When Old Flames Burn Anew

I love it when science and research back up what I already suspect. More often than you might guess, I’ve officiated for couples who were sweethearts at a young age, went their separate ways, and then reunited much later in life. The CBS Sunday Morning show recently did a story on this and it reminded me of many of the couples I have known.

The research behind this began when Dr. Nancy Kalish was teaching psychology at the University of California1993, and she began wondering about her college boyfriend. She assumed that in reconnecting, the troubles of their past would still exist. But she was wrong. When they reconnected, to her surprise she found quite the opposite. This led her to study what she calls the Lost-Love Project. It confirmed that re-found love relationships are extremely successful. This is because of what she calls the Romeo and Juliet effect – that young love imprints itself on our impressionable brains in a profound way. This makes complete sense to me! If your first love was a deep one, it will certainly stay with you in many ways. Old flames burn bright!

When two adults are free to reconnect it can be a most wonderful thing. However, let’s be honest – sometimes one person is not yet ready, perhaps still in another relationship – and this can cause problems. But people often risk a lot to be together, especially when this kind of rekindled connection is so strong.

I have heard many stories from couples I officiated for, and I have noticed how quickly they fell back in love. But now, with the growth and wisdom that age brings, the couple can go forward in ways they couldn’t in their youth. It’s quite beautiful, really.

One of my brides recently shared with me that she wouldn’t trade one moment of her life, and was grateful for her first marriage and her children, as she now entered this second marriage with her childhood sweetheart. She felt that her path was the way it needed to be, and she has no regrets.

The groom told me he’d been in love with the bride all his life. He never forgot her and even though he had married and raised a family with another woman, who he loved and respected, this first love was always somehow still on his mind.

Many things can lead people back together. Sometimes it’s the death of a spouse that leads one to search out a long-lost love.The internet is certainly responsible for many long-lost lovers finding one another. Facebook alone has probably re-united more couples than we can imagine, and of course school reunions, and just plain old google.

A study conducted at the University of California at Berkeley, where Jennifer Beer, then a graduate student, analyzed the first-love stories of 303 Berkeley students, back in 1997, found that when past lovers married each other, their divorce rate after four years was no more than 1.5 percent.  And while second marriages are relatively fragile in general, with nearly one-quarter of all couples who remarry getting divorced again within five years, these re-found relationships are the exception.

It really is an amazing phenomenon, one that glows with romance. A heart broken in high school can become a heart mended in mid-life. While it all sounds like a chick-flick, it’s just true. These couples feel they have been given a second chance and are deeply grateful for it. As a celebrant I adore telling their stories and helping them express their joy and gratitude.

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart Photography


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