As many other women can relate, I have had my fair share of romantic relationships, both good and bad. Developing emotions for another individual creates a tsunami of mixed emotions. From excitement to terror during the process of determining what move to make, if any. Upon entering the romantic world after your first few ‘trial’ relationships, the dating game seems easy; you find mutual interests with another individual, exchange good conversation, and decide to engage in an exciting new romantic venture. Love is a great driving factor for many people to do many things, but this deeply rooted emotion is not for the faint of heart. As we grow older emotional stakes become higher. There are more complicated feelings and thoughts to attempt to process that wouldn’t have been necessary for a high school fling. From getting comfortable with holding hands to realizing you need to sit down to have the ‘safe sex’ talk, growing up and getting serious in relationships comes with much greater responsibilities and real-life consequences. Whether you are crushing on a platonic friend or you’re entering the 5th year of a stable relationship, there is no guarantee that an emotional connection will last.
In elementary school, I had been crushing on a boy in my class since I met him but was always far too nervous to do anything about it. There was one day on the playground when my best girlfriend decided to try to get us to share our first kiss, but I was so anxious about the meeting that I avoided it entirely. I didn’t have my first kiss until middle school, the school year after I had begun my physical journey into womanhood. With my recent ‘developments’ I was receiving more attention from my guy friends than before and their friends were taking notice too. After being such a nervous wreck without a shred of self-confidence in elementary school I was feeling much more confident about my potential romantic future. My first few boyfriends were short lived, but the emotions were purely overwhelming and I was delighted to be able to connect and hold hands with someone that wanted me too. As I have grown, I still enjoy hand holding very much, but there is more complexity that has made dating and relationships all the more complicated.
First and foremost, love is incredibly complicated, two sided, and will not simply function on the premise that you are physically attracted to one another. While physical attraction is the basis of many initial encounters that can lead to meaningful relationships, there must be more depth built in order to sustain something meaningful where both parties benefit as long-term partners. As a lover, I have also discovered that I have certain desires and needs that must be met by my partner in order to maintain a healthy relationship. Although it is impossible to rely on any one person for all of your happiness, an intimate connection made with another individual should bring out the best in you. Creating a safe and comfortable networking companion through relationships should allow you to develop a greater understanding of yourself. A spouse who is willing to work with you to improve your quality of life through personal development will be more genuine in their interactions and intentions overall. Creating trust with someone who can be vulnerable with you is the basis for a sound connection that can build a happy and meaningful future.
Throughout the time you spend with someone else, it is easy to develop unhealthy habits and settle into an agreeable relationship that may become more dangerous than it’s worth. Being lonely is one of my least favorite feelings, but it beats being miserable or feeling trapped while being connected to someone that you were once infatuated with. I have long struggled with the realization that there are times I will be alone, and this is something I worry I will always struggle with at least somewhat. For many years I was continuously in relationships, trying to find ‘the one’, avoiding the painful solidarity while pondering how none of my connections could be kept. Pondering what was wrong with me; rather than considering alternative issues with my collective partnership has kept me from moving past internal struggles. Harboring a low self-esteem has been a major contributor for failed connections, although my self-doubt is often the least of my worries.
If I have learned anything from the multitude of my past relationships, it is that the best thing you can do for any human connection is to be honest and communicate how you feel. Many of my relationships were broken off because there weren’t enough conversations where I was able to convey my complex emotions that were detrimental to our success. Through many of my romantic interests, I was worried about the negative feelings my partner might have after I expressed my concerns rather than the potential positive outcomes from discussing and working on our personal issues. I could always muster several reasons for leaving my past partners, but I barely gave them the courtesy of explaining my thoughts and reasoning for leaving. When I was trying to prevent a breakup, I would try to write a letter detailing my thoughts or hold a conversation, but I was always too nervous to make eye contact or say exactly what I meant.
With more recent relationships, I have gotten better when it comes to discussing my issues, deliberating problems before they pile up by usually writing out my thoughts first. Confrontation has never been my strong suit, but facing my inner turmoil has proven much more successful than shrugging off my unpopular opinions. Being open to communicate your feelings is essential despite knowing that hurting another person’s feelings is easier than you would like. A lot can change with a few phrases, while potentially ending a beautiful connection that might have seemed too good to be true. Love is never easy, but we have all of the tools at our fingertips to make the experience much more enjoyable and overall successful for both parties. I know now, after my numerous experiences, that jumping into any fling without prior serious discussions and interactions can lead to heartbreak and confused ideas.
In avoiding genuine conversations, we choose not to give ourselves the benefit of understanding one another before we plunge into what could be a not so happy ending. While being a part of all of these relationships may have left me without a clear idea of who my ideal partner could be, I was able to learn many critical traits that I do or do not want from someone I might be spending the rest of my life with. These trial and error relationships taught me a lot about myself, like being introduced to things that I wouldn’t have otherwise had the courage to try out alone. With each changing partner I am a bit more confident, a bit more explicit about my desires, and much wiser about who I decide to spend my time with, romantically or otherwise. I do not regret making connections with any of my past loves, as those experiences helped shape me into the independent and bubbly person I am today. Despite the gained insight for myself, I wish I could have understood what I wanted before I put someone else into the mix. Without the earth-shattering heart break and the three-page long love texts of my immature relationships, I might still be scared to try to connect romantically with anyone.
Love has taught me that every single person on earth is completely unique and it is impossible to try to look for someone to fit into a cookie cutter mold of exactly what you want. I have tried not to limit myself to what I feel like I deserve, but to go with my heart and to love anyone who can carry the mutual respect for life that I have. Rather than jumping into a relationship to avoid spending nights alone, try to think of being by yourself as being in an exclusive relationship. As an individual, you have the same needs whether or not someone else is fulfilling them for you. It is crucial to do the things you want to do and avoid the opinions of anyone who tells you differently. Never forget to treat yourself like the love of your life would, because someday you will want to know how wonderful it should feel and know you deserve nothing less.
Photo Credits: Brittany Hammis
Written by: Brittany Hammis