The bad news is that there’s nothing we can do about it: our first love is ingrained in our brains.
For a long time, I worried about I'd never fall in love with the same intensity again. Years after my first long-term relationship ended, I dated a few people but I always ended up disappointed. The disappointing part had nothing to do with them. They were perfectly nice, but that was it, a stable, more grown up kind of nice. There was something in my brain that still demanded the intensity of my first relationship, my first love, which didn’t allow me to really appreciate the new people in my life. My own brain kept returning to an old memory stuck that somehow remained as exciting as it was in the beginning. When I talked about that fear with other people, the fear that I would never be capable of loving like I did when I was a teenager, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Many people go through this experience, and the bad news is that there’s nothing we can do about it: our first love is deeply ingrained in our brains. What can we do to prevent it from ruining your new relationships? Well, if you're also puzzled by these questions, here are a few reasons why your first love gets stuck in your mind, and why there’s nothing wrong with that.
It was your first relationship
The memories about the first time you do anything are the most vivid. Precisely because it’s your first experience of something, your brain is more alert as it learns something new, and it registers everything with more detail. This happens more intensely when it comes to your first love. From your perspective during that time, this isn't just new, but the most important thing that has ever happened to you. On top of that, you were probably nervous about it. You were anxious and jittery, seeing danger (the possibility of catastrophic rejection) everywhere, which intensifies the memories even more.
Nostalgia enhances the memories
The memories of your first love are vivid, but that doesn’t mean that they're accurate. As time passes and you remember your first love from a distance, idealization works its magic. With the help of nostalgia, you remember a relationship that was probably messy, even disastrous, as the most romantic thing you’ve ever experienced. Just remember that you were young and inexperienced, and your first love probably was young and inexperienced as well. So you’re always remembering your first clumsy and awkward encounters as passionate kisses and intense sex.
Uncertainty leaves space for fantasies
A lot of times, relationships with first loves end because of external reasons, like moving away or something similar. That’s why, even as time passes, you still wonder about what would have happened in different circumstances. That mysterious void serves as the perfect place to feed your unrealistic fantasies. But the truth is that most of first relationships are doomed to fail just because you’re both inexperienced and working on impulse. Just think about the fact that, if you were still with them, you’d now be wondering what would've happened if you'd have given yourself the chance to meet new people, instead of staying with the first person you fell in love with. The “what if…” is persistent, and it always finds a way to mess with our lives.
It became a standard
One way or another, even if you keep in mind that your first relationship was chaotic and unstable, you will unconsciously compare it with every relationship that comes after. Just remember that you probably don’t miss the actual person. Instead, you might be missing who you were during the time you spend with them: a freer, less inhibited version of yourself.
Time has probably made you less open, more afraid of showing vulnerability. But now you’re older and wiser, and with practice, you can let yourself love like you did as a teenager, with more determination and without the rookie mistakes.
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Images by Jessica Janae.