I was single for the first twenty years of my life. Not the most impressive record (Jesus probably* lived 33-36 years as a single man [in his defense, he had more important things going on], + let’s not forget about Henry David Thoreau at a whopping 44 years, Ludwig van Beethoven at 56, + the indefatigable Ralph Nader [with 87 years!]). But it did seem like forever. The incredible irony is that while I waited in agony for what I thought would surely be the most important part of my life (I’m gonna go ahead + spoil this one for you: it’s not), I was doing absolutely nothing to in any way prepare myself for the reality of a relationship.
*if you’re the type of heretic who enjoys the Gospel of Philip, this may not necessarily hold for you
I wouldn’t say I struggled too awful hard when I finally did get into a relationship but I’ve had better takeoffs. So here I am to help you do better than I did. Here’s three things I wish I knew while single/newly dating that probably would’ve better prepared me for the reality of a relationship + saved me a lot of mental crises:
I’m about to give a lot of people a lot of hope with what I’m about to say: I didn’t even really like my boyfriend when we started dating. I’m allowed to say that on the internet because I tell people this all the time + I like him now. So all’s well that ends well. But I didn’t really at the start. My perception of relationships before I got into one was that I was just going to know before we started dating that this was something I wanted to do for sure. I’m not saying it can’t be that way, + if it is for you, I’m so happy to hear that because clarity is great. But I was in panic mode for the first couple of months because I felt like I had to have everything figured out. You don’t. It’s okay to date someone even if you’re not sure – that’s the point of dating!
Another thing that had me freaking out was ordinariness. Seems obvious but after I realized, Okay, I do actually like him, I was concerned because I didn’t feel like I really liked him every single minute of every single day. THAT’S NORMAL! Despite everybody’s social media posts, nobody is infatuated with their significant other all the time. There are moments I feel especially fond of the poor man who has attached himself to me, but most of the time it’s just us doing life. And that’s a lot of life in general, too: not necessarily spent in one extreme emotion or the other. You shouldn’t dislike the person you’re dating, but if you’re worried because you’re not constantly oozing with love, you’re probably just normal. And I’ve found that – contrary to what I would’ve thought at the outset – I’m more inclined towards bursts of affection the longer we’ve dated. Take that honeymoon phase. (For more on realistic dating expectations, see this post!)
Don’t expect the relationship, yourself, or your partner to be excellent from the beginning (+ never expect them to be perfect). If you’re not happy with the way certain things are, time (paired with effort) can make them better! I remember being about four months into my relationship + being frustrated because MY MAN WAS NOT PERFECT. I have yet to cure him (or myself) of this ailment, but I’ve observed that we do tend to improve as the years go by.
Here’s an example (+ I’m going to try + tell this story as delicately as possible because I don’t want Harrison complaining that I made him look bad on the internet so here we go): I went out with some friends of mine who had been dating their SO’s for some time + we started talking about our relationships. I told them I was frustrated because I felt like the man I was dating didn’t dress like I’d imagined my partner would (I like stylish men, sue me). My friends simply told me, “We had that problem, too. Give him time. He’ll start to do it eventually.” That’s the most frustrating thing to hear in the moment, but I’m now happy to report that they were right! Additionally, I’ve observed that over the past two years, my partner + I have both changed in ways neither one of us expected – ways that turned out to be wonderful, unanticipated surprises. My point is this: things might not be exactly how you want them to be from the beginning, but time, effort, + the important people in our lives have a way of softening + molding us in ways that we expect + in ways that we don’t. (A good example of how time can surprisingly shape a relationship is Stevie + Alex Hernandez!)
Hear me out: what I’m not saying is use my advice to justify dating someone that you’re iffy about in the they-don’t-bring-out-the-best-in-me type of way. My partner + I were good friends + he was a great guy before I started dating him. I definitely wouldn’t have entered into a relationship with him if I wasn’t sure about those qualities. What I am saying is don’t let a lack of certainty deter you from missing out on a great opportunity. There is a difference between dating + marriage (though I think we get confused about that at King’s), + even though you might want to date with the intent of marriage, you’re not married until you both say yes. When you’re dating, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out, but at least you tried + learned something + didn’t let your lack of complete surety stop you from experiencing something. And in my case, entering into a relationship that I wasn’t sure about at the beginning has become one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Let us know what you wish you knew at this time in your life! Feel free to leave a comment, follow us on Instagram, + share with your friends, + if there’s a topic you want us to cover or people you want us to interview, let us know that as well!