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Ah... first love. The love that is remembered the most fondly by the participant, as this is commonly what people experience when they first have a first crush, but it is also the love before the Second Love, if that should ever happen, and for a guy, he usually holds her memory very close to him if he is a widower whereas for young girls, the memory of the First Love they ever had is a special memory to them, especially if he later becomes the boyfriend they've longed for.
On the other side, if the relationship with the First Love doesn't turn out the way they hoped for, the girl or boy might end up having a revelation that the Second Love is in fact better for them even though memories of the First Love linger.
There is also the story arc that comes along with the First Love when it turns out well for both involved--that "special, sweet, innocent first love" that often plays a major part in Coming of Age Stories like Bridge to Terabithia for instance.
The phrase is somewhat common in Romantic Comedies, where the heroine is likely to say with a sigh, "Oh, he was my First Love!" or something along those lines. In action films, the concept of the First Love tends to pop up as The Lost Lenore for any action hero, male or female.
Compare The First Cut Is the Deepest, where the first love is hard to get over and Second Love, where the lover who has been in mourning for his First Love finds love again with someone else. Also compare Wrong Guy First, where the First Love turns out to be wrong for the lover, and First Girl Wins, where the girl the boy first meets in the story ends up becoming his first and forever love, although sometimes this is turned on its head and she is actually his Second Love, since this trope is mainly about how a boy meets a girl (or vice versa) within their series, but meeting someone first doesn't necessarily determine true love.
Anime and Manga
- Naruto had a crush on his childhood friend and teammate Sakura, who instead crushed on Sasuke. In the end, he falls for Hinata.
- Ino and Sakura both loved Sasuke. Ino moves on and into Sai, and Sakura hook up with Sasuke.
- Candy Candy has Anthony Andree, for the titular Candy. He dies in an accident in front of her, and becomes The Lost Lenore.
- There are hints in Yuri!!! On Ice that a very young Yuuri Katsuki had feelings for his Childhood Friend Yuuko. She married their other childhood friend Takeshi, he fell in love with Viktor Nikiforov (who also was his Celeb Crush)
- In the film Five Hundred Days of Summer this leans heavily on the positive end of the Second Love idea, where boy finds girl. Boy falls head over heels for girl. Girl breaks up with boy. Boy is heartbroken because he has failed to win his First Love, but he recovers once he realises that the Second Love is not only better but that fate had had a hand in getting them together, and they live happily ever after.
- I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. Jack Spade's mother Belle was once in love with John Slade and almost married him. They broke up because he spent so much time fighting crime, and she married the man who became Jack's father. Near the end of the movie she falls in love with John Slade again.
- Given the quote above, this trope is referenced in one of the American Girls Collection of stories, this one being Josefina's, whose mother has died before the series began, and it turns out the poem was a favorite of hers, even though she could not read, although the reader is allowed to infer that Josefina's papa read it to her mother, and their relationship was very close, as it takes Josefina's father some time to grow to love her aunt, Tia' Dolores.
- In Anne of Green Gables, Anne Shirley was always Gilbert Blythe's First Love since that moment she cracked a slate over his head, and he faithfully waited for years for her, hoping she would realise his love.
- Harry Potter: Harry and Cho Chang. Although it was not so much love as a crush that got really complicated. On the flipside, Harry was Ginny's First Love, and he even ends up with her when the series concludes in a triumphant case of First Girl Wins. Also in Harry Potter, there is the example of Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, who dated other people before getting together. They just really only loved each other, as the other relationships were shallow or to make the other jealous.
- Bridge to Terabithia: in this Tear Jerker of a novel, this trope is subtly implied with the friendship between Jess and his friend Leslie, a girl who introduces him to the titular Terabithia, and this variety of the "special, sweet, innocent" type of first love, on both Jess and Leslie's parts, as Jess realises it was not his teacher he was really in love with, but Leslie, thus her death hits him hard.
- In the Casson Family Series, Rose Casson's First Love has always been American boy Tom Levin, and fans are waiting eagerly to see the long-anticipated resolution to their relationship.
- In Charles Dickens' novel David Copperfield, this is an important element, used both ways, since David marries his first love, Dora, only to realise that they are not well-suited. He loves her but she can't be a partner to him. Upon her death, he marries Agnes, who considered him to be her first love, and who had loved him the whole time. A rare case of both the unhappy First Love type and the triumphant First Love type, for Agnes, who ultimately ends up marrying David - in one story.
- In The Dresden Files, Harry's First Love was Elaine Lillian Mallory, a fellow apprentice of a wizard he learned dark magic from. Given Harry's luck with women, or lack thereof, it ended somewhat badly, and when she reappears in a later novel, Harry is feels pangs when he sees her again.
- An important element in the novels of Jane Austen, who uses the First Love trope often under the role of Wrong Guy First, and her examples are as follows: In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie is infatuated with Wickham before she eventually realising that he is not a decent person and that Darcy, a man she scorned, is a true gentleman. The concept of the first love is also humorously undermined when Mr Collins rapidly transfers his affections from Jane to Lizzie to Charlotte Lucas. In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne has to move past Willoughby before appreciating the worth of Colonel Brandon. Prior to the story beginning, Edward Ferrars has imprudently gotten engaged to Lucy Steele, which prevents him from courting Eleanor. These are all examples of First Loves going wrong, but Austen also has a few examples among her repertoire of First Love turning out right: In Persuasion, Anne's early romance with Captain Wentworth had been scuttled by her family, but she never forgot him. Their paths cross again years later and she has to watch him court others before eventually winning him back. In Emma, Emma thinks she's in love with Frank Churchill, but when she discovers her true feelings for another she realises she never really loved Frank. Meanwhile, she persuades Harriet that her first love wasn't good enough for her, so Harriet sets her sights on various unobtainable men before gratefully accepting her first love's proposal again. In Mansfield Park, Edmund has to burned by Mary Crawford before he recognises Fanny's worth and Fanny is almost tempted away from Edmund, her first love, but Edmund's brother Henry.
- Georgette Heyer uses this trope several times in her novels. One notable example is Bath Tangle in which one main character has to recognise the shallowness of her attachment to her First Love before accepting a match with an antagonistic friend. The issue of First Love versus Second Love is even more seriously in A Civil Contract, in which the main character is unable to marry his First Love, but ultimately develops a deeper (if less passionate) emotional bond with the wife he married for her fortune.
- In ICarly, Freddie Benson's first crush and his first love will always be Carly Shay, and he is so sincere in this that he has told her that he will be her second husband if necessary, implying that he will always stay true to his First Love.
- In Glee, Finn is Rachel's First Love, while Quinn is Finn's First Love. Cheating, breakups, hypocrisy, Dating Do-Si-Do and Relationship Writing Fumble ensue... Handwaved with the phrase "You can forgive your First Love anything".
- In Wild Palms, Paige Katz is Harry's first love from college. His wife, Gracie, is of course suspicious when Paige and Harry become close again after years apart.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy and Angel: Angel never really loved anyone before, being a drunken wastrel when he was alive and demon after his death. Buffy never loved anyone before, as she was fifteen when they met, and never truly loved anyone after because of the connection she had made with Angel.
- Lancelot was Guinevere's first love, and is explicitly identified as such on Merlin.
- Will was Ingrid's first love on Young Dracula, he's also pretty much the first person to get to know her properly Ingrid even has fond memories of him four years after his death She even refers to him as the closest thing she could get to a soulmate.
- Justin Bieber: "My first love broke my heart for the first time, and I was like BABY BAY BAY OH"
- "The First Cut is the Deepest" by Cat Stevens and Sheryl Crow is all about this trope.
- Aeris and Zack in Final Fantasy VII. After Zack's death, Aeris felt attracted to Cloud because he reminded her of Zack. With good reason. (Though if she's chosen for the date in the Golden Saucer, she admits this to Cloud and expresses the desire to meet "the real Cloud". Alas, it's not meant to be)
- Cloud's own first love was his childhood friend Tifa. He can fall in love again with her if the right options are chosen in the game.
- Fire Emblem:
- Akaneia/Archanea: Princess Nyna is this for Camus/Ezekiel, and despite him falling for Tatiana, he feels indebted to her and his apparition as Sirius in Mystery is what snaps Nyna from a massive Brainwashed and Crazy state.
- Jugdral: Azelle, Midir and Jamke are implied to like Edain, and if they hook up with another woman, their second ladies are this to her. Similarly, Lewyn's First Love was Erinys's big sister Annand.
- In Thracia 776, it's strongly implied that Leif is this for Princess Miranda. Since he marries Nanna (or in Genealogy, other girls), she becomes his Unlucky Childhood Friend.
- Fire Emblem Awakening: Frederick, for Lissa. She can marry him, though, and she lampshades the trope if she does.
- Among the Second Gens, Inigo is this for Cynthia is she dates someone else. Similarly, Cynthia may be this for Owain or Gerome.
- Fire Emblem Fates: The Avatar of either gender, for Camilla. Camilla herself, for her half-brother Leo. A Female Avatar, for Silas. Kagero and Saizo, for each other.
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Princess Edelgard implies that her first love was a young nobleman that she met when she lived in Faerghus. It's all but stated to be Prince Dimitri, alias her future Arch Enemy.
- Ice Age: Before he actually fell in love with Ellie, Manfred the mammoth is actually revealed to have a first wife and child in a flashback sequence who unfortunately end up being stabbed to death by humans, which explains why Manfred not only hated humans because of this, but also started to think that he is the last mammoth on Earth.
- Voltron: Legendary Defender: For Princess Allura, Prince Lotor.. For Shiro, Adam.
- Middle school and high school crushes.
- Also, in some rare cases, the Puppy Love can cause this between one or both of the participants in the relationship, although it usually happen in the case of the First Love turning out wrong for both participants.