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LOVE LETTERS

Should the past remain in the past?

Lonely twice-divorced guy debates whether he should date his first wife

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / June 4, 2011

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Q.I’m a twice-divorced father in his late 40s. Meeting new people has never been easy for me, and now that I’m older it feels impossible.

I don’t like being alone so much. I feel like I lose touch somehow. I’d love to meet someone with whom I really “connect,’’ whatever that means. However, all the dating websites seem so one-dimensional. I can’t discern any spark or attraction from a coyly smiling face, quarter turned, and a caption that reads “Searching for my soul mate.’’

Enter the first ex-wife. When it was good, it was great, but when it was bad . . .

She reasons that it was the lack of maturity that brought about our demise more than 15 years back and that, in retrospect, “we were made for each other.’’ I see that she doesn’t want to be alone; she’s currently seeking her second divorce. Neither do I, but I’m finding it difficult to reconcile what went wrong in the past with the here and now.

Is a rekindling reasonable or simply a reach for a past that no longer exists? Is there a someone for whom we were “made’’?

ALONE IN BOSTON

A.I don’t think we’re made for anyone in particular. But I do think that some of our exes wouldn’t be exes if we had met them at a later age, after we had matured and learned about ourselves. I do think that now-single, self-aware exes have a lot to offer us if we meet up with them again later in life.

Of course, I can’t tell if you’re really interested in your ex or if she’s just a possible diversion from the loneliness. Are you still attracted to her? Do you like being around her? Does she make sense for you in the present? My guess is that you don’t know. For that reason, my advice is to go out to dinner with her. As friends. Friends with potential. See how it feels. Remember that those past mistakes are now almost two decades old. Assuming that the relationship wasn’t abusive, there’s no harm in having dinner.

Just be clear about your intentions. Let her know that for now it’s just dinner. You want to reconnect without great expectations. Call her out on the fact that she’s just as confused as you are.

If it becomes clear that she’s just a friend, you might want to consider some of those dating websites. I know that the one-dimensional profiles are weird, but in person some of those people might make you smile. Those online women are like your ex-wife — big question marks that need to be taken to dinner.

MEREDITH

READERS RESPOND:

There is nothing wrong with reuniting with a past relationship. People grow and change. I would advise you to take it slow, with no expectations. Just see how it feels. See what happens. SUGARXO

You kind of glossed over “she’s currently seeking her second divorce.’’ She’s still married. Regardless of your decision to pursue a new relationship, keep a good distance until she’s divorced. HEPDOG

“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.’’ “If at first you do not succeed, try, try again.’’ With so many countervailing platitudes, I cannot confidently dispense advice on your situation. My best stab would be to go for it while being aware of your reservations and communicating them with your ex.

BATESIE52

Why do people move backward? Why would you want to? Loneliness? Desperation? That’s just dumb. Neither one of you know how to be married. What makes you think it will work again? Learn to be OK being alone. Also, you say you’re a father. Good heavens, buddy. Why would you put your kids through that? Whether they are from wife 1, wife 2, or both, they deserve better than that turmoil. Also, big red flag for me that you don’t mention them. Get your priorities straight. LILY

I say NO WAY. I’m not hearing anything in what you share about your ex No. 1 that would suggest that you were “made for each other.’’ No sharing of all of her wonderful attributes that you failed to appreciate the first time around. I am hearing someone who is afraid to be alone and doesn’t want to invest the effort and perhaps heart to find someone new. You actually have to meet some of the women behind the profiles and pictures. It takes some effort. BOSTONBREEZE

Have you thought about doing some volunteer work? This will help you on a number of levels. First, there are a lot of 40-year-old single chicks who are giving back, and it’s a great place to meet them. Second, it will help poor you, all alone, with your self-esteem, when you discover there are people who are worse off than you and you can help them. Third, it will give you a sense of purpose, instead of work, eat, sleep. Try it, and you might discover who you really are and emerge as a more aware being.

MOCHAALMOND

Sure, people do reconcile after living apart, growing up, and crossing paths again. But the scenario you just painted screams “post-second-divorce blues,’’ not “made for each other.’’ Would you still be considering your ex-wife if you had a great date with one of those dot-com prospects last night? Be honest.

MEOW

My take on this is it wasn’t your idea to get back together with your ex, but instead your ex has reached out to you because she is going through her second divorce, and her second marriage makes her first marriage to you look like a walk in the park with birds chirping and a rainbow in the background. You, on the other hand, seem lukewarm to the idea but can’t figure out a good enough reason not to give it another try. My advice: Don’t let your ex lead you down a road you’re not eager to travel.

HENNYMCPENNY

If you love dogs, get one. They have an uncanny ability of attracting and sensing the right person “made’’ for its owner. ELEKKTRA

Edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.