Why It’s So Hard to Get Over Your First Love

There is this one quote about love by Matt Groening, and I don’t think anyone has described it better since. Its states, “Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.” Anyone who has ever been in love knows just how accurate this quote is. First loves, however, are a bit different. Because when the snowmobile flips over for your first love, you are not just pinned underneath, you are impaled by the snowmobile, and its not just ice weasels that come at night, its ice wolves. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but that was my experience when I lost my first love. And it doesn’t end there, then you have to get over your first love and move on so you can go through it all over again with the next person you fall in love with. But for some reason, it will never be as bad or as painful as that first love. In fact, for a lot of people they will never fully get over that first love; that sting will always be there. Even if you meet someone who treats you way better, and is just an all around better fit for you, you still find yourself thinking of that first love sometimes. So fucking annoying, but as it turns out, there is a scientific reason behind why that is. You’re not just an obsessive loser, I promise.

Psychologist Art Aaron, neurologist Lucy Brown, and anthropologist Helen Fisher have all studied and mapped the brain when it’s in love and have equated it to being addicted. When you fall in love an exorbitant amount of dopamine is released along the same reward pathway in your brain as nicotine or cocaine. They state“…dopamine is released, it feels good, and you want more—you are in a ‘goal-oriented motivational state.’ Take this to its logical conclusion and, as far as brain wiring is concerned, when you’re in love, it’s not as if you’re an addict. You are an addict.”

As ugly as that comparison may be, it would logically explain why getting over that first love is so hard. So if we are addicts, then falling in love for the first time would equate to when an addict has their first hit of their drug. No hit after that will ever be as good, because as the individual continues to abuse the drug, their brain adapts to the large surges of dopamine produced by the drug and reduces the number of dopamine receptors in the reward circuit. This results in a smaller impact of the dopamine, meaning the drug user does not feel as good and must continue abusing that drug to try and reach that same level of high as that first initial time. Same thing happens when we fall in love for the first time. That surge of dopamine and adrenaline is huge and we feel like we can fly. The problem is when that first love ends. For those of you who ended up with your first love, you’re lucky bastards. But for the rest of us, that break-up is like going through withdrawals, and hell yeah it’s going to be painful. Because even when we fall in love again (hopefully), we will never have that initial high as the first time and we associate that initial high with that individual, making it very hard to get over them.

So there you have it, the chemicals in our brains have been working against us the entire time. But fret not, if a person can get over their addiction to cocaine and go on to live a happier better life, you too can get over that first love and go on to find your last love.

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