Whether you just started dating or find yourself in something serious, here are 20 things to know in a first relationship.
Anyone that has had more than one relationship can surely pull some lessons from the first relationship. That first relationship teaches you a lot about yourself, respect, and relationships in general. Whether a first relationship is filled with puppy love or dysfunction, there are things to know in a first relationship that will make all the ups and down go a lot smoother.
I can’t promise you that your first relationship will be happier, last longer, or last forever if you learn these things, but these are things I would tell my younger self before entering into my first relationship. It is important to hold onto your own identity, remain calm, and be yourself no matter if you’re in your first relationship or last. [Read: The Good and Bad of Being Friends with an Ex: Your Helpful Guide]
Things to let go of in a first relationship
First relationships come with a lot of emotion. This is your first time sharing serious emotions with someone else. You aren’t indulging in a crush but actually have reciprocated feelings.
This comes with its own set of assumptions. When you first get into a relationship, you can assume things will be a certain way.
You may get your relationship ideals from TV, movies, books, or even friends or parents. These things are all nice to admire, but aren’t reality. Even real life relationships you’ve observed are not a great starting point because you and your partner are not those people.
In a first relationship, you should let go of any preconceived notions of what this will be. Let go of #couplegoals. Don’t mimic your relationship after a celebrity couple or cute photos on social media.
You don’t need to spend your holidays together, hold hands, or be together 24/7. This relationship is not your whole life, no matter how much it may feel that way.
A first relationship is just that; a first. You will likely have plenty more to come and if on the odd chance this is your last relationship too, treating it as if isn’t it will be the best way to go about it.
The most important things to know in a first relationship
These are not just the things I wish I knew before my first relationship, but things to know in a first relationship for anyone and everyone. These things will ease the adjustment into a partnership and keep you grounded in your independence while getting involved with someone else.
#1 Your friends are just as important. Sure, your relationship is a priority but not the only one. You also have friends that deserve your attention and respect. Don’t cancel plans with friends for your partner. I know it is hard to be apart from them when feelings are so strong, but your friends matter.
Your friends will be there if you have a fight or breakup. They are part of you too, so don’t forget about them.
#2 You don’t belong to each other. One of the important things to know in a first relationship is that even if you’re committed to each other, it doesn’t mean you belong to each other. You are two people that enjoy time together, but you both have your own likes, dislikes, hobbies, and more.
You don’t have to take on their hobbies nor they, yours. And, you also can’t control them because you’re a couple. Telling them who they can or can’t talk to is not your right. Jealousy and ownership do not come with being in a relationship.
#3 Maintain your own identity. Be sure to find security in yourself outside of the relationship. A first relationship can often become codependent because you both get absorbed into each other. Be sure to focus on what interests you.
Indulge in your hobbies. Make time for yourself. You are not defined by your relationship or your partner.
#4 This doesn’t have to last forever. Even though you give a first relationship a lot of time, thought, and effort, it doesn’t mean it has to last forever. A first relationship is hard to leave, but you learn a lot from it.
Knowing this isn’t necessarily your forever person can help you relax and enjoy the relationship rather than putting pressure on yourselves.
#5 Don’t be afraid to have real conversations. Something I did in my first relationship was overlook things that bothered me. I didn’t want to rustle feathers. I didn’t want to start a fight. What I didn’t realize is that a serious conversation doesn’t have to be a fight.
You can be honest and share how you’re feeling without overreacting. If you push things that bother you aside now, that will become a pattern that ultimately leads to resentment.
#6 Trust yourself. If something feels off to you, trust it. You are in control of your actions. Don’t put all your trust in a first relationship. You don’t have to expect it to end but trust how you feel. If you are growing out of it, that is okay. If you want to take things further, that is okay too.
#7 Maintain your dealbreakers. You may think dealbreakers say that you’re picky, but if there are things you know you can’t compromise on stick to that. Whether you know you want to be with someone that shares your religion or political views or even is a nonsmoker, you don’t have to waiver.
#8 It is okay to vent to others. One of the things to know in a first relationship is that it’s okay to vent. I was so afraid to vent to my friends when my first relationship felt overwhelming. I didn’t want to give them the wrong idea of my partner or our relationship. So, I suffered alone which made me lean on the person hurting me for comfort.
It is important that you have friends and family to talk to. You can rave about your relationship, but be sure to tell the truth. Letting others see what you want them to see can leave you feeling alone in your times of need.
#9 What you want matters. Do not let this relationship override what you want. If you want to go away to school, don’t let your partner or desire for the relationship to influence what you want. If your partner doesn’t support your job or goals, it is okay to let go of them.
Your choices are what define you, not your relationship. [Read: The 16 Next Level Signs She Wants a Serious Relationship with You]
#10 Find balance. This is an ongoing theme when it comes to things to know in a first relationship and for good reason. A first relationship can easily take over your life. I would cancel plans with friends, leave work early, and drop everything for my first relationship. When it ended, it was that much worse because I didn’t have other things in my life.
Be sure your life is balanced between your relationship, friends, family, hobbies, school, and work. These are the things that fill your life. Your relationship should add to your life, not be your life.
#11 Listen to your parents, family, and friends. I know emotions are strong in a first relationship, but listening to the people in your life is important. Try to let go of your opinions and at least hear out your parents and friends.
You may think your parents are trying to ruin your life or your friends are jealous because they don’t approve of the person you’re seeing, but give them a chance. These are the people that have always been there for you and are looking out for you.
So no matter how much it hurts to hear bad things about your relationship, this input could save you a lot of hurt later on.
#12 You don’t have to have sex. Your first relationship does not require sex. You do not need to have sex because you’re in a relationship or in love. If you want to, that is a decision for you and your partner, but it is something you both should agree on.
#13 There is no need to rush. This is a first relationship, so enjoy it. You don’t have to rush to label it, to meet each other’s families, or get super serious. Enjoy getting to know each other. Go on dates. Try not to get comfortable too quickly because the best part of a first relationship is the awkwardness and the butterflies.
#14 Let go of the dream relationship. One of the things to know in a first relationship is that there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. No matter how many cute couple photos you take, there is always more going on behind the camera. Let go of what you imagined your first relationship would be.
Enjoy the present and live in the moment. You don’t need to document every sweet moment you share or hold hands every time you’re in public.
#15 Stop texting. Texting all day every day does not make a relationship happy or successful. You do not need to be talking all day every day. This makes the relationship something your day revolves around. It takes your focus and attention away from family dinners, school, work, and socializing.
You also don’t want to share deep conversations or arguments via text because there is no better way to cause a misunderstanding.
#16 Know how to spot gaslighting and other controlling behaviors. Keep an eye out for red flags. Relationships can seem so lovely and dreamy at first, but manipulation often creeps in. Be on the lookout for a partner trying to control you, invalidate your feelings, or twisting facts.
These things can lead to a dysfunctional relationship that is hard to escape.
#17 Give into being vulnerable. Let yourself be honest. In order to get the most out of this relationship whether it lasts or not, being truly vulnerable will let you really see how you feel and what you want.
Be yourself, not who you think they want or even who you think you’d rather be. When you alter yourself for a first relationship, it becomes a pattern in the future. You start to put on a facade so you don’t get hurt, but this doesn’t prevent pain, just true feelings.
#18 Everyone has a past. Even if this is a first relationship for you, it may not be for them. And my guess is you’ve had feelings for someone else before, even a crush. These things can be hard to let go of. It is in our nature to compare ourselves.
Accept that your partner likely has a past and that past has nothing to do with you.
#19 It doesn’t matter who says, “I love you” first. This is something I used to fixate on, but it truly doesn’t matter. I know there are a lot of myths about who says those three words first, but it doesn’t matter.
You don’t have to hold back from saying out of fear. You also don’t have to say it first for any reason, especially if you aren’t sure of how you feel. Your partner doesn’t need to say it back right away either.
#20 The pain of heartbreak isn’t permanent. The reason you may want to stay in a first relationship is the fear of pain. When you haven’t dealt with a breakup before, you can’t imagine it. But a first relationship often outgrows itself.
It isn’t anyone’s fault, people just grow and change. Remember when and if that time comes that the pain of ending won’t last forever. You will move on.
Remembering these things to know in a first relationship can help you maintain a happy relationship or move on maturely.