Does Everyone Secretly Yearn for a Lost Love?

Q: Does everyone want to find (or reunite with) a lost love?
A: Not even close.

I wanted to know if there were any differences in the profiles of my research participants who chose to reunite with lost loves (rekindlers) compared to participants who have never tried reunions (nonrekindlers, a control group). And how many nonrekindlers would want to reunite with a lost love if they could, even though they haven’t done so yet?

Does everyone secretly yearn for an affairSince two-thirds of my rekindler participants went back to sweethearts who were first loves, for comparison I asked the
nonrekindlers to fill out the questionnaire based on their first love experiences. Rekindlers and nonrekindlers were free to apply the “first love” designation to the sweethearts in their past whom they believed fit that description best.

I could only compare the first love responses from rekindlers and nonrekindlers for the initial romance questions, as the reunion questions would not apply to nonrekindlers. The reunion questions from the original lost love questionnaire were rewritten for nonrekindlers to pertain to their first love experiences years ago, just so the survey length and question types stayed the same. I didn’t analyze these rewritten questions.

Participants who had never tried lost love reunions, and who had been apart from their first loves for 5 or more years (the same as my rekindler population), were recruited through Syracuse University’s website for academic researchers,

Syracuse recruited adults who wanted to fill out educational surveys for pleasure or for the possibility of winning a prize. They were not told which survey they would be assigned to.

For a fee, I contracted for 1000 randomly-assigned adults, ages 18 to 92, worldwide, to be notified of my survey on First Love. 700 participants responded and took the survey. They were a very good demographic match to my 620 1993-1996 participants who tried reunions with their first loves.

The populations of rekindlers and nonrekindlers differed in statistically significant ways:

  • The nonrekindlers had been older when they dated their first loves than the rekindlers.
  • The nonrekindlers had much shorter first love romances than the rekindlers and took a shorter time to recover emotionally from their first love breakups.
  • The nonrekindlers separated because they weren’t getting along, or had different expectations, there was cheating, or there was physical, sexual or substance abuse, compared to the rekindlers whose separations were because of external situational factors.
  • 70% of the nonrekindlers said that they would not choose to try reunions with their first loves, even if they could. In comments, more than one wrote, “Hell no!” in the margins. Many added that they did not understand why anyone would want to reunite with a lost love. But, 30% said they would like to reunite if they could, including married participants.

I was surprised that so many people had really terrible first love experiences. But I was also surprised that 30% of people in a random sample who would want a reunion.

So if you have tried to rekindle a romance, and when you talk about it (even to therapists) no one understands why you would want to do something like that, you will understand why they “don’t get it.” Most people break up their early romances and never look back.. many with good reason!