Love. There’s nothing like falling in love for the first time…each time it happens. If you think back, though, to what you would consider your first “real” relationship — excluding the fifth grade crushes, the high school infatuations and the college…well, yes, excluding those experiences altogether — I’d venture to say your top five take-aways from that time you spent in love would look a little something like this:

1.  Your broken heart will heal…eventually.  There is absolutely no pain worse than that of a broken heart. Not only does it feel like your heart will never beat on its own again, the pain scours it way through your entire body leaving you to wonder if it really will ever stop hurting. Days, and 36 boxes of tissues later, something miraculous happens: a barely noticeable shift occurs and the haze begins to disappear, taking with it some of the hurt that had become your identity. You actually start to feel whole again until one day, after you’ve gleaned from the relationship the lessons that were there for you, you realize there is no more pain and you’re actually ready to move again — in any direction. Your heart has been mended and all is right with the world…at long last!

2.  Talk really isn’t cheap. That whole “sticks and stones” cliche? Yeah, it’s a lie. Words have the power to create or destroy, uplift or tear down anyone in any given moment. When love is new and exciting, words are constantly flattering, but if there’s ever a breakdown in healthy communication it can get costly real quick. Being able to speak your truth in a way that’s not condescending is a skill that can only be learned through awareness and practice and can save relationships that were sure to tank without it. You also know now that not speaking at all leads to fights, distrust and years of angst. So go on and start keeping it 100 with people — especially your love interest — to make sure no one has to guess what you’re thinking. After all, people have incredible imaginations…and know how to use it!

3.   You’re better off being you.  Let’s face it, when you first meet someone you want to be and do everything they are and do. It’s human nature. While taking up new hobbies is always a great learning experience, changing who you are to please another person is totally not “where it’s at.” After all the love dust and goggly eyes calm down, you’re left with who you are at your core anyway so you might as well just start from there anyway. Changing your identity to stay in someone’s life for the sake of having company or because of how life is “supposed” to be always ends up in heartache. But when we stay true to ourselves and teach other people how to treat us the way we deserve, they’re likely to stick around a lot longer because a relationship built on truth can’t be shaken at the foundation. If life does end up throwing you a curve ball that slams straight into your heart zone, please refer to Lesson #1 above.

4.   Someone else will always come along at just the right time. That tired old cliche about people being in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime is not only truly tired but it’s also entirely true. When you’re starting a new relationship, the last thing you’re thinking is, “You know what? I’m going to invest my whole life in this person because I know he/she is only going to be around for three — maybe four — weeks.” Heck no! So you jump in both feet first, your heart on your sleeve and you go for it. You ride the wave, you fall in love. You change, you stretch, you learn…and then it happens. You hit the proverbial love wall. Things just stop working. And no matter what you do to make it right, you just know it’s best for both of you to move on. As one season ends, you’re given time to figure out the reason. You realize that person will be a part of your lifetime because of the lessons he or she taught you, and you then refer to Lesson #1 above. Before long the person who matches the stronger you shows up to help you hone the skills in Lessons #2, #3 and #4.

5. Time alone doesn’t mean time spent being lonely. Iyanla Vanzant has an amazingly insightful book titled, “In the Meantime.” In it she writes about how each of us can spend our time in between relationships — our meantimes — changing, stretching, learning and growing on our own and without outside influences to distract or persuade us. When we’re used to having someone around us all the time, it’s easy to become complacent. When we’re by ourselves, however, it can be challenging to ward of feelings of loneliness. But just like Mr. Bear in the winter, time with ourselves is the coup de gras of all gifts as it helps us regenerate, recuperate and reintegrate what we know to be our truths so when our spring rolls around again we’re refreshed enough to breeze through Lessons #2 and #3 like nobody’s business.

First loves are so powerful and often times so painful because they are just that: a first. No one can truly ever know what to expect when they fall in love that first time because it’s only through experience that we learn. So the next time you think back to the days of your first real love, take the good, bless the bad and be grateful for the lessons that helped mold you into the amazing person you are today!