1. Married adults reported to me that they had talked to their partners about their sexual experiences before they were married, but they never talked about their unresolved feelings for their lost loves.
If couples would open up to each other, before marriage or after, about their feelings for old flames, that would make them less vulnerable to affairs with lost loves if they are ever contacted. Putting your spouse on the alert is a good thing...if you really want to stay married.
And before you are married, even if you are engaged, is the time to figure out if you belong with your lost love, not later. The feelings for that person will not end just because you get married. You owe it to yourself and your fiance(e)' to be sure you are marrying the right person.
2. What if a married person is inadvertently contacted by a lost love, is it okay for the married person to write back? Yes, politely and briefly. Otherwise, the lost love will feel like he or she was never cared about. One or two emails back and forth that do not delve into old feelings won't hurt. But that's it - and the spouse should know about it!
If the married person does not want to tell the spouse and writes secretly, that is not innocent: it is preserving the right to secrecy (and secrecy/anxiety intensifies the contact), and that is a recipe for an extramarital affair.
3. Many people who contacted lost loves reported to me that they just "wanted closure." There is usually no closure that way. If you have been obsessed with a lost love for many years, it will only become more intense with contact. Even if there is a rekindled romance and it ends badly, there still may be no closure: some people will always love the old aspects of the lost love, the sweetheart of their youth, and continue to hope that a romance can work someday. Some adults can't get rid of that feeling, no matter how much new and hurtful information they get during the reunion.
Some men and women are able to accept that a lost love romance will never work for them, but that may not close all the feelings. The best that can be done may be to learn to live with these feelings, accept them as part of one's early life, and then dismiss them (or enjoy the memories for what they are) each time they come up. This is not easy! But it is easier than looking for "closure" but getting an unwanted divorce instead.
People who want to keep their marriages should understand this before they search for a lost love and get in over their heads. Understand that the feelings for a first love are normal (and dreams are normal), they won't go away, but that doesn't mean they have to be acted upon, or that it would help to act upon them.
4. Paranoia comes on fast and strong for those who are in extramarital affairs with their lost loves. That is a very uncomfortable way to live. Many people who were interested in the topic of rekindled romances told me that they were afraid to buy my book, Lost & Found Lovers, because if discovered, they didn't know how to explain to their spouses why they owned a book about lost love. Even when the book came out as an ebook, they were afraid to have it on their computers or on a CD.
Those who do try to purchase something from my website may provide false names, for fear of my knowing who there are - but then their credit cards could not be billed (and as a psychologist, I was not a risk to their confidentiality anyway).
And yet, the paranoia is irrationally inconsistent. Those who join my website and post on the Members' Forums often feel so safe behind their screen names that they post very specific details of their lives -- on the open Internet, where their families might find it and easily identify them.
5. My newest survey research indicates that the likelihood that people in affairs will leave their marriages and marry their lost loves is less than 5%. Everyone in an affair thinks that he or she will be one of these lucky couples. But reality is 5%.
The Bottom Line: If you are married, do not just drift into an affair. Know in advance what can cause it, what you hope to get from a reconnection, what you can handle and what you are risking, and what the potential is for happiness with that person. Think before you act. Is a desire for "closure" or a dream or curiosity in itself worth risking your family, your mental health and peace of mind, your status in the community, your home, business and finances? That is your decision to make.
Copyright 2010 by Nancy Kalish, Ph.D,