You never forget your first love. At least, that's what Nicholas Sparks' "The Notebook" wants us to think. But the saying does have an ounce of truth to it. Losing a first love is painful, especially when the loss isn't on our terms.
So, how do we get over that loss? Well, the first step is to understanding why our first love is such a huge deal to us in the first place.
The effects of first love
According to Psychology Today, first loves are elevated in our brains because they're the first person we've ever experienced that heightened sense of attraction toward.
"To feel so deeply known and deeply knowing makes other relationships seem shallower by comparison," writes Carl E Pickhardt Ph.D.
Unfortunately, Pickhardt points out, "love that feels forever does not necessarily last forever." And that hurts.
Is that why we can't let go?
In short, yes. The hormones involved in both lust and love play a part in how attached we become to a person. As LiveScience points out, attraction to the person we love is a product of evolution and that means they will stay on our minds. The hormonal effects of love can even mask the flaws that plagued the relationship, giving us more to miss.
BBC News even reported that teenagers (adolescence being the typical age at which people first fall in love) experience the attraction phase of love more acutely than adults. And the tighter the bond, the harder it is to let go.
Even though moving on from our first love royally sucks, we come out as a better version of ourselves.
1. First loves show us what love feels like.
And that's pretty amazing. Regardless of how it ended, feeling one of the most incredible emotions in the world for the first time shouldn't be forgotten. It's okay to hold on to those memories. Just know that while memories stay the same, people change. Accepting that is the first step to letting go.
2. First loves teach us how to love our next partner even more fiercely.
Think of first loves as the guinea pigs. Sometimes it works out, but when it doesn't, you figure out what you really value in a relationship and can know what to expect the second time around.
3. First loves teach us how to put others before ourselves.
They require a person to let go of their ego for the sake of making a relationship last. They require compromise, which is at the root of any great relationship — first or last.
4. First loves also show us what it feels to be deeply cared for by someone who isn't family.
It's a great feeling to have someone you can turn to during difficult times — someone to whom you aren't related. This teaches you how important it is to have someone like that in your life, whether it be a lover or a friend.
5. First loves teach us how to work out problems.
They teach us that love takes work and communication. They teach us how to get to that level through trial and error. You don't forget these lessons once you've learned them.
6. First loves make us want to be better.
Maybe you weren't the one who was dumped. Maybe it was mutual. Or maybe you ended things. Still, that first love is a learning experience that gave you the confidence to be true to yourself. Or it allowed you to reflect on how you would have handled another person's feelings differently.
7. First loves allow us to love again.
You opened your heart once, which means you're capable of doing it again.
Okay, so, really how do we get over it?
A wise Reddit user once said, "You don't get over it...you get through it and you remember it, with changing/lessoning degrees of ache until it's a memory with blurred edges."
Until then, take deep breaths, take the lessons you learned from the relationship to a future one and leave the rest behind.
As writer Ashley Massis wrote in a Huffington Post blog:
Soon, your heart will slowly heal from the baggage and the bruising of your first love. It'll be bursting with happiness, and all your past caution will flee. And like with any recipe that you try, practice only leads to perfection.
You may miss them, or who they used to be, but your first love made you who you are today. That's worth something.