Should I ditch my girlfriend for my former flame?

Should I stay or go?

Should I stay or go? (Charles Gullung / Photonica / November 4, 2013)

Dear Anna,

I have been in love with the same girl since 2008; I went to high school with her, and she was my first love. I recently heard she asked about me through a mutual friend, and now I’m wondering if I should break up with the girl I settled down with to see if my first love still has feelings for me. Or should I stay with my girlfriend that I have been dating for two years and am now living with? —Stay or Go


Dear Stay or Go,

You want to break up with your current girlfriend because an ex—mentioned—you to a mutual friend? Girl, it sounds like you have other reasons for wanting to end the relationship. At least I hope you do.

As it is, I wouldn’t go changing my life and living arrangement simply because a former flame inquired about me. People mention exes in passing all the time. It doesn’t mean they want to rekindle the days gone by of making out in tool sheds and other peoples’ cars (at least, that’s my memory of high school romance).

Sometimes, when we’re unhappy with what’s going on in our lives, we’ll look for “signs” to tell us what the hell we should be doing. Call it fate or the cosmos or Mercury retrograde or plain ol’ coincidence. If a small thing influences or evokes a desire for change, you might want to listen. Your ex making a sorta-reappearance in your life might be your “sign” that you’re unhappy with your relationship and thinking about packing up the U-Haul for greener pastures.

This isn’t to discount the Big Feels you no doubt have for your high school sweetheart. If you’re still pining for her after six years, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to reach out. At worst, she’ll be uninterested and you’ll get some much-needed closure. At best, you might get a renewed relationship out of the deal. But as it is, even if you make the most eloquent, impassioned love confession, you’ll still be doing so while shacking up with another chick, meaning it probably won’t have the desired effect, you know? That’s like trying to return a sweater to Target while you’re still wearing it (not to diminish people to the level of cardigans or anything).

The questions you’re up against, my dear, are much bigger than “should I stay or go?” Ultimately, it’s not really about this girl or that girl. It’s about the messy emotional work of coming to terms with who you are and what you will become. Are you up to the task?

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CHICAGO

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