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Sex + Relationships

What I’ve Learned About the Reality of Relationships

Growing up, I always thought relationships were something you just sorta fell into. You like someone, they like you and boom- you’re together. If things don’t work out, you part ways and that’s that. No big deal. But naturally, as I grew up, I realized that things don’t always turn out that way.

In my short 20 years on this earth, I have experienced enough relationships and heartbreak to know this: relationships are not easy. They are confusing and scary and stressful but they can also be one of the most incredible, exciting, and humbling things a person can experience.

So, these are some of the things I’ve learned since I got my very first boyfriend at the ripe, old age of 15.


1. Do not date someone or stay in a relationship because you’re afraid of being alone.

You don’t need another person to complete you. You don’t need another person to validate you. And you certainly don’t need another person’s love and acceptance to prove your worth. I’ve grown the most during the periods of my life where I wasn’t in a relationship because I learned to go through life on my own without depending on another person. If you can learn to be completely content on your own, you’ll never fall into an unhealthy pattern of being dependent on a significant other. 


2. Do not look at your relationship through rose-colored glasses.

This isn’t pessimism- it’s realism. You need to look at your relationship for what it is. A lot of the time, we romanticize our partners because we only want to see what we want to see. We make excuses for their behavior because we don’t want to believe that we aren’t being treated the way we should be by someone we care so much about. It reminds me of one of my favorite angsty quotes:

“I romanticized you to the point where the knives you pressed into my skin began to look like Cupid’s arrows.”

Don’t romanticize your significant other into something they’re not. If they’re right for you, you shouldn’t have to, anyway.


3. “If they give you mixed signals, pay attention to the bad ones- they’re the important ones.”

Something my incredibly wise mother has always told me. If someone really cared about you and wanted to be with you, they wouldn’t give you a reason to doubt it. Simple as that.


4. If he doesn’t tell you he loves your smile, he can get the fuck out.

I never thought I had a nice smile until after my last breakup when all of a sudden people started telling me I did. I didn’t understand why all of a sudden people were pointing it out until I realized that, throughout the entirety of my relationship, my boyfriend never told me he loved my smile. Not once. So, I didn’t think I had one. Date someone who loves your smile.


5. There is power in walking away.

In every relationship I’ve been in, I’ve always been the one who was broken up with. Not because I was always the one who messed up or because there was something wrong with me, but because I NEVER left. Look, I am an incredibly loyal person- oftentimes to a fault. I thought is was this beautiful, romantic thing to stick by a guy’s side through thick and thin- no matter what. However, thick and thin wasn’t just the whole “for better or for worse, richer or poorer, sickness and health” deal. I stayed by guys’ sides when they treated me like I was nothing. When they walked all over me, cheated on me, called me names, even when they hit me. So, when I got broken up with, my self-esteem was completely destroyed because I thought “you did all this awful shit to me and I still stayed, but I was so good to you no matter what and you don’t even want me.” I always got broken up with because I didn’t leave when I should have- not because I wasn’t enough. Know when to walk away.


6. Cheating is never acceptable. Ever.

I have straight up been cheated on by every guy I’ve ever dated- whether it was finding out my first boyfriend cheated on me right after he met my mom for the first time or finding out my first love cheated on me after I flew to Europe to visit him while he was abroad. There is never an excuse for it. Like, literally, never. It doesn’t matter if he was confused or drunk or young and stupid or whatever his reason is. You deserve so much more than someone who doesn’t value you enough to only be with you, or at least end things before being with someone else.


7. Physical violence is never acceptable. Ever.

I know that a lot of people think this one’s a no-brainer, but it took me a black eye and some bruised ribs to finally learn it. It doesn’t matter if he was just mad or stressed or if it was a “one time thing” and “I don’t know what got into me.” It’s never okay. He will do it again. Leave. If you feel like you’re unsafe, contact someone and get a team of support behind you.


8. You deserve attention and reassurance.

Wanting to spend time with your significant other doesn’t make you needy. Wanting your significant other to show you that your mean something to him doesn’t make you overbearing. These are the things that stabilize the foundation of a relationship and build trust and confidence and if he has a problem with that he can suck it. If you’re in a relationship, you should be treated that way and you should never feel afraid to ask for it.


9. You’re probably going to have your heart broken a lot- it’s totally okay.

Take your time. With each relationship comes heartbreak in one form or another- and heartbreak teaches you a whole lot about yourself. Learn what you like and don’t like in relationships. Learn what you are and aren’t willing to accept. You’ll probably have quite a few before you find *the one* and your idea of what a relationship should be will change as you experience more. I don’t regret a single relationship I’ve been in because they’ve taught me more about how I love than I could’ve ever learned without them.


Well there ya go, just a few nuggets of wisdom from ya girl Jillian. Keep in mind that even though it may suck now, everything you’re experiencing will help you in the long run and you’re lucky you’re learning it while you’re young.   


Hi there- I’m Jillian! I’m currently a junior here at CU Boulder majoring in Strategic Advertising with a minor in Communication. Having grown up in Los Angeles, I’ve wanted to be an actress my entire life. It wasn’t until I got to Boulder that I realized there’s so much more I want to do in this lifetime, including being a writer- which is how I found my way to Her Campus!   
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