Is your first love your forever love?
'MY HEART WAS ALWAYS HIS'
Communications manager Beejal Padia-Wallbridge, 26, from New York, always knew her first love, electrician Dan, 32, was The One.
"It was an unspoken rule in my family that I would marry an Indian guy. I didn't question it. But I didn't bank on meeting Dan Wallbridge.
We were introduced at a friend's party when I was 17 and he was 22, and by the end of the night we'd kissed and agreed to start dating in secret.
I lied constantly to my parents about who I was seeing and speaking to on the phone. But Dan understood my dilemma.
We are so different - I'm quite flighty and he's so down to earth, but together we were perfect. But when I was preparing to go away to university, I started to think about our future. I realised I couldn't go against my parents' wishes, so I finished things with Dan.
He was as devastated as I was, but we agreed not to contact each other.
At university, I threw myself into the party scene to try to forget him. I went on half-hearted dates with Indian guys, but I never forgot about my first love, Dan. When I finished uni and went back home I realised I'd never love anyone as much as him. So, I called him. 'I still feel the same,' he told me. 'But you have to commit to the relationship this time.'
One Sunday, when I was out walking with my dad, I told him everything. 'I've fallen for someone,' I said. 'And his name is Dan.' Dad refused to give his consent. Furious, I went to stay with one of my brothers for a few days. When I went home, I was braced for animosity, but my dad pulled me into a hug. 'We'll make this OK,' he said.
I introduced my dad to Dan at my 22nd birthday barbecue, and they were instant best friends. They've been close ever since.
In 2006, Dan and I went on holiday to Sardinia, and one day, on the beach, he asked me to marry him. 'Your dad's already given us his blessing,' he said. All I could do was nod as I bit my lip to stop the tears. We got married in June 2007.
Dan is my first and only love. I tried to be with other people when we split up, but my heart belonged to Dan. It always has and always will."
Dan says: "When we split up I knew it wasn't the end. We've been through so much together and now I love her more than ever."
'I REALISED I HAD TO MOVE ON'
Geraldine Maynes, 31, a publishing executive from Glasgow, wanted her first love, Pete*, to last forever. But it wasn't to be.
"I was 15 when one of my mates introduced me to Pete. He was the lead singer in a local band and a whole gang of us used to flock to see them play in Glasgow at the weekends.
He was three years older than me, with long blond hair and a cheeky smile - and I was instantly smitten. Within a couple of months we'd started seeing each other, spending evenings and weekends at gigs or in the pub.
To me, Pete was a total rock god and falling in love with him was so exciting. He'd go away to the US on tour for months at a time. In the meantime, I'd pine for him back home, dreaming about when I'd see him again. I hoped we'd be together forever.
For the next five years, our relationship was a whirlwind of passion. We'd break up and get back together. Every time we split, my heart broke, but I knew I'd win Pete back. I couldn't imagine feeling that strongly about anyone else.
When I was 21, I decided to go to university in Glasgow to study philosophy. Pete split up with me just before I left, telling me he'd met someone else on one of his trips to the US.
I was devastated and threw myself into my university life to take my mind off him.
But it was so hard to forget what we'd shared. I'd find out when his band was playing and go to his gigs, just to catch a glimpse of him.
I was convinced one day he'd realise I was the best thing that ever happened to him. While I was at uni, I had a few dates, but no one measured up to my rock star back home. I couldn't even imagine trying to get over him.
But as the years passed, I slowly realised that Pete's real love was for his band and that I had to move on.
After a while, we lost touch. And for the first time in eight years, I wasn't sad. It was time to heal and move on.
Then, three years ago, I met Luke Ryan, 33, through mutual friends.
He was gorgeous, with short hair and blue eyes, and we got on immediately. We became great friends over the next six months and when we eventually kissed, there was an instant electricity, stronger than anything I'd felt for Pete.
Luke and I have been a couple ever since and we moved in together two years ago. What I have with him is a mutual love and I'm happier than ever.
A few years ago I tracked down Pete - he's now a music teacher. We met up for a coffee and my feelings for him had finally disappeared.
The way I felt about Pete paved the way for my relationship with Luke - and I won't ever regret that."
'HE WAS MY FIRST - AND LAST - LOVE'
It took a 12-year separation for 35-year-old Lavinia Mitchell, a full-time mum, from north Wales, to realise her first love, Shaun, 37, was also going to be her last. "I met Shaun on a blind date when I was 15 and he was 17. We'd been set up by his best mate, and went to the cinema. There wasn't an instant spark, but there was a gentle attraction.
Our teenage romance was textbook stuff; never-ending phone calls, soppy messages. Even when he moved from our hometown of Louth in Lincolnshire to start a job in Cheltenham as a trainee chef, I thought our love would last. But it wasn't long before the distance was too much. We grew apart and agreed to split.
'I think we're stifling each other,' I said to him during one of our late-night chats.
'I think you're right,' he said quietly.
And that was it. We agreed to cut off all contact. Nothing had gone wrong, it just wasn't the right time. I was utterly devastated, and threw myself into my studies to forget him.
It was 12 years before we spoke again. In the meantime, I went to university, bought a house, got a job as a newspaper reporter and had a disastrous two-year marriage.
Just before my divorce came through, an email from Shaun landed in my inbox. I'd always wondered what he'd been up to. Friends from home had told me he'd been all over the world working with top chefs, and I emailed him straight back, asking for his phone number so we could chat.
That night we arranged to meet in Chester, where he was working. I was so excited and driving up there from my home in Stoke-on-Trent, I listened to all our old favourite songs - cheesy Belinda Carlisle and Erasure. I told myself we were only meeting up as friends, but that can't really have been true because I had on my most floaty, flirty summer skirt! I guess I was still out to impress.
Shaun looked the same, just older. His shyness had been replaced with confidence. He'd set up a seafood business in north Wales and was doing well.
As we caught up on everything that had happened since we split, I felt a familiar feeling coming back. Needless to say, we kissed.
It was obvious we were going to be an item again. For two months Shaun travelled twice a week to my house. One night, three months later, he said: 'How about you move in with me?'
And I did just that. I resigned from my job, sold my house and even re-homed my dogs to move into his apartment.
I began thinking about starting a family with Shaun, which is when I knew I wanted to be with him forever. So, one Saturday morning as we lay in bed, I proposed. We married in 2003 then four years later our twins Chloe and David were born after IVF treatment, making us complete.
I'm a great believer in fate and I believe Shaun and I were destined to be together. Shaun was my first - and last - love."
Shaun says: "I always held a candle for Lavinia. When we met again, everything fell into place so naturally. It was like we'd just been apart on holiday for a week, rather than being separated for 12 years. I definitely think we were meant to be together."
WHY WE FALL SO HARD FOR OUR FIRST LOVE
It's your 18-year-old self not your 18-year-old boyfriend you're missing, says relationship and sex therapist Simone Bienne. "First romances are so memorable because they're exactly that - the first," she says. "The intensity of the chemicals released by the brain - the happy and 'hug' drugs, serotonin and oxytocin - cause overwhelming feelings of excitement, desire, and even ecstasy. The first time you experience this is always the biggest high. And then, when you split up, it's the biggest low.
"This explains why studies show 60 per cent of people fantasise about their first love. But what they're really craving is the person they were back then - someone carefree. Rather than stalking your ex on Facebook, throw that energy into reconnecting with your current lover."
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