It depends on how accurate your memory is, and how good or bad the reality feels. If it's good, then you really think it was ”love at first sight.” If it's bad, you are left with “what was I thinking?” It's very easy to idealize someone you've never known well—the reality never impinges on the fantasy, so the ideal person doesn't tarnish. You remember a rosy picture of perfection. That's difficult to let go of, if you never get a reality check.
Can this really work, or will it just fall apart again? Here’s how to see if you and your ex can make it work.
Dr. Romance’s Guidelines for Improving the Odds with your Ex
• Consider seeing a therapist on your own, to get expert help to decide if you’re searching for this old love for the right reasons; and to help you get some perspective on what might need to be corrected.
• Make a careful first contact: strictly "Hi, how are you doing?" For example, if you see the old love on Facebook, try sending a message and asking to be friends. Don't say anything about still having feelings. Your old love may very well be married now, or even gay. You need to find out what's going on before making a move.
• Be aware whether forgiveness is needed. Did you hurt this person's feelings way back in college? Were you hurt? Old, unresolved feelings can hang around a long time, and erupt when you least expect it.
• If you get a positive response, go very slowly. Rushing into things means you’re trying to avoid some truths. If it’s going to work, it will go better if you take the time to build a better foundation than you had before.
• Treat it like a new relationship. Start from the beginning, and do it differently—it could work this time.
• Analyze what went wrong the last time, and consciously try to fix the old problems. If you cannot talk honestly about what went wrong and what to do differently, you’ll never change anything.
• Make sure your ex is as determined to improve on the old relationship as you are. If he or she is blaming you for everything that went wrong, disaster is immanent. If you’re blaming your ex, it’s just as big a problem.
• Insist on couples therapy for both of you. Pre-commitment therapy can help you find out the pitfalls and whether you’ve solved the old problems.
After all this, you might still find it’s too late to remedy the problem that led to the breakup. You may discover you’re clinging to a fantasy that is not supported by reality. If you try to re-kindle an old love, and it doesn’t work, then you’re faced with letting go—again.
You might even have the urge to try harder because breaking up finally gets through the denial and the fantasy that behaving badly or not cooperating is OK. We also have a lot of cultural mythology about “I'll never stop loving you” which says clinging and martyring to this lost love means you are truly in love. But clinging to an impossible lost love is unrealistic.