I keep starting posts, and not knowing how to begin; this blogging lark isn't as easy as it looks.
So I'll just start with a conversation I had last night, and see where it takes me. I was talking to my first girlfriend last night, who for the purposes of this story I will call Talya, and the conversation came round to our relationship - which was fairly brief, and about six years ago now.
The outline story is that we met at a small indie night through mutual friends and had an immediate physical chemistry (mental chemistry is harder to judge over the music :P). I discovered Talya's name by asking her friend, as she wouldn't tell me herself. I then found her on myspace (ahh, the old days! Hehe), and we did decide that seeing each other again would be a good idea. We had a few trips to the pub, and quite a lot of hanging out at my house. About a month later she wanted to split, but we've stayed in touch and get on pretty well.
A fairly un-exceptional story, I would think, but there are several things I took away from the whole experience:
1) It is quite easy to be friends with someone after you've ended a relationship with them*. A lot of people seem to disagree: ever heard the line "I don't want to ruin our friendship."?
Now anecdotally I assume that there's usually at least an element of "I'm just not that into you" behind that sentiment, but I expect that it's so easily used in that way because people do see it as being difficult or unlikely that you'd be friends with an ex.
2) Yes, there is such a thing as an attractive woman who finds me attractive. It sounds silly, but my confidence took a major boost. I'm no model, and being a man get much less bombardment of "YOU ARE UGLY. LOOK, THIS IS A BEAUTIFUL [carefully dressed, made-up, posed and then airbrushed] PERSON. COMPARE YOURSELF WITH THIS" in the first place, but I think I'd still internalised it to some extent. It helped a lot to think through:
A) Talya is an attractive young woman.
B) Talya seems to find me attractive.
C) Talya's aesthetic judgements seem sound to me in other cases.
D) Therefore I must look at least okay. Either that, or my personality is fricking a-mazing.
3) Talk. About. Everything.
Respect for your partner demands that you give them some space, when they ask for it or you think that it would help. However, there should be no subject that is always taboo, only more or less appropriate circumstances to bring it up. There were quite a few things I really didn't feel able to talk about with Talya, and I'd be quite surprised if she didn't feel the same way. Thing is, I don't know that, because we never discussed it...a conversation of a few minutes with her last night has given me a better understanding of her side of the story than I ever had at the time, and there is no real reason why I couldn't have had that conversation with her at the time.
No big deal when it's your first relationship. There will be others, and you've got to learn somewhere. But when it gets to the point you're wanting to, say, live with someone you really have to have that sorted. (speaking of which, I will come back at some point to co-habitation and why I heartily recommend it).
*I am generalising broadly, not saying it is possible or even desirable in every case. If, say, your ex- was abusive then arguably you shouldn't even try.
**There are many other things I could have listed, but this is the biggy.