The box full of notebooks fell off the top shelf in my closet, and a cascade of journals splayed out on the floor. Being only 5’4 and trying to reach for something well beyond my reach usually results in something falling on my head. I should really consider wearing a helmet around the house…
I picked up one of the journals that fell and quickly skimmed through some of my past entries. So much of my dating life in my early 20s had been captured on those pages, and it was clear that the girl behind the pen was not aware of her value. There was an embarrassing amount of self-pity and an abundant amount of times when I turned a blind eye to red flags that were all but smacking me in the face.
At 33, I read those entries and wish I could’ve sat down with my former self for a quick chat and a “come to Jesus” meeting. No such luck.
And while I can’t travel back in time, what I can do is make sure all those days spent making decisions against my own best interests were not made in vain. When it comes to life, especially relationships, we live and we learn.
Here’s what I learned.
1. Don’t internalize other people’s issues
We’re all shaped by our past experiences, and sometimes the aftermath produces damaged individuals.
Remember, people’s perspectives are usually through their own damaged lens. Don’t minimize or change yourself to fit into their skewed lens.
2. Some people are incapable of loving you in the way that you need
And that’s okay. But if they can’t, you’ll need to learn how to lovingly send them on their way and move on with your life.
3. Love doesn’t require chasing
Don’t rip yourself apart chasing a love you might never receive. There will always be someone better, but you first have to stop running after what was never meant for you in the first place.
If a train doesn’t stop at your station, it’s simply because it’s not your train. Don’t try to flag down the conductor and convince them to stop there, even if their own map says that they should just keep going. You may not realize it, but there’s another train trying to come toward you, unable to get into your station because a train that doesn’t even belong there is being delayed there by your intensity.” – Marianne Williamson, author of Return to Love
4. Relationships are not roller coasters
Constant ups and downs are the sign of an exciting thrill ride, not the sign of a healthy relationship.
5. People rarely change
Always operate under the assumption that people don’t change, because chances are, they won’t. If they do, it will be based on their own doing, and at a time when they’re ready. It doesn’t matter how ready you are, or how important the change might mean for you.
Although it’s tempting to enter into a relationship thinking we can change someone, more often than not, dating an unhealthy person ends up changing us.” – Mandy Hale, The Single Woman
6. Know the difference between someone’s potential and their reality
Who they are and who they can be are two very different alternatives. Someone’s potential may never be realized. Base your love off of who they are today. The only person’s potential that should be prioritized is your own.
No matter how attractive a person’s potential may be, you have to date their reality.” -Mandy Hale, The Single Woman
7. Be yourself from the beginning
Don’t waste time pretending to be someone you’re not; your authentic personality will eventually reveal itself anyway. You want to be with someone who appreciates you as you are, complete with quirks and flaws.
I will never apologize for being me, but I will apologize for the times I am not.” – Michael Carini
8. Don’t romanticize the past
There’s a reason it’s part of your past and not your present.
Nostalgia is a dirty liar that insists things were better than they seemed.” – Michelle K, author of No Competition Between Flowers
9. Slow and steady wins the race
Nothing positive ever comes from rushing into a relationship. We want to be around those who make us feel good, but an overindulgence can wear off quickly, resulting in a “break”. Take your time. There’s no rush.
10. Don’t wait for apologies
The truth is that nobody is owed an apology for anything. Apologies are lovely when they happen. But they change nothing. They do not reverse actions or correct damage. They are merely nice to hear.” – Augusten Burroughs, This is How
11. When you’re ready to leave… then leave
It is so hard to leave — until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.” John Green, Paper Towns
12. Be open to the idea that your first love will not be your last love
Fairytales have made us believe that our first love will be our knight in shining armor. This is rarely the case, but we grasp onto that dream, wishing it were true. Remember: First loves are usually chocked full of lessons that help to prepare us for an even greater love… if you’ll let it.
13. Missing someone does not mean you’re meant to be together
This is a normal part of the process of healing and moving on. Your body is weaning itself off of a habit, and it’s nothing more than that. Give yourself some time instead of running back.
14. Breaking up does not mean you’ve failed
Most people seem to believe that if a relationship doesn’t last until death, it’s a failure. But the only relationship that’s truly a failure is one that lasts longer than it should. The success of a relationship should be measured by its depth, not by its length.” – Neil Strauss, The Truth, An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships
15. Not everyone who is attracted to you is deserving of your love
But sometimes your light attracts moths and your warmth attracts parasites. Protect your space and energy.” – Warsan Shire, author of Teaching My Mom How To Give Birth
16. You are worthy
Your self-worth is not correlated to whether or not someone chooses to enter into a relationship with you. What it DOES mean is that the relationship you wanted so badly was not in your destiny. Acceptance is key.
17. Don’t wait for closure
Life doesn’t always make sense. You don’t need a reason why someone hurt you, do you? The only closure you need is that the relationship came to an end.
Answerless questions can destroy you. Move on.” – David Levithan, Every Day
18. Falling in love with different versions of the same person results in the same outcome
Try not to spend so much time re-reading that chapter. The story always has the same ending.
19. Love yourself first
…so that you don’t rely on everyone else to give you what you’re lacking.
When you have holes in your ego, you’re always looking for others to fill them.” -Kimberley Blaine
20. There’s a difference between someone being interested in you and someone being committed to you
There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” — Kenneth Blanchard
Phew! I thought 20 lessons would be difficult to reach, but they came piling out, one after the other. We never truly really have it all together, do we?
I’d love to hear what other lessons you’ve learned about love and relationships that you wish you could share with your younger self.