Lost Love

Early loves are incredibly powerful and, with the internet, increasingly accessible. In a survey of more than 3,000 people, in Time magazine in 2000, nearly 60% said they often thought about their first loves. Dr Nancy Kalish, from California State University, who has done the bulk of research into 'lost loves', estimates that 10% of people try to get in touch with one. There are no numbers for those who get in touch and immediately remember why they split up in the first place.

Of 2,500 couples who reunited, most did so with someone they'd loved before the age of 22; they'd split up because they'd been too young, had moved away or their parents had disapproved. People who were cheated on did not go back for more. The first 1,000 couples Kalish found in the 1990s were mostly single when they found their first love; 40% got together within three weeks and most got married, with 70% still together in 2004. They said they felt emotionally intense and comfortable with each other. But sexually it was more like slipping into stilettos than slippers.

Why are these relationships so compelling? Psychiatrists from the University of California talk of early love experiences being chemically hard-wired into the brain. Your ex grew up with you, knows your family and set the standard for love.

[Luisa Dillner]