1. Rules are rules because we believe they’re rules.
The three-day calling rule; the idea that whoever texts first is the one capitulating and loses power; the whole concept of the “chase” — whatever your signature move is, it’s something you ascribe to because someone somewhere decided it should be code. And then it was.
If you like someone, just text them. Don’t wait for an arbitrary time, or for them to text you first so you feel wanted. You’re only baiting yourself when you do this, and not them; chances are good they’re too wrapped up in their fear of rejection to actually notice when someone else is also floundering through the games and nonsense. If you think it’s bogus that you should wait to let someone know you’re into them, then don’t ascribe to it. Tell them. Scarier, yes, but more honest to what you’re feeling — and that’s what relationships are all about.
2. A lot of the time, it really isn’t you.
Whatever happens — well, happens. You can’t control everything, nor should you expect yourself to. And while, okay, maybe 15% of the time it’s just straight-up you, that leaves a huge margin of other factors. Maybe the other person has stuff they’re trying to sift through. Maybe they genuinely aren’t looking to date someone right now. Maybe you did everything as “right” as you possibly could have, and were your most charming, witty, effervescent self and things still didn’t incite a mutual spark. None of that is on you. If you hold up your end of the dating bargain, eventually you’ll find someone to reciprocate. (Just also check in every once in a while to make sure you’re not operating on the 15%, k?)
3. The answers do not lie in text messages.
So screencapping and rehashing and micro-analyzing the placement of a single punctuation mark is not going to clue you in any further than you already are. You know what will clear up any questions you might have about what the other person means and how they feel? Asking them. Yes, I know it’s scary, but love is a scary thing, and if this person isn’t worth mustering up your bravery and just asking, are they worth the scariness that comes with a serious and committed relationship?
4. 9 times out of 10, you ask advice from the people who will give you the answers you already know.
This is why we gravitate to each of our friends in turn — whether they’re the ones who are going to give us the tough love we know we need to listen to, or the ones who console and say you can do better and forget them, they didn’t deserve you anyway. Look: we’re all floundering through this love stuff. We’re all making it up as we go — even those of us whose relationships seem good and solid and loving and stable. If you and your friends all follow each other’s advice all the time, you’re going to end up having the same love lives and making the same mistakes time and time again. It’s like asking a frog how to fly.
5. Everything good takes time.
This goes further than love at first sight — sometimes even liking someone takes time. You can fall into a relationship and like being around each other, and hold off on the butterflies and falling-in-love. (It’s not romantic, but it happens.) And slowly, you might find yourself growing more connected to the other person. Even people who fall more and more in love with one another did so over a period of months and years, so to wonder why things aren’t the stuff of fairytales from the get-go is to set yourself up for a lot of disappointment.
6. No perfect relationship is ever as it seems.
It’s as Cher Horowitz said: Relationships are like Monets — to the people who are close enough (so, in the relationship), they’re a big old mess. That doesn’t make them any less valuable and wonderful, though. Ask anybody who has been in a seemingly flawless relationship, and if they’re willing to be honest with you, you’ll find that they’ve seen their fair share of hard times. And even if you’re lucky enough to find what your definition of the ‘perfect’ relationship is — if the person you’re seeing checks off every single criteria on your list — something’s going to fall through somewhere unless you genuinely work for it. Something will fall through anyway, even if you work at it. (But that doesn’t mean you should stop.) Sometimes, it’s all those ripples and flaws that make things so wonderful, anyway.
7. Being in a relationship will not solve your problems.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily “better” to be single. Both single and coupled people can grow, but there’s no one cure-all for getting your life back in shape. The person you’re in a relationship with might be able to help you work through your problems, but you’re going to have to (and should want to) do a lot of that work yourself.