After 16 years of researching couples who were separated long ago and tried reuniting years later, I can tell you that people are asking the wrong questions when they try to get to know prospective romantic partners: their sexual history is not very important. Ask about their high school sweethearts!
If they do not want to talk about it, or you see by their facial expressions or body language that you have tapped a nerve, be wary of getting serious with this person! They have a deep love that preceded you and may come back to haunt both of you. Ignore this information only at your own risk.
In this Age of Social Networking sites like Facebook, contacting an old flame just to say hi is easier than ever. It can seem so innocent; no cheating is intended. But old feelings for a teen sweetheart often come back, unpredictably. Obsessive thinking about the lost love takes over, even for people who had no thought of a romance when they made contact with the lost love.
My research involves more than 3000 couples surveyed worldwide, ages 18 to 95. Many people who contacted lost loves reported that they just "wanted closure." But there is no closure. Even when there is a rekindled romance and it ends, there still may be no closure. People may always love the old aspects of that lost love from years ago - or those old aspects of themselves that the high school sweetheart brings to the surface. Some adults can't get rid of that, no matter how much new information they get. They might be able to accept that the lost love romance will never work for them, but that may not close all the old feelings.
If someone is in a committed relationship, he or she may have to learn to live with those feelings, accept them as part of one's life, and dismiss them each time they come up. That's not as easy as it sounds! And it's a lot easier if someone hasn't seen their lost love. Once a phone call is made, or worse, a face to face meeting occurs, there is no going back to the way it was.
Many people who were and are interested in the topic of rekindled romances told me that they were afraid to buy my book, Lost & Found Lovers, about lost love reunions, because they didn't know how to explain to their significant others why they would want to read a book about that topic. But these people, especially, should read about rekindled romance, and they should talk about it with their new loves early on, before they get into trouble!
Married men in particular have reported that, even though they had talked about their sexual experiences with their fiancees before they were married, they never talked about old feelings for lost loves -- purposefully. They never got over their lost loves (see my blog about romantic men). That is a much more dangerous topic than sex: feelings lurk in the heart, hidden from the significant other like a ticking time bomb. "Move on" is a media term, not a psychological term.
If couples would open up, before marriage, about their feelings for old flames, that would make them less vulnerable to affairs with these lost loves if they are ever contacted. Secrets take on a larger significance than they sometimes deserve, just because they are hidden. Putting your current partner on the alert is a good thing... if you really want to stay in that relationship.
For many people, these feelings are normal, they won't go away, but that doesn't mean they have to be acted upon, or that it would solve anything or prove anything by acting upon them.
If a person in a committed relationship is contacted by a lost love, it is usually safe for that person to write back, politely. Otherwise, the lost love will feel like he or she was never cared about, and that causes tremendous hurt. After all, the lost love may have written with innocent, although naive, intentions. As long as the committed person is sure that he or she is not interested in resuming anything, one or two emails catching up on the years apart probably won't hurt. But that's it -- and he or she should tell the current partner.
Yes, there are people who can and do remain Facebook/texting friends with their lost loves and never get into trouble, but it is not possible to predict who can do this safely and who will wind up cheating. It' a risk to your current relationship.
If a person does not want to tell their significant other, and writes secretly, that is not innocent: it is preserving the right to secrecy and thus to whatever comes of it. That is a recipe for cheating.
When a teen sweetheart resurfaces, there is so much denial; adults return to high school thinking: "It can't happen to me! I won't get caught! I am careful!" Teen idealism is age-appropriate in adolescence; but during adulthood, when there are serious consequences, like young children involved, perhaps it's not worth the risk.
Most people do not have any longing for their lost loves. 70% of my 1600 survey participants who had never tried a reunion (a control group) did not want one. But that leaves 30%...
Before you make a commitment to a person, ask about their high school and college sweethearts. If they still long for someone 5 years or more after the breakup, think long and hard about what you are getting into. You will always be second best, and if the lost love returns...
Copyright 2013 by Nancy Kalish, Ph.D.