When you are in a relationship, especially one where monogamy is presumed or has actually been talked about and agreed to, the presence of an old flame can be one of the main thorns that keep coming up for the people in the relationship. This is even more so if the old relationship was a fairly serious one, in that the person was someone who was really attractive to your partner and it was a case of some missed opportunity or circumstances.
Imagine this: your partner had this high-school sweetheart and they had been dating each other on the sly for years without either family getting to know about it. They had super-hot chemistry, had spent a lot of time together, talked about everything under the sun and just happened to be discovered in their relationship by jealous relatives or friends who report it back to their respective families. Those families, for whatever reason, did not approve of the relationship and made the couple break it off. In India, there is no dearth of reasons for families to interfere and control relationships, is there? It could be anything from religion, to caste, community, economic status, career not begun yet, older siblings and cousins who are still in the queue, too young, too old, or that you are not really an independent entity and that it is the parents who need to decide for you even though you are an adult, or even just plain meanness. In such a situation, where the young sweethearts call it off, go their separate ways, find other loves, get into other relationships which now include you, and then rediscover each other one fine day, how comfortable would you be?
It is one thing when there are every day flirtations with some new attractions that crop up in work circles or social spaces. You could tell yourself that you are aware enough and could cut it out, nip it in the bud and move forward, but with an old flame that was only tragically cut off, it is a whole another deal. You very likely know the whole story, commiserated with your partner and even helped each other heal. You may feel you even know this person so closely from everything you have heard from your partner and perhaps even the family. It feels a lot more dangerous and a very present danger.
You might on one hand want to allow them to have a more adult closure to their old relationship, or you might want to keep a really close eye on that person, perhaps even create a friendship between the two of you in the sense of “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer,” or you might think about putting down the law and telling your partner to stay far away – that there is no knowing when an old flame might reignite.
The anxiety really isn’t about the old flame, but about the strength of your love. Your actions need to be about this relationship, and not necessarily about the other.
As written for The New Indian Express
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.