The Rekindled-Flame Phenomenon

Sure, he might have known you with bad hair, far-from-fashionable outfits and ‑- heaven forbid ‑- braces, but reuniting with your high school sweetheart (or any former boyfriend, for that matter) instead of starting from scratch with a stranger definitely has its benefits: specifically, an established sense of trust and familiarity ‑- and a dreamy romantic history. In this excerpt from her book, My Boyfriend's Back: True Stories of Rediscovering Love with a Long-Lost Sweetheart, Donna Hanover, journalist, actress and first lady of New York City from 1994 to 2001, explains the relationship trend of reconnecting with someone you adored way back when ‑- and why you might want to consider it.

The population bubble of single women from their mid-thirties through their early fifties is one major factor propelling the rekindled-love phenomenon. I have at least a dozen girlfriends who would be fantastic catches for the right guy, but these women are still waiting. They have tried blind dates, singles events, setups by friends, wine-tasting classes, flash dating, bowling leagues, golf lessons and church mixers. They have dating fatigue ‑- they are weary of continually starting over, trying to impress new people, looking for love. They're ready to find it.

This group includes women who have put their personal lives on hold to work full blast at a career. Some have had a long relationship or two ‑- even one they thought would lead to marriage, until it didn't. Others married Mr. Wrong and ended up divorced. These terrific women want to settle down, but they can't find partners.

They bravely put themselves out on the dating market with an open heart and an open mind, only to end up going out with guys who turn out to be insensitive, crude, looking only for sex, forgetful (that's putting it mildly; some were so forgetful they "forgot" to mention they were already married!), unkind, thoughtless, too attached to Mama, too ambitious, not ambitious enough.

It's no wonder that many women say they would rather stay home in their snuggly jammies on the weekends. It's challenging to find a guy to have fun with, much less marry.

There is a whole industry catering to this group of women. Magazine headlines plead: "Will I Ever Find Love Again?" and announce "One Thousand Women Tell How They Found Love Online." Internet dating services, such as Match.com and eHarmony.com, are increasingly popular. So are old-fashioned matchmaking services that offer personalized, updated approaches to finding a mate. Many of their intended clients are women in their thirties, forties and fifties who have built substantial, admirable, even brilliant careers. And many of them have had a good time along the way, but, as Los Angeles therapist Ginny Fleming explains, "When you're in your twenties, especially if you're a beautiful, ambitious, well-educated woman, opportunities seem limitless. You think the perfect person might be right around the corner, so why settle now? There might be somebody better. But the older we get, 'the slimmer the pickins,' or so it seems."

In fact, the pickins are slimmer. The U.S. Census Bureau's annual list of Valentine's Day-related statistics released in January 2003 was straightforward with the bad news: "There are more single women than single men in the United States. After age 40, the discrepancy between single men and single women becomes even greater." The data show that by age 45 to 64, for every 100 single women there are only 72 unmarried men. The odds aren't good.

Not willing to let statistics defeat them, these women still strive for a more balanced life ‑- one that includes someone to snuggle with at night, someone to confide in, someone to count on when things go wrong. They want a partner to love.

The good news is that many women find reconnecting with someone from their past circumvents all these problems. It matches them up with someone their own age rather than a man substantially older, as often happens in the general dating market. And the male partners in rekindled romances seem to freely speak and truly mean the passionate, tender words many women have longed to hear.

Russell, [an] archaeologist who met Leslie on a dig in Utah and reunited with her nine years after their breakup, says, "The way she walks is beautiful, and so are her eyes. Leslie is terrifically interesting and smart, and that's such an aphrodisiac."

Jim Johnson of Flippin, Arkansas, reconnected with Kathy Ciero when both were in their thirties. He remembers with a smile the summers their families spent together when they were kids and says, "I adore her. She's caring, loving and giving. When she agreed to marry me, I felt incredibly lucky to have won her heart."

Need I say more?

There is good counsel to be had from a woman who knows what it's like to have a successful career and find the man of her dreams. Nicole Miller, one of the best-known names in fashion, says, "I always tell my girlfriends to go through their Rolodexes. Rather than try to find a fantasy Mr. Perfect who probably doesn't exist, think about the people you know, people you went to college with. Even if it's somebody you didn't date ‑- maybe it's somebody who was a friend or that you knew in some way in the past. Odds are if you're 40, you have a better shot of reconnecting with somebody that you know a little bit already rather than with a total stranger." Nicole herself reunited with former sweetheart Kim Taipale and married him in 1996.

Cheryl J. Kagan, a public relations professional in Los Angeles, tried the Rolodex approach in her early forties. Using the same drive, organization and dedication she had devoted to her career, she found that looking back for love was the answer.

Reprinted by arrangement with Hudson Street Press, a member of Penguin Group USA, Inc., from My Boyfriend's Back: True Stories of Rediscovering Love with a Long-Lost Sweetheart by Donna Hanover. Copyright by Donna Hanover, 2005.

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