Recently my boyfriend and I celebrated one year together. We ended our Saturday in his favorite local bar. It’s the one we could walk to from his house despite the dropping degrees. We sat in one of the tiny booths that can barely fit four grown adults. It’s why he loves it—the inherent intimacy.
It’s not fair.
That your first relationship is this. It’s not fair to me or my friends or anyone else who has had their hearts broken.
Aww, sorry, I missed the part where we were supposed to break up. We can take a break if you want.
No, no. I don’t want that. But someone’s first relationship shouldn’t be successful!
I got lucky with you!
He was joking, smiling, and laughing all through this exchange. But it stayed with me. We dove back into the future —what we were looking forward to, want in the next year, and all the years after.
My mind keeps circling back to this moment. He wasn’t wrong. It’s not fair I’ve never gone through a breakup when so many have had their hearts crushed.
I’m not naive enough to think things still couldn’t go off the rails. We’re only a year into our relationship. But I’m in it for the long-haul, and so is he. How did I manage to get a potential life partner my first go at a relationship?
I was single for thirty years. While I dated plenty, I never landed in a relationship. I wasn’t looking to avoid heartbreak. And it’s not like the years of crushes, unrequited love, or deep loneliness didn’t take its toll on my heart. Yet I never had the breakup—the devastating can barely eat and always crying and returning items to a former lover experience.
I don’t want it, not if it means things not working with my boyfriend. I’d very much like to keep him. It does feel like I missed out on a touchstone experience everyone has had, like I’m missing a marker on the map of love.
Either that or I’ve discovered a wisdom few find.
Some people aren’t looking for committed relationships, monogamy, or a life-long partner. That is entirely legitimate. For those who are, here are my insights to getting it right in my first relationship. Apply them as needed to whatever stage of life and dating you are in. Because I’m willing to bet most of you are past your first relationship, and that is just as beautiful of a journey.
Finding my boyfriend when I did is pure luck. Or serendipity or divine intervention. Whichever you believe, a bit of chance is at play in all of life’s turning points. Any advice I share will never take away this element. Having your eyes open to luck at work is the key. That you can control.
Don’t Avoid Heartbreak
Not once did I skip a chance at a relationship for fear of eventually breaking up. The reasons I didn’t have a boyfriend until now are varied and complex. Avoiding heartbreak wasn’t one of them. Instead, I aimed for something—a successful relationship with a life partner where love and healing could thrive. Avoiding or aiming are two different thought processes that significantly impact your life.
Our thought lives steer us. If your mind is focused on fears and pain (even if it’s to avoid), you will move toward those. If your mind is focused on love and healing, you’ll move toward those. Think more about what you want, not what you don’t want. Focus your mind well.
Have Your Requisites
To hit a bullseye, you must know how to aim. The same concept applies to dating. Aim for clear goals while searching for a partner. I had a list of requisites on which I would not compromise—same faith, same goals for the relationship, same ideas on a future. This list was different from “things that would be great.” If he didn’t like Harry Potter, I would give him a hard time. If he didn’t want to get married, it was a hard pass. Find your list of requisites and stick to them.
Know and Love Yourself
Many people discover who they are through a string of relationships and heartbreak. This is a good way to find yourself. Yet, it is possible to find out who you are in all your strengths and failings outside of this process. I did. I can stare unblinkingly at who I am because of my long, hard years of singleness. I’ve had to spend a lot of time with just me. I love myself not out of ignorance toward my faults but in full awareness of them.
I can’t imagine going through that process while trying to unconditionally love another person. I tip my hat to you if you have. But don’t give in to the pressure that it can only happen in a relationship. If you find yourself struggling to know who you are, list your faults (we all have them), and love yourself, maybe spend some time alone for a change. Put the work into yourself that you would typically give a relationship. Take personality tests, read those books you’ve put off, ask your friends hard questions about how you operate. Learn who you are and then fall in love with that person.
My boyfriend required this time alone as much as I did. We actually matched on an app in 2018. It was a week of amazing connection. Then he disappeared. We matched again in the fall of 2019. I didn’t remember him. He remembered me, though. It was the same amazing connection. He told me about previously matching after our second date. He had the screenshot of the 2018 match to prove it. It jogged my memory, and my goodness, it was him!
He had been in relationships his whole life without really knowing himself. It led to a cycle of heartbreak. He rage deleted the app in 2018, fell into another relationship in this cycle, and realized he needed to discover himself after that breakup. He spent months and months learning who he is outside a relationship and how to care for himself. He put himself back out there after long term near isolation. That was when we met again.
We’re both convinced it wouldn’t have worked out in 2018. He was stuck in those negative cycles. He didn’t know himself, his faults, or how to love the person he already was.
The self-discovery process doesn’t end. And there will come a time when growing alongside someone might be what you need. It’s all in lucky timing, and it took both of us being independent adults with goals to grow a love together that can last.
Here’s to a relationship that lasts for us all.