The haunting nature of first love

The words alone can lead to a tingling in the extremities, a dryness of the mouth, a tightly held breath or quickly uttered exclamation, a knot in the pit of one's stomach, and/or quiet laughter or tears brought about by a bittersweet memory.

Surely no one who has ever been in love hears the words "first love" without experiencing feelings that are alternately primitive, visceral, poignant, happy and sad. But why does that first love linger--sometimes dragging us down, haunting us, and even interfering with our present life or relationship? What can we do to put it into perspective so that it becomes a closed chapter or pleasant memory instead of something dark, unsettling or unfinished? A good place to start is by taking a sobering dose of reality. For instance:

Why is our first love the one we never forget?

* It's all about chemistry

When we become attracted to someone, we secrete a chemical called Phenyl ethylamine (PEA) which is a naturally occurring substance in the brain that acts as a natural amphetamine. PEA increases both physical and emotional energy, which results in those dizzying feelings associated with romantic love. The presence of PEA also leads to the production of dopamine, a chemical that increases the desire to be physically close and intimately connected to another person. When we fall in love for the first time and experience this new physical sensation, we connect the person to one of the most powerful feelings we have ever known --and this leads to the almost universal belief that no one else could ever make us feel like this, because so far, no one ever has.

* Usually occurs when we are young, inexperienced and idealistic

When we are young we tend to see the world around us as either black or white. As we mature, our perspective widens with experience to include the many colors, shades and hues that lie between these opposites. That first love is experienced as all good --and when the relationship is "unfinished" it becomes fixed in our minds and imagination, a perfect memory that we romanticize over time.

Why do some people try to recapture first love?

* When a person's present life or relationship isn't satisfactory to them, they may try to relive that experience and the person they were then. In a way, they are seeking to erase or run away from their present life and the problems that come with it and return to a happier time.

* When a fist love ends painfully with no closure, the individual may become stuck in grief. They often hold on to a false belief that the other person would be with them if they could be--or they believe that if they wait, the other person will come back to them when they realize through divorce or some other life trauma that this is the person they were meant to be with.

What are some of the ways people try to recapture the first love experience?

* They may find that they are attracted to individuals who remind them in some way of their first love. Perhaps they always date people of the same physical type or who have similar personality traits, interests, or backgrounds/ethnicities.

* Social networking has allowed people to find and reconnect with folks they have lost touch with. Many people have used these friendships as a way to try to rekindle an old relationship through establishing an online friendship and using this to facilitate on-going communication and a possible meet up.

Why we can't ever recapture that first love experience?

* We are not the same people--we have grown and matured through our experiences, relationships, achievements and losses. We would not experience the other person or the relationship the way we did the first time.

* They are not the same person--they would bring all their experience and related baggage along with them the second time around.

* There are no do-overs in life. We can never go back because the world we knew, and the people we were no longer exist as they did then. Ask anyone who has left their present life and relationship in order to get back with an old love. The story often has a very sad ending.

If you are contemplating or have already entered a do-over relationship, make sure you have thought through the realities discussed above. Love can be great the second time around--never the same, but wonderful in a whole new way. Just be careful to enter it with your head firmly in the present, your eyes on the future, and openness to someone and something new.

Want to read other articles on this subject?

"Summer Love- Moving On When It's Over"
List of more "Grieving Lost Love" articles

This is the last "Grieving Lost Love" article.


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.

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