Do you believe in life after (first) love?
January 4, 2011 10:01 PM   Subscribe

My first boyfriend/first love and I recently broke up after nearly four years together. I know this was the right decision, but I feel like I'll never feel this way about anyone else ever again. I realize that sounds dramatic, silly, and naive, but I'd really like to hear from the perspective of someone who's been through it that, yes, life does go on (and maybe get better, in a different way) after a first love.

Also, is it normal to freak out and feel like I'm going to be alone for the rest of my life (and like I'll never connect with anyone else like I did with him) after this type of breakup, even though I'm only 21?

Is it also normal to feel guilt about the relationship's end? What's the best way to deal with this?

Thanks so much.
posted by gypsyhymns to Human Relations (24 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I know this was the right decision, but I feel like I'll never feel this way about anyone else ever again.

You won't. The next one will be completely different.

Take some personal time off. Do solo things for a couple of months. Clear your head.
posted by rokusan at 10:06 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

My first boyfriend and I broke up after the same amount of time together, and I felt the exact same way. I was seventeen at the time, so it's totally normal to feel that way even at a younger age.

You'll likely feel this way for awhile, but it will get better. In my case it took two years, but I did eventually realize that I could feel the same way about someone else as I did this guy. I also felt like if the first guy and I had worked out, it wouldn't have been a good thing since I've had so many more experiences since then, and I've learned that things can be SO much better in the relationship department.

What you're feeling right now is totally normal.
posted by biochemist at 10:11 PM on January 4, 2011

So, here's what happened.

I started dating a girl my senior year of high school, when she was a sophomore. I stayed with her, long distance, for almost 4 years. I broke it off with her because I couldn't deal with the distance, and I was suffering from crazy amounts of depression.

I made the mistake of jumping into another relationship immediately. I kept trying to make THAT relationship like the last one. Completely fucked it.

And then, after all of that, I found the love of my life - my best friend. The girl who'd been there with me through it all was the girl I ended up with. It was better than anything I'd had before, and it was right there, then entire time. That sounds cliche, but it was true for me.

I never thought anyone would want me or understand me like my first love - but the best part was I found someone that wanted me more and understood me better.

Feel bad, but take care of yourself. You'll get over it. It's a big loss - 5 years later, I still occasionally dream of the first girl. I'm 26, and I broke up with that girl when I was 21. I'm married to the girl of my dreams, even though she wasn't my first love.

First loves are great - sometimes, they work out. But the best loves can come in any order.
posted by SNWidget at 10:12 PM on January 4, 2011 [7 favorites]

Very normal.
posted by salvia at 10:15 PM on January 4, 2011

I was with my first boyfriend for four years. We broke up back when I was 23. He left me for a mutual friend. I went through all kinds of emotions and feelings. I was angry, sad... I wondered what I could have done better. Why she was better than me. etc.

To be honest, I'm still friends with them both 7 years later, and looking back on the relationship, it just seems strange to me that we were actually together for that long.
I mean, he's cool - but since then, I've had a few boyfriends that I was much more compatible with. Plus my tastes have kind of changed since I got older.

Anyway, It took me about 2 months to get over it. But I kept going out with friends (even though I didn't want to), took a trip out of state to visit some friends and eventually started dating someone else.

I mean, almost everyone survives break-ups and eventually finds someone more compatible.
The best thing to do is to keep busy, don't keep calling him/asking him "why" questions.
I remember spending so much time after the break-up missing work, ditching family members and bugging him. I learned not to let break-ups affect my life like that anymore. Especially if it was a bad break up (like being cheated on. They "win" if you let it affect you to the point where it starts affecting things like work/family)

Hang out with friends even though you may not feel like it. Meet new people.
Write what you're thinking in a blog or in a journal.

The first one is always rough, I'll admit. And it sucks. But you'll look back on it years later and probably laugh/cringe at how much of a wreck you were after the break-up.
posted by KogeLiz at 10:20 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

So normal!

My first "true relationship" lasted about one fucked-up year, which contained maybe 4 months of actual "dating" and many more months of ever-delicious longing, repression, and self-torture on both our parts. And I mourned the shit out of that relationship. It still makes me sad, and I still sometimes think about him, and that was a messed up and short-lived relationship. So mourning a four-year first love? Totally normal. BUT, and here is an important but, we have answered our own question: I know this was the right decision.

You may not feel the exact same way about someone ever again, but you will love someone again. You will have private jokes and coded looks and things you love to do together and patterns and new exciting butterfly feelings and all those things. They will be for someone else, but they will be just as fulfilling, real, and important as the feelings you have had in your first relationship.
posted by hepta at 10:22 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're normal. You'll be okay. Better than okay, even. I know it doesn't seem like it now, but it will get better.
posted by rtha at 10:32 PM on January 4, 2011

Everybody feels this way when it happens.

Awesomely, everybody is wrong.

I know it's inconceivable that time will pass and you'll have a new relationship (or even many new relationships!), but it really, truly does happen. Your next boyfriend is out there, somewhere, right now, eating a sandwich or playing the harmonica or watching his favorite "Sopranos" episode or getting back from a night of bowling, and one day you're going to meet him and have your first conversation, and you'll be surprised to realize that time really does pass. And you might catch yourself smiling, and he'll ask why you're smiling, and you'll just smile and say "oh, nothing."

This is true.
posted by scody at 10:56 PM on January 4, 2011 [40 favorites]

Like they say...reinforcing that others who experienced this loss and emptiness came out the other side healthy, happy, and ultimately well. It feels like hell at first; please follow everyone's advice here. Look to the new day and the happiness it might bring. If you can't genuinely feel that, fake it! That is not a glib comment. FAKE IT if you don't feel it. You'll get there.
posted by nj_subgenius at 11:02 PM on January 4, 2011

It may not feel like it right now, but you WILL be okay.

For awhile, maybe even for a long while, you'll feel all sorts of painful emotions: sadness, loneliness, regret, freaked-out-ness (I am officially declaring it a word, I don't care what anybody says!). But, no matter how you feel now, you WILL be okay.

You will never forget your first love, but the next love will be even better because you'll be a better person for having experienced love. You'll be a more mature person, and you'll have learned what kinds of things didn't work with the first relationship. You'll have a more fine-tuned idea of who you are and what you need/want in a partner.

Once you give yourself time to heal and reflect, you'll look back on your first love with fond memories. And you'll be glad you gave yourself a chance to move forward.
posted by amyms at 11:11 PM on January 4, 2011

nthing normal. Breakups are awful, even if you know they're the right thing to do.

As rokusan says, no one else will be the same— the next person will be completely different. And wonderful.

For now, look after yourself.
posted by hattifattener at 11:12 PM on January 4, 2011

One of the wisest things I ever heard about love came from a Star Trek episode, of all things. Wesley Crusher was also going through a breakup and at some point said to Guinan, "I'm never going to feel this way about anyone ever again."

And suprisingly, she said, "You're right. You won't."

And then she went on to say that what she meant was, there is no way you possibly CAN ever feel the same way about one lover as you'd feel about any other because they ARE two different people. But -- you will fall in love again. It will indeed be different, because the next person you fall in love with will be different themselves -- and you will also be different. And that's the way it's SUPPOSED to work.

So it's true that you'll never feel the same way about anyone as you feel about your first love, and it's okay to mourn that. But you WILL love other people again. It'll be different with the next person but -- there will BE a next person.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:41 PM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

Falling in love and experiencing all that stuff for the first time, especially at a young age where you're still maturing emotionally will just feel all-encompassing and vital, and like you're hacking off a limb in some odd way. But scody is right, everybody who has ever loved goes through this. Sometimes that first love is all you need, but for the other 95% of us, we live, learn more about ourselves, grow, mature a bit, and eventually find someone new (or a few someones, until things do work out long-term).

It will be different, since it's not the first time anymore, but you will have learned a lot in that first relationship, and you bring a lot more to the table the second, third, or nth time around.

You're very young. You've likely got another half century on the planet. In that time, you will fall in love again, probably more than once.

Spend time with friends, by yourself, figure things out a little before getting into something else.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:00 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

You will, indeed, never feel this way again. Going forward, you're going to have some relationships that are worse. You are also going to have some relationships that are better. What they'll all have in common is that they'll each be unique, and should be appreciated as such.

Your role (if you choose to accept it) is to make sure that you're going into each relationship for the right reasons -- which is to say, because it makes you happy to do so. And make no mistake, you will be happy again, and again, and again. Even if sometimes you're not.
posted by davejay at 1:20 AM on January 5, 2011

It gets totally better.

People have different ways of dealing with it; I'm of the "best way to get over a man is to get under another one" school of thought but I think 90% of the population disagrees with me so don't do that unless it'll help you (but don't feel bad about it if it does).

With the guilt thing, forgive yourself, remind yourself that you made the right decision, and remember that you do not need him to forgive you or make you feel better.

Also in general breakups get easier over time-- some will be easy and some will be hard but they'll prolly follow a general trend of getting easier as you get more used to 'em.
posted by NoraReed at 1:57 AM on January 5, 2011

I've been there too. It was the hardest thing I'd done at that point in my life, and took me about a year to get over. But I did get over it, and you will too.
posted by Nothing at 2:00 AM on January 5, 2011

I don't know if I felt guilt at the end of my first serious relationship, but I certainly went through periods of feeling very frustrated and unattractive.

It does get better. In fact, it gets a lot better, but the first step is relaxing and not putting pressure on yourself.

YMMV, but I decided that after a six year relationship, I was going to take a year off of girls, dating, sex, etx.

About five months later I met a very nice girl, and we had a very nice fling, and we ended up parting on decent terms, and then I met someone else, and we had something a bit longer, and so on...

You're going to meet other people, and you'll probably want to get involved with them in one way or another. Relax, take your time, don't force anything, and just let things happen if they're going to happen.

It won't feel the same, as others have said, but that's fine. There are more ways to connect with another human being than we have words to describe them, and just because they're not the first doesn't mean they won't be equally special and important.
posted by BZArcher at 4:20 AM on January 5, 2011

You're asking for people who've been through it as if you think most people enter their terminal relationships at 14, 16, 18 years old. Now is a good time to stop and think about that, examine your beliefs about relationships while you're not in one. The important thing about the relationships that end is that you learn something about yourself from them.

Yes, it feels awful. Change sucks and not being with the person you're used to being with all the time sucks, and you will grieve it in stages similar to a death. It may be months before you really feel like you're even starting to get your equilibrium back. But it will get better. Go slow, take very good care of yourself, get good food and sleep and gentle exercise, enjoy some fluff reading and then some challenging reading, spend some time with your friends. Be yourself not-in-a-relationship for a little while. You'll feel your strength start to come back soon.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:11 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: WOW.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Reading all your incredibly helpful responses has made me feel so much better (and kind of warm and fuzzy inside and also kind of like I want to print them out and carry them with me everywhere I go for the next few months). This was exactly what I needed.
posted by gypsyhymns at 6:40 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I went through that, and felt that, with my first relationship. I was also 21 when it ended. I had better relationships and felt more crazy in love with other people afterwards.

It is pretty normal to freak out and think you'll never feel that way again, and that you'll never have a relationship that good again. Usually these fears prove to be wrong.

It is perfectly normal to feel guilt.

You are only 21. It may not feel like it to you but you are barely an adult. You're still more kid than adult. You still have brown, downy feathers. You just got hit with one of life's nasty firsts and you're still not much more than a kid. Of course it hurts like nothing else has. Of course it throws you for a loop. It feels as bad as the first love felt good. So of course it seems like the worst disaster. You never had love that good before, and now it's gone. Of course you worry something so fine and strong won't happen to you again. But it will. Because that's how life tends to go, for most of us. and the odds are extremely high that not only will you find good love again but that with maturity and experience your love will be better than this one was.

Lots of things get better as we get older. Lots. Maturity allows us to do better at life, to know more, to understand more, to catch nuances and subtleties we miss when we're still young and inexperienced and learning. Older love is usually better for these very reasons. Trust me on this.
posted by Decani at 7:23 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I also broke up with my first long-term boyfriend at age 21, about a year and a half ago. It was really rough, because, actually, we had a pretty good relationship. It was so good, in fact, that I couldn't actually imagine how it could be better. How could I? I was in love, and I had no other experience. I was happy with him. But our futures weren't going to work together, so we broke up, and I thought "oh god how will I ever find this again?"

But, after several months, I had the clarity of mind to realize that there were bad things about our relationship, too. Things that, if I hadn't been so afraid of losing my first love, I might have actually tried to address, rather than just bottling them up. I know myself better now, too- without him by my side for the first time in my adult life, I had the ability to do some soul-searching and decide, for myself, what I need out of a relationship.

Nowadays I feel lucky to have had such a good first dating experience, but I also feel lucky because, next time, I won't just silently put up with things I don't like, out of fear of breaking up. Because now, I know much better what I want and need, and what I will and won't put up with.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:22 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I thought I'd never be able to love someone again after my first break up. I thought I was the exception to the rule that everyone falls in love again. I was wrong though. It took awhile, but I did fall in love again. My SO and I just clicked and I felt comfortable around him from the day we met. I never thought I'd feel that way again.

I think you'll fall in love again too. Take your time and don't push yourself until it feels right. It might take you a few months or even a couple years, but things will get better.
posted by parakeetdog at 9:24 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I attended my first love's wedding this past weekend. When we broke up (6 years ago) I could have never imagined being able to do so, let alone to be happy for him and excited to be there. But, strangely enough, I was. Don't get me wrong - I was heartbroken when we broke up, and I understand exactly what you're going through. But time really does heal all wounds, and we were lucky to (eventually) remain friends. As many other commenters have said, our relationship and its end taught me so much about what I need and want from future partners and, most importantly, about myself.

Today, I look back on that first real relationship and am happy: happy it happened, happy it ended, and even happier with where I am now. It's going to take some time, for sure, but I have no doubt that you, too, will learn, grow, and ultimately end up happier from this experience.
posted by hefeweizen at 10:15 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Been there! More than once actually. Because the second time I fell in love I was convinced that now I really knew what love was, and when we broke up I felt awful all over again. It does get better, and different, and you won't actually realize that until it happens, and then you'll catch yourself saying oh, okay.

What you had this time was special and hopefully wonderful - and nothing else is ever like a first love. But there are so many experiences out there waiting for you to discover them - and it's okay to let that happen to you by yourself (or just with friends or whatever) for a little bit, it doesn't mean you'll be alone forever.

I'm sorry, breakups suck when they are a breakup with someone you loved, and you'll second guess and be sad and play happy and sad moments through your head and wonder what if.

You will get to a better and happier place, I swear you will - it takes a little bit of time and patience, and you can't really force it, but you'll get there.
posted by mrs. taters at 11:52 AM on January 5, 2011

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