between us that we can never bump into each other in the future and not have it be anything but terribly uncomfortable! I’ll never know for sure if ANY of them actually was him, and I guess it really doesn’t matter. Maybe it was some kind of transition for my brain from looking for him in my nightmares (they didn’t completely go away after his email, but they’ve lessened considerably)!

    I considered the possibility that “Friend’s” email was just a big misunderstanding, but if that was the case, I would’ve heard from “Friend” by now (it’s been over 3 months since I sent my reply) –unless he blocked me and never received my last email at all (which would be the height of immaturity)!

    It was sometime in June that I began thinking more about repressed memories. I’d thrown that comment into my email without a lot of thought, but then I began to wonder. COULD he have repressed his memories of me because they caused him so much pain? And if he did, wouldn’t he have a really tough time processing any residue from his old feelings? In trying to find out, I discovered this site and some others like it that deal with how someone might feel if he was contacted by someone that he once cared about. But in my October email, I’d brought up quite a few of my favorite memories. And if that wasn’t enough to remind him of our relationship, I’d just included in that last email my list of some of the romantic elements that complicated our friendship. So surely, that would’ve jogged his memory, wouldn’t it?

    I think that what hurts more than the thought that “Friend” doesn’t remember me …is that he so clearly doesn’t remember HIMSELF! –And Friend was someone, in my opinion, who was worth remembering.

    But that led me to looking at his whole email, with all of the elements taken together, and I concluded that it seemed less like he had repressed his memories than that he had ejected his memories. Whatever occurred in his life to lead to his huge changes probably involved him taking an inventory of his past, and just tossing out whatever didn’t fit with his new persona. I mean, really, it’s pretty much as if he repackaged and re-branded himself (literally) –and he must be happy with this life he’s created (at least, he comes off as being very self-satisfied and smug; I think it’s really sad that “Friend’s” successes have made him so arrogant).

    I’d hoped that “Friend” would’ve seen our relationship the way I did: a friendship with some complicated romantic layers that could just be peeled away to get to the strong base, so that he could picture me fitting into his life. Ah… and that’s when I finally got it! –Not just a lightbulb-Eureka moment but an all-out heavens-parted-by-light-beams-Epiphany! I’d been an idiot not to see it sooner. The key was in my chastising him for thinking that the word FRIEND was a euphemism for a romantic relationship! My mind flew back through all of my memories –from the asking for the phone number through all of our “vicious cycle” loops and to his reaction to the news of my engagement, the word FRIEND being used repeatedly: THE WORD FRIEND WAS ALWAYS A EUPHEMISM TO HIM! It all made sense. Contrary to what he’d written in his email, I now don’t believe that “Friend” ever really saw me as just a friend. To him, I was always simply a romantic interest. Which is why, when I showed up in his life asking for him to be my friend again, he assumed I was asking for “more,” and he shoved me away so rudely!! This is why memories of me would be utterly useless to him. What place could a female friend (euphemism included!) have in the life of a man who is now gay? It seems evident to me that our out-of-sync interpretations of a single word created difficulties in our past and a pretty insurmountable communications wall in the present –with me catapulting my thoughts and feelings over it in the assumption that that same caring friend I knew was on the other side. No wonder I annoyed him so! :-(

    …Sigh… And this realization reminded me of that warning I’d received way back when we’d first become friends (I used to sometimes bring up the name of a former crush of Friend’s because I didn’t want to believe that he could so easily dismiss her from his mind). But Friend did tend to care in a very all-or-nothing, wholehearted way; I used to be on his “all” registry, and now I’m most definitely on his “nothing” list (and sadly, the warning was correct: it does hurt …a lot). I would be so happy to be wrong about this! But looking for info led me to the sites with all of the devastated people posting about how awful it felt to be a cast-aside former-special-interest!

    How does this new-found knowledge help me? It only assists in the aspect of having a better understanding of WHY he must’ve reacted the way he did, and why he would never want to have me in his life. I must admit that when I first realized this, I was very tempted to go through my memories and start tossing them out; if the friendship that I thought we’d had has never really existed, I might as well get rid of them. But I stopped myself. The friendship might not have been real for him, but it was for me. I’m going to continue to hang onto and cherish my memories of what was –for me– a really special relationship.

    The knowledge, of course, doesn’t help at all with the fact that I have to mourn the loss of someone who really doesn’t exist anymore. In a way, I think that I need to pretend that I’ve just sent that very first email out to the man with the same last name as “Friend’s” whom I accidentally found on that website last August. And I’ll imagine the answer I receive is, “I’m very sorry to be the one who has to tell you: we lost Friend a long time ago.” And if I’d heard that, I’d be right where I am now …left grieving this loss all alone. (Drat, now I’m crying again.)

    While I’ve been writing out my complicated story, I have figured out what I’m doing posting here on this site (somehow there just doesn’t seem to be any forum for “WOMEN WITH A LOT OF STRESS & SADNESS IN THEIR LIVES WHO TRIED AND FAILED TO RECONNECT WITH OLD FRIENDS WHO ONCE SAID THEY LOVED THEM BUT WHO TURNED OUT TO BE CRUELLY CONDESCENDING, GAY MEN)! –I have to laugh or I’ll start crying again.

    –So basically, this is my eulogy for Friend. I couldn’t just forget about him. Friend was so much to me: my challenge, my safety, my teacher, my student, my inspiration, my brother, my mystery, and one of my very best friends. I needed to memorialize the man who holds such a special place in my heart –who only seems to live now in my memory– but I couldn’t find the means to do it. So, I guess, in a way, this is me …standing by his graveside, rounding up any random, compassionate passers-by who might be kind enough to join me as I deliver this eulogy, my very personal story of love and loss.

    If you’ve managed to read through my entire story –well, first of all, KUDOS to you (you really deserve a medal!) — but also my sincere thanks for coming alongside during this difficult time and “listening” to me. I appreciate it more than I can say.

    I’m sure that I’ll drop back in here from time to time, because now I care about YOUR stories, and I’ll want to find out how you’re doing with your FLAD. I do hope and pray that each of you finds the path that you’re meant to be on: whether that’s finding new joy in your marriage –allowing your bittersweet memories of your FL to reside as peacefully as possible in your heart, or whether it’s the acceptance of the fact that you “took a wrong turn” in life –and are now making a leap of faith to get to where your heart, mind, & soul tell you that you should be. So I pray for you (and for me) the Serenity Prayer (seems appropriate!) with additional lines from the original poem:

    “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

    …Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.”

    ~Pragmatic Dreamer

  5. gonecrazy says:

    I say that prayer all the time, but I think sometimes I’m missing the wisdom to know the difference, lol.

    My take on friends memory issues is this – he does remember you but he doesn’t want to because you belong to a part of his life he is trying to forget. Obviously he has tried to re-invent himself. He changed his name and came out and admitted he was gay. He has started a new life. When you reminded him of his old life, he didn’t want to admit to it.

    I think he has always been gay (people don’t just suddenly change their sexual orientation), but when he was younger he was probably trying to fit himself into a conventional life and denied his feelings. I believe you were such a good friend to him that he loved you deeply in a platonic way, but because he wanted to be heterosexual he mixed that up with romantic feelings.

    I wouldn’t be too surprised if eventually he does come around and admit to remembering your previous friendship and want to renew it. But give it time. Obviously he has been through some huge changes in his life recently, so it’s going to take some time for him to adjust.

  6. ROAR says:

    Adam – Maybe you might want to get counseling from Dr. Nancy Kalish who specializes in FL. I thought about talking with her when my FL went NC. It was extremely hard for me. I read on her site that she does phone consults.

    PD – I’ve read you entire story. Very emotional. I have a friend that is gay and he told me when he was younger, he was planning to get married. This girl he was going to marry was his best friend. He really loved her but eventually realized he was gay. They called off the wedding but to this day they are still best friends. He will eventually come around. One day he’ll be in your life again.

  7. Don't Do It says:


    I agree with Gone Crazy. He was always gay. He just didn’t know it or thought he could change it. I also agree with you that he has a mixed up thought process on the word “friend” especially in relation to you.

    I think he tried so hard to make himself believe his good “friend” could be more back then that he thinks you are asking for more now.

    I do really feel for you though and I’m glad that you have separated the two. Who he was then from how he treated you now. Those memories are too precious to you to let the person he is now destroy them.

    It sounds like he’s had a lot to deal with in his life with the sexual orientation and the interactions with people in general.

  8. Been There says:

    Pragmatic Dreamer -

    Friend does remember all of the things that he claims that he does not. Didn’t you say that he was crushed when you got married?

    I think Friend is Bisexual. My husband has a male friend that is bisexual and had a boyfriend at one time, later married a woman, got a divorce and then married another woman. Friend probably always knew that he was attracted to both men and women. His questions to you seem to show this and it looks like he wanted to know if you could tell.

    I had a female friend that got involved with a guy who was using her. When it fell apart, she went back home to Chicago and cut off contact with everyone and everything that involved that part of her life. I totally understood. Don’t know if Friend is doing this. Do you know if he has removed himself from everyone else?

    He may not be sure of his own sexuality, if he is bisexual. Maybe he feels like he is giving into the straight world by admitting the feelings he had for you. Maybe he does not want his lover to know about his prior interest in the straight world. Maybe he feels embarrassed. He may also be trying to avoid having discussions of his earlier conduct. You would have to go forward with Friend, because he definitely does not want to look back.

  9. Been There says:

    “The knowledge, of course, doesn’t help at all with the fact that I have to mourn the loss of someone who really doesn’t exist anymore.

    I needed to memorialize the man who holds such a special place in my heart –who only seems to live now in my memory– but I couldn’t find the means to do it. So, I guess, in a way, this is me …standing by his graveside, rounding up any random, compassionate passers-by who might be kind enough to join me as I deliver this eulogy, my very personal story of love and loss.”

    Pragmatic Dreamer -

    The words above were also said by me not long ago. Boy did I cry. Over the many years I would see glimpses of FL as I knew him. I came to the conclusion that perhaps I was wrong and he is now a different person. FL changed in a different way. We would have bad verbal fights that could never have taken place in the beginning. This way of thinking was before the contact last month. I think under the hard exterior of Friend that person is still there. It took 33 years for me to get unconditional acceptance (hope he has not regressed). That could not happen without trust. I think Friend will need to sort out his feelings. Try to find out more about Friend’s later life. You may then know how to approach this problem. The biggest lesson that I have learned this past month is not to rush to that funeral. These guys are alive and well, just a bit confused.

  10. Been There says:

    Pragmatic Dreamer -

    One more thing. Try not to read into the minds of men. I need to make one correction to the above e-mail. Looked over a conversation yesterday that FL and I had in 1992 and at that point he did characterize us a being “a little bit different,” and saying that it really didn’t matter and that each sides gives and takes. (Wish everyone else in the world could figure that one out). So, I guess I am reading the acceptance thing wrong, but acceptance is a cornerstone of all solid relationships. You will need to see if this is an issue that Friend has with you and others.

  11. Don't Do It says:

    Well said, Been There. As you know, I wholeheartedly believe that time and space are what is required in these reconnections.

    I felt the moment I first heard my FL’s voice a year ago that he was EXACTLY the same person. It was a trick played on me by the sound of his voice (which hadn’t changed one bit). After one week of conversations, we went our separate ways and I was convinced he was in no way the same sweet, open boy he had been.

    Now I know that boy is still in there. There is just so much more on top of that now. A huge layer of life experiences, disappointments, regrets, triumphs, so thick that I had to dig through it to find him.

    At first, I don’t think he wanted me to find him. He tried to hide beneath all of those layers. It really was slow and required two steps forward and 1 1/2 steps backwards. Still not there yet, but I’ve caught a few glimpses of him again and it’s been worth every tear I’ve shed.

  12. neverends says:


    I love what you said there……”so much more on top, huge layer of experiences”. It’s interesting, when I don’t hear from him, he often says”things had piled up on him” and reading what you wrote….that has been my interpatation when I do not hear from him.
    When I heard his voice…….I was thrown back in time……exactly the same

  13. Pragmatic Dreamer says:

    Everyone: Thank you very much for reading & responding to my story. I suspected that I would find it helpful to post here, but I had no idea how healing it would feel to just BE HEARD. I so appreciate your virtual “pats on my shoulder!” I think that you ladies are extremely kind to do this!

    gonecrazy: Your take on Friend’s memories rings true. Not knowing how much could really be repression and how much could be a simple unwillingness to remember was at the heart of the questions I had about how much control you thought Friend might’ve had over his memories.

    I know next to nothing about his life now. I’m not sure how recent these changes have been for him. When Friend told me about his name change in his first email, he referred to it as related to a reconnection to his heritage, and he said he changed it in the mid 1990s. So if the name change really did coincide with a lifestyle change, it would mean that he’s been out as a gay man for 20 (out of the 30) years!

    ROAR: Thank you for your encouraging words. And I think that your advice to Adam is a great idea, because finding someone very familiar with the concept of former loves would be so helpful to him (and Dr. Kalish practically invented it)! :-)

    Don’t Do It: You are so on-target with your observations about all that Friend has had to deal with. His sexual orientation would be a lot, but his career is also really demanding. Anyone would find it so. I can’t even imagine the mental energy he’d need to expend to be successful at it, knowing about his ASD issues (and from what I can tell, being so far on the periphery of his life, he’s very accomplished in his profession). I’m exhausted just thinking about it! (And to be honest, I’d have rather found Friend as a bus-riding janitor –not that anything’s wrong with that!– if he could still be that sweet & humble man I used to know; I’d have only been sad that he wasn’t living up to the potential that I knew he’d been gifted with!)

    I do think that the concept of separating the two “Friends” is important to my healing. Who Friend is now really isn’t the person that I used to know, but I probably have to be a little careful that I don’t take it too far. :-) It’s more than a little tempting for me to want to vilify this stranger who has taken over my Friend’s life! But I should be able to both respect the man he is now, while treasuring the man Friend used to be (–it sounds schizophrenic but I think you know what I mean).

    Been There: Hmm… if he is bi, then that might help reconcile a few of the inconsistencies in my mind. Even though what everyone said made sense about Friend always being gay but in some form of denial about it –and this even jibes with Friend’s own declaration about there never having been any romantic feelings– when I go to my memories of Friend’s signs of affection and physical attraction to me, they seem so genuine –especially the example that you brought up: his reaction to my engagement and marriage. If he was just gay, wouldn’t Friend have been –at least on some level– relieved by the news? The particularly sad but special memory I carry is the sound of his voice when he’s telling me that he loves me. It would’ve had to be so very difficult for him to even say those words, so why would he put himself through that (plus the many times he pushed himself out of his comfort zone to try to make physical contact with me) if there weren’t bona fide feelings? (Unless he was THE most amazing actor, and I was completely taken in!) I find it to be so frustrating and confusing when my head is telling me one thing must be true but my heart insists differently! Bisexuality is the only theory that might reconcile the two.

    The other issue that would make a little more sense if Friend was bi involves the question of why he wouldn’t want to see me now. If he was bisexual, he’d possibly be concerned that his significant other might get jealous. –But that brings me back full circle to: But no! Friend doesn’t even think of me as a past romantic relationship! …Ugh, this is crazy. Maybe I should just stop trying to figure him out; he’s making my head hurt!

    I am left, though, with your other insight about Friend maybe being too embarrassed to come out as bi –and that makes sense, too. I’m afraid that I’ll never get to know anyway, since Friend stayed consistent with his MO of giving me just the barest amount of info he possibly could. :-(

    Regarding “You would have to go forward with Friend, because he definitely does not want to look back.” I’m so sad to say that I believe that this is completely accurate. And because this isn’t a real FL situation like all of you have, there just isn’t any “forward.” If there’s no past, then there’s nothing to build any sort of relationship on! He is quite simply a stranger to me –and me to him. And the bottom line is that that’s the way he wants it. THIS is the saddest truth of all.

    Don’t Do It & Been There: I get what you’re saying about the layers –and a lot CAN accumulate after 30 years apart. I’m so far from Friend’s life, though, that I haven’t even gotten close to his top-layer! He has made it abundantly clear to me that I meant nothing to him in the past, so now I mean less than nothing to him in the present. There is no future. …Which is why I’m at the graveside and will be needing to walk away.

  14. Pragmatic Dreamer says:

    Has anyone heard how Adam is doing?

  15. Been There says:

    “He has made it abundantly clear to me that I meant nothing to him in the past, so now I mean less than nothing to him in the present.”

    No man cries at a woman’s wedding if there are no feelings present. Look at his actions!!! The emotional ones are genuine. He is definitely bisexual and you may be adding a lot of confusion to his life.

    Also, you need to get on the blog. Contact Di directly.

    Don’t Do It -

    You always add tons of reassurance. With such a strong relationship with FL it is good to hear of the two steps back. Will comment more on the blog later. Trying to get SOME work done.

  16. Been There says:

    Great to see that we can pool our thoughts and come up with some answers to questions that linger in our minds. Think of how much time could have been saved if humans had to debrief periodically.

  17. Adam says:

    I’m still doing bad. I’m not depressed like I was from lack of sleep but I am SO lonely! I have to act happy when I’m so sad.. I’m so angry that, because her husband came along years ago, the girl I fell so hard for is basically dead to me.. PD said it perfectly “in a way, this is me …standing by his graveside, rounding up any random, compassionate passers-by who might be kind enough to join me as I deliver this eulogy, my very personal story of love and loss.”
    I just can’t let go of the chance that one day.. A long way down the road, I will hear from her.. But it breaks my heart that it won’t matter because we will have already lived lives and had thousands of memories.. But they won’t be together.. I can’t stand my wife.. She’s everything most guys would want, but I have no romantic feelings for her.. I dread being intimate in any way with her.. It’s not just because I’m in love with someone else.. She just isn’t the one for me.. But I don’t want to leave and break her heart again, especially because today is her bday and next week is our anniversary then a few days later is our sons bday..

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