The Year in Review: Lessons of Love in Retrospect
Lessons in love I learned the hard way: in the school of hard knocks.
New Year's resolutions are already clouding my head as the countdown continues to the last days of 2011. Like others, I spend a lot of time looking back at the year gone by, and try to make sense of the good and the bad moments that filled my days. When it comes to love, the good days are worth every second of soaring among clouds, forgetting my worries, and feeling elation beyond imagination. And then comes the crash, when I fall off the cloud, and the pain is unbearable.
So in retrospect, as a forever growing spirit on this Earth, I try to learn the lessons of life with grace and wisdom. My hope is to avoid repeating the tragic behavior to make my life and love a success in the future. Curious by nature, and a journalist by trade, I dig deep to uncover the secrets of relationships, both by reading, listening and learning on my own skin. Here are my valuable nuggets of information that I've accumulated through the school of hard knocks and from the sage advice of relationship experts that are kind enough to share their knowledge:
- Don't fall for someone who is emotionally unavailable. That includes anyone who doesn't feel as attracted to you as you are to them. Or anyone that you feel like you need to "win their love, bend over backward, or make a fool of yourself" to prove you are worthy of their love. This is mostly true for women, but men should take note early if a woman is utterly aloof, or doesn't return a favorable vibe in your company. Playing hard to get is one thing, but not noticing red flags that "she's just not that into you" is a drain on your soul. Unrequited love is a killer, so move on quickly from emotional vampires.
- Don't fall for someone in a love triangle. When more than two people are involved in a "couple," the third person will cause pain for someone in the group. If you know someone you are seeing is married, in a relationship, or still harboring feelings for an ex, don't be part of the equation. Some snakes hide the fact that they're in a commitment until you are emotionally involved-- that just sucks. But if you know someone already made a promise to someone else, or can't give you 100% of their heart, attention or effort, don't waste a moment of your time hoping that things will change with your patience. Just think: if the cheater is lying to their significant other to see you, then would you want a deceitful person to be your love interest? Is he or she what you consider a "prize?" Stick with the single dating pool-- the kind that won't use you for a rebound.
- Don't settle for someone who doesn't fill your needs. Most importantly, figure out what your needs are so that you can spot when a prospect doesn't have the qualities you seek. If I only had a dollar for every guy I gave chance after chance to even though they lacked several of the qualities I had hoped for. I am afflicted with a bit of the "Pollyanna Syndrome," but I'm trying to be more selective. Instead of wasting time and effort trying to mold someone into your ideal mate, politely let that person know that he or she is not what you're looking for. Hold out for the "right" type from the get-go. Mine will be intellectually stimulating, care about me, encourage me to become my full potential, and turn me on with his appearance. Oh, and he'll be dropped like a hot potato if he lies, cheats or is abusive. Remember that your checklist of qualities should also include your deal-breakers.
- Take things slow-- especially with sex. I know that's hard, but men and women in relationships would agree that your best chance for long term commitment is if you hold off on jumping in the sack until you're both exclusive, in love, and plan to stay together. Although, I am an advocate of cheap quickies in times of emergency and you have to "break the glass" to deal with heartbreak. We are only human.
- Don't waste your time with someone who doesn't have the same goals as you. Mainly, if you want to get married or be in a long term monogamous relationship and your potential partner wants a "friends with benefits" deal, with an open end of "we'll play things by ear," don't let your hopes of him or her changing their mind later on keep you stuck in limboland. Have the conversation about relationship goals early on (by the third date) before you get emotionally attached and be heartbroken later on when you realize your partner isn't a mind reader, and was on a completely different plane of thought than you were.
- Don't open your door to a person you're attracted to when you've been drinking. Especially if he or she has a criminal background, has a history of drug use and you are horny from being abstinent for months. In fact, drinking on dates early on is just a bad idea in general. You probably know where I'm going with this.
- Drop the immature people and have a real relationship. Does the person who's pursuing you text when he invites you on a date? Does he or she text more often than call? Do you get messages on Facebook or emails from the person you're dating more than person to person contact? Leave that behavior for the grade school students and hold out for an emotionally mature individual. While your at it, the "old school" style displays of affection, like flowers or candy on a date, would be an added bonus to your suitor.
- Stop obsessing when you start falling in love and focus on your own life. If thoughts of your love interest have consumed you to the point of procrastinating important deadlines or obligations in your everyday life, then you're a love addict and need help. Cease and desist from giving up your identity because you've fallen head over heals for someone. The less desperate and needy you come off, the more attractive you will be to a prospective mate. Besides, you should already have an awesome life on your own, and having someone to love is the cherry on top. Don't throw away the cake to just enjoy the cherry.
- Don't try to be someone you're not-- especially for an ex. Stay true to yourself when you're dating, because sooner or later, the real you will emerge, and you don't want to be a disappointment to someone you've grown fond of. Many times when we've been dumped by someone, we think, "there must be something wrong with me." Stay clear of that destination to low self-esteem because it's self-defeating. You are perfect just the way you are, and the right person will see it, and love you for all your good qualities. Yes, even if you have freckles, make a funny snort when you laugh, or have Flintstone feet. Those characteristics might possibly be the cutest things about you to the one who falls in love.
- Remember to love yourself the most. That means, protect your finances and try to stay independent of anyone who wants to lean on you or suck you into co-dependence. Be aware of your needs in a relationship and keep your personal boundaries of how much you are willing to put up with. A relationship should add to your life in a positive way, so if you feel like it is draining you, even after you've communicated your concerns, then it's okay to let things go. If you can't love yourself the most, why would anyone else give you that level of respect?
May the new year bring you all success, prosperity, health and an abundance of happiness regardless of your resolutions. Mine include having love in my life, but only fate will determine how lucky I am. Maybe I'll buy a lottery ticket as well. My odds of winning are probably as good.