Growing up, I knew of no other love stories than that of fairytales. I believed in and expected true, exciting love, in a modern sense, when I became old enough to experience such a thing.
Seventeen years and a handful of bad experiences with guys later, I started to wonder what went wrong. Was it just me?
The answer I eventually came up with wasn't that I had some personal defect, but rather that my expectations had been set to an unattainable level, causing me to become attached to people and moments that weren't exactly what they seemed.
This was the result of the fact that I suffered from a habit of wanting what I couldn't have, because it was exciting, and because I never wanted to settle for what was "easy."
What's worse, I was always attracted to stereotypical "assholes." But, I wanted a "fairytale" so badly, I would accept and manipulate moments and people to fit into what could be "my fairytale."
How did I come to this conclusion?
After a conversation with my friend where I explained to her the problems I was having in my love life — being led on, and fast-forwarding into relationships before giving them a chance to develop on their own -- she asked me, have you read, "He's Just Not That Into You?"
Initially, I was offended. I had never heard of the book, and thought she was almost mocking me, but, as if to register my confusion in my flushed complexion, she smiled reassuringly and said, "Just trust me, I read it and it's changed my whole outlook on men."
I was hesitant, but that night, I bought "He's Just Not That Into You," by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, and I began to read.
After a few days, upon completion of the book, I did feel like I learned things I never knew before, but the main lesson I seemed to take away from the book was, there are no exceptions to the rules.
"The rules" being that of "the chase" in dating. Example: "If he isn't calling you, he's not that into you."
So, sure, love can still exist, and couples can live "happily ever after," but you just have to lower your standards and settle for what you can get, without the excitement of "the chase," that we all seem to be addicted to.
To the old-soul romantic stuck in the Millennial generation, this was like telling a 5-year-old that Santa Claus isn't real the night before Christmas.
This isn't to say I disagreed with the lessons I'd just learned, because, on the contrary, it was more fear that it was 100 percent true, and that's a scary thought when the romanticized perception of love you possess gets outshone by a near-mathematical equation of it.
I was in denial. I didn't want to believe it was true that there were no exceptions to any of these rules. I didn't want to believe you couldn't change a person.
Yes, we're young, and maybe we're all just too immature to understand how relationships work, but at that moment, it really felt like no matter how old you were, you couldn't be the exception.
I observed my friends sucked in to "the chase," ending up misled and heartbroken, further providing me with evidence that exceptions to "the rules" were as much a fantasy as the fairytale stories themselves.
But, what good is a rule if it can't be broken? That's what they're meant for after all, isn't it? It might not be the intended purpose, but typically, if a rule has been imposed, chances are that its also been broken.
Why do "the rules" of relationships have to be any different?
In almost every relationship I've ever seen since my friends and I started dating, there have been more games played than on any professional sports network at any given time, and in each situation, someone would end up getting hurt.
So, I eventually came to terms with the fact that "the rules" existed, and, although I wasn't happy with this discovery, I accepted it.
I embraced being young and tried taking things less seriously, including my relationships with guys.
I went to college and had more "casual hookups," but never one-night stands.
This was possibly because part of me still had hope that one of these passing suitors might resurrect my idea of love, and restore my wish of being the exception.
But this time, I kept my guard up.
I would try to maintain casual contact to experiment with this possibility, but it didn't take me long to lose that hope completely, as all the guys I met were only interested in one thing, and I'm guessing you know what that thing is. Hint: It wasn't cuddling.
I just about called it quits, surrendering to the fact that there were no such things as exceptions to the rules of dating.
But, you know how people say great things happen when you least expect them? Well, they are right.
Because while I was busy trying to wrap my head around why I was still pining for attention from a "casual hookup" who was a total asshole, I met someone different.
Aside from the fact that I'd never been more attracted to someone at first glance before in my life, I couldn't necessarily pinpoint why this person was different, but he was.
It's almost like in my bones, I knew he would come to play an important role in my life before I even knew his name; I just had this feeling. Of course, that usually meant bad news for me.
Once we met, I could already tell by the way we talked that we had the same sense of sarcastic humor, but he also had a sense of mystery about him. Of course, I thought.
This would have been great, except for the fact that I knew I was going to fall fast and hard, but that we would of course go back and forth playing games with each other. And, I was right.
I was right back to my old habits, and before I knew it, I was in full-fledged chase mode, and it was fun. But fun usually ended badly.
I accepted the fact he was going to hurt me, but I would enjoy it while it lasted. But, of course I didn't believe that, because I still wanted to be the exception.
No matter the countless "what if?" situations I created in my head about this "womanizer," our situation mirrored everything I had read about in the book.
If he didn't call, he wasn't thinking about you, and if he wasn't thinking about you, he probably wasn't into you.
I struggled with accepting this a lot, though, as it felt like this time might be different.
I tried to think back to the times I had undoubtedly said that same thing before and was wrong, hoping it would derail my subconscious hope completely, but it still lingered there in the back of my head.
So, I reread the book.
We're taught that in life, we should try to look on the bright side. Not in this case. In this case, assume rejection first. Assume you're the rule, not the exception. It's liberating. But we also know it's not an easy concept. — "He's not just into you.”
It took time, but something drove me not to give up on him, despite having every reason to.
I stopped trying to be the exception, and started to really care about him for the person he was.
I realized that every other time, I was more invested in the idea of the guys I was chasing than I was in them as people.
For the first time, I felt what it was like to really connect to someone on a different level, and to truly mean it when I said, "This one is different."
It turns out, he may have thought the same thing. And just like that, I had broken the rule, this time, without even trying.
It took time and a lot of patience, but I've never regretted not giving up on him, because exactly a year after we met, to the day, he finally asked me to be his girlfriend.
He was faithful, and I could tell he took pride in being my boyfriend.
It may not have been a traditional fairytale, but I was the exception, and strangely, I didn't care anymore.
His friends, girls and guys, would ask me, "What did you do to him?" and make comments like, "You've changed him -- in a good way."
I knew they were meant more as jokes, but I didn't see it as me changing him. I didn't see it as me being the exception anymore.
But it's because I didn't see it that way that I was able to break the stigma of "the exception."
Since then, I've never cared to be "the exception" again, and my idea of love has forever been changed -- in a good way.
And while our relationship may not have lasted forever, the lessons I learned from it will continue on with me, reminding me that in relationships, we make our own rules.
We don't follow those put in place by society or by those around us.
There are exceptions to every rule, but, rules are always meant to be broken, so instead, make your own that you want to follow.