No matter how old you are you never forget your first love, that is what our society tell us, and yet some people hardly remember their first loves. The reason may be because a hundred years ago young girls were married at a very young age and these young virgins only knew one love, which was the man they married. Even today there are still many couples that marry their high school sweetheart and never knew another love before or after that.
Why then would some people say they remember their first love while others do not?
Change in society
One reason is that society has changed. Children start younger to want a boyfriend or girlfriend, and unlike the past, marriage is not in the equation. Even when elementary school children do have that opportunity to explore and are allowed to entertain some sort of relationship with a member of the opposite sex there is more reason to believe in our present society that these young love interests will not be the ones they will eventually marry.
Society today is more mobile than in the past. Families move away and the kids are broken up and sent off to other high schools, which could be in different provinces and states. The love they had between them never really had a chance to blossom, let alone develop into true love.
The early feelings of affection were not considered to be love. They were considered to be what was called an infatuation or a crush. Therefore the parameters of defining love changed over time.
What do we mean when we say first love?
Is it the person we secretly yearned for across the classroom but were to shy to approach? Is it the boy who first pulled our braids or pigtail, or is it the first boy we held hands with? Does the first kiss become the criterion for a first love or just a crush? Or does petting and actual sexual contact become the criteria for love? There are so many factors to consider in today’s society, which were not present years ago when you married your high school sweetheart and stayed with that person until death became the only reason for separation.
Besides the fact that setting the parameters for what is a first love is different for different people, it is also different among genders. According to Dr. Stephanie Meiselman, a clinical psychologist at The Medical Psychology Center in Beverly, Massachusetts, girls have much more intense relationships than boys. They talk about their relationships with their friends and mothers, whereas boys don’t talk about it. According to Meiselman, for the most part young boys are not even aware of their feelings. So if you are not aware of your feelings you certainly cannot remember your first love.
On the other hand one might be justified in cautioning that if you cannot remember it then it could hardly be called a first love.
Here we go again back to the notion of a crush
The trouble with a crush is that the feelings are very deep while it is happening. Any young girl will attest to that. It is the adults who have decided that a crush is not really love, not the young people experiencing it. Adults claim the feelings associated with a crush goes away, and therefore these feelings cannot be love. However, if we use that criterion for love surely we must look at how many people we know that claim to fall in and out of love at what seems to be a drop of a hat. Do the movie stars who fall in and out of love really fall in and out of lust, or in and out of a crush?
Ah, but then you say, “well children have crushes and adults have love.” Hmm, the young 14-year-old girl who married her 15-year-old boyfriend when they were 20 and 21 did not love each other back then? They certainly stayed together all that time, which as we already know is a criterion differentiating a crush from true love.
It is certainly getting confusing now isn’t it? Okay so what is love?
Love is a biological function
For some people they will say it is a chemical reaction producing pheromones (sex hormones) in the brain that releases a feeling of euphoria, and sexual attraction and so on. Sounds good but then some people would argue that sexual arousal is not love it is lust. Most people will attest that having sex and making love is different.
How is it different, is it that you make love when you love somebody and you have sex when you need a physical release?
Let’s examine this notion. If you make love when you love someone, then pheromones should dictate that you are in love right? Not really, many men and now women have sex for the pure pleasure of having sex and they both maintain that it is not love. Therefore the sexual theory of pheromones releasing and causing a person to fall in love is incomplete and may be totally unrelated as far as we know.
Then what is the difference?
Is it the intense feeling of love, where you feel you just can’t live without that person?
Guess what, those very same feelings are present when a young person has a crush. No one will argue that love is not an intense feeling, then why do people argue that a crush does not have intense feelings? Anyone who has ever had a crush on someone certainly knows that it does. Some will argue that a teenage girl who moons over a boy and can think of nothing else is not in love. She is infatuated. The only problem with this theory is that 40-year-old women and 40-year-old men can do the same thing.
Another theory is that a real love gone sour really hurts. How many young girls have been psychologically devastated when they their love desire spurned them? Some girls suffer years pining after some young men who cannot even remember their name. The same can be said for young men who have had their hearts broken as well.
Is there a formula for knowing you are really in love?
No one will agree on an exact formula, not even the psychologists. There are some guidelines though. True love is an intense feeling that singles out one person above all others. This feeling of love does not quell overnight in favor of someone else that catches the eye and it often lasts long after the relationship has ended.
When the relationship continues the need for a commitment is of utmost importance. The need for sharing one’s life with the other person is essential. Love is more than sexual encounters no matter how good they may be.
Love is sacrifice, compromise, commitment, and putting the other person’s needs above all else when a situation warrants it.
Love is open communication and valuing and respecting the other person while being valued and respected by the other person as well.
Love withstands the test of time.
It matures as the couple matures.
Finally, sadly to say love is not guaranteed forever, and love can diminish if the couple no longer work together to keep the flame going.
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Montreal psychotherapist, Rhonda Rabow
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