You can’t treat every love like it’s your first. First loves are for learning. You learn to love in a way you didn’t know was entirely possible. You start to believe that love is something you’ll experience, not just hear about. You trust that someone else might want to take the time to get to know your weird quirks and complexities, and they might even love you anyway.
Everything is new. And you, however unintentionally, feel bound to whoever opened you up to this. You feel closer to them than anyone else who has ever shown a romantic interest. They exposed part of you, they showed you how much you have to offer.
And when they’re gone, you stop being reckless, open, and excited. You no longer have the ease of knowing someone else’s reactions, their humor, their body. You’re at square one. Again. Except this time with you’re weighed down.
You become “hurt.” That’s your new identity. You went from “in love” to “reserved,” “hesitant,” “guarded” and “unable to trust.”
And yet you’re told to love in spite of what happened. That’s what moving on requires. Advice comes in overwhelming buzzwords that all point to the same solution: Forget them.
You can’t. You try to recall the ability to trust, the excitement that comes with meeting someone new and your only inclination after meeting someone else is to conduct a skewed cost-benefit analysis. What used to be feeling is now formulaic calculations of whether someone new is worth the risk.
Expecting to love the same way you did when you were 16, or 20, or 25, or at whatever age you first fell in love, is setting yourself up for failure. Do you really want to revert back to the naiveté that came with your first love?
You know so much more now. You’ve learned how to pretend you’re doing okay until the day when you actually are doing okay. You’ve learned to cushion your own falls, distance yourself to get closure and how to trust people while still protecting yourself. You’ve been grounded, you’ve matured. You know how to temper yourself and set realistic expectations. You know how to walk away if those expectations aren’t being met. And now, you won’t feel like you’re leaving a part of yourself behind when you walk away.
You don’t expect love to fill every imperfect crack in your foundation, and be an immediate remedy.
And isn’t that better? Isn’t it better to love someone new and know you’re not hoping their love will be a magical cure for every void in your life? Isn’t it reassuring to know that if something should go wrong, you can release their emotional hold on you?
Loving like you’ve never been hurt is just hoping for the sweet, exciting mystery that came with the love that changed you. You don’t need to discover love together to get into a new relationship. There will be other discoveries.
Whatever came with your hurt isn’t worth erasing completely. When someone hurts you, resent or dislike them, if you must. Grow from it, if you can. Be stronger than they were. But don’t rid your head or your heart of every memory you have of them.
You don’t need to love like you’ve never been hurt. You don’t need to erase past love to free up space in your heart. You just have to love with everything you have left. It will be enough.