Here's Why Your First Love Won't Ever Really Leave Your Mind Completely

There are tons of books, plays, movies, and TV shows that explore the overwhelming passion, and devotion of that very special first love. There's Connell and Maryanne in "Normal People," Elio and Oliver in "Call Me By Your Name," Jade and David in "Endless Love," and of course, Romeo and Juliet. We are all inundated with stories, messages, and hints that our first love is truly the best, the most special, the most tender, and the one that will last in your heart forever. It's quite common for us to dream that our first love will stand the test of time, like Posh and Becks, yet if that doesn't happen, the passing of time only seems to dull the pain.


In fact, dating in your 30s, after you've had a love affair or two, might actually be the time where you have the most fulfilling love, according to The Times of India.  "For a number of people, our 30s is a period in our lives where we look to create balance, manage mental health concerns, focus on self-care, and deepen our social relationships," family therapist Dr. Hernando Chaves told The Zoe Report. "This can create happiness in our lives and help fill the voids we didn't realize existed in our 20s."

That may be true, but do you ever get over your first young love? Experts don't think so. First love just has too much of an impact on our brains and our hearts.

Our adolescent brains are addicted to love

According to experts, our first love is not only our first foray into romance, but it's also intoxicating to the point of literal addiction. As Harvard Medical School reports, our bodies release the hormone oxytocin when we're in love or engaged in sexual acts, and that hormone is so powerful, it's actually dubbed the "love hormone." This very powerful hormone can last in the body from 12 months to two years after a relationship ends, per BBC News, so if we experience our first love as teenagers, our poor adolescent brains are no match.


"Some of the same neurotransmitters that are triggered in other addictions are also activated when we are in love such as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin," couples coach Dr. Robin Buckley told Bustle. "Our brains learn to crave the release and creation of these neurotransmitters."

"Much like an addict's first high from a gambling win or an addict's first heroin high, we want to re-experience that 'first time' again," Buckley continued. "This is one reason forgetting a first love is difficult. Our brains remember the neurochemical 'high' associated with it and want that experience back."

Our first love affects future relationships

So our first love can be as addictive as coffee, booze, and cocaine, but that isn't the only factor as to why our first loves will follow us in our memories for the rest of our lives. It turns out that our first love becomes the yardstick by which all future relationships are measured, for better or for worse. When adolescents fall in love, the experience is something Connecticut College psychologist Jefferson Singer describes as a "memory bump," in that these teenage experiences can be seen through rose-tinted glasses, and even remembered more often in that light, per The Washington Post. According to him, all those first kisses, first sexual interactions, and first I-Love-Yous allow us to replay these again and again, and thusly, "it becomes, to some degree, a template. It becomes what we measure everything else against."


Singer isn't alone in his assessment. The outlet spoke to psychology professor at State University of New York at Stony Brook Art Aron, who agrees. "Your first experience of something is going to be well remembered, more than later experiences."

That means your first love may have been five, 10, even 20 years ago, but for every relationship you've had since that formative experience, you are still (unfairly or not) comparing and contrasting the relationships side-by-side in your head. Is this passion greater or lesser? Are you more or less compatible? That can mean your current or future relationships aren't getting a truly clean slate.

First loves teach us independence

Lots of things in our lives are teachable moments. We learn through our triumphs and mistakes, which are invaluable going forward. Some teachable moments early in our adult lives can be things like how to argue and stay together, how to show the ones you love respect and dignity, and even how to demand respect for yourself. You might have even learned there's no such thing as love at first sight, or rather, that there definitely is! Perhaps one of the greatest ways we learn more about ourselves is through our first loving relationship, and it can teach us how to advocate for ourselves, and better yet, the value of our independent identities. 


"Think of your first love as part of your early steps toward independence from your caregivers," psychotherapist and author Dr. LeslieBeth Wish told Elite Daily. "These steps toward greater independence can be especially emotionally super-charged because, well, they are your first steps toward becoming you. These experiences that get encoded in your brain's pleasure and pain areas — permanently."

Before adult reality sets in, first loves are idyllic

Once you get on the wrong side of 30, there is a whole host of outside factors that can contribute to the difficulties, tension, and even breakup of a romantic relationship. Sure, you love and respect each other, but do you both spend money responsibly? Did one of you quit your job without telling the other? Is one of you more of a caregiver to your children than the other, leading to resentment? Perhaps an unexpected health episode has triggered a crisis situation between the two of you, leading to extreme hardship and burden. None of these issues mean you love each other less, they are just the reality of adult relationships that arguably weren't present during your first love when you still lived at home with your parents and didn't have a care in the world.


"... first love often occurs during high school or college when life is not acutely demanding," clinical psychologist and author Dr. Carla Marie Manly shared with Elite Daily. "Absent significant relationship stressors such as financial difficulties, health crises, or raising children, one can idealize a first love experience. When this happens, future relationships pale by comparison to the perfect (or near-perfect) first love." Dr. Manly adds that even if you did have outside stressors on your young first love, you're likely to gloss over them because "the mind has a way of forgetting."

So how can you get over your first love?

Hopefully, you are now ready to stop obsessing over your first love and move on with your life. Fingers crossed you're not out there in your ex's DMs, hinting that a reconciliation is on the table. Of course, there's that old adage that the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else, but you are also allowed to just take a step back from the dating scene altogether and focus on you. Take the initiative on that work project, join that dance class, write that novel, get your hands dirty, fall flat on your face, and try something else. Go cultivate your life. 


When a lovelorn reader wrote in to nationally syndicated advice columnist Dan Savage with this very conundrum, Savage responded much the same, writing, "Make a conscious effort to get on with your life. (And, if necessary, a conscious effort to get under someone else)," per The Chicago Reader.  Savage then added that if you want to hold out hope that you and your first love will get back together, you have to give it a time limit. "... you're allowed, one month and change later, to live in hope of a reconciliation. Odds are good, though, that it's a false hope ... so don't pass on any solid offers and keep seeing that therapist."

First loves are special. But don't forget, so are second, and thirds, and fourths.