Sticky Bonds

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

10 Points About Lost Loves That Might Surprise You

Questions that journalists frequently ask me, and my answers

Here are some questions that journalists have recently asked me. Some of my answers might surprise you:

 1. Do you believe that there really isn’t anything as special as our first love? And why?

A: I repeated my lost love survey with a sample of people who have never tried reunions and just like to fill out surveys of all sorts. In age, locations, education, etc. they matched my rekindled participants. 56% of these adults reported that they have no interest in their first loves—the romances were not good: not getting along, cheating, drug abuse, physical abuse, abortion, etc. In fact, some of them wrote that they couldn't understand why anyone would want to reunite with an old flame! Another 24% reported that they would like a reunion, and the rest said they weren't sure.

So first love is special only for some people!

2. Why do you think the success rate of reunited couples is so high?

A: Those people who choose reunions are a special group of people. Rekindlers separated for situational reasons: moved away, parents disapproved, too young. Their first romances were at younger ages than the non-rekindlers, and their initial romances lasted longer. They never finished their love.

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Rekindlers grew up together and have a shared history, shared roots. They are similar in background, and they were friends years ago - a good start for any long-term romance.

Not all the rekindlers were first loves, only about 2/3.

3. I’ve read that the connections we make with people between the ages of 14–25 are some of the strongest we make in our lives. Is there any evidence to support this?

A: Yes, because of their shared history, high school students are still forming their identities, and they do so with their friends and romantic partners. And we never have as much time to put into friendships later in life as we do in high school, and maybe college. 

4. Can people feel resentment that they missed out on being with each other during their time apart? Can they feel angry about having wasted their time?

A: Some are angry and resentful—of their parents who tore them apart (26% of these couples). When they reunite, many grieve for the children they did not have together. And many feel that they wasted time with other people and hurt other people. Rarely, a reunited wife (I have not found it in the husbands... yet) cannot let go of these feelings of lost time, jealousy about the ex-wife, and what could have been, even after marrying her lost love; this can destroy the lost love reunion marriage.

5. When we meet a long-lost love, does it tap into a subconscious memory bank? Are our brains wired in such a way so that they appreciate having positive emotions come back?

A: Emotional memories from the past, including lost love memories, are stored in a primitive area of the brain as feelings. These emotional memories are very resistant to being forgotten—Alzheimer's patients may not know their own names, but they retain those old memories.

 But again, not everyone experiences this with an early love.

6. Why does rekindled love often feel more powerful than love the first time around?

A: It's a love that was interrupted. And it's an ambiguous loss ("Could it have worked out?" "Is my lost love still thinking of me?" etc.) 

7. Do you think that love that began in adolescence and love that begins later, in adulthood, are different?

A: People who reunited with lost loves they met when they were over 25 do not have the high success rate that the teen rekindled romances have. There is something special about the formative years. That's true of friendship bonds, not just young love. 

8. Do rekindled lovers learn from the mistakes they made last time? If so, please explain/give examples.

A: Very few people broke up the second time because of the same reasons they broke up the first time (2 participants out of my original 1001 sample).

The high success rate is not because they learned what they did wrong, but because the situational factors that broke them apart are gone.

9. Do you think there is a need to clear the air about what went wrong first time around?

A: That's often the given reason for making contact. But deep down, most people want more than a discussion of old problems!

10. Your website mentions that lost love reunions may not always go well. Can it be harmful if we look back at people with rose-tinted glasses too much?

A: Some people should not have tried these reunions: they were not getting along in high school, they had personality issues, so they find the same problems when they reunite (but these are not common reunions). And most often, they don't go well because some people who try reunions are married.

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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