I have been writing about relationships and giving relationship advice for over a decade now, which is kind of surreal and makes me feel very old.
One thing I hear again and again is: I wish someone told me this sooner!
No one prepares us for navigating dating and relationships. They don’t include that in the high-school curriculum. It’s pretty much trial and error and trying not to get too burned in the process.
People always ask me where I get my ideas and inspiration from… and for the most part, I”m writing to my younger self… fortunately, there are many many people out there who relate to her!
So here are the most life-changing pieces of relationship advice I wish I knew sooner:
1. Choose wisely.
Your relationship success is basically determined before you even enter into the relationship. It starts with who you choose.
I used to be the classic stereotype of the girl who only wants the guys she can’t have and is turned off by those desperately in love with her.
And time and time again I was left utterly baffled as to why things never worked out for me. Why did they never want me like I wanted them? Why did it never get past a certain point? Why did I always feel so powerless in my relationships?
Oh right, I’m only going after emotionally unavailable guys who are incapable of giving more than measly scraps, and I’m taking those scraps and seeing them through rose-colored glasses and exaggerating the bare minimum effort and turning it into some grand romantic gesture thus deluding myself into believing the relationship is more significant than it is, and then I’m left shattered when the inevitable happens even though the writing was on the wall in bright red ink the entire time! Silly me!
But seriously, choice is everything. You can’t choose a loser and expect him to transform into a winner. Yes, you might be the most amazing woman he has ever been privileged to know, but it will not be enough to save him or change him or fix him or whatever it is you hope to achieve here. You have to see a situation for what it is and focus only on the truth about who he is … and not on how sexy he is or how funny he can be or how hot the sex is. Focus on what matters, and these things aren’t what set the foundation for a lasting, loving relationship!
If you want a serious relationship, choose a guy who wants the same thing. If you have certain values, choose a guy who shares those values. If you want to start a family in the near future, choose a guy who also wants that.
Love isn’t enough to conquer incompatibility and emotional baggage. You have a choice when it comes to who you want to be with, and that choice gives you power. Use it wisely!
2. What are you bringing to the table?
I’m gonna tell you something that may be hard to hear- but you need to ask yourself what you’re bringing to the table here.
You want this amazing guy who is confident and has it together and is kind and smart and funny and 6’4 with a thick head of hair, but what are you offering him?
Like attracts like- if you are insecure and emotionally unavailable, that is what you attract. But wait a minute, I’m not emotionally unavailable, I want a relationship more than anything! Well, if you’re insecure and using a relationship to fill a void, then you are unavailable because that behavior is coming from a place of deep down fearing you’re not good enough, and the subconscious mind is always looking to prove itself right so you will be drawn to people who treat you like you’re not enough.
If you want that amazing, emotionally healthy partner, you need to be on the same wavelength. Focus more on turning yourself into what it us you want… rather than outsourcing the job and thinking you’ll become who you want to be when you meet the right person.
3. Stressing ruins relationships.
Another thing I find myself saying over and over again when presented with a relationship problem is: stop stressing!
Seriously, why do we do this to ourselves?
We’re so worried about the relationship that we can’t be in the relationship. I totally get it, though. The fears are real. What if he doesn’t like me as much as I like him? What if he isn’t serious about me? What if he’s a liar like my ex? What if he cheats on me? What if he finds someone better?
You think hitting certain milestones will keep the crazies away, but that doesn’t work either. Maybe you think as soon as he calls you his girlfriend you’ll be able to relax. Then he makes it “official” but you worry about him having second thoughts or changing his mind. Then you think you’ll feel better as soon as he says “I love you,” and that works for a little… until he goes a few days without saying it and you wonder if he totally changed his mind. Then it’s as soon as you move in together or get engaged .. there is always an as soon as and there is always a new thing to stress over. Stop all of it!
It gets you nowhere. All you’re doing is feeding your own insecurities and giving them more strength and power over you. Also, it doesn’t feel good to be around a stressed-out person. It creates a negative vibe that’s just off-putting and even the most emotionally clueless man will be able to pick up on it … and that is what will actually stop your relationship from progressing.
Try to relax and just be in the moment. And when you start to worry and stress, calmly and gently remind yourself that you will be OK no matter what. You can handle it. And if you can handle it and you’ll be OK… then what is there to stress over?
4. You can’t win them all.
This is probably the toughest lesson to learn, but so important for your sanity and self-esteem.
So let’s say you’re seeing a guy and you fall hard and fast. He is everything you’ve ever wanted, he literally checks every box. You can’t help but get excited about the possibilities … but then he ends things. He just doesn’t think you’re right for him, he feels like something is missing, he thinks you’re great but now just isn’t a good time. And you are crushed beyond belief. You mentally go back in time analyzing everything about the relationship to figure out what you did wrong. Why weren’t you enough?
You are enough. You’re plenty. You just weren’t the right girl for him and that’s OK because not everyone is a match. You make a mess for yourself when you take it personally because it really isn’t personal. Just like I’m sure you’ve dated wonderful guys who were crazy about you and you just didn’t feel the same. It’s not that they were horribly flawed, it just wasn’t right.
All you can do is work on being your best self. You’ll never be perfect because that’s impossible, but you can work on refining who you are, on tackling your insecurities, and on healing from your old wounds and hurts. This is all you have control over.
The key to inner peace is taking 100% responsibility for what’s under your control and relinquishing 100% responsibility for what isn’t under your control.
5. Your vibe matters more than your looks.
Yes, looks matter. No, they don’t matter as much as you think.
Your vibe determines so much more when it comes to how people respond to you and how much success you have in your relationships. And the good news is your vibe is totally under your control!
It’s about managing your mood and not letting yourself be overcome by anxious thoughts and negativity. It may feel like you have no control, but that’s not the case. You can control the thoughts you allow to enter your mind and your thoughts control how you feel.
If you engage with negative thoughts, they will keep coming at you, putting you in an anxious and worried state. If you can keep those thoughts away and only allow positive thoughts to penetrate, your entire life will change, not to mention your relationships.
One of the most important things to understand about men when it comes to relationships is that men move toward what feels good. When it feels good to be around you, he wants to be around you. That’s really all it takes to get a man to commit and invest in you and the relationship.
6. Good relationships don’t always feel good.
Here’s the thing that no one really tells you: good relationships don’t always feel all that good…but it’s not for the same reason bad relationships don’t feel good.
Bad relationships are the ones filled with all the drama. The highs are higher and the lows are lower. When I say “bad relationship,” I mean everything from a toxic, codependent situation, to a relationship with a man who won’t commit in a significant way, to a match that is simply incompatible.
But in a good relationship…a relationship where you’re on the same page, when you aren’t waiting anxiously for the next text, a relationship where wondering if he likes you just seems ridiculous because you know exactly how he feels…well, those are the relationships that bring you face to face with who you truly are.
Sometimes they will bring out the best in you because we all have inherent goodness within us. And sometimes they will bring out the worst in you because a lot of us have been burned or are holding on to traumas from the past that we didn’t even realize were still buried within us.
Sometimes there will be nothing wrong in the relationship but you will feel sad or anxious or upset. You won’t be able to blame this on the fact that he didn’t call or text or that you’re not his girlfriend or he hasn’t said “I love you” because he never leaves you hanging… he was proud to call you his girlfriend…he adores you and you know he does. The feelings aren’t coming from him, they’re coming from you. If you’ve been hurt in the past, this feeling of unease is your deep-seated trust issues. If you can’t seem to trust that he’ll be there for you, then out come the fears of abandonment.
There’s this idea that in the right relationship, everything will just be perfect. He’ll be the other half of your soul, you’ll reach a level of happiness you never knew existed, and you’ll feel secure and comfortable and confident. A good relationship can give you these things for sure, but not on its own. It has to start from within. If you don’t already feel good, if you still have issues to work through, if you have a void within, you will never fully be able to trust him, you will never truly feel “good enough.” No matter how many sweet things he says or does, you will never be able to give and receive love freely.
When we’re single, we’re often unaware of the work that needs to be done because those parts of us that are hurt and need to be healed don’t get accessed. Or maybe we do know but think the right guy will make it all better. Love forces you to face yourself. Love brings up all that is unloved within us. And you can’t hide who you are when you are in a good, loving relationship. Instead, you are forced to face it and deal with it. Your partner will always reflect back who you really are (and vice versa). And everything that happens will be much more emotionally significant.
Love isn’t meant to make you happy, it’s meant to make you grow.