My story is technically not the typical NBSB tale, though with my previous “relationships” way back in high school or about 15 years ago (!), it may as well be. I call them “relationships” because they lasted for an average of three months—the longest was eight months and we were breaking up and making up every other week, I exaggerate not. We were kids; we had no idea what we were doing. All my “relationships” were of the no-touch, no-kiss, bantay-sarado-ni-Mommy variety. Hence the quotation marks.
In college, I went to a coed university and stayed in a boarding house, yet somehow managed to interact only with girls, gay men, and straight guys in relationships. After college, it was a similar crowd in the publishing industry where I worked for almost a decade. If not for online dating, I probably would’ve never ventured outside my usual circles. I probably would’ve never experienced a staggering spectrum of dates from horror stories to real-life rom-coms. I probably would’ve never met my boyfriend, who—cheese alert—makes me feel loved and safe and seen every day.
Here are 10 things you may experience as a late twentysomething in your first real relationship, from the totally subjective perspective of someone on the same boat.
- No matter the age or dating experience, no one really knows what “exclusively dating” means. Technically, it means you’re not seeing anyone else but you’re not (yet) officially together. Yeah, try explaining that to your titas who will grill you until you’re also asking everyone except the person you’re dating: But what does it really mean??? Little do you know that he/she has the exact same sentiments, asking everyone except you, too. Communication is key no matter how old you are, you guys!
- Some people may naturally evolve from dating to exclusively dating to officially together, but not you. You are a strong independent woman but have no experience in smooth relationship transitions, so some spelling out would be much appreciated. The talk will be awkward AF, but it will be a cute funny story, your cute funny story down the road.
- You won’t know what to expect on your first out-of-town trip together. Does he snore? Is he messy? Also: do you snore? Are you messy? Will being together for hours on end send you both running back home? It’s different for every couple in every stage of the relationship: some may enjoy every second of their trip together, others may need some me-time break. Your first trip together will push your boundaries for the better, with the right person and good ol’ communication (like maybe just tell him/her the aircon temp is too cold instead of sneakily turning up the heat; the thermostat negotiation may or may not include extra tight snuggles).
- The first time you cook together will warm your soul, not to mention fill up your tummy. Even if the final dish won’t make it to Chef’s Table, it’s a tangible, edible result of your teamwork, a masterpiece in that sense. And if you happen to be with someone who knows his/her way around the kitchen? Girl, you are set for life. Okay, so you may have to adjust to each other’s quirks in the kitchen, but it’s all part of the fun.
- The first time you say I love you may or may not be some form of incoherent mumbling. It’s okay, you’re not used to saying it to anyone except your family and closest friends. He/she will find it cute and endearing and tease you until the end of time for it. Eventually you’ll be able to say it out loud like an actual grown-up, a true milestone in your books.
- The sex will be different every time, but the graph will generally show an increasing trend in quality. As a grown-ass woman, you know what you want in the bedroom and how to ask for it. And if you’re still figuring it out? Remember that this person is someone you love and trust, so don’t be afraid to speak up. Be open to trying new things, meeting each other halfway, and learning each other’s rhythm especially in the beginning. You know what they say—practice makes for damn good sexy time.
- The first time you meet his friends, you’ll want to win them over as quickly as possible. But as with all your other friendships in your 20-plus years of existence, each one has its own dynamics and pace. You may hit it off from the get-go with some of them, while you may be surprised by how and when you click with others. Don’t worry if it’s just not happening for some of his/her friends—they are his/her friends and you don’t have to share every single aspect of your lives. As long as there’s no relationship-sabotaging or life-ruining going on, it’s enough that you hang out with them from time to time.
- The first time you meet his parents will be a whole ‘nother level—it will feel like a first date and job interview all in one. You will feel nauseous on the days leading up to it. On the day itself, you will have a mini breakdown in the middle of the mall over a birthday gift ribbon that simply needs some trimming. (Just me? Okay.) The best thing you can do to stop spiraling is to remember that these are the people who raised the wonderful human being that you are dating, so they must not be that scary, right? Sure, you want to make the best possible first impression. But there are just too many factors out of your control, and the more you fuss, the more you will spiral. Just be your polite self and focus on getting to know them instead of impressing them. As long as the day doesn’t end with them forbidding their son/daughter from seeing you—this is not a K-drama, mmkay?—then that counts as a big win already.
- Your fears that the first fight may nip your relationship in the bud will far outweigh what the fight was about in the first place. Experts say that fighting is healthy and that you should fight alongside—not with—each other, but that won’t make any sense to you in the heat of the moment. You may be worried and embarrassed and humbled by the course of the fight. There is really no magical instant fix, but listening and putting yourself in each other’s shoes will go a long way. P.S. Makeup sex is the cherry on top of your sweet reconciliation.
- Birthdays and holidays will feel extra amazing. Having that special someone to spend your birthday with will feel like the best gift in itself. Yes, you’ve had some banging birthdays through the years, but this is different, this is new, this is banging in a different way (ba-dum-tss). Puns aside, have no shame in savoring that feeling. The same goes for holidays like this Christmas season. The holidays will feel extra merry and bright, even as you worry about what to get him/her as a gift. And after decades of flying solo at family reunions, you now have someone to go with and your titas will finally stop pestering you about having a boyfriend. Now you’ll have to fend off questions about marriage and kids no matter how new the relationship is—but, eh, you take the good with the awkward!
Getting into a relationship in your late twenties, a time when you have more things figured out about yourself, does have its benefits, but there’s still so much to learn and re-learn along the way. By your late twenties, you’ve formed good habits as well as habits that can be better. Like in any age, the challenge and the fun of being in a new relationship is in figuring things out together and building a solid foundation of love and trust and kindness.