Great if you're both single. Dangerous if one of you is married.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: In the last few weeks, three married friends have confided to me that they have searched for, and found, their first love on Facebook. In my small world, this number represents a huge trend, so I'm going out on a limb to guess that this is going on all over the country. I am backed up by a recent article on Time.com that quotes other people who are doing it and who don't live in my neighborhood. So, it's real. But, why is this happening? And how dangerous is it?
The "why" is pretty simple for me to understand. Our first love affair, whether it was consummated or not, was an enormous emotional event. Those powerful memories of young love and sexual arousal stick for life, so the opportunity to revisit those feelings is pretty darn seductive. Add to that the fact that the largest growing group on Facebook is made up of users aged 35-54. While their college-aged counterparts used social networking to find people in other classes, older Facebookers use it to find people in other parts of their memory banks. Case in point: Although I grew up in several cities in Canada and now live in Los Angeles, I am hosting a cocktail party this week for Facebook friends from my elementary, high school, and college years. Some live here now, and some are flying in. None of them know each other. I am the only connection. I'll let you know how that one goes.
As for that finding-the-first-love trend, there's even a name for it. The Boston Phoenix calls it "retrosexuals," meaning people who are opting for recycled love. This is all well and good, if both parties are single. The media is full of stories about divorced people taking a second stab at love with their first fling, but what if there are marriages and vows involved? Oh, yah, that. How dangerous can an innocent e-mail exchange be?
Hugely dangerous. The problem starts when you first hit that "friend request" button. You have betrayed your spouse and are now entering the uncharted waters of an emotional affair. I mean, you're not looking up the geek from eleventh grade who got you through algebra. You're looking up the hot guy you once lost sleep over. There is an emotional connection, with maybe even some sexual memories attached.
The next problem is what to do with him when he answers your cyber call. Do you start an e-mailed, intimate foray into your emotional world? Do you look for ways to meet? What if you keep it "boundaried" and chat lightly about your family and his? Still dangerous, ladies. Even if you and your husband went so far as to invite him and his wife over for drinks, you are still having an affair if your husband doesn't know the full value of your feelings for the man he's handing a beer to.
Besides putting yourself (and your marriage) in the path of a potential affair, looking up an old flame isn't always as rosy as the anecdotes in today's media. All humans change across the lifespan, physically, intellectually, and emotionally. You are two very different people now. The likelihood that sparks will fly in your condo as well as they did behind the bleachers is pretty small. Relationships tend to be time and place sensitive.
So, with all that said, I will now disclose that the only reason I can sit up on this soapbox is because my first love, Carl Brittain, isn't on Facebook. I know, because I already tried to find him.
Play with fire, ladies. Just be prepared to give some business to therapists and divorce attorneys.
|Dr. Wendy Walsh holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and her area of interest is Attachment Theory, a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory that provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for understanding interpersonal relationships between human beings. As a psychological assistant registered with the California Board of Psychology, Dr. Walsh has treated individuals, couples and families for a variety of mental health concerns including personality disorders, anger management, eating and substance disorders, and depression. Connect with Dr. Walsh on Facebook.|