Dr. Romance in The One That Got Away

When Dr. Romance was a child growing up in the small town of Rockland, New York, there was a small post office, which was a small room with a separate entrance in the house next door. Rockland’s official postmaster was Clara Weiss, who looked very old even when I was a very small child. She was what we used to call a “single lady” or spinster, who had dedicated her life to taking care of her mother, who was disabled, and also not quite balanced. Mrs. Weiss had one leg and would often run out of the house and crawl around the yard, yelling strange things. Clara, as can be assumed, did not have much of a social life. After her mother died and Rockland lost his small post office (we had to go to the slightly larger town of Roscoe, about a mile away), Clara went to work at the central post office, about 20 miles away. There she met a co-worker, and when she was 73 years old, I remember we gave her a lingerie bachelorette party. It really is never too late to fall in love. Clara moved in with her husband and they spent about 10 good years together.

A few years ago, a friend and former student of Richard’s, who was in her 70s, reconnected with an ex whose marriage proposal she had turned down in her 20s because of a drinking problem. In the intervening years, they both married other people, had children, and lived full lives. Fifty years after her first romance, when they were both widowed, he tracked her down, she went to San Diego for lunch with him and didn’t return for a week. They too got married and spent some happy years together.

A very dear friend of mine, who lives in another city and has been divorced for many years, has lived happily for a couple of years with the man she met at university and decided not to marry. They both married other people, had children, got divorced years ago, and reconnected last year. They are happy together.

In addition to these stories of reconnected love, I often see clients in my practice get back together after breaking up or getting divorced. In fact, some couples come to see me after breaking up several times due to fights and disagreements, but there is always something that brings them back together. Surprisingly, many people start dating again after getting divorced or separated. I believe in the power of love, and if your heart yearns; It’s okay to get close to a first or former love; as long as you do it correctly.

They may never have resolved the previous relationship satisfactorily, or one or both may have matured and become a more suitable candidate for a relationship. Many people find that they appreciate each other more after they’ve been apart for a while. Also, as I said, I have seen several couples happily reconnect much later in life, after having marriages and families with other couples.

It depends on how accurate your memory is and how good or bad reality feels. If it’s good, then you really think it was love at first sight. If it’s bad, do you keep what I was thinking? It’s very easy to romanticize someone you’ve never really known; reality never collides with fantasy, so the ideal person is not tarnished. You remember a rosy image of perfection. That’s hard to let go, if you never get a reality check.

Can this really work, or will it just fall apart again? Here’s how to see if you and your ex can make it work.

Dr. Romance’s Guidelines to Improve Your Odds With Your Ex

* Consider seeing a therapist on your own, for expert help deciding if you’re looking for this old flame for the right reasons; and to help you gain perspective on what might need to be fixed.

* Make a careful first contact: strictly Hello, how are you? For example, if you see the old flame on Facebook, try sending a message and asking them to be friends. Don’t say anything about still having feelings. Your former love may well be married now, or even gay. You need to figure out what’s going on before you make a move.

* Be aware if forgiveness is needed. Did you hurt this person’s feelings in college? You got hurt? Old unresolved feelings can linger for a long time and flare up when you least expect it.

* If you get a positive response, go very slowly. Rushing means that you are trying to avoid some truths. If it’s going to work, it will be better if you take the time to build a better foundation than you had before.

* Treat it like a new relationship. Start from the beginning and do it differently; it might work this time.

* Analyze what went wrong last time and consciously try to fix old problems. If you can’t honestly talk about what went wrong and what to do differently, you’ll never change anything.

* Make sure your ex is as determined to improve the previous relationship as you are. If he or she is blaming you for everything that went wrong, disaster is imminent. If you’re blaming your ex, that’s just as big of a problem.

* Insist on couples therapy for both of you. Pre-commitment therapy can help you figure out the pitfalls and whether you have resolved previous issues.

After all this, you may still find that it is too late to remedy the problem that led to the breakup. You may find that you are holding on to a fantasy that is not supported by reality. If you try to rekindle an old love and it doesn’t work, then you are faced with letting it go, again.

You might even need to try harder because the breakup finally overcomes denial and the fantasy that acting out or not cooperating is okay. We also have a lot of cultural mythology about I’ll Never Stop Loving You, which says that holding on and tormenting yourself with this lost love means you’re truly in love. But holding on to an impossible lost love is unrealistic.

You must understand that a relationship is a partnership and requires the work of both partners to be successful. The initial stage of romance is not supposed to last, the relationship is supposed to become a real life partnership, and that requires paying attention, learning and growing. It’s not a fairy tale, it’s a real life love story and it’s worth the work required. If you give nothing, you receive nothing. Love is something we create by working together, and one person cannot force it.

Holding on to a lost love can become toxic: persisting in showing up at your ex’s house, calling or showing up at work, threatening physical harm, calling your ex’s family and friends, or otherwise interfering with your ex’s life, don’t it will only push your ex away, it is illegal in many states and is defined as stalking. Sometimes attachment is encouraged, consciously or unconsciously, by an ex who doesn’t really want to be with you, but doesn’t want to ‘hurt’ you or is still receiving benefits (financial help, sex without strings, your laundry, willing to take children more than their share) that he or she does not want to endanger. But this one-sided arrangement won’t make him happy, and it’s probably time to move on.

Once you’re attached to someone, it’s very painful to let them go. Since most of us like to avoid our feelings, we don’t want to grieve to let go. But, when you’ve had a loss, there are a certain amount of tears you must cry to let go; keep crying is the fastest way. Also, the dissolution of the relationship might not have been your idea, so you’re clinging to a dream, in denial. And letting go is the way to find the love you want.

I want you to love, whether you rekindle it or go ahead and create something completely new.

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