I found my first partner at 27, here’s what I learnt from being a late bloomer

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“Prior to meeting my partner, I had an almost selfish stance on life. After all, I’d only had myself to look after for so many years. Learning to factor another human into my life, routine and schedule was jarring.”

There’s no denying that with age comes societal pressure to follow a particular pathway, which supposedly leads you to the most fulfilled version of yourself.

You finish school, excel in a career, find a partner, get married, have children and retire peacefully. This trajectory has been around for decades and was, for the most part, adhered to by the boomer generation and its predecessors.

Interested to hear how others navigate the world? Head to our Life section.

I realised in my early twenties that there was a constant sort of buzzing in my head. If I stopped to listen to it for a moment, I could just about make out the question: ‘How is your love life?’.

I entered the dating realm late; it was never a priority for me. I was somewhat obsessive about my career and focused on becoming – what I deemed – successful very early on. I started a job in media at 17 and worked and studied full-time.

This meant missing out on spontaneous travel, partying and just generally being a young adult. While I don’t regret my choices and priorities, I saw my friends enjoying this time of their life in a very different way to me.

When I came around to the idea of exploring dating, I was 21. I’d never had a partner. It took me another six years before I found someone that I was ready to commit to and vice versa.

Initially, I started this journey for the wrong reasons – mostly because I saw others around me happily pairing up, and was scared my biological clock would run out. I knew I wanted to start a family at some point.

My god, though, dating was rough. I went on dates with a wide variety of people, and initially, I struggled to figure out what type of person was for me. Was I into someone shy and introverted like myself or the boisterous, talkative debater?

I didn’t know and as a result, I became a compulsive dater. I relied largely on ‘the ick’ factor to get me through (where the attraction you feel towards a potential partner is suddenly flipped to a feeling of disgust). I would give it three dates and see if the ick raised its head.

My experiences in dating forced me to unpack why so much of our self-worth is associated with being in a relationship. Why is finding someone the defining arc of our lives? Being single is heavily stigmatised, and for many of us, it makes us believe that we can only be complete when we find our ‘soulmate’.

The pressure is so immense that people are investing their time and energy in the wrong relationships just to feel accepted. Being single for such an extended period of time taught me a lot; I learned to enjoy my alone time, manage my finances independently, be unapologetic about who I am and I discovered true self-worth.

I finally comprehended (admittedly after many, many years) that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. I wasn’t not finding a partner because I wasn’t attractive enough, or educated enough, or needed a better job or wasn’t interesting.

When I did eventually meet the right person, it was evident early on. It was easy. It was comfortable. I never had to question it. Although there was a huge amount I still had to learn, and am continuing to learn, being in a relationship for the first time.

At times I feel slightly out of my depth because I have no experience being someone’s companion. Prior to meeting my partner, I had an almost selfish stance on life. After all, I’d only had myself to look after for so many years. Learning to factor another human into my life, routine and schedule was jarring.

It wasn’t just me now – I had someone else’s thoughts and feelings to consider in my decision making. I quickly learnt that compromising doesn’t mean you’re weak and admitting your weaknesses is par for the course. We all have flaws and sometimes you can only just accept them, not fix them.

Conflict is another one. The way I used to resolve conflict – by avoiding it and shutting down – doesn’t work when you have a significant other, especially when misunderstandings are inevitable. Sometimes I struggle to figure out if something is right or wrong (or who is right, and who is wrong) because I don’t have real-life examples of problems I encountered with past partners to compare it to.

How many arguments are too many before they decide to pull the pin? Or is it possible to just continue to grow as a couple with each confrontation? I guess I’ll find out. I can only go by my feelings and what I learned about myself over the course of my 20-plus years of living and hope it’s accurate.

Ultimately, whether you’re single or coupled up, you’re the one in charge of creating your own reality. You can become bitter or better as a result of your choices. If you want a partner, take the time to prepare yourself for a relationship. And if you want to be single, enjoy the hell out of your time (and luxuriate in having all that space in bed to stretch out).

For psychologist-approved advice on how to enjoy being single, try this.

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