All of us have our first love. We either fall in love too young or too old but we all have our first love. That special someone who makes us experience love in an intense and special way for the very first time. Also, is it the kind of love that made us experience a different kind of hurt and pain for the first time? But have you ever wondered why first love is always special and difficult to forget? As the famous quote says: “First love never dies.”
First love is the first dose of addiction
According to the study carried out by Helen Fisher in 2005 on the fMRI of couples in love, romantic love is primarily a motivation system, rather than an emotion, that can be similar to what we experience during addiction.
There are several hormones and neurotransmitters that are involved or are released when we are in love. These are oxytocin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Oxytocin, which is also called the “love hormone”, is responsible for feelings of attachment and intimacy. It helps bond people closer together, it’s what keeps some people monogamous, it can lower your inhibitions, and it can help you become more open and trusting of others. It is also the same chemical that bonds mothers and children.
Dopamine, on the other hand, is a neurotransmitter that is strongly associated with emotions, pleasure, and reward and in modulating the immune system. This is where the “addiction” part of love comes in. When this hormone is released, it activates the reward centre of the brain which causes a ‘motivation-reward’ effect. Thus, we seek out the reward of love even through obstacles that may be dangerous or painful (a cheating partner, an abusive partner, etc.)
Norepinephrine is a drug that is used by medical experts to treat low blood pressure (hypotension) and heart diseases. It is similar to adrenaline and dopamine, which produces a racing heart and excitement. It is released in the first stages of love either lust or infatuation. According to Helen Fisher, these two chemicals – dopamine and norepinephrine – produce elation, intense energy, sleeplessness, craving, and focused attention.
Researchers at UCL discovered that people in love have lower levels of serotonin (a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter which helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another). Low levels of serotonin are found in people diagnosed with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorders) which may be the reason why those in love ‘obsess’ about their partners.
First love leaves an ‘imprint’ on the sensory areas of the brain
Since there are multiple studies that confirmed that our brains experience ‘addiction’ when we’re in love, falling in love for the very first time is important because it is the foundation and, most of the time, we experience this kind of love during adolescence when our brain was still developing.
Cognitive scientists at MIT explain that we experience peak processing and memory power at around age 18 and this is the time when we experience a lot of firsts, including our first love.
Another psychologist also says that most people experience a ‘memory bump’ between the ages of 15 and 26. This memory bump happens at a time when we are experiencing all kinds of firsts, such as the first kiss, having sex, driving a car, etc. and later in life, these memories tend to be more impactful because they occurred when our memory was at its peak.
According to Rose Bear, these memories leave hormonal imprints that cause the life-long effects we all experience. The hormonal interactions are imprinted in the sensory areas of the brain at a time when the neurological developments we are experiencing are forming who we are as individuals. Thus triggering us to recall our first love whenever we see them on social media, or whenever a certain song plays in our playlist that makes us remember them.
Your first love affects all your relationships after
According to April Davis, a matchmaker and founder of LUMA (Luxury Matchmaking), first love often feels so intense it could lead to someone believing that they loved their first more than others. They’ll long for the intense feelings they had when they were in their past relationship and look for that feeling in everyone they meet after. When they don’t find it, they might find themselves looking to rekindle things with their ex.
However, according to Davis, first love isn’t going to be the best or deepest love. It is because of the intensity of the first love that could translate someone a feeling that they loved that person more in their memory.
Also, according to Davis: “Your first love will affect all your relationships after because of what it teaches you. For instance, you’ll learn for the first time that you can be wanted and desired. You’ll also learn how you want to be treated by another person. When you end the relationship, you’ll learn what heartbreak feels like.’ And as they say, there is no heartbreak that hits you like the first time.”
According to a 2017 study, 71% of people are able to heal from a breakup within a span of three months after the relationship has ended. In this context, healing means self-rediscovery for the participants. Thus, creating the famous “three-month rule” in a relationship.
Also, first love is often marked by a period of personal growth and development, a time of new experiences, and facing your fears. As a result, the relationship helps shape who you are and how you proceed through the world and may represent the first time you allowed someone else’s influence to have such a significant impact on who you are.
Remember, these are just several reasons why first love is hard to forget. However, just because your first love is hard to forget, it doesn’t mean that it’s the only true love you will ever have. For most people, it’s a learning experience. Take this experience as a lesson and as a sign pointing you on the right path in your journey of finding the right person.
Nikka Celeste is a relationship and wellness expert.
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