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Wise Guys: Why Do Men Get in Touch with Past Flames?

Tue, May 24, 2011

Advice, Wise Guys

photo by Asthma Helper

Advice from three of our guy friends. This week a straight woman asks,”Why do guys get back in touch with old flames? Booty call? Rekindle the romance? To prove they’re over the woman? Just to say hi? Just got dumped and need an ego boost?”

Straight Married Guy (James Glazebrook): At the risk of talking myself out of an advice column, men and women are essentially the same and act/think identically in 95% of all situations. So any reason you can think of for getting in touch with an old flame, the same goes for guys and their exes. I’ve never stayed in contact with anyone past the break-up, because I can’t imagine getting past the bitterness and resentment, or the leftover love and lust, and being Just Friends. As such, I’ve only ever been the get-in-touchee not the, um, -toucher. But in my limited experience, guys — and girls — never get in touch with former lovers “just to say hi.”

For instance, I recently accepted a Facebook friend request from an ex. We were together for a couple of months over a decade ago, and even in that short time I managed to cheat on her, so I felt sufficiently distanced by time and my old, cold lack of concern to safely socialize with her. I was curious to know what she’d been up to (roller derby!) and to catch up with her and the town in which I had grown up — and grown up fast after making mistakes like that particular infidelity. The wall posts went back and forth amicably enough… until I revealed that what I’d been up to: getting married and moving out of the country. I haven’t heard from her since! So, innocent intentions on my part — but she was on the prowl, right?

Gay Single Guy (Jay Dyckman): I find that most guys get in touch with old flames when they are at “rock bottom” moments in life and need to convince themselves that (a) at one point someone had feelings for them, (b) that unlike the stinging rebuke of a recent ex they are actually capable of affection or (c) they are truly horny and have no other options on the menu.  All three are a complete mistake.  The only reason you should ever get back in touch with an old flame is the “you might have contracted an STD” call or the “I’d like my T-shirt back please – it’s my favorite.”  That’s it.

Straight Single Guy (Tyler Barnett): The reasons for men to visit the ghosts of girlfriends past are numerous. Our exes already know us intimately, they understand us, they have seen us at our worst and best and they can usually make us feel better, fast. We all have days where we feel insecure, out of shape, out of the game, heartbroken or (and more often the case than not) just bored. After a breakup especially, we tend to think about every girl who has ever thought we were amazing, probably to reassure ourselves that we are! We want to be reminded that there ARE others out there that love us, desire us and miss us. We need to be reminded that there HAVE been other girls who thought we were the sexiest, smartest, most perfect men on earth so we can say to ourselves, “It’s her loss for breaking up with me.” And you know what? It works.

Our “wise guys” are a rotating group of contributors, some of whom wish to remain anonymous and some of whom like the attention. This week’s Straight Married Guy is James Glazebrook, a British writer/illustrator working in Berlin with his photographer wife on their cool blog, Überlin; our Gay Guy is Jay Dyckman, an LA copywriter; and our Single Straight Guy is Tyler Barnett of Tyler Barnett PR in LA. To ask the guys your own question, click here.

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6 Responses to “Wise Guys: Why Do Men Get in Touch with Past Flames?”

  1. figleaf Says:

    Clarification: The question says “old flame,” most answers are about “exes.” I think there’s a pretty big difference. Exes aren’t so much old flames as much as they’re someone you went down in flames with. Exes are the people you’ll probably never reconcile with.

    Meanwhile old flames are more about sort of “loved and lost” relationship — ones where it just didn’t work out, not because it burned out.

    I don’t see anything necessarily ominous about contact with old flames. In fact it’s kind of healthy. And in fact if your partner isn’t comfortable having contact with an old flame it might be a sign that he isn’t (or let’s hope just wasn’t) all that good at picking partners. In which case you should worry more that your partner doesn’t have contact with old flames than if he or she does because, I think, that would be a sign that you may not that good a choice and so before long you’ll end up the latest entry on his or her do-not-call list.

    I’m still friends with a surprising number of my old flames, and I always enjoy hearing from them when they ping me on facebook or otherwise get in touch. It’s nice to hear how they’re doing, who they’re involved with, who their children (or, sometimes these days grandchildren!) are, where they’re living and so on. I suppose on some abstract level there might be a risk that an old flame might rekindle a romance but in practice not. I think you realize pretty quickly a) why you were attracted to them in the first place but also b) why you didn’t stay together.

    figleaf

  2. Johnny Says:

    Wow, I think between them the Wise Guys hit on every reason.

  3. Mr L Says:

    Good grief, I must be the most “whacked” of them all. (or I agree with Fig!)

    Think about it ? which side you want to be on ? I am going to the party tonight, if I see Exe, Old Flame ? do I want to be in the most awkward of situations or worse, hiding ? or do I say hello to her, … Just like you do to a friend and move on… to that one you have your eye on ?

    Lets just say I try hard to avoid having to avoid an old flame.

  4. ljay Says:

    At my wedding, I had three of my old flames. I liked ALL of them or I wouldn’t've invited them. Of course there were EXES I DIDN’T invite. They chose to come to proving to them that I was took, but I still LIKED them! Nothing could happen with them in the future and I would care about them as PEOPLE! And they are and I wish(ed) them well.

  5. Cougel Says:

    Straight single guy’s response is my fave, not just because it’s honest but because it reminds me that men, like women, can be heartbroken and vulnerable too. Funny coincidence that I posted am almost identical topic on my blog, around the same time: http://cougel.blogspot.com/2011/05/when-it-comes-to-our-exes-what-can-we.html
    I like this blog.

  6. Nicnak Says:

    I agree with figleaf about OLD FLAMES being different than an EX… I have exes that I have no interest in getting in contact with, they are all exes for very good reasons.. But I also have an old flame,(just the one) which I look at very differently. I WOULD LOVE SOME MALE ADVISE PLEASE… We were together 11 years ago, we spent 9 inseparable months together, very happy,passionate & we would of been together for a lot longer, but he had a seasonal job in the town I lived in,& we both knew it HAD to end when his job did. We were both young,(I was 20 he was 21) we had jobs/careers starting & taking us in completely different directions. Over the next year we stayed in close contact even when his job took him overseas for 6 months, we sent emails,letter & had lots of long phone calls, we made several attempts to get together but things just got in the way,(a car crash being one of them..)Eventually we both started seeing other people & just accepting defeat & moved on with our lives…. 5 years later he found me on friends reunited,(which I didn’t really use, so we lost contact again shortly after)Then a few years later he found me again on facebook. Now for the past 3 years or so we’ve been friends on facebook sending the odd messages back & forth kinda just checking in on each other some messages more flirty than others. He’s away a lot with his job(he in the forces) each time he was going away,I would message him & say goodbye & stay safe & he would always make a point of saying if he didnt reply it wasn’t because he didn’t want to, it was because he cant & that he would do as soon as he could,he always ends his messages with several kisses.. BUT until now either one of us or both of us have been in a relationship…… we’ve finally arrange to meet & its happening next week, I’ve always thought of him in a special way & I didn’t think I still had the same feeling I had 11 years ago, now we’ve finally arranged to meet I’m starting to think my feeling never really went far & could return with a bang!! I cant stop thinking about him & I keep getting butterflys about meeting up. I know he will be different than the boy I fell for to the man he’s become & that my excitement may only be down to all the nice memory’s I have of him & us.. In his last message he asked if he’d be stepping on anyone toes.. & that he was getting quite excited about catching up. Now all of a sudden my brain has gone into overdrive, & I’m thinking about it all way to much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not meeting up thinking/hoping to become girlfriend/boyfriend again. Just that if all goes well & we do feel something other than friends that we may/could possibly progress on to others dates & start getting to know each other all over again. But now I’m worried I’m over analysing the whole situation.. & that he thinks of me as nothing more than an old friend & just thought it would be nice to catch up… After all these years could still have the same feelings for me?? Why would he ask if he’s stepping on anyone’s toes, if we’re just friends catching up this one time over coffee & nothing more?? When a guy is quit excited about meeting up with a girl is it because he thinks it could lead to more & that he REALLY likes her…… Would really like some male views & advise on the whole situation before I meet up next week…


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