In part one a couple of days back, I explained why a childhood sweetheart reappearing in your life may not be the start of your real life fairytale. This isn’t because there aren’t some incidences of people genuinely reconnecting and having a happy ending; it’s just that when you couple one sneaky man with a hidden agenda with a woman who is unlikely to ask enough questions and likes to bet on potential, then mix that with a possible dubious history between them both in their past, the likely result is…disaster.

Any person, no matter what the history, how they came into your life, and what they claim to be, can essentially claim to be anything they like. It would be nice if we could assume that everyone had good intentions, was upfront, and truthful, but this is the real world. This means that whilst no-one is expecting you to play Columbo or Miss Marple, having healthy relationship behaviours, with decent self-esteem is a surefire way to ensure that you don’t just welcome people back into your life with none or very little questions, or ignore red flags; you’ll see the wood for the trees and process that information to see if it sits well with you.

There is no denying that the (Returning) Childhood Sweetheart that’s a secret ( or even not so secret) Mr Unavailable or assclown in disguise is a confidence trickster that can suck you into the heady spin of nostalgia and their re-emergence in your life…however, and it’s a rather large however, part of the issue is how we in general deal with men and our mentality.

Women who get burned by these men bet on potential – You’re either in the past, or in the future, but rarely in the present. Whatever you do think of these guys gets amplified to fit with your vision of things rather than seeing things for what they are and determining if it’s appropriate. You’re likely to be the type of woman who pins her vision of what he could be on him and doesn’t really take into account who he is. You’re also likely to be very hung up on words and big gestures and unlikely to register red flags. When things start to take a turn for the worse, rather than hold your hands up and say, ‘Woah…I have this all wrong and I need to get the hell out’, you’re more likely to say ‘But if he came back it must be because he’s in love with me’ or ‘But he was so great at the start so I know he can be like this’, even if a year has gone by and he has behaved like a twat for 95% of the time…

This means that we end up going out with illusions, figments of our imagination, and downright mirages. That’s not him – that’s you. Once you get to the point where you are ignoring vital bits of information and behaviour, it’s you creating the illusion, not him.

We place so much hope on men that we expect the sun to shine out of their arses and rise and set on it, but in placing so much hope on them and expecting love to ‘happen’ to us regardless of whether we are best placed to receive it, we make ourselves ripe for these men.

The (Returning) Childhood Sweetheart represents the fairy tale, the movie ending, that many women inadvertently believe will happen to them. It is really easy for these guys to come swooping in with their plane full of emotional baggage because if you have a history of poor relationships, he suddenly becomes the great white hope, that person that you’ve been desperately hoping would come along and make it all alright and in part 1 I mentioned the need for validation and correcting the past that these men can represent.

So what do you do?

If you’re thinking about looking up someone from your distant past, ask yourself why you are doing this. You need to be sure that you have a real, modern day perspective on him rather than looking at him through the doe eyes of your 20 year old self.

Did you actually have anything between you? In talking to a number of women, I was amazed at how little existed between them and this guy in their past, yet he was sucking up a significant amount of brainpower.

– Is he the one that got away? – Why did he get away and should he be staying away?

– Did you have a crush on him? The thing about crushes is that they’re either all in your head, out in the open and unrequited, or out in the open and the person takes advantage of the flattery. Does this mean you’re going back in for an ego stroke?

Are you already imagining a mega happy ending? If you are, I would step away from the light and get your head balanced before proceeding because you’re building sandcastles in the sky.

Did he break your heart? Are you over him? This whole ‘making the bastard pay that broke my heart thing’ is age old. When we’re freshly heartbroken we have fantasies of him seeing us with The Perfect Man (TM) and near puking at the loss and regret but are you still not over him? More than a few months to a year at best is a long time to be clinging to this feeling. If you’re not over him and he did enough damage that you didn’t actually heal, repair, and move on from, I strongly advise that you don’t go raking over it and seek him out.

Are you a dreamer? If you’re the type that specialises in over-optimism and denial, this is not the one for you. If you know that you have a habit of refusing to see men and the relationship for what they are, I would ‘deny’ yourself this opportunity and sort yourself out.

Ask questions when he gets in touch. You can’t erase the passage of time, trust me. Don’t pretend he doesn’t have a past. You don’t need to tie him to a chair and put him through an interrogation session but I suggest that instead of spending too much time down memory lane (or shagging), that you spend some time in the slow lane finding out who this man is. People change – some for the better, others for the worse, and in some instances, people stay the same and that’s not necessarily a good thing, particularly if the last time you saw him he was an irresponsible 16 year old….

Slow your frickin roll. Don’t just dive in headfirst and then think later. I know you’re excited but trust me, you may be excited for all the wrong reasons if you have a history of poor relationships. Men that are dodgy like these ones and the guys in your past like to skip the formalities. We read this as a huge interest in us and passion, but actually, it’s to blindside you and keep you at a distance where you don’t see the real him and the red flags as quickly as you would if he wasn’t whizzing you along at speed. I don’t care if you knew him 20 years ago and he was a hot ass – it’s a major alert signal when he’s talking about marrying you the following week after he’s got in touch with you. Don’t believe me? Just ask all of the women who had smoke blown up their asses by these men and listened to this drivel and believed it, only for it never to materialise.

Assess your own situation. We don’t have to be involved with every man that blinks in our direction. We don’t have to wonder if he’s ‘The One’ every time we have male contact. We also really need to stop pining everything on men and ensure that we are capable of validating ourselves, have healthy love habits, and a decent self-esteem before we throw ourselves at the mercy of the shark infested dating world. If you’re secretly wondering ‘Where is he?’ and feeling secretly desperate about ‘him’, you’ll read every guy that comes into your life as The Next Big Thing, and when it’s a childhood sweetheart, you’ll blow it waaay out of proportion.

I know you want life to magically become wonderful, I know you’re impatient, but sometimes you need to be real with yourself and ask if this is the right time for you to be doing something like this. Are you heartbroken? Are you just getting your life back together after ditching another assclown? Are you feeling desperate or lonely? Do you know that you have issues to deal with?

Most of all, as I said in part one, ask yourself Why? Why is he coming back? And then ask yourself if he was really that great in the first place.

Your thoughts?


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40 Responses to The Trap of the (Returning) Childhood ‘Sweetheart’ Part 2

  1. Karen says:

    I really wish I would have found this site years ago! NML you have helped me tremendously to realize that I needed to create better relationship behaviours and work on my own self esteem. For most of my life I think I have been the “dreamer”, that girl betting on potential and creating fantasies in my head that thus led me to accepting poor behavior from men and settling for far less than I deserved mainly because like you state in this post:
    “This means that we end up going out with illusions, figments of our imagination, and downright mirages. That’s not him – that’s you. Once you get to the point where you are ignoring vital bits of information and behaviour, it’s you creating the illusion, not him”
    And coming to the realization that I am for the most part creating these illusions in my head— or thinking more of the situation than I should. You are sooo right that there have been moments in my life that a guy had come back and I went into this type of thinking! Its so funny how as women we are programmed to really believe in fairytales and happy endings rather than taking a step back to evaluate whether the situation is really a good one for us. NML I cant thank you enough for helping me to realize that I need to be more aware of any red flags before jumping into things and that I need to work on my self — You have empowered me to become a stronger woman and I didnt know how to go about doing that or what that meant….until I came upon your site! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! :)

    I also just wanted to say that I went to see the movie: “He’s Just Not That Into You”— EXCELLENT Movie and i think it applies to everyone who visits this site. I live in the States so it came out this weekend– EVERYONE should definetely check it out!!!

  2. Gaynor says:

    Hi NML,

    Do the recent changes to the site include not being able to view the Recent Comments section?


  3. NML says:

    Hi Gaynor – not sure what you mean because I can see them in the bottom right hand corner of the homepage. Which browser do you use?

  4. I can’t see ’em either. Used to could, though. Firefox.

    I’d be interested in first hand stories of the childhood sweetheart.

    My grandmother married her high school beau years and years after her husband died, it seemed pretty sweet. They were both in their sixties tho.

    ReginaToxicodendronDiversilobum’s last blog post..RITUAL OF HAND-PARTING, DIVORCE OR BREAK UP

  5. NML says:

    Update – The error has been rectified although just so everyone knows, recent comments is shown not once, but twice on the homepage. It shows on the column on the left at the bottom, and it also shows in the footer at the bottom on the right, which is the one that was missing

  6. Gaynor says:


    I use Safari.

  7. ph2072 says:

    Good read and follow up. Thanks for posting.

  8. somethingsomethingsomethingdarkside says:

    Dear NML, I can’t get enough of your sites. I’m only 20 years young but with a wealth of knowledge beyond belief. Please tell me (us) when your new book “How to lose an assclown in 90 days” comes out, because I am losing it, salivating over the idea of reading the new book. As a side note, I have bought, read, and re-read your older e-book, Mr Unavailable and the Fallback girl. Please continue publishing your info, and note that you’ve made an enormous difference in my life and the lives of many others. Keep the positivity coming, you go hot momma!

  9. Kara says:

    I’m hoping someone can set me straight. A few years ago I was dating a guy who “informed” me one night – along with about 50 other people at a party we were attending – that his STD tests came back negative. Needless to say, I was a little upset and embarrassed and left the party. He came to my place a few HOURS later asking me what the big deal was regarding his comment. I remember word for word “It’s not like you were a girl I could ever take home to meet my parents!!” Needless to say, the relationship ended shortly thereafter. However, I heard from him recently asking me how I was doing. His comment about me really hit my self esteem – probably harder than necessary. But anyway, what the hell goes through these guys minds when they try to “reconnect” – especially after what he said? It’s like they have free reign to say anything they want and truly beleive they are justified in saying it.

  10. BBP says:

    Kara – they’re thinking “oh whatever happened with Kara. She was a good time. I should give her a call since my latest relationship is either a) in the crapper, b) boring or the girl is getting to needy or c) not stroking my ego enough. She probably doesn’t hate me anymore – time to try again.”

    That’s it. Period. No thought as to you, your feelings or what it might mean to you – just straightforward selfishness.

  11. Mike says:


    What goes through this guy mind is this… NOTHING. He’s a complete asshole. He actually announced his STD tests came back negative? What a d**k. Be thankful you’re not with him. HE is someone YOU wouldn’t want to take home to meet the parents. Don’t put so much emphasis on what he said to you… I can probably guarantee he’s still ALONE right now. Let me say it again to you HE’S A COMPLETE A-HOLE.

  12. Gaynor says:


    You shouldn’t mix words :)

  13. Mike says:

    Sorry – I didn’t mean to be so blunt. Really though, the guy is exactly that. I’ll tone it down in the future.

  14. Gaynor says:


    No, I thought it was completely appropriate. I think it’s good you phrased it in that manner.

  15. Kara says:


    This same guy also told me that his life had been so much better since he stopped seeing me. I mean how would you feel having heard that?

  16. Mike says:


    Really, his life has been so much better? I offer MY response if someone told me what he said to you.

    “Why the F— did you contact me again? Obviously your head is in your a$$ – like it was when I dated you. Maybe when you pulled it out of your ass, you realized you weren’t as well off as you thought. Drop dead.”

    That’s what I would have said if I were you.

  17. ts says:

    what Mike said, and add sadist as well. Kara, don’t be the masochist. I would ignore, delete, not care and move along. You don’t deserve to have such things said to you, and it is more his problem than yours. Feel good you are no longer with him.
    Best to you, ts

  18. Gaynor says:


    What a piece of garbage ! How did you respond?

  19. Kara says:


    Thank goodness for my best friend. I didn’t need to say anything – she threw a drink in his face, followed by language that would make even Mike blush.

  20. Mike says:

    Now that’s classic!!

  21. Mike says:

    But such a waste of a drink.

    Kara…. this guy is worthless – and while we are supposed to treat people with respect if we want respect in return, this guy doesn’t deserve a half-second of your time. I’m embarassed for all men because of him.

  22. Gaynor says:


    Good for her :)

  23. madeamistake says:

    Kara, I would have told him that I was doing great,… oh and that the doctor told me that the ‘disease’ I contracted a few years ago is much better–it doesn’t affect women much–it only causes sterility and impotency in men. Then I would I have told him I hope he’s doing great!

  24. Nilondoner says:

    what a creep!
    I’m an honest girl… I would have told him the truth: that getting rid of him was the best thing that ever happened to me and that I’m so very grateful for not having to see his s***face for a second longer.

  25. Used says:

    You don’t know how lucky you are to have friends who stick by you and who, on your behalf and out of respect for you, treat the AC the way he deserves to be treated!

    The friends who know that I dated the AC I have known for almost 20 years. And, still, when the AC and/or his wife are around, my friends completely ignore me, my spouse, and my family! Otherwise, when the AC isn’t around, they are cool. It’s painful, especially b/c I barely knew the guy and my immediate family sees this.

  26. Nilondoner says:

    Used… sorry to be blunt but… do you actually call them “your friends”?

  27. Used says:

    They act like friends, EXCEPT when the EUM is in the same room or vicinity. And these are 3 college-educated women, 2 being married! (???)

    Having good friends around when the EUM is also around or gets in your face/space makes dealing with the jerk soooo much easier. Yes, just ignore him. Given his behavior, he probably treats ALL women badly. No loss!

  28. Gaynor says:

    I’m sorry, but I thought this site was about issues with EUM’s, not a place to vent about relationships with girlfriends.

  29. Used says:

    The jerk was extremely disrepectful. When women ignore other women, or don’t stand up for friends when they are being dissed, they are really disrespecting themselves; and they end up fueling the dysfunctional behavior(s) and attitudes of the EUMs and other men.

  30. NML says:

    I suggest that both Gaynor and Used read these posts…..

  31. Gaynor says:


    Sorry. My mistake.

  32. ts says:

    Well hey everyone,
    No one seems to be posting much today. Well, the world is insane.
    I am curious if any readers out there are experiencing the “old sweetheart” thing going on. Just curious. ts

  33. aargh says:

    So, I’ve been reading this site and have pretty much identified myself as a fallback girl. Here’s the situation (it’s long!)

    I was with a guy from 14-21 (I’m now 31). He was my first love, I was his. We spent a lot of time together and really ‘made each other’ in a lot of ways. We did the standard break up and get back together things you do at that age, but had some pretty good years. The last year was a nightmare, we split for 6months and then got back together (mistake) and he ended it finally. I was devastated. He started seeing someone new very quicky (yes, I think there was an overlap). I saw him a couple of times (one time we kissed and he wanted to take it further but I refused) then I realised I needed to cut contact if I was ever going to get over it. Fast forward about 4 years. I was pretty happy in my life, not met anyone special but ok with that, had the odd fling and generally having fun with friends, working hard etc. During this time we had had the odd chat, email and christmas card but really just in a hi how are things way, nothing more.

    Then, he called and said he had a Spanish friend to stay and they were visiting UK cities and he would be where I lived in a couple of week, did I want to meet for a drink. I said fine and we met up and had a great time catching up. I mentioned I was going to see a band that night and they decided to stay – you can guess what happened. Yes, he was still with this girl at the time. I felt ok, bit weird and it made me wonder. Then, over the following year we would hook up from time to time – yes, for a lot of sex which was still good. The intimacy was also still there, it’s just very comfortable and easy. We had a laugh, would chat about stuff but rarely anything serious about what we were doing. I wasn’t really interested in more from him – of course it crossed my mind but he was in the middle of a break-up (I’m not proud of that fact). He was also still sleeping with her (I found out later).

    Anyway, I moved again and the contact sort of died out. A few months later he emailed me to say he’d met someone and to tell me about her. I felt a bit sad but not in a big way – I wasn’t expecting anything to happen so it was fine.

    He moved to Spain about 3 years ago and I went to his leaving party, met his girlfried etc. He and I chatted a lot later on in the evening and it was good to catch up. I went home and he went off to Spain. Again, I was fine, we had the odd email, phone call, IM chat to see how each other were but that was it. Then, just under a year ago, I started wondering about him – possibly because I just wasn’t having any luck finding anyone to have a relationship with etc – I was wondering whether there could be more to me and him. I emailed him (I know, I know) to say I was thinking about him a lot and it was a bit odd. He replied that he hadn’t forgotten me but that things weren’t going great with him and his girlfriend at the time. I said ok and left it at that.

    Of course, then the contact started getting a bit more as things got worse in his relationship. She moved out in Sept and by the end of Oct, we were in regular contact and it had started getting steamy. We were trying to arrange to meet up but I was pretty busy and he was skint so it didn’t really happen. He was going to be in the UK at xmas so we agreed to meet up then. Then, he backed off and said he needed things to be ok with her before anything actually happened with me. I was disappointed but said fine and I did understand – it was better that way anyway than it being dodgy as it was before.

    I did end up seeing him over xmas – he drove 150 miles out of his way to meet me for a drink in a pub. We chatted, had a bit of a kiss but that was it. I was left in confusion – really wondering whether there could be anything more. The conversations continued and then last weekend I went to see him. We had a great time, lots of fun, but I just didn’t feel able to bring up how I felt. I’m really bad at it anyway and he isn’t really in the place to hear it – his ex is trying to get him back and he’s trying to stay friends with her (she’s moving away in June, and yes, I know this is a big warning sign). We obviously slept together. He asked me a couple of times what I was thinking and I told him he didn’t want to know – he was talking a lot about feeling like people always wanted things from him and he just needs to be himself for a while (he is a serial monogomist who admitted that he moves on to the next person too fast) but also told me about some girl he works with and has been wondering about (dick).

    So, I have come back and am a mess. My question for you is, should I let him know what I am thinking – eg. that I wonder if there could be more? I am well aware that his answer will probably be no and that I will have to deal with that but I think that’s better than the constant hoping I am doing right now. The other half of me says just leave it well alone, if he wants you, he will let you know. The things that stops me doing this (and I know I’m probably deluding myself) is that he is as bad as I am at saying how he feels and we never talk about it so part of me wonders if he thinks the same about me but because I never say anything he doesn’t either. I don’t think this is that likely but I feel like I want to know. Any thoughts? Sorry for the long post, it’s all a bit raw!

  34. Burned says:

    Man, is this right on! I got burned at age 56 (!) by the jerk who dated me at age 15 and dumped me in the cruelest fashion at age 16. But I made every mistake you write of here! It is hard to learn to trust myself again.

  35. burnedtwice says:

    Wow, my HS bf actually left his wife, his home, and his job for me – it was initially an amazing relationship – but then I caught him on the online dating sites and he used that as his reason to not see me anymore. Just like turning off a water faucet, he was out of my life with no explanation and didn’t even try to work it out. I have been devastated by this…but realize this was probably his MO all along, as our relationship had begun on the internet w/emails also. Now I’m just trying to get thru each day.

  36. SOSTUPID says:

    OH how I wish I would have found this a month ago!! My H.S. “Sweetheart” contacted me recently & I surely wish I didn’t have my blinders on. I did exactly everything I shouldnt have done!! Including meeting up with him a WEEK after contact & did the deed. It was ok for me at the time cuz the AC blew some beautiful smoke up my ass & I fell foe every word thinking it was going to be like it was. The DAY after we seen each other he stopped all contact until I smacked his ego right in the face!! It wasnt until then that I remembered HE WAS AN AC a decade ago…….so why would he be any different now??

  37. OpeningMyEyes says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this site. I have been laughing hysterically (nervous laughter, I guess) to see myself as I really am…Fallback Girl.

    I was in a 21 year marriage with an EUM narcissist and was finally able to extricate myself from that, but now I realize how unhealthy I am when it comes to relationships. I played into my ex-husband’s hands and now find myself in a new relationship with another EUM.

    Guess what? Old h.s. hook-up!! I read myself completely in this post. I was swept into it hook, line and sinker, even though there were a thousand red flags that he even told me about, but I chose to overlook to see the “potential” in him and the relationship. How dumb could I be, except that until this site, I didn’t really understand my role in it.

    However, I am reading your book, and I see I am just another classic case of being a Fallback Girl involved with an AC EUM. Everything you talk about, I have done. Everything you talk about EUM’s doing, he has done.

    But, my eyes are being opened to who I am, and who he is. I know that I need to heal my unhealthy thoughts and learn to love myself. We had a fight on Sunday, and I am now on 3rd day of no contact and plan on keeping it that way.

    I love this site and it helps to know that I am not alone.

  38. Nikki says:

    My ex live-in boyfriend, with whom I stayed for 7 years in my 20s reappeared again 13 years later, after his divorce. Everything here describes what happened: the quick reconnection, his desire to push for intimacy early on, his talk of marriage and most of all his thinking of me as the 20-year old sweet girl ( read “doormat”) that I was when we first were together. I realized afterwards that I was equally guity of: 1) ignoring red flags (eg the moving too quick business) and 2) the illusion that magically it will work itself out this time because he *had* to have matured, right?. Thankfully during the years in-between I had learned enough about relationships to know that I could expect some things from my partner. When I spoke up about my needs he became the arrogant controlling AC he had been all along. It was over 8 monts later after much drama but this time I was over him for good!

  39. Lhaull says:

    You know, from a guy’s perspective this is quite sad.
    I broke up with my childhood sweetheart 18 years ago, it is something I have regretted my entire life. I was selfish at the time and wanted her to live with me and she had reasons to stay where she was. I missed her so much that I couldn’t see past my own desire to be with her.
    I recently spoke with her online, and she was gracious enough to let me apologize to her for the way I behaved 18 years earlier, I did at that time to find her but we lost touch over the years.
    I am in a slow and somewhat strange process of trying to build a friendship with her. We are very different people now to the kids we were back then, but she was a very important part of my life and I would like her to be someone who is in my life now.
    I have no imaginings that she is the same girl she was, I am not the same boy. But I promise you all not every guy is out to swindle, hurt, or get something by playing on past relationships, some are I am sure, but not this one.

  40. stacey allam says:

    gott asay what happend to me I was recently contacted by my ex boyfriend after 33 years when we met we were very much in love we were perfect together six months before he goes away to college without asking me what he should do hhe tells me that since hes going away we should start seeing others he even wanted to take someone else to the prom i was crushed he went to school said I could not visit until he slept with others he came back 8 months later and said he was sorry and wanted to get back to the way things were before I said no i was no ones back up plan i found out he was sleeping with my best friend before he left for school hes married now as am i for over 20 years at first i accepted his friend request then he started posting these songs up that made me think of him i started feeling uncomfortable so I unfriended him my best friend passed away and i put all these photos of where we grew up he said he was sorry she passed and that he was planiing a trip without his wife and kid fishing for me to say hey lets get together i blocked him id hate to be his wife looking for old loves to friend do you think he wanted to get toether with me to rekindle whats your opinion

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Tired of dealing with family drama or waiting for them to spontaneously combust in to changed people? Need to find ways to step back and take proactive steps to redefine the relationship from your end? This 30-Day project will help you do just that.