I'd like to first off say thank you to everyone for supporting me this year! I did better than last year as far as posts (though not by as much as I'd like to have done) and MUCH better than last year as far as views/reader participation goes. I have many plans for 2015! I started to be a little more focused and goal-oriented on here and my Facebook page. So thank you again, and hopefully next year will be even more successful.
That all being said, I have been thinking a lot about what to do this month for a post. I realized today exactly what I want to talk about! I think a lot of people forget that, whereas I want to be a sex therapist, a huge part of what I'm interested in is just relationships as a whole. The past two years have been such a learning experience for me! There was a time when I was afraid for my future career, because I had been in only one long-term relationship and thought I would always be in it. I was afraid I'd be that person who only had one boyfriend telling all these people how to date and be single, and that would just be weird. But I've now experienced the wonderful world that is being single and dating in your 20's! I'm not going to lie--it can be fun, but for the most part, it's awful.
It's never easy becoming suddenly single and seeing your friends from high school getting engaged and pregnant. As much as you put on a strong face about it, inside you're questioning yourself a lot. And then you go on dates and try to put a lot more effort into someone who doesn't even excite you the way you want them to. Maybe that was just me. It's a rough situation, dating. For a long time, I was turning away guys and wondering what was wrong with me. Why was I always pushing people away? I told myself it was because I wanted to be single, or that I wasn't over my past relationships. It turns out that I just wasn't meeting the right guys.
Rejection always hurts, and it's never easy to reject someone. But it's also not easy to drag someone along. I think that a lot of times we get caught in the middle of not wanting to reject someone but also not wanting to drag them along, and it creates this awkward sort of purgatory of dating. I really think that people need to be more open with each other when it comes to dating. We should all be able to tell a person, "hey, you know, I had a great time hanging out with you, but honestly, I'm just not really feeling that connection." And we should be able to understand that we aren't going to marry every person we go on a date with.
Anyways. There are things I've realized this year that I wanted to share with you. As I've said in the past, I'm 23. I am by no means saying that the things I know are somehow better than anyone else's. I only know what I've experienced and at 23, it's nothing compared to someone twice my age. One thing I believe very strongly is that love is real no matter what age. I really, really hate when older people try to tell younger people that their love can't be real until they're 18 or 25 or 32. I think there are different levels of love, but when you feel it, you feel it.
That being said. Love is definitely different at various stages of your life. I fell in love for the first time at 16. It was my first real relationship, and it lasted for years. It started out with us both dreaming of the day we could run away from mommy and daddy and start a life of our own. And one day, that happened. But it didn't happen the way we pictured it. So we waited until we were 19. 20. 21. And still, things weren't happening the way we thought they would. I thought love would be one way, and he thought it would be another. But the problem is, our ways weren't each other's, and they weren't actually accurate at all. We fell in love with each other and this imaginary, storybook type future and when the future came and failed us--we failed each other. We didn't know how to love each other anymore.
Any relationship is difficult to get over, but one that lasts upwards of five years is definitely not easy to forget. I was on the rebound for much longer than I would have liked to have been. I even got to that ridiculous point where I thought I had given up and would never love again! Which is ridiculous, because I am so young. And when I realized that, I stopped trying to force everything. When I went out with a guy that I wasn't excited about, I just told him that instead of trying to pretend like I was. It felt so good to do. I didn't feel guilty about dragging along some guy just because I was lonely and wanted someone. It's better to be alone when you feel like that.
I'm in a relationship now, and though it is new, my feelings are very strong. And what strengthened my feelings even more was the fact that I realized how mature they were. They weren't the feelings of a 17 year old girl looking for a prince charming to take her away. They were the feelings of an independent 23 year old woman who didn't need love to distract her from anything else. It really is true that you have to love yourself before you can love someone else. And here is the first time I don't have leftover feelings lingering around in this stupid head of mine from past relationships, family problems, medical problems, depression, etc. It is still very early on in my relationship, but I am extremely committed to it and to being the best girlfriend that I can be, because I know that in the past, I haven't always been the kind of partner I'd want to have. Here are some things I've recently realized about relationships.
1. Communication is key.
I read an article recently (I can't remember where, I'm sorry!) where a woman said that sometimes she would be in a bad mood and just want her boyfriend to hold her and tell her it was okay, but that he didn't always recognize how she felt. She would take his unintended ignorance and internalize, concluding that he must not care much. But then she realized that he probably just didn't know how she felt. So she would say, "Hey, I'm having a bad day and feeling kind of shitty about myself, will you hold me?" And he would. Sometimes I'll get upset about something a partner does, and instead of immediately explaining why what they did/said upset me, I'll turn it inward and slightly resent them for hurting me. But that's not fair. If you're boyfriend/girlfriend forgets your plans and makes other plans, instead of just telling them it's fine when it's not, tell them that you were hurt and offer ways to fix it. It's kind of hard, but I really think that not communicating with each other is a huuuuuuge problem in a lot of relationships.
2. Everyone has a past, and just because it's in the past doesn't mean we don't still care.
It's a difficult thing to think about your partner being with other people. But most of the time in adult relationships, there have been people before you. Honestly, as much as it sucks to think about someone you love being intimate physically and emotionally the way they are with you, I'd still rather they were a bit more experienced than not. My experiences in life have made me who I am and I wouldn't change them. My boyfriend is who he is because of his experiences in life, and I may not like him the way I do if he hadn't gone through them. I've had some serious relationships and they all ended for their own reasons. I still care for those guys. Not in the same way that I used to, but they were, at one time, people I really felt for. Just because they aren't in your life anymore doesn't mean that you don't care about them at all. Sometimes I wonder about someone or their family, and it doesn't mean I want to be with them or even want to talk to them. I expect that my partner will have similar thoughts.
3. Time apart is good.
This was something I had a problem with when I was younger. Anytime a boyfriend wanted a night without me, but not out with his friends, I was annoyed. Why would he choose to spend a night completely alone but not want to be with me? Being single made me understand this. I love spending time with my boyfriend, and I'd prefer to do it most nights. But sometimes I just don't want to talk to anyone. Sometimes I want to stay in bed and read all night or watch a stupid show on Netflix while cuddling with my cats. Sometimes my boyfriend wants to stay up until 6 am playing video games and not have to make sure that I'm comfortable or entertained. Someone wanting a little bit of time on their own doesn't mean they don't want to spend it with you.
4. You don't have to like everything they like.
This was another hard one for me when I was younger, and it's even kind of hard now. Of course, everyone has some deal breakers. And there's a difference between liking things they like and appreciating the fact that they like it. It's nice when someone is willing to try something for you, too. My boyfriend loves video games. I like them enough, but I'm just not a huge gamer. I'm willing to try certain games just because he likes them, but he's not hurt if I don't end up playing them all the time like he does. I really love Doctor Who, and I want to show my significant other as much of the show as I can, and I want them to appreciate it, but they don't necessarily have to love it like I do. And it doesn't mean I like them any less. It just means that on those nights where we want to spend time apart, I can watch my show and he can play his games. You just gotta make it work.
5. Spontaneity is important.
This is especially important in the winter, when it gets cold and you never want to get out of bed. It is sooooo easy to fall into the relationship trap. We all know what this is. When a friend gets a new boyfriend or girlfriend and you never see them again. It's way too easy to get comfortable with someone and prefer to spend your time alone with them rather than go out with other people. It's also easy to get into a habit of watching a show on Netflix every night after work instead of going out with friends or trying new things. For me it seems like every time we make plans, half the time the plans don't even happen the way we expected. But I kind of like it that way, because it keeps things interesting and we don't get bored because we're always experiencing something new with each other. I will admit, I am bad at going out when I'm in a relationship. I am decently outgoing and like to be around people, but sometimes I get extremely introverted and don't want to be around anyone. Being in a relationship is a good excuse for that feeling. It's something I'm working on.
6. You are still your own person.
It is easy to lose sight of 'me' once you become 'we.' Yes, in a relationship you go to each other for advice and decisions. But don't neglect yourself because you're putting so much care and effort into another person. The person you love loves YOU, so you can't stop being who you are. Don't give up your friends and your family. It's important to still have girls night or lunches with your mom without your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife tagging along. A lot of people try to change who they are or what they like so that someone else likes them more, but that's just wrong. You want someone to love you for who you are when they aren't there.
I think that's it for now. Sorry, when I get writing about something, I tend to just go on and on and on. These are just somethings that I realized for myself and my relationships, and maybe they apply to you and yours as well. If you have anything to add, please, comment or email me! And if you are single during the holidays, do not fret! Being single can suck, but it can also be awesome. No buying expensive presents for a significant other, no running around and meeting up with not only your family, but theirs, too. There are definitely things I like about being single during the holidays!
I likely won't get a chance to post again before Christmas, so, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (or any other holiday that may happen that I don't celebrate) to all of you! :)