When you think of your early life, it’s hard not to bring up relationships, whether they’re good or bad. They all seem to teach you a little something about yourself and a little bit about the world around you.

I had my first relationship when I was in high school. It was with a guy that I was best friends with for about 3 years and it was pretty much the epitome of a romantic comedy, where both friends realized that they wanted to be together and it just magically happened and worked out so well for the duration of the relationship. Fast forward to 10 months later and a whirlwind of emotions, we broke up and I was devastated. However, over time, I became comfortable with getting to know myself again and putting myself first. 

I would not have another relationship again until I was 23, so roughly about 7-8 years later. Blame that on not finding the right person, blame it on me friend-zoning almost every guy I came into contact with, whatever you want to think but that’s pretty much how I was. I was almost doubtful of me finding someone but in my final year of undergraduate studies, I came face-to-face with the possibility of having a relationship and its course skewed very differently than I was expecting. I didn’t know what I wanted to get out of this courtship or even how to approach it because it had so much of a different experience as compared to my first one. This guy was dramatically different than my first one, who was basically my best friend and in those months pretty much the only person I wanted to spend time with. Now, I know that your first love is supposed to be a special thing and it was, no doubt about it but it doesn’t prepare you for the adult relationships that I’ve since encountered.

Being single for as long as I was reshaped my mindset into being “I don’t really need someone around like that”. And, that’s not necessarily a good thing. I became almost too picky when it came to guys and forced myself to emotionally detach from people that I didn’t feel interested in. But, overtime, I noticed that wasn’t helping me in any way so in the beginning of my last year of college, this new mindset was my best friend and would lead me to my second “kinda” relationship. 

My second (I wouldn’t even call it a relationship) guy that I genuinely liked was the type of person to go weeks without seeing me, texting me, etc. and I thought that was normal. We connected so well when we first met and we both knew it was there, but, as time went on, I felt less and less valuable and more like a good copout for his drunk shenanigans. I felt used, under-appreciated, and just powerless and this is coming from someone who usually likes to be in control of how things pan out.

I noticed this in about the fourth or fifth month of us “seeing” each other and slowly, started making a point not to go out of my way for him and it worked out because that situation wasn’t the best for me in the end. 

About 6 months later is when I found my boyfriend now. And like so many other people in the dating universe, we met through an app. Funny enough, I was super against it but as I got to know him, I thought he was a great guy and wanted to spend more time with me. Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy our time together or how things are going, but this is the first “adult” relationship I had. I haven’t had to answer to anybody or really think about my boyfriend’s feelings because I’ve just not been in that type of situation to have to do it. It’s weird getting texts throughout the day from the same person that isn’t just your friend and it took some getting used to and now, it’s a routine. But, there are always times where I doubt if I deserve this kind of relationship or try to compare it to my other friends’ relationships. I know it’s a completely new experience but it begs the question: am I doing this right? This is a relationship that involves intimacy, care for one another, respect for boundaries, understanding, balance for work-life, friends, etc. It is the kind of relationship that forces you to be an adult, forces you to really build yourself a life and makes you a better person to be with. We’re about 5 months in now and it’s still going well, but there are often times where I have insecurities about myself and worrying about rocking the boat. But, at the end of the day, I’ve learned that communication is key and that letting something stay inside can only hurt not help the relationship. 

I’ve learned most importantly though out of all these experiences to put MYSELF first. Don’t revolve around the life of the other person because they want to have a life of their own that might not include you, and you have to be okay with that. Whether it’s a night out with the boys or he’s spending time with his family, it’s important to have independence whether that’s socially, financially, emotionally, etc. And somehow, from being single and independent, I learned to make a life for myself where my boyfriend can respect my needs and desires and support me to be the best version of myself for him and for the other people I surround myself with.