What I learned from my three-year long distance relationship

After three whole years spent living in different apartments, cities, then landmasses, I’m finally nearing the end of the long distance chapter of my relationship.

Finally.

My partner Nate and I met in college in December 2013 (we say “partner” because we’re ~mature adults~ and equals). After I sat next to him in class and we talked briefly, I stalked him on Facebook, he asked me out a bunch of times and showed up to my social events until my friends checked him out and I got jealous and realized I liked him, and the rest is history!

We fell in love quickly, and even during the first month of our relationship, I knew he was the person I wanted to marry someday.

The only problem was that he’s a few years older than me and was graduating in a matter of months. We dreaded talking about the future and letting the reality of our inevitable long distance or breakup set in.

The week before he graduated, we finally sat down and had the talk: what was going to happen when he moved back to Orange County and started law school, while I was continuing college in Santa Barbara?

Among the many qualities Nate and I share that make us a great couple is our ability to openly talk to each other and solve our problems rationally — and most importantly, as a team. We’re also both relatively narcissistic (if you couldn’t already tell by reading the previous sentence).

We sat down and talked through every one of our worst fears about the outcomes of both a LDR (long distance relationship) and breaking up. We discussed every possible aspect of LDR we could think of and how we’d each like to handle it.

I visited him every other weekend during my senior year — I came to him because he needed to focus on studying during his first year of law school. Also, I loved coming over because his parents would feed me and I was broke as hell (and his mom’s homemade pho ga is the best ever).

After I graduated, I moved back in with my parents in Davis, California and we flew to each other every three weeks between NorCal and SoCal for over a year.

But during that last year, I battled with insecurities, unhappiness, and dissatisfaction with myself while I worked in retail and lost a lot of my confidence.

I relied heavily on Nate to be there for me when I needed encouragement, validation, and friendship. I got frustrated with him often because I didn’t have anything else in my life going on and focused mostly on him and our relationship.

I was desperate for something in my life to change and get me out of the rut I’d been in for over a year.

I ended up choosing to take a job in journalism back on Guam, where I was born and raised. I knew it could mean the end of our relationship eventually as I accepted a yearlong contract across the world from him, but I needed to do it for my own happiness and professional success.

We ended up breaking up only two months after I left California. We were both so heartbroken because we still loved each other deeply, but I wanted to stay on Guam with my new life and he was too scared to move and was still in the middle of his last year of law school. (Don’t worry, this story has a happy ending — we got back together!)

Nate and I are excellent at many things, but treating each other like normal exes isn’t one of them. We ended up still texting every day, we said “I love you” for months, and continued to be best friends who supported each other.

I can’t say I ever imagined my life (and our relationship) to unfold this way when I first sat down next to this random (well-dressed) dude with glasses and poofy hair in class, but no matter what happens in the future, I’ve changed and matured so much in the past three years we’ve been together.

These are a few of the most important lessons I’ve learned during three years of long distance (from a three-hour drive, to a one-hour plane ride, to an ocean apart):

Being alone is actually really great (and healthy).

When Nate and I first started dating, we spent allllll our time together. We took another class together, we ate lunch together between classes, we walked home together and watched TV shows in my bed for hours until he went to bed late, then we met up again in the morning in class and repeated the whole thing every day.

I got so used to spending every waking moment with him (and bailing on plans with other friends and extracurricular commitments just to be with him) that it physically hurt to be apart when he moved.

Eventually I just learned to distract myself and count down the days until we could visit each other, but it wasn’t until I moved far away from him and my family that I actually learned how to live my life fully for myself.

I cultivated a group of close friends who I hung out with every weekend (and during the week too), I grew closer to my coworkers and went out with them after hours, I made time to reconnect with my extended family, I went to the beach and tried new things on my time off. I grew so much getting thrown into new environments every day for work, too.

I actually had a full life for the first time since we started dating (maybe even for the first time in my life), and I absolutely loved it. I loved it so much that I chose this life for myself instead of putting romance first, for the first time ever (I’ve been boy-crazy since elementary school, unfortunately).

Living very far apart forced me to grow like crazy. Even though I love Nate so much, I’m grateful I got the chance to go somewhere on my own and figure my life out for myself. We had a rough half year when we broke up, but I still wouldn’t change it if I could because it made me into the independent, self-sufficient, and happy person I am today.

It also worked out best for our relationship too, because I needed this growth to be a better partner to Nate, instead of getting mad at him for every little thing because I was unsatisfied with my own life. Going through this rough patch also strengthened our relationship so much, and now we’re even more connected and smitten than we were during the honeymoon phase. #smitten4ages

It’s easy to take each other for granted, but make sure you don’t.

I can’t stress how important it is to remember how much the other person is right for you and is there for you, even when you’re not physically together.

After he goes to bed and can’t text me for the rest of the day, I think about him a lot. We’re apart all day, but when I can’t even talk to him, I take some time to sit and actively think about him, our future, fun times in the past, or why I love him so much. (This is all so sappy, I usually don’t write this many nice things about him all at once)

Having a period every day when I can’t talk to him makes me even more grateful for his presence when we get to text regularly during the time we’re both awake.

Don’t sweat the small stuff — but the small stuff also matters so much.

This sounds confusing, but these are two different definitions of “small stuff.”

I used to nitpick every little thing Nate would say to me and get irritated if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. If I texted him something fishing for a compliment and he didn’t praise me the way I wanted, I’d get upset and sometimes ignored him or gave him a bad attitude.

Since we got back together, I try not to to read too much into the wording of his messages (plus I just stay too busy with work and my social life to over-analyze as much as I did when I had no job/friends). Texting is a difficult and ambiguous form of communication, and getting mad about it just creates more tension — and it’s already hard enough not seeing each other in person.

But it’s also hard not to read closely into texts when texts are sometimes all we have to connect in a LDR.

Even though I’m busy with work most of the time, and I end up texting a bit mindlessly sometimes, I try to make time to be thoughtful about my messages to Nate. If I’m busy in the moment, I hold onto a thought and bring it up to him later or if it’s a serious topic I make time for him.

It’s easy to let things fall through the cracks, but it’s important to make time for your partner and let them know they’re worth it.

You need to treat it like a real relationship even when you’re not physically together.

Even though we can’t actually sit down to dinner or show physical affection, we try our best to show each other we’re still each other’s priorities.

When I first moved to Guam, sometimes we’d have to cancel or delay Skype dates last minute, because other things got in the way of our face-to-face time. If he didn’t make time for me, I felt hurt because I didn’t feel like I was important enough to him. And if I didn’t make time for him, I felt like our connection was becoming less tangible and we were fading out of each other’s lives.

Now we make time to Skype every Friday or Saturday (my time), which is a lot easier now that Nate is done with school. It takes some rearranging of our schedules, and sometimes I have to turn down plans with friends or family in person. It’s easy to cancel a Skype date since we’re not physically together, but the time commitment and effort made to be available for the other person are still real.

People aren’t static.

When Nate and I first got together, I thought he was this cool English major who loved writing and reading fiction (basically I thought he was just like me). For his birthday, I even bought him a book with hundreds of writing prompts because I thought it’d be fun for him.

Months into the relationship, I learned he didn’t like writing for fun at all (besides getting some enjoyment using flowery language for his school assignments). He’s a nice person so he thanked me for the gift, but it’s still sitting on his bookshelf, untouched. Instead, his interests were mainly basketball and poker. He also didn’t reveal he was a huge anime geek until half a year into our relationship — maybe that was my bad for talking about how weird anime lovers were, before I knew his true nature.

About half a year to a year in, I realized he wasn’t the person I thought I was falling in love with at all.

But that was okay, because I loved the person I was getting to know even more than the fantasy I made him out to be in my head.

During the course of our relationship, we’ve both changed a lot from who we were when we met. I’m not the same 20-year-old campus activist and he’s not the lazy party animal he used to be (jk, the lazy part is still somewhat true). But we’ve changed so much, together.

Three years in, we’re starting our careers, he’s done with law school, I’m more self-assured, he’s more liberal than he used to be, I’m less religious than I used to be. He wrote a chapter for my LDR advice book and had fun with it. And I even started watching anime with him! Now that’s true love.

We’ve both gotten to know each other so well that we can handle any problem together and know what to say to make the other feel better.

I used to be sad that the honeymoon phase was over, but sharing lifelong mutual growth and support is so much more fulfilling.

If you’ve found someone you can grow steadily with over time and encourage each other, even with the difficulties of distance keeping you apart, you’re incredibly lucky. I know I am.

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.

How to Deal with Instagram-related Jealousy and Insecurities

Let me just start off by saying that in my logical, reasonable mind, I trust my partner with all my heart. He’s been perfect, never makes me feel worried about the possibility of him cheating, and reassures me that he cares about me by texting me constantly throughout the day and giving me his full attention when we’re together.

But no matter how much I love and trust him, the less rational part of my mind still worries occasionally (which I think is natural for everyone). When I look through my Instagram newsfeed when I’m bored, I’m afraid I’ll see that he liked a hot girl’s picture and I’ll discover that the happiness I had was all temporary. It’s like I’m just waiting for him to prove that my worst fears are true: that love doesn’t work out and that I shouldn’t trust anyone. I feel incredibly petty worrying about something so superficial as a “like” on Instagram—I know deep down that it’s 100% harmless. And I can’t really get mad at him because I follow way more pretty girls and models than he does, and he never says anything about it (but in my defense, I follow them 50% for inspiration and self-love by seeing more beautiful brown women who make me feel better about myself by extension… 50% because they’re hot as hell and I like to admire them).

When I see he “likes” some girls’ photos, I get this painful feeling in my gut. I imagine him fantasizing about how much happier he would be if they were his girlfriends instead of me. I worry that he is comparing me, with the mole on my face, the rolls on my stomach when I bend over, my meager B cups, to this image of a girl with a perfectly contoured face and a push-up bra.

I know none of this is true. Anyone who uses Instagram scrolls through basically mindlessly, “liking” pictures in a second, then instantly forgetting the previous post once it leaves the reach of their thumb. These worries are part of a story I’ve made up in my head that is a manifestation of all my insecurities and trust issues I’ve developed from past relationships, with exes who had wandering eyes. Seeing the person you love give validation and attention (even in the smallest form, a “like” on social media) feels like a betrayal, in a world where a large part of the construction of self-worth relies on how many “likes” you get and who gives them to you—as much as we’d like to think we’re disconnected from social media, it affects everyone.

When I stop and think about it, my worries have nothing to do with my partner. He could tell me he loves me every day, never hang out with any other girls, do literally everything right, and I still would feel this way (and it makes me feel terrible that I do).

At our very core, when we feel jealousy, it’s not about our partners being disloyal about something so small—it’s about our deep need to be loved and to be given attention and loyalty from the person we love. The jealousy stems from the small child in each of us who needs love and worries that the flaws we see in ourselves will prevent other people from loving us (sorry, I know I sound Zen-y like my dad here, but it’s true).

The best solution when you’re feeling insecure about your partner “liking” other people’s posts is to realize and remind yourself that your relationship with a person is much more than what goes on in social media, and shouldn’t be defined by “likes,” especially if it’s with someone you have a deep connection with personally. You shouldn’t compare one “like” on a picture to the weeks/months/years of getting to know each other that you’ve had with your partner (and if he/she really wanted to be with that other person instead of you, don’t you think they would?).

Don’t compare yourself to others, especially not you in real life, right now, vs a staged photo. I feel like shit when I compare myself to a picture of a girl with her makeup done, while I’m lying in bed wearing my oversized “I [heart] gays” t-shirt and no bra. Your partner doesn’t love you because you look on point all the time, they love you because you have a real connection and because of your personality. Plus there’s no way those girls online look like that 24/7. Instagram is performance (repeat that to yourself 100x every day and you might turn out okay).

Some steps to take when you get into a negative mindset with these insecurities:

Get off Instagram! Be productive, take a walk and enjoy nature and keep your phone on “do not disturb” if you use it to listen to music, interact with the people who are around you in real life, work on a project. Create, don’t get into a negative spiral.

Do something that makes you feel good about yourself. Don’t base your self-worth off of whether a person double taps on an image of you. Remind yourself why you are a good person, why you are beautiful, and why you are attractive and worthy of love—most of all, your own love.

What I do:

    • lift weights (makes me feel strong and proud of myself)
    • go for a walk (sunshine makes me happy, gets my sun-kissed skin back)
    • put on a little makeup or curl my hair (doesn’t take that much effort and ends up making me really happy and feel pretty)
    • wear something I wouldn’t normally wear (anything besides work/bum clothes)
    • write (makes me feel smart and capable)
    • tidy my room (makes my living situation more comfortable)

Also, it’s hard to be in a happy relationship with someone who is insecure and doesn’t see their own self-worth (me at times, in this case). You need to remind yourself why you are valuable as an individual and as a partner, both for your own mental health and for the sake of your relationship.

Talk to someone (or at least write it out to yourself). Saying your fears out loud makes them sound a lot less real and will show you they aren’t actual reasons to worry. It helps a lot to get out of your own negative self-talk and train of thought if you have to explain it to someone else, and they can tell you you have nothing to worry about.

Make a list of things to be grateful for in your life. You have more going on for yourself than just one person, anyway!

Make a list of ways your partner has shown they love you. If you’re in a good relationship, these will outweigh the minor slight of Instagram “likes” by far. After I write my lists, I feel so much happier, more in love with my partner, and appreciative of what a good person he is.

Overall, the best thing you can do is to just not look at the feed.

The urge to prevent your partner from looking at anyone else but you (which is impossible) is possessive, and makes me feel small for being controlling in that way. If you want to keep your relationship healthy, you need to just trust that your partner is a good person who does not want to hurt you.

Even more importantly, you need to trust that you are a good person who deserves to be with someone who loves you and will be loyal to you (even if you don’t always believe it, it’s true). The stress of stalking your partner online constantly is bad for the skin anyway, so don’t detract from your physical beauty, and in turn the source of your value as a person (just kidding! internal beauty all the way! *smirking emoji*).

The 10 Commandments of a Healthy Relationship

Writing for Lovescrewed started out as a way for me to reconcile with the bad relationships I had in the past and learn from them, while I went on my journey to becoming a whole person and loving myself. But then I stopped writing early in 2014 because I got into a new relationship and everything was so exciting and fun—and who wants to read blog posts about me being happy and in love anyway? People come to self-help blogs to get raw, honest advice, and I wasn’t dealing with the ghosts of my past anymore to fuel my writing.

Not to say that I’m unhappy now that I’m blogging again, but as my boyfriend and I grow closer to the two year mark in our relationship, I’ve come to learn a lot about relationships, as this is the longest and most serious one I’ve been in.

Needless to say (since it’s evident in my many blog posts), I’ve had my experience with toxic relationships, and learned from my mistakes. I’ve also learned a lot while navigating through this newer relationship. It’s interesting to see how much your feelings for someone can evolve over the span of a couple years—from smitten to infatuated, to learning that they aren’t the person you thought you were falling in love with in the first place, to accepting them for who they truly are and loving that you can learn new things about them even when you thought they couldn’t surprise you.

It’s not always easy, but if you’re with the right person, it’s worth it and hopefully you’ll grow together.

Here are some of the most useful things I’ve learned, and guidelines I try to live by in a relationship (even if I mess up sometimes):

  1. Promise to yourself to never check their phone. Obviously I’m not proud to admit this, but I’m guilty of being the psycho jealous girlfriend who actually blocked girls repeatedly from my ex’s Facebook and Instagram accounts while we were dating… It was hard to stop, but I decided I never wanted to experience that burning angry feeling that made me want to throw up every time I got stalker-y and jealous. I can’t say I haven’t occasionally wondered about whether there’s anything suspicious on my boyfriend’s phone, just out of curiosity (and from seeing way too many Instagram memes about it) but it was important for me to set boundaries for myself. I don’t want to become that distrustful, sneaky person again, and I don’t think anyone enjoys feeling like that either.
    It’s a slippery slope from checking once just to get rid of nagging insecurities, to constantly being anxious about what they might be doing behind your back, and not trusting them enough to believe what they say. If they’re cheating on you, they’re probably smart enough not to comment heart-eyed emojis on someone’s pictures and they’ll probably delete her texts too, so why bother checking? Trust your gut, and if something makes you uncomfortable, try to talk to them about it. But don’t go sneaking around behind their back because if you can’t trust them enough to take their word for it, then it isn’t a great relationship anyway, and it definitely isn’t worth the stress of worrying if you’re being cheated on.
  2. All boyfriends/girlfriends shall remain innocent until proven guilty! Every relationship is somewhat of a gamble of trust, but if the person hasn’t done anything to make you distrust them, try to let go of the pain you’ve gone through during past relationships and don’t just expect the new person to cheat or treat you badly. The worst mistake you can make is to drive a great partner away by misplacing blame on them for something your high school boyfriend did to you 6 years ago. Don’t let the mistakes of your old teenage ex define every relationship you have in the future, or you’ll always expect to get hurt like you did when you were 16 and neither of you knew how to even be in a healthy relationship.
  3. Be each other’s cheerleaders. Encourage each other and support each other’s dreams! This is especially important because a partner should be one of the first people you come to when something good happens to you, and you’d want to be that person to them too. Give good advice you think will help them and show enthusiasm when something exciting happens. There’s no such thing as too much positivity or good attention.
  4. Pick up new hobbies together. If you started dating just because you both liked the same movies or had the same taste in music, chances are that your mutual interests will get old eventually, because your tastes will probably change over time. If you’re in it for the long haul, you have to find activities you both enjoy doing together. My boyfriend and I like to start watching new TV shows together which makes it our thing, and gives us another source of references for our many inside jokes.
  5. Don’t hold their past against them. Try not to get mad or jealous if they slept with a bunch of people before you two dated because that has nothing to do with you. What’s important is how they’ve acted since you met and started dating. You shouldn’t blame someone for something they did before they even knew you existed.
  6. Keep complimenting each other even if you’ve been dating forever. It’s easy to stop doing this over time because you already know you both are attracted to each other. But it’s still nice to hear that the one person you really want to think you’re hot is still into you, or to know that they still think you’re beautiful even after seeing you in the morning all greasy-haired and crusty-eyed. Getting a compliment from your significant other feels a thousand times better than getting 200 likes on an Instagram picture (well, maybe not, but it’s close).
  7. Don’t ask for anything or expect anything. You should definitely expect them to treat you well, but I’m talking about material items. Your boyfriend doesn’t owe you designer bags or jewelry. Although it is nice to receive gifts, don’t be one of those girls who expects her boyfriend to spoil her with expensive things. Follow Destiny’s Child’s lead and be an Independent Woman (The house I live in, I’ve bought it / The car I’m driving, I’ve bought it / I depend on me).
  8. Be grateful and remember to say thank you even for the little things. You’ll become more appreciative of what your partner has to offer if you’re noticing and thinking about the effort they put in to make you happy.
  9. Say “I love you” often, or express fondness in whatever way you’re comfortable with at that stage in your relationship. It’s helpful to remind each other regularly that the love is still there.
  10. Learn how to communicate openly and honestly with each other. This is the most important part of maintaining a healthy relationship. If you don’t express it to your partner when you’re feeling upset with something they did or didn’t do, or when you’re feeling any other emotion towards them, they will not know. This might be obvious, but if you don’t tell them directly, they probably won’t figure it out—nobody is a mind reader (and neither are you, so don’t expect anyone to be omniscient about your thoughts and feelings). If it’s too hard for you to tell them directly, try writing out a letter or a text to them explaining everything you’re feeling, and then try sending it. If it’s a good relationship, then they’re likely to respond well and try to help you meet your needs.
    Another important part of communication is active listening. When your partner is talking to you, don’t just think about what you want to say next—focus on them, then think of how you will respond after. It’s important to let them be heard and be empathetic so you can be there for them and give them what they need. Because while a relationship can be great in that you have someone who will be there for you, it’s your duty (really, it should be your privilege and pleasure) to be a good friend to your partner.

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.

Updates on My Best Relationship

I entered an exclusive relationship over the summer and so far it is hands down the best experience of my life. We started dating about 5 months ago and I’ve never been happier!

We started getting to know each other deeply around May this year. Our dates were the best and I always felt more comfortable when I was only with her than I did with anyone else. We went to the beach almost every day to be alone. We’d read The Princess Bride, wade into the water, or just lie down and listen to Grouplove. I spent more time with her than anyone at this point. She was there for me while I was going through a really difficult emotional period, when nobody else was. The nights were less lonely with just her in my bed; I cried a lot less than I did before.

Then around July, we decided to be exclusive. I promised myself I would put her first instead of searching for a new partner to complete me, like I always did in the past. I promised that I would be myself, always, and not change who I was for anyone else. Unlike in other relationships, I knew I never had to change for her, unless I wanted to. At the same time, she always made me want to become a better person.

I never have jealousy or trust issues with her. I’ll admit this is the first relationship in which I haven’t been totally faithful (I’ve kissed a few odd people now and then since we started dating), but I always come back to her in the end. For the most part, I remain loyal to her. I try to remind her that she’s beautiful when she’s feeling down (which can be quite often), and lately she can be completely happy with only my approval. I’ve grown to love her an incredible amount over the past few months.

I’m sure you’re all curious as to who this person is… it’s myself. I risk sounding super bigheaded in this post but dating myself really was the best thing I’ve ever done for my self-esteem and overall happiness. Dating myself taught me that I don’t need anyone to complete me and that I can take care of myself. I don’t need some guy to try to fix me. I don’t need anyone else to tell me I’m beautiful anymore in order for me to believe it.

Although I think relationships are great, I think that dating yourself is a very important step to becoming emotionally stable enough to date anyone else. After dating myself for several months, I already feel like I’m much more self-reliant and much less needy than I was in my past relationships. I’m on my way to becoming whole and I did it completely by myself. I’m not at the Sue Sylvester level of self-love to the point where I want to legally marry myself, but I’m at a much better place than I was before.

Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t allow us to make our relationship status official, but whatever, I guess. We’re not really into labels anyway.

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How to Turn Your Rivals into Your Friends

A few years ago, I was dating a guy who obviously was very interested in another girl. He had a huge crush on her before we met, and did all kinds of sweet, cheesy crap for her, like buying her flowers and showing up at her place unexpectedly (although if you ask me, that’s actually creepier than it is cute). He used to tell me how much I reminded him of her; how we were both smart, pretty, liked to read, and so on. I often felt like I was just a consolation girlfriend because she was never interested in him, even though he made it clear to her that he was very interested.

Reasonably so (or at least it was reasonable in my mind), I ended up hating this girl. I obsessed over her. I’d look at her tumblr and think of the sassiest, bitchiest things to say about her and her shitty excuse for poetry. I’d laugh when she called herself a writer. I’d send her anonymous messages correcting her grammar (I’m almost not even sorry about this). I was unapologetically petty towards someone who had never personally wronged me in her life.

I spent so much of my time thinking about how much I hated her and I ended up hating myself every time he liked one of his pictures. Wasn’t I enough for him? It killed me when he started following her on Instagram. Every time he complimented her at all, it felt like a blow to my self-esteem.

After awhile, I began to realize how consuming, unhealthy, and irrational this imaginary rivalry was between me and some girl who never even thought about me. I tried to figure out a way to get over her in my head, since hating her or pretending she didn’t exist didn’t work.

I realized that she and I were actually a lot a like. We both loved to read, we loved creative writing, we liked cheesy romantic things, we had similar interest in books (we were both reading the Hunger Games series at the time), and hell–we even looked alike. If I hadn’t met her under these circumstances, we’d probably be friends. Why did I have to hate her?

I decided that if she was going to be in my life, I might as well win. I’d make her my friend. I reached out to her, was very friendly, and made an effort for us to get to know each other. After a few weeks, we actually became friends! And as I kept dating this guy, as he turned into a total asshole, she had my back when he didn’t. She’d give me her support, give me good advice, and she’d even stick up for me when he talked to her about our relationship. She’s actually a really nice, genuine person and I’m sorry for how petty I was. I’d actually like to think we’re still friends, even after that guy isn’t a part of my life anymore.

Looking back on this experience, I realize how unnecessary all that negativity was. A guy I follow on Twitter posted something amazing a few weeks ago and it really resonated with me:

“Women should never compete with each other for a man’s affection. It’s like running in a race and the prize is a bag of diarrhea.” –Solomon Georgio via Twitter

It’s true. Why did I spend so much time hating a girl who was actually really nice and had never wronged me? Furthermore, why did I hate her because my boyfriend liked her? The real problem was with him and his misplaced affections while in a committed relationship, and even more with my own self-esteem issues. It wasn’t like he was some perfect person I needed to fight over anyway.

So next time you find yourself hating on that “bitch” your boyfriend’s trying to get at, or when someone cheats on you, just stop. Direct your anger towards the person who’s actually doing you wrong, who’s breaking a promise to you. Better yet, ditch them and find someone better, or fly solo, because there’s no use in sticking around with someone who treats you with any less respect than you deserve. I’ve used this technique several times now with different girls and it has a 100% success rate so far. I feel great about myself and I don’t let boyfriends with wandering eyes take up any of my time. Plus now I have all these awesome friends!

Love yourself, love each other, and forget the assholes who bring you down.

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.

Going Steady: How to Decide If You Want to Date Someone Exclusively

Dating someone exclusively in this day and age is a huge commitment. At my university, almost everyone I know is insanely busy — most of my friends are involved in different organizations, sports, Greek life, part-time jobs, partying every weekend, balancing a social life with friends, all on top of having a 12-20+ unit course load. How could you have any time to give to one particular person, much less the effort it takes to be a dedicated girlfriend/boyfriend? So when you decide that you want to date one person exclusively, you make a huge time, emotional, and loyalty commitment. If you’re seriously considering going steady with someone, there are some questions you should ask yourself before you get Facebook official.

  1. Do you have the time? More importantly, are you willing to make time? A relationship isn’t an organism or a living thing like people make it out to be. All it really is is how you feel about a person, how you treat them, and the quantity and quality of time you spend together. Are you willing to set aside a reasonable amount of hours weekly (or however much time you agree to be together) to connect with this person? If you know you’re too busy and can’t or don’t want to allot time for this person, then don’t make the commitment. If you do want to spend your time with her/him, then go for it!
  2. Is your heart in it? Don’t even start it if you’re not willing to put in 100% of your effort. Don’t waste her time if you know you won’t feel like talking to her, going out of your way to show her you care, or being considerate of her feelings.
  3. Do you see this relationship lasting for longer than 3 months? What’s the point in agreeing to put in the time and effort it takes to be in a relationship, if you don’t see this relationship going anywhere? Some people see relationships as a trial run for marriage, so why waste your time and commitment on someone you don’t see yourself with in the long run? Your youth will pass you by more quickly than you think, and you might as well not waste any of it pursuing a person you don’t take seriously.
  4. Are you willing to be with her, and her alone (or him)? If there’s a part of you that still longs for hookups or feels like you’re making a huge sacrifice by giving up the single life, do not get into a relationship. It isn’t fair for your prospective partner if you still want to play the field. Be a decent person and be honest about your feelings — it’s better to admit that you aren’t ready for a relationship than get her hopes up and let her down later when you finally admit you want to be with other people.

I have a love/hate relationship with relationships. I love having a partner and getting the cute jittery butterflies feeling that comes with relationships; it’s one of the most magical feelings in the world. But I also hate the hurt, jealousy, suspicion, and heartbreak that can come with relationships; they’re the most painful feelings I’ve ever experienced. If you decide that the answer to all those questions is yes, then don’t think about the negatives that come with relationships. You owe it to yourself to take a chance on love, so do it. It’s better to live life taking risks on what you think will make you happy, than living a life full of regret and missed opportunities.

“‘Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all” –Alfred Lord Tennyson

–Chloe