Sticky Bonds

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

Just Lunch: After A Date With Your (Married) Lost Love

Sensual triggers spoil the illusion of control

Many happily married people want to see their lost loves. They firmly believe they can control their actions and not cross "the line" with sexual contact (never mind that the line is crossed long before that). Can they?

We are not in control of all aspects of ourselves. Even hearing the lost love's voice in a phone call will unexpectedly bring old emotional memories, that are sexually tinged, into consciousness. You can't prepare for this or hold the line against it. You are not in control.

After a face to face contact with the lost love, even for a relatively innocent lunch, emotions and obsessive thoughts break through. Add a "simple" hug, after many years apart, and the lost loves are in for trouble. Are you prepared to look into each other's eyes as you converse, see that familiar smile that used to be "just for you," and the voice with all its nuances of feelings?

And then, even if there is nothing more that day, imagine going home to your husband or wife and starting to fantasize about the lost love being there instead. Or watching a movie with romance in it and reminiscing through the different scenes of the film about moments with your lost love. The lights in the theater go on, or you turn off the TV, and reality tries its best to return; but those lost love feelings linger.

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Some people (and therapists) think that seeing a lost love will remove the obsession. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Days pass, after the lunch, and the obsession gets stronger. Why is "that song" on the radio; it must be a sign? You turn your head in the car, thinking you just saw the lost love walk by. Or there's a mental flicker of a lost love's presence in the food store, causing a double-take. With these sensory triggers, there is discomfort and mixed messages: it's disappointing that the lost love is not really there! You feel awful that you wanted the lost love to be there!

There may be familiar perfumes that waft through the store as you walk by the cosmetics counter, or a brand of soap or shampoo the lost love uses that is shelved in your local drugstore.

The lost loves may be out of contact, doing nothing wrong at this point -- it was "just lunch" -- yet the sensory triggers surface without being bidden and will not retreat at will. Focus shifts from the spouse to the lost love and back again in distressing randomness throughout the day.

Yes, the marriage is affected, whether the lost loves are sexually unfaithful or stick to strict limits.

 And if the lost loves continue to see each other, after all this unintentional sensory reinforcement in between, the physical relationship will become nearly impossible to resist. This romance starts to feel right and the marriage starts to feel wrong. After that, sex with the spouse can feel like cheating on the lost love.

It's a very strong and topsy-turvy connection, because the emotions in the current relationship are fed by the initial romance from years ago. It causes anguish to the lost loves who don't know what to do, and the families when the affair is discovered or announced. As Facebook might say, "it's complicated."

 Copyright by Dr Nancy Kalish

All rights reserved

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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