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April 3, 2009

Old Flames: Don’t Get Burned

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 9:31 am

Reruns from February 2, 1998

Laura writes: I’m 36, divorced (for over five years), and have been seeing a great guy for four months. But last week, a guy I fell head over heels for a year ago came back into my life (after having moved away for a year). I really like the guy I’m seeing, but have never felt that “magic” with him — as so wonderfully talked about in “Sleepless In Seattle” in the attic scene with the old wedding dress. I did feel “magic” with Mr. Return.

My plan of action is to spend time with Mr. Return on a non-sexual, nothing but friends basis to see if there is, truly something there. I want to be fair to the guy I’m dating, as well as to my soul — after all, I so want to find my destiny, and believe that abiding love has that “magic.” Do you have any other ideas? Do I sound like I’m totally barking up the wrong tree? Your advice is most welcome.

Lois Lane writes: I’ve been married for seven years (not happily) and about a year ago I met up with my ex-boyfriend from high school. It was like we never broke up. My husband can provide for me with material things but not emotionally. On the other hand my ex is there for me emotionally, but not for material things. Should I divorce my husband or should I stay for the sake of the kids? I’m so sad!

Carolyn writes: My husband and I are getting a divorce after five years. I married him simply because didn’t have the guts to say anything. First year was okay, but after two he cheated on me five times. I forgave him for some stupid reason and we moved away from our hometown. The last year and a half he has been anything and everything that I ever wanted in a man. But it’s still not enough so I told him to move out. And if that’s not enough, I’m still in love with the boyfriend I had before my husband. We still talk but he says he’s married for now, and you never know if we’ll get back together. He gives me hope. What I am asking is …

1) Am I making a mistake by leaving what seems to be a good man that I don’t think I ever loved? (We also have a 3 year old.) 
2) Will I ever love anyone again like I love my ex? And do you think there is a chance of reuniting? Please respond before mid-February because that is when I planned on filing for divorce.

Tommy Bot It writes: I am middle-aged and retain the title of “single.” Recently I got a phone call from my first love, whom I last saw around twenty years ago. She is currently seeking divorce from a troublesome marriage. Our lives have changed, but we both still have somewhat of a flame burning. Would it be a terrible mistake to pursue this venture?

Dear Laura, Lois, Carolyn, and Tommy,

Contrary to popular belief, Breakup Girl does not know everything. So, to answer your questions, I am borrowing heavily — as I’ve done before — from actual research done by Nancy Kalish, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist at California State University and author of Lost and Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romance (Morrow, 1997) .

First, here’s reunions 101 for everyone: 
The past: Why did you break up the first time? If the reasons were related more to ill-timed circumstances (s/he was transferred to Babelthuap) than to apparently irreconcilable differences (s/he didn’t like “Babe”), you’ve got a better shot the next time around. 
The in-between stage: How long has it been? Breaking up on Monday and reuniting on Tuesday because you’re afraid to watch “Baby Monitor: Sound of Fear” alone does not count. The more time that’s passed — paradoxically, the farther you’ve moved on — the healthier your comeback may be. 
The present: Hi, how’s your life? Are you adrift, casting about for direction, coping with a loss or change? If so, you may be hoping/groping futilely for a knight/Xena-in-shining-armor. But if you honestly feel like you have all your ducks in a row — except one really cute one — then you’re best prepared to say “I got you back, babe” (and best prepared to cope if Take 2 tanks). 
The third party: Is either of you married? Reunions — even those initiatied innocently — are highly combustible. Proceed with caution.


Laura: Your tentative plan with Mr. Return sounds reasonable to me. Use it as a chance to check his intentions against the above.

Lois and Carolyn: When your present is less than lukewarm, the past — especially when high school hormones are involved — can feel pretty darn hot. Still, your [re]attachment to past loves is serving to fill in what clearly are blank spaces in your marriages. It’s not so much a matter of choosing between the two men (especially for Carolyn) as it is a matter of using the situation to decide whether your current marriage is one you can stay in; your actual future with Man from Past is a secondary, separate matter. And about the “for the children” thing. I don’t mean to trivialize divorce or its effect on children. But I’m not convinced that two estranged parents create a healthier environment than a single, stable mom or dad.

Tommy: Tread on eggshells until her walking papers are good and filed; then run toward each other in slow motion in a field of daisies. One word of caution for your heart: she may very well have realized that you’re her true love — but there’s also the chance that she’s rebounding…backwards.


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