How To Use Your Teenage Romances To Improve Your Relationship

I'm always glad to wake up to blue sky and sunshine, but this morning I was especially glad to wake up and see that we'd been blessed with another beautiful bright February day, nippy breeze, no clouds - that unavoidable smell of Spring rising from the ground. Today, my first "proper" boyfriend - a relationship which began in school when I had just turned 14, is getting married - and I couldn't be more chuffed that the weather made an effort. 

I am a firm believer that our earliest romantic relationships, along with the adult relationships of our parents and other significant role models, do a lot to set the tone for how we behave within relationships as we grow older. I've spoken about this before but I believe that one of the worst things you can do to your children is to make fun of their romantic relationships, or embarrass them in regards to, or in front of, boyfriends and girlfriends. Being confident about forming, sharing and expressing romantic feelings when they begin to arise with puberty is key, I think, to being able to confidently form, share and express love as an adult. I hate watching young people squirm uncomfortably whilst adults (almost always in good spirit) tease them for their first early relationships, thinking about how that experience, innocent as it may seem to the perpetrator, might effect the child in the long run. My son is four - everyone is his girlfriend, but I'd like to think that when he reaches an age whereby girls (or boys) become of romantic interest, that I'll be supportive, predominantly silent, and informed where I need to be. 

Anyway - that aside, if I stand by this belief that our earliest relationships shape our adult selves, then I have a lot to thank and blame this one individual for! I couldn't be happier today, on his wedding day, to know that we've both grown up to be adults who place a great importance on love and relationships, complex as our journeys have been to get us here!

There are so many ways that cherishing and celebrating our first, earliest playground romances can improve our adult relationships, and today, less than a week after Valentines Day after all, seemed like a good day to discuss. I've summarised 5 basic exercises that draw on inspiration from first loves to inject some joy in to current love, but you could even tweak these ideas to suit you if you're currently single and looking for a new relationship, or trying to heal from a relationship break down.

On a final note - happy wedding day Shane & Grace x

  1. How did you behave when you first fell in love? If you think to the first time you ever fell in love, there are probably things you did, which seemed perfectly reasonable at the time, that you've not done an awful lot of since. Despite looking back and cringing somewhat, chances are, you were actually more at ease with old fashioned romance as a teenager than you are now. For me, it was the exchanging of letters, and there were a lot of letters. The first letter I ever wrote to my first boyfriend was written on pink leopard print paper (hell yes) and sprayed with Tommy Girl (hell yes yes). For others, it's the fact that you always had to meet outdoors, it's sharing chips, it's making bizarre venues oddly romantic (Sainsbury's carpark?) - I'm not suggesting you take your husband to Sainsbury's car park - without a car, and hang out until the trolley tidy-upper moves you on, but think outside the box and use whatever being in love meant at 12, 13, 14, or 15 and incorporate it in to today. I've only ever written my boyfriend one proper letter and it was a good eight pager at least, which took most of a day to write by hand, but it's something I should definitely do more often.
  2. Recognise how your first heart break screwed you up. Taking a moment to think in detail about the first time you experienced a break up might actually help you in a little self-psycho-analysis. These experiences are hugely definitive in adult behaviour, and it's probably an episode in life you try not to think about too often. However, thinking about how your first relationship ended, why, and how it made you behave, may cause you to recognise a pattern of behaviour in how you respond to partners now (regardless of whether you were dumper or dumpee). My first relationship ended pretty dishonestly; he finished it on vague terms only for me to find out later that he had met and been spending time with someone else whilst I was at work of a weekend. You'd think that perhaps this would have left me with trust issues surrounding fidelity , but actually, it's not that straight forward. I've always found it incredibly annoying if a boyfriend is enjoying themselves without me, and I don't mean, "urgh, I feel really left out, this is boring", I mean, full-on green eyed monster, hating the fact that he could be having a good time whilst I'm not. This response meant that in the past I have actively sought to sabotage nights out, boys weekends away and similar, not because I didn't trust my partner and thought that perhaps they were cheating, but because I have an irrational idea that this represents the end of a relationship. Recognising this through meditation though, meant that I reined it in, realised why I was behaving this way, and just how counter productive it was, and it's something I've not felt at all in my current relationship.
  3. Reconnect with old flames. If there's no obvious reason why being in contact with an old teenage love would be dangerous, it can be a positive step if you're not already on good terms. Healing a rift, even if it's decades old, can fill you with lots of feel-good chemicals, and help you to move on and let old hurts go. Social media now makes it even easier to get in touch with  people you've perhaps not been in contact with in a long time. It took a few years before I could be "friends" with my first boyfriend, basically until we were both independent adults and our teenage relationship was entirely removed from our current reality. But now I can recognise how good it makes me feel to know that he is marrying a woman that he loves today, and know that my head is pretty screwed on. I'm not talking about going out to dinner with your ex husband, especially if you're in a committed relationship now, but those real back-in-the-day boyfriends from school can provide some hilarity as well as some closure. Feeling secure and at peace with past relationships is one of the easiest ways to eliminate negativity from your current relationship.
  4. Learn from kids. As well as your own teenage relationships, being around and being supportive of young people at this stage of life can give you a lot of food for thought in terms of your own relationships. It's not easy to go out and adopt someone in their early teens for chats, but if there are young people in your family, or perhaps a friend's younger sibling etc. that you maybe don't make enough effort to talk to at the moment, connecting with them can open up the opportunity to be reminded of those early relationships. Just remembering how simple first romances are, and how complex they seem at the time, can take you back to your own experiences in an instant, and make you appreciate the love you know today.
  5. Define your "type". Many of us will declare that we don't necessarily have a "type" when it comes to who we're attracted to. Others may find they go for men or women who look similar (or are perhaps tall, have a certain skin colour etc.) but that their past loves have had very different characters, or on the flip side, that they are drawn to certain characters and physical appearance doesn't play much of a part. Chances are though, if you reflect on the stand out characteristics of your first romantic interests, there'll be key characteristics that you either seek out or avoid now as an adult, depending on how these effect your memory. Recognising what characteristics your current partner shares with your first early romances, will probably identify some of the things that you enjoy about them on the most basic level. It could be their love of dogs, or the fact that they enjoy the outdoors, it could be their style of humour, or the fact that they're especially laid back about life - whatever it is, these are things worth making a special effort to bask in, as they'll instantly make you feel more positive about your relationship.

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