When I showed up for my first-ever date, aged fourteen, I never expected to still be with that boy midway through college. My very first relationship is still going strong after five years, which means I have a pretty unique romantic history. Here are 9 little quirks you can probably understand if your situation is similar.
1. You don't really understand how dating works.
My only first date happened in the second week of ninth grade, and I'm still with that boy now, in our second year of college. Anything I know about how flirting, casual dating, and hookups work for adults has come from secondary sources: my friends, social media, and TV. I'm not confident in my ability to recognize when I'm being hit on by a stranger because I've never needed to know. (Back in ninth grade, the pickup lines involved complimenting my handwriting and offering me frozen yogurt.) I have a lot of experience dating one person, but I wouldn't have the first clue how to date anyone else.
2. You actually don't have great relationship advice.
It seems like I should have words of wisdom to offer about how to develop a long-term relationship because I'm in one, but I don't. I didn't try to make this happen; it just did. I didn't date and experiment and refine my romantic preferences in order to get here; I got a life partner on the first try.
I can recommend good communication and mutual respect once you've started a relationship, but meeting a compatible person with whom to start that relationship is really just a matter of luck and timing. I got very lucky very early in life. But I can't help anybody replicate that.
3. You don't know anything about breakups or exes, either.
I can sympathize with the pain of losing your significant other and then having to treat your former best friend like a stranger. I've watched a lot of movies featuring the ice cream binges and spontaneous bang cutting that apparently arise from breakups. But I have no personal experience—thankfully.
I've seen some people argue that heartbreak is a fundamental and formative part of growing up. But I like to think I'm managing to grow just fine through disappointment and emotional setbacks of the non-romantic variety.
4. You don't really remember what it feels like to be single.
I see a lot of articles about how being single is actually the best time of your life, but I hope that's not true, because I haven't been single since middle school, and that was definitely not the best time in my life.
But in all seriousness, I know about as much about being single as I do about flirting. Since I have no desire to kiss strangers and I'm perfectly capable of participating in girls' nights by simply not bringing my boyfriend along, I'm not exactly sure what I'm missing.
5. You live vicariously through your friends' love lives.
I'm absolutely happy in my own relationship, and I fully intend to live the rest of my life without feeling the butterflies of first love again (because the security of longtime love is so much more satisfying). But hearing other people talk about their butterflies is one of my favorite activities. And on the flip side, while I'm very happy to have zero relationship disaster stories of my own, I'm always open to participate in a juicy round of ex-bashing on someone else's behalf. Watching other people's romantic rollercoasters is so much better than experiencing one of my own.
6. You get a little judgmental about relationship lengths.
I'm not proud of it, but I roll my eyes when I see couples gushing about their eternal love after having dated for a whopping six months. I try not to be smugly superior about my own longer relationship, since it's not as if I earned it—I was just lucky, and that doesn't make me better than anyone else.
But I'm not going to lie, sometimes it feels good to raise my eyebrows at newly-formed couples who assume their tally count in months is impressive.
7. You go out of your way to make sure people know you as an individual.
I've been part of a unit for a long time. My relationship is a huge part of my identity—the same way all my other long-term friend and family relationships have imprinted on me. But I don't ever want people to think of me as half a person. You can invite me to something without my boyfriend, or vice versa. You can be friends with one of us and not the other. You can treat us as individuals, because we are. We're just individuals who team up on most of life's projects.
8. You're protective of your friends in relationships.
I know what a healthy, supportive relationship looks like. I know that good guys exist, because I spend a lot of my time with one. I know romance isn't dead, because I've gotten a lot of roses and emotional support in the past five years.
I'm not about to let my friends settle for less.
9. You can't imagine life without your best friend.
For the past five years, my boyfriend has celebrated every milestone and mourned every disappointment in my life alongside me. I know him better than I know anyone else, and I'm confident he feels the same way about me. I tell him everything, from the trivial things I do each day to the deep secrets I've never shared with anyone else. He truly is my equal partner in everything I do, and I can't remember ever being without him. I don't want to.