Lessons that can save you years of drama
When it comes to matters of the heart, going all in hurts. Because, if things don’t work out, you stand to lose everything.
But, holding back hurts even more. How would you know what you are losing out on if you never give yourself the opportunity to taste unadulterated happiness?
In 2010, when I seriously considered getting into a relationship with a boy for the first time, I thought I had it all figured out. That, because I had read so many romance novels and heard popular love songs over and over again, I could do no wrong.
Ah, I was young and naive, and I was greatly disillusioned.
My perfect relationship was in shambles before I even got a chance to understand the dynamics.
I was so hurt, I felt like I would never trust a man again. That I would guard my heart forever, and “love” would be a distant dream”.
If only that were possible.
It has been ten years since, and here I am, still laughing, still believing in love. Here are four things about relationships I would tell my 17-year-old self. Maybe they will save you months — probably years — of stumbling around in the dark.
1. Don’t Put Your Best Foot Forward on a First Date
I used to think that it is crucial for me to impress a person I like on the first date. Not just the first date, but for the first few weeks until I was sure they liked me back, I used to agree with most of the things they said. I avoided saying anything that might cause them to dislike me. I didn’t talk about politics, religion, or sex, and always stuck to “safe” subjects.
I wasn’t honest. In my aim to please, I presented the blandest, most boring version of myself.
Now that I look back, I understand how important it is to be yourself, and not aim to impress.
If you try to fit yourself into the box of what you think the other person wants you to be, it sets expectations that might remain throughout the relationship — expectations that put you on the path toward losing the hobbies you valued the most.
If you don’t express your genuine desires and interests in the initial few days of a relationship, it becomes hard to tell them later on and risk dropping a bomb on your partner.
Sure, it might scare your date away, but being honest works as an excellent filter to only stick with people who like you, not the false facade you present.
Such partners are less likely to make unreasonable demands of you. You’re less likely to lose yourself when you are authentically yourself from the start.
2. Breakups Aren’t Failures
Love is a surge of emotions. It is not a sign from the universe that you are meant to be together forever.
Falling out of love is just as natural as falling in love. Breakups don’t mean you failed or that you are a terrible person. Most of the times, breakups are an indication that you weren’t compatible with your ex. They should be taken as wake-up-calls to set better boundaries the next time around.
Being rejected does not mean you are worthless. It probably means you don’t have what the other person is looking for right now, and that is okay.
You need to take care of yourself and move on.
You don’t need answers. You don’t need closure. You don’t need to spend night after sleepless night crying into your pillow and wondering what you could have done better.
Accepting that breakups don’t reflect on you being a lousy partner is an incredible, empowering feeling.
It will help you stop worrying about what you are doing wrong and focus on the things you are doing right. When you are openly, unabashedly you, you will attract the kind of people who cherish that vibe, that energy in their lives.
Breakups aren’t failures, and they don’t have to be the end. Sometimes, the brightest beginnings come disguised as the most tearful goodbyes.
3. Love Requires Effort
You are not going to find the right person by sitting in your room and lamenting over how sad your life is. You have to step out of your comfort zone and interact with people.
The more you socialise, the better you will understand what kind of people interest you, and the most inclined you will be to look for specific traits and qualities.
When you find someone interesting, you cannot wait for the universe to work things in your favour. You have to work up the courage to walk up to them and ask for a date.
You cannot just drop hints and then get mad when someone else asks them out, and they agree.
Even after you dated them and settled into a relationship, love is not some “mystical moon magic” that will keep you together because you are “soulmates”.
Love requires daily work. You have to develop relationship skills, talk to your partner, apologise, when you are wrong, understand what makes them happy and be there when they need you.
Love is not a one-time magic that happens to you and changes your life. Love is a decision that you take each day of your life until circumstances pull you apart.
4. Just Because You Are Hurt Doesn’t Mean It’s Your Partner’s Fault
In a relationship, there is bound to be tears and quarrels that leave you exhausted. There are bound to be mornings when you wake up and don’t recognise the person sleeping next to you. There are bound to be nights when you are so exhausted, you cry yourself hoarse in the shower, shutting yourself off from the world, letting the hot water wash away your tears.
Love does not guarantee eternal happiness. And just because your partner cannot “fix you”, does not mean they don’t love you enough.
It is possible to be hurt because of what your partner did, but that does not necessarily mean it is their fault. Sometimes, the issue could be lack of communication, incompatibility or a simple misunderstanding.
As an adult, you cannot expect your partner to “read your mind” and automatically understand what you are looking for. You have to find ways to communicate your feelings to them. And even when they do understand, you should accept that it is not their responsibility to make you happy each time you are down.
You can be sad because of your expectations. The only healthy way to deal with them is to let them go.
Most people “fail” in love because of their unrealistic expectations of themselves or their partners.
It is essential always to be authentic, open and honest, and not treat rejection like the end of the world. Understand that love is a choice and cherish your partner for choosing each day to be with you.
It is your responsibility to learn relationship skills and not expect your partner always to put in all the work.
Remember: your partner cannot fix you. You are the only person who can do that.
I wish my 17-year-old self understood this.