Relationships

Go Retrosexual: Finding Lost Loves Over the Web

Ever wonder where the love of your life went? Just look her up online! But be warned -- you may not like what you find.



Janie Sherwin married the first boy she ever dated. She just did it 10 years after they broke up.

She and Howie were 14 when they first locked lips, but they decided they had some living to do before they could commit. So, they ditched after their second date. “But I never stopped thinking about him,” says Janie.

She packed up her memories when she moved away, and Bobby “dated a ton of chicks” before a short-lived marriage. But divorce turned his thoughts to his first love. “I looked her up on Facebook,” he says. Within minutes he found her and sent a message. “Then I thought she might have me arrested for harassment.”

Wrong!

“It’s like we were never out of touch,” says Janie. “We emailed -- a lot -- then agreed to meet. Within months, we decided to get married.”

For most folks, first loves were Super-Bowl-size events. The imprint on your emotional Etch A Sketch can’t be shaken. So when you get nostalgic … you’re unearthing some serious stuff.

In her book, Lost and Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romance, Nancy Kalish, who holds a doctorate in psychology, reports that of the 1,300 people she surveyed, 25 would reunite with lost loves if they could. Now the Web makes the process a lost love layup.

A Classmates Web site survey revealed that 39 percent of their users -- or 14.7 million people -- said they used the site to look up an old love. So whether it’s Google, MySpace, Facebook or Twitter, it’s easy to let your fingers do the walking to locate old loves. The trend is so prominent, they have a name for digital daters who party in the past: retrosexuals.

It may be easy to find somebody online. The hard part is figuring out whether it’s the right thing to do, because sometimes, high-speed Internet “connections” have bugs.

Debbie, a 28-year-old dentist, was “friended” by her teenage squeeze on MySpace. “At first it was amazing,” she says. “I had always wondered what had happened to Ken, and suddenly, he was back in my life.”

The bad news? They were both married.

“My husband found out we were flirting online, and we ended up divorcing.” Which happily left the door open for Ken, right?

Wrong!

“He didn’t want to commit,” says Debbie. “It was the worst decision I ever made.”

So, be forewarned men! “People feel like they don’t need to be honest online,” says New York relationship counselor JoAnn Magdoff, who urges retro-romancers to do their homework before wining and dining online. “They might have innocent intentions, but they also have the entire Internet to hide their baggage, whether it is a marriage or a relationship.”

Kalish’s book indicates that 62 percent of the married folks who reconnected wound up having an affair -- even though they say they didn’t intend to.

Magdoff warns that you need to get a clear grasp of what you’re looking for before reaching out to touch someone from your past. Here are Magdoff’s essential strategies for retro-romancers to keep a past perfect romance from getting present tense:

Know your motivation. “What’s going on in your present life that’s forcing you to reach into the past? Do you really miss this person, or are you just dissatisfied with things right now? Put your focus on fixing the present before you dredge up the past.”

Level your expectations. “People age differently,” says Magdoff. Somebody who looked like Taylor Swift a decade ago may have, uh, “changed.” “Be smart,” she adds. “If her Facebook photo looks suspiciously like her yearbook pic, she might not be entirely honest.”

Remember why you reached out in the first place. “Make sure these people are who you remember them to be,” warns Magdoff. “Memories may be powerful but not always accurate. Engage in a lot of online dialogue to determine whether she exhibits the same qualities she had when you were kids.” If your memory says sweet and innocent but her emails say smug and sarcastic, drop this continuing-education class.

Ensure everyone is briefed before any debriefings. “If you’re married, and you’re looking to reconnect with an old friend … great. Just make sure everybody knows it.” That means tell the girl why you’re reaching out and let your girlfriend know you’re doing it. “If you’re not hooked up and you’re looking for love, ask her if she’s available and wants the same.” If you don’t, you’re leaving a ton of stuff unsaid. And when it finally is said ... you might not want to hear it.


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Mike Hammer is a frequently published relationship writer and former editor in chief of Stuff magazine -- which means we're pretty sure there are no women out there looking to reunite with him via Facebook.

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