Your first love is unforgettable.
It doesn’t matter how old you get. Even as you grow white-haired and wizened, you’ll still remember him.
My grandmother did. She fell in love at sixteen with a boy on a motorcycle. Her parents didn’t approve. The relationship didn’t last, but her memories did. Seventy years later, remembering him could still bring a tear to her eye.
First loves matter. They teach us what is possible. They give our hearts their first heavy lifting.
For some, a first love flattens. The feelings are too intense, the rejection too quick. Didn’t he get the memo? When it’s true love, it’s supposed to last forever. It’s not supposed to die a nasty brutish death by text or Facebook unfriending.
Others can think back on their first loves with a smile and a sigh. It was lovely. It didn’t last. It wasn’t supposed to. No one marries the first boy they fall in love with. At least, not nowadays.
(Those people are boring. It’s so much more fun to have a first love story with some trauma in it. A little blood, a dash of hysterics, a boy on his knees begging forgiveness.)
But our first love story isn’t about the boy.
We only think it’s about the boy.
Oh, sure, the boy was there. He was an important player, no doubt. But he wasn’t the main player.
The main player was YOU.
For all those women who still dream of their first love and what could have been, I’ve got news:
You didn’t fall in love with him. You fell in love with what was inside you.
He was the catalyst, not the chemical reaction.
We have this strange view about love. We think other people own it. They give it to us occasionally, if we’re really good.
That’s what popular culture teaches. You fall in love with a person. Therefore, that person is the source of your love. He gives you love. You wouldn’t have any if he didn’t love you. If no one loves you, then you don’t have any love in your life.
That’s a rather disempowering way of thinking.
So we all want love, but the only way to get it is to jump through hoops to get guys to give it to us?
Luckily, there’s an alternative.
The alternative is that YOU own love.
It’s a capacity you’ve always had. It’s yours, and no one can ever take it from you.
It’s a mystery why you allow yourself to feel it with some guys and not others, but it’s always your choice.
That’s the version I believe.
It’s in no small part because of my own first love experience. After mooning over the poor boy for years, I realized that what I felt had nothing to do with him and everything to do with what was inside me.
What I missed wasn’t him, per se.
What I missed was how I felt.
And if I could feel it once, I could feel it again.
Think about it:
When you’re in love, you experience a magical mixture of feelings that warms you, comforts you, holds you, and brings you home. There’s that warmth in your belly, tingling of the skin, a swelling in your throat, cheeks that hurt from smiling.
You only feel that way when you’re with him. You’ve never felt that way with anyone else. So surely he’s the one making you feel so wonderful?
Well, strictly speaking, no.
It’s one of those psychological mind games. All good therapists will tell you: no one can make anyone feel anything. We all choose how to feel based on our beliefs. If the same thing happens to 10 people, all 10 people will react slightly differently. Or, to quote Mr. Shakespeare, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
So does that mean no one can make us feel loved?
Yep, pretty much.
We think we need other people to love us so that we can feel loved. But, as any marriage counselor will tell you, how much another person loves you is often unrelated to how loved you feel.
A boy could like you a little, and you could swoon into him like Juliet. Your husband could love you more than the stars and moon, but, because he doesn’t put his dirty laundry in the hamper or remark on your new haircut, you feel ignored and taken for granted.
You’re in the driver’s seat where your heart is concerned. You choose what to feel, when to feel it, how much to feel, and who to feel it about.
Which means that we’ve got all the power we need to feel love all the time, any time.
Who needs a romantic suitor spouting words of poetry to feel the divine deliciousness of love? Silly conditions and self-imposed limits. I’ll bet you could feel love right now without any of that.
Try this trick with me.
Remember how it felt to fall in love for the first time. Really dive into the memory.
Think about the boy. Think about the moment you knew it was true. Feel your head spin. Feel the warmth of his lips on yours. Remember what it felt like to relax back into his arms and know that everything is okay and will always be okay. He’s here. You’re together. All is right with the world.
Did you feel it?
That was love.
Your first love is still inside you. It never died. It can’t die.
That’s because it’s not attached to the boy. He couldn’t take that love away from you. You kept it, and you’ll have it forever.
Even if you’re 90 years old, white-haired and wizened, you’ll still own all the love you’ve ever felt.