Love can be blinding.
It's like being blindfolded, walking through life and not being able to actually see what's happening.
You meet someone. They're cool, super funny, really hot. And before you know it, you've pulled your heart out of your chest and handed it over. This, ladies and gents, is love.
Over the years, I've had some interesting relationships where I was blind-sided by love. They seemed perfect on paper and even though things weren't always so great, I stuck it out anyway. Why? Probably because dealing with it was easier than ending things or starting over. There was always a glimmer of hope that things would change.
Yeah, things never changed.
I won't say I have regrets in the love I had because I don't. Each experience, each feeling and each horrible word exchanged taught me something. These lessons that helped me grow, validate my worth and see that I deserve better are not regrettable but valuable.
Once the anger and sadness of a breakup have subsided, there's still so much to think about. What did I do wrong? What should I do differently in my next relationship? What am I looking for in a partner?
Sometimes, life hands you really shitty things, but if you can pull something positive from the dark, cloudy storm that is constantly hanging over your head, it'll all be worth it. Here are some of my biggest takeaways:
1. You come first.
You are your number one priority, no matter what anyone else says. Even if your partner is just as giving and loving as you are, you always need to take care of yourself.
If you're not the one doing it, no one else will. Sometimes, people are really good at taking, and if you let them take all you've got, you won't have anything left.
2. Compromise is a two-way street.
You may be willing and open to compromise, but your partner should be, too. Don't be the only person giving things up because sacrifices are very different than compromises.
Remember, a compromise is when both parties are satisfied — not just one. Make sure your happiness and comfort are considered in all situations.
3. Have discussions, not fights.
It's normal for couples to fight, but as adults, it is important to engage in discussions where you can listen to one another and have a productive dialogue.
Yelling and throwing things from across the room is not productive. When you take the time to talk things out, you have the opportunity to really hear what your partner is saying. And on the flip side, this allows you to share your feelings and thought process.
But remember to be kind and respectful. Once something hurtful is said, you can never take it back.
4. Family and friends matter.
These are most likely people you'll be spending a lot of time with while you're dating someone, and they can tell you a good deal about the character of whomever you're dating.
Future or no future, if you don't like your partner's family, GET OUT OF THERE IMMEDIATELY. Seriously, IMMEDIATELY.
In the same vein, you are who you hang out with — that's a very true statement. If you can't tolerate hanging with your partner's friends, this is also a legitimate issue.
6. Be yourself.
If you don't feel comfortable being exactly who you are in front of your partner, this is a huge red flag.
You can't live a life that's fake forever, and if your partner can't accept you — for the good, the bad and the weird — they're not worth it.
7. Be supported.
Does your partner believe you can reach the stars and be anything you want to be? Well, they should.
Having this type of support is priceless and very special. It is so important to be with someone who believes in you and will be there to support and encourage you, even if you fail.
Being with someone who always has your back will provide you with feelings of trust and safety. When considering the foundation of a healthy relationship, these are vital components.
8. You deserve to be treated well.
You are an amazing, kind, loving person. Don't ever let your partner put you down or harm you.
A partner is supposed to make you want to be a better person, rather than make you feel like the scum of the earth. It's not OK. Do not accept this type of behavior.
9. Honesty and communication are essential to a good relationship.
If you don't feel you can have an open conversation with your partner, you may want to reconsider being together.
Can you work on communication? YES, but both parties have to be willing to do it.
Talking things through and considering each other's feelings provides you with the ability to work together.
Once you learn to become a team, rather than work against one another, you can conquer it all. If you and your partner have the ability to actually listen to one another, you can make it through anything.
10. Your lifestyles need to mesh.
Wanting similar things and having similar values is crucial in building a strong relationship.
Is your partner super religious and attends church every Sunday, while you prefer to stay home or grab brunch with friends? Do you want children, but your partner can't stand the thought of kids? These are important factors to consider.
There has to be a significant number of common denominators for a relationship to work. If you and your partner are basically living two completely different lives, what will drive you closer? Are you willing to give up some of the things you love in order to engage in more of the things your partner enjoys?
Remember, we talked about putting yourself first, and this is an important time for that. Yes, compromise is also possible here, but giving up major parts of your life that make you happy can lead to a great deal of resentment and anger.
Be sure you're making changes in your lifestyle because you want to, not because you feel the need to.
11. You need to feel loved.
Don't be with someone who doesn't make you feel loved and secure every single day.
Just because someone says “I love you,” doesn't mean they actually do.
You'll know when you're loved. You'll feel it in your whole body — it's like an electric shock. You'll know because of how your partner looks at you, and you'll feel it in their kiss. It's like rainbows and unicorns and cupcakes colliding.
And that's a pretty great feeling.