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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Relationships: Romantic Reconnections

Due to the advent of web sites like Facebook and Classmates.com, many people are reconnecting with former high school and college sweethearts after 10, 15, 20 years or more of having no contact.

Relationships: Romantic Reconnections

As a psychotherapist in NYC, I've been seeing more and more people who are reconnecting through these sites and falling in love all over again. The excitement of these reconnections is often very compelling. Often, these are long lost love connections from a happier time when both people were much younger and when there was much promise in their lives.

It's exciting to find out what the other person has been doing all these years later and to tell your story. It can also be a heady experience to find out that this person has been thinking about you all this time, wondering what you're doing, and thinking about your former relationship. It can also be uplifting to remember your youthful self at that time and cause you to remember a more passionate and optimistic part of yourself that you might not have been in touch with for a long time. There's a certain romantic nostalgia about these romantic reconnections.

Of the many stories that I've heard, many times, these reconnections seem to work out well. However, there are times when, after the initial reconnection, problems begin to emerge and these couples come into couples counseling to try to work out these problems.

Based on what I've seen, one of the main problems seem to be around expectations: When you remember how you and your old love were years ago, often, there are expectations that the two of you will be that same way again, and when this doesn't happen, it's disappointing.

Trying to recapture the love that you and your former partner had all those years ago in just the same way as you had it back then, when you were both young and the world seemed like it was going to be your oyster, can be tricky.

It can be fraught with disappointment if, as you're getting swept up in this romantic reconnection, you forget that time and circumstances have probably changed a lot of things for you and for your old love. Aside from the more superficial changes, like weight gain and wrinkles, along the way, each of you has had many experiences that have probably changed you and your outlook on life to a certain extent.

If you don't take these changes about yourself and your former love into account, you're probably setting yourself up for a fall. Also, you might be faced with whatever unresolved issues thee may have been from the past.

The following vignette, which is a composite of various cases, is an example of a romantic reconnection that started with a lot of excitement and then began to go wrong:

Sally and George:
Sally and George were in a relationship during their last two years of college. At the time, they were very in love and talked about getting married. All of their friends considered them to be "the perfect couple." However, towards the end of their last semester in college, they had a big argument about George joining his father's manufacturing business rather than pursuing his dream to be a teacher, which is all that he talked about while in college--making a difference for young students and helping to shape young minds.

Sally couldn't believe that George would give up his dream and give in to his father's pressure. She was furious. Unlike many teens and young people in their early 20s, George had never gone against his parent's wishes and he didn't know how to tell his father "no."

Sally also didn't want to move to Chicago where George's parents lived. All along, she and George had talked about either living in New York, where she was from, or Boston, a city that they both liked. By the end of the school year, both of them were heart broken about this argument, but neither of them saw a compromise, so they broke up.

Sally moved back to New York. She found a teaching job and an apartment with friends. And George moved back in with his parents and joined his father's firm as an assistant manager.

Neither Sally nor George had any contact again--until 20 years later when George found Sally's name on Facebook. Initially, when they reconnected by email and then by phone, they were both very excited. Both of them were now divorced and available.

Relationships: Romantic Reconnections

Neither of them had children. Sally had been teaching for many years, and George inherited his father's business, sold it for a large profit, and eventually returned to his initial chosen profession, teaching. They both flew back and forth on weekends and holidays to see each other and they were caught up in a whirlwind romance.

After the first six months, George moved to NYC and they moved in together. He obtained a teaching job and things seemed to be going fine.

Relationships: Romantic Reconnections

However, as the initial excitement began to wear off, they each felt that "something was missing." Neither of them could put their finger on what it was, but they each began to feel vaguely disappointed. They began bickering about little things, and this was even more disappointing.

One day, in the middle of an argument, George said to Sally, "What happened to you? You're not the girl that I knew in college." This was a turning point in their relationship. George regretted saying these words as soon as they left his mouth, and Sally was very hurt. They both still loved each other, but they recognized that their relationship was spiraling down and they didn't know what to do. They decided that, to try to save their relationship, they needed to go to couples counseling.

After several sessions of couples counseling, they realized that they reentered their relationship hoping to find the same people that they were when they were in college but, in reality, both of them had changed somewhat.

They were no longer the idealistic young people that they were and time, their divorces, and other life experiences had changed them. Also, when they broke up in college and all the years since, they were left with the romantic fantasy of what it could have been like if they had stayed together all those years ago.

Now, 20 years later, they were actually living the reality of that experience. And while their experiences together now were generally good, the reality of their life together couldn't live up to the romantic fantasies that had built up in their minds over the years.

Through couples counseling, gradually, Sally and George learned to work out their differences and to let go of unrealistic expectations. They also had to work through the initial disappointment that lead to their break up in college. Sally realized that she had been immature about it all those years ago, and George realized that he wasn't assertive enough to be his own person back then. Within a few months, they became more realistic about their expectations of themselves and each other and their love for each other matured, deepened and reflected who they are now, as individuals as well as a couple.

It's wonderful that we now have ways of reconnecting with old friends and loved ones through the Web. It has provided us with opportunities that we didn't have before for reconnecting with people who were once important in our lives. When these reconnections are romantic, they present special opportunities and some challenges.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you and your partner have reconnected romantically after many years and you're facing certain challenges in your relationship, you could benefit from couples counseling with a licensed mental health professional.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I see individual adults and couples.

I have helped many couples who have reconnected romantically to have more fulfilling relationships.

To find out more about me, visit my web site: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com.




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