Dangerous Online Love

Dana Margolis asked her husband, “Have I stopped being attractive to you?” and got the answer every woman dreads, “Well, you have kind of let yourself go. Actually, you’ve really let yourself go!”

Dana was crushed. She’d managed to quit smoking a few years earlier, a lifelong habit and one her husband abhorred. She’d expected to gain some weight, but the pounds had poured on and spiraled out of control. Dana’s feelings were hurt, but soon she felt angry. Why wasn’t her husband giving her support, suggesting ways she might improve her figure instead of this blanket condemnation? Dana was steaming.

A few days earlier, Dana had searched facebook for the name of her first love and found him on the first attempt. She had gazed with curiosity at his profile pic and then gone off to prepare supper. Now, her husband’s hurtful words still echoing in her ears, Dana repeated the search for her lover and sent him a friend request.

Little Spat

With a click of her mouse, Dana almost broke up her 28 year marriage. “By the time my old lover Bob answered my friend request, I was no longer angry at my husband. We’d resolved our little spat and he’d promised to help me out however he could so I might lose some weight. He reaffirmed his love for me and we were back to normal.

I had forgotten about the friend request I sent to Bob until I heard back from him. I tried to keep things light, and we exchanged chatty catch-up notes and pretty much, that was the end of it—for awhile.

But a few months later, Dana posted a status update about her mother’s sudden ill health and got an immediate response from Bob, offering his friendship and support. Bob and Dana began corresponding through their personal email addresses and there was a shocking amount of feeling between the two. “All of a sudden, I felt all those feelings I’d felt as a teenager in love for the first time. Bob and I were writing to each other every chance we got. It was like an addiction.  I wasn’t the only one who was married—Bob was on his third marriage and was a father to three children. The intensity of our feelings for each other was exciting but also frightening since they threatened to break up our marriages.”

Dr. Nancy Kalish, a psychologist from the California State University-Sacramento has studied the topic of lost lovers’ reunions over the last decade and penned a book on the topic: Lost & Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romances. Kalish believes that the overwhelming feelings such as those experienced by Bob and Dana may have been imprinted on their brains back when they were teens. The feelings lie dormant and can be awakened even decades later by a reunion—online or otherwise—as the trigger.

Cocaine Addiction

One of the studies Kalish looked at showed that pathways in the brains of teenagers light up when they are in love. Reuniting is not unlike an offer of cocaine to a former addict. Dana and Bob corresponded for several months and almost got together for an affair.

Dana’s husband caught on and laid an ultimatum: Choose: Bob or our marriage. The Margolises are currently in couples’ therapy. But Dana will always wonder: what if? Dr. Kalish advises against online reunions unless both parties are single. If an old lover should contact you, she says, limit the correspondence to a single, light catch-up note. Online love is just too dangerous for happily married couples.

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