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.

If you enjoyed this piece please consider giving your blessing to my Facebook Fan Page. Thank you.

* 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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13,515 Responses to “Reuniting With Your First Love…on the Net”

  1. Anonymous says:

    “His” said granddaughter is not also “your” granddaughter? I’m a little confused. You’re saying he was babysitting the grandchildren and at the same time he had his girlfriend over?

    I can see that his being caught having an affair would upset your kids, especially when he was supposed to be looking after the grandkids. By the way, he’s not very good at sneaking around, is he? lol.
    Too funny.

  2. Aretha says:

    Maybe he was fed up to the front teeth with the babysitting and marriage. The “snowflake” generation can expect far too much of their parents and it can put an awful strain on their parents marriage with all their demands.

  3. wifey says:

    yes anonymous his grandchild. He already had a daughter from a brief first marriage

  4. wifey says:

    what is the snowflake generation?

  5. Anonymous says:


    You were married 26 years, and his older daughter must have been a young child when you met him, and yet you call the granddaughter “his” instead of “ours”, which I find a bit concerning. It seems to me that you have not been very accepting of his older daughter if you consider the grandchildren to belong only to him. Perhaps there has been some jealousy or animosity present for a long time, and this has caused marriage problems before the ex GF ever contacted him?

  6. Aretha says:

    I think Wifey is right to say the granddaughter is “his” she is not a blood relation to her and is a step granddaughter.
    This link best explains the “snowflake” generation. 🙂

  7. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think its a question of right or wrong, but I think it shows that Wifey doesn’t feel his grandkids are also hers. I know many people who have step kids and step grandkids and they never refer to them as “his” grandkids. Our words do show our attititude.

  8. Aretha says:

    Very true Anonymous it does show our attitude but personally I like to call people by what they really are, they talk about this new word “blended families” but quite often it is actually a dysfunctional family on benefits where children have had a few men call them dad or grandad. I had a boy ask me what the difference was between a half brother and a step brother one day. When I was his age I knew what it meant and divorce was hardly heard of back when I was a nine year old.

  9. wifey says:

    I resent the term snowflake generation. My husbands daughter has physical limitations that make it hard for her to work. She still works it just takes her a
    a little extra time to get to and from work and many times she knows she is not going to make it home in time for her daughters school bus and sometimes he watches his granddaughter. He sometimes does feel like he is being used as a babysitter but what can he do ? He is also a supportive dad and granddad. I agree with anonymous that words do count and maybe there was a chasm regarding my step kids There mother was resentful of our relationship and as a result of that he was not close to her when she were growing up I found it hard to make room for her. All of this contribute to what he did and to do it in our very own house adds to the hurt It also says to me he wanted to get caught .

  10. Anonymous says:

    Yes Wifey, I think you’re right. He didn’t care about getting caught as he didn’t try to hide the cheating very well.

    Maybe the issues with your step kids caused resentments that contributed to his cheating. Things build up over time, so it’s possible.

    Aretha, I know some blended families that function well. I agree divorce is more common than it used to be, but that could also be because people are more educated and more aware now that they don’t need to stay in an unhappy or abusive marriage. That’s a good thing; but I do know how difficult divorce can be.

    I think once you are in a unhappy marriage, you are going to face many difficult situations, no matter what you decide to do. Leaving is hard; staying may be even worse.

  11. wifey says:

    its both our faults that the marriage crumbled, what he did in our own was a stab at me. of course he could not hit me or anything violent , so he took a smack at me the best way he could by this. Afterward I decided to take a trip with a girlfriend and since he has some physical issues he stayed home. He used his granddaughter as the one to tell me a horrible thing to do to the poor child . They had been conversing for months online. I had been going through issues with my mother. My mother had a stroke and I had to take care of my dad who has ms at there house which is only 10 minutues away but I had to spend most of my time there plus still continue my job as best I could . He was resentful over this and lashed out the best way he could . Our adult children even his daughter side wih me and none will speak to him I have tried not to manipulate them to my side but facts are

  12. Aretha says:

    I hope you can move on Wifey and make a new life, not right at all for him to have his FL in your home.

  13. wifey says:

    I’m trying . Its not easy

  14. wifey says:

    ive met someone online We have been dating for three months Took him to my granddaughters dance recital last week my husband was there with another woman. We have been separated for a year so I guess things did not work out with his first love either. It takes a lot to shock me nowadays, but Ill admit I was shocked as hell. He did not approach us he sat on the other end of the room. He wont sign the papers hes balking over spousal support, its a big mess.

  15. Anonymous says:

    There’s always a chance that he just wanted out of the marriage, ,and he would have been lured away by any attractive woman who showed him attention. Sorry, but sometimes that’s the case, someone wants out of the marriage and they are unwilling to work at saving their marriage.

  16. Carla says:

    I wanted to write about some miracle that he wanted me back, that he cannot live without me, that he wanted me to run to Miami to be with him regardless, but as time goes by, I realize that my hopes are dissipating by the minute and that I love him like crazy. This is so painful, I have no idea of when this is going to end and if it will end someday. I am 58 years old and I should know better. All of my life experiences don’t mean anything now. I am weak and desperate. My faith is leaving me and cannot find myself anymore.

  17. PleaseGodCanIBeWithLL says:


    Just wanted to say you are not alone. Hugs!

  18. Without you says:

    Dear Carla,

    You are not alone. I have been there and so many of us have. It does get easier as time goes on. 6 years here and it doesn’t hurt as much or seem as urgent.
    I am still in contact so that makes it easier but in the beginning it is so hard to control the craziness. It is so painful and I understand that kind of pain. I always referred to it like grief. You lose someone and can’t do anything about it. You endure it and then it just numbs you and you go on.
    Hang in there. You will come to accept it.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Nearly 3 years for me and some days I do think yes it’s getting easier to deal with. We have had periods of no contact and that kills me, but it can’t be any other way. I really wish he’d never got back in touch.

  20. Out of my flippin bird says:

    Almost 2 years for me, its still so hard to deal with. I made the first contact, he was all too eager to talk, remember what we had,and first to say he still loves me, and wishes he could be with me. Sadly, not to be, and I hate this.

  21. Once again says:

    I haven’t been here for a long time, I think it’s been at least a year since I last posted here. Do any of the people who used to post here still visit? I remember a lady named Di or Diane who posted all the time, and someone called Sketch (I think). I don’t see their names here any longer.

  22. Aretha says:

    I still check in and post very occassionally. Don’t see many of the old names on now.

  23. Guiltridden says:

    @carla (and all those who desperately miss their LLs)
    I haven’t posted for ages but I can so empathise with what you’re going through.
    My brief story…My LL reconnected Oct 13 and we met 5 times when he was in my country for work but now his wife retired last year so this was the excuse for us to not be able to meet anymore. Long story short – I had so hoped there could be something between us as, although I left him almost 40 years ago (….I am now 62.) I soon realised it was for the wrong guy (who I stayed with all these years). The latter persuaded me to leave my LL at that time, as he was about to go abroad and I think quite honestly I chose the excitement at the time. ( Ashamedly I was two timing my LL as I was abroad at the time….no excuse but he had initially been unfaithful to me while he was abroad doing a masters and I was devastated) Oh how I wish I could turn back the clock……!
    I existed for so many years with my LL just being somewhere in the back of my mind and not really thinking about him although he had ‘stalked’ me a little by visitng my parents twice to see how I was doing (as I was always living abroad and he in another country). Thus I felt he still cared about me and must have thought about me occasionally. I stupidly thought he would be there for me one day if I needed him somehow!
    So in Oct 2013 my LL sent me a message via linked in and seemed keen to see me before we met, although our emails were not very personal in the 8 months leading up to our first meeting. Those were roller coaster months for me imagining how things would go, how he would look, what we would say….and most importantly if I should tell him that I had never stopped loving him ( if seeing him confirmed my feelings!). I hadn’t really thought things through just hoping something positive would come out of us seeing each otherbut how wrong could I have been! This should serve as a warning perhaps for those considering meeting up!
    That first meeting was awful as feelings came flooding back and I just wanted to hold him and have some intimacy whilst he just chattered on about his life over the 36 years we’d been apart. Basically I wanted so much for him to be back in my life, to get to know him again, have a future together……but he just wanted to know why I left him all those years ago….
    I thought I may never have seen him again after that and had decided beforehand to tell him I still had feelings for him as it might be the only opportunity so I had nothing to lose…..and he was completely shocked – flabbergasted’ in his words! He let his barrier down for a short while and confessed I had been the one and said we could have been happy, we could have travelled….showing he had never thought such things before probably? He told me he was happy, and after a couple of hours we had to awkwardly part and he tried to kiss me, muttering ‘oh what the hell’… I refused ( god knows why, feeling rejected that his feelings were obviously not the same as mine?)
    I felt absolutely devastated after this meeting that I’d hoped was going to be the start of having him back in my life… whereas for him it was really just a chance to ‘catch up’ but of course our communication was behind his wife’s back so for me there was perhaps someting there on his side….? I found myself crying uncontrollably, not knowing what to do or where to turn for help. ( I didn’t discover this site until months later).
    I wrote him a long letter explaining all my feelings etc which i should never have done but I was so desperate, I just wanted someone to know!! Obviously an ‘ex’ wasn’t the best person to try and confide in but I wasn’t really thinking straight at this point as I’m sure those who have been through this can symapatise with!
    After that we exchanged some emails via his work one ( having more or less told me he is neurotic about the internet and not to write personal things there) mainly to arrange some subsequent meetings where I basically wanted to know exactly how he felt about me…..why he got in touch etc, but with him not giving much away… perhaps as there wasn’t anything there. He was always a ‘gentleman’ in replying quickly to my emails but in just a cordial way.
    Did he see me out of duty? Trying to help me out? He said he ‘enjoyed’ our meetings or was he just pretending?
    I went for several sessions of pyschotherapy as I really thought I was going mad over this whole thing but she said I was just in pain anout all of this and agreed his behaviour had been odd..
    After last seeing him in January 2016 neither of us has written as it was generally me contacting him, apart from the initial exchanges. I can understand he doesn’t want to lead me on and I have now regained my pride and feel that I don’t want to be the first to contact him…. and more importantly what have I got to say to him? Telling him about what’s happening with my family etc seems so pointless. I am tempted to write in the near future as he’s coming up to retirement age in 2 years and then I wouldn’t have an email to write to …. and I’m terrified of this.
    I don’t think he will ever contact me again…. even though during our period of talking and writing he had told me he ‘loved me as a friend’ and at one point had said he would have been happy continuing to meet up occasionally…. I asked him once ‘if he’d been free, could his love?’….and he continued the sentence for me…. ‘have been rekindled… yes’ Which felt like a partial victory at the time, knowing that he must still have been feeling something for me..
    So I am now in the uncomfortable position of still wanting him in my life but having to accept that this is probably never going to happen, with us both being married.
    The last time we met was also devastating as he said ‘he wouldn’t have got in touch if he’d known’…. but never finished the sentence, so I assume meaning if he’d known how I felt about him. He said I’d been looking for signs….. yes, I was! And I think there were some… the bastard!
    I still think of him several times a day, particularly first thing in the morning, last thing at night, in the night and when watching a romantic film!!
    Time is a great healer as they say and I’m now focusing on my passion for doing art and filling my life with other things and trying to be happy with my lot in life. But the ache is still there… a little less every day but sometimes just something sets me off on the what if? trajectory again! You just need to focus on the present and future and blank out all the past but it’s not easy.

    After almost 4 years, I find I occasionally have happy moments and forget about him but I don’t think I will ever get over this completely. I feel I need to cling onto the hope that one day perhaps we will meet again and things might be different, although it’s only a chance in a million if he were to be free….

  24. Love of My LIfe says:

    I just checked here for the first time in a long time and I noticed Once Again’s post. Just want to let you know that us ‘old folks’ are still around. Personally, FL and I are still in touch after 7 years, still living on opposite coasts but do manage to meet up once in awhile. Don’t know if there ever will be a ‘happy ending’ but we are still in daily contact. Will never give up hope. Hope all my old friends are doing well … hopefully some happy endings.

  25. Out of my flippin bird says:

    @Guiltridden….I feel your pain. My FL and I talked via fb for months, very intimate convos, pic exchanges etc…, he said I still love you, and I still love him, he said he wishes he wasnt married. So now were no contact, he unfriended but not blocked me (guess its his way of still being able to check up on me), I cling to
    the hope of one day maybe he wont be married, and we’ll be together. I know that sounds bananas, but its all Ive got.

  26. 20:20 says:

    Hello, fellow FLADers 🙂

    It’s been ages since I posted here!

    You can’t imagine how surprised I was to see some old familiar names, when, out of the blue, I had a FEELING I should check out what’s been happening here on shrinktalk. But I’m also happy to see that many of you are no longer coming here on a regular daily basis. This means you are HEALING and moving on! Good for you! I always thought this was a soft place to land, (when a soft place was needed…) and I’m sooo glad we all found the support we needed here, when we needed it.

    I remember the painful days just after I re-connected with my fl, and how much I needed this place back then. Thank God I found this place when I so desperately needed your love and support, or who knows what would have happened! Lol

    God bless you all as you continue on your journey of HEALING. I wish you all the very best in life!

  27. Still In It says:

    20:20: I had the same feeling. It’s good to see you too as well as LOML. Thing aren’t always what they seem and these reconnections can have emotions running very high. I wish everyone a peaceful heart and to look for joy in their everyday lives.

  28. 20:20 says:

    Still in it,
    I so completely agree with you: sometimes things are not as they appear, not at all! Excellent observation.

    Yes, emotions can run so high that they take over our common SENSE and we end up making some pretty crazy decisions. Here’s to making smart decisions in the future, gang.

    So good to hear from you, too, Still in it!

  29. Down the Rabbit Hole says:

    Hello all: still here too. Not much has changed, FL and I talk often. We must be approaching acceptance of reality because I go longer periods with minimal contact, and I feel more at peace. I think it must be the same for him as well. We spend less time wishing for the do over, and I am not crying as often. I guess that is progress.

    Good to hear that some of you are healing. Those of you in anguish, it does get better. Hang in there.

  30. Anonymous says:

    20:20 and Still in It, what do you mean ‘things are not as they appear?’

  31. Have Faith says:

    Good question, anonymous

    I can’t speak from Still in it or 20:20’s perspective, but in my own experience I’ve learned with this whole FL thing, and with abusive relationships in general, that people LIE. And not only do they lie, they will continue to lie even when there is evidence proving that they are lying.

    In relation to online posts, such as this forum, it’s so easy to fabricate stories and to impersonate people. And as I’ve discovered , people will go to extraordinary lengths to make reality appear different than it really is, perhaps even so far as making fake social media profiles.

    Now I question everything and everyone… it’s sad to have to live that way, (and a few years ago I was a trusting person) but after everything that’s happened to me, I’ve had to suppress my natural inclination to trust most people and to take them at their word, especially online . Though I suppose we all can use a healthy dose of skepticism once on a while.

    But I’m also curious as to what 20:20 and Still in it were referring to.

  32. 20:20 says:

    Hello DTRH!
    Good to hear from you, and good to hear you’ve finally found your way out of that rabbit hole! Lol

    Anonymous (I wish people would just use their original names) my comment referred to the overwhelming and crazy feelings we experience right after connecting with our fl. I think we eventually come to realize those feelings aren’t the REAL thing and then we make the choice to walk away and to stay in our marriage.

    Have Faith, sorry I don’t remember you.

  33. Have Faith says:

    20:20…I don’t remember you either. I can’t remember anyone who posted with that name before, but my memory is not that good
    But I have posted on this forum since around the end of 2013, but I’ve used a couple of other names back then, so you may not recognize this one.

  34. Have Faith says:

    Sorry, but how is it progress? Is it PROGRESS to still feel sad, unhappy, and unsatisfied in your life, years following the reconnection?
    I guess the word progress means different things to different people.

  35. Down the Rabbit Hole says:

    Have Faith: It is progress for me because I am learning how to cope in this weird dynamic and I am moving toward acceptance that I can’t undo the past.

    I am not sure how to address your challenge concerning happiness. Especially since much of my life has been in an unhappy or neutral state. Optimism was elusive until I chose to find happiness where I can, and it took 40 plus years to do it.

    Ironically, I only experienced real happiness after the reconnection. It is just bittersweet and fleeting because of the situation. And that is what I have to accept.

  36. Have Faith says:


    I didn’t intend my comment to sound like a challenge. Sorry.
    I understand the slow acceptance of realizing the past can never be changed, and I agree that there is progress in that acceptance.

    My comment was more of an obvervation that if it’s taken this length of time and you feel only “partially” better, you are crying less, you are still wishing for a do-over at times, then have you really made progress?

    If you are still unhappy, now, do you expect that to ever change? I wonder if progress in this situation really means that you’ve accepted unhappiness as your lot in life and you have now given up all hope of being happy? And is acceptance of unhappiness really progress?

    There’s probably no good answer to that…just a thought for us all to consider.

  37. Down the Rabbit Hole says:

    Have Faith:

    This really is like the chicken/egg question isn’t it? I am going through some things weighing heavily in addition to the FL emotions. So yes, progress for me is moving from constant obsession to occasional obsession, if that makes sense.

    Until I stumble upon gems like the following that give me greater insight as to why my FL has my heart and always will. It explains my discontent with my marriage as well. Here it is, the 4 silent questions your partner needs answered:

    Do you see me?
    Do you care that I’m here?
    Am I enough for you, or do you need me to be better in some way?
    Can I tell that I’m special to you by the way that you look at me?

    I wonder how many of us are drawn to our FLs because they fulfill all of these needs when our spouses have or cannot? My FL always ticked these boxes, from the very beginning and now. My husband has not. It is a sad reality, one I am trying to wrap my head around.

  38. Have Faith says:

    My question wasn’t WHY you felt the way you did about your FL or your husband. I can understand the reasons why you no longer love your husband or why you feel so strongly about your FL

    My question was do you expect that situation to change? If it’s been an ongoing situation for a number of years, and there has been little change in your feelings, so you now just accept that you will never be happy in your marriage, or do you try to change the situation in some way? Is there a way to be happier?

    I guess it also comes down to what makes us happy and makes us unhappy. If we’re not happy with a marriage is it because of something our spouse is doing, or is it something inside of us?

    We can only change ourselves.

  39. Aretha says:

    Down The Rabbit Hole
    That four questions I would can say no to all – my husband doesn’t care a hoot about me never has really but I was just 20 when we married and as long as I worked and made good money for the first 6 years it wasn’t so obvious but once the children came along and I stopped making money to buy all the fine things in life he just wanted to do as he pleased and live the life of a single man and I meant nothing to him. My FL was never like that he made me feel special so to be back in touch for 7 years has made my life so much more contented. It’s a shame to think I ended up with a sociopath for a husband. If only I could turn back time I would be so much wiser but it was my own fault all those years ago not my FL.h

  40. Down the Rabbit Hole says:

    Aretha, I can relate, although my situation is not quite as extreme as yours in terms of husband.

    Have Faith, I hear you. Just that making a change now will not put me any closer to happiness where FL is concerned. My only real choice is to find happiness where I can.

  41. Have Faith says:

    Exactly, DTRH

    I think we need to evaluate why we are unhappy…is it only because we miss someone? Or is it because we live with someone who makes us feel unhappy. And if it’s the latter, we need to figure out what makes us feel unhappy about the situation.

    We can never change that other person, so if the unhappiness is due to how they treat us, we have only 2 options. We can leave the relationship, or we can live with constant pain and try to pretend it doesn’t exist.

  42. Hot Mess Nest says:

    I just found this post, then made myself some coffee, and read so many hundreds of comments. Wow. WOW. This first love business is just as bad for everyone as it is for me. I’m sort of stunned.

    I’m in freaking triage mode over here. Please indulge me to write my (long) story:

    My FL and I were together for 2 years when we were 17-19 years old. We were ablaze from day one, just totally smitten, and lived life adventurously, encouraging one another to take risks, be bold, and follow our passion. My life at the time was a bit of a mess. My father was physically abusive and I decided to move out of my parents’ home in the middle of my senior year. FL was my rock and protector. He kept me sane and safe, and a lot of nights made sure I had a place to sleep until I found stability, even if it was with me in a tent in the middle of the woods. It was an unreal amount of stress for a 17 year old girl, and I look back on those days knowing that without him in my life, I might have gone in a terrible dark direction. Instead, I became a confident, brave person.

    Things went south towards the end of our two years. He went about 3 hours away to school, and there, he became involved with hard drugs. He very quickly began to seem like a different person–hostile, defensive, and uncommitted. He cheated on me several times, told lies, and seemed just to be making erratic choices for himself. I was scared for his safety. I tried to stay with him, and finally realized he was too out of control. I was devastated to think that he could harm himself and I wouldn’t be there to help him. It was maddening. Ultimately, this is what broke us up. After the break-up, I was lost for a year. I threw myself into work, alcohol, school… anything to distract myself.

    Time passed. I eventually started dating other people. I wasn’t especially excited about any of the men I’d meet, but I started to at least enjoy their company again.

    And then, three years after our break-up, FL came back into my life. I was still living in our hometown, he had moved south for work after graduation. We were both single. We met for coffee. He seemed different the moment I saw him walk past the coffee shop window, and swing the door open. He carried himself like a man. It was obvious he was no longer using. He looked full of life, and color, and I felt so happy for him. We talked, and spent two days together reconnecting. Our last night together, we sat on a park bench overlooking a creek. I cradled his head in my hands, as he cried, telling me that losing me was the worst mistake he’d ever made. He begged for my to forgive him. I confirmed that I could never stop loving him. He asked me to move to be with him. Without making any plans, we kissed, and he left town.

    After he left, I felt elated, lifted, and stunned. But as the days passed and I began thinking of moving to the South, I realized I was afraid. I was afraid of what had happened before. I was terrified that he might hurt me again, but this time I’d be isolated from my friends and family. My heart was nearly destroyed the first time–if it happened again, would there be anything left?

    So I told him I couldn’t.

    He was gracious and understood, but clearly devastated. Inside, I knew I was making the wrong choice, but that fear was so present.

    It’s been 15 years since that happened. We stayed so close all this time, though we’ve not seen one another. We email, call, text. There hasn’t been a birthday that we’ve missed, or a milestone unnoticed. He married a girl some years back, and that was a a blow that it took me a while to accept. I married my husband a few years ago, and we have a toddler. Neither of our marriages are especially happy ones. It’s the perfect stage for disaster.

    His wife left him.
    My husband and I are having serious issues, though perhaps salvageable.

    A few months ago, FL texts me that he’s transitioning to his next job, and temporarily living back at home. He wants to see me when I visit. This isn’t especially out of the ordinary as we talk semi-frequently. What’s abnormal is that we’ve avoided seeing each other in person for over a decade, for obvious reason. But we both run full-steam-ahead towards the opportunity anyhow.

    We met for coffee, once again. Of course, I get the jitters beforehand that he’ll notice I’ve gained weight, that my body has changed so much since I’ve had a kid, and that he’ll see the years of loneliness and boredom in my eyes. But… He walked through the door, looked squarely at me, and says one word: “stunning.”

    “Oh, I am so f***ed,” I think to myself.

    But sitting there, eating breakfast and talking with him is like being home. His eyes and face tell a story of the things he’s done, the people he’s met, and the ups and downs of life. I’m so proud and delighted by the man he’s become in this moment. I tell him so. He tells me I inspire him. So it’s no surprise that within a day, we both admit to each other that this meeting was emotionally overwhelming, that we both believe we should have been together. I admit to him, finally, that I made the wrong choice out of fear. It’s powerful, surreal, and forever changing.

    For the next week, I spend as much time as I can with him. We hike and swim and talk. He hold one another closely, but don’t cross a physical line. I wanted to. Badly. But I can’t. My family is so present in my mind and I know I cannot face them if I do. FL and I pledge to one another that we will get through these difficult years, tending to the decisions we’ve made and figuring out a path to be together again… a path that causes the least amount of pain.

    I think we all know that path is bulls***.

    Fast forward 4 weeks. My husband is stalking the phone bill. He seems a number over and over and over again. He knows it’s FL’s, and asks me not to contact him again. I try–I mean, I really try–but it’s like a drug. I failed, and text FL. My husband sees it immediately and calls FL, confronting him about his contact with me, and telling him he needs to step out of the picture. It was actually nice to see my husband have some balls, but this was a wake-up call for FL and I. I told FL we would need to stop talking. We both agreed its for the best that I work on things with my husband to see if it can be fixed for the sake of my son. He tells me he’ll never stop feeling the way he does. Not ever. And that’s the last time we’ve talked.

    It’s been 4 days. I’m crawling out of my skin. I’ve lost FL again.

    How the ever-loving heck is anyone supposed to live like this?

    So I’m dealing with all the feelings right now, and all the thoughts I’m sure so many of you have had too: Am I supposed to live a lie for another decade? Do I even want to try to fix my marriage? What will this do to my family? (I know the answer here… it’s not good) What does trying to make my marriage work even look like?

    So there you have it. It’s fresh, it’s raw, and it’s my life.

    –Hot Mess Nest

  43. Still In It says:

    Hot Mess Nest – Since you’ve been reading you know many here have walked a similar path to what you’re going through right now and it isn’t easy. Losing contact with that person with whom you feel the greatest connection is a very, very hard and wrenching experience.

    I’m sure you can see why your husband isn’t comfortable with the friendship between you and your FL but seeing his side of things doesn’t make it any easier. I can tell you that, for me, time has been a great friend but it takes a long, long time for emotions to calm and to lose that feeling of panic when contact is lost.

    It may be hard to realize now but you are one of the lucky ones. You know you are loved by your FL and your husband must also love you since he is trying to keep your marriage together. Just know you aren’t alone.

  44. Hulking love says:

    The respect comes from honesty. If you know you will never have that with your husband, be honest about it and leave. Lying will bring more pain and heartache. Be honest, tell the truth, come clean and get on with it.

  45. 20:20 says:

    Hot Mess Nest, welcome! Love your name 🙂
    I think we all can identify with that name. Who hadn’t been a hot mess after connecting with a fl?
    I’m just on a coffee break right now, so I don’t have time to say more.
    But tons of

  46. Love of My LIfe says:

    @ Hot Mess Nest. I know how you feel. I believe you should be honest with yourself and your husband. I know some people might not agree with me but I feel like that because of how my life has been. I broke up with FL over 40 years ago due to him having an alcohol problem. I married my husband soon after and I stayed with him for our kids – thinking about FL the whole time. We tend to stay for the kids but is that fair to them, to you and to your husband? You and your husband can still have a good realtionship and raise your child together. I didn’t know if FL still cared until I bit the bullet and contacted him 8 years ago. I regret every day that I didn’t contact him 20 years ago. We are both still married and in our 60’s so it is even more difficult to leave now. We keep in contact even though we live far apart. I hope some day we can be together but it will probably never happen because of our age. I feel like I am just existing – not happy with my life. This is not how I imagined my Golden Years. I hope you figure out what is best for you to do – only you can figure that one out. Hugs

  47. Anonymous says:

    This flad stuff must really cause insomnia! I know I’ve lost a lot of sleep over the last few years because of all the issues that arose due to this. I see that others are affected, too. Still In It was up in the middle of the night posting, and Doctor Rob was updating posts in the middle of the night as well. Lol.

  48. Down the Rabbit Hole says:

    Welcome to the group, Hot Mess Nest. You have done one thing right in not letting the relationship become physical. I commend your strength on that. Once that line is crossed it becomes even more difficult to handle the guilt piled on top of everything else.

    I so relate to your description of FL, the protector. Mine was very much the same, always putting my welfare first.

    You described the dream of finding a path back to each other as bull****. Why is that? Have you already decided deep down that it won’t happen?

    I told my FL the only obstacles to being together is ourselves. We can decide to make it be. And yet we don’t.

    Paralysis is safe and yet agonizing. Decisiveness is scary and brings other pains.

    Many of us here are in our 50s and 60s. Time is not on our side. But I still have hope that good will come of this. For one thing, I have a much deeper understanding of the dynamics at play in my marriage.

  49. Have Faith says:

    Hot Mess
    The thing that alarms me the most about your entire story is that you say it’s “nice to see my husband have some balls”. Wow. On so many levels…wow. The other alarming thing is that your husband contacted your FL. Again…wow.

    The only person your husband should be talking to regarding your behaviour is YOU. Your FL had NOTHING to do with your behaviour. We all make your own decisions in life and we can’t put blame on other people for our choices.

    The comment that your husband usually has “no balls” indicates that there is a HUGE problem in your marriage. I don’t know if there are any men reading this today, but if there are, I wonder if any of them would care to comment on how they would feel to hear their wife say that about them.

  50. Hot Mess Nest says:

    Hi Everyone. Thanks for the comments and for the various perspectives. I really appreciate it.

    About my husband… he is a wonderful man, so I hate to think I’ve depicted ours as some throw-away relationship. He has his faults, as I do, he’s made many mistakes, and we’re not especially compatible, but he’s a good man and a good Dad.

    When he confronted me about my communication with FL, he accused me of having an emotional affair, which I confirmed was true. My husband already knew the story of my relationship with FL and that he was a very important person to me, but when he caught me talking to him excessively, I did tell him that I was still in love with FL and had always been. FL said the same thing to my husband when they talked briefly. So I do feel as though my cards are on the table here. My husband actually suggested that I go to FL and “figure things out.” I told him that was a really, really bad idea, and that it felt to me like he was just giving up. But soon after that, we started going to counseling and my husband seems to actually be fighting for us.

    He seems willing to work on his part and recognizes that we’ve been at the end of our rope for a while. He’s talking about making some really big changes, and I honestly never thought I’d see the day. Some of it is really exciting. I find that we actually have things to discuss at dinner, and are making plans together again.

    Of course, this great news feels completely darkened by the lingering suspicion that no matter what progress we make in counseling, I may always love my FL more, and long for him in a way that is unfair to my husband.

    I think @Still In It nailed it on the head. Time will be the only proof. My plan at the moment is to continue to have no contact with my FL, while I work earnestly towards fixing my marriage. If I truly cannot make it work, I’ll know I tried. We can separate and I will take a breather before diving into anything new. And in this scenario, if after what will likely be years, FL is still around and feels the same, that’s the timing in which we are together.

    It sucks. There’s no possible path ahead of me that I really want to “bet” on right now. They’re all equally challenging.

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