You know how the saying goes – “a year older, a year wiser”. And based on how much we’ve learned about love since we were young wide-eyed girls in search of it, we must say that we couldn’t agree more.
Of course, we also cringe when we look back on the many mistakes we’ve made and the relationship blunders we’ve faced, but we don’t regret the experiences that have given us the insight we have today.
In fact, looking back on how naive we once were has us wondering, do you ever wish that you could go back in time and tell yourself what you know now? We’ve been thinking a lot lately about the dating experiences that have shaped us – and what we’d go back and teach our younger selves if we were given the chance. So we’ve decided to share a little bit of what we’ve learned with you. Without further ado, here are a few love lessons we’ve learned over the years:
1. Love yourself first.
Okay, we know this was the most cliché piece of advice we could’ve started with, but hear us out on this one. Over the years, we’ve learned that building a relationship with yourself should always come before building a relationship with anyone else.
Sometimes, we want to date someone because we hope that they’ll give us the validation we need in order to feel better about ourselves. But, the misconception that you’re worthy of love as long as someone loves you can create a false sense of security. While being loved can present a big boost to your confidence, it can’t save you from the project of learning to love yourself and your life. Unfortunately, your insecurities won’t magically disappear once you’re in a relationship.
Being single actually offers up the perfect opportunity to focus on living your best life. It gives you the chance to complete your goals before someone else and their goals come into the picture. So use this time to pursue a lifestyle that you love, instead of depending on anyone else to make you happy. Knowing that you’re fulfilled on your own will allow you to be in a relationship that’s a “nice to have”, rather than a “need to have”.
2. Be authentic.
“Just be yourself!” Of course, we’ve all heard this one before. Whether it came in the form of a pre-date text from your BFF, or your mom’s famous last words as you head out the door with your date – it’s the age old piece of cheesy advice that we always roll our eyes at. But, it’s also the piece of advice that could have saved us a lot of time and energy if we had actually taken it when we were young.
In fact, we really wish that we could go back in time and tell the naive girls we once were that we didn’t actually have to endure the pain of forcing ourselves to watch Sunday night football just because the cutie in our math class said they were a fan.
Believe it or not, you do not need to pretend that you listen to alternative rock, when in actuality you’ve been listening to Taylor Swift’s last album on repeat for the last six months. You are worthy of love and acceptance, regardless of how much you have in common with your crush. Plus, if someone doesn’t love you for the you that you really are, then what’s the point? It might come as a surprise, but the “one” will love you for you – flaws, imperfections, predictable music taste, and all.
3. Don’t settle for any less than you deserve.
Sometimes when the nights of being left alone to enjoy another season of Gilmore Girls and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s are getting a little old, we reach for any form of love and affection we can find in order to put them to an end. Yes, that means messaging the toxic ex, responding to the late night texts from “Hot Bumble boy” and with that, settling. We’ve all been there.
Here’s the thing. If you’ve been wanting a relationship for a long time, or you’re sick of feeling lonely, you may find yourself falling more in love with the idea of a relationship than you are with the person themselves. Sometimes staying single is a fair trade for sticking to your guns and knowing what you deserve. It may not always feel like it, but you’re worth much more than flaky f-boys and guys who can’t text you back.
4. Chemistry doesn’t always mean love.
If you’ve ever caught yourself saying “but they’re so attractive” or “but they’re so good in bed”, then this one’s for you. Sometimes when we’re young and naive, we let the hormones kick in before our pretty little minds ever can. Don’t let the butterflies get the best of you, babe. While we can’t deny the importance of physical intimacy, it’s not the only thing that matters. Having shared values, good conversation – and most importantly, trust – all fuel that all important emotional connection that makes relationships last. And when the physical sparks are already flying, it can be really easy to try and force an emotional spark too.
While we hate to be the bearers of bad news, we must say that fake sparks will always burn out and red flags will always be red, no matter how tall, dark and handsome someone is.
5. Take your time.
If your Facebook feeds are filled with pictures of shiny engagement rings and adorable babies, trust us when we say we’re right there with you. When it feels like everyone around you has already found “the one”, it can be easy to give into the desire to rush into something ourselves. But, just because your friends are doing it, doesn’t mean that you have to.
Give yourself grace and be patient. It’s more than okay to go at your own pace and let your relationship progress naturally. Believe it or not, taking the time to build a solid foundation will result in the kind of love that’s worth waiting for. And after all, why would you want to rush anything that you hope will last forever?
6. Trust your instincts & intuition.
The person you’re dating probably won’t explicitly tell you that they’re not the one for you, but their actions almost always will. When the red flags start popping up and the uneasy feeling starts sinking in, know that it’s time to trust yourself. If your gut is telling you that something is off, there’s a good chance that it’s right. No relationship is worth pursuing if it leaves you feeling unsettled or unsure.
7. Know when to end it.
At some point, you might discover that you’re in a relationship that’s no longer serving you. Of course, there’s a million reasons why that could be, but here’s our rule of thumb. Pay attention to how you feel about yourself when you’re around the person you’re dating. If they make you feel any less than loved, happy and cared for, it’s time to move on.
We know firsthand that it can sometimes feel like it’s easier to stay, whether it’s out of comfortability or the unease of being single again. But, we also know that letting go of something that doesn’t feel right to you is always much better than sticking around.
If you’ve decided that it’s time to end things, remind yourself that there are plenty of fish in the sea and that everyone has to go through a few minnows before they find their meant to be. We know from experience that there will always be another cutie to crush on, promise.
8. Listen to your mom.
And your best friend, and your grandpa, and anyone else who you can trust to tell you when they see a red flag that you can’t see. While we may not want to admit it, it’s much easier to get blindsided when you’re in the honeymoon phase. Sometimes we’re resistant to the advice of those around us, because they “don’t understand”, but your loved ones know you well enough to know when something is off. They’ll pick up on any critical warning signs and call you out when you make excuses to stay with someone who isn’t right for you. For that reason, their opinions are always worth at least taking into consideration.
What dating advice would you share with your younger self?
xo, The Pretty Little Hangers Team