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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Fanning an Old Flame

Dear Ask Shifra -

A few weeks ago, I ran into my old girlfriend.
We've bumped into each other a few times over the years, but for some reason this last encounter made me wonder if she ever thinks about our past. The truth is I do think about her from time to time. We didn't break up on bad terms but drifted apart due to the circumstances of our lives when we were younger.
All these years later I'm happily married with children and thank G-d for giving me so many of life's blessings. She is also happily married to a very nice, good person who treats her very well. But I know I never fully got over her and now ever since we met last have been thinking if I am the only one who you have ever heard from who saves a piece of their heart for an old flame.
I am also really curious if my old girlfriend feels the same way and I have considered asking her.

What do you and your readers think I should do?
Also, do you know if women have these same concerns and would a woman who
found out her old boyfriend has very fond memories of their
relationship be pleased to learn this, especially if she knew her old
boyfriend understands that it is impossible to become a part of her
life again and impossible to pursue those feelings?

Very Curious

Dear Curious,

Please, call me Shifra. I think there are a lot of people who still have a bit of feeling for an old love tucked in the corner of their heart somewhere but the important thing to realise here is that this love is just a memory and not your current reality. Whoever you were, or she was, or the two you you were together no longer exists. What you are feeling are really just phantom feelings. Attachment to something that is no longer a part of you.

As for discussing your feelings with your ex I can't imagine it would do any good for either of you.

Here are some of the possible outcomes to that conversation and why they would be a wretched mistake.


Outcome #1 - She loves you and always has.
Problem: You are both pretty happily married with kids and debt and all that - but this is LOVE we're talking about! So what will you do?! Leave your families? Have an affair? Torture yourself with thoughts of what could have been? It's headtrip central!

Outcome #2 - She thinks you are insane or reacts to you as if you are. Your question (as benign as you make it sound) totally freaks her out. She tells her husband or your wife. She avoids you forever. This all could happen regardless of her true feelings for you.

Result: Embaressment and general weirdness for all eternity - HEADTRIP!

Outcome #3 - She thinks it's "sweet."
Ok so what does that mean? Is she being patronizing? Does she love you back? Can you ask her more questions? Will that lead to outcome #1 or #2? See Above (hint: headtrip, headtrip!)

Outcome #4 - She doesn't have any feeling for you. You phrase your question just right so that she can answer truthfully with no fear or pressure. But no, there is nothing there, sorry Charlie. Then you feel depressed because you had that little spark in your mind this whole time and it was just imaginary. Why did you need to ask her, now you just feel stupid. Waaaa!

So as you can see, no good can come of this.

Now as for how the woman would feel about knowing her old flame still has feelings for her:

As a married woman who has been in that situation I can honestly tell you that "Some things are better left unsaid." (Quick! Name that song- Elie? Mirty?)
I don't think most women would mind knowing that you still think well of them, or that you fondly remember your relationship, but knowing you are still pining for them on some level could be easily construed as either sad or creepy.

Running into someone from your past can churn up a lot of old feelings but once you settle back into your life and regain your perspective you will realise that this is something that is really that cannot be persued because what you miss is long gone. I'm sorry if that sounds a bit harsh because I know that old feelings run very deep but until they mellow out a bit I'd strongly advise you not to react to them.



At 9:58 AM, Blogger Elie said...

Very rational, practical, and down to earth response. I would have to guess that many/most people harbor similar fantasies about friends from their past - or their present. But as you show, it's hard to see any possible positive outcome from voicing these thoughts to the person involved, or really to anyone else ('cept maybe one's shrink!).

This post reminded me of Jack's "The Story of Two Souls" from just a year ago. I commented then, as you demonstrate here, that the story was really sad because it could have no possible happy ending.

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Elie said...

BTW, lyric you quoted is the title of a Hall and Oats song.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Hey Shifra - That was a great posting -- wish there were more of these on your blog...

One point though -- your possible answers were spot on. However, you presented the following as a fact... "this love is just a memory and not your current reality. Whoever you were, or she was, or the two you you were together no longer exists. What you are feeling are really just phantom feelings. Attachment to something that is no longer a part of you."

This is good advice. Howeber, it may not neccessarily be the facts on the ground for the curious question writer. He may not agree with you that it's a phantom feelings...perhaps deep in his heart, he may wish it were more (or maybe he even thinks it is more, and he never really did get over his old girlfriend).

In any event...great post!

How worthy for Tu B'Av...

At 7:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great advice... I guess there is a reason that you run an ask column...

At 7:21 PM, Blogger Lab Rab said...

Very Curious,

Run away. Never look back. And be happy with the life and family that God has given you.

At 8:24 PM, Blogger Helene said...

Wow! Am I the only one that disagrees with this advice? I've been happily married to my husband for over 30 yrs. I've never been "unfaithful" or want to be. But I am still friends with my former boyfriends. One in particular, I still love. You cannot turn off feelings like water. So we chat on the phone and by email. We live on opposite sides of the country. But because we go back sooooo many years, this friendship is a blessing in my life. This man was a great comfort to me when my Mom died. He just "knew" all the right things to say from his heart. And likewise when his wife was tragically killed in a car crash, I called him and talked to him for hours. No, we no longer harbor sexual feelings for each other. Instead, it's a deep abiding love, caring and concern. My husband knows all about this, too. So I guess YMMV.

At 9:42 PM, Blogger and so it shall be... said...

Now here's an interesting topic. I dated a few girls in HS and college and occassionally fall back into the past just from hearing a particular song on the radio or a seeing old movies that reminds me of the past.

"Headtrip City" does sound like a good place to ster clear of, but I want to hear what people think about this.

You're interesting. Keep these coming!!

At 10:16 PM, Blogger Elie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10:17 PM, Blogger Elie said...

I'm not a psychologist, nor to I play one on TV, but I think the vast majority of marriages could not handle an external "love" relationship like the one Helene describes. Only a very exceptional person would be able to harbor such deep emotional feelings for a past flame, and yet stay 100% emotionally and physically loyal to their spouse. And it would take an even more exceptional spouse not to be a little jealous at this situation - and probably more than a little.

Shifra, your advice was on the money.

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At 11:17 PM, Blogger Eliyahu said...

Ah, so there is a reason why all you all women are so snoody!

At 7:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know abut you, but my wife is never snoody.

At 11:32 AM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Take a bite of some very cold Ice Cream--headtrip!

My wife and I ran into my old girlfriend once. After I introduced them, my wife said, "Oh, you're the short one."

After I shot her a look of horror, my wife rebounded quickly with, "Don't worry, Brian (our friend standing next to us) is short too."

I am confident that I chose the right girl.

Oh, also ran into a different one in a pizza place once. She said, "Oh, you're the one who calls him Markipoo."

At 12:15 PM, Blogger and so it shall be... said...

A few years ago, while visiting some friends on shabbos, I went to their shul for shalosh seudos. I found myself sitting next to a guy who when I introoduced myself recognized my name as one of his wife's ex-boyfriends. He made a few references to our relationship (I was 16 this was 17 years later) and sounded a little unsettled by siting next to me.

Very weird, uncomfortable, insecure sounding, and unpleasant overall.

Spouses should never acknowledge knowing much about their spouse's ex. Regardless of what they know.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Elie said...

"Met my old girlfriend in the grocery store, the snow was falling Christmas eve..."

OK Shifra, now it's your turn to ID the lyric!

At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dan fogelberg "Same Old Lang Syne"

At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone once told me the following about past relationships, specifically ones that happen when you are very young -- you never really get over them completely. These are the people that are the first one to bring out certain feelings that you have never have experienced before. You just need to be aware of this and it helps you to get through the emotions.

At 10:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You must realize that you broke up with the person for a reason...and your relationship probably wouldn't have lasted anyway even if you persued it again.
I had a boyfriend I couldn't stop thinking about for 5 years. In my head, I built up the attraction and the affection we had for each other. I bumped into him in Sweden of all places (we went to school together in England) and when we spoke I realized how it was all in my head. He wasn't this great guy I thought he was, in fact, he was not doing well in his professional or social life and he seemed to be lost. He was a lot better looking than my current husband but I did not desire him for a second after hearing about his life.
I think if you actually sat with her (and I don't recommend it) and talked you'd probably realize you grew apart and would appreciate your blessed life with your wife and kids.
I agree with Shifra's advice.

At 10:46 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Oooh I like all the assorted reactions this post is collecting.
Thanks to everyone for your comments.

Helene - Welcome to the blog- it does sound like you and your husband have a very special relationship, I don't think many couple could do what you do.

PT - Your wife sounds like a trip!
Now I see where the PT gets her audacious speaking style.

"One who will soon become known" - your name is a little frightening... when do you expect we'll get to know you?

Lab Rab- yes, but how do you really feel? ;-)

At 12:28 AM, Blogger GoldaLeah said...

Interesting that when I have such thoughts about old boyfriends it's OK. Not cheating. Not a threat to my marriage. Just some reminiscing.

The same thoughts in my husband's head would horrify me. Her? Why is he thinking about her? Is he unhappy? Am I not a good enough wife? Etc, etc.

Amazing what perspective can do, which is why these thoughts should never be shared.

At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shifra- The name was not meant to be frightening. Just a statement of fact. I'll become known soon... very soon...

At 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Just a statement of fact. I'll become known soon... very soon..."

....and yet, somehow, we're not too comforted by this fact.

At 2:27 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Is there any relationship between "the one who will soon become known" and "he who must not be named"?

Does this mean we'll soon know the long-awaited publication date for Harry Potter Book 7???

Grasping at straws, I know...

At 12:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Elie- I wish I could give you the date of the "last" harry potter book but unfortunately I don't have it. I also have no affiliation with HP or JK Rowling...

At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been in the position of finding out that a former ex still has feelings for me, and in my case, it was very creepy. I was involved in another relationship, which I'm thankfully still involved in, and it created a lot of drama. I agree with Shifrah's advice. Trust me, it's not best to drudge that sort of thing up, especially if you're both happily married. If you're happily married, there shouldn't be any reason to want to dig something like that up. Reminisce, but leave it at that.

At 7:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amanda, did the relationship with your ex end on a decisive note (i.e. you no longer wanted to be in the relationship, or vice versa) or did it end with some ambiguity as to whether or not you still had feelings for each other?

At 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, just found the site. My High School ex from 14 years ago has moved into the same house I lived in with my parents (and that we spent several years together). This has really taken me a back. I'm married now, but like your first writer, I am desperate to speak to her. I'm having great difficulty getting the whole thing out of my mind nd wonder if she still thinks of me. Does the fact sh has felt able to buy(!) the very property we spent so much time in together mean she certainly has no ill feelings of the time? We split only due to my insecurity and stupidity, not through any infidelities. I knew she had moved in because she had asked after my family via a neighbour. This really is tearing me apart inside. I thought I was well over this kind of feeling! My marriage has been supportive but not easy due to my wife's ill health (making me feel all the more guilty thinking what I have). I so long to speak to my ex just to apologise for my behaviour near the end (in retrospect probably youthful inexperience). I still feel so in love with my ex and would love to speak to her. What does all this mean? Certainly if she hadn't moved back into my small hometown I don't think I would have felt this confusion. She was a lovely person, whom I'd never forgotten. I'm seriously confused and would welcome any insight, Thanks,


At 12:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

She bought your parents' house?
What's up with that?
When you find out, let us know.

At 1:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well...I did fan the flame. It's a head trip. I am happily married, she was recently divorced. We maintained a good boundry and after three years she has once again married. I would love to have the friendship but male/female relationships are not that easy..especially ones that were very intimate in the past. Stay clear and move on

At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good advice, wish I'd read it sooner! I had thought there was another possibility: that both people needed some "closure" after an abrupt and unresolved ending a long time ago. But that's probably less realistic than the options you listed! It's hard when one person needs "closure" while the other doesn't. Time is really a strange thing.


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