Last week I turned 30, which means that -- holy cannoli, I've been dating for 15 years now.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, here are 15 things that I wish the 15-year-old Therese had known about love.
1. Your appearance ≠ your worth.
It's easy to get the two confused -- believe me, I know. Being skipped over, ignored and invisible as guys scramble to impress the big-breasted, bodacious blonde bombshell to your right is one of the worst feelings in the world. And so the first time you discovered that you could look good enough to turn a guy's head, you thought it was the best, most powerful feeling in the world. You felt as if you were were finally worth something: worth paying attention to, worth getting to know. (Because honey, let me tell you: you are!)
But in all these years, perhaps the most important thing you've learned is that your worth has got nothing to do with your appearance or with a guy's reaction to you. In fact, your worth is not dependent on anything at all -- it simply is. And the surefire way to get the (right) guy's attention is to own your inherent worth, not to prance around trying to adhere to Victoria's Secret-like standards of hotness. Hard to believe, but true.
Because the thing is...
2. You are infinitely worthy of receiving love.
You -- you are a rad motherf*&^r. Not because you're beautiful or smart or because you have "beach sexy hair" -- but just because. For no other reason except that you exist. You just are.
I want to pour this love over you until every inch of you is covered like the ice cream at the bottom of a heaping hot fudge sundae. I want you to marinate in this feeling and let it sink into your pores and into your heart and into your soul. I want you to know: you are infinitely precious and worthy of receiving love, just for being you.
3. The right guy will see -- and value -- and cherish -- your depth.
Sure, he'll also think you're sexy as hell (because you are). But watch the way he compliments you: does he value you just as much for your depth and your drive, for your strength and your spirit as he does for your beauty? If so, he's a keeper.
If not, keep looking.
4. You get what you're willing to accept.
Let a guy treat you like less than you deserve, and that's what you'll get from him. Demand nothing less than honesty and respect and consideration, and that's what you'll get. Maybe not from the guy you'd hoped, because, sure, you'll end up losing a few duds in the process of demanding what you're worth -- but trust me, it's worth it. Better to move on sooner than later from the guys who won't call you or keep their promises or take you out. There are men out there who will, but you've got to carve out space for them first.
5. Be honest.
In case you haven't figured it out yet, guys aren't mind readers: Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don't play games. Don't make him guess what you're thinking. Don't be afraid to be upfront about what you want, what you need and how you're feeling. If he won't hear you out or can't handle it -- well, consider it another good way to weed out the best of them from the rest of 'em. You deserve a relationship in which you feel safe speaking up and getting your needs met (and vice-versa). Direct, honest communication and simplicity, not complexity, are key. (After years of playing games, who knew this was even a thing?!)
6. There will be another guy.
You feel crushed. Heartbroken. You can't imagine life without him. But guess what? Believe it or not, it does exist (and get this -- it will be even better than it was before). You will live again. You will love again. You will get over it and move on. And believe it or not, the day will come when you you'll no longer want to poke his eyes out with a burning hot steel rod. (Just sayin'.)
It may take some time, but it'll happen. Promise.
7. It's OK to be on your own.
You've spent most of your dating years in relationships (or if you were single, you spent your nights looking for a boyfriend), but believe me when I say that some of the best years of your twenties will be the years you spend on your own, not needing or desperately seeking for a dude to make you happy and whole. These will be the years in which you'll come to know and love yourself and to figure out where you really want to steer this life of yours before you bring someone else along for the ride. Don't be afraid to embrace those years; they'll become the foundation for your future relationships. Don't rush it; trust it.
8. If he isn't calling you -- he's just not that into you.
You know that book, He's Just Not That Into You? Read it.
If he's not texting you back, calling you, poking you on Facebook (is that still a thing?), whatever -- stop obsessing about how to get him to magically like you. Save yourself from needless heartache. Move on. He's just not that into you, and it doesn't matter why.
9. You might never know why. Accept that.
Did you hear what I just said? He's just not that into you, and it doesn't matter why. Maybe he met someone else. Maybe you just aren't his type. Maybe he's just a D-bag, don't ask me.
The point is, you'll probably never know why, and you don't need to know. Save yourself from the needless, hair-pulling analysis. Accept that the mystery is a part of life. Move on.
10. Sit with your insecurities.
The thing about dating is that it tends to bring up All The Insecurities and All The Feelings. But here's the secret: Instead of acting on them, see if you can sit with them. Watch them. Get to know them inside and out, without repressing and without indulging. So you want to go crazy when he doesn't text you back like, right away? How interesting. You feel super needy when he spends a night out with his friends? I wonder why that is. Chances are that your insecurities run much, much deeper than you realize. And getting deeply familiar with and curious about them instead of going batsh*t crazy? It just might be one of the best things you'll ever do for yourself.
11. Love isn't what you think it is.
You've been in love before -- or so you thought. That feeling of being enamored by, obsessed with, filled up by someone else? That feeling of wanting to be with him every chance you get and "I can't wait to kiss you again"? Enjoy it while it lasts, but consider the fact that this isn't actually love. Entertain the idea that real love is less of an obsession with the other person than it is an acknowledgement of the other's inherently precious nature and an unconditional regard for his or her well-being (and for that of the relationship). Says Joseph Campbell, "When people get married because they think it's a long-time love affair, they'll be divorced very soon, because all love affairs end in disappointment. But marriage is a recognition of a spiritual identity."
Relationship as recognition of a spiritual identity: I like that. Real love is so much richer, deeper, and truer than the puppy love you've known in the past. You're still learning what that means. Embrace the question.
12. Respect him.
When you do find a keeper, respect him. Make sure he knows how awesome and manly and amazing he is. Say it to his face and in front of his friends. Never criticize him, especially not in front of other people. Make him feel capable -- because he is. Let him know how happy he makes you. For men, there's nothing more life-giving than respect.
13. Love thy wonderful self.
'Tis corny, but 'tis true: The love you have for yourself is absolutely foundational. So go ahead: Show yourself some love. Take care of yourself. Draw healthy boundaries. You cannot -- I repeat, cannot -- truly love another until you've learned to love your wonderful, badass self, flaws and all.
14. The purpose of a relationship is not to find another who might complete you...
But rather, to find one with whom you might share your completeness. (Read: The Missing Piece Meets The Big O by Shel Silverstein.) You will never find your other half, because you, my love, are already whole.
15. Love already is.
Love isn't something you need to search for or seek out, as if it's something that's missing in your life. Instead, love is something you already have. Love is a practice, a state of mind, not something that needs to be fulfilled by one specific person or romantic relationship. So go forth and love: love yourself, love others, love life. The rest will fall into place when the time is right. ♥
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This post was originally published on TheUnlost.com.