Throughout our lives, we pass certain milestones that were set for us at birth — start school at 5, start driving at 16, “start” drinking at 21. But what’s never charted on this map of life is when we are supposed to fall in love for the first time.
Ahh, love. That romantic time when your head is in the clouds, thinking about someone back on the ground. Your heart races, butterflies tickle your stomach and your eyes are as starry as the night sky. And although your first love is a major milestone, there is no standard time for it to blossom.
[love] Because of this, people experience their first loves at all different ages. For some it’s a high school sweetheart, others encounter it in college or after graduation when they have settled into a job. But does first love last forever, or is the first heartbreak another milestone we must all surpass?
It was during her sophomore year in high school that Katelin Ripmaster met her first love.
“I never really thought of it as love until six or eight months into it,” Ripmaster, interior design senior, said. “I realized I couldn’t be happier with someone else. Someone who made me feel really happy and proud of who I was, and I was proud of who he was.”
Ripmaster’s relationship lasted two years, ending during her first semester at MSU. Though she has moved on, she still finds herself thinking about that first relationship when she dates new people.
“Four years later I still look at what we had and I’m so proud of it, and I miss him in certain ways,” Ripmaster said. “But I’m glad we’re not together; I know we’re not supposed to be together.”
[kids] For others like Ripmaster, who experience first love at a young age, that relationship can often have an effect on future relationships.
“Very often, even if the relationship ends, people retain for much of the rest of their life fantasies about that first love,” Dr. Barnaby Barratt, certified psychoanalyst and sex therapist in Farmington Hills, said. “Obviously it’s not about the person as they are in the present, it’s as they were back then.”
Ripmaster said being in love makes dating after that relationship harder, because you are used to being so close and open with one person. But she also sees a positive side to it.
“I think it’s a good thing because you are more knowledgeable, and you know what you want and what you don’t like in a relationship and a partner,” she said. Though her feelings were strong for her first love, Ripmaster doesn’t think first loves always last. “If you break up, deep down you’ll always have fond memories and admiration for that person, but I don’t think that holds as love.”
Futhermore, after having a serious relationship, Ripmaster said she prefers dating at this stage in her life. “Three months away from graduation, there’s so much that we can do and experience, and I would rather be single or simply date and have fun with someone, but still be able to focus on myself and my little dreams before I commit myself to someone else’s life.”
On the other hand, some MSU students prefer committed relationships to the dating scene. Julie Wallace, education senior, has been in a relationship for over two years with her first love.
“There’s never been a point in our relationship when I’ve questioned whether or not I wanted to be with him,” Wallace said. “He never makes me sad, only makes me happy.”
Strong relationships are hard work and there needs to be openness and understanding from both sides, Dr. Eric Howard, a licensed sex therapist in Lansing, said. It’s also important not to take things too seriously.
Wallace believes her first love will last forever because of their strong connection. “We’re really honest with each other and have good communication,” she said. “We never hold back our feelings about anything.”
Barratt said couples who want to maintain a strong long-term relationship need to allow room for the other to evolve. “If two people who fall in love at a young age stay together forever, it’s only healthy if they grow and develop together.”
But many MSU students have yet to experience their first love.
“Some people haven’t fallen in love, at 21 and 22, just because it hasn’t happened,” Barratt said. “The right person hasn’t come along, they haven’t been sparked in that way.”
Although he has never fallen in love, Deepan Patel, microbiology senior, said he is open to it when it comes. “I think you need to be ready for it,” Patel said. “You have to be emotionally ready.”
While most of his friends are also single, Patel said this has had little influence on his dating life. “I’m enjoying the benefits of not being tied down, not having to worry about another person,” Patel said.
He also believes love can happen at any age, as long as you have finished school and are self-sufficient.
Despite their different experiences, Ripmaster and Patel agree that dating is the most fun and least confining romantic program for college students.
“I love going out with my friends and meeting new people,” Ripmaster said. “And it’s nice to be able to do what I want and not have to compromise for someone else.”
Getting over a first love can be difficult and the aftermath can linger long after the relationship is over, but heartache is something we all have to go through at some point in life.
“I don’t know what age is best to fall in love,” Barratt said. “But what matters is the quality of that love.”

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