Stopping Irrational Worries About My Girlfriend’s First Kiss

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Reader’s Question

I am a 24-year-old guy. I have had retrospective jealousy and an obsession over my girlfriend’s past for a long time. She is my first girlfriend and we have been together for three years. She’s been in four relationships before me but the problem I have is only with the first guy she was with back in high school. I was okay with it when we first got together but the problem started when one day I stumbled across some things on the internet about how people never forget their first love and first kiss. That started generating feelings of jealousy inside my head and the chain of thoughts that followed resulted in me searching for more and more about this on the internet and the results I found were feeding my insecurity and jealousy. People were saying things like your first kiss is the best one of your life and you get the most butterflies and that your first love never dies. I have spoken to my girlfriend, she has told me that she did get butterflies when she kissed that guy but that she gets them with me too. She also said that it wasn’t love as she was only 14 and didn’t know any better. She told me that she truly loves me and that she doesn’t even think about that guy.

We’re both virgins but now I have started thinking that the sex we eventually have will not be as good as the kiss she shared with him and I will never be able to give her as many butterflies as she got with him. No matter what she says, I just cannot get enough reassurance which means there is a problem in me. I know this is totally irrational and I don’t understand why I am feeling like this all of a sudden. I don’t want to lose her because of this or put any stress on her so I don’t mention it to her anymore. We share such a strong bond, we’re so in love. I want to get over the past and be happy so that I can make her happy but I fear that these feelings might never leave me…

Psychologist’s Reply

It is completely understandable and normal to feel insecurity in new situations and new relationship territory. Since your girlfriend of three years is your first serious relationship, there have been (and will continue to be) many “firsts” for you. What you are describing, however, seems to be escalating as your relationship becomes more serious and the emotional stakes become higher for you.

As I read your situation, three things stand out for me:

  • Because you already recognize the worry and thoughts as “totally irrational,” you have already taken the first big step in making them smaller or changing what they mean.
  • The anticipation of having sex for the first time can be very overwhelming and can generate many complex, sometimes conflictual emotions and thoughts.
  • I’m wondering what the worry and reassurance gives you in the relationship, what it means if you don’t feel reassured, and what other ways you might be able to ask for (or perhaps find your own) ways to feel secure with your partner.

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First, being able to objectively view your thoughts as “totally irrational” is the most important part in finding a way to manage them differently. Your ability to recognize how this loop perpetuates gives you the power to experiment with different ways to examine your thoughts and approach them differently. Let’s first view this loop and how it is self-perpetuating:

  • The irrational thought of “Her first kiss was the best, and I’ll never be able to give that to her” pops into your head.
  • Your thoughts fuel your jealous feelings.
  • Your jealous feelings prompt you to search for more information to support your irrational beliefs.
  • Finding information confirms your irrational beliefs and feelings of jealousy, which leads to even more catastrophic irrational thoughts:
    • She will never love me like she loved him
    • There must be something wrong with me
    • I can never make her happy
    • I will lose her and be alone

Being able to examine these thoughts without reaction or judgment can give you the opportunity to experiment with other thoughts and observe any differences in how you feel, think, and act. Some alternative thoughts to try out as a start might look something like these:

  • I did not give my partner her first kiss.
  • Some people say first kisses are unforgettable and that first love never dies.
  • Maybe that’s true for some people, but not for everyone.
  • Maybe it’s okay both for my partner to have felt butterflies then and also to feel them now with me.
  • My partner has been with me for three years, and not anyone else. That’s a lot longer than the first person she kissed.
  • I must be giving her more than he did.

For anyone in this type of situation, it’s worth trying out some other thoughts that are less catastrophic, and less “black-and-white.” If you can generate more “both/and” thoughts, you may find some different feelings, which could create more space for more rational thoughts.

Second, I can’t help but wonder how much worry about butterflies and a first kiss are really about the much bigger worry and uncertainty about approaching sex for the first time. Many people worry about their performance and whether the first time will be good for their partner — especially if they perceive their partner has had more experience. Because you and your partner have been together three years and are in a committed relationship, it may be helpful to share your worries with each other around this first sexual experience. For anyone in this situation, I would recommend my earlier post about “Approaching Sex for the First Time” — it may give you a starting point to have a conversation about your worries and sharing ways to approach it together.

Third, it can sometimes be helpful to tell our partners the ways in which they can better communicate reassurance or other relationship needs. Dr. John Gottman’s research based relationship program for couples now has apps and games that might help you and your partner better understand how to turn toward and support each other.

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