If you had asked me at 18 years old what my life would look like in 10 years, one of the things I would have said was married with kids. Ten plus a few more years later, neither of those things are true.
In the past 10+ years, my hardest, darkest, and most emotional times have come from romantic relationships. I thought to have a guy like you confirmed your worth, and I was always looking for my love story. I gave too much time to guys who didn’t care enough. I played the game in return, and not surprisingly, that didn’t end well either. It’s hard living in a Taylor Swift album all the time; the promise is a new partner will be along to sweep you off your feet and save you from past heartbreak.
In hindsight, all of the heartbreak taught me a lot about becoming the best version of myself and the partner I wanted. It’s inevitable to make mistakes when you’re young or when you put your self-worth in someone else. I learned how to be the hero of my story. I learned the depth having a relationship involves. All the uncomfortable confrontations have taught me about vulnerability and the true nature of a relationship. It took experiencing these lessons for myself to learn these lessons. Heck, I’m still reminding myself and re-learning them sometimes!
One of the best adventures in life is having a relationship with someone. Be it with your significant other, mom or dad, friends, siblings, or co-worker, relationships are unique and involve uncharted territory to keep it thriving. So, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned and value.
5 Things I’ve Learned About Love and Relationships
1. Love is expressed in many ways.
I think because of my upbringing, I have a view of expressing love that differs from my observations of how love is expressed. People have different ways to express love and emotion and that’s ok. It’s not always a vocal “I love you” but could be a kind gesture or giving someone undivided attention. Do you know your love language? (You can take a free quiz to figure it out.) Your love language explains how you want to receive love and how you give love. For me, I value quality time, words of affirmation, and acts of service.
2. Managing my expectations keeps me grateful.
I was always looking for my love story because I had this over-romanticized view of love. It’s been disappointing to see that love is not like the movies. Similarly, it’s not the social media highlight reel. Yes, there are sweet and loving moments, but the constant showering of spontaneous declarations, hidden love notes, and thoughtful gifts are an ideal that is hard to live up to. My brainwashed expectations of what I think a relationship is supposed to look like would never measure up. Fulfilling expectations will look different for every person and relationship, and it’s dangerous when you compare your relationship with others’ relationships.
3. Love is consideration for your partner.
One of my favorite lyrics in one of my favorite songs by The Lumineers goes “it’s better to feel pain than nothing at all. The opposite of love’s indifference.” (The song is Stubborn Love.) Consideration is being thoughtful and attentive to your partner’s needs and wants. Your needs and wants are valid but when you continuously compromise your partner’s happiness for yours, the relationship is unbalanced. The give and take should be equal.
4. Communication is key.
We have needs and wants and it’s important to express them. From the conflicts in my relationships, everything could have been avoided if we had communicated what we were feeling and what we needed. I’m one that will give the silent treatment and bottle up my feelings, but I’m working on it. We can’t read minds! Don’t forget there are nicer ways to say things. When we stop communicating, the relationship breaks down and we start assuming things that are likely not true. You can make assumptions through tone and body language but it doesn’t hurt (and makes things go a lot quicker) if something is said.
5. Relationships are a work in progress.
Humans are a masterpiece and a work in progress. We are made up of intricate emotions and nothing is perfect. Relationships don’t demand perfection but thrive on presence. As long as we acknowledge that we are and can continuously improve and become a better partner, all we need to do is show up ready to work. I’m continuously learning how to be ok with vulnerability and confrontation. The future is scary because emotions and relationships are delicate but on the other side of fear is, hopefully, a stronger relationship.
I’m sharing what I’ve learned not because I’m expert at love and relationships. It’s because I’m amazed at how far I’ve come and even still I need some guidance or a reminder. I know what I think will continue to build and evolve, but I hope I never lose the belief that love is real, magical, and a fulfilling life goal.
Marriage and babies might come one day, but for now, it’s more important to me that I love who I am, feel at peace with my past, and feel secure about how I love.
I would love to hear your insights! What have you learned? Any tips for better relationships?