How perfect does it feel to be someone’s one and only? We’d bet our entire savings that life feels like a Disney movie right down to little magic birds singing at you. It’s called first love, baby, and it’s got you under its spell.
Maybe you are both virgins to dating, discovering what falling for someone is like for the first time. Maybe you’ve already been through a serious relationship before and are currently your partner’s first real girlfriend. You’re the old, wise, ~experienced~ one, while your partner is new to, well, everything. When one person is experienced and the other is not though, first love can with come with challenges. Here are the best and worst parts of this situation.
Pro: You’re under pressure—in a good way.
We bet that to this day you can remember your first childhood crush. Whether his name was Jacob and you put love notes in his pencil box or their name was Sam and you held hands during recess, the same goes for your first serious relationship. For the rest of your partner’s life, you are going to hold a weight in their heart that lasts. That’s a lot of pressure, right? Hell yeah it is, but let’s make it a good thing instead of something that sends you running to the hills screaming.
Laura Parker, a senior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, shares how the memory of her first serious partner lingers with her—in a good way. “My last boyfriend was my first love—and first everything else, too,” she says. “Although he wasn't the first person I've dated, he was considered as my first actual serious one. We aren’t together anymore obviously, but when I’m 80 and haggard looking I’ll still be able to tell my grandchildren every detail about the first person I loved because it just matters.”
First love is a sticky sweet knot in your stomach. It’s common to interchange “first love” with the feeling of “true love” (because it probably feels the same at the moment, tbh). It’s powerful because you are experiencing it for the first time. Maybe you took your partner’s virginity or are the first one they’ve brought home to meet their family. Even if your partner isn’t your first, cherish moments like these. They’re more meaningful than you know.
Con: Your partner may handle the relationship differently than you.
Getting into the groove and routine of how to handle a relationship like a semi-functioning adult takes time, but it can be a rough process if your partner is completely new to the party. When you’re a seasoned dater, you’ve mastered the art of having chill. You’re pretty conditioned to how relationships work, and know you don’t need to be together every second of the day or freak out if your partner doesn’t text you back. Maybe your partner can’t quite grasp this yet, so it’s important to share with them what you’ve already learned.
Angie House is a counselor at Illinois State University and specializes in dating and relationships. She’s pretty much the life coach you’ve always wanted to have, but haven’t been #blessed enough to meet. Luckily for you, she shared some of her romantic wisdom with us. “Speaking from personal experience, my first love was immature and shallow compared to the love I have for my husband,” she says. “With your first love, there is an overwhelming set of emotions that you don't know how to deal with yet. The next time, and the time after that, and the time after that, you get ‘better’ at loving and being loved, and can develop those feelings more deeply and with better understanding.”
With first love, there’s a sense of immaturity, but that doesn’t mean the love won’t grow or be lasting. You need to grow and change together, especially in college. Every tough emotion and worry you and your partner have is valid (we all ride the romantic struggle bus), but as your life progresses, your sense of urgency is reshaped. AKA you get woke and develop chill. It’s literal relationship goals.
Pro: You’ll be their first for so many special experiences.
Every little thing you do, down to eating a burrito, is magical and gets put on a pedestal. You brought them donuts in bed for breakfast? Wow, you are goddess. You are the first person they’ve ever brought home to meet their mom? That’s because there’s no one like you. We aren’t trying to be snarky, because it’s true. You are special to them, and being with someone who loves you harder than you’ve ever been loved is the most reaffirming, secure and blissful thing you can experience.
House again shares her personal experience with the pros and cons of first love. “I'd say that there really isn't another time you will have an experience like your ‘first love,’” she says. “However, you will grow to realize that the first isn't always the best. I dated a really sweet guy through high school. He was a great person and I loved him very much. We shared many ‘firsts’ with each other and much of that was the reason it took me a long time to get over him. Even now I look back on my time with him and I'm happy that we enjoyed each other.”
Whatever it is, they will forever hold dear that special moment between you and use it as a reference point of joy for the rest of their lives. Take all the personal growth you’ve experienced and evolve into your girlfriend megaform for the best relationship yet. After all, if you’re going to be remembered forever, shouldn’t you at least be thought of as Beyoncé incarnate?
Con: You can hurt them in a lasting way.
Do you remember how painful it was when your first boyfriend or girlfriend hurt you? They said something they shouldn’t have, left you feeling insecure and you cried for days saying you would never forgive them. Let’s face it––your first relationship left you a scorned, bitter woman with trust issues up the wazoo. (Or you’re lucky and haven’t experienced this yet, or your partner was literal a saint.) Even worse, can you remember the first time you were broken up with? Now imagine inflicting all the pain and suffering on someone else.
Myelle Lansat is a sex and relationships writer at Elite Daily and Jerk Magazine at Syracuse University. She understands just how sad your first serious partner can make you. “The one thing you can avoid by staying with your first love is the period of horror that almost everyone in the world who has lost their first love goes through,” she says. “They have cut off a limb and let it scar over. Now we all roll our eyes at the pain of someone experiencing that loss of a part of themselves for the first time.”
The second or third time around, your relationship not working out hurts a little less. Abandoning your dreams for a life with that person is painful AF. But as you do it more you get used to it. It’s not cynical, it’s just the truth. You become desensitized to loss, and it won’t feel like a mortal wound to have love end.
Pro: You have a partner who deeply loves you.
Umm, hello! You’re in a relationship! Do you know how many single ladies in the world are jealous of you right now? Seriously, you have someone to bring to your awkward family gatherings, eat food with and cuddle while you binge-watch Gossip Girl for the third time. Plus, your partner is low-key wrapped around your finger, and we’re sure you’ve never been loved like this before. Is this enough of a pro? Because we totally think so!
Real talk though, falling in love with someone who has only. loved. you. is the best thing ever.
Con: You probably won’t end up with them.
If you’re an experienced dater, you know the importance of breakups and growing from them. Dealing with heartbreak and binge-eating ice cream has helped shaped your love life and will eventually lead you to the end of your rainbow. You also know that you can love someone more than your first. You know the importance of being weathered, because it also makes you polished.
Laura Parker, senior from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, elaborates more on why first loves are likely to not work out. “The pros of dating someone who hasn't been with anyone else is that they have no other experience to compare,” she says. “But the biggest con (part of why he broke up with me) is that because they haven't had any other experience, they also may wonder what else may be out there or if there is someone better (especially when relationships get rocky).”
If you’ve had other relationships while you are your partner’s first, you have to come to terms with the fact that even though you’re ready to stay with this person, they might not be ready to stay with you. They haven’t had the chance yet to go through loss or emotionally and romantically challenge themselves like you have. Truly, everything is situational and you are by no means doomed. However, don’t shelter yourself from coming to terms with a disappointing possibility like this one.
The spell of first love is beautifully confusing, and no matter what happens, you’ll get your fairytale. True love means evolving into better people and lovers every day, and if your first love lets you do that, then it’s safe to say you’ve found your soulmate.