Don’t Get Burned by an Old Flame.

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Don’t Get Burned by an Old Flame

 

 

You’re on Facebook, looking up people and, boom, there he is.  Name looks right but is it really him?  Do you dare send a friend request?  What could it hurt?  The answer is more than you think.  

You’ve somehow survived these past years without this person in your life.  What’s so special about now?  You weren’t compelled to locate him last week.  It’s just, today, when his name popped up, you activated the “Remember-When” part of your brain.

The “Remember-When” part of your brain transports you to when you were years younger and pounds lighter.  He represents a point in your life when things seemed simpler, as time creates its own sort of physical and emotional clutter.  So, is it really him you’re attracted to or the “you” you were back then?  

You realize, sure, it’s been a couple of years so you start wondering who he is now.  The “Remember-When” part of your brain punts to the “What-If” part.  The “What-If” part of your brain takes the person he was then and creates a softened image of who he surely is now.  Oh, look, the intervening years have been kind physically and he’s grown emotionally into the person you always wanted him to be.  Of course, the “What-If” part of the brain is deeply rooted in fantasy and located on the backside of reality.

33 Surefire Ways to Screw Up Your MarriageFacebook can make it seem so easy.  All you have to do is click and recapture a magical part of your life.  You can pretend you’re someone you’re not and so can he.  As long as you never physically get together, who’s to know?  If things get too weird or your “What-If” image goes to mush, you can always unfriend him.  Reliving the past rarely lives up to expectations – and what you’re really enamored with isn’t him, it’s your own expectations.

If you’re currently in a relationship, why complicate it by adding another?  No matter how long you stay connected online, it’s a relationship that will take time, energy and focus away from any current ones.  

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If you were so compatible back then, why aren’t you still together?  Chances are it’s not the total him you’re still attracted to but an aspect of his personality that still resonates.  Figure out what that is and check to see if it’s missing in any current relationship, as you realize, yes, it is important to you.

Were you one of those kids who, when told not to touch something, had to do it anyway?  This impulse to connect online could be just that, an impulse.  In that case, it’s not about him; it’s about you.  Take a deep breath and don’t do anything for another week.  Think about why you’re so attracted to the idea of him, which is, really, all you have.

Top 8 Things that will Ruin your RelationshipOnline relationships aren’t real.  Can real relationships have online activity?  Sure, but the online component is just part of the full package, which includes face-to-face time and exposure.  Online you connect when you want; you write your thoughts instead of blurting them out; you create an illusion of reality by the pictures you post and information you disclose; the delete button is always an option.  Real-life relationships spill over into bad hair days, PMS, McDonald’s for dinner, three kids to bathe and get to bed on time.

Connecting to an old flame can seem a safe way to discover if there’s flare left in the flame.  But, in reality, it’s intersecting your life with another person’s.  A person different from the one you knew – with thoughts you don’t remember, family you don’t know, experiences you no longer have in common.  He’s changed; so have you.  There’s no guarantees those changes are compatible.  The more uncomfortable and the less compatible the changes, the more tempting it is to remain firmly stuck in the past.  It’s a bad idea to spend time and energy reliving and recreating a past relationship.  Relationships are meant to be lived in the now, with real people, who have a present context for you, what you’ve experienced and how you’ve grown. 

Should You Ever Stay with a Cheating Man?So, connecting to fill some fantasy is out.  Flirting, just to relive those thrilling days of yesteryear, is out.  Compensating for a current relationship deficiency by layering on part of an old one, is definitely out.  Making contact just because you couldn’t control yourself, is out too.  

So, what if he’s the one who wants to friend you?  If you’re able, the equivalent of a short and polite, “Hi, how are you?” online is fine if you can keep it there.  If he suggests the cyber-version of going up to his apartment to show you his etchings, bail out, nicely.

Written by Dr. Gregory Jantz for Hybrid Mom

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