When your first relationship is long-term, it’s easy to get accustomed to certain kinds of behavior. However, when you part ways and find someone new, it’s easy to see that those odd quirks or strange behavior weren't so normal after all.
#1 What Trust Felt Like
I texted my then-new girlfriend about where I was and who I was with about every 30 minutes. After the third time, she told me that she didn't need to get updates on what I was doing, and to just let her know when I got home safe. I remember feeling almost a physical weight being lifted off my chest because I didn't have to worry about my girlfriend freaking out if I didn't update her. I learned what trust felt like that night.
#2 Finding the Energy
Your partner should actually make an effort to spend time with you. You shouldn't have to surprise them to spend any time with them. It sucked. I enjoyed the time I did manage to spend with her so much, though. So, I couldn't end things. I don't blame her, though — she was struggling with depression and it was difficult for her to find the energy to do anything.
#3 Some Girls Don’t
After getting out of my first relationship and dating new people, I realized something about how people show affection. Some girls in a relationship just don't like to kiss as often as others. I'm just talking about pecks when I get home and things like that. I always enjoyed a hello kiss but I guess some girls don't?
#4 Attached at the Hip
It wasn't super long term, only about a year, but when you're in high school that's fairly long term. My ex was a very clingy dude. He was sweet but would follow me around every social gathering and get jealous of me spending time with my friends. When I started dating the guy who’s now my husband, I remember looking around at a party of mostly my friends that he hadn't met before and I couldn't find him. I asked someone where he was and he was out by the fire with a group of people chatting and hanging out. I was astonished that we could just go our separate ways in a social setting and that was totally fine, we didn't have to be attached at the hip the whole time.
#5 You Get One Life
This is morbid but I thought it was normal to argue every day. I thought “all couples have their bickering” and it was just a regular thing. I was astounded when I went into my next relationship and actually got on with the guy and went weeks and weeks without having any issues. It always felt like the bubble was going to burst. It goes to show — don't stay in a relationship just because you've already invested a ton of time. You get one life, spend it with someone who makes you laugh every day.
#6 Love Languages
It’s obvious to me now that love languages are all quite different. It's especially jarring when you have a lot of experience doing things a certain way, and then finding out that isn't what somebody else needs. It can take some work to figure out what's inherent to yourself and what was learned from your partner.
#7 Old TV Tropes
My first ex-girlfriend made me believe the old TV tropes of women never wanting to have relations. I had to work my butt off to get her to give me some action. The next girl I had was just amazed that I didn't just ask for it when I wanted it. The bewildered look on her face when she finally asked, "You realize I want it too, right?"
#8 Ex’s Father
A weird thing from my first relationship was that my ex’s father hated me. It’s not uncommon, I guess, but I just thought this was normal. However, in my subsequent three relationships (the last one turning into a marriage and family), the parents were kind and I legit couldn't believe that was even possible.
#9 Clicked Into Place
With my first two relationships (five years total between the two), I never realized how cuddly I am. I used to hate being touched or kissed and I never realized that wasn't just… the way I was. I even thought I might be asexual, but deep down I knew that wasn't the case. My fiancé used to be the same way, but when we met, somehow things just... clicked into place.
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#10 Part of the Excitement
Harmful behavior. I thought occasional attacks were just part of the mix of things. Sometimes you get good times, sometimes you get attacked. I was just lucky I was big so she couldn't do much damage. I felt for other guys who probably had it way worse. It was… eye-opening to find out random physical attacks weren't just part of the "excitement."
#11 After Eight Years
My ex put her happiness on me making it my responsibility. She would demand I stay around and cut my work hours and then be upset when we wouldn't have money to go out. Every time I would try and leave, I was coerced to stay because I was young and stupid. After eight years, I had enough I moved five states away. I had a chain of bad relationships that ended, took some time to work on myself and I'm now engaged to an amazing woman I can communicate with. I can also share feelings about issues and she values a healthy relationship.
#12 Open Arrangement
I got cowed into an "open arrangement.” He introduced me to "friends" while hanging out or going to parties and then told me after the ice had broken that they were actually the girl(s) he was seeing on the side. Apparently, capitulating to his insistence that we continue to hang out even though I was uncomfortable was normal.
He would also make unwelcome and uncomfortable comments to other women I was friends with in front of me to attempt to orchestrate threesomes that I was not okay with. He also thought it was normal to leave FaceTime on at all times so he could see what was going on in my dorm. Similarly, if I loved him, I wouldn’t show any bad emotion because it ruined his mood.
#13 Flipped Around
My ex basically taught me that it wasn't okay for me to be upset about things. Every time I would get my feelings hurt (even when I was upset about something unrelated to him) it was flipped around, so I ended up reassuring him . That really messed me up and I basically had to relearn how to be vulnerable. He also had a very solid plan of how he expected me to live my life, basically his main goal for me was to have kids and be a good housewife. Yikes. On the bright side, nowadays I'm happily engaged and my fiance treats me with so much love and respect. He's supportive of my dreams and we’re able to lean on each other in times of hardship.
#14 Out of Habit
My first boyfriend would always leave me these small presents or notes underneath my pillow if I had to get up earlier than he did. He was quite romantic and told me “I love you” quite a lot. When I got a new boyfriend, I caught myself looking underneath my pillow for at least a month or two, just out of habit.
#15 Serial Crier
Crying. All. The. Time. She would use tears to the point of manipulation. This was in high school. I thought that was just “a girl thing,” but no way. My current girlfriend and I have been dating for three and a half years and she only cries when she’s in pain or having a panic attack. Both of which are not my fault and I can help her through. I thought every girl cried about three times a day.
#16 Writing it Off
It took me a while after my previous relationship ended to figure out the difference between "this feels completely wrong" and "this is different than what I'm used to." I ended up going down a road I didn't want to be on because I was reading bad signs as "just differences between people." Sometimes, it was even so much as, "live a little, get out of your comfort zone."
Once I found the "right person" it still felt different, like a learning experience, but it didn't feel wrong or like I was pushing any of my personal boundaries. I guess my takeaway to share for others is that it's okay if new experiences with new people feel unfamiliar, but if they feel incorrect, don't write that off as "new."
#17 Aren’t You Forgetting Something?
When I met my current partner I told him I would never get married because I don't see the point in being stuck in an argument for the rest of my life. His response was, "Okay, well if we communicate I don't see why we would be always arguing?" I didn't get it and didn't want to get into it. One day, we were communicating and the conversation was intense, not even raised voices. He said, "Let’s take a break from this, I'm feeling frustrated," and I just sat there dumbfounded like, what? You aren't going to yell at me?!
#18 Showing Affection
I used to hate all signs of physical affection, but now with a romantic partner I can’t get enough of it. I’ve done a lot of reflecting on this aspect of myself and the best conclusion I can come to is the fact that my parents never showed me physical affection. I didn’t think much about it until one of my ex’s described how much he used to love family cuddle piles while watching movies together. I sort of thought it was normal to have a family that never showed affection to you, but now I’m not so sure.
#19 Swinging Emotions
They shouldn't try to make you jealous. Someone also definitely shouldn't get mad if it doesn't work. They shouldn't make you feel like one day their fist will find your face instead of a wall. Anger issues should not be normal. One day, I realized that if it happened, I could forgive him. I wish I had told someone that so they could have told me I should never even consider that possibility. I also thought that violently swinging from rage to sappy romantic in less than a second was sweet, since it meant he was sorry for whatever he did or said.
#20 Take the Compliment
It was very minor all things considered. I got used to never being complimented, just criticized. I take that back, he did compliment me once. He told me that in Saudi (his parents worked for an oil company and had moved there) I'd be worth many camels because I was "buxom, had childbearing hips, and reddish hair." Yeah, he actually said buxom. I've been married 22 years and he was several years before that, and I still don't do well with compliments.
#21 Frowned Upon
You're apparently not supposed to be afraid of your boyfriend. Also, a man doing his share of his own housework is not impossible to come by nor something you can't realistically expect! Additionally, your partner isn't supposed to hate your friends and family nor shout at you about not having steak for dinner. And throwing dishes at you is, like, frowned upon.
#22 A Normal Relationship
My current girlfriend started an 18-year long relationship when she was 14. She was a victim for years because she never knew any better. “Marriage is hard” is what people would say. She thought she had to stay and fix things. And like most abusers, he was manipulative. He used to make her feel guilty about wanting to leave and the implication of a crime to make her scared to leave. I’m the first serious relationship for her since leaving. Every now and then she has to remind me that she doesn’t know what to do, because she’s never been in a “normal” relationship before.
#23 Are You Mad?
My first boyfriend was so ridiculously clingy. Like, if we were in bed together, we would have to cuddle otherwise he would cry and think that I was mad at him. In reality, I was just hot and wanted some space. I just thought that's what relationships were. My relationship now is nothing like that. It’s so nice to be in the same room but doing completely separate things and not have to worry about each other.
#24 Toxic Behavior
Just a lot of toxic behavior. It wasn't a healthy relationship and I found myself looking after the other person and organizing my life around their needs. Four years later and I’m still learning what a healthy relationship looks like. I’m also learning what it's like when someone is actually looking after my needs.
#25 Okay, Go
I never necessarily thought it was "normal" since I reject that loose characterization, but my girlfriend used to beg me to sniff my farts. It wasn't in a kinky way or anything, that would be disturbing. But from time to time, she'd ask me if I needed to let one rip, and I'd be like, "No… (is this girl okay)?" She'd kind of just not give me a response and pretend like nothing happened. Then 15 minutes later, she'd ask again. I'd be like, "Actually, yeah. Kind of, why?" And then she'd ask me to spread my legs, clear her throat and say, "Okay, go" with an elegance fit for ballerinas, not for fart-sniffers.
#26 Show the Love
You shouldn't have to be the only one putting in any effort. My first boyfriend never let me get to know him, it was like pulling teeth to get anything. He knew I had siblings, that I was a closet pagan, I liked experimenting with cooking, and a bunch of other things. But, I had to basically stalk his socials to learn anything about him. If I asked his opinion on an outfit, or basically anything, he didn't care. I never learned what he liked and I got tired of doing what felt like all this extra work for someone who didn't care about me.
#27 Doing What She Wanted
I kind of just assumed it was normal to have to text her every five minutes with updates on what I was doing and who I was with. I figured every couple got in fights every week that end with very harsh things being said. I kept telling myself that it was just a lull in the relationship because every relationship has its lows. Three years into the relationship, I realized it wasn't a simple low time. I was unhappy because I was doing what she wanted me to do, not what I wanted to do.
#28 Friendship Material
I thought it was normal to remain really good friends with your ex-partner. I'm still very close to my first and longest relationship, but entirely platonically. When I broke up with the next guy I saw, who was harmful in many ways, I tried to stay friends with him, too. Spoiler alert: not all exes are friendship material.
#29 Ignoring Instincts
Passive aggression, gaslighting, subtly guilting me for every choice I made that he disagreed with, treating me like his therapist and dumping his issues on me. We dated from ages 16-25. It took a bit of therapy to untrain my brain… and to even learn that some of our interactions were toxic because they were so normalized.
People always said "relationships take work," so I guess I just thought that was what relationships were? Luckily, I was wrong because my partner now is the most genuine human I've ever met. But it's kind of funny (and sad) because every once in awhile I'll think, "Oh, so this is what it's supposed to be like." It's a bittersweet realization because although I'm happy to be where I am, it's a bummer that it took so long to get here because I ignored my instincts for so long in the first place.
#30 Didn’t Last Long
My first long-term girlfriend was down for action at all times. It even made me a little uncomfortable at times with risky locations. My second girlfriend was rarely interested, so I assumed I just didn't do it for her and tried to break up. She was shocked and crushed. We tried to work it out, but it felt like I was always begging for it. We didn't last long after that.
#31 Level of Malice
Back in high school, my ex’s dad hated me. I figured "he just hates me cause I'm a high school boy and he knows what high school boys want." But no, the level of malice he poured out on me was far beyond typical "father protecting his daughter" levels. She eventually dumped me after he threatened to kick her out of her family. I’m in a happy relationship now with an awesome girl whose whole family is a ton of fun, so it worked out for the best.
#32 You Don’t Exist
Basically my first boyfriend refused to exist in public with me. We never went out on dates and if I coerced him into it, he turned into a grumpy sod halfway through. Never hung out at his house until four years in, never introduced me to his friends, never talked about moving in together, never spent holidays together. Went out to dinner maybe twice in almost six years.
I just thought it was normal that he didn't really want anything to do with my life or family. I didn't end things because "he just wants to sit around watching Netflix" seems like a pretty shallow reason to break up with someone. But the relationship really had no substance. I was depressed, lonely, and just plain bored.
People always said there were ups and downs, and that the grass would always be greener on the other side. They said that if I just stayed and worked on things, I would be happy. I just couldn't think of a good reason to break things off. One day, I realized that I didn't need a "good reason," and if I didn't break things off, I'd end up in a miserable marriage with someone I didn't actually like all that much. I had to see if that grass was greener on the other side.
So, I left. My current significant other goes out with me on dates to restaurants, museums and shows. We live together, spend holidays together, laugh, talk and have stimulating conversations. I didn't realize a relationship could be this good. I feel like I finally know what it's like to have a happy, fulfilling life.
#33 Terrible Relationships
My first real relationship was about a year long. It was puppy love. We were super nice and loving with each other. I honestly think the only reason it didn’t progress further is we had to go long distance and we were too young for that. We realized in the end that it wouldn’t be fair to each other, so we broke up.
My next relationship was extremely toxic. The person I dated was just awful and I didn’t realize that people would commit to dating someone seriously just to treat them like garbage. I put up with it for way too long, chalk it up to inexperience and thinking I could fix it. I thought relationships were supposed to just be fun, loving, and kind. I had no idea people in this world simply have terrible relationships.
#34 13 Years Old
I was with my ex from 13 years old for six years. The guilt-tripping he did felt normal and I’d always give in. It wasn’t until I started seeing my current boyfriend, who never makes me feel bad about anything, that I realized how I had been constantly guilt-tripped. It sounds pretty obvious, but I was 13 and hadn’t known any different. I really wish I had gotten out of it sooner.
#35 Makeshift Therapist
That you had to spend every waking moment of communication discussing her problems, life, struggles, etc. Anytime I mentioned my own struggles at college or home or whatever, she'd say maybe a few words then shift the focus back to her. By the time we split, I was more of a makeshift therapist than a boyfriend. It was so tiring looking back, but I didn't know any better.
#36 Guy in High School
I dated a guy for two years in high school and I thought him being controlling and jealous was out of "love." I met my husband and left said boyfriend for him. I realized how dysfunctional that relationship was. Two years later, my ex ended up attacking his girlfriend, leaving her with serious injuries. All he got was four years.
#37 I’ll Call You
Pet names, especially if they happen to be a little weird! My first girlfriend absolutely loved pet names and she wanted a new one every month. I have yet to meet someone who was comfortable with more than the standard names, such as things like darling, cutie pie, gorgeous, etc. Just let me call you Jigglyboob.
#38 Pulling Teeth
Avoiding you when there’s a problem or a perceived problem. My ex-boyfriend wouldn’t talk to me for days if he thought I was even a little upset with him. I was so surprised with my next boyfriend (now husband) that resolving conflicts could be so easy. It was no longer like pulling teeth and walking on eggshells.
#39 Stuffed Animals
That women need stuffed animals in order to actually fall asleep. I’m talking all the way into adulthood. Like seriously, unicorns and other weird creatures. I would wake up and these marble eyes would catch the light from the moon. It’s not like these girls got rid of them all, they just exchanged them for decorative pillows.
#40 Warning Signs
When to let go of a relationship. I think I stayed so long with my first partner because I was genuinely afraid of never finding someone again. Then, I realized it was pretty easy in college and I was actually able to say what I wanted. I guess that sort of falls into knowing warning signs that the relationship is stalling.
#41 Fault in Everything
Not feeling like everything is my fault. Not having to essentially ignore and block my friends while she got to hang out with hers. I also thought it was okay for someone to bring their friends along for a date and end up being the third wheel on my own date . I would then end up paying for her friend. I could go on.
#42 Time Together
That I shouldn’t have to ask for us to do one thing a week with each other and feel like they were going to get mad at me. I would try to bargain by asking if we could watch a movie together this weekend and then they can do whatever they want for the rest of the day. I felt like I was in the wrong every time I would ask to spend time with them.
#43 Every Disagreement
That you don't have to walk away from every single disagreement with someone being right and someone being wrong. Or it being someone's fault or with someone crying. Someone also shouldn’t give the silent treatment for the next several days until the other person breaks down and apologizes for something they weren't really sorry for.
#44 Lonely Relationship
That the other person felt as alone as I felt. She would put her friends above me all the time and spend maybe two hours a week with me. She could say no to me all day after five years, but friends she met that year, she would consistently say yes to. She’d make plans with them and drop plans with me in order to hang out. But, if I ever asked to hang out with her once, she called me manipulative. After she left me, and I met other people, I came to realize that the other person should never feel that lonely in a relationship.
#45 Brighter Person
When my girlfriend used to get all sad and clingy any single time I'd want to do something on my own, like a hobby of mine. I thought it was normal. The whole six years, I didn't have a chance to flesh out my own personality and hobbies. The moment I dumped her and got over it, I changed into such a different person. My whole family said I was so much brighter of a person.
#46 Odd Behavior
I had a problem with lightly punching my partner in the arm when they said something that surprised or offended me. That and light backhanded slaps to the stomach or arms. I never outright decked someone, but I never realized that these taps still weren’t healthy. And that not everyone will understand that sometimes when I say, “you’re stupid” it’s not supposed to be an insult, and it genuinely means “you’re cute but I don’t want to actually say that.”
#47 Introvert Battery
Spending every free minute together. My first relationship was with a dude who lived a drivable but significant distance away; he'd turn up about 10 minutes after I got home from work on Friday night and stay until late Sunday night. My weekends were all his for the five years we dated. Anything we did had to be together. The very few weekends I couldn't be with him, I had to do a whole song and dance of explaining and making him feel better about it.
I still sometimes start to justify myself to my current partner when I'm not available on the weekend. Fortunately, my current partner isn’t a needy tool and reassures me that it's totally fine if I want to go do something alone. They also tell me that it’s okay to stay home and do nothing to charge my introvert battery.
#48 A Nightmare
My ex used to refuse to go in my car because I once mentioned I was with an old partner in there. I understood she was upset but after eight months of her refusing, I knew something was off. Turns out, she was bipolar with major insecurity issues. She also refused to go to any restaurants or date spots I had been with other girls before (meaning most all my favorite places were off-limits). It was a nightmare.
#49 Healthy Parting
Honestly, that breakups weren't the end of the world. I dated the same girl pretty much my entire high school career, so when we broke up, I thought it was the worst thing in the world. Dealt with it in really unhealthy ways and pretty much let it affect my entire life. Seems really stupid and obvious now, but back then it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Once I learned that it was okay to be alone, it made my life easier. It took a lot of therapy and hard work on my end, but eventually I learned that I didn't need someone to be happy. 12 years later, I'm now happily married.
#50 Guess Why I’m Mad
One of the more annoying things I had to put up with from an old partner was the “guess why I’m mad” game. Actually, it took me two serious relationships to realize that lashing out in lieu of honest communication isn’t something that every man does. Or at least I hope that’s not something that every man does.