Reuniting with your first love after decades: 10 tips

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They say you always remember your first love for good reason. Psychologists say they leave an imprint on your brain.

There’s often something almost magical about the first time we gave our heart to someone else.

It may have fizzled out, too young to survive the fragile stages of youth. It may have ended in tears and heartache, as the promise of love turned to disappointment.

Regardless, plenty of us fantasize about reuniting with our first love, even decades after.

Do you ever stop loving your first love? Do first loves get back together?

Here are 10 tips if you are hoping to reunite with your first love.

1) Decide what you are looking for

It can be useful to consider what it is that you want from this reunion. If it’s been on your mind to seek out your first love for some time now, why?

Maybe there is something in particular that you are hoping to find.

The joys of reconnecting with someone from our past can be incredibly rewarding. And you may just be looking for a trip down memory lane to see how your first love is, and how life turned out for them.

Are you simply curious and without expectations? Or Beyond that, do you have an idea of what it is you may want from them after getting back in touch?

For example, maybe you are looking to rejoin one another’s lives and see whether a friendship is possible.

Or you might be harboring some desires of getting back together and starting up again off from where you finished off.

Rather than rush in, you might want to spend some time having a think about what you really want from this reunion.

2) Beware of rose-tinted glasses

As you’ll see later on in the article, there are plenty of potential positives that can come from reuniting with a first love.

But we also have a tendency to romanticize the past. That’s why it’s important to ask whether the good old days really were so good.

Have you ever gone through a break-up, only to forget in a heartbeat all the times they drove you nuts, or made you cry? The memory has a selective habit of pushing aside the negatives when we are looking at things with longing eyes.

A similar thing often happens when it comes to first loves too. They are bestowed with this mythical glow of pure light. Maybe it is real, but maybe it is rose tinting.

In every relationship, there are good and bad times. Don’t only remember the good and block out the bad. Why did you break up in the first place and what has changed?

Some couples when they are younger do find that whilst the relationship was good, the timing just wasn’t great.

But if you split because of his terrible temper, or because she was a serial cheat, then don’t assume that things have changed just because a lot of time has passed.

Keep your eyes open and the peachy glasses off.

3) Recognize you will have both changed

One of the reasons why relationships don’t work out is that rather than allow people to be who they are, we often attempt to mold them into what we wish they were.

Through hopeful eyes, it’s easy to project the image of someone else rather than pay attention to what the other person tells us and shows us they are.

This is a likely pitfall of reuniting with your first love decades after parting.

You might have a strong idea of who they were back then, and there’s a good chance that some things will have stayed the same.

But for good and for bad, we all change over time. This can be a positive thing if you are hoping love will succeed this time around.

The stubbornness of youth can make way for greater wisdom in adulthood. As you both have lived and learned, you’re bound to have grown and changed as people.

4) Check in with your motives

Are you fed up with being single and worried you’ll never find love again? Are you in a relationship with problems and looking for a way out? Have you just gone through a nasty break-up and looking to find solace in the past?

A 2019 study discovered that we’re much more likely to think positively about exes when we’re single or haven’t fully accepted a breakup, and this can account in part for the reunion.

Apparently, men have more of a habit of thinking about the one that got away, so if you have ever wondered ‘do guys ever forget their first love?’ then the answer might be no.

It’s a good idea to dig deep and ask yourself whether a desire to reunite with your first love is truly about them and genuine feelings you still hold for them, or whether you are looking for something, and trying to pin those emotions onto an ex.

A good way to check whether you are projecting onto your first love is to ask yourself important questions like:

  • Do we both have feelings for one another?
  • Do we communicate well with one another?
  • Did we break up for small or situational reasons or something much deeper?

This can help you to get a better insight into whether you’re looking for your first love to “fix” certain problems you are experiencing right now.

5) Enjoy getting to know each other again

The excitement and promise of a second chance at love with an old love can mean it’s tempting to rush in.

Despite a strong sense of familiarity you might have, depending on how long you have been apart, there is lots to get to know about one another again.

Some things may stay the same, but people tend not to. The experiences you have both had during all that time apart are bound to have altered you.

To a certain extent, this fresh start needs to be approached with a fresh attitude.

It’s a good idea to take your time getting to know one another again without expectation or projection.

Some of the same rules apply as if you were just meeting and dating for the first time. Ask plenty of questions, allow things to progress at their own speed, and be prepared to go with the flow.

Take each day at a time and try to stay in the present moment, rather than getting ahead of yourself. There’s no rush.

6) If you’re already in a relationship, do you really want to go there?

If you know you still have romantic feelings for your first love, but are in another committed relationship right now, seriously consider whether it’s a good idea.

Reconnecting with a first love while married is always a risky game to enter into. People may not always go looking for an affair, but the reality is that affairs don’t just happen.

Affairs are a consequence of a series of potentially small and insignificant choices made in isolation, but that takes you down a certain path.

Short-term desire can have long-term consequences, for you and the people you care about.

As one man confessed on Quora, meeting up with his first love led to a 6-month affair.

“We decided to meet when I was in the state to catch up after 30 years. We were both married. During our time together we learned that we both were going through rough spots in our marriages. Honestly spending time with her felt normal and familiar. We had dinner, some drinks and ended up in my hotel room for a few days.

“This became a 6 month love affair. At one point she sent me an email and told me she was conflicted between leaving her husband to be with me. I told her the same, but I had small children which held me back from destroying my marriage completely. She was my high school sweetheart who I married at 19.

“We had years of history. We worked our way through good and bad times. We divorced because we disagreed on having a family. I wanted children and she did not. It was an illicit affair which I don’t regret. My wife at the time had her suspicions but never confronted me directly.”

This isn’t a moral judgment about whether affairs are wrong. After all, according to statistics, anywhere between 30-60% of people cheat on their husbands and wives.

This is a practical consideration. In this instance, it seems as though the man didn’t lose his wife and kids. But he could have.

On the other side of this “love story” are two spouses and families that are also be impacted.

It’s easy to romanticize what we don’t have, but in the process don’t neglect what you do already have — unless you are prepared to lose it.

7) Before getting romantically involved, consider if you can imagine a real future together

Sure, the excitement of a rekindled romance can be doubly thrilling, but the heartache, if it doesn’t work out again, can also be doubly as crushing.

As every couple who finds themselves in a yo-yo relationship will tell you, the makeups and breakups can be sweeter and sourer the second time around.

Particularly if it took you a long time to get over and heal from your first love, you might want to decide whether any reunion is worth the risk.

That might depend on the long-term rewards up for grabs. Do you see a future with your first love?

Flings can be fun if you don’t think either of you will get hurt from it. If there’s a strong chance that at least one of you would, then whether you see longevity in any potential new romance becomes a more important factor.

If you’ve already reunited and you are wondering whether to take things further than friendship, talk to your first love and see whether you are on the same page.

Does what you want align with what they are looking for in the future?

8) Don’t expect a rom-com ending from your reunion

What happens when you reconnect with your first love? We may have an idea of how we want it to go, but the truth is that anything can happen.

Always in life, and that goes for love too, we should be prepared for more unconventional endings.

Hollywood convinces us that everything is building up to some romantic finale where it all turns out well.

But most of us already know by now, life tends not to play out like that for most of us.

That’s not to say we don’t find our happily ever after. But it’s usually less glossy than in the movies and has a habit of throwing unexpected plot twists.

Much like Bauke Schildt’s story on Quora of reuniting with his “first love” from school:

“Went for a drink with her a few months back. She was my first ever girlfriend. We were 5 or 6. She’s happily married and has two amazing kids. I made out with her best friend on the same night”.

Of course, you might get your rom-com ending, some people do. In fact, old flames reunited can make the most lasting marriages. But you may also just as easily have a reunion disaster too.

As Shallon Lester noted when commenting on a reunion with her first love gone wrong:

“Looking back, I realised that life isn’t — and shouldn’t be — a rom-com plot. And getting caught up in the mythology of your first love can be a recipe for disaster. On one hand, yes, timing really is everything. But it’s called a breakup because it’s broken. So from now on, I’ll keep my recycling to paper and plastic — not men!”

If you’re open to reconnecting with a first love after so many years, then enjoy the ride. But keep your heart open to all kinds of eventualities.

There’s nothing quite as disappointing in life as expectations being dashed.

9) Casually reach out and see if they reciprocate

The great thing about the modern technological world we all live in now is how connected it allows us to be.

There are so many social networks that keep us in touch with people from our past.

If you’re curious about reuniting with your first love after 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years, it’s never been easier to try and track them down.

A quick search, a little stalk of any mutual friends, and then a friend or follow request. It really can be that simple.

If you want to test the water, this can be a great way of casually reconnecting. That way you give your old love the choice to decide whether they too want to be back in your life.

There are of course two people in this story, and for whatever reasons, your first love may not want to take a trip down memory lane with you.

They may find there has been too much water under the bridge, they may not want to rake up old emotions or they may be happy in a relationship with someone else and feel it would be inappropriate.

But if they respond positively to you reaching out, you can start to chat again and see where it takes you.

10) Know that feelings can be more intense the second time around

The thing about getting back together with an ex is that the relationship can intensify much quicker. It makes sense too. There is a sense of familiarity and going over old ground.

But more than that, there may be a sense of bottled-up emotions stored inside that are finally getting the chance to be released.

As ​psychiatrist Martin A. Johnson, M.D., explains:

“When the sweethearts separated initially, usually at a young age, the traumas of losing that early love and the need to move on to other partners made it necessary for them to suppress their love.

“These pent-up longings in the unconscious surface during the rekindled romance, and repressed feelings that surface are usually very strong. As repressed feelings become conscious, people feel a tremendous relief from the anxiety of needing to keep them buried.”

Even after so much time apart, be prepared for strong feelings to emerge quite quickly.

In conclusion: do first loves get back together?

If you’re wondering what are the odds of reuniting with your first love after decades and getting your happy ending, then you’ll be pleased to hear the statistics are in your favor.

Researcher Dr. Kalish surveyed 1,001 women and men who reignited an old flame, most of which were each other’s first love.

Of those, the success rate for staying together was the highest amongst first loves. A total of 78 percent managed to make it work.

Even more good news — it also seems that time is no barrier when it comes to rekindling. The longest time apart for one couple who took part in the study was a whopping 63 years after they initially broke up.

After being widowed and meeting again at their high school reunion they then ended up finally marrying in their 80’s.

It would seem that sometimes fairy tales do come true.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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