In the first romantic relationship of my life, I found myself drowning.
Apparently the detectives called it "a perfect storm." It was 2016, I was a month or two into my third year of university, and I was struggling immensely with my mental health. Then I met someone who introduced me to a new world that I had never known before, and it wasn't a world that I wanted to be in. A world where love didn't feel like love, it felt like control. Love felt like I didn't have a choice.
In that first relationship, I should have been learning about managing mental health challenges while navigating new and deep emotions, as well as finding my voice within my relationship and learning how to assert myself calmly through the conflicts. Instead, I was fighting to survive in a fight club that I didn't really ask to be part of.
Now, in the most important romantic relationship of my life, I find myself with someone who I plan to be with for the rest of my life. Because of this, I know that there will be hard work involved. The relationship will be hard, and it has been so far in the first three years. Why? Because I have mental health challenges! (Technically, we BOTH have mental health challenges, but mine are much more severe).
I'm a person who has a brain that is fundamentally broken, if we really think about it. But it's not my fault that my brain doesn't work the way that it's supposed to, and the difference between my first relationship and my current relationship is that now, I'm not getting blamed for the problems that my mental illness causes.
Finding Your Way in Love's Maze
When you enter a new relationship, you may naturally be impressionable, especially if you're young and still learning about how to be your own human while also being in a relationship. When I was 20 and in my first relationship, I had no idea how to be a person yet. I think it's a skill that we all need to learn, and something that we never stop learning.
Not only was I trying to learn about being a person and being in a healthy relationship (which I hadn't ever seen a good example of before), but I was also navigating some of the most difficult times during my mental health journey. At this time, I was experimenting with different antidepressants in an attempt to find what worked for me, which I wouldn't recommend doing without a doctor the way that I did it It turned into a week or more of not sleeping that was concluded by a few scary hallucinations and a very scary delusion. Because of the fact that I was trying to do all of these things, I was extremely impressionable, and let's be honest — weak. That's why it was so easy for him to take advantage of me the way he did, and that's the reason why I went along with everything and it ended in a double-overdose. That's what I thought love was. I thought love was commitment.
I consistently struggled with finding my own voice, and in that relationship, I just didn't have one. I struggled with this too in my current relationship, just up until recently. I was always afraid that I was going to get in trouble for saying the wrong thing, because that's what had happened in my past relationship. However, my current partner reassured me that I'm not going to get in trouble for speaking my mind, because that doesn't happen in a healthy relationship. I was just so conditioned by my past that I thought this was normal. Finding my voice involved a lot of patience on my partner's part, as well as therapy and shadow work that taught me how to better understand and articulate my emotions.
Embracing the Emotional Onion
During conflicts in my first relationship, I was never able to assert myself without receiving a reaction that wasn't fair to me. But my favourite thing about my current relationship is that we talk about everything. I'm not afraid to go to my partner and talk about the things that I'm worried about. There have been many times where we've avoided conflict because I've felt comfortable enough to speak my mind to him. Just recently when I was upset with my partner, I calmly spoke to him and asserted myself, telling him why what he did made me upset and why it can't happen again. I was really proud of myself for being able to calmly illustrate my point, and I was also proud of him for not reacting negatively and engaging in a fight.
I've always been big with emotions. Now that I'm three years into a relationship, the emotions are extremely deep and complex. The emotional onion has developed layer upon layer of different feelings and perspectives. What speaks to me about this relationship is the fact that we're both able to communicate effectively with each other when there's a problem AND we're able to do it while both of us struggle with some pretty intense mental health shit.
I think the most important thing here is that you have a partner that you feel that you can speak to. Then I would recommend talking to your partner about strategies that you can come up with together, so that you can both use them when things get heated. Conflict happens in every relationship, but things like safe words, a few minutes apart, and having mutual understanding mean that the conflict doesn't have to end the relationship. With strategies like these, your relationship can evolve instead of staying stagnant.
My first relationship and my current relationship couldn't be more different. My first relationship was with a boy who didn't care about me at all, whereas my current relationship is with a man who gives me absolutely everything that he can. I'm proud to call him my partner in life because I know that we can work on things together. The biggest difference for me between these two relationships is that I'm not scared of my partner. I was scared of the person that I met in 2016, and I continued to be scared of him throughout our relationship and up until the day that he passed away. But with Patrick, I know that he's got me and that he won't hurt me. He might react negatively once in a while (because he's a human), but I know he'll always be able to see what's important and keep that in mind.
I've seen so much growth in myself since my first relationship ended in 2017. There's even a huge difference from the person I was when I first got into my current relationship in 2020. Instead of backing down, I've learned to assert myself and turn conflicts into opportunities for personal development and a stronger connection.
It's so easy to let arguments get out of hand, but you have to remember that there's no need to get angry. Get frustrated, but don't rage. Express how you feel, but don't yell. The right partner will be able to hear you, and together, you can learn how to work through conflicts in your relationship instead of letting them ruin everything.
About the Creator
Currently in my bad bitch era.
Online authenticity coach and tarot guide, here to help you become the most genuine version of yourself online.
Unleash your inner magic with me and own your unique journey!