5 Major Lessons From Losing My First Love

Joe Duncan

Here Are The Biggest Mistakes That I Made and What I’ve Learned From Them…


It’s been a little over a decade now, give or take a year, since I first felt that gut-wrenching agony of losing love…and it was all my fault, or so I’d believed, at the time. The truth is, we’d grown apart. Our split was rather mutual by the time it came, and it was something that I thought I wanted, all the way up until a couple of days after it had happened. It was only then that I began to realize what I’d lost. The next six months were absolute misery as I’d willingly walked away from the best thing I’d had at the time.

She was a great woman, stunningly beautiful, witty, charming, intelligent, and the first woman who made me feel like I was completely in over my head. I was just so happy that first time we kissed which seemed so sudden and spontaneous — even after the first few dates, I still couldn’t bring myself to believe that I’d managed such a catch, and, what can I say, I was young, insecure, and naive like most people are in their late teens and early-20s.

Over the next couple of years, the love grew stale, I grew impatient, restless, cocky, and dissatisfied in such a way that was completely disproportionate to the amazing relationship I had. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, mostly mistakes in how I came to view my relationship and what I came to value. Here are the lessons that I learned from losing my first love through my own doing, so that others may not make the same mistakes.

The Little Things Add Up…

This is certainly as true today as it was then, but today, I understand this concept fully. The thing is, in any relationship, you can only control yourself, which means that I’ve learned that we can only control our own little mistakes and things that we sort of grow into as we get more comfortable which can be plainly unattractive. Now, a lot of stuff isn’t within our control, but that means that a lot of stuff is within our control and we should do everything in our power to better ourselves every single day for our partners — if we picked someone worthwhile, we owe it to them to be a little bit better tomorrow than we were today.

That momentary jealous streak that seems to come and go suddenly, the little instances when you lose your temper, you know those types of things; when I would fall into an almost crippling paranoia fit or I would drink too much and make a fool of myself? I’m sorry to say, but I’ve got to keep it real, these things add up no matter how saintly our significant other is. Relationships aren’t something we’re simply entitled to for existing, in my view, they’re the reward we get for doing the necessary work on ourselves and becoming an amazing person who isn’t going to put someone else through hell.

You Can’t Serve Two Masters…

Long-term relationships require a great deal of self-sacrifice. Now, this doesn’t mean we should become co-dependent, but it does mean that when relationships work, it’s because two people prioritized it continually and never stopped — and they had to prioritize it over themselves, rather than just feeding their own selfish needs, the other person be damned.

Love isn’t something we obtain it’s a process we create and exercise with someone, like vines growing together.

I was selfish, egotistical, and self-absorbed, and I didn’t even know it. There was a massive wall between my feelings and hers and I kept it that way because I thought it kept me safe. My priorities were absolutely crazy. Pool parties and drinking with my friends were serious matters, not dates and listening to her life over dinner, and as a result, I was never there for her. I was a frat boy in a relationship that I didn’t deserve. I was never supportive unless it was mutually beneficial. My ego was my master and the relationship was simply a complementary element. This will always be unsustainable.

The Grass Is Almost Never Greener…

I’ve come to learn now that if I’ve chosen someone to be with and made a commitment to be there for them, I made that for a reason, and even entertaining the idea of dating around behind our lover’s backs can be extremely detrimental to a relationship. Now, I know the swinger crowd is probably shaking their heads right about now, but it’s true. I don’t think we can bombard our own minds with images and flirtations with other attractive people and still see our partner in the same light. Flirting with all of the beautiful women I came across soon became my second master, the media helped in keeping a steady stream of different women in my field of vision, and I took it to my head, believing that I should have more and more…

Pretty soon, my focus was on other women, and my view of her changed and as a result of that, so did my behavior towards her. For that, I’m still very sorry. Today, I don’t watch adult video, for this reason, I don’t flirt with other women or even entertain the idea because commitment isn’t something that we practice just so we don’t get caught, but it’s something we carry around with us and exercise at all times — commitment isn’t just saying yes to someone and obtaining a relationship, it’s a process rooted in our understanding that the relationship itself gives your actions and your sacrifice purpose towards a future together.

In short, a commitment is something we honor or it’s nothing at all, and when we don’t honor our commitments, even we won’t respect them or the person attached to them before we know it. The temptation will be there and we can choose to indulge in it or not, and the grass is (almost) never greener on the other side; most people who leave good relationships in search of something better end up with something toxic, with a ton of newly developed baggage in the way of repressed shame.

Unhappiness is Strychnine to Relationships…

I was unhappy. I felt inexperienced, insecure, inadequate, and all-around insufficient. I found someone who was great and I dove into it as fast as I could, and though I asked myself constantly, “How can I make her happy?” and would try to do things for her accordingly, I wasn’t happy myself within. I wasn’t ready. There’s no shame in saying we’re not ready for a relationship. As often as we hear the cliche it’s something we’ve come to often roll our eyes at, but it’s true, you can’t be happy in a relationship if you aren’t happy alone.

This is where things get a little tough; everyone wants a relationship and everyone deserves love; but the real, harsh truth is that deserving love and deserving a committed relationship are two very different things. We need to be honest with ourselves in our appraisal of our readiness to take something serious on and not jump into something that’s way over our heads like I did.

I did all the wrong things, and, when I did the right things, I was still desperate to ease the gnawing fear that it was actually the wrong thing. Nothing seemed right and that’s because people don’t right all of the wrongs within us. If I could do it all over again, I would have focused on myself, the things I needed to work on within, rather than the things I felt I needed to change to have a successful relationship. The truth that very few people want to face is that virtually nobody wants to be with someone who is unhappy, deep down inside. We know it in our bones that we can’t help someone who’s unhappy with themselves, with their lives, to become happy by waving some magic wand.

In Sum

These are just a few of the things that I personally did wrong to bring that relationship down, over the years, and while things didn’t work out like I’d hoped or even believed they would at the time, I learned…I learned from that relationship, from that pain, from that agony that followed it…I learned what not to do.

I learned to keep myself in line and not let little shortcomings pile up, as they do; I learned that I can’t look at relationships as accessories, but living, breathing symbioses; I learned not to indulge in external flirtations and maintaining a vibrant social life to keep the door open so I could have options; I learned that we need to either use the toilet or get the hell off it, we need to commit to our relationships and dive in, or wait until we find something that we really want — and that we’re ready for it — half-hearted commitments are always going to be destined to fail; and I learned how to be happy with myself. I learned how to be happy in life, to appreciate the little things, to not sweat the small stuff, and to learn to let things slide.

I learned that being happy with someone else is about picking your battles and not raising a fuss unless it’s absolutely necessary when our boundaries are crossed; it’s about becoming so truly, deeply, overflowing with your own serene happiness, that you can’t help but want to bestow it on someone else that you truly love.

Love is a process, a process of balance, one that takes place between two people, and in order for a relationship to be happy, the constituent members need to be happy. Love is support, not an indulgence. Love is accepting responsibility and criticism. Love is growing together with someone in the most healthy possible way, through both the losses and the victories.

Photo by Arsham Haghani from Pexels

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Orlando, FL

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