Katrina Clarke | October 11, 2016 | Toronto Star
Alie and Jamie Francis’ love story is bittersweet.
The two met on New Year’s Eve in 1998 when they were both 14. Alie was hanging out with her then-boyfriend and his friends outside a lit-up Cobourg city hall, when a shaggy-haired boy approached. She thought him “stupidly cute.”
Jamie immediately hit on Alie, stealing her a light bulb from a Christmas display and saying: “You’re brighter than all the lights.”
The rest is history — sort of.
The two stayed friends, and at 18 started a torrid love affair during which they cheated on each other and fought, resulting in an acrimonious split after two years. Over the next decade, Alie went on to marry — then divorce — someone else.
But in 2013, she and Jamie reconnected.
These sorts of lost love reunions are more common than people think, say experts, and some even marry, divorce and remarry, though those are much rarer. The motivation for reuniting sometimes stems from a desire to please a couple’s children, but most often it’s because people never stopped loving each other and the reason they split years ago is no longer relevant.
“They always wonder, ‘What might have been?’” said Nancy Kalish, a professor emeritus of psychology at California State University, Sacramento, whose work specializes in lost love reunions. “There’s that feeling that it was unfinished, interrupted.”
In the 1990s, Kalish, who wrote a book called Lost and Found Lovers, conducted a global survey of 1,001 participants who’d ever loved someone, split up for five or more years, and then reunited. She found several trends as to why these couples split in the first place, including: disapproving parents who forced the couple to break up, external circumstances such as military service or college that kept them apart, and the couple feeling they were too young to commit.
At the time of the survey, 72 per cent of rekindlers were still with their lost love.
“There was nothing wrong with the romance,” Kalish said. “They loved this person and they compared all other people to this person.”
Of the people she surveyed, only 6 per cent had actually married, divorced and remarried the same person.
An exclusive club indeed, with members such as Pamela Anderson and Elizabeth Taylor — whose remarriages to the same person both lasted around a year — but one to which regular folks, like Suzann Sines, 41, of Fenton, Mich., also belong.
Sines and her husband, Clinton Sines, were high school sweethearts who married in 1995 at ages 20 and 19, and had two kids. The marriage was consistently rocky and they split after eight years of marriage.
“We didn’t know how to ‘adult,’” Sines said. “We still had high school mentalities for dealing with our issues.”
Sines said the two had trouble communicating, and that she was immature and suffered from postpartum depression. She began to worry she wasn’t living the life she was meant to lead and sought out extramarital affairs.
They divorced in 2002 — a process that cost her around $10,000, paid for mostly by her parents — and she moved to another town. In July 2003, Sines got engaged to another man.
But Clinton kept loving her, she said.
Her relationship with the other man didn’t work out, and in late 2003 custody complications prompted her to move closer to her ex-husband. They started spending more time together and after a two-year relationship hiatus, she realized she wanted to do what would be best for her kids. The two sought counselling from their church pastor, who helped them rebuild trust and connect with an “accountability partner” — a married couple they turned to for guidance.
In April 2005, Clinton proposed with a new ring — Sines had hawked the old one — and she said yes.
“It was scary. It was what I wanted but we were both afraid,” she said.
Her family was reluctant to accept the reunion, having supported her through the divorce, but they eventually came around. The couple’s young boys, 8 and 5 at the time, were overjoyed.
Eleven years of happy remarriage later, photos from their first and second weddings hang in their home. Sines said she believes it’s important to shake the stigma of recoupling with an ex — she and her husband have since helped another divorced couple reconcile — and she isn’t ashamed of their past.
“That’s part of our history,” she said.
But reconciling — especially after a divorce — isn’t easy, said Nathalie Boutet, a family lawyer in Toronto.
“Divorce brings out the worst in people,” she said. “It’s very emotional.”
In her 25 years of work, she’s only encountered one couple that reunited after a divorce. That couple had been married for 15 years, had three kids and was very wealthy. What was notable in this divorce — which cost Boutet’s client, the wife, upwards of $60,000 — was that the wife kept things civil, despite the temptation of exploiting her ex’s pitfalls.
“She could have humiliated him,” she said.
Boutet believes that preservation of dignity may have paved the path for future reconciliation. The couple eventually took personal development training and reconciled a year later, Boutet said, though she’s not sure if they remarried.
Past trash talking can make it hard for your friends and family to accept reunions, said Kimberly Moffit, a relationship therapist and head of KMA Therapy in Toronto.
“It’s an uphill battle in terms of getting friends and family brought back into your relationship,” she said. “They’ve already developed a bias against this person.”
She recommends explaining to friends and family the reason for reuniting, in an effort to ease doubts.
But some couples should just stay apart, she said.
Red flags for reconciliation include: re-entering a relationship for fear-based reasons, such as being alone; abusive behaviour in the last relationship; and existing personality issues that plagued the last relationship, she said.
And if there are kids involved, tread carefully. Make sure you’re serious about getting back together, otherwise you may re-traumatize your kids with a second split, Moffit said.
For Alie and Jamie Francis, after seeing each other on-and-off in their early 20s, they lost touch. But in 2013, when Jamie learned Alie was getting divorced, he immediately reached out by email. She suggested brunch in Toronto, where they both then lived.
“As soon as he walked in, I was like goddamnit, he’s cute,” said Alie, now 32, who had arrived early at the brunch spot and quickly ordered four shots of Jack Daniels to ease her nerves. “I informed him we were going to be sleeping together that night.”
That night turned into years, as, after spending the entire day together, an ice storm kept them ensconced in his Roncesvalles apartment, talking about their shared future and topics like if they’d vaccinate their future kids or not.
“We both knew we really loved each other,” Alie said. “We were never on the same page until we’d both gone through really serious relationships that showed us what we needed in life.”
They got their happy ending on Sept. 10 — their wedding day.