May 02, 2008

Lost Love: Guess Who's Back?

I stumbled onto an old Psychology Today article that I thought was interesting. It is called Lost Love: Guess Who's Back?

It is relatively long so I won't post the whole thing here, but I will provide some excerpts and a link to an Enya video that felt appropriate.

Today, old lovers can type a name into Google. The act seems to be casual, whether it actually is or not. It's so easy to reconnect that many people look up old flames without appreciating what's at stake. Most of these romantic reunions, says California State University at Sacramento psychologist Nancy Kalish, are between first or early loves—those relationships that took place between one's teens and early 20s.

According to Kalish, the country's foremost expert in rekindled romance, lost-and-found romances are surprisingly successful, as long as both partners are not otherwise attached at the time they reconnect. In Kalish's initial sample of 1,000 lost-and-found lovers, ages 18 to 95, nearly three-quarters remained together after a decade of study. When these past lovers married each other, their divorce rate after four years tallied in at no more than 1.5 percent. Usually, second marriages are relatively fragile: In the public at large, nearly one-quarter of all couples who remarry get divorced again within five years.

How to explain the endurance of rekindled first love? "Many of the couples grew up together or shared friends and values," says Kalish. Whether they were from the same hometown or met in college, "they spent formative years together and became each other's standard for all romances since."

Yet for all the power and resilience of rekindled romance, Kalish has discovered a dark side. More of the encounters are now unpremeditated, and many of these people are swept away by feelings they didn't know they still had, placing marriages—even good marriages—at risk. In her latest sample, more than 60 percent of lost-love reunions involve affairs.

The Lost-Love Project

Nancy Kalish was teaching adolescent psychology at the University of California in San Francisco in 1993 when she began wondering about her college boyfriend. She got his phone number by writing to their alumni association, and that first contact reawakened their romance. She took a sabbatical and moved to New York to be with him; they got engaged. Yet problems emerged. Kalish found herself shocked and hurt the day he drove away, never to be heard from again.

At the time, Kalish assumed—mistakenly as it turns out—that most rekindled loves, like her own, were saddled with past problems and doomed to fail. Curious about the phenomenon, she decided to conduct a scholarly post mortem of her own relationship. She designed a questionnaire and began seeking a population to fill in the blanks.

Lost-and-found love affairs were common, she learned, and uncommonly successful. Most of the people Kalish met during her earliest research had been separated by circumstance: long distances and family moves, stints in the military, disapproving parents, the uncertainty of youth. The lost lovers felt their separation had been unjust, and now they finally had the chance to set things right.

"Those forced apart by parents harbored great anger," she says. "Some had put off marriage and even lost their chance to have children as a result." The reunions were often supremely vindicating. "He kept kissing my face at the airport, and after 20 years he was saying, 'You're beautiful, you look fabulous,' " one woman in Kalish's study recounted.

Such love may sound fantastical, sure to vaporize in the light of day, but Kalish says that nothing could be further from the truth. "These are love relationships that never ended, not fantasies."

If you read the whole article you'll see that it covers both the good and the bad of these rekindled romances. Maybe it is because I am a sentimental old sap, but I find it interesting. Not to mention that it really raises a ton of questions.

What do you think?


Doreen Orion said...

This is really interesting, Jack. So glad you posted a link to the whole article. It's on my list to read this weekend.

V-Grrrl said...

Ah Jack, you know my story...this was especially intriguing in light of recent events.

Michael said...

I think, if you need to go looking up your college love life, something must be seriously wrong with your current love life.

Jack said...


Glad to be of service.


I though that you might appreciate that.


I disagree. It is not a black and white proposition. You don't have to Google a former lover because you are happy or sad with your current.

Sometimes it is nothing more than curiosity. The question is whether you do more than look them up.

Maria said...

Tell me more; tell me more. Three weeks ago, I reconnected with a 1st love after not being together in 37 years. Alot of old feelings came rushing back. What's it all mean? We both feel that we're too old to waste time at this point in our lives. What are the odds of this actually turning into love again? We're both single and available.

Jack said...


Good luck with that. It sounds like there is potential there.

Maria said...

Thank you, Jack - I'm hopeful.

Maria said...

and cautious...

christy said...

I will be reuniting with my first love in 6 weeks whom I have not seen in 37 years! We have been talking on the phone weekly since my Divorce in April and first thing he said was I have never stopped loving you...We went together for 3 years in High School and were planning on getting married and my father was transferred to Georgia from we fell apart from each other. He has been trying to find me all these years and even contacted family members WHO DID NOT TELL ME HE HAD CALLED ! and finally I had registered on our HS Alumni Website and he called me about 4 years ago but I WAS MARRIED! Now is the time for us and I cannot wait until October
23! Wish us luck! THe feelings are STILL THERE! Christy

Jack said...

Good Luck Christy

Anonymous said...

I read this and it makes me glad; I know i wont be basing everything on hoping to get back with my ex...but it does shine hope on the possibility...i just broke up with my boyfriend...and i love him more and more each day...and even now that its over...i still want him..but i will move on..and i think it would be wonderful if he got the love back and it turns out that we were always meant to be together...really puts a song in my heart...thanks alot

Anonymous said...

I found this article after experiencing this myself. An old College relationship, one that was very intense, but ended due to geography nearly 30 years ago. Later rekindled to a degree while in the service and broken again due to doubts. 25 years later a social networking site brings us in touch with each other. Within a couple months we were feeling very much the same as we did as young adults, maybe even more intensely, certainly more deeply. Neither of us could explain it, both of us were married for 20 years, not in fairy tale marriages, but not in a horrible relationships either. Anyone with doubts should take this seriously. I was ready to leave my wife and 10 year old daughter. I had convinced myself my marriage was horrible, I was unhappy, and things were irreconcilable (mere rationalizing). Luckily a friend talked me down from the ledge, and my wife and I are trying to work through the issues (with help). I consider myself to be a very rational person, of above normal intelligence, and the last person to be susceptible to having an affair. Yet, I did succumb to this phenomenon, and still am suffering through it. I have cut off all contact with the other party, and now have severe bouts of grief, as if a loved one has passed away. If you are single, from my experience this can have a very positive outcome. If you are married and find yourself in a position to make contact with a past love, be extremely cautious. Even with this information in hand, I feel there is a high likelihood that something similar could occur, dependent upon the intensity of the past relationship. I know there will still be skeptics, those who believe I must have had severe issues in my marriage or character flaws that led to this. Let those who wish to doubt continue to do so. I know this was not the case, and if my story helps to save anyone from making a similar mistake, any barbs slung my way are more than worth that help.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous,...If you are in a committed relationship, don't meet the past love. If you are single (and they are single) go.
Been there, met my lost love, with only the intention of 'catching up'. What happened next would sound like a dime store novel.
Two committed bachelors were married in less than 8 months.