9 Dumb mistakes everyone makes in their first relationship
Ah, young love. Is there anything like it? If you're talking about the giddy, unsustainable highs and crushing lows that come with being in love at the age of 17, then no. And that's almost definitely a good thing. As teenagers, there are many of us who dream of marrying their high school sweetheart, but nowadays, that only accounts for two percent of marriages across the United States. There are many reasons for that.
Sometimes, you just drift apart. Other times, the raging hormones coursing through your body subside over time, and that fiery passion you once had for your beloved just fizzles out. More often than not, though, you'll screw it up, because you're a dumb teenager who does dumb things. Don't worry, you're not alone; here are some classic traps your horny, hormone-addled teenage brain has probably fallen for in the past. If you're still pretty young and are waiting for your first relationship, maybe you could learn a thing or two.
1. Taking the very first opportunity that comes along
This is especially common in shy/lonely teenagers, who latch on for dear life to anyone who pays them attention. Unfortunately, if one of these crushes goes through to the relationship phase, it can get pretty ugly and toxic. As you truly don’t believe you’ll find anybody better, you’ll fold frequently on things you otherwise wouldn't, and eventually, they'll start to take advantage of you. Even worse, you'll hold onto them as your relationship slowly withers away, and they'll eventually move on, leaving you feeling way worse than you really need to. Don’t worry: you will move on, and you’ll learn to pick and choose who’s good for you rather than saying yes to whoever’ll fancy you. Which brings me quite nicely onto my next point.
2. Looking for the wrong things
As adults, all of us singletons have a moderately decent idea of what we’re looking for in a partner. That’s based on previous relationships, and hopefully having a better idea of what your deal breakers are. The first time, your budding relationship is more often than not built on an ideal not only of the other person, but why that person’s character traits are suitable for you. As a quiet, thoughtful, old soul, I used to be attracted to high-energy, bubbly, larger-than-life characters as a kind of counterbalance to my characteristics, but after a while, I really just wanted to take naps all the time. “Opposites attract” is a pretty romantic notion, but it takes a couple of relationships before you realise that “we’ve got nothing in common, that’s what makes our relationship so great!” is a pretty insane statement to make.
3. Misinterpreting the signals
So, how do we know what to look for? Simple: you just look for the person who gives you the “butterflies”; the tingly feeling in the pit of your stomach that only ever comes around when you’re near to someone you love. Or on stage in front of hundreds of people. Or when you realise you’ve forgotten your homework. Uh, yeah. That feeling is not love. That’s an anxiety response: it will take a few different people before you realise your body isn’t telling you “this is the boy/girl you love!”: it’s telling you “this is the person who might emotionally destroy you one day!” It’s a danger warning. As time goes on, you’ll look for the person who brings out the exact opposite reaction: someone who makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, like you’ve just downed an entire mug of hot cocoa. Without the horrific, painful throat burns, hopefully.
No, I’m not talking about with your partner. The whole point of having a relationship is that you get the best kind of emotional support, and if you don’t feel like you can share everything with your partner, then why are you together? Being able to tell your previous special people about dumb, embarrassing stuff you did in the past and having them accept you for it is a rush I imagine is fairly similar to taking heroin. I’m talking about the people around your relationship; every time you have a fight with your girlfriend or boyfriend and complain about them to your friends, siblings or even your parents, you’re affecting that loved one’s perception of your SO. If you’re having a problem with your bae, talk it out with them; all the minutae of your relationship doesn’t need to be aired out, like underwear worn three days in a row. By the way, don’t wear your underwear three days in a row. That’s pretty disgusting.
5. Failing to be yourself
This one seems pretty obvious, especially if you’re older, but when you have a crush on someone as a youngster, the temptation is to find out what kind of guy or girl they like, and then unceremoniously become that person. You might think of yourself as a romantic chameleon, changing your colour and constitution to fit your surroundings, but in reality, you're murdering Harry Styles and disguising yourself in his liberated skin, all because you heard the object of your affections kind of liked that One Direction song. On the rare occasion this works, you’re now in the unenviable boat of having to keep up this insane act for fear of abandonment. Extending the metaphor, Harry Styles’ skin is now rotting away (as human flesh tends to do), and as time goes on, it’ll get harder and harder to explain the smell and the flies. Next time, you’ll hopefully remember that authenticity is just as important as the flayed skin of several boy band members. Even more important, perhaps.
6. Communicating awfully
Just because you’re in the throes of young love doesn’t mean you won’t disagree. If anything, the disagreements are worse, and are over dumber things; I hope to never again hear “If you loved me, you’d show up to my friend’s party” as long as I live. This is a pickle that destroys many a loving couple, and your lack of emotional maturity will probably end up with you sending passive-aggressive messages on social media. Looking back, I still cringe at some of the insane stuff I used to (quite frequently) post, and I’m sure you do too. Just talk about what’s bothering you; they’ll try to understand, and both of you can move forward knowing a little bit more about one another. It’s not a lesson you’ll learn right away, and that’s okay.
7. Caring too much about what everyone else thinks
This point is kind of connected to my earlier one about knowing what you really want in a relationship. Sometimes, you stumble across something pretty good by accident, but despite you being really happy, your friends don’t think he or she is attractive enough. Maybe it’s the opposite, and their friends think that they’re way out of your league. Or maybe something they did that you’re completely fine with has been deemed a dealbreaker who don’t know the ins and outs of your coupling. So, you dump them, and go for someone more suitable for everyone else’s needs, conveniently forgetting about yours. Cue immediate regret, and the concept of “the one that got away”. You’re never going to let that happen again.
8. Moving too quickly
The first time you kiss someone (and work out exactly what to do with your limp mouth and confused tongue), it’s an experience that will only be rivalled by the birth of your children and getting to watch Memento for the first time. As a result, you, like many before you, got carried right the f*** away. You said you loved them after maybe two weeks of dating. You discussed whether or not to hyphenate your eventual children’s names. More dangerously, though, you threw yourself into doing stuff you perhaps would hold back on, had you thought about it rationally (which, of course, is impossible). Take it from me: the worst place to be when you realise that you’re not quite comfortable doing what you’re doing is “several inches inside your significant other”.
9. Assuming it’ll last forever
Okay, childhood sweethearts; I can hear you typing furiously to tell me how wrong I am, how your relationship is still going strong years, even decades later. First of all, congratulations, you’re actually one of a very rare breed. Secondly, how did you get to this point? Was it hard, painful emotional work each and every day? Or, less likely, was it the staunch belief that you were meant to be? For many ridiculous reasons, we like to think that each and every one of us has a soulmate who completes us; that from the moment we meet them, it’s all about love. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance it didn’t last forever, and when things came to an unceremonious end, it destroyed you. Because you weren’t expecting it to. You weren’t even entertaining the idea. I think the best way to approach a relationship is not with the expectation that it’ll last forever, and see just how far your natural chemistry takes you. Anything else is just too much pressure, and that pressure stacks the already-overwhelming odds firmly against you.
That was an interesting trip to our relationship graveyards, wasn’t it? I know they say that “tis better to have loved and lost than never loved at all”, but if you ask me, that’s only kind of true. Losing that first love is an emotional challenge up there with losing your parents or experiencing true failure for the first time, but you’ll pick yourself up eventually, and it will lead the way towards unprecedented personal growth.
When you do, you’ll realise that you’re not alone, and that the screwups you made will be made by idiot boyfriends and girlfriends until the heat death of the universe. Or, until we learn to reproduce asexually, rendering all this dating nonsense obsolete. Whichever comes first.