Our first relationships, whether at thirteen or thirty, can be both scary and exciting as we prepare to share our most intimate vulnerabilities with another person. Without any prior knowledge, this new relationship can be difficult to navigate as we encounter emotions and behaviours that we have not yet experienced. These are the ten things I wish I knew before my first relationship:
1. Your partner should not be your only relationship worth investing in
In the first few weeks or months of a new relationship, it is tempting to spend every waking hour with your significant other. Whilst it is important to spend time with each other, it’s also important not to neglect your friendships, particularly as your friends have most likely been a valued and loving support system to you countless times before. Your friends were there before the relationship, during it and will be there if it ends, too. I was incredibly naïve to assume that my first relationship was going to be my only relationship and I found it hard to integrate back into my friendship group when it ended so abruptly. Luckily, I had a great set of friends who were extremely understanding and were there to help me get back on my feet.
2. Don’t change yourself to fit their idealised version of you
During my first relationship, I spent a lot of my energy creating a persona that I thought would be more desirable to my partner. In short terms, a relationship should be about honesty, and your partner should like you for who you are. Maintaining your sense of identity is important, especially if/when the relationship ends. And, if your partner does not like you for who you really are, then they’re not the one for you.
3. Don’t neglect your hobbies!
When welcoming another person into your life, you may feel that your free ‘me time’ dwindles. However, you should always try to continue to engage in the things that you enjoy doing. Whether that be reading, going to the gym, playing a musical instrument, or writing, our hobbies are integral to creating our own happiness. Being reliant on another person meant that I felt lost when my first relationship ended, particularly as I made them my sole source of happiness. Now, I make sure I dedicate time for doing the things I love.
4. You can say no!
Being in a relationship does not mean you are obliged to have sex.
5. If you ask them to wear a condom and they come up with an excuse…
Get rid. Anyone who wants to put their own pleasure before your comfort does not deserve to have sex with you. This applies to any relationship dynamic – never allow yourself to feel uncomfortable just for someone else’s pleasure.
6. Don’t be scared to communicate your feelings
Too scared to rock the boat, I often avoided talking to my partner about things that they said (or did) that upset me, in fear that they would end the relationship. The fact of the matter is, if you don’t communicate your feelings to them, their behaviour won’t change and the relationship fractures as a result. In my current relationship, I make an effort to talk to my partner if something that they do upsets me, which has only resulted in him taking positive action to prevent me feeling that way again.
7. Your friends don’t like them for a reason
If your friends don’t like your partner, nine times out of ten it’s not because they are jealous or want to hurt you. Your friends know you well, so listen to them when they approach you about their feelings. It often takes an outsider to spot some red flags!
This one is pretty embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t even know that gaslighting was a thing until twitter exploded over 2019 Love Island’s Michael and his treatment of Amber. Gaslighting can include things such as trivialising emotions, questioning memory of events, and denial. If I had known this in my first relationship, I might have stopped categorising such behaviours as ‘normal’ and therefore not ignored them.
9. The breakup does not have to be a public event!
There is nothing that makes me cringe more than reading my Facebook status’ after my first ever breakup. Not all of your 1,300 Facebook friends need a detailed account of your breakup, how you’re dealing with it, or what you think of your ex. By all means, vent to your friends and family (if needed), but don’t rush onto your socials to write cryptic status’, tweets, or post some quote on your Instagram story.
10. Don’t stay in your relationship just because you’ve been together a long time/like their parents/are friends with their friends
Finally, don’t stay in the relationship because it’s easy. At the end of the day, relationships should be fun and worth investing your time into. Staying with someone for external reasons (such as liking their parents, their dog, or because you’ve been together x amount of years) not only hurts yourself, but it hurts them too. Have respect for yourself and your partner, and don’t continue to stay in a sinking ship – this will only make it worse when the inevitable breakup happens.