Why Getting into a Long Distance Relationship is the Worst Thing You Can Do in Your Teens

This post is an excerpt from a self-help e-book I’m writing about long distance relationships.

The reason I started blogging in the first place was because I felt like I had gone through so much in my own relationships, so I wanted to put advice out to everyone that I wish I could have given my past self. And if I could borrow the DeLorean from Back to the Future to save young Chloe from making the biggest mistakes of her life, I’d go back to my senior year of high school and then my freshman year of college to urge her not to get into two separate long distance relationships (why didn’t she learn from her mistakes the first time?!).

The big sister personality in me makes me want to save everyone I possibly can from the kind of heartbreak I went through when I was a teenager, because the bad things that happen to you as a teen can stick with you and haunt the rest of your future relationships (if you let them). I wrote this chapter specifically to let any teen readers who might be considering long distance know how difficult it is—and more importantly, to try to tell you why I think it’s a terrible idea, even if you go into your LDR with the best intentions and are madly in love with your girlfriend or boyfriend.

I’m going to get very real with you and tell you that you’re almost guaranteed to break up if you get into a long distance relationship in your teens, and more often than not, young people’s LDRs end up bitterly.

As a teen, you’re probably more insecure now than you will be when you’re an adult—not being very confident in yourself is less than ideal for a relationship, and is even worse for a relationship when you’re far apart. Although girls nowadays seem way more put together than my friends and I were in high school (I barely knew how to put on eyeliner, let alone how to contour my face or put on false eyelashes, and we had no filters besides generic websites like PhotoBucket!), teenage years are often filled with a lot of insecurities about looks and self-worth in general. Even if you’re using MAC, your foundation right now isn’t going to be great (a little makeup humor for you!). At this point, both of you probably haven’t really tried dating anyone else yet either, and I’m sorry to say it, but this could make you or your partner more likely to cheat. If your partner cheats on you, it’s probably not because you weren’t good enough for them, but that they haven’t tried being with anyone else besides you yet (or they still want to try dating everyone they can).

This could go both ways too, where you feel like you want to hook up with other people around you, or you start crushing on someone new, because it’s natural to want to try new things when you’re young. Instead of hating yourself for wanting to explore or potentially hating your partner for fooling around behind your back, it might be a better idea to just let each other go so you both have the freedom to do what you want, especially since you won’t be able to see each other anyway—and what’s the point of being in a relationship when you’re young if you can’t do the basics together like going to the movies, going on dates, or just hanging out (not to mention satisfying the urges of your ~raging hormones~).

When I was in LDRs when I was 17, then 18-19, my then-boyfriends hadn’t dated (and just as importantly, hadn’t had sex with) anyone else before me, so they ended up talking to a lot of different girls behind my back while we were dating. While I was an ocean away from them in California, they felt free to flirt with girls through Facebook messaging and one of them went on dates with other girls while we were still in a LDR (he even sexted someone else).

Five years later, I don’t have any hard feelings toward them because, although nobody should be excused for being a huge asshole to the person they’re dating, I know we were only 17 and didn’t know better. My ex was too immature to grow some cojones and tell me he wanted to see other people, and I was so naive that I thought I could be with my first love for the rest of my life.

In my ex’s defense, it’s difficult to commit to one person when you haven’t even seen for yourself what else is out there—especially when you’re only 16 years old and haven’t made out with more than one person in your life. Even though he shouldn’t have had a bunch of side baes behind my back (that slang didn’t even exist at the time; I’m old), I now understand why he would want to date around when we couldn’t see each other.

You can definitely be in love with someone while they’re around you and have a meaningful relationship, but it’s hard to keep it going when you’re both going through so much in your own lives apart from each other. When you’re young, it’s even harder to keep your connection strong when you’re separated because you’ll be growing and changing so much (especially if you’re going to college).

A lot of teens (my younger self included) get into LDRs going from their senior year of high school to college because it’s so hard to say goodbye, and if you’re in love, you want to keep this good thing going for as long as you possibly can. It’s important to follow your heart and do what feels right to you, but your heart will thank you later if you don’t drag out your relationship with someone because you’re too afraid to make a clean break or too naive to think you’ll still be with someone you chose when you were 17 when you’re in your late 20s.

What you want when you’re 18 (in life, but in this case in a partner) isn’t going to be the same as what you want when you’re 22, or 26, or 30. Before you really commit (please please please for the love of god, do not get married) remember that you are young and will definitely change, and your tastes will change. Think about your taste in music when you were 14, or even 16. It’s not the same as your taste in music at 18, right? Unless you’re still into Green Day and My Chemical Romance, or other variations of the middle-school-punk genre. If your taste in something as important as music changes drastically in a few years, imagine how much your taste in romantic partners will change (this will likely change even more and is way more important).

Bonding over things like going to raves together (contrary to popular belief, couples who rave together do not necessarily stay together), or both being obsessed with The Office, or flirting in Trig for the whole school year won’t be reasons for you to stick together for the years to come. And 22-year-old you will want to kick 18-year-old present-day you’s ass for wasting time on someone who won’t be worth months pining over each other in a LDR, once you’re graduating from college and looking back on everything you wish you could re-do about your glory days (geez Chloe, tell us how you really feel!).

Also, you might want to ask yourself why you want to get into this serious of a commitment now when there’s so much to see and explore while you’re young. I know how annoying it is when older people tell you this (I hated how condescending it was when family members talked to me about relationships while I was in high school or early college, and how it made me feel like my feelings didn’t matter), but it’s true—you really do have the rest of your life to settle down and be monogamous if that’s what you want, so why start so young when you haven’t even figured out what you want for yourself yet?

Right now, you can save yourself the trouble of getting cheated on, or ruining someone’s life (not to sound melodramatic), or wasting the most fun time of your life worrying about your long distance boyfriend or girlfriend; just let this relationship go peacefully. If it turns out that you’re both single at some other point in your lives and live in the same area, then that’s awesome and you can give it another shot! But right now, as someone who has been in two messy LDRs in her teens, I can tell you that the best thing for both of you is to just live your lives separately and enjoy yourselves while you’re young—trust me when I say that you have plenty of time for grown-up relationships, cheesy declarations of love on Instagram, and all the serious commitment you could ever want in the future. What you won’t have in the future is the chance to do whatever the hell you want whenever you want, and live out your bildungsroman as your own person, without being tied down.

I’m sure I sound like a broken record and probably pretty cynical too, but I promise you I don’t hate love! And even if I don’t know you, I care about your happiness and personal growth very much. I don’t have many regrets in life, and I know if I went back and made better decisions, I might not have grown into the person I am today, but I do think that I could have avoided a lot of emotional stress, tension with my family (arguing about how serious my LDR had become while I was only 19), and trust issues I have now because I had bad experiences with long distance while I was younger. I also think I could have enjoyed myself more in college (and when I moved from Guam to California in high school) without having to worry about my basically virtual boyfriend. The worst part about long distance is that if you let it, it can make you live more for someone you’ll rarely ever see, and neglect the people who are actually around you, and all the awesome things about where you are in the present. Long distance usually only works out and is bearable if you’re able to come back to each other at least semi-regularly and know that you’re going to live near each other eventually, but when you’re in high school or college and one of you moves away, you don’t have the luxury of knowing when you’ll finally be together again (and might not have the freedom or money to visit each other enough).

You might be thinking, “oh, she just went through two crappy relationships and my boyfriend/girlfriend and I aren’t like that!” Even if you two are cuter together than Alexis Ren and Jay Alvarrez, the strain and stress that comes with a LDR can drastically change your relationship. Your dynamic will be totally different when you go from seeing each other every day at school to having to rely on Skype dates (while getting cut off every few minutes through the spotty Wi-Fi connection in the dorms) and texts to keep you together. Everyone thinks they’re going to be the exception to the rule, but it’s really hard for any couple to still feel close to each other when they’re separated for weeks or months at a time.

I know how heartbreaking and terrifying it can be to say goodbye to someone you love so much (and I don’t think you ever love again as intensely as you do when you’re a teenager, so it’s even harder), but if you really love this person (and really love and want to take care of yourself), the best thing for both of you ultimately is to try to be happy with all the memories and good times you’ve had together, but agree that your happiness and futures are more important than hanging onto a relationship that will almost definitely end eventually. It’s going to hurt like hell, but after many pints of Ben & Jerry’s and binge-watching Gilmore Girls a few times over, in the long run this will be the best decision for both of you.

Why I Stayed: Because Nobody Told Me It Was Abuse

I’m coming a week or so late to this conversation, but I still think my story needs to be shared. When I first started reading the #WhyIStayed tweets, I was moved by the bravery those women had to share such intimate details about the trauma they’d been through. I thought I was lucky to have never been in a relationship in which my partner was physically violent towards me, especially considering how many women I knew in real life who weren’t as fortunate.

But it wasn’t until I started reading my own friends’ “Why I Stayed” stories that I realized–much to my surprise and horror–that I was a survivor too.

Recently, a few of my friends wrote posts on Facebook about how they had previously been stuck in emotionally abusive relationships. They wrote all the painful details about how their former partners had controlled them, manipulated them, and isolated them from their other friends.Screen shot 2014-09-19 at 11.56.21 PM

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The more I read, the deeper my heart sank–I realized that I had gone through the exact same experience a few years ago, only I didn’t know it could be considered abuse. I never thought about it that way; I thought my ex was just a jerk and a compulsive liar–he never hit me, but there were times in the relationship when I was really scared. I didn’t know that even if your partner doesn’t physically harm you, it can still be abuse; psychological and emotional harm can be just as damaging.

When I realized that I was a survivor of an abusive relationship, I almost couldn’t believe it. But at the same time, it felt so true, and I felt foolish for not realizing it earlier. It makes me feel better knowing now that my trauma with him is validated, that what I went through was horrible and that it wasn’t my fault. How he treated me was not okay.

So, why did I stay?

Because he kept telling me that we were soul mates.

Because he insisted he would take care of me and be there for me forever.

Because he said it was “us against the world,” and that my family and friends just couldn’t understand why we wanted to get married so young and quickly, because they couldn’t feel the love we felt for each other.

Because everyone else in my family got divorced and I wanted to beat the statistics.

Because he needed me to be there for him while he was in basic training.

Because he made me feel like I owed it to him to be better to him than he was to me because I was the only girl he’d ever been with, and he made me feel guilty for having been with someone else before our relationship.

Because he gave me his Facebook password “to show how much he trusted me” (but he also told me that if I didn’t give him my password and let him read my messages, I didn’t trust him back).

Because I made a big deal about us being in love and engaged on Facebook and I didn’t want everyone to know how wrong I had been.

Because he isolated me from my best friend (because he was jealous of how much I loved her) so I had nobody to turn to when things went badly with him.

Because he convinced me that my dreams of becoming a screenwriter were stupid and that I would be a better wife and mother than I would be at writing.

Because when he punched the hood of his truck when he was jealous about another man flirting with me, he told me it was because he just loved me too much.

Because he told me that he yelled and cussed at me because he was so in love with me that he couldn’t think straight; he told me it was my fault because I drove him crazy.

Because after he yelled at me on the phone and made me cry in the hallway of my freshman dorm every night, he would apologize and tell me that he loved me and he needed me.

Because Disney movies and romantic comedies (and society in general) taught me that true love was more important that anything, and that I needed to stick to my man no matter what (even if it meant battling constant anxiety and painful stress hives all over my body).

I stayed because nobody ever told me that it could be abuse, even if he never hit me.

I was scared to leave him. It’s still scary to think about what it what my life would have been like if I hadn’t. He made it incredibly difficult for me to cut him out of my life, but I slowly brought my close friends back into my life and made a bigger support system for myself. I blocked him on all my social media websites and ignored his calls, but I was constantly afraid of running into him again even though he lived on the other side of the world. I’m still afraid I’ll run into him when I visit family back home. It gets easier, but I’m not sure if the fear or pain will ever go away completely.

It still hurts. And this is most likely the most personal, triggering piece I’ve ever written. But my story is one that needs to be shared so that other women (or anyone, really) can see what I went through and know that it’s not okay, and if you are going through something similar, it is not okay. I’d like to think that people see me as a strong person who doesn’t take shit from men, but it took the process of fighting my way out of this relationship for me to become the person I am today. This can happen to anybody, even the people you’d least suspect. So if you are going through this too, know that it gets better. And if anyone you know is a survivor of an abusive relationship, show some compassion. It’s easy to say that you’d never stay in an abusive relationship, but you never know how hard it is to leave until you’re the one living through it. Especially when you have no idea that you’re going through it.

Related: How to Get Out of a Toxic Relationship, Lovescrewed

Know Your Worth

**Using gender-neutral pronouns here, so note the use of they/their as referring to a single person

A while ago I had a huge crush on one of my friends (which was reciprocated in full). We flirted a lot, but also shared a lot of our deepest, most personal secrets with each other. This person was still interested in their ex, and I thought I was okay with it. I mean, as long as we were together, I could overlook it. After getting pretty deep into it emotionally together, I found out this person was still talking and fighting with their ex even after I thought they were done. This person still wanted to be with me anyway, even wanted to talk to me about their problems from their previous/still ongoing relationship with this semi-ex/still-relevant significant other.

I had a few options at this point:
1. I could stick around. I’d had feelings for this person since last fall and I’d been dreaming about what it would be like if we finally got together. Was I really going to give up now?

2. I could stop. It wouldn’t really be quitting or failing at this attempt at love. I really did try. I gave this person a chance and an intimate position in my life. I opened myself up deeply and genuinely, connecting with them in a way I never had before with anyone else. I could accept that it was fun while it lasted, but know that I’m better than waiting for someone who got to see the real me and didn’t want me enough to take this opportunity.

I chose the latter.

Maybe at the beginning of 2013 or earlier, I would’ve stuck around. I had lower self-esteem before and often settled for whoever took any interest in me.

This person had their chance. I could have stayed and waited for them to make up their mind, but I didn’t. I know that I am an intelligent, beautiful person who deserves someone who will fully appreciate me for who I am. I know that I’m worth having a partner who wants to be with me, without having to fully weigh out their options before they decide they think I’m worth it. I know I’m worth better than playing second fiddle to some person who didn’t even give my person the time of day.

If someone is stringing you along, don’t wait around. Make your move, let them know how you feel, and put the ball in their court. If they don’t respond/don’t realize how great a person you are, then know when to let go and move forward. Know your worth, and don’t look back to someone who wasn’t smart enough to realize what a catch you are.

You’re Better Than Backsliding

If you’ve ever been through a breakup (at least with someone who hasn’t done anything truly horrible to you), there will almost inevitably be a point when you start to think about them again. You think, “what if?” What would happen if we got back together? Would it really be that bad? Actually, it’d be awesome… why did we even break up in the first place?

This is backsliding.

Backsliding can often refer to sex with an ex partner, but it also can refer to getting back into relationships with former partners.

Sometimes it really is okay and people can get into happy relationships after they’ve broken up and gone through their own personal changes, or if they broke up just because of certain circumstances (e.g. not geographically near each other, conflicting schedules, not emotionally ready yet, etc.).

But more often than not, backsliding is emotionally unhealthy and should be avoided.

I’ve been tempted to backslide more times than I’d like to admit, but I know it’s in my best interest to keep moving forward. Your relationship ended for a reason. Unless that reason is gone and circumstances have changed, and unless your partner is worth your time and effort, you shouldn’t waste your time going back. If you spend so much time stuck in the past, you’ll never enjoy the present.

Here are a few tips I use to avoid backsliding:

  1. Remember why you broke up. If you aren’t together anymore, there’s probably a good reason. Maybe you two fought a lot or weren’t compatible. Maybe he flirted with other girls right in front of you. Maybe he wasn’t ready for a committed relationship (or maybe you weren’t ready either). It is most especially in your best interest if you don’t backslide into a formerly toxic relationship. If he abused you physically/emotionally, cheated on you, or seriously disrespected you somehow, do not forget about this. Use it as a reminder of why you shouldn’t get back together, but don’t let it hold you back from moving forward with your life.
  2. Remind yourself about the deal breakers. E.g.: he didn’t share your core values, he didn’t remember your birthday, he didn’t get along with your best friend, he identified as a “men’s rights activist” (true story from one of my friends), he spent more time playing video games than paying any attention to you, etc. Being in a relationship with someone means that you’ll spend a lot of time together. If you know that you can’t stand being around him because of these deal breakers, why bother trying again? This is your chance to find people whose company you do enjoy. Don’t miss it!
  3. Think about the future. Do you really want to end up with this person? If you don’t see the relationship going anywhere in the future, why waste your time with someone who you don’t see yourself with in the long haul? Sticking with someone just because they’re familiar or because you’re comfortable with them can hold you back from meeting new people who you may be much more compatible with, or someone who you could live with happily, instead of your ex.
  4. Ask yourself why you’re doing it. Are you lonely? Do you miss the familiarity of your old relationship? Loneliness comes and goes, but it can lead to true happiness as you grow stronger and find people who bring a positive influence to your life. Familiarity is nice but with time, you can become familiar and comfortable with other people, too.
  5. Don’t settle. Sure, your ex might have made you feel great and attractive at some points in your relationship. He might have done nice things for you sometimes. But always remember that things happen for a reason. If you broke up, it’s only an opportunity to grow as an individual and to start over. Just because your ex is an option doesn’t mean he’s the only option. With time, things will get better. Outside of your past relationship, there is always the possibility of happiness, but if you go back to your past relationship, you’re more likely to get into the same problems you had before and restart that cycle. Try to stick it out even if it’s difficult because the best is yet to come.

Breakups are Opportunities (to do more than eat your feelings)

As I’ve said many times before, breakups are the worst. But really, they don’t have to be as bad as you make them out to be. I spent some time reading my journal entries from a few months ago and found some really good advice from past-Chloe to present-Chloe.

Breakups may hurt a lot, but they also give you an opportunity to decide what kind of a person you want to be. In most of my past relationships (and I have so much proof of this in my diaries), I was this small, needy person who over-analyzed every tiny aspect of her partners. Whether it was something they said to me, something they did or didn’t do for me, I dissected the shit out of anything that involved my exes.

But after my breakups, I try my best to reflect on what went wrong and what went right. For figuring out what went wrong, I write a list of things I did that I wouldn’t want to do in any future relationships (e.g. Facebook stalking, waiting on his texts, leaving my plans for the day open so I always have time for him) so I can look back on it and remind myself what not to do. I do the same thing for my ex–I’ll write a list of ways I felt that he mistreated me or aspects about him that were essentially deal-breakers, so I remember not to let anyone do the same to me again (e.g. doesn’t like Community, checks my phone for texts from other guys, swears at me, flirts with other girls right in front of me/behind my back). I know how easy it is to romanticize the past, so I make sure to write the bad memories down to ground me. At the same time, I try to keep a fair account of the good memories too, so I remember that my past relationships did have love and benefits to them.

After every relationship, you’re bound to change somehow, so your expectations and standards for relationships might very well be different from the ones you had when you first got into your past relationship. A breakup is a good time to re-evaluate what you want from relationships, or if you even want a new relationship. My standards for relationships have changed immensely, just in the past few months. As I’m approaching the big 21 in a few months, I’m reminded of the fact that the next person I date might end up being my future husband or wife. With that in mind, I know better than to date someone who doesn’t bring anything positive to my life or somehow help me to become a better person. It’s good to pause between relationships to remember that you are beautiful and you deserve someone who will treat you with love and respect. What’s worse than being single is ending up with someone you settled for just because you were lonely.

Breakups suck, but you can still make the best of them. Re-evaluate what you want out of your life and out of your next potential relationships and always remember that you deserve the best, much better than the last one. Don’t ever let heartbreak screw you up; you are better than staying lovescrewed.
–Chloe

Past-Chloe's sound advice
Past-Chloe’s sound advice

A Personal Reflection: Relationships, Empowerment, and New Goals

This is a very long personal essay I wrote in June this year–before I started blogging regularly–which I think (and hope) is interesting because it charts where I was at the beginning of my summer journey of self-discovery. Just sharing it with anyone who might want to read it.

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Disclaimer: I am in no way trying to badmouth anyone I mention in this personal essay. Everything I write about here is only used for me to gain deeper personal insight, and hopefully to help anyone else who reads this.

As ashamed as I am to admit it, I’ve always had a set of goals for life that were focused on a the stereotypical heterosexual woman’s fantasy: romance, security, and domestic bliss as an equation for happiness. Who could blame me, though? I’ve had these ideals drilled into my head, from my parents who married at 19 and seemed so happy and in love while I grew up; the Disney princess movies (which teach that no matter how strong or independent the princess is, her happy ending always involves a prince), and later, the romantic comedies I watched; the books I read (including fairy tales and, of course, Twilight); and our heteronormative society in general. (To quote Wikipedia, “heteronormativity is the body of lifestyle norms that hold that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in life. It presumes that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation, and states that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between a man and a woman. Consequently, a “heteronormative” view is one that involves alignment of biological sex, sexual identity, gender identity, and gender roles.”) My plans were to graduate from college; meet a charming, strong, smart man; fall in love and marry him; let him pamper me and take me traveling around the world, to romantic cities; and have children. I didn’t really have much of a game plan for before or after I would achieve those goals.

So I spent most of my life acting in accordance with those goals. I’ve had crushes on countless boys from before I started pre-school to this day. Most of my time revolved around learning as much as I could about my current romantic interest, then creating romanticized fantasies in my head about how happy we’d be if we were “together.” When I was younger, I’m not sure what I expected to happen if my crush knew I liked him; I usually just wanted him to like me back. As I grew older, the fantasies evolved and became increasingly more elaborate. I didn’t just want to kiss a guy; I wanted him to be my boyfriend. I wanted us to text each other sappy things and take couple-y pictures and post them on MySpace so everyone could know how happy and in love I was, and essentially prove that I was pretty and desirable enough to get a guy to care about me enough not to want to be with anyone else. Then, I wanted us to stay together. I wanted us to be each other’s first and only loves. I wanted us to get married someday. And when I became an adult, I took it too far and almost married my grown-up version of a boy crush.

Those fantasies never worked out too well for me. I suffered from the effects of modern technology on our social and (unfortunately) romantic interactions: I got dumped through the worst possible modes of communication. My first “relationships” (if you count “dating” for 1-3 weeks as a relationship) ended through text messages, and the next two boyfriends both dumped me through MySpace messages. My highschool sweetheart broke off our year-long relationship by simply not communicating with me for weeks (while we were doing long distance and I had moved away for a year) and changing his relationship status on Facebook to “single,” assuming I’d just figure it out for myself.

Anyway, as I’d mentioned earlier, these relationships (and in turn, my fantasies) never worked out for me, but I never stopped to think about the real reasons behind these splits. After every harsh, emotionless rejection I received, my self-esteem deteriorated more and more. I knew something had to be wrong with me. Otherwise, why would all these guys keep rejecting me when I gave them my heart, time, and devotion (and then some)? They were obviously perfect boyfriends who had reached the maturity levels of grown men, and wanted nothing more than to find a perfect girl to love… right? Wrong. Unfortunately for me and my poor self-image, I never fully grasped the idea (and I’m still working my way to truly getting myself to understand this) that the problem behind all my short, failed relationships was not that I was missing something in me, or that I was an undesirable person; it was that these were boys, and I was just a girl, ill-equipped to deal with the emotional demands and stress that accompany romantic relationships between two immature, incomplete people.

Thinking about my past relationships through an objective lens rather than with my own emotional biases has led me to become more self-aware and make healthier conclusions about my life and myself. Although I said that my exes were still immature when we broke up, I know I’m not perfect either. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not whole. I am not complete. I do not always love myself or my body. In fact, I often berate myself to the point of tears. My inner voice has constantly reminded me for almost a decade that I am not smart enough, not funny enough, not pretty enough, not sexy enough, not nice enough, not creative enough; not enough. The voice tells me that I don’t deserve anything good and that I had it coming when I got dumped over and over again. I don’t work as hard as I can at anything because I’m afraid that if I actually tried, I might fail, and that’d prove that I really am not enough.

So I half-ass my way through school. I begin to try to care less about the people I date because I don’t want to give my whole heart ever again, because I’m afraid the recipient will see who I truly am, and decide that I am not enough for him. But over the past few months, I’ve begun to realize something: who gives a shit? Your idiotic, negative inner voice needs to shut the fuck up. Or at least become more nurturing and forgiving. Even if I date the most perfect specimen of a human being and let him slip out of my hands (although I don’t believe anyone is perfect), who cares? I am enough for myself. Something better will come along eventually, whether it’s a new guy or a wiser version of myself, in light of the experiences I’ve had; this is the way of the world.

The combination of these epiphanies about relationships, the progress I’ve made in school and extra curriculars, and the connections I’ve fostered with people have helped me to rethink my aforementioned life goals. As my second year of college comes to a close, I’ve been taking the time to reflect on my life and how much I’ve changed within the course of a year. Since last fall, I’ve attended conferences and community events focused on issues of people of color, womyn of color, and so on. These spaces and the friends I’ve made this year have helped strengthen my sense of identity and taught me to trust myself. The help I’ve received from my family has undoubtedly given me the love and guidance I needed to get to where I am now. And of course, the friends I’ve made over the course of my lifetime have provided me with love and insightful advice through my every hardship.

With all these sources of support helping me empower myself, I’m becoming a more confident person. I had second-guessed every essay I handed in for the past 3 months, and I’ve gotten A’s on every single one (and if you don’t know already, writing is one of my passions, so that means a lot to me). I’m slowly beginning to realize that I am smart, I am talented, and I can build my skills to the point of being able to support myself. I stepped outside of my comfort zone, joined communities I’m happy to be a part of, and have taken on leadership roles for the coming school year. I also recognize that there is a fine line between having high self-esteem and coming off as egotistical, and I try to keep myself in check to stay on the humbler side of that margin.

With this newfound self-confidence, I’ve decided to make a few changes in the way I think. First of all, I’m ditching my old notions about love, marriage, and their relation to my happiness. Fuck what our heteronormative society thinks. I am a woman, I am strong, and I don’t need a man to give me what I want or need, much less a boy to tell me he thinks I’m hot (because I already know damn well that I am). I still think I will someday want to get married and have children, but I’m going to stop pressuring myself into finding a potential husband right away. I will fall in love when I’m ready for it, and when the time is right (hopefully many years from now) I can start my own family. But for now, I am going to cherish all the time I have as a single individual and make the most out of my youth. Just like everybody else does, I owe it to myself to focus on my passions, pursue what makes me happy, follow what inspires me. At the same time, I promise to remember the sacrifices people have made to help me get to where I am today, and I will always cherish those who love me in return. So I’m going to try, really try. And there’s a chance I might fail. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter, because I know I have all the tools I need to be happy; all I need is me. I hope everyone else can come to understand this truth for themselves, too.

–Chloe

Don’t Let Heartbreak Screw You Up

(Like the blog title, get it??)

It’s been about a year since I was deeply in love with someone. It’s weird to realize it’s actually been that long, considering how much time I used to spend pining over people and getting in and out of relationships every few months.

I think most people who knew me well knew that I was a hopeless romantic (note that I use “knew” in the past tense, because of the intense personal change I’ve recently undergone). I love love so much.

But lately, love scares the absolute shit out of me. I can pinpoint specifically when the worst moments of my life were, and almost every one of them (aside from bouts of menstrual cramps)  has dealt with heartbreak. I’m not in a relationship right now, so obviously none of my relationships turned out well.

Sometimes I feel hopeless.  I watch romantic movies now through the eyes of a skeptic and scoff at how unrealistic it is. As if anyone could promise to be together forever and actually go through with it! I watched Like Crazy today and was actually satisfied with how realistic the ending was (spoiler alert: the couple realizes at the end that they’re only in love with the memory of the early stage of their relationship).

Over and over I feel like the real world is trying to tell me that my romantic idealism is shit. I’ve taken chances on love too many times, seen my parents get divorced, seen my grandparents get divorced, and see almost every couple I love split up.  I’m growing to believe that love doesn’t work. It didn’t last for anyone else, it never lasted for me, and maybe it never will.

But maybe the breakup statistics aren’t proof that love doesn’t work. Maybe it means that love isn’t what I used to think it meant. I used to believe in love at first sight. In my deepest relationship, we clicked instantly over our favorite TV shows, taste in music, and movies. We told each other “I love you” our first week into it. He told me he wanted to marry me after we had been together for a month. We wrote each other love letters every single day for months while he was in basic training for the Army. It was a fucking epic love story.

Except maybe it wasn’t. The whole time, I focused so much on our love story that I didn’t acknowledge the real, ugly pages we tore out of the book and pretended not to read. I’m not saying that what we had meant nothing to me, but maybe the first try or the most seemingly romantic love story isn’t what true love is.

I look at my parents now, as someone who’s undergone heartbreak and (hopefully) has a better idea of what love is. I see them express their love for each other daily, in the little things they do for each other and for our family. I’m growing to learn that love isn’t two 18 year olds who desperately need each other’s love to survive. Love is two separate, fully grown people who love themselves wholly, and get together with another fully grown person, who doesn’t need anyone to complete them.

Maybe my first few shots at love didn’t work, but I realize now that it isn’t that I’m this horrible person who nobody could ever love. I know now that I’m not ready for real, whole love. I’m probably 75% of a fully developed person (probably even less), and until I learn to truly love myself and know that I don’t need anyone’s romantic love to validate me as a person, it’s not going to work. So don’t let heartbreak screw you up. Chances are, you’re not ready for it either. But the day will come eventually, and we’ll be ready for the real thing. *cue Phoenix song*

–Chloe

What to Do When You Want Your Ex Back

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(Don’t listen to Cher Lloyd.)

I had a minor freakout this morning because I thought I had residual feelings for an ex. I blew up my friends’ phones with long texts about my fears, asking them what I should do. I let my imagination run wild and imagined worst case scenarios, in which I was stuck pining over someone who wanted to be with other people. I imagined running into him everywhere I went or seeing him making out with another girl at a party. I told myself I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I even told one of my friends “I’m dying” because I got a small anxiety attack just thinking about everything. I turned to Google, as I do with most of my problems, and went on a fast streak of skimming through Wiki How articles on what to do when you still have feelings for your ex.

Then I took a deep breath. I realized as I read those Wiki How articles that this is absurd. It isn’t a good idea (on my behalf) for us to get back together. I felt all my dormant insecurities creep back and take center stage in my mind. I was letting my fears win. I realized that all of this is stupid. I don’t need him and I don’t need a boyfriend at all. I made a choice to date myself, and I needed to honor that commitment.

When you chose to date yourself, you’re going to get lonely at some point, no matter what. It’s hard to be satisfied with only yourself when you see happy couples all around you, or when you crave physical affection you can only get with another person. But the trick is to wait it out. As my dear Andrew VanWyngarden said, “the trick is to try to be free / and tend to the void, don’t just fill it.” When you get lonely, don’t just find a person to fill the space that feels empty inside (totally not talking about sex either) — you need to learn how to be whole instead of covering up your emotional wounds with a new relationship.

Your emotions are like the tide — sometimes the water will be calm and you’ll be fine with being alone. Then suddenly, something will trigger your negative emotions and amplify your fears; it will get stormy. But you are your own ship and captain, and you can get through the storm.

When waters get rough, talk to a friend. Let out all your crazy thoughts and feelings to a trusted friend. The fears and worries you keep to yourself usually sound insignificant or silly when you actually say them aloud. Plus, your friend can give you an outside, objective perspective on your situation (and if you need a friend, I’m always here!).

If you’re not comfortable sharing your deeply personal feelings with another person, journaling about your feelings can help a lot too. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own thoughts, and writing them out can bring order to the chaos in your head. Complicated situations get simpler for me after I sort it out in writing. You can even get creative and turn your thoughts into poetry, which can also be really cathartic.

Remind yourself that you’re awesome. You’re stronger than you think you are. When you get lonely, just remember that the feeling is temporary. As Kelly Clarkson said, it doesn’t mean you’re lonely when you’re alone. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (Kelly Clarkson lyrics are actually great advice).

Note: My friend/cousin/older-sister Emma gave me the Kelly Clarkson lyrics as advice and also made this picture of her face on Kelly’s body just for this post. Enjoy!

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–Chloe

How to Get Out of a Toxic Relationship

She checks his phone when he’s not looking. Or she makes him give her his phone so she can check it in front of him.

He proposes to her after they’ve dated for a month and gets upset when she wants to take it more slowly.

They have each other’s Facebook passwords. Or worse, they share a joint Facebook account.

She sees his overt jealousy as love and protection instead of mistrust and disrespect.

He suggests changes she could make in her physical appearance to make her more attractive to him, like cutting her hair or dropping a few dress sizes.

She stops telling her close friends about the problems in their relationship because he says it’s the two of them against the world.

They talk to their exes when they want to make each other feel bad.

They keep score of different times their partner has messed up in the relationship, to throw it back in their face during a fight.

They change their Facebook pictures from couple pictures to ones of them alone when they’re mad at each other.

Does any of this sound familiar? These are all examples of what it’s like to be in a toxic relationship.

I’m not proud to admit this, but I’ve been in a toxic relationship myself (and I’m going to spill my guts a lot in this post, so be gentle with me). Unfortunately, all of the above are things I’ve experienced in the past. It hurts to see people I care about going through toxic relationships, and if you think you might be in one too, think critically about your relationship. Re-evaluate what it means to you and try out these steps.

Talk to someone.

It’s easier to stay in a relationship when you’re isolated to talking to your partner more than anyone else. It’s unhealthy to have this type of codependency with your partner, and if you feel like things aren’t going so well with your relationship, it helps to get an outside, objective opinion. Talk to a close friend or family member who has your best interests in mind. It’s easy to get swept up in what your partner says to you, but when a person outside of your relationship validates your feelings or worries about the relationship, it can help you see things more clearly.

Branch out.

If you don’t have one already, create a network of friends and family who will help you get through this breakup with love and support. One of the things I fear most when it comes to breakups is being alone. But if you have at least a handful of people who you know will have your back when you go through with the breakup, it makes it a whole lot easier. Near the end of my destructive relationship, I realized how I hadn’t been in contact with a lot of my friends from high school and some of my relatives I used to be closer to. I looked past the awkwardness and vented to them without filtering any of the bad stuff about my relationship that I usually hid from people. It was a little embarrassing at first, but they each assured me of what I wouldn’t admit to myself. I had chosen a partner that was treating me poorly. With their support, I gained the confidence I needed to face him and end our relationship for good.

Make your intentions clear to your partner.

If you don’t tell him straight up that you do not want him in your life anymore, he might get the wrong idea. I made the mistake of answering a persistent ex’s calls even though I really wanted to move on with my life. I was so used to talking to him (and I even missed him) so I gave in. After awhile, I tried ignoring him, but it didn’t work. The best way to let someone know you don’t want them in your life anymore is the simplest way: tell them upfront. In a decisive yet respectful way, tell him that you want to stop talking to each other so that you can go on with your lives separately. If he tries to win you back or sweet-talk you, be even more direct and tell him that you don’t want him romantically any more and ask him to respect your decision. That won’t always work, and if it doesn’t, you’ll need to go cold turkey and block him.

Block him from your life as much as possible.

Make it a point not to contact him. At all. Delete his number from your phone (and use Mr. Number, a useful blocking app, to block his calls and texts), unfollow/unfriend him on every social networking platform you both use. If you initiate conversation or even respond to him when he talks to you first, he won’t take you seriously. He could try to wear you down, but you have to stay strong and stay away. Check out this other awesome lovescrewed post for ways to keep your ex out of your life.

Mourn the relationship, but embrace the change.

A definitive chapter of your life is over, so you should allow yourself to feel sad and cry it out if you need to. Take as much time as you need to let all your emotions out.

Now that you’ve gotten out of the destructive relationship, the worst is behind you. However, that doesn’t mean that it’ll be easy taking on what comes next. You’re alone. The thought of being alone can be really scary, but it can also be a good thing. Change isn’t always bad — it’s just different. You need to allow yourself to get used to this change in your life and recognize all the good that comes along with it. You’re out of a bad relationship. You have the freedom to explore and figure out who you are as an individual. The possibilities are endless.

Explore what life has to offer you.

It may seem like I’m bashing my ex and making our relationship out to be horrible, but that’s not how it was. We just weren’t right for each other in the end and we both had a lot of growing up to do (and I’m admitting here that I was very much at fault too). This relationship helped me to grow personally more than almost any other experience in my life, and that’s what I take away from it. Don’t look back in anger (cue Oasis song) at your relationship, no matter how toxic it was, how much you wish you’d done things differently, or how poorly your ex may have treated you. Look at it as a learning experience. Even though you may have thought this person was your world, that isn’t true. There’s a world around you full of people you can share your life with and who can help you be happier than you would be if you stayed in the toxic relationship. Appreciate this not as an ending, but as a new beginning.

-Chloe

How to Remove Evidence of Your Ex After a Breakup

Breakups are the worst (which is probably one of the most obvious statements ever). You might feel like shit. Even if you were the one to wanted to break up, it’s still difficult to adjust to the change in your life. You’re moving on from one chapter of your life onto the next, and you most likely won’t have that person in your life anymore. Everywhere you look, there are reminders of your ex. From the pictures on your desk, to your couple-y Facebook profile pictures, to the ticket stubs from all the movies you watched together. The best way to let yourself heal is to get rid of it. All of it.

Here are a few steps for removing evidence of your ex so that you can allow yourself to heal properly:

1. Burn the evidence. Not literally (unless you think it’d be more cathartic to literally burn the stuff that reminds you of him).
Gather all the objects that remind you of him.
Wash all your clothes or bed sheets, anything that might have his scent (this might be a little extreme, but our brains associate memories strongly with smells, so getting rid of his scent might help get rid of painful triggers).
Put everything that reminds you of him in a box.

You don’t have to throw these things away or burn them or get rid of them completely. If you think you might want to look at these things again in the future, you can always keep them in storage, in your garage, with a friend, or at your parents’/grandma’s/whoever’s house. Just not somewhere nearby. If it’s at the back of your closet or under your bed, symbolically, it’ll be like that relationship (and the negative/sad emotions associated with it) is always there with you, and you won’t be able to move on as easily without thinking about it.

2. Unfollow him from everything on social media/networking sites, if you choose not to unfriend him or if you’re still on good terms. If you’re not, just unfriend him on everything (or even block him). No harm, no foul. He probably won’t really care, and if he does, it’s only Facebook, so in reality/in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter.

3.  Unfollowing also means no contact. No texting, no chatting, nothing. The less contact you have with him for the first few weeks or months after the breakup, the better. This no-contact doesn’t have to be permanent, though. If you think you can be friends again later, that’s great. But it’s easier to cut off communication early on (even if it’s temporary) so you can give yourself the space to heal, without him coming back into your life and ruining the progress you’ve made.

4. Delete all the pictures and change your statuses to single. This seems a little tedious, but if you don’t make these small changes ASAP, they’ll serve as little reminders in the future that you aren’t a couple anymore. It’s best to rip off the band-aid and get these things done quickly.

5. Tell your close friends/family members about the breakup. It’s better to do this sooner rather than later, so that they all know and can be there to give you love and support, if you want it. Also, it sucks to have your friends keep asking about how you and your boyfriend are doing, long after you break up. It’s just another reminder that you two broke up and can trigger painful feelings.

6. Fill the space that he left behind with things that are all you.
Fill physical space — after you take down the things in your room/place that remind you of him, replace it with things that you like: things that make you happy, inspire, or empower you. Pictures of your friends or siblings/parents instead of pictures of him. A poster of your favorite movie, quote, or piece of art. New bedsheets if your old ones remind you of him too much.

It’s important that you don’t just fill the physical space, like replacing old pictures of him with new ones on your desk, but the space in your heart and your everyday life. If you used to hang out with him after classes on Tuesdays, find something new to do. If you used to have lunch together every day, find new friends to eat with. If you need to, schedule a different friend to be with you every day, so that you won’t have that empty space in your schedule to think about your loss/this change. If you used to go with him every time a new movie came out, find someone else to go with — a friend, your siblings, or even a new/another guy (if you’re up for something fun and casual and won’t feel like it’s too fast to hang out with a new guy).

There are unlimited people around you who can be there for you now that he won’t — he is not irreplaceable. Even if you don’t have that many friends to replace the space he used to fill, then this is a great time to make new ones! Join a club, take a class, volunteer, or talk to the person sitting next to you on the bus or while waiting in a line. Ask the girl sitting alone in a coffee shop/cafeteria/dining hall if you can join her, and strike up a conversation about books, TV, music, or other hobbies, and you might just find a new friend in her.

7. Have some kind of ritual/ceremony for moving on. For example, write some vows to yourself  about what you want your life to be like after this relationship. You could also take all the stuff you have that reminds you of him (as mentioned earlier) and say goodbye to them as a way of moving on from the past associated with those objects. It may sound dramatic, but sometimes these actions are necessary — do whatever it takes so that you can move on in a healthy way.

About a year after a major breakup, it helped me to make a video collage of the old pictures and video clips of us together. I arranged them chronologically with songs to represent the changes and stages of our relationship. When I finished it, I felt a sense of catharsis from making sense of all that had happened between us, through this medium of storytelling. After watching the video a bunch of times and being able to look at the big picture, I was able to let go of a lot of the resentment I had towards him, remember that there were lots of good times too, and move on with my life with less regret. This method might work for you, and even just writing it as a story works well too.

Getting over a relationship isn’t only about forgetting about a person — it’s about moving forward and accepting that this part of your life is over. Whether it was one of the best periods of your life or months filled with tears and fighting, you owe it to yourself to give yourself the time and space to mourn the relationship. As you get rid of or put away things that remind you of your ex, take the time to appreciate the memories associated with those objects. Even though you don’t want to see the dress you wore the first time you went out to dinner together or the cup he always used to drink from at your place, someday you might look fondly on them and those memories. Don’t look at these rituals as ways to trash everything about your ex and the past relationship, but as a way to get rid of mental triggers for the time being, so that you don’t spend this emotional time over-analyzing your ex or the relationship. Breaking up is sad beans, but you don’t have to be. Get rid of the bad triggers, and in time, you’ll be a stronger and happier person by letting yourself heal properly.

Note: I use male pronouns referring to the “ex” throughout this article (without intending to be gender exclusive) but feel free to switch them to female pronouns if you are/were dating a girl!

-Chloe