What if my past is my future?

Chat at 1 p.m.

Hi Meredith,

My ex-girlfriend and I were together for a year and a half. The first half we weren't really dating, but we were exclusively sleeping together; we just didn't call it dating. But during our senior year of college we became a couple. As graduation approached, when it came time to talk about our future, things soured. I don't take full blame for our breakup, but I will say I lit the match that ignited it. She was moving to a new city and I was leaving the US for the year. That type of unsteady foundation made it almost impossible for us to build a life together, so it collapsed. This breakup happened more than a year ago. In that time, I have slept with other people and seriously dated one other. This next person was incredible and I was in love with her. But circumstances ended that relationship, and I am not too upset about it. I know it wasn't my fault or hers, just one of those things.

Now I am single and I am taking stock of my personal life. I have noticed that there has been one constant thing in my life – I haven't really fallen out of love with that first ex-girlfriend. Even when I was in love with another, I still thought about her. Sometimes I think I'm a bad person because I don't know if you can love two people. But for a time, I really think I did. I have never for one second questioned my love for this college ex-girlfriend. I tried everything I could to get over her (that's how I found Love Letters and your podcast!), but even when I felt disconnected from her, I knew in my heart I still loved her. Basically, what I want to ask you is, can exes reconcile? How much history is too much? I feel external pressure to just move on and forget about her. People in my life tell me it's over and that I should forget the past. But what if I believe my past is my future? We are still going to live in different places for the foreseeable future so I'm still unsure how we could even be together. But I think I just want to know if such a thing is even possible before I entertained how to do it.

– A conflicted romantic


People get back together all the time. I'm sure there are a bunch of people in the comments section who can tell you that at least for a short time, their partners were their exes.

Usually, when a second (or third) try works, it's because something has changed. Someone has a new set of priorities, or maybe a distance gap has been closed. In your case, what would be different? Are you asking for something you weren't ready for before? Do you intend to move at some point? Would she? Is there any way to see her right now? Also, how comfortable have you been as a single person? How much of this has to do with a need to feel like someone's waiting in the wings, no matter what?

You say you love her, but you need to think about what you mean when you say that. Sometimes nostalgia feels like love. Sometimes when we long for a person, we're really missing a specific period of our lives – like college. You wouldn't be able to go back to what you had with this woman. It would have to be something new.

I don't want you to show up in this woman's life if you plan to hover without without an agenda. That would not be kind. Do some thinking, and if you reach out, know what you're asking for, even if it's just the chance to see her for a weekend. Do not start with "I love you." It's too much.

– Meredith

Readers? Is a second try a real option here?