A friend went through a particularly hard breakup recently and one thing I said seemed to really resonate. I reminded her that every relationship teaches us something and, if we listen, those lessons inform our following relationships. And if that theory works out in practice, that means that each relationship is better than the last until we (hopefully) find someone we fit with for the long term.
I know that’s kind of a Pollyanna view on relationships — and I know it doesn’t always work out that neatly. But, 1) I’m an eternal optimist and, 2) even if doesn’t work out so neatly, you can always take a lesson or two from each relationship. Maybe it’s the fact that you need a partner who’s more assertive or you have a tendency to get lost in relationships. Maybe it’s that you need someone whose ethics align more closely with yours. Dating is about learning these things about ourselves so that we can find the best fit.
And that first relationship? The first one is a doozie. First relationships come with so many lessons. For many, first relationships happened during the teenage years and included first kisses, first time having intercourse, first time feeling a broken heart, first time breaking up with someone. And when it’s your first time having that kind of intimate connection with someone, it always feels more intense, no matter how old you are.
I’ve thought a lot about the lessons I learned my from my first relationship. I think they fall into two categories: Lessons I recognized when we broke up when I was 17 and lessons I’ve gleaned in the 14 years since. The biggest lesson in the first category was definitely how to have sex with another person. My high school boyfriend and I had a lot of sexual firsts together and we were lucky to have each other to explore with. And the biggest lesson in the second category is that I was much more self-involved than I realized at that age and it’s not OK for you to just expect people to “deal with” something because it’s what you want or believe is right.
But my first relationship was just one relationship. So let’s take a look at the biggest lessons that seven other women learned from their own first relationships. Maybe we can all jumpstart the process of learning by listening to each other.