Don’t allow your past to steal your present.
1. If someone’s not making the effort at the start, they probably never will.
In the early stages of dating, sometimes we’ll be confused about where things are going with the person we like.
I experienced confusion when I was dating a guy for a few months, and we’d agreed to be ~exclusive~ but weren’t technically in a relationship. When I finally asked him where we were headed, he told me he couldn’t commit to a relationship. I couldn’t establish why he didn’t want to commit, but it was clear there was nothing I could say to change his mind.
It taught me that if someone’s playing games, they always will. If they’re not putting in any effort, they never will. And if someone is taking all the benefits of a relationship without actually committing to you, they will continue to do so. Waiting around for someone to change their mind is completely pointless.
Because relationships, however complicated they may become, are built on two fundamental facts: you both like each other, and you want to commit to being together. It really is as simple as that. So, if someone is overcomplicating those two facts, cut your losses and move on to someone who won’t leave you angry, anxious, or feeling any less than the queen you are.
2. There will be times when you wish you weren’t single.
When you’re not in a relationship, it’s easy to view them through rose-tinted glasses. You only see the positive parts and not the individual struggles all couples face. And when your friends remind you of the less rosy realities of relationships, you can find yourself thinking: “Actually, I wouldn’t mind rowing over who empties the dishwasher, because I’d actually just quite like to have someone around.”
And it’s not helped by feeling the pressure of others – well-meaning people asking when you’re planning on settling down, or why someone as great as you hasn’t found anyone, while making offers to set you up with random friends and distant family members.
When you’re attempting to wade your way through a sea of bad dates or short-lived romances, it can be hard not to think it’s something you’re doing wrong – as though your single status is some form of failure on your part. And all of this makes it hard to keep the faith that there is actually a good person out there somewhere.
3. But actually being single isn’t all bad.
But that person does exist. And more importantly, the time you spend unattached is so valuable. It enables you to learn exactly what you want from life and a relationship. It makes you self-sufficient, confident and clear about what you will and won’t stand for.
When you haven’t just “settled” for someone, you’re far more likely to make better relationship decisions, too. You’re not just going to jump into something with anyone who thinks you’re less than amazing, because until someone comes along who isworth committing to, why would you waste your time or emotion?
And, when you do meet someone who is worth it, you’ll be glad for the time you spent growing and developing as an individual rather than as part of a couple. A married friend of mine who helped me through a breakup years ago, once told me: “Make the most of being single, because you never know when you’ll meet the right person and you’ll never go on a first date again.” So remember that, shake off those feelings of loneliness, fill your time with amazing friends and experiences, and enjoy the ride.
4. Always trust your instincts.
When it comes to dating and relationships, there are times when you have thosefeelings that exist deep down in your gut. And all too often we fail to confront them, because we know that if we do, we could end up hurt – or hurting someone we care about.
I stayed in a relationship that had no future – you can’t plan anything long-term with someone you know doesn’t love you – because the reality was losing him, and that was somehow scarier. Not ending the relationship meant that even in the happiest moments, I still knew deep down that he wasn’t in love with me, and it chipped away at my confidence every single day. And he still turned up on my doorstep one evening to break my heart regardless.
Had I trusted my gut reaction – which was get out, protect yourself, don’t spend two years with a person who will never give you the security you need – I would have escaped with a lot more confidence in tact.
It can take a long time to reach a point where we learn to listen to that nagging gut feeling and go with what our instincts are telling us. We trust the other people in our lives, and often take advice from them. But when you know how you really feel deep down, it might be better to take the plunge and trust yourself instead.
5. Social media is not an accurate reflection of any relationship.
We select the best parts of our lives to be uploaded to Facebook or Instagram, so when it comes to relationships we only see the romantic trips away, the thoughtful bunch of flowers, the “boy did good” engagement ring photos.
When I think of the photos and statuses I’ve shared about relationships over the years, they haven’t been true representations of my reality. The photos of flowers from a boyfriend, uploaded to Facebook in the hope it’d make my relationship seem more solid because deep down I knew how fragile it was. Instagramming “happy” selfies on nights out when actually I was heartbroken and just wanted to be at home.
Because it’s the real-life moments – when you’re in the middle of an argument, or you’re stuck in a rut, or you’re stressed and snapping at each other, or crying over a breakup – those are the moments that are real. Those are the moments that test our relationships and make them stronger – but the world never sees them.
So don’t look to social media for relationships goals. They’re much better established in the real-life, unfiltered, unedited moments that truly make your relationship what it is.
6. Being friends with benefits can get confusing – quickly.
Having casual sex regularly with the same person can be great, but it can also get confusing – quickly.
When it happened for me, neither of us were looking for anything serious, and it was great. And because there wasn’t any pressure of a relationship I was able to let my guard down. As a result, I was more myself around him than I’ve ever been with anyone.
But then the lines became blurred. We began texting when we were apart. There was one morning on the tube when he put his arm around me. We began kissing goodbye. I began mentioning him in conversations with my friends.
And I realised that, without meaning to, I’d become attached. And it wasn’t our physical relationship that caused those feelings, I really liked him. I’d ended up with feelings – exactly what I was looking to avoid.
So, if you are going to get into a friends with benefits situation, make sure you’re the one in control. Be clear about what it is you want and what you’re getting out of it. Because if it’s anything more complicated than a great orgasm, it’s probably not worth the potential drama.
7. Heartbreak doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger.
As a teenager, heartbreak is emotionally intense, but as you get older, your relationships and what you come to value, changes. As an adult, you need a partner to give support, help and love in a way that you just don’t when you’re younger. You have more to lose – a partnership, a confidante, a best friend. When it’s ripped away, it can feel as though half your life and your support system is ripped away too.
The way I dealt with my first heartbreak when I was 16 was complete denial and blind hope that we would get back together. The last time I was heartbroken, aged 25, I used every ounce of energy accepting it and moving forward.
The first few weeks were hell – it took me three hours to get up the day after we split and after walking to the bathroom, I decided it was too much effort to shower and got back into bed. But after a few months I’d thrown myself into work, new friendships, and I’d even been on a couple of dates. I was getting there. And, in time, I’d moved on to a much healthier, happy relationship
Heartbreak doesn’t get easier. But once you’ve been through it once, you know you can get through it again. Each hour at a time.
8. Facebook stalking your ex is a bad idea.
Stalking your ex on social media not only reminds you that they are managing to cope alone, it’s also the least productive way for you to move on.
Because online stalking reminds you that your ex exists. And the best way to get over a breakup, is pretending that they don’t. Cutting them out of your life is what people did in the olden days. Unfollowing them is what we need to do now.
Aside from being forced to remember that they exist, stalking them also opens up the potential for you to stumble across something you really don’t want to see. Whether it’s photos of them out with their friends having the time of their life, or finding out that they’re in a new relationship, discovering that they’ve moved on in the time you’ve spent scrolling through their timeline is so painful.
When I found out on Facebook that my ex had moved on, I realised that after having had no contact, and no online stalking, I wasn’t actually affected by either seeing his face or knowing that he had a new girlfriend.
I also felt relieved that rather than keeping tabs (literally) on his life by following him on social media, I’d actually got on with my own life and was much happier for it.
So step away from the internet, because stalking an ex only equates to looking back at a life you once had – and that’s no way to make the best of the one you have now.
9. No relationship is easy, but a good one is worth it.
Something you come to learn as you get older is which relationships are worth holding on to, and which are better off left in the past. Because some problems are resolvable and others will never be.
I’m now in a relationship where I’ve experienced two things I’ve never had before. Firstly, being with someone who has made me open up and talk about my past and my feelings. I find it hard to talk about my problems, but he’s endlessly patient and I’ve come to realise it does help. But he also takes making me happy seriously, and I feel it every day. Because of that, I know our difficult moments are surmountable.
A relationship means growing and learning and evolving together, understanding that sometimes it may not be easy. Because, like anything else that’s satisfying in life, a relationship is a work in progress.
10. Your past does not define you.
After my first relationship ended, my ex spent two years using, lying and manipulating me to prevent me from moving on. I ended up suffering depression and such extreme anxiety that I was unable to eat. I lost so much weight that when I was eventually dragged to see a doctor, she asked me whether I was anorexic.
Although I came through the depression, for years afterwards I couldn’t trust anyone. I wouldn’t emotionally open up about what had happened, and was terrified of being physical with anyone, paralysed by the thought that sex was all a guy would ever want me for. I had bursts of disproportionate anger where I’d want to claw myself out of my own skin, and days where I’d just cry for hours.
But slowly I realised that I had to stop dragging the past around me like a dead weight. I realised I was allowing my past experiences to tarnish my present. I had to let go and give myself a shot at being happy.
The emotional turmoil that I experienced in those two years won’t ever fully go away. It can sometimes creep up on me when I’m least expecting it, and I have to fight to avoid the damaging coping mechanisms I used back then.
But none of us should ever feel defined by the choices we made in the past, or the way we were treated. The past may help shape us into the stronger people we emerge as. But it doesn’t define you. Your present and future self are owed so much more than that.
11. Know your worth.
If I could go back in time and tell my past self one thing, it’d be “know your worth.” It would have saved a lot of heartache, and it would have prevented a lot of traumatic moments. I wish I’d remembered I was worth more than just sex. I was worth more than someone lying and using me. I was worth more than someone being unable to decide whether they should be with me. I was worth more than the opinions I had about myself at that time. I was worth more than being just someone’s casual girlfriend without the commitment, and I know I deserve to be with someone who loves me.
Don’t end up in a situation where someone else’s needs and desires come before your own. Don’t allow someone to control your emotions. And don’t put your heart in the hands of anyone who doesn’t treat you the way you deserve. If you’re ever doubting the way a situation is panning out, or how someone is treating you – whether you’re dating, in a relationship or completely single – just imagine what you would tell a friend in the same position. Because while it can be easy to lose sight of things, and relationships can become complicated, one simple, indisputable fact remains: you deserve the best.