My First-Ever Relationship Came at 25

Everyone’s looking for love, and we seem to look for it younger and younger all the time. That’s not to say that relationships are beginning between, say, five-year-olds. But certainly, at five years old, we are already priming ourselves for meeting tall handsome strangers and falling in love.

Don’t worry, this isn’t another article bashing the Disney Princesses, nor the little girls wanting to be Disney Princesses. I’m just saying that this romance-addicted wallflower didn’t have a real relationship until her mid-twenties.

I’d always wanted a relationship, but I never really looked for one. I think I only started actually looking because I was twenty-four and had never been kissed. Experiencing love in more ways than mere distant pining sounded very nice too.

Long story short, I was terrible at the online dating game—in the sense that I was overeager. A “like” on my profile presented the thrilling possibility of a boyfriend. For a whole year, I made connections with some “likes,” but it stayed generic and polite. Luckily, my relentless optimism—or, I suppose, my inner Mary Katherine Gallagher—kept me going.

Imagine my surprise when one night, in late October 2018, I instant-messaged one guy for over seven hours, and by the end of it, we had exchanged numbers.

For context, I’d talked here and there with guys all across my school years. But I can’t remember having intimate conversations like this new guy and I did. After just a few weeks, I could touch his shoulder with ease, or not feel embarrassed when I laughed so hard I snorted. I could honestly, and very easily, call this guy my friend.

By the time we’d confessed our feelings, had our first kiss, our first cuddle, all that constitutes a relationship, I was twenty-five. I was not a teenager full of hormones and visions of forever—I was a working adult who could only take things one day at a time.

My boyfriend and I lived fifty minutes apart, so any sudden SOSs were answered with, “Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie,” rather than “Want me to come over?” Which was fine—the distance couldn’t be helped—but it wasn’t what I imagined my first relationship to be.

Being twenty-five also meant having my own apartment. So if I wanted sex, there were no parents or siblings to sneak around. Except, if I actually did have sex, then I was responsible for the consequences. Many times, I was desperate to feel the next realm of pleasure with this man I cared so much for, but the risks of sex shouted much too loud for me to ever do it.

And even with all that sexual desire, I could never fully say I was in love with this man. I kept weighing my feelings, but I never felt that forever vibe. After we eventually broke up, I remember feeling profoundly sad that I didn’t feel that. Wasn’t that how your first love was supposed to be? We never fought over stupid things and we communicated our needs relatively well. So why didn’t I feel like I would be with him for good?

I do sometimes wonder if my first relationship had happened when I was, say fifteen, rather than twenty-five. If I could have driven five or ten minutes to see him, done homework and talked gossip and nonsense with him—really felt that forever was just another possibility in our wide-open futures.

True, teenage relationships can feel great, but they are also full of awkward trial and error. You’re not good communicators, and your worldly perspective is not the most mature, which, you know, is just being a teenager. I had observed and learned enough about relationships to be prepared for them (more or less) by the time my first one happened.

All right, so maybe my first relationship wasn’t the wild, dramatic, or even awkward, stuff of romantic lore, but I am still glad it happened. Regardless of when relationships happen in your life, you learn from each one.