Two years ago, Minh Tung flew excitedly back to his hometown from Ho Chi Minh City for a class reunion, knowing he’d be able to see his first love again.
The nearly-40-year-old man had lost contact with his high school friends for years, but he still kept a picture of the girl he’d loved in his youth.
When social media became a thing, he finally reconnected with a few friends about 15 years ago. It was then that he was invited to a class reunion, and he gladly accepted.
“I wanted to meet the woman I used to love and see how she’s doing,” Tung said. He remembered her as “a charming and gentle girl.”
And her looks were captivating. “She could have been the inspiration for many creative works,” he said.
Back then, he’d had the feeling that the girl had a crush on him, but he’d been too shy to act on his intuition.
But Tung still clearly remembers the time he had to drive her to school in the rain, the both of them hiding away in a torn raincoat.
She moved closer to Tung to avoid the rain, but she never got that close again. Years later, Tung moved south for work, and the two lost contact.
Decades later, however, thinking about her still makes Tung feel like he’s 18 years old again. But on the day of the class reunion, Tung’s first love was not everything he’d expected.
Instead of the gentle face and bright smile that he remembered, the mannerisms of the woman he’d once loved were now crass, and she spoke obscenely.
She was fat and dressed in strange clothes. “Looking at her, I felt extremely lucky to have my current wife,” he said.
He heard from friends that his former crush was now a pawnshop dealer in her husband’s hometown. Rumor was that despite her “rude attitude,” she had in fact remained kind and generous, and was willing to lend a helping hand to anyone. Tung was still a bit uncomfortable and shocked by how much it looked like she’d changed.
Le Thu, a 34-year-old woman living in Van Giang, Hung Yen Province, will never forget her first love from 15 years ago. In a corner of her heart, she always remembers the times she shared with her old lover.
“He made me remember that I was loved, made me remember that I was someone special,” she said.
During the pandemic, Le Thu received a friend request from her old lover on social media.
His face was now wrinkled with age, but it was still the same face nonetheless. The old friends began talking about their families and chatting nostalgically about their old school days.
Thu was happy when her former flame said he had a good job and a happy family. Knowing that Thu and her husband’s income was taking a major hit due to the pandemic, her old lover offered her money. She declined but was nonetheless glad he’d made the suggestion. She trusted their new relationship would remain kind in this way.
But once the pandemic was over, her old romance told her they should meet for coffee during one of his business trips. Thu agreed to meet, but was disappointed when her old crush drove her straight to a hotel instead of coffee. He said he still loved her and proposed that they become secret lovers.
Thu scolded him and immediately caught a ride home. In the days after, the man wouldn’t leave her alone, messaging her non-stop that he missed her. Thu then hurriedly blocked all forms of contact with him.
After some talks with an old classmate, she found out that this man was unemployed, and was currently relying on his wife financially. And Thu was not his only victim: he had tried to seduce many women and often asked them for money to “start a business.”
Some had already lost their money to Thu’s old lover, and they can’t ask for it back for fear of blackmail.
“I am thankful for that encounter, because at least I now realize how lucky I was to not marry someone like him,” Thu said.
Playing the percentages
Nostalgia for old flames is a common notion. In a survey of 1,500 readers conducted by VnExpress, 20% of readers still miss their first love regularly, and 58% said they miss theirs sometimes, but not enough to affect their current life.
Despite this, the rekindling of most first love affairs ends unsuccessfully. In a few studies, the success rate of reunions between first-time lovers was only 1%.
“I met a lot of people who tried to rekindle their first love, but sooner or later, they were met with disappointment,” said Vera Ha Anh, a marriage counseling expert in Hanoi.
A survey in 2019 by Kevin Thompson (U.S.), who owned a website for people seeking to reconnect with their old lover, had the same results. Among 3,500 survey participants, only 15% successfully rekindled their old love, 14% broke up again, and 70% never decided to reconnect.
According to Ha Anh, the rekindling of first love often disappoints because the one you loved has become far too different, or their personality has changed for the worse.
“Many people’s dreams were broken after seeing their old lovers because they were stuck in the past. The person they missed the most now belongs to the past, in all those good memories. The person they see now is no longer someone they once knew,” she said.
Moreover, when people are young, they are often more innocent and pure – which is something that slowly fades when people become older.
Both of the couples in this story have now changed, their awareness of each other is also sharper, and they no longer see each other through rose-tinted glasses. Their appearances may not have changed much, but the eyes that see and judge them have.
Even though Hoang Ha, 42, has a family, she still planned to return to her first love after a chance meeting. In a conversation with her therapist, she revealed that after some hard times with her husband, she felt “rejuvenated” when she saw her old lover.
Her old lover promised to protect her “even when the sky falls.” And yet, when the lover’s wife found out about their relationship, she asked him to choose, and he chose to go back to his family.
“Before that, I only had good memories about him, I forgot that we broke up because he had a change of heart,” Ha said.
Psychologist Nguyen Thi Tam from HCMC has advised many to not follow Ha’s path, getting their current feelings mixed up with the past. “You need to remember that there was something wrong with the relationship if you had already ended it once before,” she said.
Vera Ha Anh also says that life will let you love many people, but in the end, you will only have one person to love.
“Don’t let nostalgia take away what you currently have,” she advised.
The shock from seeing his first love has allowed Minh Tung to appreciate his wife more.
Le Thu has also become less obsessed with the past.
Meanwhile, Hoang Ha’s family dynamic has become troubled after her mistake. She always feels guilty and has to keep her feelings closed when her husband complains about how he only stays with her because he wants their children to have both parents together.