7 Things I Wish I Knew About Dating
by Callie Olson
It seems that love and relationships are everywhere: in movies, at school, on TV, and on billboards. I remember watching romantic comedies with my friends in middle school and constantly hoping that a man would come to my locker at school the next day, whisk me off my feet and carry me into the sunset. Unfortunately, the way that relationships are portrayed in popular culture represent only a small subset of how they actually play out, which is something I certainly didn’t realize until I was much older.
So in order to give you girls a heads up about the dating world that we have discovered, I gathered a few friends and had a discussion with them about the things we wish we had been told about dating. This is what we came up with:
1. Relationships are 100% optional, especially when you are young
“You are so much more than your relationship status. In adolescence it can seem like everyone but you has a significant other, and that there must be something wrong with you if no one is pursuing you. But every time I’m single I learn so much about myself. You have to be happy with yourself before you can be happy with someone else.” –Laura
“I think it’s an important reminder that you don’t have to be be in a relationship just because your friends are.” -Allison
No. You are not the only single one.
There’s a lot of pressure to date. Like, all the time. In middle school and high school I felt like everyone had a significant other and that I was the only one left out. Not only is that not true, but it shouldn’t matter. You are what is important in your life. Even though it may not seem that way, there are plenty of successful and happy women who never got married and who never want to! I know people at 21 who have never dated or had their first kiss–some because they don’t want to and some because it simply hasn’t happened yet. Either way that is ok! We all have plenty of time, and you should never spend it waiting around for some knight in shining armor to save you.
Also, middle school and high school are already naturally drama-filled. Don’t feel pressured to overcomplicate things by dating. Have more sleepovers with your friends, play hide and seek in the mall and revisit the jungle gym. You will learn a lot about yourself in the next couple of years. I certainly did. Overall, spend your time focusing on yourself, regardless of what direction you go in.
2. Beauty comes in many forms, and people might not appreciate yours just yet
That’s right! No matter what you look like, there is someone in this world who thinks you are beautiful EXACTLY the way you are. Do you like to wear a lot of makeup? Someone will love that about you. Do you hate makeup and refuse to dress up? Someone will love that about you. Are you overweight? Skinny? In a wheelchair? Have a lot of freckles? Short hair? Long hair? Dark skinned? Light skinned? It. Does. Not. Matter. You are wonderful and unique and part of what makes this world great. There are millions of people who find you beautiful and even if they’re not showing up right now, they will.
3. Relationships are (usually) not like Rom Coms
“You can’t compare your relationship to other people’s. There is no normal.” –Holly
There are 7 billion unique human beings that currently live on this planet, and every single one of us has a different genetic makeup, facial structures, body type, and eye color. Probably the most representative part of this is found right on the tip of what you’re using to scroll through this blog right now: your fingerprint. We each have one that is different and unique only to us. Relationships are exactly like that. There are 7 billion humans on this planet and probably a similar amount of unique types of relationships.
When I got to college, I realized there was a lot more to dating than roses, holding open doors and kissing on park benches. Some people keep their relationships casual–seeing each other sometimes and still dating other people on the side. Others prefer to be exclusive with their significant other and spend a lot of time with them. Some people don’t seem to talk much, live across the country (or across the world), don’t spend a lot of time together, or bicker like an old married couple. Think about all the different types of friendships you’ve had before–they are all a little bit different, right? Relationships are like fingerprints, there are billions. And you shouldn’t have to feel pressured to act exactly like any type that you have seen before. You are unique and you should find the type of relationship that works for you.
4. Listen to your gut AND the guts of your friends and family
“Don’t shrug off your feelings, make excuses for their behavior, or ignore your family and friends’ concerns. If something doesn’t seem right, IT ISN’T!” -Jordan
“You shouldn’t ever have to make excuses for their poor behavior, in the relationship or out. Usually when you find yourself making those excuses you are hiding yourself from the truth because you love them.”–Sarah
Sometimes it’s hard to see red flags when you love or care about someone. I have done it before, and so have many people I know, so take it from us: don’t try and justify your partner’s bad behavior. Listen to the people who care about you. Your mom and dad, your siblings and your friends all care about you and don’t want to see you hurt. If they don’t like the person you are seeing, make sure you think long and hard about why and try to look at things from their point of view. If you catch yourself saying “She’s not always like that,” “They just don’t understand our relationship,” “He needs me,” or “they are just jealous,” take a step back and really look at what is happening. Keep your wits about you.
Your significant other is responsible for their behavior and are obligated to treat you and your feelings with respect at all times. Even if they disagree with you, there is never excuse to call you names, talk down to you or physically hurt you. Additionally, your boundaries are yours and yours alone. There is no time that breaking these boundaries is excusable, so if you feel they have been violated end things with the person and tell someone you trust.
5. Whatever your goals, don’t settle
As a strong, independent person, you should never feel the need to settle for anything less than exactly what you want. This goes for career, friendships and relationships. When you are dating, look for someone with similar goals and passions as you, for someone who respects yo, and for someone who you feel comfortable with. No one else can pick that person for you.
6. Retain your independence
As I said, you are the most important person in your life. Every healthy relationship, friendship, or otherwise, involves having your own, separate interests and passions from your partner. You should share some of them, too, but if your self-worth begins to center around another person you may find yourself losing your purpose. Keep up with hobbies that make you happy and make time for your friends. Spend a healthy amount of time away from your partner; you should grow and develop both together and individually.
You are one in 7 billion. Don’t miss out on being you.
You are young. You have time. There are a million rules and tips and tricks that you will read about dating and relationships. Just like just about everything in this world, no one knows what they are doing. Experience everything you can. Do things out of your comfort zone. Go outside. Read books. Swing on a swing-set. Create things. Let your mom and grandma tell you stories. Listen. Be messy.
Stop overthinking it. It’ll happen. And in the meantime, you have so much world to explore. Dating is simply a small part of it.