A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

8 Stories of First Loves That Will Touch Your Heart This Valentine’s Day

From stories of playground crushes to smooth-talking bad boys, members of the Reader's Digest contributor network tell us all about their first loves.

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couple middle-age years in white shirts walks between sandstone rocks. holding hands, hugging, kissing. happiness love. standing against the sky. close-up portraits gentle

The memories that kept them afloat

When Sylvia Johnson’s first daughter died of cancer at 3 years old, her marriage suffered. “During the pain of it all, I threatened divorce more than once,” she writes. “At times I believed that the magical sense I had of love as destiny had betrayed me.” This is Sylvia’s stunning story about the give and takes of marriage—especially in the face of unimaginable grief.

Sylvia Johnson

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Ice skaters having fun in New York Central Park
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Love lost at Central Park

At 16 years old, Nicole Burrell had her first taste of heartbreak: watching a former love interest ice skate with his ex at Central Park. Little did her teenage-self know, the best was yet to come.

Nicole Burrell

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Young multiethnic couple lying on blanket on grass. Latin woman with her african boyfriend relaxing on picnic blanket outdoor. Mature happy couple in love lying on grass with copy space.

The “How to Be a People Magnet” class

At 34 years old, Suzanne Derham Cifarelli was contentedly single. The rest of the world, however, was not so content. “It was amazing how peoples’ perceptions of my single life changed when I turned 30. It went from ‘I envy your freedom and independence’ to ‘oh, you poor thing, you must be so sad and lonely.'” But when she enrolls in a class called “How to Be a People Magnet,” everything changes—including her relationship status.

Suzanne Derham Cifarelli

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Cropped shot of elderly couple holding hands while sitting together at home. Focus on hands.
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Ted vs. Tom

Ted gave expert kisses, said all the right things, and looked like he’d been ripped from the pages of a romance novel. And Tom—well, the only thing ripped about him was his underwear.

Sylvia Johnson

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Elderly couple holding hands outdoors.
Tamas Panczel - Eross/Shutterstock

Falling in love again, 60-years later

Patricia Hollinger met the love of her life when she was 14 and he was 18. Unfortunately, life took them down separate paths after that: they each married different people and moved to different states. That’s until a series of random events brought them together again.

Patricia Hollinger

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little kids holding hands

An elementary school admirer

When they were 10 years old in 1964, Laurie Samsel Olson and her crush, Thomas, passed notes, exchanged baubles, and had some fairly impressive romantic drama for grade-school students. Laurie, now a grandmother, still thinks about it from time to time.

Laurie Samsel Olson

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upper view of red phone with heart shape made out of its cable, on yellow background
Comaniciu Dan/Shutterstock

The early days of online dating

Before there was Match.com, eHarmony, or Tinder, there was Telepersonals, a website that recorded people’s voices so they could listen to each other’s ads for potential dates. That’s how Catherine Balkin found her husband.

Catherine Balkin

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Couples holding hands.Summer in love
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Love at first sight? More like, ‘love at can’t type’

Sometimes, small events can change our lives. For example, if Aimee Ashby had been better at typing, she might’ve never met her husband.

Aimee Ashby