Single at 24 but with more than a few ex-boyfriends under my belt, I thought I had most things figured out about relationships. By no means did I consider myself an expert on love or men, but I didn't realize there were new things to learn about myself when it came to romance and meeting "the one."
So after meeting my now fiancé and dating for a while, I was surprised by the changes I started to see happening, not only in the way I viewed relationships but in the very way I myself wanted to act within this one.
While some of these lessons were uncomfortable, I'm grateful for what they have taught me about real love and how real love, by necessity, ultimately changes you. Here are four things I learned after meeting the one:
1. You understand the beauty of commitment.
Before meeting my fiancé, I had a hard time feeling like I would ever actually want to commit to someone long-term. I didn't know how other people did it; how do you live with someone, in all of his or her flaws, for the rest of your life? It sounded mildly horrible and definitely not something I could pull off.
But once things started to become more serious with my fiancé, I realized why people choose to be with another person for life. When you meet someone who truly resonates with you -- someone you could picture building a life with -- you want to work to keep that person around.
I discovered you get to the good stuff in a relationship by committing to it, experiencing life together and getting to know each other in a way only time allows.
2. You realize how generally crazy you are.
Now someone is around you constantly, knowing who you are and seeing you in all moments of your life (especially the ones that should not be on social media), you realize just how often you do things that are a little bit crazy.
For example, being in a serious relationship brought into focus just how much I cry. But not only do I cry a lot, I tend to feel things in a deep way and have a tendency to look at my life from every angle, slowly analyzing to death every event and discovering how each one is surely a disaster waiting to happen. This is not a fun tidbit to bring to a relationship.
Being in a serious relationship suddenly means all your thoughts, feelings and moments previously experienced in the privacy of your room are now on display for another to see and be impacted by.
3. You start to get that no one truly knows how to be in a long-term relationship.
People who have been married for 60 years did not enter marriage because they knew the formula for a 60-year marriage. They didn't know how to get there, but they happened to do so because they made some good decisions along the way, year after year, as they learned new things about each other and life.
They didn't last 60 years because they were “right” for each other or destined to last. Rather, it was a choice to do their best for the sake of the relationship. No one knows what they're doing. No one “gets it” right away and even through the process of learning what works and what doesn't, there will always be new things to discover about how to make a relationship work five, 10 or even 30 years down the road.
4. You have to learn to get your emotions under control.
I tend to be controlled by my emotions -- meaning whether I am mad, sad or freakishly happy, everyone will know. When something or someone annoys me, I cannot fake my way out of my annoyance. This could mean dropping a sarcastic comment, being cutting with my words, intentionally ignoring someone or being withdrawn or other mature reactions.
This will only fly for so long in a relationship. Bad attitudes, no matter how much someone loves you, will wear a person down. It also diminishes trust with your partner because they will become accustomed to your unproductive reaction and probably avoid having hard conversations with you or be left feeling like they are constantly walking on eggshells.
I have learned I cannot always react the way I want to react. I have to think through what I'm going to say and how it will affect my fiancé, even if my frustration is justified. In relationships, you make a series of choices that either aid or weaken trust. Learning strong communication and getting your emotions under control is one of those choices.
For me, falling in love meant learning new things about myself (some good and some bad) and then changing my perspective or actions in order to make the relationship work.
Embrace the idea that you might not have it all figured out. Your relationship will grow for the better because of it.