Your first love, your first everything. Is that always a good thing?
Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood explores a similar concept towards this idea of attachment to ones very first love.
In the novel, one of the main characters, Ren, develops a serious attachment to her boyfriend/friends with benefits known as Jimmy. The main issue here is when they break up their alliance. Ren goes through a troublesome period she describes as very dark; “I wondered what I was doing on Earth: no one would care much if I wasn’t on it anymore” (Atwood 227). Throughout the novel, Ren just can’t seem to forget Jimmy. No matter the number of years or acquaintances she’s had, Jimmy is always in the back of her mind.
Interesting I thought, why are we so affixed on our first love?
Here are a couple reasons that may answer this cryptic question.
Simply put; no one ever mentions their second kiss, their second car, their second house because your first anything is what’s really special. An analogy given by psychologist Art Aron, professor at State University of New York at Stony Brook says that our first love is like skydiving, “meaning, you’ll remember the first time you jumped out of an airplane much more clearly than the 10th time you took the leap” (McCarthy). This makes sense; jumping out of an airplane is definitely scary and exciting all at once, and so is falling in love for the first time. You’ve never seen yourself in this sort of situation and you don’t know how to handle it like you previously would.
Another issue surrounding this fixation on our first love is that most likely we will think back and romanticize about it. How perfect everything may have felt, the butterflies in the stomach, the innocence, thinking how love really had no limits. To this day one might think back to those times and how your first love made you feel. Even if there were moments where you couldn’t stand the site of each other, you’re more inclined to recall the good experiences shared together.
In addition, a first romantic relationship “is the only time you’re ever in love where you’ve never had your heart broken” (Carpenter). Yes relationships after your first can make you think what was I even doing with this person in the first place, but also there will never be again a situation where you haven’t been hurt. Being with that first person was the purist form of love because you haven’t been knocked down yet and ultimately this relationship becomes a template on which we compare everything else with.
Finally, first relationships may be lurking at the back of our minds, whether we realize it or not. This little section of our brain that keeps it stored gets activated with new interactions. There is a chance that you meet someone who reminds you of your ex, even in a subtle way. In turn, that little area of your brain is triggered. Ren experiences this moment exactly when her current love interest, Croze, wants to have sex. She thinks to herself, “I don’t want to have sex without loving the person, and I haven’t really loved anybody in that way since Jimmy” (Atwood 394). Ren can’t stop herself from taking a trip down memory lane because any male will make her reflect on Jimmy.
All in all, it is difficult to not think about that person with whom you’ve experienced so many new feelings and emotions. Everyone moves on eventually but it’s okay to have these brief moments of nostalgia… so long as it is controlled.
Atwood, Margaret. (2010).The Year of the Flood. Toronto: Vintage Canada.
Hill, Amelia. (2009). Why we can never recover from first love. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/jan/18/relationships-love
Hopkins, Michael. (2016). 3 Reasons It’s So Hard For You To Get Over Your First Love. Elite Daily. Retrieved from http://elitedaily.com/dating/getting-over-first-love/1484465/
McCarthy, Ellen. (2016). Why we never really get over that first love. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/soloish/wp/2016/02/12/why-we-never-really-get-over-that-first-love/?utm_term=.1d3376fadb9d