Let’s talk… relationships!
I was in a number of relationships in my 20’s. They each were a unique learning experience. I had my first serious relationship about a year after graduating high school. My parents didn’t allow me to date during high school, so other than a few secretive flings that never lasted more than two months… I really had no idea what I wanted or what my expectations were in a partnership. Not knowing and not knowing that I should know really impacted each relationship I jumped in and out of between 2008 and now. I feel like I should share some of the lessons that really stuck. Some were the defining line between happiness and sadness, compatibility and incompatiblity, and reality and fantasy. These are the things I wish I had been taught as teenager/young adult.
- It’s okay to be single.
Being single does not equal being broken, worthless, or bad. I had such a hard time with jealousy and feelings of inadequacy when I was younger. Each year around Homecoming, people would pair up like Noah’s Ark was being built on the football field. I was the lone… hm, what didn’t make it onto the Ark? I was the lone Pterodactyl. I always wanted to know what the paired off girls had that I didn’t. Looking back, I understand that I was nowhere near ready or mature enough for a relationship. Fast forward to after graduating and starting college, everyone around me was in relationships, getting engaged, or married. I really thought something was wrong with me. Around that time I had a couple boyfriends, but they were not healthy relationships. I just didn’t want to be alone. I just dated the first person that showed any interest in me, not considering that there were some steps involved in being in a relationship. This led me into some pretty toxic situations, from which I had to heal and recover. It was a very difficult process and ultimately not worth it. Had I known to just enjoy and learn about myself, figure out my wants and needs, and take an interest in what I liked or wanted to learn about, I really think my 20’s might’ve been different. They probably would have been less angsty and more fulfilling. But hey, life’s about learning.
- Like the person you love.
Fall in love and in like. I have been in the weird place in a relationship where I didn’t like the person I loved. How does that happen? Sometimes a partner made me mad, but I didn’t stop loving them. That’s normal. But when it came to my partner lying to me, disrespecting me, hurting me, or cheating, I constantly let it slide, because I was nothing without them. That’s not normal. I have loathed past partners entirely for various reasons such as their outlook on life or how they treated others. I once dated a guy that hated minorities. Yeah, there’s a lot to unpack there. But I stayed with him. Why? Because I felt like I could not live without him. I felt like I didn’t exist, because I was defined by another person. Although I was with the wrong people for the wrong reasons, I also feel the need to take some responsibility. I didn’t respect or love myself enough to see that abusive behavior like that is not acceptable. I let several get comfortable with treating me like trash, because I didn’t feel good about myself from the start. Is that okay now? Nope. Lesson learned.
- Know your goals and dreams and go after them.
Do things for you. If I had a set goal of becoming a doctor, but met a guy before med school that says he wants a stay-at-home wife and kids, should I give up on my goal? I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all. Luckily I followed my own advice here and decided to go through with finishing my Communications degree and commissioning into the Air Force afterward. The guys that tried to dissuade me from that, because they wanted a wife/ future mother of his kids are no longer in my life, go figure. I always had my misgivings about being completely dependent on someone else, because anything can happen in life. What would I be able to do with an unfinished degree and no job experience if something had happened to them? Thank goodness I listened to myself. A good partner wants to provide, yeah, I get that. However, I’m of the opinion that a great partner wants to be (and is) supportive of my dreams and goals.
- Have goals and dreams that align.
Talk about these things before jumping in. In one relationship, I was very clear about my goals to be childfree and travel the world. My partner’s goal was to stay in one place and start a family. We were not compatible. It was really that simple, but we chose to complicate it. Everyone has different motivations in life, and we failed to understand that about each other. I grew up traveling, so that’s what I want to do. Does that make the other person bad? Nope. He was just not the right one for me. Having kids is not a bad goal, it’s just not one of mine. Instead of trying to change my partner, I should have found someone that has similar life plans. He held onto the hope that I would give up on traveling and give in to babies, whereas I thought he’d want to see the world with me and stop harping on having kids. We both failed to see our key differences. Resentment and a host of other relationship killers joined the party. It did not end on a good note.
- Talk about your expectations.
I’ll say it again. Talk about things before jumping in! This is up there with discussing goals. I am a neat freak. Messes stress me out. My living space is one of the few things I can control. I like order. I follow organization pages on Pinterest and Instagram. To me, a clean, well organized house is a happy house. I dated a guy once that did not care about messes. He literally did not see them. He could have a piece of paper in his hand, drop it, and pick something else up and fiddle with that until he dropped it and went to the next thing. Our floors were always covered in random stuff. Clothes never made it to the hamper. My car became his trash can. The most infuriating thing? He drank a lot of water, but had to use a new cup every time. He left cups everywhere. It drove me up the wall. I expected to clean up after myself and have an orderly home, not to be his maid or constantly hounding him not to be gross. Did we discuss that before dating? Nope. Should we have? Yep. Many of our arguments revolved around him being a slob, whereas he fought back saying I was too demanding. Needless to say, it ended quickly. Also if someone seems kinda wish washy, where they’re like, “I’m not… messy…” and they come up with excuses… just don’t bother. Learning that folks try to hide things before relationships start was not fun.
Okay, that’s all for now, it’s time to give my hands and brain a break. I have a feeling this subject will be revisited a couple times. I’ve learned a lot in ten years. Part 2 coming up soon!