I am in my first real relationship right now. We haven’t been together very long, so I still think very much like someone who’s perpetually single and unlucky in love. Here are some things I’ve learned in my short time on an indefinite break from singledom:
1. You might be kind of crazy. And that’s okay.
I’ve always thought that boys were the root of all my problems. To some extent, they have been, but I’m realizing now that they were just part of the equation. The part of the equation I don’t like to consider? ME. My boyfriend is great, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t get upset and nervous and anxious sometimes. The only difference is now I realize that much of my anguish is created by my own thought processes and inability to stand up for myself in the past (I’m working on changing in the present). It’s so easy to blame the rest of the world, but it doesn’t help when the real culprit is your overactive imagination. Common thought process: He didn’t text me back! He must be angry! What did I do? I knew I shouldn’t have used that emoji! It’s all my fault. No it’s not! He’s too sensitive! I’m going to – oh. he texted back saying he fell asleep. Okay. Not to say that this is always the case, but I, personally, have not been taking enough responsibility for the role I play in my feelings.
2. What you think you want might not be what you need or actually want.
With past quasi-relationships, I considered how much a guy talks to me as explicitly indicative of his interest. If he wanted to text nonstop, I would be ecstatic. If he was lackluster in his responses, I took it personally. I thought I wanted someone to think of me 24/7 and want to talk to me nonstop, because that means that he’s actively interested, right? I realize now that such a lifestyle, although functional for some, is not for me. I’m busy! He’s busy! We work full time in the summer and fill up our school-year schedules with classes and jobs and extracurricular activities and friends. We make time for each other, but not at the detriment to the time we owe other parts of our lives, and that’s healthy! I wish I had realized this before. The past six years would have been less tumultuous.
3. You should always keep one foot (or both) firmly planted in reality.
My past relationships have been whirlwinds. A week of talking to someone would make me emotionally exclusive, attached, committed. My rosy-tinted glasses would hide all the red flags and I would trudge on, only to be devastated when things inevitably ended due to problems I ignored or just didn’t see. It was like a disability. And I never learned! Every time, I would do the same thing, and be surprised when something went wrong. Looking back, I now see that a coke addiction should have been a deal breaker. The guy with the girlfriend he was “going to break up with for” me? I should have tossed him out like yesterday’s trash. I’m now learning to think about what it is that I want out of a person, beyond the theoretical idea of what I want in the short-term. Thinking only for now really hurts when it “now” is over.
4. Sex makes you feel more lonely sometimes .
Sometimes I really liked hooking up with randos. Sometimes you just NEED to have sex with the beautiful British boy with the voice of an angel (cue swooning here). But those nights where I felt lonely and just wanted to be held? Those nights, I should have slept alone. Like I said, thinking only for now really hurts when now is over. And it’s not even about the boy, it’s about feeling lonely from the absence afterwards, being teased by temporary affection that wasn’t ever going to last. I realized this before, but I think I would have been happier without the lather, rinse, repeat.
5. Relationship sex isn’t like other sex.
It makes me happy and pleased in ways no other sex ever has before. It’s not all about the sex, either — it’s about the boy. There’s a different sense of incomparable security and care and passion. And I never knew how much I was missing out.
6. Dump the people that suck. You can’t change anyone.
I had all but given up after dealing with the guy who slept with my best friend a week after me, but I realize now that I had unrealistic expectations from the beginning. He “didn’t want a relationship at the time” and it was foolish for me to hold onto hope that I could convince him otherwise. Most boys suck (sorry dudes! Not a true generalization, but a very real bias based on my experiences), but it’s worth it to wait for the one(s) that don’t. It’s better to be alone than to be with someone who constantly hurts and disappoints you.
7. It’s not you, it’s them.
Obviously not always true, but if a guy doesn’t want to be with you, or hurts you, or mistreats you, it’s not your fault. It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you, or that you’re not good enough. It means that he isn’t good for you, that you belong with someone else, that you should move on because there is someone better out there for you. Thinking that I’m faulty has really hurt my self-esteem and it’s taking a lot of work to build back, but the little rewards the effort is bringing is proving that it’s worth it because I’m a star AND SO ARE YOU!
8. Make a wish, take a chance, make a change! (Cue Kelly Clarkson.)
My boyfriend and I wouldn’t be together right now if it weren’t because a friend of mine convinced me that going out and tearing up the dance floor with her one night would distract me from something I was upset about. I am so glad she didn’t let me sit around and mope. It’s true that it’s okay to do that sometimes but it’s even more true that you’re never going to remember the nights you spent sitting at home. You never know what might happen if you take a chance. I know it’s a cliche, but there’s a reason for that! my best memories are those of nights that ended completely differently than I had originally expected.
9. Relationships don’t fix everything.
I know I’m making it sound like my boyfriend is my savior and knight in shining armor, but that’s not what I mean. This just happens to be the first time I’ve taken a step back and really examined the life I’ve been living. A boy will never fix the problems you have with yourself, your friends, or the male species in general. The only person who can save you is you.
10. It’s all a learning process.
Life, love, and the pursuit of happiness interlace and form a tangled web of confusion. Every moment of every day, we either further tangle the web, or we work on loosening a knot. There is no knot too tight to untie one day, but we should stop looking for magical solutions that will work overnight. Everything is a learning process, a work in progress, to lessen the mess. the beautiful thing about being human is that we have the ability to learn and change. But only if we want to.