Good or bad, why are first loves so unforgettable

Some people still hold a candle for their first love, while others would prefer never to see them again.

Either way, most people have vivid memories of their first serious relationship, Deakin University associate professor of psychology Gery Karantzas said.

"One thing that makes memories so vivid for us is the amount of emotion that is experienced during the creation of that memory," he told ABC Radio Melbourne's Ali Moore.

"When you think about first loves and you think about the passion and the emotional highs we experience, as well as the kind of significance and probably the pain that we experienced at that first heartbreak, those things tend to become embedded in our memories."

He said our first loves taught us how to be in a relationship.

"We learn how to negotiate conflict, we learn how to engage in compromise, we learn how it is to trust our emotions and to go with them, we learn about how to read the feelings of others."

Reconnecting in later life

ABC Radio Melbourne listener Sue in Greensborough was 16 when she met her first love and their relationship lasted for two years.

"We moved on and got married and had children separately.

"He's been living in the UK for 26 years or so and came back over to Australia when his father was sick.

"Our marriages had ended and there was that spark when we caught up after many years.

"We caught up for lunch, but it was a six-hour lunch and here we are — he's looking to move back to Australia.

"We're desperately trying to plan a future together."

Dr Karantzas said many people had a first love they still thought of fondly despite moving on to other committed relationships.

When those relationships end it can provide an opportunity for that person to reconnect with their first love.

"It may be that it ended in a way that neither of them wanted it to, in the sense that it was other forces that pulled them apart, or maybe they thought that if they had a bit more time they would have resolved [their differences]."

Lost love forged in familiarity

James and his family came to Australia by ship in the 1960s and he soon found himself in an onboard romance.

"We used to meet up on A-deck at seven o'clock at night after everybody had dinner ... to sit there looking out over the blackness of the water and the millions of stars.

"On the day we arrived in Melbourne and the group of kids were saying cheerio, her dad came up — her dad didn't like me very much.

"She said, 'I'll be back in a minute' ... [but] she didn't come back. So I went down to their cabin and the cabin was empty. They'd gone.

"The only thing I knew was that she had a grandmother that lived in York Street, St Kilda ... so I doorknocked every single house.

"I never found her."

Dr Karantzas said many people's first loves occurred in an environment such as schoolyards where "we see each other time and time again".

"What we do know is familiarity breeds attraction," he said.

"This notion of getting to know someone and getting a sense of who they are, what their likes are, what their dislikes are and seeing how that compares with our own can be a powerful starter for a cocktail of romance."

Lifelong love

Joanne and her husband were 14 and 15 when they met at a bush dance in Lara, Victoria.

"I told him where I lived, and the next day he arrived on his push bike ... and we were together ever since.

"I've just always felt really happy and comfortable with him and loved him.

"There have been people that have come into my life that have been interesting ... I've just always felt like I loved him so much that I didn't want to go that way."

Dr Karantzas said our first relationships helped us learn what we looked for in a partner.

"If we realise that what we've got makes us quite happy, the question is why should we trade it in?

"Sometimes there is nothing that matches it and your first love happens to be the one."