NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Memories of Your First Love - Part 1

Memories of your first love can have a profound effect on subsequent relationships.  It doesn't matter how old you are or if you're happy in your current relationship or not.  Your first experience of love can leave a lasting imprint on you (see my article: The One That Got Away).

Memories of Your First Love

Books and Movies About the Lasting Effect of a First Love on Later Relationships
Since this is a common experience for many people, this theme often comes up in popular books and movies:

     Call Me By Your Name:
In the book, Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman, Elio is a 17 year old boy who falls in love with Oliver, a graduate student who comes to stay with Elio's family in their summer home in Italy for six weeks.  Throughout his life, Elio has other romantic relationships, but his first experience of love with Oliver has a profound effect on him and his subsequent relationships.

The book, which goes 20 years beyond the movie, illustrates how memories of a first love remain imprinted on the protagonist, who experiences an enduring love and a longing for Oliver throughout his life (see my articles: Call Me By Your Name - Part 1: "Is It Better to Speak or to Die?" and Call Me By Your Name - Part 2: The Concept of Parallel Lives).

     The Sense of an Ending:  
The Sense of an Ending is a book by Julian Barnes which was made into a movie.  The protagonist, Tony, has memories of his first relationship that create an obsession to find out what really happened to his first love.  He is now in his 60s, retired, divorced, and on amicable terms with his ex-wife and his adult daughter.  But he is driven by an unsolved mystery involving a memory about his first love, Veronica, and a love triangle from his early 20s.

     45 Years:
In the movie, 45 Years, memories of a first love come to haunt a husband, who is happily married to his wife for 45 years.  They are about to celebrate their 45th anniversary when he receives a letter which brings him back to his youth and his experience with his first love.  These enduring memories begin to threaten his well-being and the equilibrium of his otherwise happy marriage (see my article: An Old Secret Haunts a Happy Long Term Marriage).

     The Reader:
In the book and the movie, The Reader (book by Bernard Schlink), which take place in post-war German, 15 year old Michael meets Hanna, an enigmatic older woman.  His experiences with Hanna have a life-changing effect on him that endure long into his adulthood.  The book and the movie show how much he changes from the loving and open teenager that he was at the beginning of the story to an emotionally distant man who has superficial relationships with women--someone who is struggling to make sense of his first relationship with Hanna.

I could go on with many more examples, but these books and movies, which are part of our popular culture, illustrate how people are often changed forever by their early romantic experiences.

Memories of a First Love For Clients in Psychotherapy
As a psychotherapist in New York City, I often see clients who are still very attached to their early memories of their first love--even though they are in stable relationships.  There is something very powerful about these experiences that often take over their imagination.

And now it's relatively easy and so tantalizing to contact a first love on social media (see my article: Romantic Reconnections).

For some people, this is really more about themselves than it is about the other person.  They're remembering their youth and who they were back then.  In addition to a wish to recapture their youth,  for other people it's also about their wish to realize a fantasy of what it would be like to be in that relationship again.

Needless to say, if people allow themselves to get caught up in the fantasy, it could work out or it can have disastrous consequences when reality doesn't live up to the fantasy and a spouse leaves an otherwise happy marriage to pursue his or her first love (see my article: Relationships: The Ideal vs. the Real).

This is often a topic of discussion for many clients in psychotherapy, especially clients who are in midlife and looking back on their lives (see my articles: Midlife Transitions: Reassessing Your Life and Midlife Transitions: Living the Life You Want to Live).

In a future article, I'll continue to discuss this topic.

Memories of your first love can remain with you throughout your life.  Beyond nostalgia, these romantic memories can revive an old relationship or they can create upheaval in your life as well as the lives of your loved ones.

Many people reach out to their first love on social media in an effort to recapture what they once felt or to relive a part of their lives that has been over for a long time--often with mixed results.

Books and movies about this subject have become popular because this experience is so ubiquitous and can be all consuming.

See Part 2: Memories of Your First Love Can Have a Profound Effect on Later Relationships - Part 2

Getting Help in Therapy
Separating reality from fantasy can be difficult when you're caught up in memories of a first love from the past.

If you're struggling with these memories or the possibility of rekindling a relationship from a long time ago, you could benefit psychotherapy (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy).

Although a psychotherapist won't tell you what to do, a skilled therapist can help you to work this issue through for yourself (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

Rather than struggling on your own, you can take the first step by setting up an appointment with a psychotherapist for an initial consultation.

Being able to work through these issues can help you to make important decisions and to regain a sense of well-being.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples, and I have helped many clients who are struggling with midlife and other big decisions in their lives.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.