BY REBECCA COOPER
I often wish I could go back to 16 years old and do much of my life over, but I would want the knowledge I have gained in the past 37 years. That would be the stipulation for sure. The reason I think that 16 is a good place to start over is because that is when I started dating my first boyfriend, and if I had taken note of his behavior and mine, it would’ve saved me some time in choosing future significant others. So what do we learn, or should we learn from our first relationship? I am so glad you asked!
My first relationship was not the greatest; however, I stayed in it for four years. I thought I was lucky to have him mainly because all my friends said I was, but they didn’t see what he was like behind closed doors. He had a temper, a very dysfunctional family, a volatile relationship with his dad, and two jealous sisters. I look back now and think, ‘You’re worth so much more than he gave you.’ The only way I can settle with myself the way I allowed myself to be treated is by knowing what I learned.
Only You Can Define Yourself
Unfortunately, I thought that my boyfriend and being ‘his’ defined me. I lost my identity and became ‘his girlfriend.’ I needed more confidence in myself before even thinking about dating. I needed to see that I had an identity before I met him, and it wasn’t right for me to lose that while we were dating.
Never Neglect Your Family and Friends for the Sake of Dating
When you start a new relationship, you tend to focus completely on your new mate, and everyone else falls to the wayside. A great way to lose friends is to ditch them when you find a new person to date. Remember, your family and friends were there first, long before this supposed love of your life came on the scene. At 16, I became all-consumed by my boyfriend and didn’t spend any time with my friends and I so regret that.
Happily Ever After Rarely Come from High School Relationships
It is hard to understand when you are young and ‘in love’ that many of those butterflies are hormones when you see your sweetheart. You think ‘no one will ever love me and make me as happy as I am now, so I know this is my happily ever after.’ The numbers are against you in making it from high school to your 50th anniversary. Your brain is still maturing and looking at your relationship in your youth as a lesson is a good thing to do, but hard at the time.
You Deserve Respect…. Especially From Yourself!
When you are young, you tend to tolerate more than you do as you age. My first boyfriend missed Valentine’s Day one year due to a fraternity party. He came home from college the following day, with candy he bought on sale, and when I offered my two cents worth on how I was more important than a frat party, that box of candy came sailing at my head, hitting my parents’ basement door. That wasn’t a good move for him, but it wasn’t for me either because I felt I brought the situation on and his reaction was expected. I deserved respect from him, but I also needed to respect myself and know I did nothing to warrant that treatment.
No One Owns Another Person
Being in a relationship, no matter your age, doesn’t mean that you lose all sense of self. You have to keep your own interests and friends; realize your mate needs to have their time to do things on their own, too. Time together is important, but every waking moment, like I did at 16, isn’t healthy, mentally, or physically.
Use This As a Learning Tool
It’s not impossible that you will settle down and build a life with your high school sweetheart, just not probable. But if you don’t make it through life together, you can use it as a learning tool. Look at what went right and what went wrong along the relationship. What could I have done better? What should I not have tolerated? Remember, you can only control yourself and how you exit and grow from any relationship. Stay healthy, mentally, and physically!