Perspective is a wondrous thing. I often think about the times I would have benefited from hearing some advice from my future self, and without doubt, my first relationship was a time I really could have done with some hard-hitting words of wisdom. I was madly in love and living on what felt like cloud nine, but the drama and the emotional rollercoaster that came with it were simply exhausting. Within months, I became someone I no longer recognized, and by our one-year anniversary, the relationship had become straight-up toxic. By the end of the relationship, I had lost most of my friends, my self-esteem, and my identity, and I felt like my world was over. The only thing that feels more intense than your first love is your first heartbreak.
So, I thought I’d share some pieces of advice I wish I could have given myself back then:
1. Don’t Give Everything Up
It’s so easy to allow infatuation to take over and to slowly but surely let go of all the different parts of your life that are just for you. You choose to see your new bf/gf instead of having a night out with your best friend. You ditch finishing your assignment to go meet their mates. You cancel on your weekly family dinner to go movie and chill. You insist on bringing your new partner to all social gatherings. And when you do manage to tear yourself away from them, you spend your whole evening texting them and making your friends feel totally neglected.
It can be normal to fall into this cycle when you are falling for someone, I get it. You feel like you just can’t get enough of each other. But this is the quickest way to self-destruct any relationship. Having space in a new relationship is essential for keeping things healthy, and for making sure that you aren’t sacrificing your identity for your new partner. Become aware of when you are canceling things over and over again and make a conscious effort to spend at least a few nights a week where you do things that are just for you.
Remember, your partner got into a relationship with you for who you are, so don’t lose that.
2. Don’t Change Them and Don’t Change for Them
I wasted so much time trying to mold my boyfriends into what I thought a “perfect boyfriend” should be. And I constantly tried to mold myself into what I thought they wanted me to be. I wish I’d known the simple truth: true love doesn’t need people to change. If you love your partner, give them the space to be exactly who they are. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate what you need in a healthy way. But if they don’t love watching your favorite binge-series with you, you can’t make them just because your friend’s boyfriend does. And just because their last girlfriend loved tennis, that doesn’t mean you suddenly need to take up lessons every Saturday afternoon in a bid to impress them.
For any healthy relationship, both people need to feel valued, accepted, and loved for who they are.
3. Own Your Own Sh*t
The thing I probably regret the most about my first relationship (well, more like my first three relationships), was the way I allowed my own insecurities to take over. My lack of self-worth would mean that I needed constant reassurance from them, and I would play mind games to see how committed they really were. I’d push their buttons, demand endless attention, and constantly doubt them. It was a classic case of self-sabotage.
We all enter relationships with our own sh*t: our own insecurities, past experiences, and baggage. We have to own them and commit to self-healing. We cannot expect our partners to fix us, or to make us feel unconditionally loved if we don’t love ourselves. Self-love always comes first.
4. Embrace Every Minute
There is no better feeling than falling in love and finding a teammate to just do life with. Enjoy every second of that heavenly feeling. It’s so easy to waste it worrying, “What if it ends?” “What if it doesn’t work out?” The truth is, it just might not work out and it might not last forever. But if that happens, just know you really will be OK. The best thing you can do for now is embrace every second of the love bubble. Create memories that will last a lifetime and remember that you never learn more about who you really are than when you delve into an intimate and deep connection with another person.