How I Feel About Being 20 With No Relationship Experience Whatsoever

Shutterstock / Elena Stepanova
Shutterstock / Elena Stepanova

I understand that everyone learns from their past relationships. I respect the girl who learned a lot about herself because of her heartbreak at 16. I admire the couple wise beyond their years at 18. I see the honest and raw emotions that emerge from the high school sweetheart breakups, as juvenile as they may have been.

And though much of my thinking was envious, considering I was a teenager, it never seemed like something for me. I was friendly, and at times flirty, and everyone who knew me can tell you I have always been a hopeless romantic. I love flowers and romantic gestures. I love the cheesy movies and the cliché high school love stories. But even in that part of me I didn’t see it. I never saw myself cuddling up to a guy, giving him pieces of me, letting him in. I liked boys, and boys liked me. But it never reached a point where I felt that I needed to do anything about it.

Feelings now, at 20 and still single, are foreign to me. I’m not sure what it feels like to genuinely want to be with someone. I crush on people, and have interests, and obviously I see a text from them and the butterflies let loose, but it isn’t all consuming. I guess when a certain guy comes along, I will feel it. But it’s so uncontrollable that I can’t even spend much time thinking about my singleness.

And whenever I do think about it, it is sad. I wonder sometimes why I am lacking this experience in my life, these “pasts” that everyone else seems to have; what bone am I missing that stops me? I don’t think I’m ugly, or undesirable, or crazy; I’m not 16 anymore. I wonder why I’m so cynical, why I can’t trust someone, and why I’m so afraid of letting myself fall for someone. I can see myself being a mom and having a beautiful wedding and those are dreams I do have, but why can’t I even take a baby step toward any sort of relationship?

I am cynical because I’ve been betrayed. I have had poor friendships and one terrible almost lover who tore me to pieces. I have seen divorces and break-ups so earth-shattering that they scared me. I have watched failed attempts and known broken homes. And though no one in these situations is me, or is anything like me, I still let it scare me. I am afraid I will be hurt, and because most of these “tragedies” involve people I love and care for, I assume that even good people can turn bad, or that even hopeful relationships reveal dark sides from which couples might not ever recover.

I am afraid of falling for someone because it is so new. Letting yourself fall for someone and giving yourself to someone at 16 versus at 20 is still so different. People change a lot in those years. So whether or not I have done this before, it is a risky move. I have to let someone in, but how far? I have always preserved a part of myself for my eyes only, who hasn’t? And why should one guy be worthy of seeing that side? Allowing someone to know you possibly more than you know yourself is scary. It goes back to the trust issues; if they have this much of me, what happens when we fall apart? And I know I can’t assume we’ll break, but sometimes it’s a thought not easily dismissed.

Falling for someone nearly means letting someone be the co-pilot, considering you start to make plans for them and around them, and everything is shared. Call me selfish, but that is a lot of adjusting, and for someone who has always had a strong sense of self, I don’t know that I can share me with anyone, not yet.

These are lessons I must learn. And though some girls may say they learned it at 18 with their last serious boyfriend or are using past experiences to help their current, I don’t think I’m at any disadvantage.

The “me” I would’ve given away in high school is vastly different than 20-year-old me. I may have been able to learn some lessons on trust and compromise but I can learn all that now, at an age where I know a little better who I am becoming and who I will be in my adult life. It saddens me that I am still a cynic, still unsure of successful relationships and marriages, and still afraid of sharing pieces of me with a man. But I still am the oddly cynical, hopeless romantic I have always been.

So I figure that someone will come along and it will be different. I will fall for them fast and hard. I will have feelings I never knew existed and they will prove to me that some guys are trustworthy. They will prove that they are gentle enough to carry my pieces yet strong enough to fight for the relationship. It may not be the next guy I date, but it will be someone. He will show me he is worthy of seeing all my parts and we will co-pilot this life so smoothly, that I will wonder why I would ever be so doubtful. But until then, I will slowly open my heart up. Not only to men, but to the world and the possibilities I have.

Because changing my attitude on love isn’t going to happen overnight, and neither is romance. What I can control is my day-to-day perspective and how I see the world. If I can see the world as a beautiful place full of beautiful people and beautiful experiences, a beautiful man with a beautiful soul is bound to cross my path. And what kind of person would I be if I denied myself the opportunity, at the very least, to notice him? TC mark

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