Remember your first love? That intense excitement seeing him in the school hallway that made you beg your mom to drive down his street after softball practice, only to slide way down in your car seat so he wouldn’t see you? The fear that your parents would walk into the living room and see you kissing? The crushing pain when he ended your perfect relationship via a folded-up letter delivered by his best friend? How you really thought you would die of a broken heart?
Our first loves have a huge impact on our future relationships. Falling in romantic love for the first time is earth-shattering (or at least ego-shattering), and whether or not we were the dumper or the dumpee can continue to impact how emotionally safe we feel even decades later in our marriages.
I have a client who has been struggling with getting over her first love because of the intense emotional passion involved. Even though he was a liar and a cheater, he made such an imprint on her psyche that when she is with someone who is more stable and doesn’t cause drama, it feels strange and not exciting enough. Her imprint of love is instability, which equals excitement, which, for her, equals love. But if she continues to look for this, she will continue to have heartbreak and repeated traumas around love, sex and emotional connection. What she needs to learn is that instability equals chaos and drama and ultimately leads to pain and sadness.
When I think back on my first love, it was all about rebelliousness, whereas the man I married couldn’t be further from that template. My immature desire to seek out danger and try to control it to feel powerful, when in reality I felt weak, would have been a sad narrative to continue, and one filled with a lot of pain and loss as well. Fortunately, when I met my husband, I was on a path of self-reflection to change unhealthy relationships and patterns that were simply not working anymore.
Of course, when we started dating, I fell right back into my first-love narrative of trying to dominate the relationship, and to my surprise, he responded totally differently than the young men I had dated before him had. He didn’t engage with it and he didn’t fight back; instead, he suggested I see a therapist to deal with my family stuff and myself. I found his maturity grounding, even sexy. Forget danger: Give me a smart, solid guy, and now “HOT”comes to mind!
Those years of therapy changed my life and sparked my desire to become a psychologist. The realization that I didn’t want the template of my first-love narrative set me on the road to find and keep a stable, loving and amazing man.
Moms, what was your first-love narrative? Is your husband at all similar to your first love, or is he the opposite?