Sticky Bonds

Lost Loves, Romances, and Families in the 21st Century.

My Lost Love Is My ... It's Complicated Part 2

A role reversal, when lost love feels like the spouse
Nancy Kalish, Ph.D.
This post is a response to My Lost Love Is My ... It's Complicated Part 1 by Nancy Kalish, Ph.D.

As I have talked by phone, by email, and in person, with married men and women who have been in lengthy lost love affairs, I have noticed something that surprised me at first: the lost love takes the place of, and emotionally becomes, "the true spouse."

Even when people willingly let go of their lost love affair partners to return to the commitment of their marriages, even when they have chosen their spouses as being better for them than their lost loves, the women in particular have a lot of trouble reconnecting with their husbands sexually—even those who reported having good sexual relationships with their husbands before the reunions. That doesn't necessarily surprise me. What surprised me was the reason that the women (not the men) gave for this: if they have sex with their husbands, they would feel like they were cheating on their lost loves.

Over the course of the sexual affair—with all the reminiscing about past experiences and emotions, then the current emotions and reports of daily living, along with the sexual intensity—the spouses and lost loves change places; the lost love comes to be seen as the real husband, with the actual husband seeming like the interloper.

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Many women remain unable to change their full loyalty back to their husbands and be sexual with their marriage partners again, even though they would like to. There is a barrier for them that is difficult to cross. The marriages dissolve after a few years, even when the women love their husbands, and even when the most patient and loving men—knowing their wives have been unfaithful, forgiving them, and seriously wanting to move forward—get tired of waiting to be first place again.

A recent Twitter discussion titled, "It's Okay to Cheat If...", revealed support for this. A popular response was: "It's okay to cheat if the person is your ex."

Unless marital sex is initiated by the spouses, even if the woman "does not feel completely right" about it, the reversal back to the primacy of the marriage cannot happen.

Nancy Kalish, Ph.D., is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the California State University, Sacramento. She is the author of Lost & Found Lovers.

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