It’s funny how you can date and cry over somebody for three whole years and never truly see them for who they are. I know that’s why they say Love is blind. But what they mean to say is First Love is blind. Because you look in your First Love’s eyes and see a hologram projection of what you think Love is–a projection born from your early childhood experiences and messages, the media, and the people around you. You see almost everything BUT the person in front of you. How could you possibly see them? You are navigating a new sea of emotions, feelings, and chemical imbalances, a new relationship dynamic featuring a strange dependency, and a new awareness of self. Where exactly does the actual person you’re dealing with fit into that myriad of mess? I’m here today to tell you what no one told me. First Love isn’t meant to last because First Love is all about you.
I understand that I may have already lost many of you. Because life has taught us that First Love is this wonderfully great thing. Love in and of itself is enough to carry a relationship through anything. And that oftentimes, you’re first Love is your only true Love. Many of us, despite moving on and dealing with new people, stay stuck in First Love one way or another. Sometimes, we physically go back to the person. Sometimes, we never really give up hoping that our first Love comes back into our lives so we don’t give new prospects a solid chance. Sometimes, we fall in Love again but we keep tabs on that First one. And many more of us haven’t even left our First Love yet despite that nabbing feeling that it’s over. I’ve been in all four of these predicaments. This post was born out of my personal grapple with First Love. And when I realized Mr. Right-For-Now had a similar debacle, I figured we can’t be the only two that have experienced this. So I wanted to make an argument that First Love is a very necessary experience because you learn so much about yourself. But there’s more to Love than First Love.
Before we go any further, let’s define the undefinable. What is First Love? It is not to be mistaken with Puppy Love or childhood Love, first longterm relationship, or the first sexual encounter. Although all of these states of being can produce similar mind-numbing effects, First Love, for our purposes, is decidedly a bit more adult and independent. It has more to do with who you are when you feel it than what you actually feel. First Love is the first time you really get serious about another person and are mature enough to know what that means. Parents aren’t really involved. You go out on dates. You may have even lived together or seriously contemplated marriage. It is the first time you say “I love you” and have an actual concept for Love in your head. I’d like to argue that many of us experience this Love within the ages of 17 to 25. And that the mindset of someone in First Love is that Love is all you need. People in First Love put up with a lot from their partner. But always end up back together. It is a resilient Love, a committed Love (lasting 12 months or longer), and a passionate Love. It is an intimate Love–I remember feeling like my First Love knew me better than anyone on the planet. He knew me in ways I didn’t yet know myself. We all know the expression “fall in Love”. I think that when it comes to First Love, that is precisely what happens to most of us. You are walking down the street, taking an unfamiliar route, when suddenly your tire slips into a deep pothole. You are jolted and startled–no prior knowledge of this pothole or what to do when you hit one. I mean sure you’d heard of potholes, even seen them before, might’ve known a few people–your parents for instance–who’d fallen into them while you were in the car. But this is your first time being in the driver’s seat and running into one. You get to make all the decisions about this situation for yourself. It isn’t driven by sex. It isn’t driven by rebellion and teenage hormones. It isn’t even driven by a mutual agreement to parent a child together. First Love runs on pure Love power. I do not want to put First Love in a box. I know women who haven’t experienced First Love until after they’ve already been married once. But I do want to present cases in which I’ve seen it frequently arise. It’s euphoric. It’s exciting. But it’s selfish.
First Love is selfish. It is all about me, myself, and I. This Love is not about the actual person that we fall in Love with. It’s more so about what that person does for us and how they make us feel. Why does First Love have to be selfish? Because it usually finds us in a very selfish stage of our development. As I mentioned before, it comes in the time frame where we have to start making decisions about our futures on our own. Am I going to go to college? Am I going to get a job? Am I going to continue living with my parents? Should I buy a car? There is a newfound independence that we experience as we age and wean ourselves from the support of our caretakers. We have just developed a new power to think and do for ourselves. And we try to exercise this power within the confines of a relationship as well. The relationship itself exists to ensure fulfillment of our personal needs–the need for consistent sex, companionship, and adventure. And our problems all have to do with how the other person isn’t meeting those needs. He doesn’t take me out enough. She’s always mad at me. He’s all up in my face, can he go home! She doesn’t do it how I like it. First Love is also selfish because oftentimes, it’s born out of selfish motives. I remember I was seeing several guys on and off Temple’s campus flaunting my ability to be with whomever I pleased whenever I pleased, when I realized that I cared for Mr. Lies-About-Everything more than I thought. We’d been hanging out and talking as friends. He’d made it clear he wanted more than a friendship. But it wasn’t until I realized he’d been talking to another girl I knew that I figured I should have him all to myself. I didn’t decide to be his girlfriend because I wanted to take things to the next level and commit myself to someone I cared about. I decided to be his girlfriend because I wanted to have the right to be upset about who he dealt with. I needed to validate my own feelings toward him. Finally, First Love is selfish because more than it teaching us about the other person, it teaches us about ourselves. You begin to learn what turns you on, what turns you off, what traits complement you, what traits you can’t stand. That first person usually becomes the template for your future mate. They teach you all about your likes and dislikes. First Love also reveals your true identity. Before First Love, you didn’t know that you were the slitting tires kind of person. Before First Love, you didn’t notice that you really have a problem being emotional and vulnerable. It took me three years to really see Mr. Lies-About-Everything for who he was because I was so busy projecting onto him who I thought he was–who I wanted him to be. Oh I knew things about him. A lot. I’d stood close by his side for many a day and night. So I noticed when he lied to me and acted unfaithfully. But I didn’t intervene. Because my interpretation of Love was that even when the two people in Love do unLoving things to one another, the Love itself would get them through. I didn’t put my foot down. I didn’t make any demands on him. Because I figured things would work themselves out. That’s what I thought I’d always seen. My Love for him simply reflected what I thought I knew about Love. I never accepted him and I never accepted us for what we really were. My eyes were wide shut as they say. And I wouldn’t have known who I was in a relationship if we hadn’t ever fell in Love.
No one ever told me that First Love wasn’t meant to last. And that Second Love could be so much better…