Falling in love is wonderful — the sense of euphoria, excitement, and feeling that you finally found someone you’re compatible with on many levels. In fact, you don’t even know how you lived without them for so long, as they’re just such a natural part of your life now and enhance it in so many ways. Plus, *no one* forgets about the first time they fell in love. And the thing is, love is a phenomenon that’s not biased when it comes to how old the participants are: It can happen to anybody, and does all the time. From love at first sight to love that starts out as friendship, it also comes in many forms. But how do you know if it’s love?
“While the emotion of love can certainly feel overpowering, it is an emotion that leads to building and investing in another person,” Shlomo Zalman Bregman, Rabbi, matchmaker, and relationship expert, tells Bustle. “When a person is experiencing love, their focus becomes, ‘What can I give this special person I’ve met? How can I make their life better? How can I add to them? How can I make *us* better?’ In essence, it’s based on giving, and a person will want to get to know their partner very deeply, and on a multitude of levels (by asking a lot of personal questions that cover a broad spectrum of life’s experiences). If you really love a person, you’ll probably see them as they actually are: a real human being with lots of flaws (or at least a couple), but you love them nonetheless! With love, you’ll also look for ways to expand the relationship, commit to it, and make plans for the future.”
And when it comes to love, although a relationship expert’s job is to help people navigate their love lives, chances are, they have their own love lives to focus on, too. Below, love experts reveal the first time they fell in love.
“Before I fell in love, I almost blew it. I had an online date with a guy who said he worked long hours and traveled a lot. I thought to myself, what is the point of meeting? (I was really just scared.) So I picked up the phone and pretended I was sick and said I couldn’t meet him. Luckily, I opened up to a friend about the whole situation. She pointed out: Stop being narrow-minded or you’ll be single forever. I listened and trusted, and let go of all my judgments. A few hours later, like some crazy person, I picked up the phone and called the guy back… and told him I just got cold feet. Surprisingly, he still wanted to meet, and guess what? My friend was right! We’ve now been married five years and are going strong. Thank goodness I asked for help. It changed the direction of my entire life and led me on the path to become a relationship coach to help others not almost blow it, too!” – Amie Leadingham, Amie the Dating Coach, Master Certified Relationship Coach
“Well, I’ve been ‘boy crazy’ for as long as I can remember. My first crush was in kindergarten. I remember I thought he was so cool because he was a rebellious kid. My mom and old sister found a picture I drew of my crush and I kissing, and teased me mercilessly. But my first love came in high school. We were both freshmen and we learned and grew up a lot together. He was a really nice guy and we’ve remained friends. A decade after we stopped dating, he came to my wedding.” – Laurie-Anne King, Relationship Expert & Relationship Coach
“The feeling of being in love for the first time, which I would say was during my college years, was probably the most freeing, exciting, and frightening experience — all at the same time. Being that I wasn’t always comfortable with my sexuality, it was the first time I fully allowed myself to experience those raw emotions and be my true self in a relationship. I think falling in love for the first time is always a very vulnerable, yet thrilling, experience, regardless of sexual orientation. However, I do think being a member of the LGBTQ community adds a unique layer to the experience (I identify as a gay male). One thing is for certain: You’re never the same after you’ve fallen in love.” – Robert Sullivan, MHC, Psychotherapist in NYC
“Once upon a time in a place far, far away from dating apps and dating sites, I became friends with a guy I met during the first few weeks of freshman year of college. We became friends over the next few years and, come senior year, we were spending hours on the phone, and since he had transferred, spending time meeting each other’s friends and family. We took a trip to Washington, D.C. (well, he surprised me with this trip when I visited him), and he even had us stop along the way so I could be in several states at one time. How romantic! Alas, it was not meant to be, as the next step would mean that we would have to figure out a way of living closer to each other. He still wanted to go to graduate school, and I’d decided to try my luck at moving to Los Angeles. We went our separate ways. Over the years, we connected and became good friends, and I learned that we did want different things in life. However, I look back at all the memories and think of how fun and innocent it was back then, when a phone call meant a lot more and a visit wasn’t about how many likes I would get. Ah, young love!” – Stef Safran, matchmaking and dating expert
“The first time I fell in love, I was 19, and my dad had recently died, so I fell in love with a substitute for him. My first husband looked like my dad on the outside, but I didn’t realize he didn’t have my father’s character. It was a bad marriage. But when I met my husband, Richard, October 10, 1981, he was sitting outside, and the sun was glinting off his red hair — and I felt that ‘Wow!’ It turned out to be a lasting love at first sight. However, the truth is that I felt that ‘Wow!’ to one degree or another for many guys while I was single. With Richard, though, everything progressed pretty seamlessly from that first day until marriage. Now, after being married 36 years, we’re still happy and blessed.” – Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. (aka “Dr. Romance”), psychotherapist and author of How to be Happy Partners: Working it out Together
“I actually ended up marrying my first love! Michelle and I met in high school, but didn’t start dating until the summer after we had both graduated. After about three months, I knew she was ‘the one.’ To be honest, it was kind of an epiphanic moment in my life. Up until that point, I didn’t really know what my life trajectory would be (at least, it wasn’t panning out to what I thought it would be). After I met Michelle, I realized that she was my meaning in life. From the very start, she challenged me to become a better man, showed compassion and support whenever I needed it, and helped me understand what I truly wanted out of life. I can honestly say that I fell in love with my best friend. For me, Michelle is my definition of love, and I’m so happy I get to spend the rest of my life with her.” – Tyler Turk, Founder, Crated With Love, a monthly date night subscription box
“I first fell in love in college… He was Southern, I was a Cali girl; he was a moderate Republican/conservative Democrat whereas I was a far-left liberal; and I was a feminist, he was a misogynist. Needless to say, when I first met him, I was not interested. But he was steady in his pursuit and, after a couple of years of friendship, he got me. I don’t know if I was more in love with him or more in love with the idea of conquering him, a conundrum I believe he questioned, as well. Regardless, there was undoubtedly love there. Ever the player, I think I realized I loved him when I actually wanted to settle down with him. I hadn’t committed to anyone I dated in college before, and I felt more love for him than I had for my high school sweetheart. My college love came home and met my family in California and I met his in Arkansas. With all our differences, our relationship was invigorating, exciting, and exhausting all at the same time. Love faded as the infatuation phase faded. We were together on and off for four years and, although it wasn’t perfect, he was my first love.” – Curtney Watson, LMFT and Sex Therapist, Doorway Therapeutic Services
“I first fell in love with Ericka in third grade. Aside from her incredible intelligence, beauty, and kindness, there was simply a chemistry between us that I barely understood at the time. Hearing her play Chopsticks on the piano made my heart bend. On her birthday, I gave her a nicely wrapped stack of my favorite Yankees baseball cards as a demonstration of my endless devotion. When she moved away to another state in fourth grade, I was devastated. It was an early lesson for me about the beauty and power of opening my heart to another, as well as the awareness that opening often comes with a closing that can feel harsh and unfair.” – Jeffrey Sumber, psychotherapist and author of Renew Your Wows: Seven Powerful Tools to Ignite the Spark and Transform Your Relationship
“The first time I fell in love, at 18, was with a man who was adventurous, outgoing, and kind of a jerk at times. In my younger years, I didn’t have foresight to realize this was not love at all. Anyone can fall in love if you are put in the right circumstances with the right person. Research tells us that if you go on adventures that are exciting [that you’ve never done before], you will attach those feelings to the person you are with and that is what happened to me.” – Jennifer Seiter, Relationship Expert and Co-Owner of ExBoyfriendRecovery.com
“I’m a pansexual polyamorous cisgendered woman and Intuitive Grief Guide. I recognized my ‘love for all’ in high school when a handsome androgynous alumnus came to direct our theater production’s light board. While the other freshmen were gossiping about what gender they might be, I was admiring their posture, smile, and personality… It turns out that my first head-over-heels experience wasn’t meant to be (in the long run). They were married, and for a host of reasons, it didn’t make sense for us to be together. But, after I revealed my feelings, they became a powerful influence in introducing me to the world beyond my rural high school — we experienced everything from Rocky Horror Picture Show to alternative spirituality to my first drink together and really got to enjoy each other’s company. My favorite memories of us consist of us sitting outside under their carport in the summer, just talking.” – Shelby Forsythia, Intuitive Grief Guide and host of the podcast Coming Back: Conversations on Life After Loss
“The first time I fell in love was as a sophomore in high school. She had just moved to town when I was mowing yards as a summer job. Her dad asked if I could mow their yard, since the movers hadn’t delivered his lawnmower. She came out of the house while I was mowing, and I immediately fell for her. I talked to her at a dance a few months later, and she rejected me. When I started seeing one of her friends in the spring, this girl suddenly decided she liked me, so I (stupidly) broke it off with her friend. In the end, we only dated a few weeks because of the ‘friend drama’ all of this created.” – David Bennett, Certified Counselor, Relationship Expert, and Creator of The Popular Man website
“I was a 19-year-old summer camp counselor, teaching horseback riding and swimming. He was 19 and worked in the stable, caring for the horses and helping with all the heavy work. We had less than three months together, but after a few weeks, we found we clicked so easily. What I remember is laughing and playing together (riding, swimming, watermelon races, scavenger hunts, story-telling/singing by a huge camp fire). At night, we would meet, walking and talking in the woods by lantern (and moon) light. Summer ended, and we went our separate ways to colleges in other states. What I learned from him and another summer love a few years later, is that friendship, playfulness, and a shared sense of humor were relationship must-haves for me.” – Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, Consum-mate, Psychotherapist, Relationship Coach, and Divorce Mediator
“The first time I fell in love was when I was 21. We had been friends since I was in high school and had some casual fun on and off for a few years when I was in college. It wasn’t until spending almost every day together the summer after I graduated college that we both fell head-over-heels in love. At the time, it was a feeling I was unfamiliar with: It felt amazing. As cliché as it sounds, I ‘felt butterflies’ and pure excitement each time I saw, talked to, or touched him for much of our eight-year relationship.” – Dr. Rachel Needle, Licensed Psychologist and Certified Sex Therapist in West Palm Beach, FL, and the Co-Director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes
“The first time I fell in love it was, as some might say, forbidden love. We were high school sweethearts — I was Jewish and he was Egyptian/Muslim. Neither of our parents approved of the idea. It was so bad that we dated in secret. At one point, he was in college while I was in my senior year of high school, and without notice, he broke up with me. Turned out he was growing into the next phase of his life while I was still living out my own chapter, but I didn’t realize that at the time. I was heartbroken, and felt like I would never be the same. Of course, I’m not the same, but I am who I am today partially from that experience. Wherever he is now, I thank him for the time we shared, and look forward to my journey moving forward.” – Jenna Ponaman, CPC, ELI-MP, Relationship Coach and Expert, Jenna Ponaman Coaching
“The first time I fell in love, it was with an emotionally unavailable man. I was head-over-heels. I do believe he loved me, but was avoidant in his attachment style. He was constantly keeping me at arm’s length or pushing me away once he let me get close. Our connection was primarily [physical] — he didn’t integrate me into his life or introduce me to his friends — and kept himself emotionally distant. We were a cocoon couple that was holed up from the rest of the world. It eventually became painful and unfulfilling, and I ended it.” – Rhonda M-ilrad, LCSW, Relationship Therapist & Founder of online relationship community Relationup
“The first time I fell in love, I remember that the songs I enjoyed sounded like I heard them for the first time. I tend to be an anxious person, and that was completely gone and I felt calm and at peace. I wanted to be around him all the time. And when I could not be around him, I collected things that were his to remind me of him all the time, to feel close to him.” – Dr. Joe Kort, a Michigan-based Psychotherapist and Co-founder of the Modern Sex Therapy Institutes’ LGBTQIA Affirmative Therapy Certification Program
“Joe was charismatic, passionate, and dynamic. Whew! He was the lead in our high school play and our star athlete — he was gorgeous and confident…Apparently, he, too, had a crush on someone: me. He excitedly, nervously, and confidently explained how he had noticed me for months, asking around our large school who I was, just waiting for the right moment…
Well, he was my first EVERYTHING! My first deep love, first dozen roses, first deep soulful kiss, first…! All of it, every moment, every experience, was magical. And every bit of our next few years together were magic, until he went abroad for college and I went on to find even more of myself. To this day, Joe and I are dear friends, and I adore his beautiful wife and daughters. He is an amazing man, and I am blessed to have had him as my FIRST everything!” – Kailen Rosenberg, renowned celebrity Love Architect and Matchmaker, and the Founder of The Lodge Social Club dating app
“I actually married my first love… from elementary school! The first time I feel in love with him — the man who’s my now my hubs — I didn’t realize it; I realized it when I broke up with him. When we finally managed to get back together, it truly felt like all was right in the world, and I could barely keep my giddiness under control. And, as a middle schooler, I remember feeling this way (of course, even as a fourth grader when he was someone else’s boyfriend, my inexperienced self remembers feeling like she wasn’t his type — turns out I was right!). Funny thing is, he is STILL that little boy who annoys me at times! People don’t change all that much…” – Rana Mancini Cavanaugh, ChicTravelingMama.net, and Author of The Unfinished Business of You and Me
“I fell in love for the first time when I was 18, in Italian class. As we talked after class, there was this instant recognition. I felt understood, and I had barely said a word. On our first date, he (John) asked me if I thought we’d get married — so he felt it, too. I said, “Chissà?” (“Who knows?”) When he kissed me goodnight, I could have stayed in his arms for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, love is not enough. There were obstacles, like my parents, and I took off to fly for Pan Am — my dream job. I have often thought of John, even though he passed away many years ago of a heart attack. The truth is, you never stop loving your first love.” – Linda Joyce, Relationship Expert and Astrologer
From the above, you can see that the way relationship experts first fell in love may be similar to how you did so, or the complete opposite. In any case, their stories are inspiring, to say the least.