Ghost of Boyfriends Past

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Second Chances

The following three couples took a shot at hooking up once again -- via the Web, a high school reunion, and just by picking up the phone. The results are astonishing and offer a cautionary tale:

Bill and Sharon

"Bill and I were college sweethearts, and we were inseparable," says Sharon, 49, a public relations professional now based in France. "We spent every hour together cracking each other up. But after graduation, it was time to get serious, and we had to face up to the fact that our parents opposed the match on religious grounds." Unable to stay together against family wishes, they split, and didn't speak for 15 years.

Fate came a-knockin' in the form of mass e-mail sent by a mutual friend. "I saw his name on the e-mail list and I just thought I'd drop him a line," Sharon says. Bill responded to her note, which developed into a deep, emotional correspondence that lasted two years. During this period Sharon divorced her husband (for unrelated reasons). Finally, on Valentine's Day weekend of this year, Sharon and Bill met and enjoyed a weekend holiday together.

"It was like we'd never been apart. Like going to Fantasy Island," says Sharon, who also says her fears of looking old were unwarranted. "I was thinking 'oh gosh, I breastfed, I have a belly, my hair's got gray in it,' but all he saw was the me he remembered. And it all came rushing back."

Both Sharon and Bill returned to their normal lives, but they felt horribly torn. Bill has a family and feels it would be selfish to leave them. "In a way, I'd like to do a 'same-time-next-year' kind of thing, but then I think, how can I survive a whole year without seeing him again?" says Sharon. Neither knows exactly how to handle this situation.

The Expert Says

"They're hesitating," says Kalish. "But I don't think they'll hesitate for long. I'm not happy that their reunion turned into an affair, but I understand why it happened: this was a powerful connection, and they had unfinished business together." Now that the relationship has gotten intense, Kalish predicts that they'll find a way to be together, or if they do decide to stay apart, will feel pangs for one another for years to come.

Evelyn and Ted

"I never forgot Ted when I went away to college," says Evelyn, 43. "But by the time I got back, he was married and had a kid, so I got married too, and I thought I had moved on." They lived in nearby towns, never running into each other, for 15 years. Then they both ended up going to their high school reunion. "Our eyes locked," says Evelyn. "The years fell away. Name the cliche, and it happened."

They began an affair -- and that was enough. It's been 10 years now, and neither has plans to leave their spouse or family. "I want this to stay as it is -- in this bubble," says Evelyn. "Real life would just mess it up like it did the first time. This way, we stay perfect for each other, and return to our families energized." For them, a lost love, found at an in-person reunion, became a present digression.

The Expert Says

"They haven't really reunited," says Jacobs. Evelyn and Ted's relationship doesn't exist in the real world, and it's not clear whether it could. "For whatever reason, this suits their purpose." However, he points out that "adolescent love has an intensity that more mature relationships just don't have." These two could just be grabbing at that intense feeling, since their later loves proved disappointing.

Nancy and Steven

"I met Steven on the first day of classes at college," says Nancy, 50, a marketing executive in Florida. "We were inseparable for the rest of our four years, but when we graduated, I was a free spirit and had to go to New York to seek my fame and fortune. He waited for me, but when I married someone else and had a child, he gave up and got married himself. To someone who looked just like me."

When Nancy divorced, she returned home to visit her parents and called Steve. He drove over to show her his brand-new baby. "We looked at each other over the car seat and he said, 'This should have been our baby.' And I said, 'I know!'" They both admitted that they considered themselves soul mates, and began planning an exit. But while Nancy slipped out of her marriage easily, Steve got some sobering news: his wife had gotten pregnant. "He wanted to leave her, and I said no, he had to stay for at least five years," says Nancy. "And he did."

Those years passed as Nancy and Steve met in motels, waiting for the right time for him to extricate himself. Contrary to what usually happens in TV movies, he actually did it, and he and Nancy married eight years ago. "It wasn't always easy, but knowing we could have missed this opportunity altogether made us work harder to get through the hard times," says Nancy. "We're each other's true loves."

The Expert Says

"Timing is everything," says Jacobs. "Maybe you are perfectly suited for someone, but you just aren't ready to commit. If you meet that person years later, when you are ready and you can take on the responsibilities of long-term love, everything can be different." In this case, of course, the risk was high, and the difficulties were huge. "This situation is certainly not ideal," he says. "You sure wouldn't want to structure your life this way if you had the choice."

"When you reunite, it's a powerful connection, and it's become trendy because of the Internet," says Kalish. "But the basic principle is the same: if you go looking for a love that was interrupted, the feelings that arise may not be in your control. If you want to protect your marriage, don't go there."

In the end, even a quick trip through Kalish's site proves that the human heart does not always listen to the brain it's connected to. As happy and secure as you think your relationship is, it's not impervious to a bolt of lightning. So if you find your fingers wandering curiously across the keyboard, and you find yourself yearning for a sweet sweet taste of yesterday-pie, put down the mouse and go for a jog. And give your husband an extra kiss. He doesn't need to know why.


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