Friday, 22 February 2013

Old flames

In James Joyce's famous short story "The Dead", Gabriel Conroy's sexual desire is thwarted by his wife Gretta's lingering affection for an old flame from many years before.

I suspect it's very common for relationships to be subtly diminished or spoilt by the embedded memories of an older relationship.

Not in my case perhaps, because none of my youthful romances were especially intense or sensational, but I imagine many couples are contending with some hidden emotional or sexual nostalgia.

How many bedmates are secretly thinking of that passionate affair of ten years ago, that disarming man or woman who led them to new heights of love or sex or joy or excitement but then for one reason or another disappeared from their life?

How many couples are privately comparing their present partner with someone else and thinking that what they've ended up with is okay but lacks some extra something they had a tantalising taste of in the past?

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe most couples are quite satisfied with what they've got and aren't comparing their partner with anyone at all. They may even be relieved that they've landed someone so much better than that immature idiot they were so besotted with in their more impressionable youth.

But what woman has not at some time or another been called not by her own name but by the name of some previous heartthrob the man still carries a torch for? And which he frantically takes back in a flurry of red-faced apologies?


  1. I'll have to leave this to others since I have no comparisons to make.

  2. Grannymar: Well, I'm glad to hear that. You must have had a very happy marriage.

  3. Me - it's never happened to me! Clearly I am so incredible that I wipe out all previous memories by my very presence. ;)

    I know you're right though. It's so easy to poison a relationship with comparisons. Strikes me as a tad immature, but it happens.

  4. Jay: What an enviable gift! If only my sheer wondrousness neutralised all possible rivals....

  5. I have never been called the wrong name by any of the men I've been involved with. Not once. And I've never called any man the wrong name. (Then again, I believe there was a reason endearments were created.)

    As to the issue of comparisons, I don't do it. I've had some intensely passionate relationships, but I'm a very in-the-moment person. I'm with who I'm with at that time, and I'm not cluttering my head with someone else. That would take away from the experience for me.

  6. Agent: Clearly men aren't as awful as I've painted them! Good point about the reason for endearments, I hadn't thought of that one!

    Good to know you're so firm about not making comparisons. Once we start, it can lead to no end of trouble....

  7. My dad called all his girlfriends/wives "darling" for precisely that reason.

    There have been lovers where it's taken more time to get over than others. But it's amazing what a clear head and hindsight can do to show what a total twat they've been.

    Ultimately, if they were that great/wonderful/amazing, the relationship would still be ongoing. If they didn't reciprocate, they are even less great/wonderful/amazing.

  8. Roses: Oh, so some men do have that tendency! Not to mention of course those who use endearments all the time to avoid any unfortunate slip of the tongue....

    Very true that if your ex-lovers were that great, then probably you'd still be with them.

  9. You worry me, Nick, and not for the first time. How many people's bedchambers do you have access to to make such a ludicrous assumption?

    Enter this your sweeping statement:

    "... what woman has not been called by her own name but that of some previous heartthrob the man still carries a torch for?" I do not wish to ridicule you, Nick, but how can you say, by implication of your phrasing, that ALL women will at some time in their lives have had that experience? Lucky you: Your own Jenny appears to be quite sanguine about your own absentmindedness.

    It gets worse, Nick,and you'll probably hate me for pointing this out: According to my sources a heart-throb is a "MAN known for his good looks" (I'd add 'charm' but that's by the by). So, if in the heat of the moment a man called me, say, "Nick" the only conclusion I'd come to is that my gaydar must have been temporarily switched off.

    I am also a little vexed at your assertion "... that if your ex-lovers were that great, then ... you'd still be with them". How come? Relationships break up for many reasons, even if the physical attraction is strong.


  10. Ursula: Well, I'm flattered you spend so much time worrying about me, but it really isn't necessary....

    Ooh the sweeping-statement horror returns! Yes, probably totally untrue as you suggest. Careless writing once again.

    I don't see why a woman can't also be a heart-throb, whatever your sources insist. Do men not have hearts? Do they not sometimes throb?

    But surely if the relationship broke up, then it can hardly be great? And actually I wasn't thinking solely of sex, though I realise my post is ambiguous.

  11. I had often fantasised about earlier romances during my 40 year long married life, though not quite to get some titillation out of it. I used to and in fact even now remember often my very first affair with a lot of affection. I should imagine that when one has had more than one relationship in one's life to recollect some of the past ones should be quite natural, but that does not necessarily mean that one will call one's current mate by some other name.

  12. Ramana: Indeed, I often recall my own past affairs (and unrequited passions) with affection, but they don't diminish what I have now. In fact I probably learnt some valuable lessons from them.

  13. I think you have to separate FIRST LOVE from MAIN LOVE
    First love always has a deep place inyour heart
    And THERE. it should stay in my opinion

  14. John: Very wise words. That really says it all. My first love was very romantic but totally naive....

  15. Me, that is, not the woman, she was pretty clued-up.