I’ve been in one serious relationship and as much as I’d like to leave it in the past and pretend it never happened, I can’t. No matter how busy I keep myself or how many times I remind everyone in my life to never bring up said relationship or person, thoughts of it still pop into my head from time-to-time and in moments where I’d never expect it. Granted after a little bit of time the being sad over it all became a lot more bearable but still I’m left a little irritated with the fact that I can’t shake it entirely. Initially after being dumped I made a promise to myself that I just wouldn’t get into a relationship ever again, as to avoid dealing with this a second time around. That started to seem like a bit of an unreasonable ask of myself and so instead I created a list of things not to do while dating someone.
- Do not start TV shows with someone you’re dating or introduce them to your favorite TV shows. I won’t be watching Season 3 of ‘You’ because of this.
- Don’t keep any physical photos of the two of you together unless you know exactly where they are at all times and can dispose of them immediately if necessary. Otherwise they will pop up unexpectedly when you’re in the worst mood possible.
- Don’t buy them a birthday gift until the day before their birthday or the morning of and even then be sure you know where the relationship stands.
- Don’t date someone who lives in the same city or near any close friends of yours. You’ll never want to go see those friends ever again.
- Don’t regularly eat your favorite kind of food with someone you’re dating or Pad Thai will never be as good to you anymore.
- Don’t tell any family about someone you’re dating unless they’re someone you regularly update on your life. Your cousin will ask about him 3 months after he breaks up with you.
- Don’t say ‘I love you’ unless one of you are dying.
The hope was that if I stuck to this list and got into a relationship with anyone, if it didn’t work out there would be minimal opportunity for me to ever be reminded of the person after the fact. I’ve been told that it seems a little extreme, to which I argue, so are feelings. Although I’ve decided not to stick to all of those rules anymore, in the moment they seemed to be a pretty fool-proof defense mechanism. As someone with existing issues surrounding my mood and mental health, my breakup was very real and had a much bigger impact than I expected it could have. I realize that may sound bitter so it’s important that I note that this has nothing to do with the person I dated. Sure he’s the face to it all but I don’t harbor any negative feelings towards him. I already went through the ‘F*ck you for letting me fall in love with you’ stage of getting over it and I’m more than okay with the fact that he’s onto better things now. My anger is entirely with myself at this point because I wasn’t prepared to be involved with him at all.
Prior to a few months ago, I never considered setting standards for what I expect out of people in my life. This goes for romantic relationships, friendships, mentors, and even family. I think more often than not people get by assuming that everyone in their life will do right by them in the end and so we excuse a lot. It took some pretty harsh heartbreak for me to recognize that’s not true. Not to say that people are necessarily out to get you or hurt you in any way, however, unless a person is actively trying to be a positive force in your life, they are negatively impacting your quality of life. I say this because your time is so valuable and if you’re spending any of it with someone who does not align with your ideals or expectations, then they are holding you back from being genuinely happy. Point blank. Now I’m not saying you should be cutting out every single non-effective person in your life or that you should be upset with these people for anything. But there’s value in being intentional with who you give your time and attention to and in setting standards for yourself.
For example, if I told myself ‘I expect someone I’m going into a relationship with to not be entertaining other girls in any way’, then I would stop dating anyone who was doing that from the get. But say I was dating a guy and instead told myself ‘oh we’re not that serious yet, he’ll stop doing that eventually’. In that scenario, I set the tone that I’m okay with that behavior and so that was his expectation of me going into the relationship (because this does go both ways). For the most part, you know exactly what you’re getting with people when you start to spend time with them. There are definitely exceptions to that but generally people are obvious about who they are. So it comes down to you being obvious about what you want. Now that in itself is tough to figure out if you don’t know fully know who you are. That’s incredibly cheesy but very true. You cannot expect someone to give you the best version of themselves if you aren’t the best version of yourself. Everyone says that and I know I heard it a million times before I ever dated anyone, I just didn’t know what ’being my best’ entailed. I didn’t know that I had to love myself more than I loved the other person. Or that I have to be secure in my beliefs and confident enough to speak on behalf of what I want. I know all of that now but I’m not there yet. Oddly enough, it. takes work to learn about you who are (you think you’d be an expert).
Now I’m left working on me and part of that includes not being so hard on myself. I let a lot of my insecurities get the best of me and they were especially apparent in my last relationship, which is ultimately why it didn’t work. That’s an especially hard pill to swallow after having fallen way too deep in love with that person. But I keep reminding myself of that because I am quick to write-off anything that has brought me any ounce of discomfort or sadness before I think about what I had control over in the situation. It’s easy to forget how powerful you really are and I think we see this especially in young women because more often than not we’re made to feel insecure about our strength. Instead of claiming our power we avoid situations where we can have it. Hence keeping lists of things to never do again because they didn’t work the first time around instead of doing them better. Had I been more in-tune with myself and better understood how big of a mark our relationships leave on us, I would get to watch and find out how Joe and Love get away with the crazy sh*t they pulled last season. We learn from our mistakes though right? At least now the list of what to do moving forward is pretty simple,
- Have love and respect for yourself and expect nothing less.