“When my high school sweetheart, Paul*, broke up with me when we were 21, I was devastated. He was going overseas to continue his education and didn’t think it was a good idea to have a long-distance relationship. I understood where he was coming from – I was in university and wasn’t ready to settle down myself – so I accepted his decision, but at the same time I found it hard to let him go because I loved him so much.
Over the next two years Paul and I stayed in touch, mostly by snail mail since there was no Internet at the time and it cost too much to call internationally. Eventually, however, we moved on with our lives and stopped communicating. Still, I never really stopped thinking about him and wished that things had worked out differently for us. Deep down, I believed that we were soul mates.
A new life with a new love
When I was 28 I fell in love with Michael*, an older man whom I had got to know at the gym. At the time he was going through a divorce so we made it a point to take things slow.
For the next five years, Michael and I enjoyed a blissful relationship. He came from a good family, was wealthy and successful, and was good-looking to boot. When he proposed when I was 33, I said yes in a heartbeat. I moved in with him right away and we planned for a life together. It was one of the most exciting periods of my life. What I found most thrilling was organising our wedding, which we’d scheduled for the following year. We were also keen to start a family as soon as possible, so we even started researching preschools and looking for nursery furniture together.
A surprise phone call – and a chance meeting
Four months before the wedding, my mum told me that someone named Paul had called her house, looking for me. He didn’t leave a phone number.
One weekend morning I was at the supermarket when someone tapped me on the shoulder. When I turned around I almost dropped my shopping basket – it was my ex, Paul, in the flesh! He told me that he’d called my mum’s house but was told that I had moved out. He was back in Singapore for good and wanted to reconnect with me.
When I saw Paul, feelings that I thought were gone forever came flooding back. I was so happy to see him that I hugged him for what seemed like an eternity. We made small talk and he told me that he wanted to spend time with me now that he was back. As he was in a hurry, he took my mobile number and promised to call me in the evening. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised I’d forgotten to tell Paul that I was engaged.
You never forget your first love
After Paul called me later that day, I was over the moon. In the days that followed, we spent a lot of time together. I was on annual leave so I could meet him on weekdays without Michael’s knowledge. I decided not to tell my fiancé anything because I didn’t think he would understand. Besides, it’s not like I was cheating on him.
After just three weeks of hanging out with Paul, it dawned on me that I was still in love with him. He didn’t seem to care that I was engaged. He told me that he never stopped loving me and wanted us to be in each other’s lives permanently. He wanted to know if I still loved him.
To my surprise, there was no confusion about how I felt. Michael was an amazing man but he didn’t make my heart sing the way Paul did. Whenever I thought about Paul I had butterflies in my stomach and felt like I was on cloud nine, whereas I didn’t experience those sensations with Michael. I knew I had to be true to myself. Michael deserved a woman who loved him with all her heart and soul. I certainly loved him, but not to the extent that he deserved.
Hard to say goodbye
I decided to break off my engagement to Michael so that I could start afresh with Paul. It was the hardest conversation I’d ever had with anyone. For starters, I had to fill Michael in on who Paul was. I apologised for the way things turned out and told him that it wouldn’t be fair to him if I went ahead with the wedding. I added that I hadn’t anticipated Paul coming back into my life or having such strong feelings for him. For many years, my love for Paul remained dormant – how was I to know that it would resurface?
Michael didn’t take the news well. He appreciated my honesty but accused me of bringing shame to his family and destroying his life. To make things worse, we were mere weeks from getting married and had to call the wedding, and our honeymoon, off. Not surprisingly, Michael’s parents, siblings and friends were furious with me. I fully accepted the blame and apologised to everyone, but I knew that I was doing the right thing.
Eight years on, Paul and I are married with two children and I couldn’t be happier. When we finally got together it was like we had never been apart. We both wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and wasted no time formalising our relationship. Out of respect for Michael I chose to have a small wedding, with only a handful of guests, followed by lunch at my sister’s house.
While I feel horrible for what happened with Michael, I knew that marrying him would have been a complete sham. Neither of us would have been happy and there was no way he would have allowed me to continue hanging out with Paul. I followed my heart and I have no regrets, even though I hurt a lot of people along the way.”
*Names have been changed