Art by Sam Bumanlag
Dating is awful and complex and wonderful and it is never the same experience twice. As someone who grew up drunk on fictional ideas of love, confronting the reality of romance is sobering. Not only will you learn hard truths about yourself, but you will also experience illogical feelings and conflicting behaviors. In short, you will be stupid and you will make excuses, but you will learn.
I didn’t start dating until I was about 20. I came to the dating scene armed with the fierce self-possession of being a fully-formed adult female who’s read and watched and criticized everything about love and relationships. Well, that sense of assurance crashed down pretty quickly as soon as I did start dating, because a) it was nothing like I thought it would be, and b) it’s pretty fucking complicated.
It was all the good things — it was liberating, exciting, and a whole lot of fun. It also came with crutches that put me in unwanted situations. So here are the few things that I’ve learned and resolutions that I will try to stick by because come 2019, we’re not making the same mistakes.
Be honest with what you want
I’ve learned that being transparent with your needs has always been the best way to go. I spent this year not looking for a relationship. Having someone that likes you is nice, but leading someone on without the intention of being with them is just cruel. So is denying yourself of the affection that you so badly want because you said you were cool with being chill. I’ve been on both sides, and I can say that the two are equally grotesque in their own ways. Don’t make yourself small by accommodating someone else’s desires, and don’t be the perpetrator of someone else’s heartache.
Explore outside of your type
Almost everyone has a type. My thing has to be emotionally unavailable men that I know are bad for me because their cold and detached persona excites me and keeps me on my toes. (What can I say, I grew up on Twilight.) After a while, I’d say having strictly dated this type of guy drained some of my optimism and a lot of my energy. I was exhausted by the same stress that I voluntarily put myself under.
At a certain point, you’d have to confront what makes you stick to a type, and why those kinds of people are the ones you’re attracted to. Familiarity is a bitch, and letting someone in who is not exactly in line with your ideals can be terrifying. However, it can also lead to new waves of emotion. Giving other people a chance means you get to experience different kinds of tenderness, which can generate new ways of self-love.
That’s the thing with dating — you can always try again with someone new, but you’re always gonna be you, and the most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself.