Your early years, young man, are a hodgepodge of formative experiences, slowly simmering the man-stew that is you into the delicious concoction that goes so well with beer that you are today. But few formative experiences can have the impact that the first girlfriend has. It doesn’t matter who you are, that first girl has informed every interaction you’ve had with girls since more than any other woman in your life except, possibly, your mamma

Depending on how it went, she could’ve fostered in you a healthy respect for women and a propensity for fulfilling, genuine relationships throughout your life. Or, if she was a psycho hose beast, you probably have at least some issues with the fairer sex, and at most, openly despise dating. 

In the latest issue of Psychology Today, Laura Carpenter, a sociologist at Vanderbilt, says of first relationships, “It’s the only time you’re ever in love where you’ve never had your heart broken. You can have better relationships after that, but there’s never again one where you’ve never been hurt.” 

These powerful first relationships, obviously, inform how you act toward your future girlfriends. But the phenomenon is so powerful and so common that they gave it a name. It’s called transference, and the odds are, you’ve experienced it. It’s called transference. It’s when you see a trait, action, situation, or cue that reminds you of your ex, and you then project those experiences onto whomever you’re interacting with currently. 

Anytime you or your girlfriend starts a sentence with, “Well, when I was dating…,” your comparing the other, on some level, to another of your romances. And, the odds are, it’s the most powerful, impressing one: your first. 

We make it sound all bad, but it doesn’t have to be. If your first relationship was a good one, the feelings your projecting on your new romance will also be good. In a best case scenario, you’ll be projecting those feelings as well as a variety of other Gumby-inspired sex-nastics onto your new paramour, but we digress. 

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The more interesting question for most people is: How do I get over it? The interesting answer is, according to Psychology Today as follows:

Make a choice

This one sounds easier than it is for a lot of people. Many would argue you can’t “just make a choice to get over it.” That might seem true, so an exercise you might try is to literally right down the pros and cons of dwelling on your ex. It seems ridiculous, and it is. But when you do such a ridiculous thing, in which the cons will dramatically outweigh the pros, you’ll realize how ludicrous it is to continue being hung up on your first lady.

Contain your rumination

Set aside a period each day – say 10 minutes – in which your only concern is to ruminate, pine, keen, and otherwise think about your ex. It won’t take you long to get bored of your required 10 minute mopiness, and that is going to wire your brain to always be bored of it. It won’t take long before your heartache is expunged.

Get present

Get your head out of the past by putting it someplace in the present. Good ways to do this are to join a gym, take an awesome class, or just date your damn face off. It’s probably written on a bumper sticker somewhere, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true: the best way to get over somebody, is to get under somebody else.