The Allure of the One Who Got Away

Alecia Kennedy
6 min readDec 27, 2023

Why we romanticize the love that didn’t last

Photo by Brett Sayles:

If you have lived long enough, you are likely to have had a relationship or three that didn’t make it. I know as I approach middle-age, I certainly have. I’ve been married and divorced twice. I’ve had two other serious relationships that I thought would lead somewhere but didn’t. And then I’ve had a patchwork of people I’ve dated, people who wanted to date but were just friends (to me), and some relationships that are hard to define.

Some of these relationships were good but ran their course. Some just fizzled out after the new wore off. Some were clearly bad ideas from the start fueled by youth, passion, and a desire to experience everything in life. Some were harmful. Some lasted longer than they should have for various reasons. Except for one exceptionally abusive relationship, I don’t regret any of them, even though I may regret how I behaved or reacted at times. I think it’s important to have even foolish relationships, if only for the value of learning about yourself. I eventually recovered from all the endings and found myself stronger and more capable for having had the experience.

But the exquisite mental torture of the one that got away — that is a different animal. It is a force capable of shredding your heart to pieces and destroying your will to live if you let it run free. It…