Perched on a rosemary bush
They were saying to each other,
"There's no love like the first love".
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, 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 his Second Love. 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.
- In Candy Candy, the protagonist Candy's first love is Anthony Brown, a Princely Young Man who treats her well and kindly despite their social differences. They even get to share a Dance of Romance! But that ends badly, when Anthony dies in a riding accident in front of Candy.
- InuYasha's first love was Kikyou, and he was hers. Unfortunately, their plans to be together were ruined by Naraku, who turned them against each other, leading to Kikyou's death and Inuyasha being sealed away by her. Eventually, she is sort-of-revived from the dead, enabling them to resolve their issues before she eventually dies for real, and Inuyasha ends up with his Second Love Kagome.
- Naruto had a one-sided shallow crush on Sakura, but it was never romantic love. He also stopped having a crush on her after Chapter 469. Even before that chapter, his crush was more about his rivalry with Sasuke, whom Sakura always loved and whom Naruto wanted to beat out at something for once, which was implied back in Chapter 3. It was established in The Last: Naruto the Movie (a canonical Interquel bridging the two last chapters of the series) and confirmed by Kishimoto himself that Sakura was his first crush, while Hinata is both his First Love and only love.
- Due to time travel shenanigans, Touta from UQ Holder! was his adoptive mother's first love. She has long since moved onto his grandfather by the present day.
- Paul Patton Jr.'s First Love was one Linda Peggy... who just so happens to have grown up to be the villainess Dream Demon.
- Spider-Man: Gwen Stacy was this for Peter Parker. While he dated other women before her, Gwen was this first woman Peter had truly loved. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be.
- Scott Pilgrim: It's implied Scott was this to Knives, explaining why she had such strong feelings for him even after they were no longer an item and why she still holds him such high regard when she has moved on. Of course, it didn't turn out so well due to Scott's choices (though it is implied that the relationship might've still been doomed even without Ramona since Scott was still emotionally recovering from the fallout with Envy and that Knives probably still would've become a lot more forward.)
- Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: Germany did not remember he was Holy Rome until just before the beginning of the story. Since Germany is Holy Rome, Germany and Italy had met long before the World Wars. This also makes Germany Italy's first love. Japan was not pleased upon learning this.
- In the Dragon Age: Inquisition fanfic Walking in Circles, before falling in love with Solas, Evelyn was involved with a young mage named Anselm. He was taken to the Kirkwall Circle when his mentor was revealed to be a blood mage. When Evelyn goes there with Monette, she discovers that Anselm had been made Tranquil for a few years and was killed during the Circle Annulment. His fate is one of the first steps for Evelyn to grow her hatred for the Circles and Templars, which eventually pushes her to side with her Second Love Solas once she becomes the Inquisitor.
- Ice Age: Before he actually fell in love with Ellie, Manfred the mammoth is actually revealed to have had a first wife and child in a flashback sequence who unfortunately end up being stabbed to death by humans. This explains why Manfred not only hates humans, but also started to think that he is the last mammoth on Earth.
- In the film (500) 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.
- Miao Miao has this for the main characters, as explained by Miao Miao's monologue near the end of the movie.
- The Imitation Game: Christopher is the first boy the teenaged Alan Turing develops romantic feelings for.
- In Solo, Qi'ra, Han Solo's childhood friend, serves as the first girl Han is romantically attached to. It's pretty likely that her abandoning him in favor of becoming the new leader of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate at the end of the movie is likely what contributes to his cynical attitude in A New Hope, at least until his romance with Leia begins.
- 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's was Cho Chang. Although it was not so much love as a crush that got really complicated, not helped by the fact this relationship started while Cho was mourning the death of her first love, Cedric Diggory (who Harry saw die in front of him and feels some guilt over it due to the circumstances.)
- On the flip side, 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. While Ginny dated other people before Harry, she fully admits that she never quite got over her crush on him.
- Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger are one of another's firsts, but because they were both very insecure, neither could spit out their feelings and tended to show them through possessive feelings and dating others for jealousy, best seen in the sixth book.
- Albus Dumbledore's first love (who was also his Closet Key) was Gellert Grindelwald, the previous Dark Lord before Voldemort. Grindelwald was also his only love, mainly because he was such a Manipulative Bastard that he used Dumbledore's attraction to him in hopes of keeping his one intellectual and magical equal chained by his side. Dumbledore swore off falling in love ever again for fear of losing his moral compass like he had during the brief time spent together in their youth.
- 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 with whom he's really in love, 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 Elinor. As far as we know, however, Edward is Elinor's first love.
- 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 be burned by Mary Crawford before he recognises Fanny's worth, and Fanny is almost tempted away from Edmund, her first love, by Mary'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.
- Captain Paul Tankersley for Honor Harrington. He was the executive officer to her biggest enemy in the first book, On Basilisk Station; they met again in The Short Victorious War when he oversaw repairs to her battlecruiser HMS Nike, and became sparring partners and subsequently lovers. His death and her grief in Field of Dishonor drive her character arc for the next several books, and it takes her years to fall in love again. Though she ultimately ends up Happily Married to her Second Love Hamish Alexander, Earl White Haven (and by extension his wife Emily as well), she keeps Paul's memory in her heart all her life, naming her private yacht after him.
- Early in The Metamorphoses is the story of Apollo and his first love, Daphne.
- In Seeds by M. M. Kin Persephone is Hades' first and only love. He was Friends with Benefits with Leuce and Minthe before, but Persephone is the first woman he loves for real. Unfortunately this means he often acts like a lovesick teenager and do stupid thing in order to keep her by his side.
- Saving Charlie is about Hiro's time-traveling shenanigans in order to win and save Charlie, the first girl who has ever even so much as given him the time of day. They've both had crushes on other people, and Charlie has a jealous ex, but neither has felt anything quite like this relationship.
- Deuce and Penny in Edenborn. Despite the fact that both of them are completely wrapped up in the experience of First Love, they're disastrously wrong for each other.
- 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... Hand Waved with the phrase "You can forgive your First Love anything".
- Kurt and Blaine are each other's first loves. They even call each other that while they are breaking up. They get back together, of course.
- Brittany is Santana's First Love as well as her Closet Key.
- 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.
- Nathan and Haley were each others first love in One Tree Hill. So much so that they get married at sixteen and remain together for the entire nine season run.
- 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 sixteen when they met (and fifteen when he first saw her).
- Lancelot was Guinevere's first love, and is explicitly identified as such on Merlin.
- Matt for Elena on The Vampire Diaries. They were childhood friends who began a romance during their high school years.
- 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.
- Oliver Queen and Laurel Lance. Even though they never really get back together, it's fairly obvious that they still love each other. When Laurel died, it drove Oliver closer to a breakdown than ever before. His complicated feelings for Black Siren, Laurel's Earth-2 counterpart, specifically his desire to redeem her, is partially motivated out of the love he still has for his Laurel.
- Nyssa al Ghul's first love was Sara Lance, and her actress outright states that Sara was the love of her life. It gets deconstructed during Nyssa's first appearance: because Sara was the first person she ever loved in such a fashion, Nyssa was determined to make Sara come back to the League of Assassins by any means necessary, including poisoning Sara's sister Laurel and kidnapping and threatening to kill Sara's mother. It was only after Sara nearly committed suicide to ensure she'd never have to go back that Nyssa finally relented and released her from her vows.
- The Flash (2014): Barry Allen's is Iris West. He's loved her all his life, before he even knew what love was, and while he's tried to move on from her (with Linda Park, and later Patty Spivot), it always comes back to her in the end. With Iris, it's a little more complicated — while she started a relationship with Eddie Thawne first, and did love him, it's confirmed in "Cause and Effect" that she loved Barry long before she had even met Eddie, and that she just hadn't realized it yet.
- Supergirl: While she did have a crush on James Olsen first, Kara Danvers/Zor-El's first true love was Prince Mon-El of Daxam. It goes both ways — before he met Kara, Mon-El was The Casanova. Unfortunately, they're also Star-Crossed Lovers. After Queen Rhea refuses to stop the Daxamite Invasion of Earth even after being personally defeated in Trial by Combat by Supergirl, Kara has no choice but to infuse the Earth's atmosphere with lead, making it poisonous to Daxamites and forcing Mon-El off-planet.
- 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 later Sheryl Crow is all about this trope.
- The Walker Brothers said it best: First Love Never Dies
- Final Fantasy VII:
- Aerith and Zack. After Zack's death, Aerith initially felt attracted to Cloud because he reminded her of Zack, with good reason, though she eventually comes to realize that the two men are indeed very different in terms of personality and comes to appreciate and love Cloud as his own. In Advent Children, she and Zack are reunited via Together in Death, but there's no longer indication of romance between them.
- Cloud's first love was his childhood friend Tifa, whom he can optionally fall for again, though all subsequent materials deliberately choose to keep the status of their relationship up for debate.
- In Fire Emblem Awakening, if Frederick and Lissa get together, she specifically points out that Frederick was her childhood crush.
- If Lissa's son Owain gets together with Cynthia, he will tell her that she was his first love. Same goes to Cynthia, if she hooks up with Inigo. Both cases double as Childhood Friend Romance. (It's also implied that Cynthia may have been Gerome's first love, but it's not clear.)
- Playedfor Drama in the backstories of Lon'qu and Cordelia, though both of them can get better.
- In The Last of Us, the Left Behind DLC is the story of Ellie's short lived and tragic first love with her best friend Riley, and how it has affected her outlook in the present day.
- The Warden can be this for Alistair or Morrigan in Dragon Age: Origins (Zevran and Leliana, the other two love interests, are a case of Second Love), and it can turn out well or... badly.
- In Mass Effect, the player can be Liara's first love if they choose to romance her.
- In Sunrider, Ava Crescentia was Kayto Shields's childhood friend and first love, although he'd dated other girls before her. Unfortunately their relationship didn't pan out, as she left for the military right after graduating from high school and they wouldnt see each other again for twelve years. By the time they meet again, theyve become officers aboard a military starship and Ava wont renew their past relationship because it would make them Inappropriately Close Comrades.
- Check, Please! has a situation that is heartwarming to some and heartbreaking to others. While the Official Couple Bitty and Jack are heavily implied in year 3 to be this to each other, the same comic that implies this also implies that Jack was this to Kent, who is still hung up on him, while Jack believes that their relationship was doomed to fail and never much more than physical, something he intended to end for the sake of his career, while he is more than happy to make some sacrifices in his career now that he is with Bitty.
- Always Raining Here has David as this to Adrian, before he finally moved on to Carter.
- Danny Phantom: Protagonist Danny Fenton aka Danny Phantom had a massive crush on Paulina, but wised up after becoming more aware of her unpleasant personality. And eventually he starts a romance with Sam.
- Regular Show: Margaret was this to Mordecai, before he moved on to C.J. and later on his unnamed bat wife.
- Samurai Jack is a Celibate Hero for the first four seasons. After helping Ashi reform, she became the first woman with whom he falls in love. Their romance ends in tragedy, since she's Aku's daughter and destroying her father in the past means preventing her birth. The last scene in the series, where Jack finds a ladybug (due to the legend of ladybugs and love), suggests he might one day find love again.
- Middle school and high school crushes are very common occurrences of first love in real life.
- Also, in some rare cases, the Puppy Love can cause this between one or both of the participants in the relationship, although it's usually a case of the First Love turning out wrong for both participants.