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I Can't Stop Thinking of the "One Who Got Away" 

Dear Athena,

I consider myself extremely blessed to have found a love so deep and pure, it makes me question the times I thought I had loved before. However, a distant old connection — "one that got away" — has been sneaking into my thoughts lately and I can't shake it. I know that my current partner is better for me in so many ways, but I'm afraid the "what ifs" will make me jeopardize a love that could last forever. Do I try to ignore it or risk everything?

Sincerely,
Dazed and Confused

Dear Dazed and Confused,

There's nothing wrong with taking a walk down memory lane; the issue is how long we stay once we get there. When we're about to embark on a big life change, such as moving to a new city or starting a new career, it's typical to look back and reflect on our choice. That reflection might come with a sense of relief, or with a pang of regret and longing. If we linger a bit too much on that reflection, though, it starts to get us worried. We step back from the edge of the diving board and second-guess taking the plunge.

I'm not sure why we think love is any different; that once we've found a seemingly perfect match, everything should just fall into place and we never look back. In fact it's natural to wonder what our life would be like if we'd gone a different way or stayed with an old flame. And sometimes that reflection helps us to better appreciate the person we have chosen to be with.

Here's another thing for you to reflect on: Maybe being with someone who seems so good for you scares you. Join the club. When we're deeply in love, we silly humans can let the fear of losing that person make us talk ourselves out of it so we don't get hurt. Well, news flash: Losing him or her will hurt even if you do the leaving. My suggestion is to slap yourself out of this negative thinking immediately.

Every relationship has its ups and downs. When the sizzle of a new love fades — as it will — or if you're in a ho-hum period with a longer-term partner, you might fantasize that things would be more exciting with a previous lover. But let's get real: Were they? It's easy to look at the past through rose-colored glasses. But don't let them distort your view of what you have in the present.

All this said, if thoughts of your ex are following you everywhere and distracting you from enjoying dinner or movie night or sex with your current partner, you may need to consider a break. Being preoccupied with your past doesn't mean you need to resume relations with an ex, but it might mean you need to spend some quality time with yourself. Nothing like being alone to help clarify what, and who, you're missing.

You're right about one thing, though: This does come with some risk. Your partner may not want to be someone you need "time to think" about. You'll be giving him or her time to think, too, and you may not like the outcome. Any relationship that stands to last, though, has to be based on honest communication, so better to be open both with yourself and with your partner now — including about that cagey enemy, fear.

Best,
Athena

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