It’s human nature to think of the past from time to time. And for so many of us, the past includes ex-lovers. Since we don’t float seamlessly from one perfect, long-term relationship to another (the process is messy and full of mistakes, misjudgments, and maybe a few regrets), there are some short bursts of passion in between. Some get forgotten, boy bye. Others leave a mark.
It’s not a cardinal sin to remember the heat and the fun of flings and brief encounters, even if you’re in a committed relationship. But if you find that your mind continuously lands on a particular person or steamy time with someone else outside of your current relationship, it may be time to evaluate.
Michelle Afont, relationship expert, divorce lawyer, and multi-published author whose most recent work is The Dang Factor, suggests some serious personal reflection. If a past lover has left a meaningful, lasting impression and your current relationship falls flat, “Simply put, there is something missing from your present relationship. We tend to think about our past flings when we are not currently happy and fulfilled in our love life,” Afont explains.
Consider this. “With a long-term boyfriend, we have had a chance to experience all of his qualities (or lack thereof), whereas with a brief encounter, he was likely on his best behavior, showing very little of the ‘real’ him.” This means you feel stuck on the brief moment a man (or woman) is trying to impress you, and don’t see any of the grit of real life. It’s natural, but it’s fantasy.
But if it’s deeper than that—meaning the aforementioned may be true, but you’re also not getting what you need out of your relationship—then “the brief encounter remains somewhat of a mystery, along the lines of the forbidden fruit. You are likely only going to be thinking of the past lover when the current one is not giving you what you need.”
Sometimes it’s not just steamy thoughts, either. Afont explains, “If there was a previous short encounter and it was amazing, there is always this thought of, ‘I wonder what would have happened if I had married X instead of Y. My life would not have turned out as it has by marrying Y.’ By fantasizing about X, you are really putting your hopes into a lover you really don’t know at all. Strangely enough, the thought of them can somehow comfort us.”
Afont also shares that there are different levels of attraction, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you need them all for a relationship to work, though ideally, your relationship would at least touch on them all. Consider:
Sports and recreation attraction
“When your current partner fails to check all the boxes of attraction, we tend to piecemeal attraction together by thinking about someone else who fills one of the missing boxes.”
This all brings us to Afont’s famed Dang Factor. What this boils down to is a certain something about someone that makes us think, dang, I’m into this. It’s not about who looks right for you on paper; it’s about their essence that makes them stick in our minds.
A daydream about a past lover here and there is OK, but if they are occupying more space in your mind, heart, or, ahem, loins, than your current love, try to figure out what it is you’re missing and what you need to be fully devoted. Afont hammers in that your thoughts are yours, and they aren’t a crime—so long as it doesn’t hamper your ability to move forward and find the real love of your life.