OK to Email Old Boyfriend?
Q: Fifteen years ago, after dating my first real love for three years, we broke up. He was also my first sexual partner. I started dating the man who would eventually become my husband, and we have been married for eight years. That breakup was painful, but I was totally into this new guy, and the old bf had a lot of problems anyway. We didn't really talk after that. Recently I contacted him out of the blue, and got a response. He said he had looked me up many times and still had not gotten over me. He is married, as am I. I have been obsessed with this for about a month. What should I do? Is it okay to keep a friendly e-mail correspondence? -- Nancy, 35
Dr. Susan: Your definition of "friendly" and your husband's are going to differ in a major way on the matter of the old boyfriend. Tell you what: Play it safe and ask your husband what he thinks about your staying in touch with your first real love. After you scrape him off the ceiling, begin being honest with yourself. Your marriage, after eight years, has lost some of its glow. Sex is sometimes (if not always) hum-drum. When you remember the first guy, you only recall the good stuff, the exciting parts. No problems, no hassles. Reality? What's that?
It's easy, when we're annoyed with our real-life partner to whom we've promised lifelong commitment, to think back to a happier alternative. Hey, I'll just contact my first lover and, oh, just see what's up with him. Hmmm. He's married. I'm married. What the heck? Let's just chat and enjoy the kick. But no, Nancy, I'm not going to let you get away with lying to yourself and to your husband. Obsessing over a past lover means you have to stay away from all contact for as long as it takes to get him off your mind. And meanwhile, you can make broad hints to your husband that sometimes you'd like to try something new, that you don't believe you have to sink into a plain ordinary marriage like so many other people do. Change something about your everyday reality rather than dreaming about being all high-schoolish and starry-eyed about your first guy all over again. Of course, you may fantasize all you want on your own, and then bring that sexual energy home and make good use of it.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.