My song today is “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You”. This country song was written by singer-songwriter Pebe Sebert and Hugh Moffatt. It was a Number 14 U.S. country hit for Joe Sun in 1978, and a Number 86 hit for Brian Collins the same year. It was later covered by Dolly Parton, who took it to the top of the ‘U.S. Country Singles Chart’ in August 1980.
It is often wiser to observe a discreet silence than to unearth an old bomb from one’s past which remains explosive when the fuse is touched. No man or woman enjoys entertaining the thought that the relationship they currently enjoy with their partner will always take second place to a previous relationship that their partner enjoyed with another lover from her past. When a man called Oscar falls in love with a beautiful new woman in his life, he needs everything to be perfect. When walking alongside his beautiful partner, he feels as proud as punch being her escort as the admiring eyes of other males burn with jealousy at the prize he has captured. It is as though he is escorting his film-star lover to the Academy Awards of the year, and that he is in fact her trophy. How will he then feel later that evening to discover that he was not the first Oscar she ever had?
No male or female out of their teens ever comes to a new relationship without bringing with them some emotional baggage from their past. And, so long as that is all we carry in the emotional baggage department are the past details of a former relationship long buried, and not the remnants of an old flame that we still hold a torch for, all bodes well. However, nothing will sour one’s current relationship more than being foolish enough to bring sweet memories of an old love into it!
Men always need reassurance more than women in newly established relationships that they are the one who is the most; the biggest and the best lover she has ever had in her life. If a woman is wise, she will nod her head appropriately whenever certain questions are asked or answer expected from her. It makes far more sense if we keep our thoughts of past lovers as memories of the past, and not reminders of the present.
There is what I call the Elizabeth Taylor/ Richard Burton type of relationship between a man and a woman. Burton and Taylor were two film stars who had the fieriest of lover’s relationships possible. They were physical and emotionally volatile. They made mad passionate love at will and fought like alley cats in public. They cared not for lookers-on as they existed in a world of their own. Unable to live together or apart they flitted between marriages and flirtations with other partners; always returning to taste their own relationship once more. They even divorced and married each other several times. Their sheer physical and sexual appetites could not be satisfied by any other lover than themselves as a couple.
This song reminds me of a woman who I once worked with while serving as a Probation Officer in West Yorkshire between 1970-95. The woman had only ever loved one man, whom she married. Her husband turned out to be a heavy drinker who she tried to change over several years, but alas, to no avail. Because she loved him to bits, she gave him every opportunity to break his alcoholic addiction before finally indicating that their relationship was at an end if he did not stop drinking. After five years of marriage, and the birth of one child to the union, the woman eventually divorced her husband. Her husband was in all other respects a good and loving man, and she reported that he was an excellent father when sober and had always been a good home provider; never being out of work since they had first met.
After a few years of separation, she met and started living with another man. The couple had a female child to this union. Being shy of getting married again, she cohabited with the father of her second child (her daughter) although he was always pressing her to marry him. Her second partner turned out to be a good man in every respect, and he hardly drunk alcohol, being a very sporty type. Meanwhile, her ex-husband maintained regular access contact with their son, and the boy would sleepover at dad’s house whenever he wanted to. Her ex-husband told her he had been religiously attending A. A. meetings and had not drunk a drop for many months. She was pleased for him. He made it clear that he wanted to win her back as she was the only woman he would ever love. After abstaining from drinking any alcohol for a year, he asked his ex-wife for a reconciliation, even though she was happily living with the father to her other child.
The dilemma for the woman was that she still loved her ex-husband as much as she had always done, and their relationship was better physically and emotionally than she could ever feel with her current partner, who was a good man to her in every respect. However, the one thing which she and the father to her second child would sometimes argue over was her obvious feelings for her ex-husband. She still loved her ex-husband in a way that she could not disguise to her new partner whenever he called for weekly access to their son. These were feeling of love she held for her ex which she would never deny.
The upshot was that her ex-husband kept pestering her to be reconciled, especially after he had proved he could give up drinking alcohol for her. After much soul-searching, she left her cohabitee and moved back to live with her ex-husband; taking her two children with her. Her cohabitee was naturally shocked as he loved her. He found that his role had been exchanged from that of living with his partner and their daughter to being a single man again, and a weekly access dad. The woman afforded him as much access to their daughter as he wanted, along with the occasional sleepovers. The two men had effectively changed roles as the woman decided to change partners again!
Within 18 months of being reconciled with his ex-wife, the ex-alcoholic started drinking again. Initially, it was the odd pint on his way home from work or a bottle or two at weekends, but gradually his partner concluded that he was drinking far more than he was admitting. After it looked apparent that he had returned to heavy drinking, she left him again, and yes…. you’ve guessed it; she returned to live with her former cohabitee and the father of her daughter. He happily took her back in, and as far as I know, that was the end of the 'man-swapping', as my involvement ended shortly after.
Unfortunately, love, sex, and alcohol can each become addictive factors within a relationship, and should the three ever come into direct confrontation, then (like the Burton/Taylor volatile relationship) I guess something has to give!
Imagine having a relationship that is so physically satisfying and sexually charged, that it trembles the very foundations of one's emotional bedrock that it can make the earth move beneath one? I suppose it’s enough to drive any man to drink whether he is called Oscar or Richard Burton?
Love and peace Bill xxx