I’ve never had a real boyfriend.
Over the last decade, I’ve cuddled with my high school crush, been wanted for sex by a blue-eyed boy in my 11th grade science class, been flirted with by the decade older son of my mom’s childhood best friend, boldly kissed the first man I ever loved on a New York City sidewalk, and dated a really nice guy who enjoyed my company for a couple of weeks, but just wanted to be friends. Needless to say, none of those fine gentleman ever made it to boyfriend town. I’ve never experienced the luxury of the “what are we” talk or the feeling of exclusivity that comes with a comfortable and established relationship. A part of me knows that this is probably best until I get my shit together a little more, but another part of me is super lonely, sexually frustrated, and eager to know what it’s like to be somebody’s someone – to fall asleep and wake up next to the person I love, plan epic date nights, and post my own annoying couple photos on Facebook.
Despite having so little experience with relationships, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about what I want and don’t want, what I will and will not tolerate, and how I want to treat and be treated by future love interests. It helps to remind myself that this seemingly endless stream of almost relationships is preparing me for a real one someday. (Right?!)
1. You deserve the best. Otherwise, you’re likely wasting your time.
Over the last few years, I’ve come to acquire what I like to call an extremely low bullshit tolerance in relationships. I think all relationships should have some semblance of growth and forward momentum. If I feel like someone isn’t trying or isn’t as invested as I am, I get very turned off and tend to flee almost immediately. If someone likes you, they will make you feel awesome. If someone wants to be with you, they will try to be with you. If someone cares about you, they will show it just as much as they say it. It’s really that simple. If I’m left questioning how someone feels, I assume they don’t feel anything and promptly begin the process of moving on. This approach has kept be pretty blatantly single, but put more positively, it has kept me out of the wrong relationships.
2. Your feelings and expectations are valid, no matter the nature of the relationship.
Feelings don’t come with relationships the same way hashbrowns come with a Texas Bacon Cheesesteak Melt. (I work at Waffle House, okay?) An almost relationship can bring about just as many feelings as a real relationship. There is love, passion, jealousy, anger, pain, and everything in between. A relationship is a relationship, no matter what kind. Telling yourself you shouldn’t be hurt or angry is like saying ducks shouldn’t quack. You just are, and they just do.
3. If someone wants to be with you badly enough, they will do their part in making it happen.
I’ve never read the book He’s Just Not That Into You, but I’ve heard plenty about it. And as hard as those lessons may be to accept, they’re all true in my experience. Relationships are complicated, but they’re certainly not as complicated as most people make them out to be. If someone truly wants to be with you, they will make an effort. If you’re in an almost relationship, you’re with someone who’s making an almost effort. And unfortunately, that doesn’t count.
4. Honesty and communication are the keys to resolving almost every point of concern.
Conflict and misunderstandings have a tendency to run rampant and out of control in most relationships, and I’m slowly beginning to realize how futile and unnecessary this is. When two people are honest and clear, they automatically rescue themselves from a world of pain and wasted time. Be honest about how you feel, what you want, what you don’t want, and how you expect to be treated. If you’re having some kind of problem with another person, talk to them about it in a fair and concise way. It’s like coming up for air after being underwater for a prolonged period of time.
5. Boundaries equal self-respect.
Boundaries are essential, especially in almost relationships. You don’t owe a single thing to a person who hasn’t committed to you yet (or won’t commit to you at all). Love and respect are valuable gifts. A person who can’t reciprocate doesn’t deserve them.
6. Games are really old and really stupid. Stop playing and participating in them.
If you genuinely want to message someone back, ask someone out, tell someone how you feel, perform a grand gesture, or take a grand risk, just fucking do it already. Life is short, and love is fleeting. There are no rules outside of simply following your heart.
7. You can still be in love with or get your heart broken by someone you never dated.
I never officially dated my first love. I hesitate to even call him my first love, which is ridiculous because that’s exactly what he was, regardless of our circumstances. When we didn’t make it, I truly understood the concept of a broken heart for the first time in my life. I remember telling myself that I was being stupid and dramatic because we were never “officially” together, but what does that matter? With or without the label, hearts have the capacity to love and get broken. We don’t live in a box.
8. “I’ve been busy” is a bullshit and insulting excuse we should all stop falling for. If someone cares about you, they will never be too busy to show it.
We live in a fast-paced and busy world, but there are plenty of hours in a day to make time for the things that matter to us. If you want to talk to or hang out with someone, you’ll pencil that shit in no matter how busy you are. The busy excuse is for cowards. While they are likely telling the truth about being busy, they’re not telling the truth about why they aren’t respecting you and your time. I recently waited two or three days for a guy to respond to a simple text, and when I jokingly asked if he had forgotten about me, he told me he had “just been busy.” I very politely called bullshit and requested a better explanation, and he put his tail between his legs and admitted that he didn’t want to date. I rest my case.
9. If you want to know the answer to something, just ask. It saves a whole lot of time and emotional energy.
Curious how someone feels about you? Ask. Curious why your SO is acting distant all of a sudden? Ask. Curious why someone won’t return your calls or texts? Ask. It’s true that we may not always get the answers to our questions, but if you at least have the balls to ask, I assure you that counts for something.
10. Love alone is not enough to sustain a relationship.
This has been a hard lesson for me to learn, especially in the last few months. In order to truly sustain a relationship, many different factors must come into play. You can love another person all you want, but if there are a million and one obstacles keeping you apart, you’re eventually going to be very befuddled and disappointed by the realization that love unfortunately does not conquer all. You can’t build something sturdy and strong with missing pieces.
Here’s to hoping we all get a little closer to the relationships we deserve and little further away from the word “almost.”