‘I check his Facebook every few months,’ says Hayley* of her first love. ‘Deep down, I know we had issues, but I can’t help but wonder if I made a huge mistake by letting him go.’

Hayley and her childhood sweetheart, Craig* had been inseparable as teens, but broke up while at university.

Despite it being almost 20 years since they were an item, Hayley says she still has doubts over their split.

‘I’m married now, and very happy,’ she says, ‘but Craig will always be the one that got away.’

From My Best Friends Wedding to 500 Days of Summer, and Katy Perry’s song that’s literally called The One That Got Away, if we’re not thinking about our exes, we’re watching movies and singing songs that remind us of them.

‘Popular culture is obsessed with the one that got away,’ says Myisha Battle, a clinical sexologist, sex and dating coach, and author of This Is Supposed To Be Fun.

‘It’s because society is also obsessed with the idea of “The One”,’ says Myisha. ‘Daters feel pressure to find their one single person, instead of thinking about dating as a process, where we get to know different people and learn about ourselves along the way.

‘We limit the possibilities of the relationships we can have when we only think about one person being a suitable match. And it’s easy to romanticise someone that we think should have been that one person.’

A survey by Superdrug Online Doctor revealed that 71% of people think about the one who got away, and 60% are secretly wishing to reignite their spark with that person.

That’s certainly the case for Hayley, who tried to win her ex back after their break up.

She explains: ‘We met at school when I was 17, and he was my first proper boyfriend. It was intense, young love.’

But when Hayley went to university in Liverpool, a year before Craig, their relationship became strained.

‘I was a student, with a new group of friends and having the time of my life.

‘But then we decided that Craig would also come to university in Liverpool, and we’d rent a flat together.

‘Suddenly, it all felt a bit too serious. I didn’t want to become an old married couple and I acted out, cheating on him with a guy on holiday. I felt like there was more to experience, so I ended things.’

But soon, Hayley started having doubts.

‘About a month after we split, my grandpa died,’ says Hayley. ‘It was the wake up call I needed to realise how special Craig was, and that I didn’t want to lose him.

‘I begged him to take me back, but he refused. He said I’d hurt him too much. I was devastated.’

When Hayley graduated and moved to London, the pair slowly lost contact. Hayley met her now husband, but she often found herself checking up on Craig.

She says: ‘I saw on Facebook that he was in a relationship, and the next thing I knew, they were married and expecting a baby. I was surprised by how much it stung.’

Hayley started wondering if she’d made a mistake, and even mentioned it to her mum.

‘Mum thought I’d lost the plot,’ she remembers. ‘She said we were never compatible – he wanted a suburban family life, which I’d have hated.

‘She’s right – I love living in a city and I don’t plan on having kids. But every so often, I still wonder, “What if?”‘

Hayley has now been happily married for seven years, but admits she still wonders what her life would have been like with her ‘one that got away’.

‘I dumped him, and I think that’s part of the reason why I have doubts,’ she says. ‘Craig wasn’t the one who made the decision, so he had no choice but to move on. Whereas I feel like the power was in my hands, and I’ll never be 100% sure if I did the right thing.’

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