10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Love In My 20s


WARNING: This is a very Debbie Downer list, but if it speaks to even one person and it helps them adjust their expectations even the tiniest bit, I will be ecstatic.

1. Love is not a fairy tale.

Romance novels, chick flicks, rom-coms, and fairy tales exist not because their stories are within the realm of possibility. They exist because we WISH they would happen and we WISH that life was that simple. I was terribly naïve when I was younger; I believed that those stories existed because they were the gold standard of relationships and that if I had any self-respect I would hold out for my knight in shining armor.

2. Your lover is not a mind-reader.

Your significant other cannot read your mind and may be unable to pick up the thread of what you are hinting at, even if YOU think you are being obvious. This is not a flaw in their character and it would not be any different if they loved you more or knew you better. An adult recognizes that men and women have their own minds, motivations, wants, and needs, and it is not their failing if they can’t anticipate your every whim. It is your responsibility to be honest about your needs and to communicate them effectively. You are not an infant—use your words.

3. Nobody’s perfect, including the person you love.

Believing in and waiting for “the one” or your “soul mate” may not work out for you. The problem lies in the expectation that one person could possibly be perfect for you and that you will get along swimmingly and everything will be fantastic for the rest of your life. In no other relationship in our lives do we expect one person to be our absolute ideal. It sounds a bit misguided when you think of it that way—did you expect your parents to be the only adults in your life that you could admire, learn from, and trust? Moreover, what if you focused all of your love and expectations on only one of your children? (Yikes!) Are we doing ourselves a disservice by expecting our significant other to be the incarnation of everything we will need physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the rest of our lives? Would we be better off not setting our expectations in the clouds but leaving them here on Earth with our imperfect selves and with all of the imperfect people around us?

4. Love does not mean dependency.

You cannot expect one person to be your be-all and end-all. You have to be your own person first. I used to believe that love meant building a relationship of dependency where I could live simply and that someone else would shoulder the burden of all of the hard decisions and responsibilities. I realize now how unappealing that attitude made me as a life-mate. There I was looking for someone to take care of me like a lost puppy. This was not attractive; it was pathetic. Who wants a parasite for a partner?

5. Love is not guaranteed.

You do not “deserve” romantic love and you are not guaranteed love simply because you exist and you fancy yourself a decent person. You know the old saying: The only guarantees in life are death and taxes. Love is nowhere on that list. Be prepared to go looking elsewhere for ways to fill up your heart—practice little acts of kindness and watch your world get brighter.

6. Actions speak louder than “I love you.”

The childlike innocence and naiveté that you are so proud of make you easier to manipulate once you get into the real world. “I love you” is very easy to say. Actions don’t lie, so if he tells you he loves you but blows you off regularly when you’ve made plans together, take the hint—you are probably being used. Find someone who makes you a priority, not an option.

7. Not everyone is meant for marriage.

Just because someone’s motivations in life are different than yours, that doesn’t automatically make them wrong and you right. I spent too much time feeling morally superior to the guys I met that weren’t necessarily looking for forever in every romantic encounter. I thought myself a better person than them because isn’t marriage the best option for society and why weren’t they seeking it like I was? Wrong, wrong, wrong—life is a great deal more complex than that and people are, too. Not everyone is meant for marriage or forever. I think about this often. Would we be better off if we understood that monogamy is not a guarantee just because we so desperately want it to be?

8. There is no guarantee that they will love you back.

Just because you love someone, they are not obligated to love you back. Your love cannot change them or save them. Love is not the answer to all of life’s problems and sometimes it doesn’t make things better, it makes them worse. Try falling for someone who loves and is committed to someone else. There is no one giving you universal “love credits” for the suffering you endure in the pursuit of the impossible.

9. You shouldn’t have to be someone’s savior.

You are not some kind of martyr or hero for loving someone who needs you to understand or save them because no one else will. That just means that love has made you blind to what everyone else is seeing very clearly. Please only make this mistake once in your life—you will doubt your sanity and so will everyone else if you have a revolving door for the unlovable installed in your heart.

10. Love may not last forever.

Love may not last forever. It is a living, breathing thing that requires work, sacrifice, and compromise. It will not always feel wonderful and be perfect, but when it feels the worst is when you need to work the hardest to make it last. You don’t get to “give up trying” when you are in a relationship, because that can lead to the stagnation and death of love. Nothing good comes easy; this is especially true for love.