Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Monday 26 July |
Saint of the Day: Sts Joachim and Anne
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

Why dwelling on a past love can be dangerous for your marriage


Steven Aguilar/Unsplash | CC0

Edifa - published on 07/07/20

It is easy to romanticize former relationships, but make sure you keep it all in perspective.

“I ran into the guy I was in love with when I was 20, and all the same feelings came flooding back,” my friend Leah confided in me, both embarrassed and starry-eyed at the same time. “It felt like I could finally realize what wasn’t possible back then. But I’m married now and the mother of three teenagers…”

Then she told me how that young love affair had been thwarted by external circumstances that, at the time, the couple was unable to overcome. Meeting again plunged Leah back into the past when everything still seemed possible. A return to a lovers’ paradise, as romantic as you could wish. It was as though the 20 intervening years, during which she’d built a marriage and a family she’s very much attached to, had been erased. 

Between fantasy and reality

Leah talked to her husband about it, wistfully, but without that the passion that devoured her when she’d spoken to me about it. She and her husband are both busy professionals and when they’re at home they are , dealing with urgent daily activities: housekeeping, their children’s schooling, planning vacations. Routine had taken over their marital relationship: “I would even say a certain boredom,” she says with melancholy.

Indeed, after a few years of married life, a couple can feel a certain weariness, even disappointment in their daily life because of everyday constraints: being a good spouse, a good parent, a success in professional life, being there for friends. It’s then when you can start dreaming that, with someone else — especially perhaps that first real love that didn’t work out — life would be more meaningful, more joyful, more passionate … a rediscovered youth, in other words.

But isn’t that living in a fantasy world, where we re-imagine relationships that were no doubt never that simple, that wonderful, that pure? Memory reconstructs things the way we’d like to remember them: we add things, leave out others, we mix up what’s true and what’s false. And it can happen without us even realizing it. Regrets then arise. But are they really well founded?

To get our bearings amid all these mixed emotions, we have to put back in perspective the sacramental commitment that binds us unfailingly to our spouse, rather than harking back to a previous love, a love that is not the sacramental marriage to which we freely committed ourselves, and which implicates more than just ourselves but our spouse, our children, and more. That way, it’s possible, with help, to get beyond a resurgence of past emotions that are detrimental to one’s commitments … humbly and with courage.

Marie-Noël Florant


Read more:
3 Ways to have no relationship regrets at the end of your life

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Philip Kosloski
This morning prayer is easy to memorize
Daniel Esparza
5 Curious things you might not know about Catholicism
Joachim and Anne
Philip Kosloski
Did Jesus know his grandparents?
J-P Mauro
Reconstructing a 12th-century pipe organ discovered in the Holy L...
Daniel Esparza
3 Legendary pilgrimages off the beaten path
Philip Kosloski
Why is Latin the official language of the Church, instead of Aram...
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been know...
See More