He's Jealous of Her First Love
Q: My wife and I recently attended her high school reunion, which sparked a conversation about her first love, which she described as "intense" and "consuming." I have no reason to believe they've been in touch in the many years since their break-up, but I can't help but have a nagging curiosity about this old flame. Sometimes I wonder if she still thinks he was the love of her life, or "the one that got away." We've been happy together for years, so why am I so obsessed with this? - Nick, 40
Dr. Susan: That nagging curiosity, i.e., retroactive jealousy, is normal but deadly. We all want to believe we're not only loved, but the most intensely special and best lover our mate has ever had. And sometimes our current lovers don't realize that and say things that aren't helpful. Believe me, high school loves are ALWAYS intense and consuming, but when they're over, they're over. Adolescents feel everything deeply. Don't you remember? Whether it's passion, unfulfilled longing, misery, or joy, teens are feeling all of these emotions fully for the first time. And they think and act as if they're the first and only people in the world to have ever felt this strongly. Been there, done that, am left with only the memory of something that seemed all-powerful at the time.
What you need to know is that what happens during adolescence stays in adolescence, no matter what titillating reminders pop up during reunions. Old flames remain frozen in amber, never to age or get bad breath. Your wife loves you. I'm sure she doesn't ruminate about this guy a tenth or a hundredth as much as you do.
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Advice for Her
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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.