It’s often been said that there are only two things certain in this life — death and taxes. If that’s the case, then it can also be said that there are a few things all people want — like sex, money, and love — in no particular order. In this technologically-fueled era, an era where people are more and more dependent on smartphones to get throughout the day for a plethora of reasons, it’s no wonder that romance now lies on tech as well. The overabundance of modern dating apps surfacing on what seems like a yearly basis is further proof of that.
As a single person in their late 20’s, I’m no different than the majority of people my age looking for love. There are several million-dollar questions surrounding individuals who find themselves where I’m at in life, but chief among these is, “How do I know if I’m truly ready for love?” Heartbreak, failed relationships, dating angst; all of these can plague one from taking the necessary steps to fully assess their readiness for love. So, without any further ado, here are 8 signs you’re ready for real, genuine love, the type we’ve all seen romanticized by Hollywood and openly or secretly long for.
1) You learned/learn from past relationships
Nobody enjoys breakups, no matter how amicable you and your ex are in the aftermath. The pain, the returning of possessions, throwing out items that were bought, none of it is ideal. And yet, it’s all a part of the process. Individuals ready for real love understand this and roll with the punches. The appreciate the good, bad, ugly, and everything in between.
Most importantly, they analyze each and every past relationship for applicable lessons, striving to see what they can learn from each failure. As the old adage says, “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you learn.”
2) You don’t play the blame game
What comes to mind when you think of your past significant others? There’s nothing wrong with anger or annoyance, especially if things didn’t end on good terms, but let’s dig a little bit deeper. How does thinking about them make you feel? What sorts of emotions do reflecting on that relationship stir up in you?
More importantly, do you take any responsibility for what can be construed as a failed relationship if a breakup took place? Will you take responsibility for your shortcomings in your current relationship, if involved in one? If single like I am, will you do so in the future? Mature people own up to their mistakes and try to see the role they played in things going awry, even if they weren’t the exclusive cause of any issues. Just because you aren’t the one to blame primarily doesn’t mean you didn’t play a role in things going south.
3) You don’t hold any grudges
Usually, holding a grudge is synonymous with an unwillingness to let go of that past relationship for some reason. Are you struggling to move on? Are you still in love with that person? These questions, and many others, become incredibly valid — especially if it’s been at least a year since the split happened.
For instance, I was in a relationship that lasted fourteen months — from October 2016 to January 2018 — while residing in the Northwest corner of Arkansas, home to Walmart, J.B. Hunt, Tyson Foods, and the University of Arkansas. I’d met that particular girl while attending the University of Arkansas during my senior year. Our relationship started off the way any relationship amongst two individuals in their early 20’s would go — lots of “new person excitement,” or encounters fueled by dopamine and other good feels.
Unfortunately, midway through dating, I learned about her first boyfriend and the pain he caused her, because through no fault of my own, I was treated as if the wounds he’d inflicted on her were my doing. The longer we dated, the more I heard about him — and the harder it became for her to settle down emotionally and trust me. Fights ensued, arguments took the place of intimacy, and our happiness with each other deteriorated. We ended up breaking up in spontaneous fashion and did not end things on the best of terms.
It became increasingly apparent that she held a grudge against him for the way their relationship ended; I was the unfortunate scapegoat for lingering negative emotions toward him. Holding grudges is toxic for so many reasons, the chief one being you emotionally scar both parties. If it’s possible to give another person post-relationship PTSD, then I definitely suffer from that an account of the way she treated me.
4) You aren’t interested in playing any games
What is playing games? Simply put, it’s playing with the emotions of another person to gain or elicit a specific, most often favorable response, regardless of how they might feel. You aren’t straightforward about your intentions, but make it seem as though you’re being genuine. Although I’ve never been a fan of this conduct, it’s understandable during teen years, when “puppy dog love” reigns supreme. After all, aren’t all teenagers hormonal, still finding themselves, and incredibly inexperienced from an intimate relationship standpoint?
Playing games as a young adult and beyond, however, is another story. It’s usually a sign of insecurity first and foremost. Why else would someone be afraid to be completely honest? What causes that person to have an agenda that’s so fixed, they need to come across in a manner that isn’t true to self just to get a very specific response? More often than not, it’s insecurity — the fear of 1) things not going your way or 2) rejection. The case can be made that the two are one and the same, since rejection can be construed as things not going your way. Regardless, insecurity goes hand-in-hand with playing games.
The other reason a person might play games? Immaturity. They haven’t learned the importance of being honest. These are the entitled human beings who grow up with an overabundance of coddling from their parents, or excessive material wealth, or looks so sublime they aren’t subjected to normal standards and treatment from other individuals. In short, life hasn’t taught them the importance of treating others the way they want to be treated, being honest even if it doesn’t lead to their desired response, valuing another person’s emotions, or other ethical upstanding lessons.
When it comes to playing games, I like to tell anyone willing to listen — Have game, don’t play games!
5) You value alone time
Like I said at the beginning of this article, I’m in my late 20’s; to be specific, I’m 27 going on 28 (my birthday is July 13th). For the past three years, I haven’t dated…at all. Coming home to an empty apartment, being a third wheel with friends, not having a Brunch date on Sundays or someone to take to the movies or cook with/for has been tough at times. In short, I understand why it’s hard for people to be alone. Still, that doesn’t excuse using the fear of loneliness to date or worse, marry someone else. No one should be that afraid of alone time. On the contrary, it’s necessary to balance alone time with time spent with quality friends and family to avoid always wanting to be alone. This brings to mind the three forms of dependent states: codependence, independence, and interdependence.
Codependent people NEED to be with another person no matter what. They’re ashamed to go to places like Denny’s or the movies by themselves, looking at such conduct as a reflection of what they consider a lackluster social life. They rush into marriage with the first person they find that “completes them,” oftentimes in their 20’s. Silence is their biggest enemy and nemesis — it causes them to have to reflect on their life, and there’s nothing more uncomfortable than having to confront one’s demons at all, let alone by one’s lonesome.
Independent people are another story. They do everything by themselves. Another name for them? Loners. They don’t value, or care for, other people’s company. These are the most negative introverts you’ll ever meet; sometimes, they think they’re better than other people, hence why they’re always by themselves. Intimate relationships are a challenge for them; they often hear that they’re too independent but do nothing to change this (like the people who play the blame game without looking at the role they play in their misfortunes). Deep down inside, they may be afraid of intimacy.
The healthiest of the three are the interdependent. They understand the importance of alone time. We all have hobbies, interests, or things we look forward to doing alone as youngsters. My hobbies and interests include exercising, creative writing, boxing, and reading; I am in NO WAY interested in giving those up just to have more time for another person. It’s important to engage in self-care and self-love before trying to partake in caring for or loving another person. The only way to do that is to enjoy being by yourself from time to time. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to be around other people however. It just means you know how to balance the scales properly, interspersing, in my case, a Sunday afternoon reading a James Patterson or John Grisham novel by my lonesome with a Friday night out with friends or family, one day adding a significant other to the mix.
6) You want more than sex
In a previous article, I talked about what life was like spending my early 20’s apart of the religious world that is the Bible Belt, having resided in Northwest Arkansas for roughly five years while attending college at the University of Arkansas. As a native of Philadelphia, PA, it was a major culture shock for me. What I found most shocking was how many of those relationships that turned into marriage were primarily about either 1) avoiding loneliness or 2) having sex.
As a former consistent Church-goer, I personally believed that marriage was supposed to be about so much more, that the bond between a man and a woman (or whatever you’re into) went much deeper. And yet, almost everywhere I looked, I saw countless examples of individuals who got married for those two reasons exclusively. To some, that may not be alarming, but to an individual with my wealth of relationship experience who plans for the future, that scared me. “What’s gonna happen to them when sex fizzles out?” I’d wonder. Because, whether you want to hear it or not, it always fizzles out.
Those who are ready for real, genuine love know sex isn’t the main goal or focal point of getting together. It’s hard to downplay its importance, especially if marriage and childbearing are of interest to you, but it isn’t the most important thing. To those ready for real love, they understand the significance of establishing a solid friendship with their eventual partner beforehand. Make it possible for them to enjoy having their guard down around you with no strings attached, or games played, for as long as possible — and watch what happens.
7) You’re patient about who you consider as a partner
I’m willing to bet you can’t come up with 3–5 examples of how rushing is enjoyable. Sure, speeding in a car with a nice engine is fun, and a sexual quickie every now and again is a nice way to mix things up, but with those two off the table, tell me how rushing is fun. While trying to do that, let me give you three examples of how rushing isn’t ideal.
Example 1: heading to work. You wake up late and realize you only have fifteen minutes to get to the office, now that life is returning to post-Covid standards. After scrapping the crud out of your eyes, you brush your teeth while simultaneously trying to freshen up, because taking a shower is out of the question. A mad dash into the kitchen to grab something to eat on the go yields a granola bar and bottle of water. You then get into your car and double the speed limit because, well, you’re behind schedule (bet speeding in this context isn’t enjoyable). Sounds great, right?
Example 2: working out in the gym. You usually give yourself at least an hour to work a specific muscle group, but today, your crush finally replied to your text message about getting together for drinks, but wants to do so during your ever-important gym time. So, like an individual who doesn’t understand the importance of patience and interdependence, you cut your gym time in half for this highly coveted opportunity. Muscles gain turn into pulled muscles and render your entire workout ineffective.
Example 3: making your favorite meal — chicken parmesan. A trip to the ER ensues when you realize you undercooked the kitchen and overate at the same time. Need I say more?
What’s the point of these examples? Simply put, no one enjoys themselves or any of those activities when they’re rushing. It’s when they take their time by giving themselves enough time to be fully present that these activities are fun. So, if it doesn’t make sense to rush any of these, why on Earth would you allow yourself to rush love/who you’ll call your partner or lifelong partner? If marriage is the end goal, that’s all the more reason to be patiently cautious. Going back to the previous point, a solid friendship should be the foundation of the relationship.
8) You WANT to give more than you take
The word want is capitalized for a reason; to signify that wanting is the key phrase here. No one forces you to want to give more than you take. There’s no obligation. It stems from a deep-seeded internal desire to do right by the person you call your significant other. After all, it is a want. And shouldn’t you want what’s best for a person you claim to love?
Back to that girl I dated in Arkansas, the one who held a grudge against her first boyfriend and took it out on me. Because of her grudge, she was deeply insecure. Because she was deeply insecure she took more than she gave. If that’s how we treated our bank accounts, for instance, we’d all be broke. It takes saving and financial moxie to keep money flowing in and out of accounts.
Imagine how blissful things will be in your relationship, or future relationship, if both parties focus primarily on giving? If, rather than making things about your needs, you articulate your needs — then sit back and focus on those of your loved one? Worst case scenario, they still focus on themselves. That makes it easier to move on until you find someone who’s like-minded. Best case scenario, you’ll see a radical change in how they see you holistically, one where they feel compelled to explore and meet your needs.
Real love is selfless. Selfless people give more than they take.
I hope these eight points give you clarity when reflecting on your own love life, especially if you’re trying to figure out if you’re ready for love in general. Most of us have horror stories galore from the ways we’ve been wounded, but moving past them is the first step in getting past your past, embracing your present, and taking steps toward the future. Use these points to evaluate yourself however often needed. The end goal is to have as happy and genuine a love life as possible. Reading this may not be a magic elixir, but it’s a step in the right direction.
This post was previously published on MEDIUM.COM.
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