By Liz Reddinger
Our first loves can be one of our greatest teachers; mine was no exception. These are a few of the most valuable lessons I learned from three years of a life-changing relationship for which I am eternally grateful.
I’m capable of being loved.
I was out on the town, exploring Boston’s nightlife with my best friend during my first weekend of officially being 21. Finding my first love was quite possibly the furthest thing from my mind.
But yet, there he was, in the same bar I happened to stumble into. We noticed each other instantly. His eyes followed my every move and I began to rack my brain thinking of what could be wrong with me that was causing him to stare so intensely. Did I have something in my teeth? Was my hair okay? Maybe this dress wasn’t the right choice after all?
As it turned out, nothing was wrong. In fact, the handsome Brazilian guy who was my soon-to-be boyfriend was attracted to me and wanted to get to know me better. As mind-boggling as this was since nobody had ever taken interest in me like that before, I chose to let him in over time. And to my dismay, he stayed.
Not once when I revealed my most vulnerable side did he dart out the door like I imagined he would. The beautiful thing about your first relationship is in learning how to let your guard down and trust someone with your full self (the good, the bad, and the ugly). It’s in learning the strength that comes through vulnerability and that even the darkest parts of you are lovable.
Relationships teach you more about yourself than they do your partner.
This was perhaps the biggest surprise to me. I spent so much time fantasizing about what it would be like to learn about someone new, that I never realized how much being in a relationship would teach me about myself.
I discovered that I’m incredibly patient, kind, supportive, strong, and loving. I also realized that insecurities are not only self-destructive, but a recipe for disaster in relationships. Relationships constantly force you to face the unhealed parts of yourself, and if you ignore them, they will keep rearing their nasty little heads in every situation you encounter together. Ultimately, the more love and respect you have for yourself, the healthier your relationship will be.
I also came to understand the importance of being fully present. We were at our best when I simply appreciated and loved him in the moment. We were at our worst when my focus was on past disagreements or on the future and working towards the fantasy of forever, which leads me to my next epiphany.
A relationship doesn’t need to last forever in order to have served its purpose.
I wish somebody had told me the truth about relationships: that most do not last because they simply are not meant to. Sometimes meaningful and worthwhile bonds show up in your life to teach you what you are ready to learn, and when there’s nothing left to discover, you move on, and that’s perfectly okay.
Knowing that would have saved me from a lot of heartbreak. Months passed before I realized the truth: our relationship wasn’t a failure because it ended. In fact, it was hugely successful because it helped me to grow.
People come in and out of our lives for a reason, but the forever that lasts in love isn’t necessarily the relationship itself. Rather, it’s the permanent impact from which you both benefit, the places in yourselves you were both challenged to confront and heal, and the lessons learned that make you all the wiser.