Love – it was a word I always scoffed at through high school and the beginning of college. I was focused on school, not falling for some stupid boy and getting my heart broken. But then one day, a certain guy came along and changed all of that.
So this is for all of the girls out there who are like I was. The ones who are constantly third-wheeling, watching their friends date guy after guy, and waiting for that one special person to change their world. The ones who consider so many times settling for someone way less than they know they deserve, because they think maybe they have set their standards too high.
I’m here to tell you that your standards are not too high and you should never settle. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with “dating around” – I guess. I played the “wait for that guy who when you look at him, you just know” card, and we ended up dating for quite a long time. I was happier than ever. I advise everyone to do what I did – wait until you just know. Don’t fret now. Your first love will come, I promise. But until then, if you want to know what it feels like when it does? Here’s what I can offer you – but don’t take this as an absolute. All relationships are different, and that doesn’t make any of them more or less special.
1. It’s both everything you expect and nothing you expect.
You know when you’re young, and you’re always waiting for your Prince Charming? The one who smiles at you and you just melt and little hearts fly around your head and all of a sudden the birds sound better and the sun seems brighter? It’s pretty accurate in some ways. Everything just seems better when you know you have someone who cares about you. Life seems a little more bearable when you can share it with someone. But at the same time, it’s different than all that. It’s half the romance, and half just learning how to live as part of a pair. You’ve spent all of your life being independent, and then all of a sudden, you’re expected to share every intimate detail. Every thought, every emotion. It’s overwhelming at first. Opening up when you’ve been living inside yourself for so long is one of the hardest things to do, but it’s worth it. Take a risk. Break down your walls. You can’t be caught unless you let yourself fall.
2. He may not be special at first, but he’ll mean the world to you before you even realize what’s happening.
“Love at first sight” isn’t always a thing. I don’t mean that you should run out and start dating your long-time best friend just to see if you might force yourself into liking him. However, the person you end up falling for might not be your immediate first choice. I’ll admit – I wasn’t a fan of him at first. He seemed carefree and a little too spacey. Until I started to give him a chance and realized he cares about things more than anyone I’ve ever known and he’s incredibly reliable. I’m not saying you’re always going to fall in love with that guy in your class you couldn’t stand – there has to be some chemistry there. However, it’s not always about that longing first glance they show in movies. Sometimes there’s a struggle. Sometimes there’s two months of “Do you think he likes me or not?” In the end, it’s worth it. Just keep fighting for what you want.
3. You’ll gain a best friend.
If your significant other isn’t your best friend, you’re doing it wrong. Sure, there’s a side of romance and passion. There’s something to be said about the guy who holds doors, brings you flowers, and kisses you like the world is ending. But there’s also another side. A side of inside jokes, silly faces, stupid jokes, and being total dorks. If you don’t have that side, you’re in an empty relationship. Your boyfriend should be your everything – your support system, your personal cheerleader, your partner in crime. So many people say you should just stop searching and date your best friend – I don’t agree with that advice. However, I think you need to date a guy who can become your best friend. Because no relationship will last unless you’re having the time of your life while you’re in it.
4. Laugh at everything, be angry about nothing.
This partially goes with number three. Like I said, dating is a learning adjustment. You’re going to need to learn how to make each other happy. And if you’re angry at each other all the time, it’s not going to last. I see so many couples arguing about everything life throws their way. Sure, I had my low points where I got upset about something and we’d argue. But let me tell you this – there is not a single worse feeling than arguing with the guy you love. Seeing them angry or upset is like tearing your own heart out and jumping up and down on it repeatedly. So pick your battles. Don’t get upset over everything. Enjoy the little things, and appreciate their existence.
5. Talk, talk, talk, talk.
This is probably the most important thing here. I’ve always been closed off. I don’t like talking about my feelings, and I don’t like people thinking that I need help. I don’t feel as if my thoughts are that important sometimes. But that’s the thing about relationships. As perplexing as it is to think about, that person actually cares about what you think, and they want to know when you’re upset. So talk about whatever is on your mind, no matter what it is. Personal experience – nothing good has ever come out of either of us being closed off. Talking about things is so liberating. You can get things off your chest and move on from them. I know, it’s crazy, right? But it works. Get the big issues out of the way early in the relationship. Iron out the kinks. It’ll be smoother in the long run, and it’ll prevent issues later. All you have to do is open your mouth. It’s harder than it sounds – I’ll let you know when I perfect it, because me opening up to anyone is still a work in progress, but it’s getting there, and I know it’s worth it.
6. Love actually is a two-way street.
If you don’t feel like he cares about you enough, he probably doesn’t. Move on, sister. As I’ve previously stated, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than that feeling of just knowing he cares and knowing he’ll be there for you if you need him. If you’re like I was, you’re probably sick of the search. Sick of feeling like no one could ever possibly care about you, and like you aren’t good enough. It’s frustrating, I know. But one day, someone will actually care about you and you’ll be so confused at first, but you’ll learn to accept it. On the other hand, be that person that cares too much. Sometimes caring too much will get you hurt, sure. But if your caring is not matched, you’re better off looking for someone else. Someone who will make you believe that you’re loved and will look at you like you’re the only girl in the whole world.
7. There will be awkward times.
Not only had I never had a boyfriend before, but I was that girl who had never really been on a date. I’d never had my first kiss, and certainly nothing past that. The world of dating is much, much different from the single life in so many ways. One of those ways is getting closer to someone than ever before. Sharing secrets you’ve never told anyone, opening up, and just trusting them. It also means general physical closeness too. If you’ve never really been with a guy, certain situations will seem incredibly awkward at first. Trust me here – no matter what happens, as long as you’re comfortable and enjoying yourself, and you can laugh about anything, it’ll be fine. And don’t ever, ever stay with a guy who pressures you into anything before you’re ready.
8. It’s about self-love and self-acceptance, too.
If you can’t love yourself, how can you love someone else? That’s the real question. I spent so long trying to convince myself that if I could just find a guy that cared about me, then I wouldn’t be so upset with myself and the world would be amazing and I would be happy and I would love myself. That’s not how it works. Learn to like yourself first. Don’t go searching for the perfect guy just to make yourself happy. You have to get your own life straightened out first – at least for the most part. Learn to accept yourself. Figure out who you are as a person before you try to both figure out someone else and try to tell that person who you are. The self-love will come in time. But the self-acceptance…once you have that, everything else will fall into place. Gain some confidence. Guys love confidence.
9. Live your life.
No matter how many times you tell yourself that you’ll never be the clingy girlfriend, you probably will be. I’m not an inherently jealous person. But there’s something about your first relationship, I guess. Something about being so happy that they care about you that you never want to live without them directly by your side. I learned this the hard way. It wasn’t even in the beginning that we had problems. I balanced in the beginning. A few months in is when I got clingy. Texted too much, spent too much time with him, and got upset if he wanted to do anything without me. I wrote off my friends, didn’t care enough about my schoolwork, and decided he was my only commitment. That was a mistake. I realized this as soon as summer hit and we spent some time apart – I needed to get back my individualism. Don’t let yourself become like I did. Or maybe, do, because then you’ll realize why it’s not the correct way to live. No relationship thrives on just each other. It thrives on two independent people living their lives and making each other better, supporting each other when they can. We’re 20, we’re young. A relationship shouldn’t be binding. It should be freeing. It should allow you to do whatever you want to be happy and successful, but give you the security of knowing you have someone to lean on if you need them. Jealousy and clinginess isn’t pretty, and while I feel awful that it happened, I’m almost glad it did, because now I know the difference between being crazy and being supportive.
10. You’ll never feel like you know anything about love, but you’ll know when it feels right.
There has never been a truer song lyric than “What is love?” I don’t think anyone can describe it in words. It’s just a feeling. It’s those butterflies you get every time you see them, even if you just saw them 20 minutes ago. It’s when you think of the dumbest thing they’ve ever said and smile for the longest time as you remember every detail about that day. It’s wanting to talk about the person all the time, but even more so, wanting to talk to them about everything. It’s those side glances and smiles from across the room when you’re in a large crowd of people, as if to say, “I’m having fun, and I know you are too, but I can’t wait to hang out, just the two of us.” It’s the times you say you can only stay on Skype for a half hour, and end up staying up until 3 AM and not remembering what you even talked about. It’s when your heart jumps when you see a text from them, and when it jumps even more when they touch you. It’s sitting outside of the mall, eating ice cream, when an elderly man is looking at you two, and your boyfriend looks you in the eyes and says, “Old people think young love is cute.” It’s all the big things and all the little things at once. But most of all, it’s that feeling you get, at any time, when there’s nothing you can think to say besides “I love you.” So you do, because for the first time, you can know that it’ll be returned, and it’ll make you feel like you’re flying and you’ll never fall.
So in the end? If you haven’t met a guy yet who you can see yourself with to the extent where you just know it’s right, just keep waiting. Because when you know, you know, and that’s the number one piece of advice I can give as the girl who followed that exact same piece of advice for her first 20 years of life. Sure, my first try may not have worked out, but just like everyone will have their first relationship eventually, everyone also has to have their first heartbreak. The difference though, is that when you were with a guy that made you feel like all of the things in the list above? You’ll look back on your time together and smile, because you’ll know it was worth it, and you’ll finally know exactly what it feels like to have truly loved someone.