‘We accept the love we think we deserve.’ the first time I came across this quote while reading ‘The Perks of Being A Wallflower,’ I had to pause and just let it sink in. We accept the love we think we deserve, just how powerful is this sentence. How many times have we pushed away the hands that want to love us and how many times have we held unto hands that want to destroy us because we think that’s what love is or because we believe deep down that we don’t deserve a love that isn’t wrapped in toxicity?
Navigating relationships can be hard, especially in communities like ours, I mean, no one really talks to you about relationships, and when they eventually do it is based on things like looks and financial background. Not to say the rest is not important, but what do we really know about love? Can we differentiate between the good kind and the bad kind or are we just accepting relationships that are ‘not so bad’ or ‘better than our previous ones.’
There are so many things I wished someone had told me before I started on this path, back when I was a teenager reading romance books that may have put a wrong idea of love and relationships in my innocent, young mind before I built relationships with other people.
Even though we learn from our mistakes, some things would have been avoided if we had been taught, if someone had held our hands and told us how to love without abandoning our selves. There are no guidelines for love, and experiences differ from person to person, but here are 16 things I wish someone had told me about love:
1. You do not own people; the human is not yours
There is a troubling trend we see in books and movies about possession. I am personally very much interested in Korean and other love Dramas, but I cringe through the scenes that portray ‘possession’ in the name of jealousy or love. And seeing this narrative being painted over and over again makes one wonder if there are people who are really into things like that. So I decided to ask people what they thought on my WhatsApp status and I received interesting replies. Some told me they love seeing it in movies but don’t feel the same way when they date possessive people. No matter how it is seen, many people confuse possession with love or jealousy, and the media is not helping.
I wish someone told me that the idea of possession itself is wrong. You can’t own another human being. There is nothing in love that requires chains or control. You do not put a lover’s body in a cage and next time someone tries to do that to you, run as far away as you can.
2. Never dim your light, those who want to shine with you will find a way to do that
Most times, women in relationships are told to shrink themselves so that their partners will not be intimidated. But to shrink means to eventually disappear. Never lose your self in an attempt to make someone stay, if you want to shine, shine. Be as ambitious as you want to be. No one deserves to take your light away from you. Become the best version of yourself and watch the wrong people disappear from your life.
3. There are flaws in relationships and then there are red flags
Learn the difference between things that count as flaws and things that are red flags. Flaws are human, red flags are dangerous. No one is worth endangering your life for. Do not ignore the red flags. Walk into relationships with your eyes open, do not fall, do not rush and definitely do not stay in houses where love is no longer served. You owe yourself that much.
4. Healing does not mean completely getting over it
Healing is a gradual process and you might never truly be over it. But you can learn to live with it and learn from past experiences. Stop picking your wounds; you are only going to hurt yourself more. Stop beating up yourself for not getting over it completely. Accept the fact that healing is a process, and some scars are meant to stay forever. Take as much time as you need; there is no deadline for healing. We all function differently, find what works for you and stick with it.
5. Love is beautiful when done right
To love itself is a great blessing and to be loved in return is amazing. Love is beautiful when done right; to be able to look at a body beyond your own and love every bit of it is something to be cherished. When you come across something like this, consider yourself lucky and hold it tight.
6. No one is worth your peace of mind
Titilope Sonuga once said ‘Do not romanticize suffering, there is nothing poetic about a love that breaks your spirit.’ No relationship is worth your peace of mind. It is better to be in peace and alone than be in a relationship that disrupts your peace. This is something we don’t always understand, especially when we are young, we become so obsessed with not being alone that we forget that our happiness and peace of mind matters more. People may make fun of you for being single, but you have to remind yourself that you deserve more than a half baked love and you deserve happiness. Find the love that doesn’t break you, do not starve your soul because of the fear of what people will say.
7. Embrace yourself and past experiences, it doesn’t always work out and that’s okay
One problem we encounter is we think every single relationship has to work out. Sometimes things fall apart even if they once stood beautifully, it doesn’t mean it is a waste. Just because it’s beautiful doesn’t mean it must last forever. We are meant to learn a thing or two from past relationships, sometimes we get blinded by the hurt and miss the lessons. But all experiences are there to teach us something. Just because it didn’t last long doesn’t mean it is bad or it should never have happened.
8. Allow yourself to grow even if it means outgrowing others
We grow with some people and we outgrow some people, it is how life works. Never stay in one place because you believe others cannot move with you. We are meant to grow, and when the shoe doesn’t fit, we have no choice but to leave it behind. Stop squeezing yourself into places too small to contain your spirit. You will only end up battered and bruised. Cherish what you must and abandon what you must when the time comes.
9. Put yourself first, there is no relationship without you
Some times we get so busy feeding others that our own bodies lay abandoned till it disappears. Sometimes, loving others is way easier than loving our own selves, but you have to feed your own body. You have to take care of yourself. At the end of the day, you are all you have. This body will be all that is left. You deserve to feast as well; you deserve all the love you give out. The world is meant for you too. Don’t ever forget that you matter too.
10. Kindness is perhaps the most important thing to look out for
In relationships, we usually tend to look at other things, but kindness is just as important. Kind people will treat you right even if the love disappears. Kind people will not use your body as a shield. Kind people will help you grow. A lot of things are important, but kindness is something to die for.
11. Understand yourself and don’t let anyone make you believe compatibility is not necessary
Finding someone you are compatible with should be at the top of your list. Just because someone is a good person, doesn’t mean they are right for you. They might be the worst thing you can ever do to yourself. Sometimes things are beautiful only because they stand alone. Find your tribe, find someone who understands your demons.
12. Love isn’t always enough
This is a hard pill to swallow, but love isn’t always enough. Love cannot be the only reason you walk into a relationship. There are other things that are just as important, like respect and understanding and empathy. Love can start a fire but it cannot shield you from the flames, you need something stronger.
13. Recognize your toxic traits
We always want to believe we are not as toxic as the next person. We always want to comfort ourselves with the belief that it wasn’t our fault, that we did everything we were supposed to do, that we are not the toxic ones. But life isn’t that simple, sometimes you are the toxic one and it’s okay so long you understand that and work towards controlling or changing your toxic habits. Just because you are a good person doesn’t mean you cannot be toxic to someone, especially the people you love. Understand that human part of you, only then can you navigate your relationships.
14. Everyone changes and you are not immune
The most constant thing in life perhaps is change. We all change at a point in our lives, you have to accept that your partner will change, your friends will change and your circumstances will change as well. No one is immune to change, not even you. And change isn’t always a bad thing, sometimes it’s the best thing that can ever happen to you or your relationships. Try not to fight it; use your energy into accommodating this change instead. Your body will grow and so will you.
15. You never completely understand love, but you love anyway because if not love, what?
The crazy thing about feelings is that sometimes they are beyond our control and expectations. You can’t always understand them but you will feel them deeply. Love is one of those things that are difficult to describe or understand but is necessary to our existence. It doesn’t have to be logical, it doesn’t have to go by the book. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be intentional. But you have to recognize how powerful it is and how it can make or mar you and how you can control it so it doesn’t destroy you. Because if we don’t love, what can we do?
16. Don’t carry the baggage of your lover
It is important to be there for the people we love and understand their demons, but do not do all the emotional labour for your lover. You are meant to love them, but they are also expected to take care of their emotional issues. There is only so much you can take, sometimes your lover’s demons can drown you. Sometimes, people can stay only because of the way you make them feel or the way you hold their demons. In circumstances like this, you will end up emotionally exhausted, drained and eventually you will drown in places you don’t even belong. You can hold someone’s hand, but you need to understand that’s as far as you can go. You are not a therapist for your lover or the cure for their emotional problems. Let them seek professional help.
Relationships generally are complicated, whether they are romantic or not and sometimes we drown ourselves under everything because we don’t know how to swim. But you will learn eventually, and I pray you do that before you sink.