♦ LAST UPDATED ON November 9, 2020 ♦
First love is so precious to many people that some belief in abstinence before marriage to keep their first love unsullied as they try to save their love, and especially sex, from the fate of of being trite and banal. And why not? First love is not only just remembered, it gets engraved in what Milan Kundera called poetic memory. Sex and love are highly private and personal affairs, and one has to live with the memories of them for the remainder of one’s life.
That begs a few questions: apart from how people want to treat sex, is sex a banality or a sacred act? Apart from how people want to treat love, is love the ‘highest good’ or a figment of our imagination? In my opinion, there are no simple answers. It takes a lot of writing and reading to come to a common ground of understanding.
In any case, these noble folks believing in abstinence before marriage are often people of faith and with strong convictions. But is not their first love then dedicated to God, or Jesus, or some other deity? What is left for the eventual spouse? An unstained, virgin body for sex, but not an undivided heart or mind — not first love. Abstinence before marriage might not be all that it is believed to be.
19th century Danish existentialist Søren Kirkegaard was perhaps the early eminent philosopher to write about first love and the workings of desire and passion which so easily put people into a quandary.
In his (not easy to read) book Works of Love, Kierkegaard claims that love, including erotic love, comes from deep within our being, from the heart.
First love is rather fateful
Regardless, and of all things, first love is fateful. To mind come the theories of Sigmund Freud, including the Oedipus Complex. Other psychoanalysts such as C. G. Jung and Karen Horney have written about the complexities a young person might experience in his or her formative years regarding erotic aspirations and rivalries in relation to his or her mother and/or father.
So, then what is first love? Perhaps not the first love as experienced in high school or so. First love seems to be experienced either with mom or dad, something like that.
However, other than that really early drama with mom or dad and gradual individuation, etc., first love might then also be understood as referring to the first instances of romantic relationships in adolescence.
That then might be just one strong experience for a person with just one other. At the same time, this event might not need to amount to falling in love, although that is what first love is many times for a lot of young people. The experience of first love might be simply several sequential episodes of romance, each building up to a fuller case of first love.
A person might go through romantic stages, starting with caring for one, then liking one or another, respecting one or another, being attracted to one or another, followed by affection for the same or another, then feeling committed to one or another and wishing to see that one’s welfare promoted.
In any case, some folks are very wishful about their experience of adolescent first love, not wanting it to be a demeaning act of opening the heart, that is being a casual and forgettable or even be a sexual experience. People fear that if first love will not work out, regrets would develop and linger forever. In my youth, I certainly had that on my mind.
Yet, first love might also be understood in a plain sexual context. “Who’s gonna be the one with whom I want to discover the real me in a sexual act?” That scenario could mean a whole lot to a young person. “Who’s gonna be the first and last to discover the real me in the sexual act?” “Should I have to look forward to having to repeat that scenario with another?”
These concerns are not unreasonable at all as young people do need to figure their personal way of living a worthy life. However, I also find these concerns imposed by tradition or culture (view the movie Fiddler on the Roof), and therefore a bit overrated.
In some cultures, virginity – particularly for brides – is a big deal. Is the traditional, male-centered expectation of marrying a female virgin fair and just? Some say that virginity is one of many ways patriarchy is exerted: it is a way for women’s sexuality to be controlled by the men in her culture; that her sexuality does not belong to her, but rather to her future husband.
Is virginity, male or female, really that much of an ultimate virtue?
How can one recover from a broken heart?
In all of it’s appearances, love is arguably a most powerful experience in one’s life. Real love makes life worth living, and when it does not work out, it is a real bummer — to say the least.
“The first, the second or may be the third.
I don’t care about your past.
As long as you promise me that
I’ll be your last…..”
Last love is meaningful as well. The first love is gone and over with, so is perhaps the second. However, this is not the end of the world! Believe me, the show must go on, and it will with or without you. So you better pick yourself up and get on with it. Easy to say, I know. Here is some help.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coined the phrase ressentiment, which means a psychological state arising from suppressed feelings of envy and hatred that cannot be acted upon, frequently resulting in some form of self-abasement.
The afflicted reassigns the cause of the pain that accompanies a sense of one’s own inferiority/failure onto an external scapegoat. The ego creates the illusion of an enemy, a cause that can be blamed for one’s own inferiority/failure.
Thus, one was thwarted not by a failure in oneself, but rather by an external evil. It is a self-defeating turn of mind that is non-productive and ultimately a waste of time and energy.
Maturity informs most of us that sustained hatred hurts the hater far more than the object of our hate. Sustained hatred enslaves by preventing emotional growth from progressing beyond the sense of pain having been precipitated, in some way, by whom or what is hated (i.e., another person, group, or class of persons).
My advice is to tone down possible ressentiment into just resentment, which is still a complex, multilayered emotion that has been described as a mixture of disappointment, disgust, anger, and fear as a result of unfair treatment.
In other words, an afflicted person must — at least — stop scapegoating the offending other and primarily try to understand his or her own volitional participation in that now broken love drama.
That is: rinse and do not repeat. We can learn from our natural and unavoidable shortcomings, blindsides, mistakes, etc. One might end up with tolerable reservations only, having gotten rid of nasty resentments.
However, Erik Erikson, advancing some of Freud’s groundbreaking ideas, saw that some people make the same mistakes over and over. According to Erikson, the individual unconsciously arranges for variations of an original theme which he has not learned either to overcome or to live with.
Again, I find that Attachment theory has a lot of good insights to contribute to get a person back on track.
If you are really deep in the dumpster, you may also find help by reading this AEON article about forgiveness therapy.
Being the only love
Being the only love after all — perhaps not the first but hopefully the last — in another person’s life is meaningful as well. While first love is fateful, only love is just as life-giving.