Here’s looking at the Millennials and the ups and downs of dating in your twenties. In spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are twenty-one lessons I learned from my own dating, being in a long-term relationship, and observing my parents’ loving, twenty-five-year-long marriage and other couples in love.
1) If he or she begins dating you and tells you from the get go that he or she does not want to be in a relationship with you, you might as well shorten that sentence to: I DO NOT WANT TO BE WITH YOU. The other person is saying that they do not want to be fully committed to you. You are dating them. That is all. Don’t expect or wait around for a relationship if that is what you are looking for.
2) If you’ve been dating for quite some time, (i.e. upwards of six months to a year), and you still haven’t met his or her family, parents, and/or friends, you are most likely either the side piece or he or she does not consider you important enough to introduce you as a significant other. You are an insignificant other.
3) I’ve made the mistake of looking for “the one” with every person that I’ve dated, time and time again. If you’re like me, stop doing that. You’re not going to find The One with every Tom, Dick, and Harry that you date. The One will be around the corner when you least expect them. Stop looking for them. They always appear when you stop looking. Life has a funny way of playing games with you like that.
4) My more rational explanation as to why The One appears in your life after you stop looking, besides Divine Intervention if you’re into that, is that you have decided to focus your passions elsewhere. The urging for romance and a happy, fairytale ending has been put on pause as you focus on yourself, your friends, and your family. Like attracts like, and the right person for you will gravitate to you like a magnet because of how interesting, fun, and captivating you have become. Live your life. All else will follow.
5) There’s no use in waiting for a pot to boil. If the person you’re dating wants to call you, text you, or meet up with you, they will. Simple as that. If you’re waiting around for them to contact you or if you are always the first person to get in touch with them, they aren’t doing their fair share. Either fix the situation by being honest with yourself and the person you are dating, or let them go.
6) Passive-aggressive doesn’t suit anyone. The beginning stages of dating are like playing chicken with one another, like walking on hot coals, afraid to rock the boat or shake things up. If something bothers you or if something is really on your mind, you have to be honest with the person you are dating. Heartfelt honesty shouldn’t scare anyone away, and if it does, they aren’t the right sort of person you should be dating.
7) The best 99 cent investment I ever made was the book He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo. It’s blunt. It oozes of pop culture. Still, it was exactly what I needed to stop treating myself and others as exceptions to the rule of how people should treat each other when dating. Yes, there are guys and ladies out there who can be shy when you’re first starting out. The key is to recognize which ladies and gentleman who are legitimately shy and girls and guys who are just being cowards.
8) “When the karma of a relationship is done, only love remains. It’s safe. Let go.” From Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. Accept that when a relationship ends, you can let go of whatever angry, denial, resentment, depression, revenge fantasies, and self-deprecating behavior you have. Love remains. The love has changed form, but it’s still there. Accept it and let it go. It’s the only way to move on and be at peace.
9) Just because you are hurt does not give you the right to be cruel. Let go of the baggage you have been carrying with you from previous relationships.
10) Fear of intimacy is a cruel joke. If a person wants to be with you, they will do whatever it takes to be with you, regardless of their fears. Of course it’s scary to be in a relationship with someone else. You are giving them the power to make or break your heart. Being in a relationship is about trust. Give that trust to a person who deserves it and has earned it.
11) Love should NEVER, and I repeat “NEVER”, ever hurt! Love does not hurt. I will say it again and again. If you are in an abusive relationship, get out of it. Get out of it NOW. This applies to sexually abusive, physically abusive, and mentally or emotionally abusive. No matter the situation, no one should ever be hurt in this way. Here are some resources you can view if you are or someone you know is being abused.
http://www.rainn.org/ – RAINN – Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.
http://www.loveisnotabuse.com/ – BREAK THE CYCLE – national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending dating abuse and promoting health relationships
https://www.breakthecycle.org/ – BREAK THE CYCLE – empowering youth to end domestic violence
12) Please find someone to talk to if you feel like the person you are dating is making you feel like you are crazy. If the person you are dating constantly barrages you with hurtful or abusive comments, you need to be strong and leave them. There is a famous movie known as Gaslight about a woman whose reality around her is manipulated by her husband to the point where she doubts what is true. Do not let this happen to you or someone you know. Speak up.
13) Don’t stick around in a relationship just because you’re lonely. That’s what pets are for. Don’t lower your standards just for the sake of being in a relationship.
14) Sometimes marriage isn’t the answer for two people who are obviously in love with each other and committed to one another. Sometimes a lifelong partnership is preferable to the binding contract of a marriage. My grandmother was married and divorced twice, and now she’s been settled down with the love for her life for decades. She did not think a third marriage was the right answer, but she has never been happier than being dedicated to him and he to her for the past several decades they have been with one another.
15) There’s really only so much of another person you can take, day in and day out, every day for the rest of your lives. You will fight, you will argue, you will cry, and you will be hysterical. These less-than-favorable situations are inevitable, but above all else, if the love is there and it is genuine, you fix your problems, you work through it, and you move on.
16) Love is sacrifice. Love is compromise. Love requires the greatest amount of humility in order to understand and appreciate another human being, despite all their flaws.
17) There’s no need to be so cynical about marriage. Of course people will joke about likening marriage to being chained up to your partner, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes life gets stale. I get it. I’ve been there. Add some spice to your life. Change your routine. Surprise yourself and surprise your partner.
18) It’s not so much about what you say so much as how you say it and how you look when you say it. What we think we are communicating is not always what other people will perceive. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page.
19) Fighting or arguing every now and then is normal. Relieve the tension. Make sure you are learning and growing from these arguments.
20) There is such a thing a true love. In How I Met Your Mother, Lily Aldrin and Marshall Eriksen are the proverbial sitcom couple who are so fervently in love with one another. I used to think that this kind of love was only reserved for romantic comedies on the silver screen. After taking a good hard look at my parents’ marriage as I grew older, I realized that my parents still have that crazy, stupid love for one another even twenty-five years later. It exists. It’s real. I will settle for nothing less.
21) Don’t just give your partner flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Don’t show your partner the greatest love one day out of 365 during the year. Show them how much you love them every day.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all the couples and the single people! Always remember, no matter your relationship status, to love yourself first. You cannot love another person without loving yourself entirely and completely.