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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13,265 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.

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