Come on, admit it: we've all done it! But here's why it's always a good idea to stop and think before starting to track down an old flame online...
Ever wondered what happened to your first boyfriend, the one that got away or that ill-advised workplace crush from the 1980s?
Not so long ago, it could easily take weeks of detective work to track down a romantic blast-from-the-past – so you'd be highly unlikely to find the time and enthusiasm to indulge. Now, however, there's a good chance you can search out your ex while you wait for the kettle to boil, thanks to the internet.
But is it really a good idea? Life coach Olga Levancuka certainly doesn't think so: 'In short, please don't! It will hurt. Whether or not the person has moved on with his life, the emotions that will surface are going to be negative. You'll either see that your ex is much better off without you, or you'll be pleased he's worse off without you. And neither is going to be good for your wellbeing.'
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Are you opening a can of worms?
Feeling rather indignant now? Of course, it's possible that you're content with your own life and merely curious to find out what he or she up to nowadays. You wish them well – but you're not going to be affected either way by what you discover, right? Don't be so sure! You could be about to open a can of worms without realising it, according to Levancuka.
'Should you decide to Google your ex anyway – which, let's face it, you most likely will – at least stop and ask yourself some questions before you go ahead,' she advises. 'Is my life better or worse without my ex? Will my current partner be upset about me doing this? What am I genuinely trying to achieve here? What will I do if I get upset? And if you say you just want to check he's doing OK, you're being dishonest with yourself.'
The problem is you don't know how you're going to feel until you discover what they're up to nowadays.
Supposing you split up because you wanted children and he didn't – and you find out he's now a proud father-of-three? What if they're happily married to the childhood friend you always suspected they loved all along? What if they're seriously ill? Even far less dramatic discoveries than these can leave you feeling confused, lacking – and, very possibly, eager to get in touch with him. See what we mean about a can of worms now?
So let's return to that moment when your finger are poised to type his name into the search engine. You have one last chance to follow Levancuka's advice and quash the urge. 'There is no such thing as “I just want to know what he's doing”,' she insists. 'If you want to track down your ex, something is missing from your life – and you need to work out what this is. There is a reason your ex is an ex. Leave him in the past.'
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Can you be Facebook 'friends'?
Gone ahead and tracked your ex down anyway? Don't be too hard on yourself. It's just too easy – particularly with social media sites, such as Facebook, offering a temptingly low-effort way to reconnect. However, this throws up another issue: what will your friends and family think if they see you've been in touch with an ex on Facebook? It's natural for them to question your motives. After all, what would you think if it was the other way round?
'Whether or not it's all perfectly innocent is irrelevant,' warns Levancuka. 'What's important here is what others think – and how it will affect your relationships with the people that are in your life right now. In addition, reconnecting with your ex will send them mixed signals about your intentions. It could even put his current relationship under strain. And why would you want to do that?'
One final word, though: there's always the tiny chance that tracking down your ex at exactly the right time will lead to a rekindled romance. Or that you'll reignite the friendship, without the romance, and everyone will live happily ever after. But the odds are stacked against you. 'If you absolutely must reconnect, no matter what, at least be honest with yourself about what you want to achieve here,' says Levancuka. 'You don't have to tell anyone else – but at least let yourself know.'
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