Tanya Sweeney: What I've learned about myself since starting my first relationship in years
Published 01/09/2016 | 07:31
There are things that no one ever tells you about being in a new relationship; not least after you've been single for a number of years.
Friends will still tentatively ask, 'How's all that going then?' in a strangely cautionary, delicate tone. This is probably because, much like yourself, they are pleasantly surprised that you're actually coupled up.
Although others have already expected the relationship to have run its course by now because, as evidently demonstrated by your many years of singledom, you are inept at holding down a relationship.
Memo to those pals: being on your own and being able to be in a healthy relationship are two very separate things.
Some of the most self-centred, dysfunctional plebs in existence have found a plus one. Finding a significant other to rub along with for a while is not a meritocracy. Nor is it a moral success.
On the flip side, you'll be asked on a number of double dates. Suddenly, a whole new social life opens up as the friends who have been coupled up for years are scrambling to hang out with your plus one, and their plus one. This is after you've been kept at arm's length from their partners while you were flying solo.
You will come up against other friends who feel that your closeness has been compromised because of a shift in your relationship status. You've bonded over your singledom for years, and bolstered each other's decision to not fall into lacklustre relationships… but now you have gone and broken rank.
In some cases, your new relationship will highlight for them that, although they love being single, they too might be willing to make room in their busy lives for the right person.
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Some feel inspired by that, but it will bring others down. As a result, some of these people will start to withhold their friendship. They've convinced themselves that you'll have changed somehow. Don't spend too much time on these people. Instead, focus on the friends who are happy that you are happy, whatever your relationship status is.
When you're single, you spend a little bit of time idly wondering just why it is that some of the biggest idiots in the world have found love and yet you haven't.
There's no special code; no secret handshake. You'll be surprised at how little you have to do to actually meet a nice person. And it's hard to sit that out; the just doing… nothing.
Though you were convinced that a boyfriend would make you feel infinitely happier and comfortable in your own skin, the bald truth is that relationships don't do that. You feel like yourself, only a little busier. You are not completed. You are not saved. You're just going to museums a lot more.
There's the 'freshman 10' - the 10 pounds you gain on your first year of college - and now, I realise, there is also the 'First Flush 10'. This is because you will be sitting around on sofas a lot, cuddling, drinking a lot of wine and eating substantially more than your regulation smoked salmon on brown bread. No one tells you about the feasts when you start a new romance. My god, the feasts.
If you're with a good person, you won't worry too much about it and won't wonder if your cellulite can be seen in a certain light.
In saying that, there is a part of you - a sensible, grown-up part - who wants to stay fit, healthy and active. You will need to ask your new plus one with a little help on that front; to forego the Netflix and chill (and the actual Netflix, for that matter) in order to get out in the fresh air and forego wine on the couch. When he suggests it though, you silently wonder if he's body-shaming you, or policing your slightly expanding waistline. The truth is, nothing can be further from the truth.
He's just happy to see you naked. Go easy on him.
There will be teething problems. How can there not be, if you've been so used to doing your own thing for years? You'll need to dust off compromise and diplomacy, because merging two previously separate lives takes a lot of work.
Enjoy the courting phase - matching underwear, leg shaving, you name it - for as long as you can. It's the loveliest part of all.
Don't be in a rush to get to the settled, complacent bit. You've all the time in the world for greying knickers on the radiators, if indeed, that is your wont.
Cuddles are great and all, but a bed all to yourself is as delicious as ever. That'll never change.
Do not take your new partner shopping for clothes; either yours or his. There's a special place in hell for those women.
Getting into a relationship with someone who is a grown-up, and a good one at that, will make you look back on previous dates and relationships in a new light. You'll look back on the men who messed around with your feelings for their own kicks and actually feel bad for them. You'll wonder why you spent so much time and energy mooning over the emotionally unavailable and the plain disinterested.
As sure as night follows day, one of them will crop up in your inbox, mainly to see if they can get away with playing with your feelings for one last time. If you consider entertaining this for even half a second, you're demented.
The sex thing? Like riding a bike. Honestly. That's the biggest surprise of all.