Magazine

Love Letters

Even after five years as part of a couple, I think of an old crush every day

Why can’t I get an old flirtation out of my mind?

In Season One of her new Love Letters podcast, Meredith Goldstein explores what happens when love ends in a breakup. Listen to the podcast now, and subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and RadioPublic.

Q. I have been with my partner for nearly five years. But I’ve always had lingering feelings for someone else. I think about that person at least once a day, and every now and then, it drives me to tears.

This other person and I don’t know much about each other. But when I see them, we have this connection (there is a lot of eye contact). They look at me like they know me — and like they want me.

We did have a flirtation they ended before I coupled up with my current partner. Now it looks like they might regret it. I can’t just drop my partner, who is my best friend. But I have long felt regret about not being with this other person. I love and am scared to lose my partner. It feels like I love two people — one who knows me more than anyone, and another I hardly know. I can’t give up the first for the second because what if it doesn’t work out? I’m afraid I’ll never stop wondering. Is there a way to stop? – Wondering

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A. Fantasizing about people we don’t know well often means something is missing in our real relationships. It makes sense to have what-ifs about roads not taken, but if they’re overwhelming your brain, you probably need to work on the partnership you already have. Have you been bored? Checked out? Less romantic? Less thoughtful? Think about how you can use this extra energy to improve what’s in front of you.

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Also, it might not be your romantic relationship that needs attention. Maybe this crush signals you’re unfulfilled at school or work. Think about the other things you’ve been longing for, and consider that this infatuation might be about another void.

I’ll end this by saying that you’ve made a lot of assumptions about this other person without having any real information. You make it clear that you barely know each other, yet you’re pretty sure they regret rejecting you more than five years ago. You got all of that from . . . eye contact?

The next time you see this person stare, assume they’re remembering something great they saw on TV. It’s as likely they’re thinking about that — or nothing at all.

Meredith

READERS RESPOND

There must have been a reason the flirtation did not become a relationship. MAXIEMO-HILARIOUS

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You certainly don’t “love” two people, since one of them you’ve only just had “lots of eye contact” with. PRINCEHANS

Yesterday, I had a lot of eye contact with the lottery ticket agent at 7-Eleven. I think they wanted me, but then once I’d paid they looked away. What does that mean? STAUGUSTINE

You can’t control what you feel, just what you do. Commitment isn’t about never being attracted to anyone else — it’s about never following up on that attraction. ZENWAYPARK

Submit your question to Meredith here.

Meredith Goldstein’s memoir, “Can’t Help Myself,” will be published April 3 by Grand Central/Hachette.