What do I think of when I look back on my first love? I think about first time walking down the street holding hands, first nicknames, first time saying “I love you,” (and hearing it back). My super smart, slightly nerdy, first boyfriend with whom I had a lof of fun and laughs, (and cries), will forever have a special place in my heart. My rearview mirror is fogging up with all of the adolescent mushy feelings that brings up. It’s so easy to look back fondly and only remember the good times in a relationship, especially with a first love. The power of nostalgia is strong.
The truth though, is that underneath that layer of warm fuzzies, there are some cold hard lessons to be remembered. We learn things from every relationship, but there are some things you learn particularly well the first time around that are worth remembering. After all, you fought, (literally), for those truths and it would be a shame to waste that hard-won wisdom. Here are some of the lessons I learned from my first love:
Always be friends first.
I don’t mean you have to be friends before you date, I mean, you have to be friends first and foremost, and in a romantic relationship second. Spending the rest of your lives together, (or even just all your weekends for the foreseeable future), is a long freaking time, so you better get along. It sounds cliché, but you shouldn’t have to try to like the same things that they do, or pretend to have those same interests to spend time with them. If you ask yourself, “Would I be hanging out with this person even if we weren’t in a relationship together?,” and the answer is “probably not,” or “not sure,” then you might have some reevaluating to do.
Make sure his mom likes you.
Okay, maybe this one is obvious, but it was a major takeaway for me. All men are subconsciously in love with their mothers, (hello Oedipus), and so you need her approval to get anywhere with him; she is the ultimate caregiver and provider. She created him. Are you kidding? You can’t compete with that. Put yourself at odds with The Mom and you will never come out on top. Respect the role that she plays in his life, (however big or small), and you will have a happier, more copacetic relationship in the long run.
Keep your relationship relatively private.
You don’t need to put yourselves on display to prove anything. In fact, doing so puts you under a microscope that could stop your relationship from progressing naturally. While at first, wanting to proclaim your love from the rooftops seems adorable, posting a million photos of the two of you together, or the constant need for public reassurances might be a sign of insecurity. Instead, keep the “relationship status” off Facebook, and let things evolve out of the spotlight.
And finally, if it’s over, let it be over.
All of those late night texts, staying “friends,” possessiveness and neediness masquerading as concern – these are signs of a relationship that’s not over when it should be. It’s easy to fall into that trap when you’re breaking or broken up. I remember not being able to conceive of my first relationship being over and that he wouldn’t be a part of my life anymore. I let things drag out for much longer than they should have when what I really needed was time to be alone. Learning that for the first time took about 8 months longer than it should have. Do yourself a favor and, as hard as it seems, cut things off cold turkey when they’re over. Remember the love, then let it go; you’ll both be happier in the long run.