It’s been a while since we last checked in at the LwL coffeehouse.
Today’s topic of conversation was proposed by Fabian:
could you please make an article about how to cope and move on from your first-love-LO?
I’ve previously posted about why first love has such power over our imaginations, but didn’t really go into any detail about how a recovery strategy might be different from a typical, everyday, limerent object for the jaded mid-lifer.
Like everyone else, by definition, I’ve only ever got over my first limerent object once. That limits personal experience, and so suggests itself as a good topic on which to pool the collective wisdom of lots of people. So today at the coffehouse, I invite anyone who has succeed in overcoming a powerful first limerence episode to share their strategies with Fabian.
My first limerence experience was around the same age as Fabian’s (late teens), and I still remember her fondly. Unlike Fabian, my limerent object made it pretty clear that she wasn’t interested in me. She wasn’t unpleasant, or anything, just… not into me.
Despite that removal of uncertainty, she cast a long shadow over my romantic life for years afterwards. As well as measuring all other women against her yardstick, I harboured secret fantasies of going out into the world and proving myself in some way, and then returning triumphant to amaze her with my accomplishments and win her heart.
I suspect a lot of young men labour under this particular delusion.
One consolation of this secret urge to impress is that I was motivated to do stuff. Although I wouldn’t claim that it was the main driving force for me in pursuing academic and career success, it did get me fired up, and that has ended up being a positive benefit (even though I never did go back, of course).
The way that I finally emerged from this shadow was fairly unsophisticated: I aged.
I met other people, felt the glimmer for some of them, became limerent for someone new who reciprocated, and LO1 just… faded into memory. Now I look back on her as someone I never really knew, but who I responded to at some deep psychological level because of my own personal history and temperament.
Unlike other limerence episodes, it is one I can reflect on without regret as I didn’t do anything especially foolish or damage any other relationships I had. It ended up as an important formative experience in my romantic development, but nothing more.
Now, I appreciate that “you’ll get over it” is a rather banal strategy for coping and moving on, so in the interests of more practical suggestions, here are some of the steps I took to try and distance myself from the pain in the immediate aftermath of rejection.
- Did not attempt to maintain contact after the end of school
- Moved to new city
- Allowed myself occasional indulgence of the private fantasy of a triumphal return when feeling lonely
- Realised that I shouldn’t overdo it or I’d end up like Jay Gatsby
- Actively sought new LOs
- Focused on the future rather than the past
This wasn’t really a conscious strategy, it was just my instinctive response to the emotional pain of rejection and the desire to escape that pain by finding reciprocation elsewhere.
So, that’s my story. Hope it’s some help, Fabian.
LwL community: the coffeehouse floor is yours… Anyone got a good story on how to get over a first LO?