Lessons Learned: 18 Pieces of Relationship Advice from a Senior Belle

1.  Don’t compare your love life to your friends’.

*Cue flash back to high school* Everyone would slowly start to have their first experiences with guys and would inevitably compare themselves. You were a weirdo if you hadn’t done this or too crazy if you had done that. The stress that comparing yourself to others, in all areas of your life, brings is completely unnecessary and draining. Life is a journey and all of ours are different. For this reason, it’s completely understandable that your friends will be at different places in their love lives at any given time. Sometimes you will be the single friend and feel like everyone around you has already found the love of their life. You feel left behind and may frequently console yourself with your friends Ben & Jerry. Other times you will be the one who has the guy and is completely happy. Try to understand how much things change, be patient, and just don’t worry so much about what everyone else is up to.

2. You will inevitably both break a heart (or two) & get yours broken.

Such a scary concept, but a very true thought indeed. Ladies, we will all go through so many experiences, emotions, and times in our lives. Even though relationships have the potential to bring an immense amount of joy into our lives, they also have the potential to give us stress, frustration, and heart break. You win some and you lose some I guess. This is natural and to be expected. After breaking a heart and then getting yours broken, we think is this karma getting back at me? While I don’t believe the world works in such a negative and cruel way, there is sort of a cycle that makes the world go round. It took me a while to accept the fact that sometimes I will be the one more into a relationship and other times I may have to initiate a break up. Both experiences require us to face the reality of how complicated, unfair, and frustrating life can be. Know that you can never fully be prepared to deal with such emotional experiences, but also that no one can escape them. These raw emotions and experiences are what makes us human. *deep stuff*

3. No one is perfect. No one!

When you first start to really like someone, we all know how easy it is to begin to put that person on a pedestal. You gush over all of their positive qualities and seem to totally forget the negative ones. You fall harder and harder and all of a sudden this person seems perfect to you. Well I hate to break it to you ladies, but no one is! And that’s okay! When you find the person you are really meant to be with, their “bad” qualities really aren’t all that bad and you love them for all of who they are. Don’t let just the idea of this person, the fact that they maybe go to Notre Dame, or anything else that gives them major brownie points, make you view them as perfect. When it comes to relationships, make sure you truly notice what is standing right in front of you and not just what you wish or hope will be there. Reality vs. fantasy ladies- I trust that you can judge the difference.

4. Haters gonna hate. Keep doing you.

It’s your life, your experiences, your decisions. And no one will ever fully understand your situation. You can do your best to clue people in on your love life and choose to be as transparent as you want. However, there will always still be people who misunderstand and judge you. For this reason, you have to do your best to not put so much stock into what people think of you. Easier said than done, I know! But when it comes to your experience with guys and your relationships, be confident in your decisions and don’t let others bring you down. After all, Tswift said it best- hatters gonna hate. Just shake it off Belles!

5. Breakups suck. Just be patient and ride it out.

It’s crazy just how consuming and physically, mentally, and emotionally draining a breakup can be. Anyone who has ever gone through a serious breakup will understand how overwhelming the flood of emotions can be. You may feel hurt, angry, confused, rejected, stressed, embarrassed, frustrated, disappointed, etc etc. You experience everything from all of the emotions at once, to just one overwhelming and consuming one, to none at all. After a breakup, every minute, hour, and day will be different and unpredictable. It is so frustrating to feel totally powerless over these emotions and not know when they are going to stop. My advice is to just understand that it totally sucks, this is normal, and to not try to control your emotions or stop feeling a certain way. Unfortunately, you will never get over someone by closing yourself off to the pain the experience caused you. This is how you cope, grieve, learn, and grow. However, the waves of emotion start to slowly subside until one day the thought of that person simply doesn’t pull at your heart as much as it used to. Just be patient and wait for that day.

6. Sometimes you can be friends after a breakup and sometimes you can’t. And either one is okay.

Wow, what vague and seemingly unhelpful advice. But hear me out here ladies! After experiencing the ups and downs of the dating world during my time in college, I have discovered how much I dislike when people try to give me relationship advice. Obviously this is okay when I am inquiring about things with those people whose opinion I value. But when random people try to tell me what is okay and not okay in or after a relationship, that’s a problem. You’re probably thinking- well then why are you writing an obnoxiously long article giving people relationship advice? ....good point. HOWEVER. I have learned some valuable lessons and simply want to pass them along. I really want to convey that there is no cookie cutter set of relationship advice and it is perfectly normal to have your own experiences. For example, know that it can be extremely difficult to both be friends with an ex and not be friends with them. Just wait to see what is best for you. 

7. Wait for the guy who wants to show you off (and who you want to show off too!)

This is so important that I want to put endless stars, arrows, and exclamation points around this one! I also feel like this is advice that mothers and grandmothers would give us that we tend to ignore. But ignore it no more! A huge part of a relationship is valuing the person that you are with. This means understanding and accepting all of the good and bad things about them and still being proud to call them your significant other. For example, you will know you are with the right person when you feel completely comfortable and excited about bringing them to a family function. Same goes for the other way around. If a guy does not want to show you off to his friends, he clearly does not value your awesomeness and does not deserve to be with you. Period. End of story.

8. Yes opposites sometimes attract, but be sure that your relationship still has compromise.

I am a firm believer in the possibility that opposites can attract when it comes to relationships. In these cases, you may admire the qualities that your guy has that you do not and you two can balance each other out well. Sometimes it becomes way too challenging when the individuals are too much alike and you need that variety. However, with major differences comes differing personality types, values, likes and interests, ways of communicating, and social lives. The more you like someone, the more willing you may be to put your own preferences and needs on the back burner. This may make the relationship run more smoothly, but it cannot be truly healthy without compromise. It will honestly be a waste of your time to be with someone who tries to change you or does not know how to work well together. When evaluating a relationship, make sure that you and your man both understand and value the importance of compromise.

9. Don’t let one bad relationship ruin men for you.

Tough love time ladies. If you want to be classy and fabulous, you cannot be dumb nor immature. And swearing off men forever because you had one bad experience is doing just that. I realize that there can be very difficult situations that you may go through that will make you want to lose faith in men, relationships, & humanity at large. But let’s not get all dramatic now. Listen- what happens when you eat a bad apple? Do you swear off of apples forever? No, because you understand and have faith that your next one will be better than the last. Yeah, that. Do that with guys too.

10.  If he enjoys kissing you more than talking to you, that’s a problem.

Trust me. First understand that you can both value and enjoy your “sexy time” (yep that’s what I’m calling it) together. We’re humans and I believe that to be an important part of a relationship. Don’t be embarrassed, that’s normal. However, what’s not normal is if it’s obvious that your man is more interested in going back to his dorm after dinner together than he is in your conversation at the dinner table. Be smart and know your worth ladies. The best relationships are the ones where you can find that perfect balance together. Be aware of how comfortable you feel in certain situations and trust your gut.

11. Make sure you can hang out & still enjoy each other’s company while sober.

With college comes parties, alcohol, & potential hookups. Sorry mom & dad! Even though we are classy ladies and go to a Catholic school, this is simply a fact at any college. Within reason & done smarty/safely, these experiences are normal & usually make for some good stories. Hey, no judgement here. However, a lesson can be learned when it comes to alcohol + relationships. Before professing your love for a guy or dreaming about your future wedding, make sure you hang out with him sans alcohol. It is definitely possible that your feelings about someone can differ with and without a few drinks in you. Try actually going on a date with him instead of just meeting up with him at a party, and see if you feel the same way.

12. Don’t expect to always be on the same page as your guy.

This is typically the number one reason that relationships either work or do not work. Being on the same page as your man is definitely easier said than done. When a relationship is going well, you two are gelling, get into a flow, and are just feeling it. Once things start feeling off or frustrating, you simply may not be on the same page anymore. You are both humans with different feelings, schedules, histories, personalities, and thoughts. Relationships typically fall apart because one or more of the many different aspects of your lives are not lining up. While this can be extremely frustrating, it is completely understandable.

13. Your friends don’t have to love your man, but be sure to value their opinions.

You know how you have gut feelings about people? Well your friends have those too. And the people who love you and know you the best are certainly looking out for your best interest. So if your friends seem to have a problem with your new love interest, find out why. You can be a bit frustrated at first, but understand that they usually have a good reason for thinking what they do. Hear them out and remember that Smicks usually know what’s up.

14. You will most likely have someone that you connect with, but shouldn’t be with.

Relationships are funny in how they are never what you want, expect, or wish them to be. And life can be so messy and can easily interfere with a relationship. You may have an amazing connection with someone, but will ultimately not be able to be with them. While extremely frustrating, this, for SO many legitimate reasons, should not be ignored. A connection is extremely important, but it certainly isn’t everything. If it was, relationships would be SO much simpler. Timing, personal issues, geography, other people, life plans, and etc. etc. etc. can be our worst enemy in a relationship. They override a connection. And yes, that can really suck.

15. Have relationship goals. Seriously.

Create Pinterest boards with photos of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield (although they may have broken up so what do I know), and One Tree Hill’s Haley and Nathan as much as your little heart desires. I think it’s really important to look at other people’s relationships in order to develop an idea of what you want in your own. But don’t just use celebrities, look to those around you. I have watched and admired my parent’s relationship for years and can give you all the reasons that I want my husband and I to be like them in 25 years. On the other hand, you can also have anti-relationship goals. If there is a couple that you happen to dislike, identify why that is and make sure you actively try to avoid making those similar mistakes.

16. Don’t be afraid to be the classic ND/SMC couple. Embrace it. 

Sit at date tables in the DH. Make dorm mass into a date night. Attend every ridiculously themed SYR together. Develop a hatred for parietals. Let people question you about ring before spring. Lots of people would kill to be a part of such a classic ND/SMC relationship and have these seemingly annoying experiences. It’s all part of the experience and you know that you secretly love it.

17.  DATING IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!

I think that because of all of the stress that the dating game can bring us, it is easy to forget why we do it all in the first place. Well, dating, relationships, falling in love, etc etc, are meant to be fun! The point of pursing a person you are interested in is because you want them to bring something into your life that you were lacking before. This is not to say that you are incomplete without a significant other, but having one does have the potential to bring a great deal of joy, memories, and love into your life. While I do believe that everyone should experience the full range of emotions that relationships bring us; never let the negatives outweigh the positives. Just remember that the right guy will ultimately lift you up, not bring you down.

18.  Its all about trial & error - Create your own list of lessons you’ve learned!

I think that this last piece of relationship advice that I have for you is essentially a compilation of all of my other points. My different experiences with guys up until this point in my life have brought me everything from heartbreak and frustration to great love and amazing memories. However, I am ultimately happy for having all of these experiences and for all of the lessons that I have clearly gained from them. But who am I to say that my lessons are the end-all be-all of relationship advice? So my fellow Smicks, I urge you to think of a list of lessons that you have learned from your past relationships and experiences with guys. Just as it did for me, this process will help you to organize the jumbled thoughts in your head and view your experiences positively because of the lessons you have gained from then.

So thanks for the lessons boys. Go belles.