When I had my first relationship at 25, I didn’t give it much thought. It was not as casual as my other relationships, none of which survived beyond the third date. But it wasn’t serious either. At least not for me. In my world, I was a soaring bird who couldn’t be tied down. But soon, I began to feel anxious. The first fight I had with him affected me more than I let on.
He had been through the grind and knew to give me space. In hindsight, what he did was right. But it killed me to be left alone and become aware of the intensity of the emotions I felt for him. I think that was what made me think of that relationship as my first. When I think of that time now, I think of it with nostalgia and fond memories.
What Is The Average Age When People Have Their First Relationship?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most people start dating in their early teens. This first liaison may not be romantic, but rather an exploratory dip into the dating world. However, according to the Pew Research Center, almost 35% of teens are or have been involved in a romantic relationship at some point. It’s not surprising when one considers factors like peer pressure and the increased availability of social media.
The author of the book iGen, Jean Twenge, highlights the shift toward rising individualism in Gen Z (born between 1997-2012) as compared to Boomers (born between 1946-1964), Gen X (born between 1964-1981), and Millennials (born between 1981-1997).
- Jean observes that the average age of the first romantic experience is gradually decreasing from one’s teens to pre-teens
- The average age of first relationship, one that involves exclusivity, has been steadily getting pushed to one’s late twenties or early thirties
- Research highlights that 50% of singles in the US are not even looking for anything serious. A major reason behind this shift is that being in a relationship is no longer a priority
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Tips For A Successful And Strong First Relationship
A major reason highlighted in iGen for many people choosing not to be tied down is the need to understand themselves first. They are not ready, and they know it. But many do acknowledge the need for their first exploratory relationship to be successful. A major reason behind this attitude is the fear that they might make a mistake in choosing the wrong relationship, which may scar them for life. But when you fall in love with the right person, all fear ceases to exist. So here are some tips for a first relationship so you don’t have to deal with that fear again:
1. Do not be scared of waiting
Research has indicated that peer interactions play a major role in how teens perceive romance and sexual behavior. Peer pressure can instill a sense of seclusion in young people by making them feel out of place in a community where homogeneity is the accepted norm. This can make a person feel pressured to be in a relationship if all of their peers are in one.
- Believe in your self-worth. Your worth is not based on the validation of other people. If your friends make you feel like you should be doing something you don’t want to, perhaps it’s time to look for better friends
- If you decide to date someone, make sure you’re attracted to the person, not the idea of being in a relationship
- If you’re tired of feeling the odd-numbered wheel in your group, try traveling solo, cooking etc. Trust us, there are many things to do when you’re single, but not ready to mingle
2. Sex and love are not the same
When June and Erin discovered they were attracted to each other, it put a strain on their friendship. While June thought that their first kiss and everything that followed sealed the deal between them, Erin wanted to keep exploring her sexuality. June told me, “It was my first relationship with a woman, it meant a lot to me. But she said all she wanted was sex, and it doesn’t have to mean anything.” I had to explain to June that love and sex are not interchangeable.
- First intimacy in a relationship can be a great experience, but it may not always mean love for everyone. Sex is mostly physical, while love is an emotional and mental experience
- It is possible for a person to keep the two things separate. Don’t misunderstand someone’s lust for you as love
- It is better to sort out these things beforehand. If you have trouble separating the two, clarify it to the person you’re seeing. If the two of you can’t agree on this, then better to go separate ways and save everyone the pain
3. Keep the excitement alive
Boredom is also one of the primary reasons people cheat in relationships. The majority of people skip this first relationship advice. People rarely believe that their relationship could get stuck in a rut. But even in a new relationship, you may begin to feel monotony and boredom after some time if you do not work to keep the romance alive.
- Try new things. Talk to each other and plan fun dates doing things neither of you has done before
- Throw surprises for each other. And not just on birthdays. Plan parties with themes they’d love. Think of Marshal’s airport reception of Lily in the episode ‘Three Days of Snow’ in How I Met Your Mother. Make them feel special
- Research suggests that excessive usage of social media can have negative effects on relationship quality. So, dedicate quality time to each other without technology
4. Show your appreciation
People don’t give enough credit to the act of acknowledging your partner’s worth. Gestures are important and convey more than words. But sometimes words of affection can reinforce love more than gestures.
- Compliment them on their looks. Especially if you know your partner suffers from body image issues. You need to make them feel comfortable in their skin
- Amy in Gone Girl enjoyed organizing treasure hunts for her husband Nick. He hated it and rarely showed enthusiasm or participation. When they began to have problems in their marriage, the treasure hunt loomed as a symbol of their failed marriage. The lesson we can learn here is that your partner may like to perform gestures in a way that you’re either not used to or not comfortable with. But if you can try and reciprocate those gestures, even a little bit, it can mean the world to them
- Remember details about them, what they like or dislike, their interests, hobbies, vocation, etc., and use these details in small romantic gestures
- Celebrate each other’s achievements even if it’s a tiny one. Provide them with support when they need it
5. Establish healthy boundaries
A lack of healthy boundaries can result in emotional abuse. It can lead to a lack of work-life balance and lower self-esteem. Healthy boundaries act as a safeguard against getting hurt in a relationship. People may push back if you try to communicate your boundaries. That does not imply that you are acting improperly. Until people get used to the new way of interacting, it might just mean that you need to be clear and consistent. But if they ignore your boundaries again and again, it’s better to leave.
- Avoid being a control freak. Trying to have a perfect first relationship at 25 can drain you. Learn to ask for help instead of shouldering all responsibilities in a relationship
- At the same time, tell them what you need and how you want to be treated
- Don’t be clingy. Give each other space. Resist the urge to check their phone
- Listen to them. Don’t do something you know would hurt them
Related Reading: 25 Ways To Show Someone You Care
6. Take note of the red flags
It is important to note any talking stage red flags before you proceed to commit yourself to the relationship. You may dismiss certain red flags as insignificant, but these flags are frequently indicators of toxic behavior.
- Never tolerate abuse, in any form. Back away the moment you feel that their behavior is becoming distressing to you. Talk to the people around you if you’re unsure, but make that call to your friend/family member/therapist. Every time a partner abuses you, it becomes harder and harder to leave the dynamic, so spotting the first few red flags is crucial
- Honesty is indeed the best policy. Lies can sow seeds of suspicion
- Avoid passive-aggressive behavior. Any conflicts should be immediately discussed. If something bothers either of you, deal with it like mature adults, instead of making snide comments in front of other people
7. Be a team
A successful relationship between two people has often been compared to a team. It requires both partners to play their roles. When one teammate is selfish, that usually hurts the entire team. One needs immense trust and coordination to form a successful relationship with their partner.
- Don’t keep score with each other. You’re not competing for attention or love. If you work in the same field where you do have to compete against each other, keep your work out of your love life
- Avoid criticizing each other, especially in front of others. If they do say something that hurts you, address it in a way that assumes their best intent
- Learn to not take everything personally
- Avoid comparisons to any exes
- Establish common goals for the relationship, like commitment or saving up for a house, or vacation. Learn to compromise where your goals don’t converge
8. Communication can help with first relationship anxiety
There are not enough reasons to emphasize the importance of communication in a relationship. A relationship built without it is usually a shallow one, which can easily go overboard during a storm. Couples with good communication among them have been observed to have increased relationship satisfaction, as per research.
- Speak your mind. If something is distressing you, it can be resolved by sharing with your partner
- At the same time, avoid oversharing. If you’re telling them things to make them feel sorry for you, then it’s oversharing
- You need to build trust in a new relationship, especially if you’re dating an introvert. Try to be vulnerable. Have a real, meaningful conversation instead of filling the silence with small talk
- Try to work through conflicts. Learn the reason behind the distress and reach a common conclusion
9. Focus on the present
There’s a proverb, “Today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.” This is entirely true of relationships. You can’t change what has happened, and there’s no point in trying to control the future. Try to be in the moment.
- Do not guilt or question them over their past
- Bring self-awareness to your issues from the past so they don’t affect your present. Nan, a colleague, told me, “My family always made me feel so insecure about my looks that I would constantly think I’m the ugly one in my relationship with Sam. It was my first relationship but not his, so I would feel even more inadequate. But then I realized that if Sam was with me, I must be more desirable than I thought. That’s when I started working on my self-esteem issues.”
- Many times, the first argument in a relationship centers around one’s past. Insist on not bringing up any old resolved issues during arguments.
- While it’s important that you don’t plan intricate details for tomorrow, have a discussion about your future at some point. For example, when one of you feels that you want more in the relationship. Make sure your relationship goals align
Related Reading: 25 Questions You Should Know About Your Partner
10. Build and maintain trust
Trust is the foundation of any relationship. You can’t feel safe, secure, or confident in a relationship without trust. Research suggests that the development of trust is important for stability in a relationship and aids in avoidance of problems. Trust issues can affect your self-esteem and even affect other relationships around you.
- Try talking about your feelings and assigning duties as trust exercises for couples
- If you feel your partner has trust issues, try to create a safe space for them. Listen effectively, be sensitive to their needs, and keep your promises. This can help them trust you
- If you’re experiencing jealousy, talk to your partner about it, see if there are any unaddressed needs, go out with your friends, and focus on the positives in your relationship
11. Focus on improvement
A sign of a great relationship is that it gives you the space to grow into a better person. When partners grow together, their relationship evolves as well.
- Encourage each other to become a better version of yourself. Help each other overcome personal demons. Give them space to learn and explore. Support them when they need it
- Learn to adjust and adapt. When people evolve, you need to adjust to their changes
- Be open to change. And remember that not all change would be desirable
12. First relationship advice you need — Do not take them for granted
Taking your partner for granted is one of the most common relationship mistakes. When you take your partner for granted, you send a message that you do not consider their love for you as their prerogative, but as your entitlement. In such cases, the relationship becomes more about you than about you both as a team.
- Don’t skip on words like thank you, sorry, and please. Don’t assume that they’re constantly available or will agree to whatever you want. Respect their time and space
- Do not disregard their knowledge as something trivial
- Don’t assume gender roles. Share the load
- Behave like a mature adult. Ask for their opinion. Tackle problems together, instead of assuming it as their responsibility
13. Don’t skip physical intimacy
Platonic relationships have always been glorified as real love. But the role of sex can’t be denied in a relationship. Research has suggested reduced cortisol levels after intimacy, suggesting that physical touch can indeed reduce stress. Also, sex is fun.
- Go big on foreplay. Remember how the moments before your first kiss were as amazing as the kiss itself. Use foreplay to make sex more amazing
- Do not leave the bed right away after sex (though you should use the bathroom first, UTI is no joke). Cuddle with each other. Share your innermost thoughts
- Be innovative in bed. Don’t hesitate to ask your partner if you want to try something new
- Be mindful of their pleasure and ongoing consent. Always ask them or look for cues if the experience was good for them. If you’re planning for some BDSM games, ensure the use of safe words
14. Practice empathy
Empathy helps us understand our partners. While love, trust, and respect are essential factors for forming a successful relationship, a deeper connection can be formed in a relationship only when you practice empathy.
- Don’t just be a good listener, be an active listener. Observe the words they’re using and the changes in their expressions. Do you notice tightening of lips or furrowed brows? These are the things you should be looking for to understand what is their trigger for joy and pain
- Keep checking in with your partner if you notice them behaving in an unusual manner. Give them space if they want it, but remind them that you’re here for them
- Put yourself in their shoes. Most misunderstandings between couples happen when one partner can’t understand the other side of the story. Think calmly from their POV before you do or say anything
15. Don’t settle for less
If you have low self-esteem, it’s possible that you may settle for someone who you think is “in your league” and may not even want to think about someone who is “too good” for you. This attitude limits your chances of finding true love. When you settle, you fall into a vicious circle where you keep dating people with the same flaws.
- Avoid being in an unequal relationship where you have to do most of the emotional labor
- Cut off the negativity around you. Even if that means getting away from negative friends and family
- Devi asked Paxton out in Never Have I Ever despite her belief that he would never even look at her. A few episodes later, they were kissing. A few seasons later, they were in a relationship, only because it was Paxton’s first relationship with a woman who wasn’t shallow. Life is not a Netflix series, but it’s a good reminder that we often fail to see the good in us
Related Reading:5 Signs You Need To Raise Your Dating Standards
16. Accept your differences
It’s often said, “Opposites attract.” There’s no evidence to suggest the proverb works when it comes to relationships, but any relationship can work if people learn to accept their differences – in priorities, conflict management styles, love languages, opinions, values, faith, etc.
- Take the differences between you and your partner as an opportunity to explore something new
- Accept each other’s flaws. You can’t always get rid of your flaws. Encourage them to improve themselves, but don’t shame them for something they can’t control
17. Don’t try to change each other
You may be convinced that a certain way of life is the correct way. But when you try to impose that way on your partner, not only are you disrespecting their choices, but you’re also intruding upon their life. Even if they agree to play along in order to make you happy, keep in mind that this is not who they truly are. At that point, the relationship becomes a facade.
- Remember that you fall in love with a person because of their personality. If you want to make changes to that in order for you to be with them, then it isn’t love
- Respect their positive criticism, but voice your concern when you think that they’re crossing a boundary
18. Become the person you want to love
It may sound strange, but research suggests that we are likely to find people attractive who are similar to us. So if you want to be with someone who is kind and caring, you need to exercise empathy. If you want to be with someone who is a leader, you need to show assertiveness.
- Get to know yourself. Think about why you do the things you do, what you like about yourself, and what you would like to change
- Write down the things you want in your partner. Exercise those skills
- Work on the flaws that you don’t like about yourself. Learn to say no. Find out what you can compromise with, and what is completely non-negotiable
Relted Reading: 7 Tips For A Relationship That Will Lead To “I Do”
19. Don’t be scared to be alone
The fear of loneliness is one of the biggest fears that makes people stay in bad relationships. But according to research, being in a relationship or not being in a relationship has no significant impact on feelings of loneliness. Also, being in a bad relationship can be worse than being lonely, especially if the dynamic is abusive.
You can never truly understand yourself unless you spend time with yourself. And unless you understand yourself well, you can’t know what you want in life or in a partner.
- Spend time with yourself. Go on solo vacations. Do things you like by yourself. Learn to enjoy your company to cope with being single in your 30s
- You may feel alone sometimes. It’s a great idea to maintain a journal to capture your feelings at this point. It can help soothe your nerves and give you an outlet for your excessive thoughts
20. Don’t regret, take the plunge
If you say no to a person you really like just because you think you’re “not good enough” for them, you might regret your decision later when you realize you’re unable to forget them. Things may or may not work out, but at least give it an honest shot.
- Learn to express yourself. Stop thinking that it may make you look like an idiot
- Give everything a chance. It may not work out, but that’s just one of the experiences you get to enjoy in life. C’est la vie
- Try to get to the root of your fear of rejection. This fear can put you off many things in life. You can’t truly live if you’re constantly scared
21. It’s not a fairy tale
Disney did everyone a huge disservice by romanticizing love stories. Love is neither easy nor simple. It takes a lot of work and compromise to make a relationship work. This is probably why Disney never shows what happens after the great “happily ever after.” The point is, love can be difficult yet fulfilling, but it’s definitely not glass slippers or talking teapots.
- Remember the episode ‘Bagpipes’ from How I Met Your Mother? We all have a friend in the group who presents the most hunky-dory picture of their relationship. Do not fall into the trap of comparing your romance to others. Every relationship is different and none is perfect
- Have realistic expectations or be prepared to face disappointment. Do not expect roses and candle-lit dinners every day. Give your partner credit for when they try. But don’t get on their case if it’s not perfect
- Learn what is ‘not’ important to fight over. First relationship anxiety can be activated as a need to control things around you. Squabbles over inconsequential things like a full sink or getting up late can put unnecessary strain on relationships
22. It is important to enjoy your relationship
Like everything else in your life, you can’t have a fulfilling experience unless you enjoy it. You may feel the pressure of getting committed or finding an eligible partner, but there’s no point in being in a relationship where you don’t find a reason to laugh.
- Stop worrying about the future, work, or what others think of you two. Have the time of your life when you’re together
- Psychologists suggest that humor can increase relationship satisfaction. Don’t hesitate to crack a joke or two to ease tension in the room
- Don’t think about labels. Engaged, committed, exclusive — these are for the benefit of others rather than yours
- Let go of the urge to plan everything to a tee. Let the chips fall where they may. Learn to enjoy life in its randomness
23. Say “I love you” when you’re ready
When you feel ready, and never before that, say those three words. Not only is it an expression of your love, but it tells them that you’re ready to acknowledge that your relationship means a lot to you. It may feel like you don’t need to say anything, especially if the relationship is intense. But it can mean a lot to your partner if you acknowledge it in words.
- If you’re uncomfortable saying “I love you”, try using other words of affirmation as a love language
- Avoid saying “I love you” on the first date. The first intimacy in a relationship can make you feel emotional, but it can also scare them off. Asher, a waiter, told me about the last guy he dated. “I don’t know what came upon me. Who says “I love you” in the middle of sex? No wonder he lost his erection. However, it was my first relationship but not his. He kept it cool and made sure I didn’t feel like an idiot later.”
24. Be yourself
Never lose your individuality. When you lose sight of yourself for the romance, you run the risk of not being the person your partner fell in love with. Additionally, you put an unnecessary burden on your relationship.
- Keep in touch with friends. People often fall out of friendships once they get into a relationship. You need someone other than your partner to share your feelings with
- Keep up with hobbies. Make time for yourself
- Maintain your identity. Don’t let go of things you love to do
25. Take responsibility for the relationship
A mature relationship needs mature minds. Everybody wants a successful relationship, but a successful relationship needs effort, patience, and sacrifice. Unless you take responsibility for your actions, you will find yourself repeating the same patterns.
- Do not cheat, whatever the motivation. If you are bored, suggest new things to do. If you are angry at your partner, talk to them
- Discuss ways to split finances. Agree upon who’s going to take care of what. Be open about your income and expenses to your partner
- Though it sounds like an oxymoron, embrace healthy conflicts. Some conflicts bring couples together. Do not shy away from discussing what irks you in the relationship
- The average age of the first relationship is usually in one’s teenage years
- To cultivate a successful relationship, a person should lose the pressure to find the perfect relationship and their fear of being alone
- Practice empathy, think of your partner and you as a team, but ensure your individuality
The key to having a great relationship is to learn to enjoy it first. You must break free from the mental state in which you feel pressured to find the perfect relationship on the first try. Love is not a race. You need to have lived life to know what you want. When you lose the inhibitions and the fear, you’re more likely to find love. And when you do, don’t wait for anyone.
Most people start dating when they’re teenagers. It’s the first time many people experience desire, peer pressure, and affection. To the average person, a teenage love story might sound like an over-hyped cliche, but even the first fight over something stupid can feel as bad as a heartbreak.
It depends primarily on how you and your partner treat each other. Having said that, the length of a relationship is not a factor that defines its success. To make your relationship a success, read the above tips for a first relationship and focus on being there for each other.
Firsts in anything can feel like an initiation into the world, which is why even the first argument in a relationship can feel loaded with meaning. However, this doesn’t mean that relationships in later life aren’t special. Every relationship, as long as you feel valued, is special.