Must Read: Relationship Lessons I Wish I Knew Sooner

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I’ve been writing about relationships for several years now. A funny thing I’ve noticed when I tell people what I do for a living is that they automatically assume I was always just good with relationships. Ha! I was as clueless as they come not so long ago. Every misstep, every faux pas, every tactic guaranteed to drive a man away, I did it…and was left baffled about where I went wrong. You see, getting the guy was never the problem…keeping him was.

I’m not one to get caught up in regrets and what ifs. And in retrospect, I’m glad I made those mistakes and went through that kind of pain because had I not, I wouldn’t be able to write about relationships the way I do and I never would have felt any sort of motivation to start this website.

Of course, sometimes I wonder how certain situations would have unfolded had I learned certain lessons a bit sooner. Since I can’t go back and undo what’s been done, I’m going to share the relationship lessons I wish I’d known sooner to spare you from going down my beaten path.

Here they are:

1. You can’t win them all. In your dating career you will most likely meet a guy (or guys) you think is the one. He has everything you’ve ever wanted (and never thought you’d actually find in another person), you get along, you seem like the perfect match on paper….but he doesn’t want you. Ouch. Whatever you do, don’t do what I used to do and take this to mean there’s something wrong with you, or that you’re somehow not good enough. Everyone has a nature  and everyone has something they want to give and want to get. When it’s one person’s nature to want to give what the other person wants to get and vice versa, then it’s a great match and it works. And when it’s not… it’s not that either person is bad… it’s as simple as it not being a match.

Another trap is thinking this guy is “perfect” for you. The fact that he isn’t actually with you is all the proof you need that this isn’t exactly a match written in the stars.

MORE: How to Handle Rejection

2. Don’t give up your life/friends when a guy comes into the picture. I made this mistake when I was in my first really serious relationship. I was a junior in college, I should have been living it up, but instead, I was shacked up with my boyfriend every day and night ordering in pizza and watching marathons of Law and Order: SVU, only leaving the premises for class and maybe the gym once in a blue moon. Most of my friends didn’t approve of my guy (and for very good reasons) and I responded by cutting them all off– if they couldn’t be happy for me then to hell with them!

Then the relationship ended and I have to say, it was the loneliest feeling in the world realizing I had no one to turn to. I eventually swallowed my horse pill-sized pride and groveled my way back, but those relationships took a while to rebuild and some just stayed broken. The absolute worst thing you can ever do is abandon the people in your life for a guy. When you’re young and in love for the first time, trading in everything that used to make you happy for a guy you love seems like a small price to pay. In reality, it’s a major sacrifice that brings a lot of consequences, both to your social life and your sense of self.

The fact is, part of what attracted this guy to you was the fact that you had a lot going on in your life. No man wants to be the sole center of a woman’s existence…that’s way too much pressure and is a breeding ground for an unhealthy, codependent relationship.

MORE: How to Have a Healthy Relationship

3. Work on yourself…and keep working. A guy is never the missing ingredient in your life. Being in a relationship won’t make you whole,  it won’t heal your pain,  and it won’t give you fulfillment. A good relationship can certainly enhance these areas, but it can never fill that space entirely. Your focus should always be on being your best self and pushing through anything holding you back from getting what you want out of life. The work doesn’t stop when you’re in a relationship. A lot of women view relationships as some sort of finish line or destination and allow themselves to slip into complacency once they’re there.

4. Don’t believe everything guys say. This is by far the biggest area where I would get tripped up, and it’s a problem for most women. Women are more verbal by nature, we say what we feel and usually mean what we say. Guys are a little different. It’s not that men flat out lie, it’s just that they express themselves much more through actions than words. For instance, if a guy is telling you he cares about you, but acting in a way that indicates he couldn’t care less, then the truth is he most likely doesn’t feel that strongly about you. It’s this dichotomy that causes women to feel like men are sending mixed messages.

Personally, I used to cut guys way too much slack for bad behavior and would use the nice things they said as proof that they felt the way I wanted them to feel about me. I would have saved myself a lot of heartache, pain, and energy had I followed the mantra “actions speak louder than words.”

MORE: Why Men Lie
5. Don’t get physical right away.  For one, I really believe the buildup is kind of the best part. Also, holding out on being physical creates more space to develop an emotional connection. Once you bring the physical into the equation, then that is what dominates the relationship. You become more focused on how much you want the other person rather than on whether they’re actually a good match for you. I think getting too physical too soon led me to develop a false feeling of being connected to the guy and I sometimes would mistake a guy wanting to hook up with me as him genuinely liking me (I think most of us get tripped up by this in our high-school/college days). One skill I wish I had developed a little sooner is that of exercising restraint.

So those are my lessons learned too late. What about you?

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