“After all this time?”
This iconic Severus Snape moment changed the entire series, leaving its readers completely speechless. And for a Potterhead, there will never be a moment as defining of true love as this one – the story of young love that never ended, despite the adversities and its unrequited nature.
Most of us, like Snape, are left with a deep impression of our first, initial loves. A relationship in our teens or early twenties is never forgotten and may, in fact, be a lot more powerful than you think – so powerful that the magic never really fades. We may leave these relationships behind and move on with our lives, but what happens when, years later, we are reconnected with an old flame?
Movies are abundant with stories of rekindled love, and most end with happy reunions. A study showed that 102 out of 120 movies dealing with rekindled love ended well, an overwhelming majority. But does this hold true in real life as well?
Surprisingly, it does. Rekindled love can be a lot more than just a bout of passion and reminiscence. Research has shown that a whopping 71% believed that rekindled reunions were the most intense relationship of their lives. And this was reflected in their success rate of staying together – 78%.
“It was as if the sun just came out after a very long winter”, says Josh, who met his old sweetheart at a reunion. In fact, research suggests that rekindled romances make the most lasting marriages. The intensity and emotion experienced whilst reuniting with an old love may be unfathomable, given the history and complexities these relationships come with.
One main factor that influences reunions is the reason why couples grew apart in the first place; a relationship that ended with good reason is less likely to succeed if rekindled. A relationship that ended because of factors beyond one’s control, like parental disapproval (25%) and education (11%), is more likely to succeed. Such relationships are usually characteristic of our teens or early twenties.
These years are the most adventurous times of our lives, and are also the time of our lives that we remember best, even when we are 90, a phenomenon known as the ‘reminiscence bump’. It is then, not surprising, that we have vivid memories of our relationships during this period. Meeting an old flame from your early years brings back these memories, and all the happy (and sad) times you spent together.
It is also during this time that we form our identities and sense of self. Romantic relationships play a vital role in our identity development, forming the base for our future relationships. Reconnecting with an old flame transports us to our ideal self of the past, giving us an opportunity to, once again, fulfil our adolescent ideals and longings, making rekindled love an enticing experience.
The sheer joy and intensity can be so powerful, that if either partner is committed or married whilst such reunions occur, the other relationships - even marriages - may actually be called off. One of Hollywood’s most famous romantic trilogies – The Before Series - is an honest depiction of this – Jesse and Celine meet 9 years after their one-day romance, but it was enough for them to leave behind the lives they led for nine years to be together again. This may seem surreal, idiotic even, but the truth is that old romances can be very influential.
There is also a biological element to this: these romantic relationships were first forged during adolescence – a highly hormonally charged period of our lives. The heightened levels of testosterone and progesterone make relationships during this period an extremely intense and passionate experience. When confronted, years later, with individuals with whom we shared this experience, we recollect these heightened sensations, but our brain also releases oxytocin, the same hormone that aids mother-and-child bonding following birth. This chemistry thus sets the perfect stage for a union between passion and attachment.
However, others may view such romances rather sceptically. “You don’t really know this person. You haven’t seen him/her in years”, "It's just a midlife crisis, a desire to get back one's youth", and “Rekindled romance is just a fantasy,” – these are some things those in a rekindled relationship may often hear. Nancy Kalish, an expert on rekindled romance, has debunked these statements as nothing more than myths. She states, “For most, they [the relationships] are intense because they finally get to ‘right the wrong.’ They feel like this is the person they were meant to be with.”
Today, with the advent of technology, reconnecting with an old flame has become very easy. Facebook will probably ensure that they are never out of sight. But this ease and facility doesn’t impact the stability – even among these – for those who leave their marriages to stay with a former sweetheart, the divorce rate is as low as 0.4%.
In conclusion, while reuniting with an old love may be euphoric and intense, most couples work through this to build a long-lasting and stable relationship. So for someone who had no good reason to break up in the first place, this lost love need not stay lost.