My first relationship was anything but perfect. We were from two very different backgrounds, and wanted completely different things.
Despite our flaws, it still remains to this day my longest relationship and my first serious venture into what true commitment meant.
When we broke up, it was easy for me to distance myself from the relationship by writing it all off as a failure. Looking back now, I see that wasn't totally accurate. I learned a few solid lessons about love from the three years we spent together, and they still hold true for me today.
1. Sometimes Love Takes Awhile
By the time I entered my first relationship, I had already graduated high school, turned 21, and was on my way to finishing up college.
To this day, I still have conflicted feelings over not dating sooner or whether I missed out on having a serious high school or undergraduate boo, but it meant that by the time my boyfriend came around, I was definitely ready to date.
Even when we met, though, we didn't get together right away. We saw each other casually for almost six months before we made it official.
But when you're really ready to be with someone, then it doesn't actually matter when you get together — especially if you're looking for something that's going to last. What's a month or two delay when you both are committed to spending the foreseeable future together?
I think — at least when it comes to love — patience pays off.
2. Love Shouldn't Be Embarrassed Of You
When my boyfriend and I first got together, I was actually about to go to New York. We were long distance for a little while, and then when I moved back to town to be with him, I needed a place to stay. We ended up living together for a summer.
My boyfriend was from a pretty religious family. His dad was a preacher. They weren't the kind of family who thought people should share the same space before getting married, and their attitude towards sex was squeamish at best.
Although our lifestyle at the time wasn't really in line with what his parents thought was best, when they came to town, he definitely didn't hide all of my stuff and have me pretend I wasn't living there. When they invited him out to lunch, he also definitely invited me along, too. When we went to visit them, even though they preferred us to sleep in separate rooms, he insisted that he was an adult and could make his own decisions, and asked them to respect him.
I'm kidding. He did the opposite of all of that. And there was definitely a lesson in there.
3. Love Will Make Room For You
I'm nostalgic about almost everything except for my first relationship. If I'm being honest, I'd tell you I was relieved when it was over and the relationship wasn't healthy for a lot of reasons. There. Now I've gotten that off of my chest.
Despite his flaws, my first boyfriend definitely made space in his life for me. I was never turned away from his house, and was always the first one he checked in with about plans. There was never a time when I wouldn't be invited along if he wanted to go out with his friends, and I could count on him to take care of my cat when I went out of town.
This hasn't been the case for everyone I have dated, especially not when the fear of intimacy comes in. I commend my first boyfriend for letting me into his life that much. At the time, I don't think I knew how brave he was being.
4. Love Isn't Possessive
Although my boyfriend always made space in his life for me, I can't say that always went both ways. It wasn't that I didn't want him around — I did. But sometimes I also just wanted to talk or hang out with my girl friends, or go out by myself.
Here's another lesson I learned when somebody did the opposite. My boyfriend wasn't really great about giving me my own space.
Now, there's a fine line to walk between being involved in someone's life and smothering them, and both of us were still pretty young in the grand scheme of things. I'm sure we both would have done some things differently in our relationship.
Whereas I didn't really worry if he spent a night hanging out with his buddies alone, he became concerned if I wanted to spend time with my friends by myself. He thought there was something wrong with me for not really caring whether or not he became close to my friends, and he was worried about me meeting someone or sleeping around.
I didn't have enough experience at the time to understand why that didn't sit well with me. Now, it turns out, learning that love shouldn't make you possessive of another person's body, life, or sexuality isn't something my first boyfriend taught me. It's something I learned from that relationship, for me.
5. Love Will Surprise You
The best moment of my relationship? When my boyfriend showed up in New York unannounced to spend my birthday weekend with me.
Oh, wait. Maybe that was me, showing up on his door to surprise him one weekend.
Another time, he did buy and assemble a bookcase for me completely out of the blue.
I think one of the most important things in a relationship is for two people to be able to keep one another on their toes. I don't mean being flighty about whether or not you're going to show up or if your relationship is going to last until the next week. There needs to be a sense of stability.
Still, in my experience, love thrives best when you don't see something coming.
A few years into our relationship, we settled into a routine way before I was ready. I knew my boyfriend inside and out, and how we operated together. When you're that young, and the surprises aren't coming anymore, you start to find ways to stir things up. Hard as it is, splitting up is one of them.
But even when that's happened, you know what's the most surprising thing about love by far?
It keeps coming back.