Sticky Bonds

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

Wanting To Be In The 5% Who Stay Together

What do the lost love stats mean, and how are they misintrepreted?

In my last survey, I found that when one or both of the lost love partners was married to someone else (i.e., the reunion was an extramarital affair), only 5% of these survey participants wound up married to their lost love partners. One or both of them did not leave their marriages for each other. The affair ended, usullay not mutually.

The members of my website have chosen this statistic as a personal goal: "I want to be that 5%." But this is a misinterpretation of survey findings.

 There were 1,600 participants in the most recent survey, ages 18 to 95, in 42 countries. That's enough people to eliminate worry about "self-selected" bias. When you have more than 500 participants, the self-selected issue is moot, especially when the participants are, like mine, from all over the world, and people who chose to fill out a survey but didn't choose which survey they would be assigned to. And it's better than doing research with college sophomores who participate in research to earn credits in a psychology course and choose which study they want to experience. The survey has also been repeated with different lost love participants at different times and the results hold up, regardless of whether they contacted each other by old fashioned letter or social media.

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 So the results can tell us a lot overall. The data are particularly useful for revealing a profile of what kinds of ended romances were likely to produce lost love longings and reunions, and a profile of who was likely to have a successful reunion. And I did find that, if one or both of the lost love partners was married when they reunited - they reunited as affair partners - they were not likely to stay together. Only 5% of the participants in affairs reported that left their families and married their lost loves.

What does that mean for you? Nothing.

 Although the sample is large, the survey has been repeated, and there is a control group, the statistics only hold for the participants who took the survey. It's an overall look at that population. But each person on my website who is in a reunion has an unknown chance of staying with the lost love.

If you flip a lot of pennies, after a while a pattern emerges that shows that roughly half of the time it lands on heads and half of the time it lands on tails. The more coins you flip, the closer the pattern will adhere to this statistic. But each individual coin has the same chance of landing heads or tails. For each coin, the outcome is unknown.

If you have two brown eyed parents, and each of them has a blue eyed and brown eyed parent themselves, there is a possibility that the two brown eyed parents may have a blue eyed child. But if they have 3 brown eyed children, it doesn't mean the 4th will definitely be blue-eyed. Like the pennies, each child has the same odds of being born blue eyed or brown eyed.

I am over-simplifying a bit to make a point: My lost love statistics cannot tell any individual person how his or her reunion will resolve. Yes, it seems unlikely, according to the statistics I have, that an affair will change into a marriage, and so that's a cautionary tale. But for each person, the odds are unknown.

I can explore, in a consultation, the initial romance history of an individual that might make the reunion more or less likely to work. But there is no 5% to strive for. It takes a lot of time and soul-searching for each person in a reunion to decide what is best for him or her. The reunited couple determines the outcome, not the numbers.

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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