As a teenager, I was pretty sure I'd end up married to Justin Timberlake one day.
I always knew we were meant to be. He was "The One" for me, as I was in hot pursuit of some romance, fun, and popularity (at the time).
Aside from the desire to end up on JT's arm at the MTV Video Music Awards, I'd thought I had a pretty solid grasp on what I wanted my future relationship to look like. The guy I ended up with was going to be the adorable, charming, and adventurous type.
When I was young, I thought the surface-level characteristics mattered the most, like whether my boyfriend was cute, or if he shopped at the "cool" stores.
When we're teenagers, it's hard to have a realistic idea of relationships because so much of our actions are constrained by being young and living with family. We have almost no real experience with real love, and we're not sure how to focus on anything but the present.
Now that I'm married to a man I know is the one for me, I've come to realize that the thoughts I had as a teenager may not have been wrong... they just weren't fully developed.
Growing as a person meant my ideas about love grew, too.
Below, you'll find some of the qualities I looked for in "The One" as a teenager versus the qualities I've now realized are important as an adult.
As a teenager, I wanted other people's approval. Now, I want emotional maturity.
As a teenager, I thought that my friends and family liking "The One" was critical. It was important to have them approve of him, because I thought if they didn't, he couldn't possibly be the guy for me.
As an adult, I realize that while it's still important for people close to me to get along with my partner, it's far less important than I once thought. Now, other people's approval falls far down on the list of important qualities for my guy to have. Instead, emotional maturity takes its place.
If I like him, that's all that matters.
Being an adult means being more than just liked by everyone. Now, it means having the ability to be there as part of a true partnership. He must be emotionally capable of being present at all times, while being a great spouse who values structure and stability.
A partnership with "The One" means that you feel they're ready for a real relationship, just like you are.
As a teenager, I wanted to have fun. Now, I want friendship and laughter.
As a teenager, I thought fun was the key to a real relationship.
After long days at school and dealing with my parents, I wanted to see a movie, go to parties, be outside with my boyfriend. It was important to me that "The One" and I were constantly going out and finding something new and exciting to do. It never meant staying in and living the quiet life. I wanted "big," all the time.
As an adult, I realize that a deep, understanding of friendship is more important than anything else.
My husband and I are super close, and because of that bond, we have a great time with anything we do. Our friendship means we'll be laughing together whether we're at a concert, at the grocery store, or at the gym. This type of relationship grants us the opportunity to constantly enjoy each other's company, and therefore, enjoy whatever we're doing, no matter what it is.
You should have fun with "The One," but when you meet them, you'll realize you don't need to seek out excitement.
Fun can be had anywhere, doing just about anything.
As a teenager, I only wanted to hear good things. Now, I want honesty.
As a teenager, I wanted "The One" to shower me with compliments.
I wanted to know that I was smart, pretty, and good at things that were important to me.
While I still like to hear positive things about myself, it's not nearly as important to me as pure honesty. At first, I thought your partner should only see the "best" side of you. Now, I've come to realize that they should see all of you in order to love all of you.
My husband does think I'm smart and pretty, but he also thinks I'm cranky, and can handle certain situations better.
When he is 100 percent honest with me, he helps me be honest with myself about my own personality.
Flattering remarks are great to receive, but your relationship with "The One" should help you be a better person, not inflate your ego.
As a teenager, I wanted perfection. Now, I want commitment.
As a teenager, I was obsessed with the idea of being perfect.
Every new event, every big moment, and every important experience was supposed to be flawless. Prom night, my college experience, and of course, my marriage, would all be completely error-free.
While I couldn't have asked for a better husband, my idea of perfection has changed dramatically.
As a teenager, I thought perfect meant that nothing ever went wrong. As an adult, I realize that perfect is actually more about your day-to-day commitment.
I know, without a doubt, that my husband is committed to our marriage. No matter what goes wrong, he's there to fix it. Whether it's things I do (like breaking almost everything I touch), or things that happen in life (like unexpected family emergencies), my husband shows his commitment to me by being there through it all.
I couldn't imagine this as a teenager since I never thought past my immediate future. As an adult, I know the concept of forever is a long time, and there's no point in trying to make it totally flawless.
Instead, it's about trying to make it last.
As a teenager, I wanted romance like in the movies. Now, I want real love.
I thought my relationship with "The One" would be filled with the trappings of stereotypical romance.
We'd basically live in a rom-com all day, complete with the adorable courtship, and the "happily ever after" wedding bless.
Now that I'm a grown-up, I see that my ideas of "romance" were all pretty superficial. That kind of passion doesn't equal love.
"The One" will show you real love. That's the kind that comes with dragging yourself out of bed in the middle of the night when your partner is sick, not the kind that represents itself through expensive flowers.
Real love, I've learned as an adult, doesn't follow a script. It can be expressed anywhere at anytime, doing anything.
Aging naturally means that our views on the world evolve. For me, my ideas on "The One" grew deeper and more significant as I got older, so that I was able to recognize real love when it came along.
I'm glad my superficial ideas about love have changed.
I've learned a lot, and more importantly, can appreciate my wonderful partner every day for the love he brings to my life.