Journalist and author Amber Petty, who recently launched her debut book This is Not A Love Story, writes for The Carousel about why your first love story might need some reconsidering.
A recent conversation with a friend I was close to back in my high school days, brought back to life some vivid truths about my first relationship; and my first love.
Listening back to my old friend recanting the exhausting hours and hours she spent counselling my poor, tortured boyfriend as he thrashed back and forth trying to work out how to please me, she said, thoughtfully, “You know, I honestly think he really just wanted to make you happy.” My mind ploughed back into the scenes she’d described, memories I’d not thought of for thirty years, the minute detail was still fresh like yesterday. So too were the emotions, his and mine, but now I could view them, from a place of more compassion and wisdom.
With the wisdom of hindsight, and over a decade of my self-healing journey, I can see now that the 16-year-old boy I nicknamed ‘Scooter’ – much to his annoyance – didn’t stand a chance. We had bursts of romance and affection of course, but mostly we had nasty public bust-ups. Paul Newman and Joanna Woodward, we were not destined to be – we were more the Madonna and Sean Penn of our friendship group – minus the fame, cash and artistic talent.
The thing is, this is not quite the story I’d told myself (or others) over the years when it came to talking about ‘my first love’. My version was usually crunched down to soundbites like “We were a disaster!” or “He was full of shit in the end.”
Short, sharp and drowning in bias.
Eventually, he disappointed me, after a fling with another girl, during a break I forced us to have. The part of me that believed in love, even prided herself on the fact that we’d lost our virginity to each other at 17 years old, was utterly heartbroken. Finally, I was proven right, I told myself, he was always going to hurt me in the end.
As my boyfriend’s dad described us years later when my mum awkwardly bumped into him at the post office – “those two together, was like throwing petrol onto a fire!” he said.
So here’s the thing, amongst the many magical revelations I’ve had since embarking on my self-exploration campaign, is that for many of us, our so-called first love is profoundly influenced by what we experienced with our actual first love: the one with our father.
Anyone that knows me, or read my book This is Not a Love Song, understands that the love and influence my dad had on me, was boundless. But like most humans he was deeply flawed and, in many ways, he didn’t know how to be the kind of father a little or teenage girl needed. The fact that my parents split when I was still a baby; a laundry list of disappointments – cheating being cited as mum’s final straw, meant that what I soaked up regarding what love with a male might look like, was that it will end. Not if, just when. Dad moving to Sydney to live with another woman and her son, only added to my preoccupation of not only constantly pining for more time with him, but I believe it also programmed a belief in my subconscious, that love will always be just out of reach for me. And history certainly showed me that this was indeed often my outcome. But what more recent history has shown me is that the thoughts we carry in our conscious or unconscious mind, have a startling way of showing up in the physical world. What that means is that I am more in control of my outcomes than I’d ever previously considered.
For anyone still grappling with the mystery of romantic love, I urge you to re-think your first love story. Whether that’s with male or female lovers (or both), be honest about what you experienced with a parent of that same-sex. What belief systems or expectations did that love story instil in you? Is there a link to your romance history? And remember too that our parents had their own first love stories – and undoubtedly these influenced their ability to offer love and to receive it. So any perceived rejections never had anything to do with you.
This is Not a Love Song is a memoir about mental health…and love. Intertwining two tales: the raw, personal soul- searching of a young woman with a ‘stranger than fiction’ psychological thriller.
When Amber started working in the world of magazines, she never dreamt their focus would turn so close to home, when her best friend falls for (and marries) a Danish prince. In the wake of a fairy tale, royal wedding she finds herself surrounded by a sea of perfumed sharks.
Wondering who to trust, she falls for the charms of a romantic rogue. When Mr Wrong unleashes a barrage of bad publicity, it looks like there’s no salvaging her reputation. A lifeline is thrown when she’s offered a role on Survivor. On the island, she finds her inner hero, and yet another dangerous romance.
Using manifesting techniques, she secures her “dream job” in radio. But the bubbly voice she portrays on air is just a sham-off-air, Amber sinks into depression while juggling a violent boyfriend and a toxic work culture. When a “Gotcha” call presents a wholesome love story, Amber finds herself caught up in another fairy tale, but all is not as it seems.
When the appalling truth is uncovered, Amber is forced to take a stark look at the part she’s played in inviting so many smiling assassins to take centre stage in her life. She sees how the power of your thoughts, and manifesting, can bring both your greatest dream but also your worst nightmare.