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Dear Nicola...

An old boyfriend has tracked me down – should I reply?

Written by . Published on February 21st 2011.

Dear Nicola...

Nicola Mostyn

Friday 18 February 2011

An old boyfriend has tracked me down – should I reply?

Dear Nicola

An old boyfriend from 18 years ago has just contacted me via email. He found me by googling my name and said he has been trying to track me down for over a year, contacting other women with the same name to no avail. This man is in his late thirties now and he didn’t mention it but I happen to know that he is married and has kids.I can’t help wondering why he is getting back in touch. I feel a bit rude not replying, but I am slightly unsettled that he has been trying so hard to track down someone who he only dated briefly and so long ago.

I haven’t really thought about him in the years since and though I am single, I am certainly under no illusion that this was a missed romantic chance. I’m tempted to just ignore him but don’t want to be rude. What should I do?

Nicola replies:

We can only guess at your old flame’s intentions but, being realistic, it’s unlikely that this man has contacted you after almost two decades just to return that tin of Impulse you left back at his flat in 1993.

You won’t know for sure unless you reply, but there is a high possibility that he is doing a ‘High Fidelity’ – Nick Hornby’s novel in which a man reaches his thirties, starts to wonder where it all went wrong in his life and sets about tracking down and meeting all his old girlfriends.

I’m not suggesting you are one of a long list. Most people usually only have one or two old partners/brief acquaintances that they nurture fond (and fantastically optimistic) feelings for, and to be fair to your ex, we’ve probably all a least thought of doing what he’s gone through with.

We have such high expectations for our lives that it’s only human to wonder whether another relationship might have taken your life in another, happier direction. The difference is, in pre-internet days, after you’d had a bad week with your partner and daydreamed about whether you might not have been better off with flash Simon from sixth form after all, all you had was the fantasy. In these mass communication times you can be on the internet and locating Simon’s whereabouts before you’ve had time to remember that you hated the way he chewed his food, or that he was a Tory, or that he slept with your best friend and then turned her into a Tory.

Anyway, we might be judging this guy too harshly. He may simply want to say hello, though admittedly his determination in tracking you down doesn’t come across as casual and he could have mentioned his wife and kids in his email, and didn’t.

You could reply, briefly, but then even if he just wants to ‘catch up’ what good can come of it? As most of us have found out via Facebook, friendships and relationships lapse for very good reasons, and after a short burst of energy created by the renewed contact, they soon slide back into their deceased state. It’s just that, during that period, you have to endure 3000 pictures of them skiing.

So, if you really have no interest in talking to your old boyfriend again, and you can fight the curiosity to find out what he wants, then you should go with your instincts and not reply. That way, he’ll think he got the wrong person and the fantasy of a better life with a perfect love can remain just that. Or he can just chuck that can of Impulse in the bin.

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Nicola Mostyn
Liverpool Confidential
Top Floor, 14 Colquitt St
L1 4DE

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