Should I get in touch with an old flame?



Social media has made it temptingly easy to contact, well, everyone you have ever met.

This gets a little dicey when it comes to ex-loves or would be loves. For every story you hear about high school sweethearts reunited and married thanks to Classmates.com, there are probably fifty stories of someone contacting the guy they met on the Danube ten years ago and going through exactly the same fuckwittedness that caused the heartbreak then.

Chemistry doesn’t often go away, but neither do the reasons two people didn’t suit to begin with.

Contacting someone from your past has a lot of appeal. Maybe you remember younger, happier times and that person remembers you as you were then. The happy-go-lucky college senior, the vibrant young Capitol Hill bar-hopper. But to lean on this old image of yourself is to discount the years in between. They may not always have been easy but they were the years you lived. Attempting to start a relationship with someone based on a person you no longer are is unwise.

If you just want to hook up, be honest with yourself and with them. Depending on who was the rejecting party the last time you saw each other, that person might still be very sensitive. They may even be looking to get back at you, even if they don’t acknowledge this to themselves. It is often much easier to start a casual affair with whom you already have some background, but try not to let anyone get hurt.

So, after he friends you, pause for a second before you propose meeting for coffee. If you do, talk yourself down first. Yes, it could be awesome. You could totally click again and end up dating and then married. But you guys could be very different people now. You can’t build a healthy relationship based only on the past. Are they looking to have their ego stroked? Are you? That’s the first piece of advice – don’t have expectations. Easy to say, hard to do. The person might be in a relationship, married, engaged. It is disrespectful to insert yourself into someone’s life and make it more difficult.

If they don’t respond, or they don’t respond the way you had hoped, don’t take it personally. It is impossible for you to know what is going on in their life and the reasons they have for not rekindling a friendship or more are as many and varied as the minutes that have passed since you last saw them.

Yes, ultimately the responsibility for cheating or not (even emotional cheating) does lie primarily with the person who is attached, but it is fairly unethical to e-mail someone who you know had a thing for you for years who just got engaged and suddenly flirt with them for the first time.

If you haven’t seen someone in ten years, you don’t know them. They may be familiar, you may know a lot about them, but you can’t know them. So ask them questions about themselves. Go about getting to know them again slowly and politely. Don’t be pushy and don’t assume anything about them. Just relax and let your curiosity flow. Think of everything you have done since you saw them last and ask the questions you would like to answer.

If you have determined that they are single and they seem genuinely interested in meeting up, then go for it. Again, keep your expectations low, but you never know what could happen. Some couples were simply to young to be together and can work very well ten years later. Sometimes people had a huge spark but other lovers kept them from being together and when both are single, things might well work out.

Most importantly, if you meet someone from your past, make the relationship – whatever it is – grounded in the present. Yes, it is legitimate to reminisce and laugh about your past, but don’t dwell on it. If you are still angry about something someone did 17 years ago, you may just need to get over it. If you can’t, you probably should not be hanging out with them again.

If you meet someone you really cared about and you find yourself caring about them but something went wrong the last time, change your dynamic. If you were always passive, be assertive. If you were flaky, don’t be. If you were non-committal, get some courage and go for it.

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Posted 08-05-2013 2:25 pm by