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Ex-Factor

When I met my ex

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Getting in touch with an ex-flame can be awkward - but could also mark the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Rekha Sikka didn't want to attend her school reunion. Now, two years later, she's happy to have met the guy she was afraid of bumping into there - her former classmate and boyfriend. "We drifted apart after he got a job abroad and I didn't want to move. But yes, for years, I hoped he'd come back to me, " says Sikka who eventually moved on and married someone else. So when the reunion was announced and a friend told her Sameer was planning to fly down for it, she was torn between getting out of town and attending.

"I think everyone there was wondering how both of us would react to each other. But Sameer handled it all very well - he walked straight up to me, gave me a hug and started talking, " says Sikka. Post-party, he called her up and the two did a lot of catching up. "It was great being in touch again. We realised there was so much to talk about, to share. Although our relationship didn't work out back then, he's one of my best buddies today, " says the 32-yearold. A friend of the two, Suparna Nag adds, "Since there were no gila-shikwas (objections and complaints) and expectations, things turned out well for both. "

The ex-factor is popping up more than ever before thanks to social networking sites. Until the advent of Facebook, most of us were compelled to leave the past in the past and move on. But now exes of all stripes - school sweethearts, college lovers, former hookups - are popping up. Then there are the now ubiquitous school and college reunions.

The first meeting is the toughest. "The best way is to confront the situation, " says clinical psychiatrist Dr Avdesh Sharma. "Time is the best healer. You may have grown apart but you have also grown up and, over the years, have started looking at things differently. Most of the angst and bitterness reduces over time and some even find that the ex is better as a friend than a lover. "

This change in perspective is what helps two exes to bond - this time as buddies. "It's a good idea to initially meet in the presence of other friends or at events like class reunions. That's where you realise that both the present and the past are seldom as good or bad as we make them out to be, " Sharma adds.

That's how Rekha Sikka says she's achieved a state of 'higher innocence' with Sameer. The maturity that age brought about has helped them form an "unwritten pact" - not to talk about anything from the past that might create friction or reawaken old longings.

Many times after their break-up, she confesses, there were the 'What if?' moments - not because she (" much married with a kid now" ) was unhappy in her current situation. "I guess we humans are not content with what we have, " she says.
The one person who is not privy to her new-found relationship with her old ex is her husband. "Knowing him, I'm certain he'll not understand the comfort level I share with Sameer. In any case, I'm not doing anything immoral, so it's okay, " she shrugs.
When Meghna Upadhaye's fiancê stood her up just a few days before her wedding, who should come to her rescue but her ex. "My mother now regrets being very strict about my relationship with Ajay. We might have gotten serious then but for my mom."

Although Ajay is now married, Upadhaye is happy with the "moral support" he gives her. It all started when he sent her a friend request on Facebook. "We talk often on the phone now. He pulls my leg the way he used to then, and even jokes about finding a good guy for me, " smiles Upadhaye. But of course "getting back" with Ajay wasn't easy. "Initially I used to wonder why he wanted to get in touch at all after all these years. But I must give it to him for being understanding about what happened between us in the past and giving me a shoulder to cry on. It makes me happy that I have a good friend at hand."

In her book Lost & Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasis of Rekindled Romance, Nancy Kalish says that some people begin looking for lost loves fairly innocently. Most people "can't stand loose ends. They need closure".
It is also not not easy to block out one's past. After all, that's what makes us what we are today. Says clinical psychiatrist Dr Sanjay Chugh, "Many might seek out their exes out of curiosity and it's important to remember that although the love may have died out, fondness may remain. "
When her first crush's name appeared on her FB page on the 'People you may know' list, Renuka Chauhan, 48, thought to herself, 'What the heck, why not?' And the fact that she's been in touch with her "childhood boyfriend" is no reflection on her marriage, she asserts. "I have a normal marriage but it's great being in touch with an old buddy. The past is a chapter you know cannot be reopened but who's to stop you from remembering it with affection ? " she asks.

Media executive Priya Goswami got "badly hurt" when her first relationship didn't work out. Though it took some years for the wound to heal, the 45-year-old is glad she agreed to attend her reunion party, sans spouse. "Although I was determined to ignore Kavi, I must say it was great meeting him, " she smiles talking about how her ex switches from being "his brattish, flirtatious self" to a "serious philosopher and sometimes even my counselor since he understands me so well".

Old buddies, according to Goswami, sometimes know you better than even your own spouse "because they have been part of a past when you were such a different, bindaas person". But she sometimes feels guilty about hiding Kavi from her husband. "There's no point in rocking the boat, " she asserts. Quite a few of her friends are in touch with their ex-flames. "After the initial hiccups wherein misunderstandings were cleared (or pushed under the carpet), they do enjoy a fairly comfortable rapport with each other again. But this does not mean they're having affairs, " she asserts.

But it can amount to emotional cheating, say therapists. It's not rare to hear tales of college sweethearts trying to go "back to the future" only to realise they should have been content to leave those memories in storage So if you find you're thinking more and more about the past, and getting to the point where you're constantly thinking about what it would be like to be with that person again, it's time to unplug your computer, and get back to "face-timing" with your spouse instead of Facebooking with the past.

(Some names have been changed on request)

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