Healthy lives for young people
Relationships

First relationship: Nicole’s story

Nicole, 21, shares how her first relationship was a truly happy and formative experience but why she’s happy to now be single.

My first relationship began at a young age. We met at school when we were 14 and at 15 he announced that he liked me, while we were playing a game in a hot tub full of our friends. That night we had our first kiss. It was up in his bedroom and there was too much tongue and, “how does this work?”, but I didn’t care because it was my first kiss and I liked him too. This was the start of our 5-year relationship throughout school and beyond.

We grew up together. He was my best friend. We did what other young couples do when they’re not adults yet; we watched movies, we cooked and we ate a lot, we played games and walked his dogs. When I look back, it’s the days where we didn’t have anything specific to do that I cherish the most. Life was simple.

As well as my first kiss, we shared our first sexual experiences together. I consider myself lucky to have had a positive introduction to sex. We both loved and trusted each other and cared about the other’s pleasure.

We also had a safe place to have sex: at home. It’s sad that I consider myself lucky for having something that should be universal but I realised after hearing a lot of my friends’ negative sexual experiences that it was not the norm. It’s these early positive sexual experiences, along with hearing about most young people’s negative experiences, that has made me so passionate about sex education.

We continued to create happy memories as we grew older. I remember on my eighteenth birthday he made a speech that made me cry from happiness and I thought, ‘I’m going to marry this boy’. We both discussed marriage, and even the prospect of breaking up but promising to marry each other later in life.

I know now that I wanted to marry him because I was petrified of losing him rather than actually wanting to marry him. At the same time, I was terrified at the prospect of only being with one person for the rest of my life.

Life naturally got more complicated when we left school. We both had a year out before we started university. I decided to go away for a month and it was the longest time I’d ever been without him. I thought I would find it really difficult, but I didn’t. Instead I had a taste of what it felt like to be single and completely on my own, and not reliant on someone else. I was selfish and ended up cheating on my boyfriend. It’s true what they say about cheating, it’s never the same after that. At least that was the case for me. We continued the relationship for another year but a switch had flicked in my head that couldn’t be undone.

I realised that I was completely emotionally dependent on my boyfriend. I suffered with anxiety throughout our relationship and he was always the one who could calm me down and make me feel safe.

He was also the one who could make me laugh and fill me with joy with one impression of the three little pigs from Shrek.

The year following the cheating incident was really difficult for us both. I wasn’t treating him how he deserved to be treated because I was trying to convince myself that we were supposed to be together, when in reality I needed to know what it felt like to be by myself. But it was really hard to leave someone who I loved so much and who was so great.

When we went to different universities the long distance became too difficult for me. People told us that this often ends first relationships, and they were right in our case. When we broke up, I cried for weeks but at the same time I felt lighter knowing that I had made the right decision.

That was nearly 2 years ago and I’m still single and happier than ever. I had reached a point where I felt I couldn’t grow alongside an individual anymore and I needed my space and independence to grow.

I wanted to rely on me to make myself happy and to be there for myself when I’m down.

Of course, I couldn’t do this completely alone and my friendships have blossomed since I’ve had more time and mental capacity to nurture them. That extra time and headspace gave me the opportunity to explore new passions and adventures too. I’d like to point out that it wasn’t my boyfriend holding me back, but myself.

My first relationship shaped me into the person I am today and I am so grateful to have had this experience. But, for now, I’m going to continue enjoying the perks of being single.

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