The Ex Factor

It’s not something I can imagine, though it’s the stuff of Hollywood movies – and apparently – real life.

According to a High50 article I read recently, plenty of post-split spouses find themselves looking up and hooking up with old flames – and after they’ve married someone else.

Hmm. Shades of It’s Complicated – a film I’ve written about – wherein ex-spouses do the deed, and manage to create comic (and Karmic?) chaos in the process.

But the High50 article describes more scenarios than reunited His & Hers towels. Among other things, author Fiona Webster cites a psychologist explaining some of the rationale behind romantic re-couplings.

As for the reasons we look back in order to move forward? I can’t say that my relationship approach or strategy took that path, but it’s understandable why some choose to pursue it.

Painful Breakup? Band-aid Relationship

Who doesn’t want to feel better in the wake of a painful breakup?

We’re vulnerable, we’re questioning our value, we’re worried our romantic options are narrowing faster than the speed of light – especially if we’re getting a little older. Facing the prospect of online dating or worse, the bar scene, isn’t it logical that someone we once loved and who loved us – might offer the promise of concupiscent comfort?

The Internet, as the article points out, is an easy way to forage for former flames, not to mention stir the embers without so much as leaving our own, well… beds.

Rebounds, Transitions

Much has been written about the rebound relationship, and no divorce dating discussion is complete without mentioning the transitional relationship.

You could say the differences are subtle; I think of the rebound as throwing yourself into a new relationship rather than processing the pain of an ending. You’re invigorated by infatuation. It’s a band-aid, but an effective one.

The transitional relationship?

Typically it endures longer and serves as emotional ground where you get reacquainted with your sex life, as well as hone relationship skills in need of dusting off or changing – communicating clearly, fighting fairly, paying attention to what you really want and need in a relationship – sometimes selfishly. It’s also a time when you may act out (misplaced) anger, which is part of the reason that these relationships generally fizzle or crash.

Time Heals All Wounds?

When I was ready (however tentatively) to wade into the dating pool, I longed for something different, something new, and nothingserious.

Old flames prior to my marriage? No interest, and no thank you.

So why do those dealing with breakups seek out a former boyfriend or girlfriend? Is it the nagging insistence of “what if?” Is it familiarity? Is it wishful thinking for an easy solution to the dilemma of finding yourself alone if you prefer life as a part of a couple?

The High50 article cautions that memory and nostalgia may skew our thinking, suggesting:

… try to remember the reasons you broke up… It is possible that they haven’t changed.

Re-do? Remarry? Regret?

I often ponder the rush to remarry by the newly unhitched. Research reflects that men amble down the aisle more quickly and more often than women, but both sexes frequently settle into exclusive relationships only months after terminating a long-term marriage.

Could this tendency attest to not taking time in that critical post-divorce transition period? The time to contemplate what you’ve been living with and living through? The time to engage the healing process, to explore your newly single self, to assess not only what you desire, but what’s good for you, for your children, and for your future?

Old Flames

So once you’re feeling reoriented, why not look up an old flame to see if there’s still a sizzle or even a spark?

I had a dear friend who married young, had children right away, and split after 15 years or so of marriage only to get back together – very happily – some 4 or 5 years later. Their new found appreciation for each other was possible in part because of a civilized and respectful divorce.

As for me, I won’t say I’ve never thought about past lives and past loves. I’ve managed to stay in touch with a few great men (yes, they’re French), and lost touch with others (the Americans). I’m sure there’s a cultural message there, but that’s a musing for another morning.

  • If you’re older – over 50 for example – do you feel as if “all’s fair in love and war” – including ignoring  Girl Code?
  • Have you ever sought out an old love? If you did, what happened?
  • Are your past relationships always DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), or do you believe that rekindling is possible?


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© D. A. Wolf


  1. says

    Never went back to an old boyfriend or my ex husband except one. I have been seeing someone on and off for 10 years with years in between of not speaking (terrible breakup) then a break then back and now I think on a permanent break. Just friends. We have been lovers, friends with benefits, friends without (current state). We have this weird connection-can’t explain it. I had an easier time divorcing my ex after 20 years then extricating myself from this guy. Not sure why. But now I don’t event think about it. I am 63 and truly don’t give a shit what anyone thinks. I once did a married guy when I was single and I won’t do that ever again. Interesting blog today.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Why is today’s particularly interesting, Madgew? (Just curious.)

      I do find the progression of lovers to friends-with-benefits to friends to be an interesting one. (I’ve experienced my own variations on that theme in the past.) As for those weird (and special?) connections, I think they’re great.

  2. says

    I just cannot see myself with my ex husband nor any of the men who have had a place in my life since. Except one man whom I save for those special occasions. But certainly the romance has gone. Great article though. I know many a couple who have re-married the same people.

  3. says

    Thank you for asking and for the good thoughts. It is actually not a bad job at all but it is a mess of a place that will take me years to clean up. Job security?
    Hope all is also well with you. Will you be fattening up the boys for Thanksgiving? :)

  4. says

    I can’t confirm nor deny any of your points. I’ve never reconciled with an old flame. Maybe it’s my stubbornness or bad breakups. So I’m interested in what others’ experiences have been.

      • Curtis says

        DA I had never seen this article. That said you can never go home. In essence if you broke it off there was a reason. If the other party did there was a reason. Things change and especially in cases of bad timing I guess I should never say never, but it seems a little masochistic.

        • BigLittleWolf says

          It does seem a little massochistic, I agree. I suppose it depends on circumstances. Not something I can imagine…

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