As a girl, I admit that I love RomComs. The mistaken identities, close calls, and chance encounters make my heart skip a beat...with anxiety. My teen and early 20s relationships were reminiscent of “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” As an adult, I am able to enter into new relationships as a more complete, happy and healthy person. I felt compelled to share my “what not to do” list as a cathartic guidebook.
Sometimes it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes. And trust me, I’ve made them all:
1. "Keep your past in the past" or “Shut the door before you open a new one”
However you want to say it, don’t start a new relationship until you have completely gotten over an old one. What does “getting over” an ex mean? It means you have no positive or negative emotions toward them, and the same goes for how your ex feels about you. Be clear on this if you choose to remain friends with exes, especially as you start a new relationship.
2. Don’t let your past inform your future.
My past no longer exists except in my mind, so why do I let it inform my future? Cause I can’t stand being vulnerable. Let’s look at an example, just because my ex cheated on me does not mean every other guy will. Going through someone’s phone (a la 21 year old Amita) will not prevent a partner from cheating, in fact, in ensures that he will. Creating distrust from old wounds doesn’t keep you safe, it just ensures your past will be present in your future.
3. Don’t confuse comfort for intimacy.
We’ve been together a while, so that entitles me to wear zit cream to bed, right? Not so much. I’m not saying you should be in stilettos for your entire relationship, but don’t let it all go! Generally speaking, if you wouldn’t do it in front of a stranger (or Matt Bomer), don’t do it in front of your partner. Bonus: When you take care of yourself, you teach your partner to do the same.
4. Know the difference between sex to fill a void and sex to communicate love.
As someone who struggled with finding happiness externally, I was never truly aware of why I craved physical affection. Turns out that caused more harm than good. Know when you want sex and why you want it. Don’t believe that affection is going to address underlying issues.
Sex is an expression of love coming from a place of completeness, not from a place of lack.
Work your shit out with a therapist or coach, don’t do it in the bedroom.
5. Don’t always point out your partner’s flaws, you aren’t helping.
When we first start dating someone, we are in a lovey fog. We don’t notice his flaws and when we do, we find them endearing. Eventually, for whatever reason, I felt it was my duty to help my exes improve themselves. News flash: there is more than one way to do something.
My way, though still the best way, is not the only way.
Focus on what your partner is doing right. If there is a real issue, communicate in a healthy, non nit-picky way.
6. Don’t say anything negative about your partner’s family, even when he complains.
Even when you are right. Even when they are crazy. This goes without saying, but I could have heard it more. We all get a free pass to bitch about our family. We don’t, however, get to do the same for our partner’s. So what do you do when your spouse complains? Just listen and be present, don’t agree, don’t play devil’s advocate. Just give your spouse the space needed. Cause when that fight is over and he remembers he loves them, he won’t forget what you said. Even when you’re right.
7. Know that you’d rather be happy than be right.
This one is huge. At some point you will come to a crossroads. You will either give in to your ego’s need to be right at whatever cost, or you can let something slide and be happy. My advice, know the difference and choose your battles.
8. Know the difference between “space” and "not communicating."
I know I need space to process my emotions before I purge them. I know this to the point where I abuse it. It’s fine to take some time so that you act from a clear space without reacting in anger. It’s not fine to make your partner sleep on the couch while you pout and resent.
9. Don’t try to change your partner’s lifestyle.
If he’s a couch potato, he’s never going to be an athlete. It isn’t your job to change him. If you don’t enjoy the same activities, don’t force them on him. Know what you can accept and what you can let slide. If you’re single, know what’s important to you. Make a list of your non-negotiables and your deal-breakers. I know I don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t value wellness and an active lifestyle. It won’t work for me or for them.
Now, I date men for where they presently are, not for their potential or what I can change them into.
10. Don’t argue or suggest improvements in front of others.
Don’t be the nag, it isn’t sexy. Your partner feels embarrassed and you just look like a bitch. Even when it’s amusing in the moment, it goes deeper and shakes the safety and trust at the core of your relationship. If it truly needs to be discussed, wait until you’re at home. And sober.
11. Don’t stop kissing.
It’s loving and passionate. It says hello and goodbye. Of course that initial “must-have-you-now” feeling subsides, but the kissing doesn’t have to. I usually stopped the kissing when one of us would be stressed or there was tension. I would make matters worse by not kissing. Not surprisingly, this escalated into feelings of rejection. Just kiss. Plain and simple.
12. Don’t stop having fun and trying new things.
In the beginning, it’s all new restaurants, exciting dates, and weekend trips. While this isn’t sustainable, it isn’t an excuse to get in a rut. It’s too much work to re-woo each other, so why not schedule in one exciting thing each week or each month. It can be anything from going to dinner to bungee jumping. Whatever you’re into, do it.
13. Don’t pressure your partner.
Accept his process or move on. This may be one of my historically favorite things to do. Pressuring each other about anything is a recipe for resentment, whether it’s getting him to yoga or the altar, it never yields the results you want. Worse, it makes your partner harbor negative feelings he probably won’t communicate with you.
Bonus: When you celebrate your differences and not the threat of something different, you create the space to be genuinely happy. And often, that leads to foot rubs.
Don't miss Part 2 where I talk about aggression, sex, and sarcasm!
Have a tip? Dated me and want to point something else out? Comment below!