People have made millions on millions of dollars capitalizing on the "what if" questions we hold on to after romantic relationships end. From The Notebook to My Best Friend's Wedding, we've seen the story play out a thousand times in a thousand different ways. But finding your way back to "the one that got away" used to be something we viewed as cosmically ordained. If two people ended up together after years and miles apart, it must be fate.
But technology has changed our lives in ways we could never have predicted—these changes are nowhere more perceptible than in the way our relationships evolve. Reconnecting with a childhood neighbor, high school sweetheart, or the workplace crush you never spoke to is as easy as a few clicks of a button. So rather than debating whether or not to make that first move while you try to imagine all the possible outcomes (from best-case scenario to worst-case scenario), why not just make an informed decision?
Prepare yourself for any one of these four outcomes, and you'll be able to start that conversation and be certain you can handle the way it plays out—no matter what:
1. They might be exactly where you left them.
Remember that wonderful summer fling you had five years ago? What about that person you were totally in love with but who always seemed emotionally unavailable during college? Would the current version of yourself still feel attracted to that person if they hadn't evolved one bit since the last time you saw them?
Probably not. You've done oodles of self-work between then and now. You're a more resourceful, self-aware, interesting person than you were then. Prepare yourself for the fact that the person you fell for all those years ago might not be.
2. You may both have grown and changed and still not be right for each other.
Even if someone has done a lot of self-work, your old flame is highly unlikely to have become perfect in the years you've been pining. That guy who was afraid of commitment three years ago probably still struggles to be vulnerable in relationships. That girl who never considered you boyfriend material might very well not see you differently regardless of your transformation. And that guy who ghosted you for a month when he was "having a rough time" will likely take you for granted just like he did the first time and disappear without a word when things get tough for him.
People evolve. They grow to different degrees and at different speeds. And it's possible that the guy you thought really might be someone great if he could just get past his rejection issues has, in fact, done that. But that doesn't guarantee that he'll want to submerge his newly healthy heart into the waters of this particular relationship.
3. You might realize that your feelings or your inexperience clouded your judgment and that this person really wasn't "the one" at all.The reason we dwell on "the one that got away" isn't necessarily because that person is more right for you than anyone else ever has been or will be. It's often simply that they leave so many blanks for you to fill in with your own fantasies, hopes, and expectations that you can write the story you wish had happened without too many pesky facts getting in the way. It's like going to see a really good movie and leaving 20 minutes before it ends. You know what you were hoping would happen, and you need to know whether that's really how it played out on the screen. We idealize the outcomes of our unfulfilled desires, which means that reality, more often than not, is disappointing. Just know that reality has no interest in your plans and take each development in a rekindled relationship as it comes.
4. You might live happily ever after.
I actually know a couple who have this story. They met on her first day of college. He came up and introduced himself, even though he's not that kind of guy. They had a class together and had crushes on each other for years without ever saying so. They reconnected over Facebook when she thought she saw him in a museum one day. Despite the fact that she lived in New York and he lived in LA, they started talking every day for hours on Facebook, then on the phone. He even told her he'd always thought of her as the one that got away. He came to visit her after two months of this constant virtual communication, and they've been together ever since.