27/04/2016 4:26 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST

The Impact Your First Love Has On The Rest Of Your Relationships

Reuters Photographer / Reuters
Singer Britney Spears and boyfriend Justin Timberlake of the group 'N Sync arrive at the 28th Annual American Music Awards January 8, 2001 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Spears is co-host of the awards show.FSP/RCS

The fact Justin and Britney once thought it was totally acceptable to don matching denim outfits proves no one is immune to having made some pretty regrettable relationship decisions back in the day. (Ahhh, young love.)

But unlike fashion choices, some of these decisions may not necessarily stay in the past.

When it comes to formative relationships -- or the formative relationship of your first ever 'true love' -- how much do we actually leave in the days of double denim, and how much do we take with us?

In other words, does your first love have an impact on your future relationships?

"I think all first relationships are important," psychologist and dating expert Melanie Schilling told The Huffington Post Australia.

"If you think about it, as a baby, you bond with your parents. Then as you grow older, maybe siblings and then teachers, and as you go into your teen years, you bond with friends who, in some ways, become even more important than your family.

"The next phase is bonding with potential partners.

"All of those firsts are incredibly important and incredibly formative, and they can set you up for the relationships you are going to have in the future."

Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, back when 'The Notebook' was real life.

In terms of defining your 'first love', Schilling says it often means different things to different people.

"I think it’s an individual thing. Some people might count their first love as someone they played in the sandpit with, while others can be 40 years old before they have their first relationship," Schilling said. "It is a very personal thing.

"But when we're talking about that first significant relationship, that's the one that becomes formative."

Schilling is at pains to point out "formative" doesn't necessarily mean "set in stone" -- which could be a good or bad thing, depending.

"Just because a relationship might be formative, it does not mean that then becomes your relationship destiny," Schilling said.

"As adults we can adjust and learn. Let’s say that early relationship was an abusive relationship. It doesn’t mean you are doomed for that for the rest of your life.

"All it means is you have a job to do, and that job is to extract the lesson and to apply that to the next relationship.

"On the flip-side, if you had an extremely positive first relationship, that can also throw up challenges if you then enter the next relationship expecting things to be all love and roses. You might not be prepared for the other side of things. It's about getting your expectations aligned with reality."

Young lovers Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.

Schilling is mindful of the fact it is all too possible to fall into a 'bad relationship cycle', though she encourages men and women alike to refrain from making the same mistakes again and again.

"That happens to some people, unfortunately. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to be your destiny.

"Some people who are not empowered, especially with a negative relationship, can step in a negative cycle and keep on repeating the same mistakes.

"It doesn't matter whether it's your first relationship or your second or your 15th, it's important to take time to reflect and to figure out what the lessons were from that experience. And to make sure you do it differently next time.

"I guess the message I want to come across is it's your personal responsibility. Don’t be a victim. Take an empowered stance when it comes to your relationships."

In terms of why the first relationship tends to be so significant (and we know you totally have a certain person in mind), Schilling says it's because the intensity of the emotions are often heightened simply because they are being experienced for the first time.

"I think from a biochemical point of view, you are experiencing certain hormones you haven’t felt before. It's like going through puberty; it's physical, it's emotional, it's intellectual. It can even be spiritual for some people," Schilling said.

"All of these feelings are being felt for the first time and for that reason, yes, they're heightened.

"But once again I want to stress first relationships do not have to carve out a person's relationship future. Yes, they have some power, because a first love is a common thing, and I do think people will read this and think, 'I remember that person. I remember that feeling'.

"But you absolutely don’t have to repeat the same pattern going forward."