02/22/2012 05:26 pm ET Updated Apr 23, 2012

Falling in Love: 6 Tips to Get Over the Past and Find Love Again

There's no time like the first time. With love, sex, anything really -- the first time experiencing something has the power to break the mold, open your eyes and heart and change your perspective.

That's why the first time you fall in love has such an effect. It's the only possible time in your life that you can fall in love without knowing how it feels to have your heart broken. Most people have been through at least one relationship breakup, so it's difficult to recall that initial feeling of innocence and blind faith. Yet that experience has stayed with us, perhaps more than we know.

It's crucial to be able to get over past loves, as noted in Psychology Today's article "Heartbreak and Home Runs: The Power of First Experiences," which suggests that past relationships, especially those from your late teens to early 20s, tend to have an everlasting effect on your future. We at took a deeper look at this to see if this theory holds true:

Leslie, 41, recalls her first real relationship vividly, one that began her senior year in high school and lasted into her freshman year in college. What Leslie remembers most was the dynamic of the relationship -- she was the dominant personality of the couple, while he played a more submissive role. Thereafter, her next three relationships fell into the same pattern. When we asked the reason for her relationship breakup, her reason was that she felt that "he never stood up for himself." It was at that very moment Leslie realized she had fallen into a pattern based on her first experience with love, and that pattern had become the very reason for the failure of her subsequent relationships.

At the age of 25, Kara fell in love for the first time. While she thought she had felt love before that, she realized when it actually happened that she had never felt this way before. Recalling the love she felt, she said it was "an overpowering feeling that brought me happiness, laughter, and pure ecstasy." She compared the feeling of that love to a drug -- something she was addicted to. Now, at the age of 35, Kara is single and still in search of something to fill the void of the love she felt before. She hasn't been able to find the same feelings with anyone else, yet surprisingly, what she chooses to forget is the heartache that her first love brought her with his infidelity.

After a divorce or relationship breakup, it's not only important to bounce back from your heartbreak; it's equally important to move forward, which means putting the past behind you and releasing harmful patterns and negative feelings so you can allow yourself to start fresh. Here are six key tips to put (and keep) this in motion:

1. Don't compare future relationships to past loves. Avoid setting and holding expectations for one person based on what you remember about another.

2. Try not to spend all your time and effort attempting to replicate exactly what you had before. Everything and everyone is different -- no two relationships will ever be the same.

3. Remember the past for what it was -- separate the thrill of love from what actually happened that caused the relationship to end.

4. Don't be afraid that you'll never love again --
which can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. You must be willing to let love in again and not shy away from it out of fear.

5. Don't wallow in self-pity. It's simply not attractive to the world, and you never know when your next love may be watching.

6. Take notice of patterns: Examine qualities about yourself, your past partners, and the dynamics of your relationships so that you can prevent repeat mistakes in the choices you make.

Learn to look at the past differently -- as a lesson, not a failure. And then, put the past exactly where it belongs -- in the past. Then smile, take a deep breath, and look forward to creating a new definition of love. helps people find happiness in the right relationship. If you've been through a breakup, divorce, or just haven't been able to find happiness in your love life, BounceBack is a place to tell your story, get community support and expert advice, and find the confidence and strength you need to move forward. Check out our Facebook page.