There’s nothing like your first love. Which is why more and more newly single people are looking to the Internet to rekindle a decades-old romance. “These couples grew up and formed their identities together,” says Dr. Nancy Kalish, psychology professor and author of Lost & Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romances
. “They defined what love meant to each other, before dating became a game,” she explains. And while many of us might consider getting back together with a lost love, reaching out to someone who has been out of your life for years (and could well have a very full life already) can be tricky, unpredictable and potentially heartbreaking. But if you’re single and still have a soft spot for your former sweetheart, here’s how to use the Web to take that trip down memory lane.
Prepare yourself for the many possible outcomes
Before you start looking for your lost love, take a minute to consider the reasons behind your breakup and how much you’ve romanticized the relationship. “If you only broke up for situational reasons (say, you took jobs far away from one another), a reunion has a good chance of working out,” Kalish says. But if you suspect nostalgia has gotten the best of you, it might be best to let this one go — now. Look at it this way, says Kalish: “Unless you are able to tolerate all of the possibilities — your lost love is married, not interested in you, the rekindled romance could end in heartbreak — you should leave this alone. It’s crucial that your self-esteem be solid enough to handle the potential curve balls.”
Now, consider some uplifting news: According to Kalish’s research, 75 percent of reunited first loves remain happily together, compared to fewer than half of other unions. So if you’re ready to take your chances, the odds are definitely in your favor.
Set your “sites”
We’ve all searched for information online about our potential dates, but when you want specific results — like contact information — pages upon pages of search results can be overwhelming and time-consuming to sift through. Popular sites like Classmates.com and Reunion.com, which combined have more than 60 million members (80 percent of whom are over 25), have become the standard for tracking down old friends and former flames. And while these sites do come with a small fee, they can really streamline your search and are especially helpful if you’ve already exhausted the contacting-the-family option. “I was sure that one day Tim and I would reconnect,” says Denise Nash, a formerly single mother of two, of her high school love Tim Johnson. “But I was definitely
surprised to get an email from him.” Tim tracked Denise down through Reunion.com (hint: include your maiden name in your profile) after stopping by her parents’ house and finding no one at home. “I knew the moment our eyes met and Tim kissed me for the first time in 26 years that we would marry,” she continues. And indeed, the couple has already picked their wedding date. To search for an old flame without paying a subscription fee, try Facebook.
Know what to write
Once you do track down that special someone and are staring at a blank email screen, Kalish strongly recommends keeping it light: “Don’t start with ‘Remember me?’ Of course your ex remembers you! And definitely don’t say ‘You’re the person I should have married’ or ‘I never stopped loving you’ because the only thing that will do is scare someone away.” Kalish’s foolproof first email would start with something simple, like: “Hi, how are you? I’ve been thinking of you lately and I’d love to catch up!” And she suggests including a few things about yourself, like what you do for a living, whether you have children, or where you currently live, because that can inspire the other person to include similar details in his or her response. But definitely keep it short and don’t get too personal or emotional. As far as you know, your ex might be married or in a serious relationship.
Recognize the benefits of being older
According to Kalish’s research, the most successful reunions occur for members of a couple who were together as adolescents and who’ve been apart for a significant amount of time. Kalish suspects that it might be easier to reconnect when we’re older because we’re more mature and are better able to articulate what we really want in a partner. This was the case for Betty Southerland of Dallas, TX: “I broke off my engagement to my first love, Coney, because he was in the Marine Corps, and I thought I had to choose between my dream of becoming a graphic designer and being a military wife,” she explains. Luckily for her, after the end of a 15-year, less-than-perfect marriage, she decided to stop looking for men who reminded her of Coney and find the real thing. When she tracked him down through Classmates.com, he had just ended a relationship. The two were married last May.
So if you find yourself single and thinking about an old flame, why not do a little detective work? Sure, your former sweetie might be married or uninterested, but love does work in mysterious ways — and thanks to the Internet, you just might have a second chance to make it work with the one who got away.
Amy Palanjian writes for
Women’s Health, Prevention, Shape and