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Searching For Your Ex-Lover: The Value of Nostalgia

The search for ex-lovers is likely to increase in the future,

"Some people come into our lives and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same." —Flavia Weedn

Alongside the increasing rate of divorce and separation in modern society, we are witnessing a greater tendency to search for ex-lovers. Is such a search able to rekindle past loves and make them continue longer? The answer seems to be positive.

At the base of such searches are two reasons, a substantial one and a technical one. The substantial reason is related to the value of nostalgia for which idealization of the past is an essential element. The technical reason refers to the fact that it is now easier to track down these ex-lovers and communicate with them.

Nostalgia can be characterized as a wistful, sentimental longing for the past, often in an idealized form. The term nostalgia also has a medical meaning, referring to a form of melancholy. Nostalgia often refers to "the good old days," which become idealized in the current circumstances.

Nostalgia is a longing for circumstances that no longer exist or have never existed. Nostalgia has a utopian dimension due to the considerable role that imagination plays in it. Hence, nostalgia is often about a virtual reality that cannot be actualized.

In this sense, nostalgia is not always about the past; it can also be directed toward the future or the present. Nostalgia is a bittersweet longing as it combines the pleasurable feeling of the past with pain and suffering because of its absence; its content is very positive, but its absence generates pain.

Longing is a typical attitude of lovers who are separated from each other. Lovers think about their beloveds and suffer because they are not able to be with them. Hence, people like to hear that their lovers long for them, even though it means that the lovers are suffering, as the suffering expresses their profound love. The gratification we feel when our beloveds long for us is not an expression of pleasure-in-others'-misfortune, but an awareness of the beloved's love for us even when we are not actually together.

Romantic love, which involves the idealization of the beloved, also involves the idealization of the past. When asked whether true love remains forever, one woman answered in the affirmative and cited her first love as an example, despite the fact that she had angrily terminated that relationship six years ago.

Online distant relationships are often associated with nostalgia. Like nostalgia, online romantic relationships frequently involve yearning for virtual circumstances that cannot exist. In both cases, the moment we try to actualize our longing by transforming it into belonging, the longing often disappears. In this sense, by actualizing nostalgia or actualizing an online affair, we may kill the thing we love. The disappointment that can arise from a face-to-face meeting in an online relationship may generate longing for the relationship that existed prior to that meeting. As someone said, "I feel nostalgic about the day on which we never met for the first time."

The search for one's ex-lover is more popular these days, as it is now easier to locate that person (because of the internet and other instant communication technologies). Furthermore, it is easier to get out of a current romantic relationship and begin a new one, which might be more exciting (see here).

This search may stem from various reasons: (a) curiosity for the whereabouts of these people who rejected us or were rejected by us; (b) a kind of unfinished business that generates intense emotions; (c) the assumption that this time it might be different as either the two people or the external circumstances have changed.

Indeed, many people have tried to locate their previous boyfriend or girlfriend in the hope that they could rekindle some of their romantic sentiments. From the distance of time, our memory can enhance our love for our ex-lovers, making the relationship seem better than it probably was. This provides us with the justification for our romantic search and our belief in its probability of success. Being familiar with the person for whom we are searching gives the search greater legitimacy and provides us with a kind of cushion in the case of failure.

The idealization of the past and the comfort of approaching a familiar person offer some benefits to a search into the past. But after the excitement of reunion, the past difficulties may appear again. People do not change essentially, and the flaws of the past are likely to emerge in the future.

It seems that if the two people were just friends in their youth, the chances of them engaging in a successful romantic relationship in the present are greater. However, if they were involved in a committed romantic relationship and separated after not being able to make it work, either because of lack of love or incompatibility of characters, there is a smaller chance that they will find a happy end on this new occasion.

Nevertheless, being older and having gained further romantic experience might change the present circumstances to the extent that the current relationship with a person from the past is more successful than before. Sometimes, the failure of the past relationship was due not to lack of love or incompatibility, but to difficult external circumstances that no longer exist.

Statistics concerning second and third marriages indicate that they have a significantly lower chance of enduring. Does rekindling past romantic love have a greater chance? I do not have statistics in this regard, but I would nevertheless like to present the following suggestions.

People find it easier to have a sexual relationship with their ex-lover as there is a kind of familiarity and a shared history between them that facilitates such activity. In addition, given their previous sexual intimacy, they may perceive it as a more legitimate activity and less of a sin. In this sense, the conventional ex-lover does indeed constitute a threat and thus often generates romantic jealousy.

The ex-lover may also constitute a considerable threat from a more profound romantic aspect. The greater familiarity and the two partners' wish to return to each other despite the previous failure indicate the presence of a profound connection and the realization—or at least the hope—that the past difficulties no longer exist.

To sum up, it seems that the search for ex-lovers will increase in light of the ease of locating and communicating with ex-lovers, the greater chance of rekindling and even enhancing a love that once existed, and also the better chance of having a sexual relationship with a person with whom one has already shared a sexual history. The successful way to cope with this phenomenon is not to prevent the search, which is almost impossible, but to maintain the love and excitement in the current romantic relationship.

The above considerations can be encapsulated in the following statement that a lover might express: "Darling, even if you have traced your ex-lover recently, think carefully before re-engaging with her again; people do not enter the same river twice without getting very wet."