1. If he calls you names, it’s called abuse.
I was, perhaps embarrassingly, blind-sided when I came across the definition of verbal abuse. Legally, it is defined as the use of words to cause harm to the person being spoken to. Emotionally, verbal abuse was the self-doubt I holstered to my back and carried to job interviews, social gatherings and college classrooms. It was the many adjectives I heard regularly at escalated volumes (too sensitive, too insecure, too immature, etc.) and used to define who I was in terms of who he was. He was almighty, and I was a shell of a human, one who was too many negatives to amount to anything. Oh, sure, he said I was beautiful, but the other names trumped, they echoed. A companion should build you up, should make you feel whole and appreciated, and instead I felt I was too much of all the things no one strives to be to ever be good enough.
2. Mutual beliefs may not be important, but mutual respect is.
I believe in gay marriage and the Democratic Party and the freedom of choice, and if he (whoever he may be) does not, I have at least the open mind to give him a chance. He may be Catholic or Jewish and I may continue about my atheist ways, but we should, in an ideal circumstance, still be able to function in a conversation and relationship appropriately, albeit some logistical inconsistencies. When an opinion is spoken, a head nod should be returned, a sign that understanding and acceptance is taking place – the finger pointing, “you’re wrong,” accusations should not immediately (and expectedly) ensue.
3. If, once receiving all the facts, his behavior still looks shady, assume it is.
8 a.m. seemed a reasonable hour to call my mom on a Sunday. “He didn’t come home,” I said. “Well, where did he go?” I didn’t know, and I wouldn’t ask him for another hour and a half, and it wasn’t for another two years that I’d find out what actually happened that night. Us women have an intuition we choose to ignore when that intuition poses a threat to our relationship. Nobody likes break ups. But if all the sirens are alert, pay attention. Never jump to conclusions – collect facts and practice trust – but if the facts don’t add up and the alarms in your head are noisily insistent, don’t stand by your man for love’s sake. Instead, stand by yourself for self-respect’s sake.
4. A lot of things walk like love and talk like love, but aren’t love.
But of course after my relationship ended my mom decided to divulge all the relationship advice she’d entrusted over the last… many years (I won’t tell the world your age, mom, I got your back). She said once: “In a lot of marriages one person just loves being loved, but that goes away. You need to learn the difference between love and infatuation. Infatuation ends in six months.” There is also obsession leaning on addiction. There is a need to be loved, or a desire to not be alone. None of these are good enough reasons to entertain “I love you” pillow talk, and certainly no reason to say the word “forever” over a holy book of whatever making. This is why time alone and loving yourself is important – you learn what love actually looks and feels like without harming someone else in the process.
5. He has no business knowing or deciding or commenting on your pant size.
I was, as I presume most women are at some point, guilty of buying pants one size too small, and man, do those pants suck to put on every morning. I may have done this thanks to societal pressure, or maybe I did it because I was told if I got fat I was unlovable, but whichever, it is not my partner’s business. He is welcome to buy me gift cards to clothing stores for occasions – all fine by me, because as far he is concerned my pants are this mystical jean material that just fit. And make my ass look great. And if the tag boasts a plurality or roundness in digits, he is never to know – or care about, or comment on — the difference. P.S. totally bought pants in my actual size the other day and I feel so hot.
6. What everyone says about communication and trust is true.
Trust can be broken, and can perhaps be rebuilt, though I have never witnessed the latter sentiment. Going into a relationship with unresolved resentment and an inability to trust is a tried and true bad idea, but say you go in healthy minded and willing to invest belief in a person, should that go out the window: just walk. The months of anguish to build trust again is probably better served bandaging your broken heart. And as far as communication: stop yelling. Stop hanging up the phone. Stop challenging your voice to its highest octave. Stop being passive-aggressive. Stop testing one another, stop name-calling (see #1), stop temper tantrums, and for the love of everything on this planet, stop speaking with hands and fists. Remember at all times this is a real, living human being you are speaking to, a person with a mind and emotions similar very much to your own. Treat them as such.
7. Never, ever, not for one second, lose sight of your passion.
This goes for all aspects of life, but particularly, for the sake of this article, in a relationship. I started writing at six years old. Six years old! I don’t even know if I could spell at six years old! And then I quit. I was 18 and he called my song sad and because he was the beginning and end of everything, I didn’t write. It was not until one afternoon I skipped class (ahem… accidentally slept through my alarm, sorry mom and dad?) and wrote creatively for the first time in three years that I remembered the pleasure. The relationship dissolved soon after. Your passion may very well be your identity – give that up for nothing. When I am published it isn’t so much the pride of someone acknowledging something I wrote, but rather, that I, with all the strength I could muster, survived losing myself.