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The Temptation of the Old Boyfriend

By Hildie Westenhaver

As my friend dropped her voice I leaned in, knowing she was about to spill some good gossip. “Shelley reconnected with her old boyfriend on Facebook.” Due to the clandestine overtones of this statement I guessed that this wasn’t a simple update on who Shelley has been friending lately. “They’ve been texting too. Her husband found out but she swears they’re completely platonic.” I groan. I don’t need to hear anything else to know exactly what’s going on.

Shelley is a friend I’ve known forever and a day. We used to be in the same stake and although we never hung out on a regular basis, we always hit it off and enjoyed each other immensely. She is—I assumed—pretty happily married with three youngish children. But the old boyfriend thing? That is a wedge that I’ve been seeing drive its way into marriages all over the place lately. And it’s the reason I won’t friend anyone on Facebook that I’ve ever kissed.

I’m not going to blame Facebook and turn this into a post about the evils of social media. This temptation-of-the-old-boyfriend business has been going on much, much longer than that. I remember as a young newlywed seeing a fellow young newlywed in our ward suddenly leave her husband and new baby for an old fiancé; only to return, sheepishly, a few months later. This was years before the internet was the hook-up place that it is now.

What is it about an old boyfriend? Is it a hope to recapture youth? Is it the wonder of what might have been? Is it like the old lipstick you threw in the back of the drawer because you didn’t like it, only to fish it out a year later and when you try it on you think, “wow! This looks great on me! Why did I ever get rid of it?” Or is it just the appeal of romance before there were diapers and weight gain and crows feet?

 

I can’t really put my finger on what the allure is, only that people are throwing decent marriages and the well-being of children out the window and getting back with old boyfriends and girlfriends at an alarming rate. Although I don’t blame social media for this, the internet and cell phones sure have sure made it easier. Anyone can be reached within seconds–and in private–and sometimes that temptation of the road not taken is just too much to resist.

I know I need to say something to Shelley because that’s what friends do. Especially outspoken friends like me. I’ll never forgive myself if I watch her life become a train-wreck and I didn’t speak up. Because this is what I’ve learned about spouses who are thinking the grass is greener on the other side: it isn’t.

I don’t want to start bring Satan into all of this because people start rolling their eyes and think I’m some kind of kooky evangelical. But I am here to bear my testimony that he can convince you of anything. The devil has had a lot of years and billions of people to practice on. He can convince you that you married the wrong person when it isn’t true; he can convince you that somehow a different person will add excitement and untold wonders to your life (even when it’s someone that you already decided wasn’t good enough once before), he can somehow make you believe that you will manage to avert disaster and that it’s all harmless and that this is making you happy and isn’t being happy going to make you a better wife and mother? Seriously, I’ve heard every lame reason in the book.

I would like to tell Shelley that none of it is true. Her life seems like a boring struggle and so does her old boyfriend’s and it’s the perfect recipe for choosing to close her eyes to the reality that hooking up with somebody else will not make things better. There will still be trouble and dissatisfaction with anyone. Are you listening to me? There will be bad, boring, unpleasant things anytime you are in a long-term relationship.

I’ve seen friends split up families going after the one that got away. And it seems to never work out. Because how could it? These people, like Shelley, are forgetting an important detail: there was a reason they broke up in the first place! Everything seems so exciting and wonderful when someone is actually paying attention to you and interested in the things you have to say; not like the husband you have now who seems rather hum-drum and disinterested in your day-to-day life.

Shelley, you picked your man. Maybe you chose wisely, maybe you didn’t. But you chose. And now your job is to make the best of it. That is not exciting and it won’t get your blood flowing with anticipation. But that is what will make you happy in the long run, my dear. Just like you’ve taught your kids the difference between ‘what’s right’ and ‘what’s right now’, you’ve got the same choice but on an eternal level. Texting each other and messing around on Facebook might seem ever-so-wonderful but it’s all smoke and mirrors, Shelley. Cut it off clean. End it right now. In a few months you’ll see things clearly and be relieved that you stopped it while you could.

 

 

 

About Hildie Westenhaver

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves.

7 thoughts on “The Temptation of the Old Boyfriend”

  1. I was mostly with you (minus satan) except this part. "Shelley, you picked your man. Maybe you chose wisely, maybe you didn’t. But you chose. And now your job is to make the best of it." That's… a very Dr Laura privileged viewpoint. A choice you made at 19 is not necessarily a choice you should pay for for the rest of your life, especially if the person you chose has serious problems. Her job is not to make the best of it. Her job is to do her best to fulfill her side of the relationship, but if the other person won't play along, she should not have to suffer forever. Anyway. Tangent.

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  2. Sue, you're correct. If there are problems and divorce is the only answer, then go get that divorce. The problem I have is with people who didn't decide they wanted a divorce until they hooked up with an old flame on the internet. When getting back together with someone they once had feelings for is the impetus for ending a marriage, I think there is a problem.

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  3. I don't really understand wanting to keep contact with old flames. One reason why I don't do Facebook is because I DO NOT wish to be contacted by by them. It would just be too awkward. There were reasons that those relationships didn't go anywhere. I am curious to know how some of them are doing and I would be interested to hear about how they and their families are doing in life, however I am not interested in having any intimate conversation.

    One of the few things I miss about single life is the platonic association with a number of wonderful men. They were great guys and I do miss them. However, I also know in this fallen world even the best most stalwart people can make mistakes in the right conditions. I would not want to place any true friend in any situation that would put their family unity at risk.

    One think I do look forward to in the next life is that there will not be any risk of having something untoward happen in relationships. I look forward to one day enjoying fully brotherly relationships with the friends I have made on earth. But for now, I will keep a respectful and loving distance.

    I have heard of people getting offended at the idea that something bad could happen between them and their married friends. But I have seen these relationships evolve into affairs that had broken up home and broken the hearts of children involved.

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  4. Yes, you should not stay in a marriage that is harmful to you mentally, emotionally, or physically. If you really are doing everything you can and are with someone who is not willing to make the marriage work, perhaps divorce is the right decision. However, that decision should never be made because you found someone else "better". I feel like what is being talked about in this post is something different–deciding your marriage isn't working because you've found a new, exciting person (or rediscovered someone from the past). Being involved with someone else, emotionally even more than physically, is a marriage killer. There's no way to argue otherwise.

    Even if this friend were in a marriage that needed to end or that was ending, I would still counsel her not to get involved with an old flame on Facebook (or through any means). Get divorced, heal from that, deal with your issues, and then maybe think about getting back into a relationship with someone. And if he's married and you're not, then just say no.

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  5. I am Facebook friends with a couple of old boyfriends. Occasionally I like their posts, they comment on mine, that's the extent of our Facebook relationship. We don't chat privately, we don't text, there is nothing there that I wouldn't be comfortable with my husband seeing. In fact, he's friends with one of them because that's how we met. I have no intention of straying from my marriage.

    That being said, my brother now hates Facebook because it was a big factor in his wife deciding she wanted a divorce. She spent a lot of time on it, was secretive and locked her phone. She was carrying on with someone on the side. Temptation comes in many forms and sometimes you don't see it coming.

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  6. While you're married, you owe yourself (as much as your spouse) the integrity of remaining loyal to that spouse in every way. Emotional intimacy may not seem like "cheating," but turning to friends, family, and old flames instead of your spouse lays the groundwork for future troubles.

    When someone says, I'm not going to betray my spouse, but … [insert whatever behavior turns from that spouse toward another], ring warning bells, sound a foghorn, and wave red flags.

    Think of King David. "At the time when kings go forth to battle … David tarried" (2 Samuel 11:1). In a very few steps (staying home, looking upon, inquiring after …), he went from being the Lord's chosen, anointed ruler to an adulterer and then to a murderer.

    I don't mean to imply that simply messaging or texting an ex- will forever jeopardize one's eternal salvation! (Many divorced and remarried parents need to keep communication open for their children's sakes.) What I do mean is that marriages must be nurtured by time, attention, and intimacy. Willfully choosing to allot those precious resources elsewhere means willfully choosing to withhold them from where they should be invested.

    If there are problems in the marriage (and it's a pretty safe assumption that all marriages have problems of one degree or another) seek professional counseling and/or ecclesiastical counseling for a safe, appropriate way to vent, heal, or make decisions about major changes. If that leads to a severing of ties, it will have come about through wise deliberation. After that happens, when the marriage is legally dissolved, then it's okay to reconnect with any X, Y, or Z–as long as they're not married, either.

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  7. I'm still friends with an old boyfriend, but that's because I think he might be gay… And yeah. The others, no. Things never ended well in dating relationships for me when they ended. Probably for the best.

    I have found through observation that it is not a good thing to hang on to the past, especially relationships. That longing alone will undermine any marriage.

    And so long as the relationship isn't abusive, and both parties are remotely interested in figuring it out, then buck up and focus. Wandering eyes don't make for successful relationships.

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