Over the years I’ve learned a lot about love, friendship, and relationships…and I learned most of it the hard way. After many failed progressive Millennial attempts at dating, I learned that love and relationships are not a game, trust needs to be earned and maintained, and the idea that love is real when it tears us apart is a dangerous toxic belief.
I’ve since studied relationships for years, from the renowned evidence-based work of Dr. John Gottman and Gary Chapman, to seeking the wise counsel of those who have mastered the various relationship hurdles I face throughout life.
You Choose the People in Your Life
For better or for worse, you are responsible for learning to discern who to let into your life and your heart. You also teach them how to treat you by what you do and do not allow. The boundaries that you set, the amount that you’re willing to give and yes, even the amount that you’re willing to receive. (more on that later).
All love is founded in loyalty, respect, compassionate understanding, selfless reciprocity, and empathetic consideration.
Just because you’re born into a family and have blood bonds to them doesn’t give anyone license to tell you who you are or how to live, or to treat you as they please without respect or consideration. The same thing goes for anyone who comes into our lives, be they friends or romantic partners.
You are under no obligation to keep a toxic person in your circle. If they do not add value to your life, then subtract them from yours.
Not everyone can (or should) be able to give you everything need, and that’s okay!
There is no one perfect person who is the embodiment of every social and emotional need that you will foreseeably have. This is just fundamentally impossible. I grew up being told that all you need is one person to love you — your soul-mate. You have each other, and that is all that you need. This is absolute bullshit. What an insane amount of pressure to put on one man or woman!
This is not to say that I’m remotely advising open relationships, (definitely not!) but it is completely unrealistic to be able to get everything that you need from one person. A soul mate is not a socio-emotional clone of you.
A soul-mate is a loyal person who sees and loves you exactly for who you are flaws and all, embraces that, is an unconditional safe space of love, and provides balance to your soul through being the unique version of themselves that they are.
That being said, you should never compromise on your emotional needs in a romantic relationship.
When it comes to the person you spend the rest of your life with, it is essential to share a foundational consensus on emotional needs, lifestyle, and values.
What I am saying is that when you’re seeking socio-emotional fulfillment, you need a community.
Gather Your Tribe
Build an inner circle of trusted friends who each speak to a unique piece of your soul while equally accepting you for all of who you are. Variety is the spice of life, and no one is completely one thing. Beyond the point of a significant other, not everyone you attempt to connect with will be willing or able to give you what you need.
It is important to establish your self-worth and be solidly your true genuine self so that you don’t wind up trying to compromise or censor yourself in order to forge a manufactured bond with someone you don’t actually have much in common with. This is validation-seeking and will not lead to a satisfying relationship.
So learn to let go. When you’re not clicking with someone, resist the urge to paint a facade over yourself in a desperate attempt to convince them to fill your emotional needs. A wise woman once told me that you can’t go to the hardware store looking for bananas and then get angry with the manager when they can’t and won’t sell you any.
The same is true for building your inner circle of trust. There will be those who you connect with naturally and those that you don’t. Trying to force it only leads to self-induced frustration, heartbreak, and disappointment.
Don’t Overthink It
This never works. Accept it. No one is normal. That is the true definition of normal. No one is normal. We’re all weird fucks masquerading as normal people. Chillax. Excessive mental preparation gears you up to be nothing more than a shiny veneer of who you are.
Perhaps what you say and the stories that you tell are all true, but they’re told from a place of practiced caution rooted in fear and unworthiness. Sure, you may have become a pro at hiding your anxiety, but in the end, fake is fake, and even if people aren’t particularly put off by your mask, they also won’t be able to form any kind of authentic bond with you, and will fall to the wayside.
Own Who You Are — Be Confident and Authentic.
It is tempting to hide behind a mask of censorship or partial identity because it is easier and less painful, less scary to be rejected for someone/something that you’re not than to face the idea of being rejected for being your true self. The thing is, your true self is sacred, beautiful, magnetic, and powerful.
When we are authentic, (and more than that, confident in our authenticity) people can sense this. It gives off a powerful vibration. Yes, you are more vulnerable, but in an odd way at the same time you become more powerful too. This palpable vibe will serve to repel those who don’t resonate with who you are, and in time, attract those who do see, love, and appreciate you for exactly who you are.
Think about it. Think of all your closest most trusted relationships…the people who have never left your side or rejected you, the ones who have transcended time and trial. What was your first meeting with them like?
Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you both talked for hours, and revealed stories and things that you would never plan to do, but you were just feeling the moment, and afterwards you felt completely alive and invigorated? Did a lasting friendship form with this person? Odds are you were being your authentic genuine self.
Don’t overthink who you are. Everyone has been through hell and back one or five times. Everyone has insecurities.
At the heart of every facade, defensive attitude, shy recluse, and stilted dialogue is a desire, an intrinsic need to be seen and loved for exactly who we are.
People need people. As iron sharpens iron so one friend sharpens another.
Cultivate a Balanced Dynamic of Giving & Receiving
Once you’ve started to add people to your life who you trust and feel safe to be your authentic self with, remember that it’s equally important to be giving and receiving. People who have been neglected and isolated struggle with having become starved for the love and attention that is necessary for human beings to thrive. This often manifests in one of two ways:
- Selfish takers who fear giving because of being burned and bereft so badly in the
past. These people appear confident yet toxic. Underneath, they’re lonely and afraid.
- Desperate givers who attempt to earn love with love. These people while well-meaning, run the risk of smothering their potential friends with their attentiveness.
- Selfish takers who fear giving because of being burned and bereft so badly in the
Once you have surrounded yourself with a circle of truly safe trusted people, these toxic behaviors can destroy any chance at a beautiful life lived together in fellowship so it is important to be wary and self-aware of this. It is joyful and rewarding to give. When you truly care about people, the happiness that you inspire by your generosity in word or deed will strengthen the bond that you share.
On the other end of the spectrum, learn to ask for what you need. Most people see expressing needs of any kind as a sign of weakness, but this is a dangerous fallacy. Everyone has needs. Emotional, physical, material, social, spiritual needs. This is not a secret. However unless you verbalize these needs, they cannot be filled.
In friendship and romance, the people who truly love you will be more than happy to meet and respect your emotional needs.
If you have truly chosen to shop for your banana-friends at a bonafide grocery store, then they will be more than ready and willing to reciprocate in kind at the next opportunity they find, and a positive feedback loop will begin to form.
I am a Gold Millennial, and this is just a small sampling of what I’ve learned about love, friendships, and relationships in my journey through this wild and wonderful world.
Thank you for reading! If these words touched your heart, please comment and share this blog on social media.