break-up, your "first love" never really leaves you, according
to student research at UC Berkeley
Kathleen Scalise, Media Relations
- Whether your heart belongs to anyone this Valentine's Day
may depend on what happened the first time you fell in love.
finding, by University of California, Berkeley, graduate student
Jennifer Beer, challenges the notion commonly held since Freud
that the stability of the parent-child relationship sets the
stage for attachment later in life.
said Beer, "Some of the problems you have in the romantic
domain may have more to do with your first love than with
your parents." She based her work on the first-love stories
of 303 UC Berkeley undergraduates, mostly juniors, collected
love," Beer doesn't mean a childhood crush on a teacher or
movie star, but the first real relationship of a romantic
nature between two individuals, often experienced in adolescence
or early adult years. Those who remember the experience positively
are more likely to consider themselves securely attached to
their current romantic partners, she said, and to perceive
their romantic partners as securely attached to them.
is looking at how such recent and distant "vivid" representations
of self and partner are stored in different memory systems
in the brain and what this might reveal about self-perception.
memories are very detailed, self-defining, something you recall
a lot, stories and anecdotes you dwell on or tell all the
time," Beer said.
case of first love, such memories often range from bittersweet
but fond - perhaps recollections of a poignant puppy love
tinged with regard or regret for a long-ago sweetheart - to
deeply painful, soul-crushing experiences.
happened, "it can set you up as thinking, 'This is what I
am like as a relationship partner,' " Beer said.
who recollect their first romantic experience as involving
good feelings, for instance, citing memories of happiness,
excitement, strength, inspiration, pride and enthusiasm, were
more likely to be in stable relationships years later than
those recalling hostility, upset, stress, guilt, fright or
shame, Beer found.
love relationships often break up. So people say, 'What do
you mean, good feelings? It was a breakup,' " she said. "But
even though the relationship ended, which seems like it might
be negative, the vivid memories surrounding the experience
can be good or bad."
As an example
of a good experience, Beer cited one respondent who suffered
greatly because her former boyfriend dated other women immediately
after their relationship ended. But, prior to that, the experience
had been a positive taste of what love could be, and the woman
learned what made her happy in a relationship.
Beer described a stormier experience that left the respondent
years later with the unshakeable suspicion that all men were
wrong, but I cannot help myself," the respondent commented.
"One negative experience has been enough to change my entire
outlook on men."
four patterns of perception surrounding relationships:
- A secure, positive sense of both self and partner in a relationship.
-A positive sense of self, but not of partner.
- A positive sense of partner, but not of self.
- Negative recollections of both.
memories of positive emotion and outcomes from their first
relationship "were more likely to have positive views of self
and others in romantic relationships," Beer said. "Those with
more negative emotions and outcome were more likely to show
one of the other three patterns."