It could be because you simply haven’t found someone worth pursuing. It could be because nerves or insecurities have gotten in the way of putting yourself on the line and asking someone out. It could be because you’ve merely prioritized your education, career, or other aspects of life over romance. Whatever your reason, you've never been in a relationship — and you should know this: it’s totally OK. There is nothing wrong with you. And despite what you may have been led to believe, there is no “normal” age to have your first relationship, just as there is no normal time to discover your true calling, or get your passport, or start a family.
That said, it’s also natural to feel a tad frustrated or insecure. You’ve watched friends pair off, you’ve listened to them gush about their SOs, and you’ve probably played the role of third wheel more times than you can count. Meanwhile, a slew of questions keep popping up in your head. Why is it taking so long? Will you ever find someone that’s right for you? How will your lack of experience be perceived while dating? If you find yourself feeling uneasy about the fact that you’ve never had a relationship, here are some things to keep in mind.
Focus on what you do have.
It's so important to remember that experience is not the only thing that makes you a quality partner. Licensed clinical social worker Melanie Shapiro says that instead of focusing on what you don’t have (which is particularly destructive when embarking on your first relationship), focus on what you do have. “Both partners should be interested in getting to know each out and what you do bring to the relationship,” she explained. “And furthermore, if you start to focus on the negatives and things you don’t bring to the relationship it’s just not productive to building a healthy, happy relationship.”
If you can, make a list of all the things you bring to the table, whether it’s your impressive cooking chops bound to woo any date or your compassionate nature that makes you a stellar listener. Focusing on everything you have to offer in relationships will help you to avoid any negative self-talk regarding your lack of romantic experience (which is completely trivial in comparison to all your traits and talents that will likely serve you well).
Everyone has their own baggage.
Guess what? Even people who have had relationships have their own insecurities that come into play while dating.
“Everyone has something they are nervous about when starting a new relationship,” says Shapiro. “Perhaps a ‘late bloomer’ has anxiety about having less experience but it’s possible that his/her partner is anxious about something totally different. Both fears are equally valid, and completely normal to experience when one lets their guard down and starts to allow someone new into their lives.”
So remember: While you may be worried about your experience level, others have their own fears that may stem from their past relationships. So honestly, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve had zero relationships or ten — we all have some baggage in tow.
You've developed a strong sense of self.
There are a lot of benefits to being single — one of the major perks being that you have a lot of time to focus on your own needs, desires, and overall self-growth. Without having to be there for a romantic partner, you’ve been able to hone in on what makes you happy and helps you to thrive (as well as what you struggle with or fear). And it’s often said that you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.
“If you are a ‘late bloomer’ it means that you’ve been able to dedicate more time to developing your own likes, interests, and sense of self,” says Shapiro. “This is actually really helpful when you do enter into relationships — you are better able to set boundaries, stand up for yourself and pick partners that appreciate your worth.”
While we can learn much about ourselves in relationships, sometimes the lessons we learn about ourselves on our own are just as valuable. Don’t discount all of the amazing self-discoveries you’ve made through work, school, friendships, traveling, and even hobbies. All of this will come in handy, whether you ultimately decide to have a serious relationship or not.
Your independence will serve you well.
The fact that you’ve been totally OK on your own means you’re likely a highly independent person — and that can actually be immensely advantageous, both in your personal life and in your potential relationships. The fact that you don't need someone else to "complete" you means you're more likely to form healthy bonds.
“This can be helpful in establishing secure attachments and not feel reliant on a partner to feel good about yourself,” explains Shapiro. “And, it can make a relationship stronger when both individuals feel secure enough to have different interests, friends, experiences and know that the relationship is about each other rather than just what interests, experiences, etc. are shared.”
It’s worth noting that independence is also an incredibly attractive quality. So next time you’re feeling a little self-conscious about your lack of relationships, remember that prospective dates will likely find your self-reliance to be super hot.
Hopefully, keeping these things in mind will help you to remember the positive aspects of being a so-called "late bloomer." If you’re still feeling insecure about your lack of experience, however, Shapiro recommends either talking to a therapist to help normalize your fears or reading a book that provides some psychoeducation.
“Reading and learning about relationship models can provide extra support and give you the tools to build with kind of relationship you want,” she added.
If you’re feeling nervous about embarking on your first relationship, Shapiro advises being as open and honest about it as possible.
“If your new potential partner judges you about this, then they are not the right person for you,” she says. “The right person will appreciate this and even think it’s special that you are picking them to have this new experience with.”
Guess what? Falling for someone and deciding to commit to them is not something we can force or make happen on our own ideal timeline. Ultimately, your first relationship — should you choose to have one — will happen when the timing is right for you. In the meantime, focus on all of the things that make you unique and lovable as an individual. Trust me, those things will matter far more to any future partner than your level of experience ever could.
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