Jojo has written a journal entry at her website Simple Southern Spirit titled “Journal 7 – Lost Love” that I wish to respond to. The below essay is written in the style of a response to Jojo’s journal entry:
Jojo, you haven’t given much of an explanation about what “went wrong” with your lost love. I suppose my biggest questions are what does he think about supporting his future wife financially and what does he think about having lots of children? In other words are his moral values and his family goals reasonably close to your moral values and family goals. Related to this does he love you, particularly does he love you enough to perhaps move in your direction in terms of children and his duty to support you financially? He may not be in alignment with you regarding traditional gender roles and your emphasis on children right now but maybe that can change if he respects your moral principles and what you stand for and values you in particular and doesn’t want to lose you.
Lost loves are a very serious thing. People tend to form their strongest attractions when they are young; often 17 years old or younger. One of the messed up things about people marrying late, say in their late 20s, is that they are likely not marrying a person in the top tier of their romantic history; they are not marrying either their first love or one of their early loves (say one of their first 3 or 4 loves). The brutal truth is people do not have an unlimited capacity to bond romantically with multiple members of the opposite sex. Once you form a strong romantic bond with someone that bond never goes away and more importantly your ability to form a future romantic bond with a new person will be weakened. The purity movement or the chastity movement often talks about the importance of “guarding your heart” and not giving away pieces of your heart too readily. Also there is a strong emphasis on being marriage minded when “courting” rather than casually dating and the overall goal is to minimize the number of failed serious relationships before a successful marriage takes place. This all fits with human psychology very well and makes good sense. The key is you want to marry one of your first 3 or 4 loves before you get “burned out” and suffer a noticeable and important decline in your ability to form new attachments.
Forming a strong romantic bond with someone and then not “following through” with a successful relationship based on that bond is harmful. Just like it is not good to be sexually promiscuous it is not good to be love promiscuous either, to readily fall in love without the capacity to turn your love attachments into enduring relationships.
There is a bit of good news in all of this, namely that a lost or early love can be revisited successfully precisely because once the romantic bond is formed it is permanent.
Jojo, you’re still quite young at 19 and you write with a lot of passion regarding your desire for a man and your desire for children. This indicates your ability to form new attachments is still strong. This of course is all good. Still keep in mind that you want to marry one of the first 3 or 4 men you seriously fall in love with and form a strong bond with; forming a strong bond with a man generally being something that takes about a year. Also don’t be afraid to revisit past loves because first or early loves are the best. There is a problem if the man has already married someone else of course but barring a major moral barrier like that early loves take priority and you want to salvage them if at all possible.
Considering how young you are I am assuming this lost love is only a couple of years in the past, say 5 years at most. Personality wise neither you nor him have probably changed much since you last talked, people’s personalities tend to be very stable over time. Your values regarding gender relations and family goals are radical so that might create a serious problem if he is feminist or agrees with mainstream views of “equality” between the sexes. That is what I would worry about most regarding a possible reunion between you and him. Don’t totally trash your moral values or sincerely held desires regarding your future family life just to be with an old flame; you certainly can fall in love again. However don’t worry about him having forgotten about you or personality changes in the interim because he hasn’t forgotten about you (unless the affair was completely one sided in the first place and he never loved you like you loved him in the original relationship) and personality is very stable over time. I would worry about moral values or life goals having significantly changed in the interim between you two as that might be a serious problem. Another serious problem is if he has entered into a serious commitment, namely a marriage, that ethically speaking you are not entitled to break up. Don’t worry about personality changes or you being forgotten however because personality is very stable and romantic bonds don’t fade once established even after decades have passed.
It is important to consider why your relationship with your lost love ended in the first place. If his parents or your parents interfered in the relationship that means the bond between you and him is fully intact, that the problem was not the other person but third party interference. Likewise if you or him moved so that distance interrupted the relationship again that means there was never a problem in the actual dynamic between you and him. A more serious problem would be if there was an abuse dynamic going on between you two so that one person was hurting the other person leading to the split up. Also if there was an underlying personality clash the same problems will likely come up after a reunion since personality wise neither of you have changed. If the relationship ended because one person dumped the other the question is why. It is possible the dumping or relationship break up was due to immaturity or incompetence or bad judgment or unrealistic expectations; these all being issues that can be overcome. Also maybe the break-up happened because you or him had a mental health problem or a drug addiction problem or some other weakness in the person who was dumped where maybe the problem has been overcome in the interim so that the person who previously was not capable of being a good romantic partner now is ready to be a good romantic partner.
Another thing to consider. If you personally have changed significantly in terms of family goals or views of gender relationships since your break up it is quite possible that the other person has changed in the same direction you have so that you and the lost love are compatible with each other not because neither one of you have changed but instead because you have both changed in the same direction. This is not as unlikely as it may seem because mutual attraction implies having things in common and having similar backgrounds. What this means is that whatever forces led you to change your views on life, the same forces may have led your lost love to change his views on life in a similar way in a similar direction so that the compatibility between you two is maintained. Similarly your ability to move your lost love in your direction if you have changed and he hasn’t is enhanced because the similarities between you two will make him likely to understand why you have changed in the way you have sympathetically such that you can talk him into agreeing with you on the wisdom of the changes you have made relatively easily.
Responding to this paragraph in particular of what you said:
“I know young people develop flakey crushes fueled only on infatuation, but after all this time, every thought of him makes me smile, every memory we made makes me giggle. I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about him. I can remember every detail of his face. I realize I’m in love with him as he was. He could have changed quite a bit, as I have, but it’d still be nice to know him again.”
You saying “I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about him.” makes it sound like there was no underlying abuse dynamic going on between you two and it makes it sound like he was the one who dumped you and that you are not mad or bitter that he dumped you implying that maybe you understand or accept the reasons why he dumped you. This is all good in terms of the prospects for a successful reunion with him. For there to be a serious problem between you two it would have to be based on how he sees you rather than on how you see him. If you are not mad at him for dumping you it is likely that he was not hostile towards you when he dumped you either. This is evidence that there may not have been an underlying serious problem in the relationship dynamic between you two, that instead the problem is fixable.
Also how you describe things your relationship with your lost love was definitely not a “flakey crush.” If years later you still have strong feelings towards this man that means from your point of view at least your bond with him is real and serious. A “flakey crush” might be an apt description for a relationship that lasted a few weeks producing no lingering longings but it needs to be kept in mind that the first romantic bonds are the strongest and that a relationship formed in high school will actually tend to be stronger and more serious and more durable than relationships formed in your mid-20s or later. Most people by the time they are 25 already have a diminished capacity to form new romantic bonds with new people because they have already been seriously in love multiple times before.
You say “I realize I’m in love with him as he was.” True enough but he likely hasn’t changed. Personality is very stable and a romantic bond once formed never fades, never. Maybe he has majorly changed his fundamental views or fundamental values and that would be a problem if he has not changed in the same direction you have changed. Maybe he has changed in a positive direction, maybe he is not as immature or incompetent in relationships as he once was or maybe he has overcome a weakness he previously suffered from. Even after enough time has passed so that you forget the details of what all transpired between you two the strength of your romantic feelings towards him will be as strong as ever at the visceral or gut level. Your emotional memory of him will not fade even after you have forgotten many of the events or interactions between you and him. Over time your feelings and thoughts towards him will become dormant or inactive but they will never die or weaken, they will always be “still there” if the stimulus of his presence reenters your life.
You might say it is bad that human beings have a limited capacity to form new bonds with new romantic partners but it needs to be kept in mind that this limited ability to form new bonds is important, probably vital, to long term monogamous marriage. The thing is, if a man and woman marry each other when they are both 20 the romantic bond between them will be fixed when each of them still have a very high capacity to bond due to their youth and lack of prior romantic partners. When the man and woman are later both 40 years old the man’s love for his wife will still be fixed at the intense level he felt towards her when they first married at 20. Though his wife will have physically aged the man’s perception of his wife romantically will remain as it was when the bond between them was first formed when the woman was still objectively young and beautiful. The fact that the ability to form new bonds weakens with age and the prior number of romantic partners means that the break up of a marriage formed at a young age puts both the husband and the wife in a bad position as the second marital bond to be formed will be weaker than the first marital bond that was destroyed by the divorce. This is a strong disincentive for divorce even if one partner develops a significantly higher Marriage Market Value than the other over time (an older man for instance usually having a higher Marriage Market Value than an older woman).
So as a general rule it is good to dig back into the past and reconnect with lost loves when possible if the reason for the relationship break-up is fixable and the person you want to connect with is not married. Prior loves are stronger loves and the first couple of loves in your romantic history are most likely the strongest romantic bonds you have ever formed in your life. Of course better than digging up past loves is having married one of your first 3 or 4 loves and staying married to them but if you did not have the foresight to plan things that way and now you are single and stuck I would say go back through your past to see if somebody is still single or already divorced that maybe you can ethically and fruitfully reconnect with. Before contacting a lost love definitely do a background check on them to see if they are already married; marriage and divorce records are part of the public domain so the marital status of someone can be learned before making that initial contact. A lost love is very powerful and can definitely break up a marriage so from an ethical point of view it is necessary to leave a married lost love alone and let them and their families live their lives in peace.
From how you describe things Jojo I say go for it and try to reconnect with whoever it is that is your lost love. Of course you know more about the details of your history with him than I do but from what you have said publicly regarding him it doesn’t seem like there was a serious underlying problem in the relationship dynamic that would bar a successful reunion. I would say guard and stand up for your right to be fully financially provided for as a wife and stick with your desire to have many children but otherwise reconnect with him if you can (if he is still single) and work to alleviate his concerns that led him to reject you in the first place (if that’s how things went down originally). There’s no shame in trying to get back with him even if he is the one who rejected you.
Surprisingly enough rekindled romances with lost loves are very strong; they have very low divorce rates. As the article “Lost Love: Guess Who’s Back?” states:
“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.”
The same article also states:
“These relationships may be so indelible, so off-the-charts intense, because they’re forged in the hormonal fire of the teenage brain. True, teen romances often fizzle, and high-school sweethearts often don’t stay together after the prom. ‘But when the lovers get older,’ says Kalish, ‘they can mine the depths of that early bond.’
Those reunited with a first or early love after years are ‘simultaneously bombarded with the giddy, explosive, highly sexual but ephemeral chemicals of new love coupled with the profoundly satisfying, deeply relaxing chemicals of long-term love,’ says Kalish. ‘They are able to tap all that again only with the lost lover, with whom the bond was formed.’”
It needs to be remembered however that the power of a lost love also has its dark side:
“Lost-love reunions may linger in limbo—or they may destroy marriages. ‘The true victims are the spouses who never saw it coming,’ Kalish says. Indeed, of the more than 1,600 lost-love reunions she studied during 2004 and 2005, some 62 percent involved extramarital affairs (as opposed to 30 percent in the years before).
Most spouses don’t realize the risk when a partner announces that first e-mail from an old high-school friend, says Kalish, but if the friend is of the opposite sex, alarm bells should go off. Likewise, she says, ‘if you’re married, think long and hard before contacting that first love. Your life may be forever changed.’”
As far as general advice, guard your heart and don’t let yourself get strongly emotionally attached to a man unless there is a high probability of marriage at the end. You want to have a strong romantic bond with the man you ultimately marry meaning you want the man you marry to be among your first 3 or 4 major relationships; after that your ability to bond with a new man will probably have suffered significant deterioration.
One of the problems with modern society is precisely that emotional chastity and guarding your heart is not taught, even outright pre-marital sex is not discouraged, and this leads to people forming many strong romantic bonds that aren’t converted into marriages and instead just lead to heart break and weaker romantic bonds in the marriages that are ultimately formed. Revisiting a lost love relationship is a way to undue the damage caused by multiple failed prior relationships but lost love reunions cause their own problems if one or the other party is already committed to someone else.
Jojo, you are still young and your ability to form new romantic bonds is still strong so you have that going for you. Still, I would say go back to your lost love if you can do so ethically because he is not married and if he will conform to your basic demands in a husband; that he fully financially support you and that he supports your desire to have a large family.