Belly and Conrad in 'The Summer I Turned Pretty

8 Beautiful Love Lessons From ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’

In honor of the second season forthcoming, here are some of my favorite lessons from first season of the show. 

Sometimes a relationship’s hardships aren’t actually about the relationship—so approach them with empathy and understanding.

Throughout the season, Conrad struggles with his feelings for Belly while coping with a kind of grief he feels he can’t talk about—which, to Belly, only makes it seem like he’s not really interested in her, he’s just playing with her heart. And while it’s perfectly valid for Belly to say, “This is not good for me” and walk away, the problem lies in her automatically assuming that Conrad—the boy she grew up with who was always kind to her—did everything he did fully with the intention of hurting her and not because he was going through something big and painful of his own.

You can’t expect people to wait for you, but there is beauty in letting them be there for you.

When Belly told Conrad she was no longer going to wait for him, it clearly hit him hard. He spent so much of the season caught between what he wanted and what he thought he needed to do. And while it’s clear that he did what he thought was best for everyone, it was also clear that Belly would have been there for him through it all if he’d only given her the chance. While it’s certainly true that sometimes we need to go through certain journeys on our own, it’s equally true that sometimes we’d be better off with someone who loves us by our side—and it isn’t until Conrad opens himself up to that possibility that he finally feels the weight lift from his shoulders.

Communication is key in any relationship.

So much of this first season was about a lack of communication—Susanna not telling anyone about her cancer prognosis, Conrad not telling anyone he knew she was sick, Conrad not being open about his feelings for Belly, Belly not being transparent to Jeremiah about her relationship with Conrad, Jeremiah scheming to get Conrad out of the picture instead of being open about his own feelings for Belly. And while so much of it is true to life, it makes you wonder how different the story could have been if everyone put their hearts on their sleeves and said what they really meant. There would probably be a lot less broken hearts, at least!

Love requires action—so show people how you feel.

It’s clear from the beginning that Conrad is interested in Belly, but he makes a pretty concerted effort to cover it up. But even once his feelings become clear, he doesn’t actually do much about it—he never lets his love become an action. That’s why it’s so easy for Belly to turn her affections towards Jeremiah, who is always so willing to show her how he feels—whether it’s by teaching her to drive to get her mind off of something bad, constantly trying to spend time with her (and being visibly excited to see her), and telling her exactly how he feels. It isn’t until the end that Conrad begins acting fully on his feelings—buying Belly muffins for her big day, stepping in to dance with her, and stating clearly how he feels about her—that he finally gets the girl.

The people who want you will choose you.

Similar to the last point, the people who love you will choose you—even when you feel like there are reasons they shouldn’t. Steven and Shayla illustrate this point perfectly, specifically when Steven learns one of Shayla’s wealthy classmates has feelings for her. He gets worked up about it, but she calms him by reminding him that she doesn’t want her classmate and that she chose Steven. It was never a question about whether he was “enough” or if he fit into her high class world. She loved him so she chose him, simple as that.

Choosing love means choosing to be brave.

Near the end of the season, Belly admits that actively choosing to be with Jeremiah would mean opening her heart to something scary and potentially hurtful, which she wasn’t sure she was ready for. But if you want real, true love, you can’t half-ass it—you have to dive headfirst, even though there’s always a chance it’ll end in heartbreak. It’s easy to love someone from afar; to an extent, it’s even easy to love someone who you don’t think could love you back, because it protects you from ever having to go all in. It takes courage to let yourself give in to love fully—but more often than not, that bravery is worth it.

You deserve to be with someone who is your sun.

Belly’s mom hit the nail on the head when she said, “For Belly, Conrad is the sun. And when the sun comes out, the stars disappear.” At the end of the day, her feelings for other people didn’t really matter when Conrad was around, because he eclipsed all of them. And that’s how love should be—you shouldn’t be with someone just because they’re interested in you, or just because everyone else thinks they’re right for you, or even just because you’ve convinced yourself it’s what’s best. You deserve to be with someone who sets your soul on fire and makes you feel certain that this is where you’re meant to be.

You never truly forget your first love.

Here’s the thing about first love: it changes you. It shapes the way you see relationships and marks your soul. And you will likely grow away from it, and you will likely move on from it, and you will likely fall in love with other people afterwards. You may even recognize it wasn’t good for you at all. But it does stick with you, because nothing that introduces you to something as life-altering and beautiful as love can ever truly be forgotten.

About the author

Callie Byrnes

Callie is a writer, editor, and publisher at Thought Catalog. Her debut book, ‘The Words We Left Behind,’ was released in January 2024.