By this point, we can all probably look back on our very first relationships and laugh about them. After all, we’ve come a long way since then. We made mistakes, but we learned from them. And while I never regret a learning experience, there are definitely some things I wish I knew back then.
Relationships shouldn’t always be hard work. Of course it’s always going to take effort from both sides to make a relationship really work. But for some reason, we try EXTRA hard in our first relationship. Even if we know it’s not working, we keep going. We seem to think that heated arguments are the norm and that we shouldn’t give up on a guy when things get tough. But there’s a difference between working at a relationship and being exhausted from trying to make it work with the wrong person. Looking back on all the arguments, compromises, tears and heavy discussions with a guy that definitely wasn’t worth it, I wish I knew that it’s not supposed to be that hard.
You can’t change someone. And you shouldn’t have to. We hang on to our first relationship so tightly that we can’t admit when someone isn’t what we want. Instead of acknowledging that, we do everything we can to change what we don’t like about them. While I was focusing all my energy on changing someone who wasn’t what I wanted, I was missing out on opportunities to be with someone who was already what I was looking for.
Love doesn’t always conquer all. It’s not always like the movies. Sometimes loving someone isn’t enough. There are all kinds of factors that need to align for it to work with someone. We’ve all loved people that we knew it couldn’t work with for one reason or another. Whether they lived on the other side of the world, they were emotionally unavailable, they needed to figure themselves out, or your personalities just didn’t mesh, I now know that you can love someone with your entire heart and it still may not be enough.
You still need your friends. It’s not OK to make your boyfriend your entire life. No matter how great he is, he’ll never be able to replace your friends. You probably lost a few friends along the way, and you regret it. You wish you knew that there were things your friends could give you that he never could; like girl talk, girls nights and the kind of reassurance that can only come from your best friend.
It’s OK to disagree. You don’t have to be a ‘yes’ man (or woman). When we’re young, we sometimes think that we need to agree on everything with our boyfriends. Maybe we haven’t yet discovered our backbone, or we don’t know that a man will respect a woman with her own opinions. It’s exhausting trying to please your boyfriend all the time. And you probably wish you knew that disagreeing with him wouldn’t have made him love you any less.
‘Me’ time is important. How many first relationships meant that you spent every waking second and free moment with your boyfriend? No wonder it didn’t work. Without time for yourself, you can’t have any of your own hobbies, your own friends or your own goals. And eventually, you’re no longer the woman he fell in love with in the first place.
Communication is key. How many times could problems have been avoided if we had just talked like a couple of adults? Telling him we’re ‘fine’ when we really weren’t wasn’t helping anyone. In our first relationship, we usually avoid confrontation at all costs. Or we attack and point fingers rather than discuss problems maturely. Had we known that communication was the key to making things work, we may have done things a little differently.
Love takes time. It’s not like the movies. Things aren’t going to be perfect right off the bat. There’s no need to rush into anything. It takes time to build trust. It may be a while before you can say ‘I love you’. And that’s okay.
It’s not their job to make you happy. If you’re looking to your boyfriend to make you happy, you’re looking in the wrong place. You don’t need a boyfriend to complete you. If that’s what you’re looking for, you probably aren’t in any position to be in a real relationship. If only we knew that relationships are about two whole, happy people who complement each other.
You will get over it. Your first breakup feels like the end of the world. How will you go on without them? You’ll cry for hours. You’ll be angry, upset and maybe even a little embarrassed. But look at you now. You’re just fine, aren’t you?