I finallllly just read Rupi Kaur's acclaimed Milk and Honey (a collection of poems on topics from love to feminism) which made me start reflecting on the different types of relationships I've had in the past. I haven't often got this personal before on my blog (although this is definitely more general thoughts, and I'm not going to 'name and shame', obviously). But, the more I thought about it, the more I thought it'd be interesting to share my experiences. Each relationship I've been in has has taught me a valuable lesson. I'm sure many of you can identify with at least one of these experiences - so hopefully you can relate to at least part of this post, and draw something useful from it.
1. The On/Off Relationship
Ah, of all the different types of relationship I've had, this is a classic. When I was 17 I dated a guy on/off for about a year - a relationship that really went on longer than it should have, seeing as neither of us loved the other. We spent about a year just basically hanging out and sleeping with each other, and there were never really feelings involved. That relationship was the first time I said 'I love you', but I already knew I didn't really mean it - it just seemed to be what people in relationships said, so I went along with it. We would have a big argument and not talk for a few weeks, then we'd start messaging or we'd bump into each other (we were living in the same small town) and start seeing each other again. I honestly don't really know how this kept going on for a year.
WHAT I LEARNED:
On/off relationships never really seem to have a happy ending, do they? If you're reading this and you're in a really solid relationship after having broken up a few times - then seriously, kudos to you. But the reality is that when you break up with someone, it's usually for a reason - a reason you shouldn't just forget when getting back together with them. If you keep breaking up, it's probably because you're not right for each other. And if you keep getting back together, it's most likely out of habit than true or 'real' love. I also learned that having sex and hanging out with someone doesn't necessarily equate to love or feelings developing (I was a pretty naive 17 year old); and I realised that this relationship was mostly physical, and that we never really talked about anything at all.
2. The Toxic Relationship
By far one of the worst of the different types of relationships I've had, for obvious reasons, made worse by the fact it was also my first love. It quickly became very toxic - and yet somehow we stayed together for one and a half years. After the first few months we started arguing with each other so often, about anything. We disagreed on everything under the sun - from politics to sports to personal morals. This quickly got to the point where we were shouting at each other, hurling abuse and calling each other names, threatening each other and going into jealous fits of rage (the last one - mostly on his part). And the worst thing was that we just acted like this was normal. It happened so often that this behaviour had normalised itself in our eyes - even though we both knew that, deep down, it wasn't. I remember my parents and friends begging me to break up with him and telling me that this wasn't how a relationship was supposed to be. We broke up and got back together more times than I care to admit - either way, after about Breakup Number 20, I stopped counting. It got to the point where my self-esteem was extremely low and I thought I couldn't do, or didn't deserve any better - not helped by the fact I suffered from depression during much of the relationship (more on that is coming soon in a different post). While my depression wasn't caused by the relationship, the constant arguing certainly contributed and made my self-esteem plummet to the lowest it's ever been.
WHAT I LEARNED:
LOVE. YOURSELF. FIRST. I cannot stress this enough. If you don't really love yourself, there's no way you can have a healthy relationship with someone else. In this relationship low self-esteem was something both of us suffered from and we had a lot of our own issues to battle with, individually. The mistake I made was forgetting myself - I threw myself into it headfirst and risked everything (from my friends at the time to my own sanity) for a guy who turned out to be completely wrong for me. I lived for the relationship and for him and I didn't care about my own life as much as I should have. A big part of the reason we broke up in the end, and stayed broken up (aside from all the arguing, which had always, realistically, meant that our relationship would have an endpoint) was that I started to get better and build a life for myself - I found new friends, I applied for Masters' Courses, I started this blog. I started to love myself again and, as soon as I did, I realised I deserved much, much better.
3. The One Where He Had a Girlfriend
Nope, this isn't a bad Friends episode, this actually DID happen to me. Of course, I had no idea when I started seeing him (definitely not that kinda gal). Bless me, I was only 15 and so trusting. I remember I'd been seeing him for a few weeks and he was actually my first kiss. Giddy with happiness, I told one of my friends about him - and she shot back a pretty unexpected response - 'wait, doesn't he have a girlfriend?' Long story short - he did.
WHAT I LEARNED:
I guess this was mostly just a funny story, but it did stop me from trusting people so easily. I'm not really sure whether that's a good or bad thing; although for me at the time it was probably good, because I was too naive and trusting. I guess it's valuable to strike a balance somewhere between trusting everyone immediately and never trusting anyone at all.
4. The 'Are They, Aren't They?' Situation
This isn't about a specific relationship - rather a situation that I found myself in several times when I started dating properly, aged 16. There was this complex dating phenomenon in my town called 'seeing' someone - you weren't boyfriend and girlfriend, but at the same time, you hung out all the time and didn't get with anyone else. And I don't mean the seeing/dating stage that happens when you first meet someone, before you become official - these 'situationships' most often lasted for months, even years. 'Are they together, or aren't they?' was the question on a lot of peoples' minds at the time, especially from the older generation.
WHAT I LEARNED:
All the excuses: 'I don't want to put a label on this', 'you know I care about you', 'don't overthink things - you think too much!' are complete, and utter, BS. If someone really cares about you, they won't play games - they'll make sure you know. And, they won't have any doubts about becoming 'official' with you.
5. The One Where He Cared More
This is the only of the different types of relationship I've had, I think, where I've truly regretted how I acted. The situation was that we were in the same friend group and we'd been friends for several months, then we started to spend more time together - and, suddenly, things became... more than friendly. I liked him a lot as a person and we got on so, so well - but sadly, the physical spark just wasn't really there on my part. I'd had this sitation in the past and had stayed with the guy, stemming originally I think from self-doubt, that kept telling me that I wouldn't be able to find anyone else, so I should just be happy I had this. I'd often had the classic thought: 'maybe I can grow to like him?' But, after I started uni, I'd told myself I wouldn't do that anymore - why should I have to like someone just because they liked me? It was just an unfortunate situation, and it only went on a couple of months, but I wish I'd called it off as soon as I'd known for sure. Instead, exams had been coming up so I thought it would be kinder to wait, and tried to gradually 'cool the flame' - by first suggesting we see other people (I then proceeded to do just that) and eventually calling it off completely.
WHAT I LEARNED:
Sometimes, an ugly truth is better than a beautiful lie. By letting the situation drag on I feel like I made it a lot worse by making him more deeply invested, and I should have just been straight with him as soon as I knew. Even though I told myself I was being kind to him by waiting for exams to be over, I didn't act that kindly - still technically dating him but getting with other guys (once we'd established that we could do that).
6. The Holiday Romance
I actually only had my first holiday romance this year, in Morocco. It only lasted a few days and it was fun but also filled with drama - not helped by the fact that the guy had a rep as a 'player'. He spent a lot of time trying to sweet-talk me. I 'wasn't like other girls', he 'liked me more than anyone since his ex-girlfriend', blah blah blah. Naturally, knowing his reputation, I found it pretty hard to trust his words. The thing that annoyed me most was that I was expecting it to just remain a holiday romance but he planted all these ideas in my head about keeping in touch - I believe the words 'long distance relationship' were even mentioned - and then, basically as soon as my plane landed in England, he completely went back on it all.
WHAT I LEARNED:
A holiday romance is definitely best if it stays on holiday. Even if he hadn't been a 'player', even if we hadn't had drama, the reality is that we lived thousands of miles apart. At best, all we could've done was kept in touch.
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Floral beaded bag: Zara
Silver loafers: Ego
*Please Note: I received the SheIn top and Ego loafers with compliments, but I never feature anything on my blog that I wouldn't buy myself.*