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Reconnect with the Ex After a Chance Meeting? What's Really Going On - Relationship Advice

Updated on September 22, 2010

From Monique

So I bumped into my ex at the grocery store. He was with his current girlfriend and child. Let me tell you it was truly awkward. We haven't seen each other for about 10 years, he contacted me right before I got married and that was the end of our communication. I could tell he was super excited to see me, not so much for the current girlfriend. He kept it's been along time, stumbling over his words, and asking me all kinds of questions. I must admit even though I am happily married all of those old emotions and feelings started to arise. He was my first boyfriend, my first love, my first everything...if you know what I mean. I feel so guilty because I cannot stop thinking about the encounter. I wanted to say so much to him right their in the aisle but I just smiled and answered his questions politely. I know he wanted to get my contact info it was so obvious. With unfinished business how can I honestly be happy with how things went? Any advice would be so appreciated.


Monique =)

Dear Monique,


There are a lot of things you both have going on, which explain a great deal of your urge to contact him and his apparent excitement to see you. Even though you're saying you're happily married, and even though he was standing there with his child and his new life, you were both pulled into a moment of recollection and reminiscence.

The reasons for those feelings involve nostalgia. Even the way in your short message you find time and will to highlight that he was your first love, your first boyfriend, your first everything. We all have fond memories of those times in our lives and it's easily layered with shadows of longing. We think about what was ten years ago, the simpler things and the loves that are different, freedoms and youth, all kinds of relative things. Plus, we incorporate those paths not taken with all the future ideals and "what might have been." Those are powerfully confusing and intoxicating emotions.

But they aren't "real" emotions. Well they are real in the sense that you're having them. They are not real in the sense of true loves and what your heart really wants.

There's a reason he's your ex. There are reasons you both let go, walked away and lost touched. I don't know what happened when he contacted you before you got married, I don't know if you are insinuating that you two are the loves of each others lives and made a mistake letting go.

But if it's been ten years, I doubt that's the case. It's much more likely that these feelings are opportunistic. They came by chance over a chance meeting, and they grabbed a hold of all your nostalgia and "what if's" and "could have been's." They feed on the part of reality that aren't satisfying and that make you wonder about other outcomes to life. Some of those are probably partner-specific. But most are probably just normal life progressions. The older we get the more responsibility we have, the more debt, the more issues and problems, the less time for fun or indulging. So of course we remember freer times favorably. Of course that opportunistic feeling was able to latch on.

It's convenient to see hims standing there wanting to talk to you. No matter how you slice it it's an ego boost, it's a compliment. It reinforces that there really was a connection between you. And conveniently it doesn't highlight the disagreements and the reasons you broke up in the first place.

There is a world of difference between missing, and remembering.

Monique, the big question here is are you being honest with yourself that you would like to speak with him again just for closure. Closure is a healthy thing and if you have things unsaid and he's willing to speak them too, then it may be a nice thing. I'm just saying the odds of that being the situation are one in a thousand. And, if that is the situation, you'd be talking to your husband - who should be your partner and best friend - about wanting to resolve something from your past. I'm assuming you're keeping this from your husband. And that is a major red flag right there.

I have paraphrased this idea before and will do it again. Oprah suggested on one of her shows that "cheating" is any behavior you're doing that you would not be doing if your partner was standing next to you. I think that's brilliant because there are so many layers to betrayal, and so many things that matter or don't matter to different people. No one outside of your relationship can judge what you and your husband have agreed to do within the privacy and trust of your union, and your promise of forever. But ask yourself this: how would you feel if your husband bumped into an ex of his from 10 years ago - a woman with a child and a life who had clearly moved on or at least tried to - and then your husband said to a friend or a relationship advice columnist that "Those old emotions and feelings started to arise" and "how can he be happy with how things went."

You can say whatever progressive supportive thing you want, but the truth is, you'd feel betrayed and sick over it. And you'd hope he'd be able to be smart enough to let it go for what it was, and enjoy the good life he has chosen for himself.

It's not just you having confusing opportunistic feelings of nostalgia. It's him as well if he was so anxious and stunned. And then there's his child. And his girlfriend. And your husband. There are a lot of lives and promises and happiness involved here.

Look, I'm one who says life is too short not to be happy. If you are in a bad relationship, end it. If you aren't happy, you should go. But when so many other's happiness is also involved, I'm just saying you have to be goddamn sure of your decision. You can't play around like you did when you were in college, trying out this relationship, ending it, trying out that, going back to the first... that was a time where everyone is resilient and exploring, and the people's lives and futures aren't embedded on our whims.

Be sure, before you embark on anything that can never be undone, never be forgiven, never be fixed. Be very very sure.

I always read between the lines, and look for the tells. Your message doesn't "tell" me anything about your husband. I think if you were unsatisfied with him you would have mentioned that at least. No, your comment is all about this feeling and this ex, because that's all that's going on.

The best thing for you to do is to look at that chance encounter honestly. Tell your husband about it and how it made you feel. You're allowed to have a past, you're allowed to have feelings. The problems come when you make those things secrets. You didn't do anything wrong. You should be able to reminisce and share with your partner. Just getting it out in a healthy and honest way should help the perspective for you.

And that's really what's going on here: you don't have correct perspective on the encounter. You don't know what it means, you don't understand the intoxicating emotions, and you're reeling a little in the aftermath.

You can't have perfect symbiotic mutual closure with all the people in your past. You can only do what you can do. The chance meeting itself was closure. It confirmed that there was some good and maybe it outweighed the bad, and that if you two bump into each other, you smile. That's nice. And that's enough.


Submit a Comment

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    I'm going to have to reread this hub a few times. Seems appropriate to what I'm experiencing right now. 

    My history: married young. He was emotionally, verbally, & physically abusive. After 7-8years I met a coworker that seemed to be everything I wanted.

    This coworker: also in LTR, not happy.

    So we got involved before we left our now ex's. I know on some level I loved my affair partner. Absolutely loved him & I was so naïve I thought we would have a chance together once everything was final. I thought he loved me but now I'm not sure. He made me feel it, his actions showed it. But our timing was wrong, how we handled it was wrong. I know on some level he did care for me, I just don't know if it was some kind of warped love. Anyway I moved out from my ex & so when I was finally available this guy decided I still had too many questions (if I really wanted to leave my husband, etc) & I needed to be on my own for awhile so he backed off & started dating others. I was heartbroken!!! Lost my marriage & him. I was so messed up for about 1 1/2 years. I kept very sporadic contact with my affair partner. We would hook up every now & then. Eventually he met someone & she got pregnant. Not sure if it was intended or not but he's stayed w her & now their son is 2 & he's marrying her very soon. 

    This past year I hadn't talked to him. We had an argument & I told him it's best we just remove each others numbers, forget we exist & be done w it. So we didn't talk. A mutual friend said we should talk because he says he misses talking w me & always asks how I'm doing. 

    We met up recently & I still find him intoxicating. Now I'm thinking how unfair it is we didn't get a fair shot, blah blah! It's not fair he gets a child & partner & I'm struggling. Ugh!

    I know in my brain I'm better off w/o him. He CANNOT be faithful. But my emotional heart still cares for him. This history we have keeps me connected. Part of me doesn't really want to let him go forever. 

    I do know when I'm dating or in a relationship I feel better about it but like right now when I'm not seeing anyone this guy is all I can think about!  It's kind of pathetic. I envy how guys can compartmentalize their feelings. 

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    @Monarch.Starcrack, I completely agree!!!

  • Monarch.Starcrack profile image


    8 years ago from Florida

    I've reconnected with ex's all the time. Usually ends up great for a while until you realize why you broke up in the first place.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY

    Thanks Mr Kumbah. (I love Frank Zappa)

    I'm so sorry or your workmate. Unfortunately this kind of thing happens all to often. Thanks for your comment.

  • mr kumbah profile image

    mr kumbah 

    8 years ago

    miserableandinlove , I have a mate at work whose partner left him 5 months ago after an old school friend "hooked" up with her via facebook.

    Seeems she was not happy with the way her life was going for a quite a while,(he works long hours with me weekends, evenings, etc, its what our job entails etc, she knew that when she met him though )but she kept saying to my friend , "theres nothing wrong in it , nothings going on on , were friends , you should learn to trust me more !"

    They have two children together, the youngest being only two , she is now pregnant to the guy she hooked up with on facebook.

    He is still completely gutted, but I did warn him to be carefull, because I felt this old friend was charming her and wanting more than just friendship out of it, I suppose at the end of the day he had to trust her to get on with it, he didn't have much of a choice in it I dont think.....By the way great hub Veronica.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY

    MKayo, thanks for the comment. I agree. We all have a past. If you can't be honest about that with your current partner, then there's going to problems no matter what occurs.

  • miserableandinlov profile image


    8 years ago from Texas

    A few years ago, my x's old flame found him via a social website and wanted to "reconnect" with him. He told me about it and I felt comfortable because she mentioned having children and being happily married, and she assured me that she only wanted friendship. I set some ground rules and moved on. Well, one day he left his email up and I read the email she had just sent him. What was going on between them was more than just friendship. She was miserable and pretty much wanted to know what his life was like so that they could hook up again. The things they were exchanging via email (and probably on the phone) were completely inappropriate. I was furious and felt betrayed by both of them, and I confronted them. They both said they were just "kidding" around and nothing was going on. I threatened to tell her husband and asked him not to have any further contact with her. Our relationship was strained for a long time and I never really quite regained the trust and confidence I had in him. We are always left with unresolved issues from previous relationships. You need to look at why that relationship ended and honestly ask yourself if this is a can of worms you want to open up again. You say you are happily married. Are you really? If you had the chance to get together with your old flame and see if you could pick up where you left off, would you? Would meeting with him give you closure or make you more curious about what could have been. It's a sticky situation and you have to determine if loosing what you have right now is worth it. Bottom line, if an old flame wants to reconnect, there are things going on in their life that they are not happy with. Sounds like perhaps he hasn't gotten over you, but that's not really your concern. Good luck :)

  • MKayo profile image


    8 years ago from Texas

    When I first started reading this Hub, it sounded like that old Dan Fogelberg song. It's a tough situation to deal with, especially if you're currently in a bad relationship. Folks need to be careful when dealing with feelings and emotions - they can be deceptive. Overall, good advice on your part. We all have a past, we all have feelings about the things that did or did not happen there, but honesty with the one you love is never a bad decision if they truly love you. After all, isn't that what real love is?


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