How does that old saying go; those who can't do, teach? It occurred to me last night that while I can give sound advice in regards to affairs de coeur to others, I'm not as skilled at applying such wisdom to myself.
In my twenty-three years, I've learned a few things when it comes to love games. So for the benefit of myself and the greater good, I've decided to share what I've learned along the way.
You're going to make a fool of yourself, and that's okay
When you hit puberty and you start looking at boys/girls, the prospect of telling the object of your affection that you like them is bloody terrifying. This fear subsides a little with age, but it never fully goes away.
Even now, the reality of telling a guy I'm into them makes me all breathless and clammy. No matter how old you are, you're going to feel a little silly and foolish when telling someone you fancy them. If you're like me, you'll probably make your big reveal under embarrassing circumstances, and that's okay. You're not alone, we all do it.
You're going to get your heart broken. More than once.
As children, we're raised on a diet of Disney movies and fairy tales in which the Princess and the Prince find each other, quickly overcome the obstacles keeping them apart, and ride off into the sunset together to live "Happily Ever After". Contrary to Taylor Swift, this is not a "Love Story" and you have to do more than "say yes".
Sometimes, the obstacles can't be overcome. Sometimes the Prince or Princess will want to gallop off solo. Sometimes you get to the "Ever After" and realise that he won't shut up talking during Grey's Anatomy or she keeps telling you "I'm fine" even though she's not and you're not a bloody mind-reader. Whatever the circumstances, there are times when relationships fall apart and it feels as if your heart has been smashed into a million fragments. Amazingly, you won't always feel this way. People, and hearts, heal.
You're going to break a few hearts yourself. This doesn't make you a bad person.
I remember the first time I crushed a boy. We were sitting in the back seat of his Mum's car as she drove the two of us and my older sister to a swimming lesson. Without a word, he turned and planted a sloppy kiss on my cheek. I wiped his slobber off my face and disgusted, asked him what he did that for. My sister sat there, convulsing in laughter, as the poor boy realised that his romantic gesture had not been well received. I was seven-years-old.
I'm sure that at the time, the poor lad was heartbroken, but I doubt it did any lasting damage. Unfortunately, I've damaged some hearts more permanently since. You grow up, you fall in love (or at least think you do) and fall out of love - not always in sync with the other person. Inadvertently, you're going to hurt someone. This doesn't make you the devil incarnate, it makes you human.
Intentionally or not, there are times when you will use people. Acknowledge when you have and don't make a habit of it.
The word "rebound" exists for a reason. At some point or another, all of us have been there. For what ever reason, you feel a bit lonely and a bit unloved and you think that hooking up with that person who's always had a thing for you seems like the best idea ever. It rarely is. For those of you who found the love of your life in this situation, I tip my hat to you and wish you continued happiness. But most of the time, you get into this romantic tangle for all the wrong reasons.
I've had a few "Oh my God, what was I thinking?!" encounters. The results of these have ranged from awkward "I'll give you at call at never o'clock" to getting the other person's hopes up, only to dash them; and on the rare occasion, an ill-wanted pursuit to obtain my heart. It goes both ways; there are times when you will be used by someone else. Either way, it can be done intentionally or not. But if you find yourself realising that you're leading someone on to ease your broken heart or boost your ego, own up to what you're doing and stop doing it.
Timing is important.
Fate is a cruel mistress, isn't she? How many times have opportunities whooshed past you without your notice, only for you to later realise that that was the moment? The moment when "I" could've become "we", the moment when you should've grabbed your crush and kissed them, consequences be dammed? Heinz sight is a great thing. There is a special longing reserved for things that might have been.
I can't promise you that you'll ever get that moment or opportunity back. But I can tell you that it's not over until you know it's over. If it feels like some unfinished business lies between you two, there probably is. And it's not a promise, but I genuinely believe that if two people are meant to come together, they eventually will.
What you find attractive evolves as you do.
As an adolescent, there are usually similarities between the people you date. Personally, if you could play guitar and had long-hair, you had teenage me at "Hello." Now that I've grown up (a little), what attracts me to a guy is different. Physically, the men I've dated and loved are very different. But intelligence and humor are traits that I will always find sexy.
As you get older, you will find that your standards change. Their knowledge of The Cure's back-catalogue or the cool motorbike they drive are added benefits, but these things are not dealbreakers. Whether they respect you and listen to you; how they treat your family; the little things they do to make you feel better when you're sick or having a crappy time - these are things that make you fall in love. Not serenading you on stage in some dingy club (although that is always cute).
There are times when you find yourself in a movie-like scenario. Take advantage of it.
Life, unfortunately, is not like the movies. The two people everyone knows should be together don't always get together. Not every screw-up is followed by a grand romantic gesture that makes everything okay. There will be no soundtrack playing when you have sex for the first time. However, there are moments when your life will be like something from a Hollywood screen.
I've ended up being locked in a room with my crush, resulting in us finally being honest about our feelings and beginning a relationship. I've had a romance start through the exchange of old-fashioned, hand-written, delivered through the snail mail, letters. I've had love songs and poems written about me, making me feel very special indeed. I even had one guy who hates literature and romance (never mind combined together), read Wuthering Heights, one of my favorite books, in order to woo me. You will have experiences that will make you feel as if you've stepped out of the pages of a rom-com script. They are magical. Enjoy them.
You are going to be alone. Be patient.
Ever feel like the world and it's mother have decamped to Lovers Town and you're the only one who's flying solo? Yeah, it sucks. It will make you feel like there is something wrong with you and that you're going to die alone (tad over-dramatic, I know, but we're allowed indulge). You might even be tempted to agree to some dates you're not overly excited about just to "keep yourself in the game".
Over the last year, I've learned something very important - you need to be alone before you can be with anyone else. You need to be able to stand on your own two feet, face the wind, and adjust your sails accordingly. If you've had your heart broken, you need to give it time to heal. If you like someone else but they're not interested in you, dating up a storm will not make your feelings (if they're true), go away. Just because you can be with someone doesn't mean you should. It's hard, but sometimes you just have to be alone and think before jumping into something new. For a relationship to work, your head and your heart need to be on the same page. This process cannot be rushed. Wait until you're ready.
Emotions are not rational and logic can be a hindrance.
If you've ever had crush, you know how uncontrollable emotions can be. Every love song has a special resonance and your head is full of sentimental, soppy things you want to whisper into their ear. Your name in their mouth sounds like a symphony and you find yourself thinking of them, and reasons to talk to them, at the most peculiar of times.
A lot of the time, your rational and logical side will stop you from acting on these desires. Maybe because you don't want to make a fool of yourself. Maybe it's because you're scared and it's safer to do nothing than be honest with yourself about how you feel. Maybe it's because you've been burned by this flame before and you've sworn to yourself that you're not going to let it happen again. These are all valid reasons to try suppress the butterflies you get when you see your crush or to ignore them wandering into your day-dreams.
But I will say this to you: you will never know until you try, everybody deserves one second chance and if feelings you have towards this person haven't disappeared by now, there's a reason why. In order to feel the amazing experience of cliff-diving, you have to jump into the air without a harness. Logic has it's place, but never let it hold you back or miss out. Don't be left wondering. Find out.
Love is a many splendid thing
Falling in love is the most intoxicating and wonderful experience us humans get to have. Do it every chance you get. Allow yourself to be caught up in passion and consumed by the need to share your life with this person.
Never deny yourself an opportunity to love, and be loved.