Thinking of Going Back? Beware!

Ain't nostalgia grand? That warm glow of remembrance. Recalling the simplicity of days gone by. The days before life became so fraught … everyone has that temptation to try to go back and recapture our pasts. And sometimes it's a good thing. Catching up with old friends, or revisiting places you once frequented can be a wonderful, rewarding thing. But there are some things, particularly when it comes to emotions that run deep, that would be better left well alone.

But this morning I received an email from one of those companies that, for a hefty price, will let you leaf through telephone directories and electoral rolls in search of people. Obviously, if you really need to find someone in a hurry, these services can prove invaluable. Indeed, for business purposes, I've used them myself. But the tone, and the approach, bothered me. Because that company now claims to be 'reuniting lost loved ones' and asked me 'Is there a second time around?'

In fact, in a neat little tag that began, 'Ever wondered what happened to old boy or girlfriends? Did you childhood sweetheart move away?' it offered to help me find them because 'It's as easy as your first kiss'. Now, I don't know about you, but my first kiss was not at all easy. In fact it was quite the opposite. A clumsy, sloppy experience of colliding teeth (mine) and over-reaching hands (his). I have absolutely no desire to revisit that one.

But, regardless of how delightful (or not) that first kiss was, the very idea of tracking down old boyfriends just doesn't appeal. Not to me, at least. Why would I want to?  Unless you intend to stalk your long-lost love (and let's hope you don't), there would be only two reasons you might want to do it. Either you're bursting with self-confidence and want to show them what they missed out on, or you want to recapture something wonderful. Seriously? Let's apply some logic here. Say you had a boyfriend or girlfriend when you were sixteen. Say it ended. Probably one of you, not to put too fine a point on it, dumped the other. People don't just drop each other for no good reason. And we'd all do well to remember that. Things end. Some people change their minds. Some people find someone else. Some people just aren't ready for anything serious. Some people decide the whole thing was a mistake. And, you know what. Most people don't really regret the decisions they, or their erstwhile belle or beaux, made. So why would we want to do it again?

And bear in mind, even if you do want to revisit a long gone relationship, your former other half may well not. I think, whether I were involved in a current relationship or not, I'd find it a bit off-putting if an old flame of mine came knocking. But the fact is that some people do seek out their old loves and  sometimes with very complex results. Of course, there are people, and I do know one or two, who have recaptured a romance. Which is great. But it's also rare. And I know of others who have attempted the same, only to ultimately repeat the disaster of the first relationship. 

But sometimes people do rekindle what they thought they had lost. But this can be at the expense of the life they have now. According to a recent article in the Daily Mail (please don't worry, I really don't get all my 'facts' from that particular journal) one third of divorces are caused by Facebook. In many cases, one or another partner's use of the social network has resulted in either a new online romance, or a rekindling of an old one and this has helped to split a marriage up. The figure in the US is apparently only 1 in 5, although I'm still working out what that says about us Brits. But the fact remains that people who were previously perfectly happy and content in their lives suddenly yearn for something they think they remember with affection. I don't know what it is. Does distance really lend enchantment? Do they forget that it wasn't all plain sailing? Do they fill in the gaps of the interceding years with the life they imagine they might have lived had things been different? Do they convince themselves they ought to have had that life?

I know there's more to it than that. After all, perfect relationships don't break up for no reason. But by the same token, those old relationships clearly weren't perfect either. Or they wouldn't be exes. And we should never forget that everyone, no matter how much we might like to think otherwise, is a different person than they were twenty years ago. None of us, unless we've been held in the deep frozen suspended animation of cryogenic storage can possibly have stayed the same since 1985, or whenever. Life, and all that it throws at us, makes us evolve. Expecting either ourselves, or that ex, to be the same as we remember them is asking for disappointment. 

And I can't help thinking that those email advertisements, offering to find lost loves, are simply tempting us towards potential disaster. Because the truth is, while you can revisit it for a while, you can't ever really go back. At least not without consequences.