What I learned the hard way about relationships

I’m 25 and have only been in one relationship. But in the eleven years that I’ve spent with my one and only boyfriend, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Though we’re both happy in the relationship and feel that we’ve reached a healthy point in our partnership, those eleven years were pretty bumpy. People somehow think that we’ve managed to avoid relationship potholes, but we’ve fallen in them too, and had bumps and bruises on the way back up.

I met my boyfriend in high school and we started dating when we were both 15. Looking back, we were so young — almost too young to date so seriously. Despite that, our relationship started off well. We weren’t just dating, we were best friends. We were attached at the hip, if you will.

I wasn’t honest about how I felt

I prided myself on not being “the petty girlfriend.” I never snapped at him for not calling “when he was supposed to,” I never demanded that he see me every Saturday, and I never scolded him for not saying “I love you” enough. While it’s true I never did those things specifically, I did cry about them a lot.

I cried when he didn’t have time to call me due to his homework load or going out with his friends, and I bawled when he couldn’t see me every Saturday due to a family event. I said “I love you” probably 3 times per minute, repeating it subtly when he didn’t reply. Looking back, I still thought I was a good girlfriend because I didn’t get angry about this stuff, but I had no idea how manipulative I was being by getting overly upset and entitled about it. And really, it was because we weren’t actually communicating—I said what I thought he wanted to hear, but I really wanted him to be around Saturday. So naturally, it was a web of upset and confusion. By trying to avoid being a clingy, over-emotional girlfriend, I tricked myself into being just that—by not being honest with myself or my partner.

I didn’t trust my partner

My boyfriend and I shared all our secrets. I think honesty, to a point, is crucial for a healthy relationship. but what wasn’t key, or healthy, was just how seriously I took that 100% honesty dictate. So I snooped. In fact, I ended up hacking into his Bebo account. I went there.

Being young and in love, and low on the self-esteem scale, I got it into my mind that his friends hated me. So for some reason, since we knew each other’s passwords online, I logged into his profile. I read his latest messages between him and his friends, and again cried my eyes out. Not because of what was in them, but because of guilt, and a sickly feeling in my gut that I was destroying the relationship.

Here’s the thing: Honesty is important. But more important than that is trust. Even in a serious romantic relationship, you’re allowed to have privacy and separate lives. In fact, it’s pretty crucial that both of you get to operate in your own realms, a little bit.

I assumed we were in the same place instead of talking about it.

From only around three months in I spoke about how I wanted him to propose to me (he even bought me a Claire’s Accessories pre-engagement ring after I hinted over and over about it,) how we’d move to Canada at age 18, and so many other unbelievable and naive things I look back on with heavy cringing.

It’s totally OK to get caught up in the moment. But it’s also ok to take your time and talk about it. There’s no such thing as moving too fast if you are both totally into it. But if you’re assuming that you’re going one place and the other person…isn’t, so much? Then it’s a problem.

I still want to get married, but I know now that it doesn’t have to happen tomorrow. It should be something we’re both equally all in for. I soon realized that my life didn’t and shouldn’t revolve around him to such a deep degree, and that our future had to take a step back for the sake of the present.

Years later I’d learn my boyfriend was kinda freaked out by my speed. He was just a kid! Like I was. I have sympathy for my former self—she was just excited! And high school is hard!—but now I realize that it’s OK to take it slower.

At the very least I got those things out of my system, and learned from them. We of course have ups and downs like anybody else, but no one is obsessively calling or hacking into any accounts anymore! Now I know that we are two independent people who deserve to have their alone time, their (online and offline) privacy, and their freedom to point out any part of our relationship that makes us uncomfortable.

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