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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12,661 Responses to “Reuniting With Your First Love…on the Net”

  1. Snapped says:


    You can easily find out the truth. Go online and view phone records.
    I am not sure there are grown men with snapchat. My teens use that.

    If there are passwords and phone cleaning apps, they are there to hide things.
    I would want to know so I could move on with my life. The hardest truth outweighs the lie someone thinks that I want to hear.
    Be strong and get the answers.

  2. anon says:

    liars say things like I’m sorry I’m mistreated you I was not a very nice guy they will never own it and say things like I’m sorry I lied to you

  3. Down the Rabbit Hole says:

    Snapped: the phone records are meaningless. He has tons of calls and texts because of his job. Trying to pinpoint any unknown numbers with lots of traffic is like looking for a needle in the haystack. His snapchat is tied to his Gmail account. My thoughts were the same as yours. I can’t think of one good plausible reason for a man in his 50s to have Snapchat, an app known for sexting and shenanigans. Confronting will do no good. He has never admitted to the one affair I know about and is adept at dodging the truth when he wants to.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I appreciate everyone’s comments and thoughts on my situation and I can identify with each and every one of you. We have all experienced this turmoil that’s reeked havoc on our lives. It’s a strange phenomenon that no one would understand unless they’ve been through it. That’s why we are all still here. Very few of us will have a happy ending. There are too many variables. Down The Rabbit Hole, I just want to let you know that what you’re going through with your husband is what caused my divorce. I wish that I didn’t waste the years that I did believing that he was going to change, not that I loved him so much, but I didn’t want to let go of the marriage and there were children to consider. However I became very familiar with the pattern, he would become so sweet and nice and considerate of me. Would bring home flowers for no reason, but meanwhile had another bouquet in the car, would offer to run out and by me ice cream, so he could call his GF. It was pitiful. But I let him stay until he decided he wasn’t happy anymore. Trust your instincts and get the proof you need.
    And here is my other issue. I’ve become someone who has the potential to destroy someone else’s marriage. At least my ex husbands GFs didn’t know I existed. I know fully well she exists and that she would like me to go away. How can I criticize my ex, when I’m involved with a married man? And our relationship goes much deeper then just an affair.
    I can barely live with myself these days. And the only one who can change this is me.

  5. Down the Rabbit Hole says:

    Anonymous: I can relate to how you’re feeling. After falling deeply in love with FL again, I understood how my husband could also slip. It made it easier to forgive. Unfortunately, it does nothing to mitigate the trust issues, especially when you begin to see patterns of deception. My FL experience is a one and only situation. I had never cheated nor would I have or will I ever again with anyone else. That is the difference I believe between the FLs and serial cheaters. To those looking in from the outside, they would see no difference.

  6. PleaseGodCanIBeWithLL says:

    I am so sorry for your recent losses.

    What you said about those pains not being as bad as FL loss, reminds me of a line in the move “The Fault in Our Stars”

    Talking about rating pain on a scale of 0 to 10, when her true love died, the main character said, “This is my 10.”

  7. Anonymous says:

    Dtrh, you are right, on the outside no one sees the difference. Even my closest friends don’t understand. I didn’t seek this out. Its not about a thrill or sex or ego. I want to stop the way I’m feeling because it hurts. This is not fun.
    William, I’ve wondered myself why he would have contacted me at this exact point in my life. He waited almost a year before getting the courage to message me. If he had contacted me then, or even a few months before, I really dont know how I would have handled it. I was still married, although unhappily, I never cheated, and I’m not sure if I would have carried on a conversation. I would have been definitely thrown though. My husband at the time, always accused me of still being in love with FL because I refused to throw out his letters or pictures of when we were together. Even up to the end of our marriage he accused me. Maybe I should have thrown them out, but seriously after 35 years of being together, why would he think that?
    My sister said that my mother (who adored FL, and hated my husband) sent him as a birthday present to help me get through what was to be and still is, the most difficult times of my life. And he has done that. We discussed in the beginning about our lives and I questioned his marriage, relationship, trust factor and openess with his wife about him being in contact with me. He told me his story and left it up to me to decide if I wanted to continue our conversations. I was so curious I agreed…and told him he would be my distraction. And it worked. For a while. I fought the feelings for a couple of months, but then I saw him on TV doing an interview. I watched him move, speak and mostly his eyes.. I just broke down and couldn’t lie to myself anymore. That was 7 months ago.
    So if this was my mothers idea, was it a joke? I can’t ask her, but at least there was going to be light at the end of the tunnel before. Now…I’m just in a tunnel.

  8. PleaseGodCanIBeWithLL says:


    We might be stuck in tunnels with no end in sight, but just the fact that we’re in tunnels, means we are traveling to somewhere. 🙂

  9. anon says:

    so then anonymous let me get straight, your fl is famous,?

  10. Anonymous says:

    @PleaseGodCanIBeWithLL: True and we never know where it will lead us! Thank you.

    @anon: If FL was famous, then I think I would have seen him before that. No not every one that does an interview on TV is famous. It was for a project that he was involved in.

  11. Down the Rabbit Hole says:

    Anonymous: try to limit the contact with FL if you can. I know, easier said than done. We talk once every couple weeks now and only when he initiates it. It is very brief.too. I expect it to become less and less. My heart is still breaking but I am better able to focus and slowly accepting reality. I think this is his way of letting go. It hurts and I still long to be with him, especially when I continue to have doubts about the integrity of the man I married. My FL contacted me at a time of turmoil in my marriage. I was lonely, tired of begging my husband to spend time at home (he has always been more devoted to work than to me). Then there was the outbursts of contempt to deal with. So like you, it was almost impossible to avoid what happened next.

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