Having your first relationship is such a steep learning curve — you’re learning how to be a good partner, you may be having s*x for the first time, you’re dealing with your first relationships fights, and, inevitably, your first breakup. But even after the breakup, it’s not over. Your first relationship has a huge effect on the relationship that come afterward. Exactly how much varies from relationship to relationship — and how long you have between them.
If you’re like me and tend to wait a long time between relationships, then there’s a better chance that — while you’ll still have some old habits and hangups — baggage may be less present and inform your relationship less. My first boyfriend liked Dungeons and Dragons way more than he liked me, and I’m totally over it. (Totally. Tote. A. Ly.)
It also depends how good or bad your first relationship was. If you had a horrible or traumatic relationship, those cuts may feel even deeper and fresher as you go into your next one, so your first relationship is going to carry over with you more. If your first relationship was more a case of just trying to be a grownup, no training wheels, and it sort of fizzled out, it probably own’t have the same hold on you. But it’s always there, to some degree or another.
Here’s how your first relationship shapes all the ones after:
1. It Can Help Form Your “Type”
Whether your first love is a brunette bombshell, a red head, short or tall— it sticks with you. Even if you don’t mean to do it, or actively seek it out, there’s a good chance that you’ll start to seek out similar types. Maybe that type is nerdy brunettes… maybe, possibly.
2. Or Who You Avoid
… or, if it was a seriously bad relationship, there’s a chance that you’ll end up hating brunettes or blondes and avoiding them for no good reason. Relationships can leave a bad taste in your mouth, bad enough to avoid anything that looks remotely similar.
3. Your Learn Good And Bad Habits
The first time you’re in a relationship is really formative — you learn how relationships work. Or at least you think you do. The good and the bad habits you form during your first relationship are hard to shake. If you learn how to listen and be supportive, that’s great, but if every tiny disagreement turns into a massive fight, so you just stop communicating, then you learn that habit too, and it can be really damaging for future relationships. You have to be sure to take the positive into your future relationships, but be willing to let go of bad habits.
4. You Start Seeing Things That Aren’t There
If your first relationship had some major problems — if your partner cheated or they were controlling — you can be hyper-sensitive to that in your future relationships. Which makes sense, it’s a good self-protection mechanism. But you can also start to see that when it’s not actually happening. You’re so upset by what went wrong in your first relationship that part of you is always on the lookout for it happening again. Just make sure that it as actually happening and try to give your partner the benefit of the doubt.
5. You Get Used To S*x A Certain Way
Whether or not it’s your first s*xual partner, the first time you have s** in a relationship is a big one. Having regular s** with the same person means (or should mean) that you start to learn what you really want and love in bed. But you also just get really used to that person’s s*x style. This means in your next relationship you’ll have to forget the go-to moves your first partner loved, and really pay attention to what your new partner likes.
6. You Learn Whether Relationships Are For You
The truth is, you may not be a relationship person. And sometimes it takes trying one to know that. You may have one and decide it’s not for you. Or you may have one and decide that they are for you, but you need a lot of independence to make them work. A first relationship is a chance to work out your own relationship style, which makes knowing what you want in future relationship so much easier. You know your own ground rules, and it saves you a lot of time and heartache.
Want more of Bustle’s S*x and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.