So relationships have been on my radar a fair bit, and I’ve been thinking about what it is that makes me feel like I’m in a good one (which I do). At the beginning of my relationship, there was a lot of “OHH so this is how it’s supposed to be, I didn’t know!”
Along with that, I realised why a few of my previous relationships haven’t worked out, and it isn’t necessarily for the reasons I attributed to it at the time. Now, I’ve learned a lot more about what I need and want from a relationship, as well as what the other person probably needs and wants.
There is no way you’re not going to make mistakes in a relationship, but I like to believe they teach you something about what’s right for you. There are relationships I had as a teenager that always make me cringe to think about now. I question my sanity, as I’m sure most people do, and wonder how I couldn’t see what was really going on at the time. The short answer is because I was, like, 16, and I was only just starting to learn about myself and what ‘myself’ is like in a relationship with someone else.
16 year old me thought that confidence came when acne disappeared, and assertiveness was something you did to be sexy. I like to think I’ve come some way since then, so I’ve written a few lessons learned to my 16 year old self.
- If someone makes you feel like you’re hard to love, walk away. You are not hard to love, find someone who can’t help but love you without even trying
- Admit when you’re wrong. This is serious personal growth for such a stubborn person. Everyone is wrong sometimes, it’s fine. Actually, it shows good character if you admit it.
- Be independent. Don’t give up hobbies and interests, they’re part of the reason you’re interesting to other people. Don’t allow your personality to become too intertwined with someone else’s.
- If you feel you have to prove your worth to someone, tell them to get fucked. Know your worth and that, if someone can’t understand and respect it, they’re definitely not for you
- A relationship that doesn’t allow you to be a human being with needs and preferences isn’t worth having. Needing things from people sometimes doesn’t make you ‘needy’.
- No means no. Learn to recognise pressure and manipulation and stick to your gut feeling. If it doesn’t feel right for you, don’t do it*
- Respect your body. Take care of it, don’t let anyone disrespect it. Your health comes before anything else.
- You will regret something. You will feel like an idiot at least once. Feel it, forgive yourself, and move on.
- Love isn’t everything. Yes, its most things, but there’s a hell of a lot else you need in a relationship. Trust, mutual respect, friendship, practicality. It’s possible to love someone even though they’re a complete cockwomble. I can’t get enough of Haagen Dasz salted caramel ice cream; doesn’t mean it’s good for me.
- Everything should be equal in your eyes. I’m not saying you both have to do an equal amount of dishes, I’m talking about how fair you think your relationship is. If you feel you’re always the one to knuckle under, give in, make compromises, but the other doesn’t, reevaluate.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all suggesting that my relationship is in any way perfect and I’m, therefore, somehow qualified to give out advice. This is more like a list of things I wish I’d known as a teenager.
I have to admit I had a slight side agenda when writing this; I was thinking about the girls in my family. Some of whom are getting to that age where they’re starting to be interested in boys. I so want to tell them, more than anything, to just fiercely be themselves all the time. Don’t put up with anyone who treats you with anything less than 100% respect. I know it’s always more complicated than that. I know there’s next to nothing I can do to prevent them from going through the low times in relationships, and in a way, I wouldn’t because that’s part of life experience and completely necessary sometimes.
I think what I’m trying to say is that, whether you’re 16 or 66, you’re learning about yourself all the time and what you will and won’t accept from other people. Don’t settle, your 16 year old self needs to know it gets better!
What relationship advice would you give your teenage self?
*Although this post hasn’t covered any specific relationship issues, I realise that people may feel triggered by any type of content discussing relationships. I’ve placed a couple of links to resources here, for anyone who needs support.
Citizen’s Advice Bureau on violence and abuse