If I could go back in time to give my younger self one piece of advice it would be this: don’t settle.
Looking back on the men I’ve dated, I count three real relationships, defined by the mutual understanding of the existence and commitment to the relationship, the term of the relationship, and family involvement. My first relationship was during my junior year of high school and lasted 13 months. My second began in my early twenties and was on and off for a few years. And my longest and last relationship began in my mid-twenties and lasted for seven years.
In between these relationships, there were potential contenders but nothing I could lockdown. As I type this I realize that even though I knew these men were wrong for me and didn’t want to be with me, I would have committed to them just for the sake of not being alone, and there lies the danger.
I wish I could say I’m not like other girls but the truth is I’m exactly like other girls and so many of them are just like me which gives me hope that what I’m about to say will resonate.
As confident and beautiful and amazing as we are we have all complained about men during happy hour with our girlfriends. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched The Wedding Date and I always reference a line that Dermot Mulroney’s character says in the film because it’s painfully accurate. He says, “every woman has the exact love life she wants,” and no truer words have ever been spoken by a man on film.
My past self and many of my close girlfriends and colleagues would agree; we weren’t happy but we were willing to be unhappy over the fear or insecurity of being alone. Because of this we found ourselves in either long-term relationships or bouncing from one wrong guy to the next.
Just like we pick up the interests and mannerisms of people we often surround ourselves with the same goes for our partners. Sometimes we unknowingly copy their habits and other times we consciously pick up our partner’s likes and hobbies in an effort to share common interests. You want to be able to connect with your partner, but you may find yourself so consumed with their favorite things you begin to forget your own.
Your twenties especially are an important and defining decade and should be spent, for a lack of a better term, “finding” yourself which is hard to do when you’re allowing yourself to be so heavily influenced by another person.
A perfect example of this can be seen in the film Runaway Bride in the issue of how Julia Roberts’s character Maggie likes her eggs. Richard Gere’s character plays a reporter who interviews each of the men Maggie left at the altar and during these interviews, he asks how Maggie likes her eggs and they all respond saying the exact same way they did.
However, we’re left to find that Maggie has no idea how she likes her eggs until she decides to take a day, alone, to make eggs in every way imaginable. Turns out, she was a fan of Benedict.
During college and throughout my twenties I had opportunities to travel and work for companies out of state. I would smile at the thought and imagine what my life would look like if I accepted these opportunities but would almost immediately brush it off because I thought I would be happier closer to my partner.
Sometimes I’d even miss out on a family vacation because I didn’t want to leave my significant other behind. Had the roles been reversed I don’t doubt that my partner would have immediately jumped on the opportunity to broaden their horizons
In fact, I remember certain instances where they did without consulting me – and in their defense, I should have done the same. Circling back to my last point, you can’t find yourself if you continue to stay in your comfort zone, and had I accepted those opportunities, I would be a very different person today.
Another danger in serial monogamy is making the same mistakes over and over again.
I’ve seen this pattern too many times, both in my experiences and in my friends, where we’ll end one relationship and jump into the next, bringing with us our very heavy baggage. Taylor Swift’s “Long Story Short” is a perfect bop to describe this little dance we do straight into the wrong person’s arms. By jumping into another relationship we don’t let ourselves decompress and reflect on the hard lessons we were supposed to learn from our previous partner. We bring our old problems into the new relationship which ultimately dooms us from the start.
Lastly, and most importantly, settling for a life of serial monogamy can prevent you from finding true love. I’m not saying that young love or high school sweethearts are fairy tales, they do exist, but to quote another favorite film, He’s Just Not That Into You, they are the exception, not the rule. I’m aware that this is now the third romantic comedy I’ve quoted and you may find it bizarre that a woman who speaks so poorly of serial monogamy goes hard on the rom-coms but I enjoy them the same way I enjoy films like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings.
I know they’re not real and they’re based on fantasy, but even then, they can provide some insightful takeaways. You’ll notice that in most rom-coms the female protagonist usually has to learn to love herself at the end of the film before finding the one and sharing a magical kiss to a catchy closing song; likely something by the band Train. But there is so much truth to that. It wasn’t until I took years to be alone that I finally found out who I was and learned to love that girl. Once you learn to love every little ounce of yourself it will make it very difficult to settle for anything less. And sometimes, choosing to be single means choosing me first.