After blowing out 27 pink and white candles, I’ve reflected on my love life, and the experiences I’ve had with a variety of colorful boyfriends and dates. Along the bumpy road of dating, I figured out what I don’t want from a boyfriend, and accidentally formed some bad habits that I have since sworn never to repeat. Namely, losing myself when investing too much into someone else.
In some of my early relationships, I became overly dependent on boyfriends and lost sight of all the people, places, and activities that were important to me, and made me who I am. I kept standing in the shadows of my boyfriends, supporting their goals, and lifestyles, and completely shirking my own. It wasn’t until I took a full year to be completely single that I was able to establish my self-worth, and fully love and accept myself and past mistakes.
Even though dating was a brutal learning experience, it was also gratifying, and a lot of fun. Regardless of all the pleasure and pain I endured while going through relentless waves of heartbreak and kindling feelings, here are the bad habits from dating I’ve learned from and will never repeat.
1. Not taking time to take care of myself.
Over time, I’ve discovered just how essential self-care is after breaking the bad habit of practically being my boyfriend’s identical twin.
Bettering oneself should be everyone’s top priority, and if you don’t take the time to put yourself first, you’re doing something wrong. You have to be able to grow independently first before you can grow with someone else. It’s like the oxygen mask scenario on airplanes. You have to give yourself oxygen first before trying to help anyone else; in other words, you need to let yourself breathe and provide for yourself before you can give to anyone else.
If you don’t make the space — to watch your favorite shows, take long hot showers, play games, do a face mask, or anything else you do to relax — you may start resenting your partner. Why? Because you never have the time to be alone and do things that are important to YOU instead of just doing the activities you enjoy as a unit. So, don’t feel guilty about binging The Kardashians while you make a dream board and sip on some wine in your downtime! Taking at least one day apart, or even a few hours here and there to decompress by yourself, can work wonders for your self-esteem and your relationship.
2. Losing my independence.
Separating yourself from your significant other during the week helps both you and your partner unwind and allows you to maintain your independence. Spending time apart gives you both the space needed to build up your identities. Maintaining hobbies, feeling self-sufficient, and learning are all essential to one’s sense of worth, and overall happiness.
Like all good things, moderation is best. So even though it feels incredible to be with your partner, it should feel just as good to give your relationship a day off and spend time with yourself. In doing so, you’ll have time to self-reflect, build up your identity, and receive the space necessary for evaluating your own goals, dreams, and timelines.
3. Losing touch with friends and family.
Every time I think of my bonds with people, my mind drifts back to The Sims video game. In The Sims, when you talk to your mom or friends, you get points for being social, and a meter of your relationship helps you keep track of how close you are with someone. The more you talk, the tighter your relationship becomes, and the more points you stack up with your friend/family member/lover.
I think about these fictional points in real life all the time. I can sense when my social barometer with someone starts to plunge, when I haven’t reached out to them in a while. I try to reconnect with them to keep the relationship moving forward. Before, I used to skip hanging out with friends or going to events to stay home and watch a movie with my boo, but no more!
I will never let myself lose friends over a boyfriend again, especially since friendships tend to outlast relationships. A best friend will be there to help you pick up the pieces long after any relationship shatters, so it’s critical not to take a pal for granted. Never again will I repeatedly blow friends off for a guy. He will still be there when I get back from a night on the town with my ladies.
4. Not going out without him by my side.
Another mistake I used to make was leaning too heavily on my boyfriend when going places or traveling. Now, in my current relationship, I go wherever I want, whenever I want — with or without my significant other. I try to make it a point to go to bookstores, shopping, and take girls trips solo so that we can have the fun of missing each other, and strengthen our bond in the process. Besides, distance does make the heart grow fonder. When I switched jobs, I took a trip to Prague to celebrate, and going away gave my boyfriend the chance to show his true feelings when he missed me dearly and sent me numerous WhatsApp love notes.
5. Prioritizing someone who doesn’t do the same for me.
Never again will I put the time and effort into a relationship if I feel that my partner isn’t reciprocating. Now I will only stay in a partnership if I feel completely loved, adored, made to feel special, and someone’s #1 on their list of priorities. If I ever feel taken for granted, I don’t wait and see if things will get better, I leave and find someone better — someone who actually cares. As I’ve met and been courted by different men, I’ve learned to have a zero-tolerance for BS, as my self-worth increased.
Relationships take work, and you shouldn’t just bail anytime something goes wrong, but you deserve to find someone who will value you because being with the wrong person can and will make you miserable. Being with someone who doesn’t care makes you question whether or not something is wrong with you, but the right person will make you love parts about yourself that you never even thought to appreciate.
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