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What's up with the one that got away?

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Tripletrouble posted 4/24/2019 21:10 PM

Not to generalize, but I have experienced that men tend to hold up someone from their past as the one that got away. I'm not referring to an ex that stands out. I'm talking about an ex that you hold up as an ideal, that you think about how it could have been and compare to your current life. Is this really common?
I have seen this over and over, but none of my close girlfriends have one of these. I don't. There were relationships that ended before I was ready or whatever, but I don't hold any of them up as an ideal and wonder what could have been.
I'm not suggesting someone you would want to cheat with, and I know many of our BS's here were cheated on with an ex. My own XH killed the marriage with Adult Friend Finder, but for all of our 20 years he burned for an ex and then after D day I found a hidden email file with their communication. My first serious boyfriend had one, and so did the guy I dated for 3 years after my divorce. I just don't get it. There would have been money fights, and child stressors, and who should have noticed the trash was overflowing. So why idealize? Is it just fantasy? Because it sucks for the current SO to be held to an impossible standard.

AbandonedGuy posted 4/24/2019 21:19 PM

Two of my friends have this. I don't. There were women I wanted to have sex with and didn't, but I don't see them as "the ones who got away". It's a grass is greener thing. I don't tend to fall into this trap, some do.

OwningItNow posted 4/24/2019 22:41 PM

Yes, I know several men who have women like this in their pasts. These men have mentioned these women, reached out a time or two. But like you, I don't know any women who think of an ex this way.

[This message edited by OwningItNow at 10:41 PM, April 24th (Wednesday)]

Fenderguy posted 4/25/2019 07:30 AM

I had a "one that got away". We started dating the summer after high school graduation. It was the most intense whirlwind of love, lust and attraction that I've ever experienced. The "summer of love". She went off to a college 3+ hours away, and we would lose touch. Then she'd come home for Christmas, or summer break, and we'd eventually "relapse". This went on for 5-6 years. We'd both go through phases where we were in relationships, but at least once a year we would find our way back to each other. Then she'd head back to school, and it'd be over.

Eventually things came to a head one passionate night. She told me she was moving out of state, she was starting a great job. She asked me if I'd ever consider moving with her, getting married and starting a new life together in another city. By that time I was already well established in my career, owned my own house, and was very much tied to where I still am today. We finally admitted that we had no future together, and we needed to move on. Now I haven't seen/spoken to her in probably 12 years.

I no longer think about her much. I can't really remember her face. I don't even really stalk her on facebook. I never thought I'd get over her, but I have. I'm glad she's the one who "got away". As long as I felt like I had her waiting in the wings, I was never going to move on with my life fully. Still... every once in awhile... she haunts my dreams. I remember what it felt like... true happiness. But dreams are dreams, and reality is reality, and I'm sure had we actually spent more than a few nights a year together it would've went south for one reason or another.

[This message edited by Fenderguy at 7:31 AM, April 25th (Thursday)]

MalibuBayBreeze posted 4/25/2019 08:03 AM

When I used to bartend many of my male customers would talk with me about girlfriends from high school. They all seemed to hold a torch for someone from that time period of their lives, often referring to them as the ones that got away. The women however never expressed the same about any high school boyfriends. I used to find it amusing and curious.

My theory was always that the high school girlfriends were a time in their lives that was carefree. No responsibility, no bills, no kids yet. Just fond memories of good times. My WH would often speak of his high school girl friend in the first few years of our relationship. Even had a picture of her with him displayed until he finally took it down.

Now dealing with infidelity I can see the same aura surrounding an affair. The freedom from responsibility and burdens. Just good times. It's made me wonder if for men it is that very thing which drives the allure of cheating. Recapturing their youth. I could be wrong, but I think there's a connection.

Chaos posted 4/25/2019 09:08 AM

WH AP was the object of his unrequited love in their youth.

There is a reason so many songs by every generation are based on this topic. "I wonder...." Que up Moody Blues - Your Wildest Dreams.

I think it is somewhat "normal" on rare occasion to give someone long gone a fleeting thought of fondness when a random memory pops up out of nowhere for one reason or another. One may remember, smile, for a nono-second wonder "what ever happened to..." and get back about daily lives forgetting about that brief thought. The entire thought process would take up less time to think than it did for me to type this sentence. We don't act on that for a reason - we know that warm and fuzzy memory is just that - a distant memory that has been romanticized over time. It didn't work for a reason. And we all move on with our lives.

This is where boundaries come in. While I have old friends [male and female] on social media - I don't have any EXes on there. For a reason. It would be inappropriate.

They are in the past for a reason. The past is just that - past. In the distance. Far behind.

Brennan87 posted 4/25/2019 09:22 AM

Just chiming in....

While I have fond memories of my HS girlfriend, she isn't the one that got away. I tend to look through it with an adult lense. Yes, in my teenage way, I loved her and wanted a future with her. However, that situation is much like an affair for me. We didn't have the day to day issues, no mortgage, no baby spitting up, no Clorox in the toilet after the kids 10th big summer blow out, no running to the grocery for tampons for the wife, etc. We had high school worries, where to eat before prom, what to get her for her birthday. What party were we going to on Friday, to be seen together. That relationship was innocent but couldn't survive the light of "real life". Some can make that transition work, we couldn't.
I see it for what it was a "first love" Even my ex wife isn't the one that got away. She is the mother of my child and I will always love her for that, but we brought the worst out in each other.
It's easy when the relationship ends to focus on the positives, but neither of them "got away".
Too add, none of my guy friends except for one has a "got away" either. The exception ended up rekindling things but after a few years it ended as well.

Marz posted 4/25/2019 09:28 AM

From what I've seen its not gender specific.

It's a fantasy they build up in their mind.

What if ?????

They live in their day to day existence probably bored and build this up not realizing it's just a pipe dream or escape from reality.

That's why you see affairs spring up from Facebook and High School Reunions.

Butforthegrace posted 4/25/2019 09:30 AM

I had a relationship like the one Fenderguy describes. During college/grad school years we drifted in and out of one another's lives periodically as our paths would cross. Both of us, at various times, pushed existing boyfriends/girlfriends to the side when an opportunity to hook up presented itself. We got along effortlessly and sex was always amazing.

Eventually, though, like in Fenderguy's case, push came to shove. Or it came time to fish or cut bait. Pee or get off the pot. Use whatever metaphor suits you. I walked away. I never did pine for her. I realized that one aspect of the special sauce of our relationship was the "no strings attached" aspect. She was an intense free spirit whose personality was not suited to being tied down to long term commitment. We would never have worked as a committed couple.

So I don't think of her as "one that got away". I did connect with her on social media many years ago, but we communicate only infrequently. She has gone on to a successful career in her dream area -- I did feel happy for her when I learned this, because I view her as a good person -- and she remains single, which does not surprise me. We occasionally exchange polite holiday good wishes, etc.

There was another woman, also from the college/grad school years, who I did try to forge a serious relationship with, and I did pine for her for some time when it didn't work out. In this modern age, peripatetic young people have these sorts of loose ends, I think. Ending a relationship because of a life's change, without closure. Eventually I had to let it go in my heart. I realized it does no good to pine for something intangible like that. If it was meant to work out, it would have worked out. I've not been in contact with her for a very long time. We parted long before the internet existed. I have no idea where she is or what she is doing.

A third anecdote came to me unexpectedly. The woman I sometimes think of as my "first true love". We met about age 12. She summered in my home town, which was somewhat of a summer resort town. Her grandmother lived near my home and our families knew one another. Even at age 12 I was infatuated with her, but way too young and shy to do anything. Our familial entanglements kept us in proximity. For a few summers we were awkward playmates in that phase between childhood and adolescence. About year 3 we became pen pals during the school year. Her letters became flirty, then explicitly sexual.

As an aside, I often think of that process when reading threads about how As develop. Keep in mind that we didn't really know one another very well. It was clear that, during the school year, she was fantasizing about sex, and I was a guy who could occupy her fantasies because I wasn't present IRL. Honestly, she was a million miles out of my league. In her school, she would not have looked my way. But in her fantasy life, via letters, she could create a fantasy version of the man she dreamed of, leading her to tell me all the things she wanted to do with Sir Topham Hat.

But I digress. The next summer, when I saw her, she was no longer a tall gangly girl looking way too skinny. She had developed big, gravity-defying boobs and curvy hips. She had a muscular, fit figure from years of competitive swimming and basketball. We started having sex; she was the initiator. Tall, athletic, curvy, I was the luckiest awkward teenage nerd on the face of planet earth. I was her first. She had an amazing sexual imagination. We tried everything we could think of.

Along came college. She went her way, me mine. We swapped letters for a while. She was giving those college boys hell in terms of making them try to keep up with her voracious sexual appetite. Again, this was aeons before the internet. Eventually, though, the contact stopped. She was involved in her life, me in mine, hundreds of miles apart. I had no idea what happened to her.

About 2 years ago, a mutual friend reached out to me. "Do you remember M?" "You mean MA, the girl I was with in high school?" "Yeah. You heard she died of cancer, didn't you?"

A flurry of Googling yielded the storyline, mostly via obituaries. She ended up getting a music degree, moving to Colorado, working as a church choir director, and then, somewhat later in life, meeting a handsome, hard-working man, getting married, and having four children. Then being diagnosed with some form of aggressive cancer. Several years of heroic chemo/radiation/etc. Gut-wrenching social media photos of her looking like a tortured wraith. Death, leaving behind a widower and kids ranging in age from 7-14. Truly a heartbreaking story. I don't carry a romantic torch for her, but she was somebody I knew, somebody I was close with, and to realize the suffering she went through, it was sobering. I suffered a sort of grief, mainly for her family. They must be heartbroken. I considered reaching out to the widower/husband to offer condolences but thought it might seem weird so I let it go.

[This message edited by Butforthegrace at 9:39 AM, April 25th (Thursday)]

Ripped62 posted 4/25/2019 09:38 AM

I do not experience longing or projecting idealic qualities about "the one that got away" regarding old girlfriends.

AbandonedGuy posted 4/25/2019 09:59 AM

Man, Butforthegrace, talk about taking me on a journey there. Reminds me of the term "sonder": the realization that every passerby is living a life just as complex and vivid as yours. It's a weird feeling when someone who once meant so much to you and then disappeared from your life reemerges in some form or another with a whole history that didn't involve you. I wonder what it'll be like if I run into my exwife one day...

NotTheManIwas posted 4/25/2019 10:08 AM

So mine is a story in direct contrast to the OP's projection. It's the reason I'm in the predicament that I'm in.

My Cheater had a black boyfriend on the side. They were a "behind the curtain" item because of social realities. (how 'bout that for a vanilla description) They projected a platonic thing publicly and saw each other on the sly all while dating "acceptable" others through high school and college.

When I came along, she and I were forthcoming with all of our experiences. I knew that she'd "seen" other black guys in college, and she knew that I'd run with a black crowd for most of my adolescent years. Seemed like a pretty good match that could handle each others' history. She also knew that because of the crowd that I ran with, for a good long period, I actually preferred black women. Perfect white dude for my little blonde, yes?

Never the less, there was something about this one guy from high school that weighed on me. It was "behind the curtain" and represented a kind of sharing sans responsibility that ate at me. On the night that we committed to one another, I had one demand. He was in college a few states away, and I told her she needed to "officially" end it with a phone call from my apartment. She did, and came out of the room saying "he sobbed and said that he'd just always thought we'd end up together." I didn't think much about that because I was preoccupied with the "happy dance" that I was doing in my head.

Fast forward: We start our life, have kids, and she tells me that they've reached out to one another a few times by phone to just say "hey." Being the contemporary, new-age guy that I purport myself to be, I just nod and make no issue of it. Afterall, men and women can just be friends, right? Besides, what I now own is that in the back of my mind I was thinking that she wouldn't want to really see him because she'd gained quite a bit of weight.

Fast forward more: May 12th 2016, she'd lost so very much weight and was looking smoking hot. They became facebook friends. I found out by happenstance that they called each other. I waited for her to tell me and after a week she'd said nothing. I go out and buy a Louiseville slugger and set it by the front door. She sees it and asks what's up with that (knowing full well the inside joke because its what I said I'd use if he ever came around). Hence, the start of my journey.

After three years, I now know that I've been figuratively sharing my marital bed with him squarely in the middle of us. She never stopped holding the torch for him.

And part of the residual carnage is that I now have difficulty reaching out and talking to my best and oldest friend, a half Italian, half black guy. The only guy I've known for over 40 years. Ah, the gift that is infidelity.

still2suspicious posted 4/25/2019 15:13 PM

Yep, I have lived this one, too.

My H cheated on me with bitchface while away for a summer job. I only found out bc his buddies outed him to me, after he had broken up with me!

sigh! I SO wish I had the wisdom I have now back then!

Fast forward 35 years. We were in a bad place, work, kids, etc. Fought most days. Stupid me thought it was bc of the work, kids. Little did I know that bitchface was back in my life! I had NO idea, till I did.

Mind you, thru the years her name rarely came up. Well, apparently HE never forgot her. So...he looked her up (the start of the internet), found her and began a 3 year EA. (she doesn't live close, but close enough that I believe it could have been a PA). Said he was "looking for someone to talk to since we were arguing all the time" "wondered what she had been doing with her life" (35 f'n yrs! who gives a rat's ass!)

When I left the home, thinking we were done, THAT was the day they miraculously were able to meet up, according to H (after 3 yrs "only talking"). Said they saw each other in the restaurant and it wasn't quite the skittlefarting rainbows he had imagined, more like sticker shock!!

But wait! We're not done with story!

In 2016 I had reached a point that we were not, and were never going to heal, and decided to start to D, only he didn't know it at that time.

Well, what do you know? I found her name in his searches! He swore he didn't do it, had NO idea how it got there, someone hacked his ipad, he couldn't verify, by my picture that it is was HIS ipad . You name it he tried it! Only problem was her name is VERY unusual so I pushed back that bullshit!

Does he still pine for her? I have no clue but I believe he does.

Do I care? Nope. I've seen pics of her!!

She can have him.

Oh yeah, SHE had a BF at the time, who became her H. So SHE cheated on him TWICE with my H, too

Sorry for the length! It felt good to get it all out again.

[This message edited by still2suspicious at 3:14 PM, April 25th (Thursday)]

NorthernMSB posted 4/25/2019 15:22 PM

Still2suspitious: Both my husband’s APs were Ex’s and the main one “the one that got away” went on for 22 years.

Said he was "looking for someone to talk to since we were arguing all the time"

Exact words...for 22 years, no sex even though he stopped and visited her many times on trips and even spent the night once. Kissing and making out.

Stupid. Told him yesterday he should have went and been with her. He actually blanched because they would argue all the time on the phone about the fact he wouldn’t leave me. And he thinks she is stupid! Would have lasted a couple days before their little glitter coated romance fizzled out. Stupid.

OptionedOut posted 4/25/2019 15:56 PM

What IS it with exes?

Good lord. And I'm not picking on the men, but it does seem more prevalent with men.

Why carry a torch for one person and marry someone else? While I AM friends with an ex (he's gay now), I have ZERO sexual feelings for him. No, really. NONE. I've been over him for a looooooooong time. It didn't end badly. We just parted ways.

I know I'm not the only woman who, when she's with someone and he's a keeper, he's the one in my heart. It actually feels good that others can be interested, that I can find them attractive, and yet... that feeling I have for my spouse? It feels like magic to be able to walk away. Right, ladies? Men? Do any of you feel that way?

Okay. So it's HAD. I no longer feel that way about WH. But I STILL don't want my former 'he got away love of my teen life' back. I don't want any of them back. When I'm done, I'm done.

NotTheManIwas posted 4/25/2019 16:11 PM

And I'm not picking on the men, but it does seem more prevalent with men.

OptionedOut, you make me chuckle. And I'm telling you, at least among my buddies, if they're gonna leave their ole lady, they're gonna trade in for a newer, fresher model. Just sayin', how do you square that?

StillLivin posted 4/25/2019 17:34 PM

It's not just men that do this.
About 30 years ago I briefly dated someone. We broke up because I was being reassigned overseas and the relationship was barely past casual. Neither of us wanted to date long distance for 2-3 years. On the surface, for the short period of time, he was the whole package, mostly. His only fault was he could get a bit jealous. Fast forward about 3.5 years later and we get reassigned together again. He was daring dating someone and so was I. We were platonic and super cool, had to interact because of work quite a bit. Even though I didn't want to break up with my boyfriend for him, I did hold up a few guys to him as the bar I wouldn't lower.
Lol, he wasn't quite on a pedestal, but he was definitely on a step stool. 😁
Anyway, I later became cool with his girlfriend of over a year. Man was that guy selfish. I had great boundaries, but I'm still a woman and I did shortly elevate him to the one that got away status. I would say it's equally proportional.

still2suspicious posted 4/25/2019 17:44 PM


he should have went and been with her

When I found out about her we were already separated, my decision. I told him THIS exact same thing!

He told me that seeing her, in person, took the wind right out of their (?) sails! Who knows the truth? I don't.

I do know that her husband did not live with her for years! Unfortunately he died of cancer the year after I found out, but before I found SI.

I had many BF's thru my life, , and never had any thoughts of any of them "getting away".

motod posted 4/25/2019 21:36 PM

The following quote always resonated with me:

Women love stronger. Men love longer.

The1stWife posted 4/26/2019 06:26 AM

It’s all in your mind. It’s a Fantasy. Nothing more.

Because in reality it was not based on real life - bills, kids, aging parents, death, money problems, and the annoyances like who left the empty milk container in the refrigerator again.

I look back and every relationship ended for a reason. Sometimes it wasn’t my choice but I can now see it as a blessing in disguise.

I seriously dated a guy right before I met my H. He was the one. I was convinced. He ended it due to us now being apart due to school. I was willing to have a long distance relationship. He did not after trying it a few months. I was devastated to say the least.

Months later I met my H and we started dating. After a few months we had an emotional connection that was very strong.

I suddenly realized I did not have the same connection with Mr Long Distance BF. I thank my lucky stars I did not marry Mr LD. I would have ended up very unhappy because something was missing. I just did not know it at the time.

Mr LD tried for a year to make amends and get me back. Not a chance. Maybe I am the one that got away for him. Don’t know or care.

Point is that we all get our hearts broken - but you cannot live in Fantasyland. It will never meet your expectations.

I always laugh at the stories where people go to their HS reunion and have an affair with their HS crush. I wonder if sometimes it is part fantasy that fuels the fire.

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