I was born in the late 80s, when getting married and pregnant in your early 20s was still the norm. I don't think everyone's parents and grandparents were as virginal and wholesome as they would have us believe; humans haven't changed all that much, but most essentially married their first loves. Everything they had to learn about compromise, sex and dealing with the in-laws, they did together. I look back at my first boyfriend and shudder at the thought that, in another life, we might still be together.
When Mike and I met two years ago, we were both in love with other people, people we'd been infatuated with for a long time and we were honest about it. I moved into a house he had lived in with his ex girlfriend. She decorated the kitchen I make my meals in every day. Her dog is asleep at my feet right now. I had to accept that nothing was new any more. By the time you get to our age, the baggage is palpable.
We all live within the confines of monogamy, even if it's not the path we've chosen for ourselves or our relationship. It's quite a bizarre arrangement in some ways, forcing us to do the polite thing and pretend any feelings we had for previous lovers evaporated as soon as we met our current partner. Every show I watched as a teenager; Friends, The OC, House, Sex and the City, all have a "the one that got away" storyline. These stories are told time and time again in the music we listen to and the films we watch, but we can't acknowledge they exist in real life.
Not all of my relationships ended in a fireball of arguments and resentment. Sometimes, it was just the wrong place and time (or both). Sometimes, it was the right place and time. They served their purpose and I think of them fondly. 10/10 would recommend to a friend.
As much as I think we should acknowledge that "the one that got away" is a reality of life, romanticising it too much is unhealthy. Listening to one too many Taylor Swift songs can have us living in a parallel universe, a fantasy world, not appreciating what we have in front of us. There was a reason it didn't work out. Playing the "what if?" game is fun and I like dreaming up imaginary conversations with people in the shower every morning as much as the next person but it's not real. There's always a chance that your One that got away does not reciprocate the warm and fuzzy feelings of nostalgia.
Maybe that's the reason we hold on to the past, and past relationships, like this. When we think about "the one that got away" and everything we would say to them, we are really asking, "Do you feel the same?" Not having an answer is what makes it romantic. How dull it would be if everything in life was fulfilled.