I am a hopeless romantic. I’ve always been a hopeless romantic, and I will probably always be a hopeless romantic.
Ever since I first saw , Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and the rest of the classic Disney fairytale films, the phrase “hopeless romantic” was basically engraved on my forehead. It’s your standard fairytale story: Your typical boy with the perfect smile and perfect hair meets girl (princess, rather) with an equally perfect smile and perfect hair. Boy jumps over every and any animated obstacle to win over the girl’s heart with his courage, manliness, and charm. Boy and girl fall madly in love (after knowing each other for, like, a week) and live happily ever after. And, given their track record of being flawless and in love, they probably texted each other back within 10 minutes and/or didn’t play any mind games with one another. Boom, end of story.
But it’s never really like that, is it?
It’s not a bad thing to be a hopeless romantic, it just means that to a certain extent, you’ve set standards for yourself based on what you’ve grown up with through fairytales or real-world heartbreak and experience. It means that to a certain extent, you haven’t given up on chivalry and the gentlemen’s 411 handbooks. But even so, through time and trial and error, you learn to grow up and grow out of your fairytale world fantasy because life forces you to.
You learn to differentiate expectations vs. reality. In featured films, the man has always been the hero in the story by either saving the day or winning over a woman’s heart. Once either of those two scenarios came into play, everything seemed to be in alignment.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and having a man as your backbone doesn’t seem as glamorous, or even necessary, as it did back then. You learn that being independent and seeking out your individual passions are what matter most. Relying on yourself, your own ambitions, and your own desires are what matter most. Being completely invested in your life through experiences rather than materialistic things are what matter most.
Loving yourself first before allowing someone else’s heart and mind into your world, that is what matters most. Everything we learn to help us move forward in life comes from each unique experience, the good, bad, and ugly heartbreak.
I’m sure you remember your first heartbreak, it’s something that you’ll never forget. Whether you really hurt someone or someone really hurt you, the pain leaves a permanent scar on your heart and is engraved in your memory. It changes you forever, but for the good in every way possible.
I used to have this mental battle with myself and the teeter-totter feelings of regret, guilt, anger, contentment, and forgiveness. It’s like the cliche phrase goes, “Everything happens for a reason.” You may not know it as you’re living in that one particular moment, but if something doesn’t work out, it’s because it wasn’t the right time, place, or person. God has a much bigger plan for you ahead, He will always have a much bigger plan for you waiting. You just have to be brave enough to accept that and act upon each and every opportunity as the opportunity comes knocking on your door. Allow yourself to gain the confidence and courage to seek out your greater journey, your greater story.
After the past few years of living my life completely and unashamedly single, here is how I have learned to view and approach love differently in my mid 20-somethings, and how I navigate mixed emotions through modern dating:
1. Friendship first; romance second.
Something I have firmly believed in since day one is that friendship should always come first. Trust is a huge thing for me, as I’m sure it is for everyone else in this world. It can be difficult to open up and allow someone into your life, your mind, and most importantly your heart, especially when you’ve been guarded for so long.
Allow yourself the opportunity to explore new people, get to know who they are as their own person. Are they a family person? Do they like being active? Sports? Good jokes and a sense of humor? Little hints can give you a pretty good sense of who someone really is, so trust yourself and trust your gut. Don’t worry so much about the romance so early on in the process of getting to know someone. When it is real, it will be more than worth the wait when you can know and feel confident in the fact that it actually is real, that it actually is genuine.
2. Focus on finding a man who compliments you and your passions, not one who completes them.
It drives me bananas when I hear my girlfriends talking about doing x, y, and z with their SO seven days out of the week, every week. Let the man breathe! Real talk, right now I could maybe handle seeing someone two to three days a week tops, because spoiler alert, I would like to continue to have a life outside of a SO, as should you.
It is so important to have your own life, your own space, and your own passions outside of each other. The beauty of relationships and marriage is that the two of you get to share your individual passions, adventures, obstacles, and triumphs together. You get to learn new things about each other, experience the world and more through the likes and dislikes of what makes the two of you both different and similar. Don’t spend your prime 20s and 30s waiting for the man who completes everything that you are. Wait for the man who compliments everything you are, and everything you hope to become. Inspire one another, challenge one another, and just then you might see your worlds align.
3. No expectations, no assumptions, and no timeline rule.
I used to be so bad at this, and I used to put the blame on our beloved Disney fairytales for this one. Stop putting expectations, assumptions, and/or timelines on anything to do with the person you’re “seeing” or “talking to.” This goes for both men and women. If you take a step back and really think about it, why are you in such a hurry to put a label on what you are? What’s so wrong about just calling them a friend and continue to get to know each other as you have been? This, I’ve come to realize, either through personal experience or as a third party observer, is a huge reason as to why people have resorted to “ghosting.”
I am not a fan of ghosting, whatsoever. My honest take on ghosting is if you’re going to do it to someone, you clearly haven’t grown out of your little boy/girl underwear or matured nearly enough. To me, that type of person is not worth your time, mental energy, or emotional exhaustion. I promise you, it makes the “dating” process and journey so much easier if you just go into any interaction with no expectations, no assumptions, and no timelines attached. Real and genuine friendships and relationships take time to build upon, so don’t feel like your journey with this new SO has to be rushed. Need I remind you, the best things in life are worth waiting for (again, cliche but relevant).
4. Communicate with your SO.
Communication is key. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, probably countless by now, but IDGAF because communication is essentially the foundation of everything — in relationships and simply a standard in getting through life in one piece. Women — we are in the 21st century, I can guarantee that if there is one thing in regards to men that has not changed over the hundreds of thousands of years, it is their inability to read our minds. Men and women should know by now that no one will know what you’re thinking unless the words come directly from you.
Unless you’re Edward Cullen or some shit, which you are most definitely not.
Moral of the story — talk to your SO. Share with them your thoughts, emotions, what you like and don’t like (emotionally and physically). Your relationship will grow so much more once you’re able to feel comfortable and confident in communicating with one another.
5. Your “type.”
Stop going to the same places with the same people doing the same things if you want to find something or someone new. It’s like the old saying goes: Stop fishing in the same sea of bad fish if you’re trying to find a good one. It’s extremely common to think you have a “type,” that definition of this mystery man or woman that you define to your friends when they attempt to set you up on a blind date.
The truth of the matter is, no one truly has a type. In the initial phase of playing the dating game, you’ll search for people who fit within selective criteria, time and time again. But, the reality is when you’ve finally met your person, they may end up checking off just one of your boxes. The rest merely comes from natural, easy, genuine chemistry and compatibility. As real and genuine love should.