We learn a lot about love from our romantic relationships, but our friends can sometimes be the best teachers when it comes to dating. Not only can we learn what our best qualities are and how to have healthy boundaries via our friendships, which can help us find better mates, but friends often give us great advice about how, when, and why to love or leave a partner. Here are some of the things I’ve learned in the past few years about dating, sex, and love from heart-to-hearts with my friends:
11 Things My Friends Taught Me About Dating, Sex, and Love 1 of 12
It’s okay to fall in love easily 2 of 12
I was laughing with a friend recently about the fact that I fall in love a million times a day, kind of making fun of myself for being such a pushover when it comes to romance. I was feeling like a dork thinking that this guy had a crush on me, then discovering he had a girlfriend and he was just — wait for it! — a genuinely nice person. (This happens to me ... what's the best way to say it ... not infrequently?) She assured me that it's okay to fall in love with people. She said, "Fall in love with as many people as you want, and then choose one. You choose him." I thought that was great advice. I mean, I don't plan to go around choosing someone who's got somebody, but there's enough love to go around. No need to use it sparingly.
Falling in love is scary, but not letting yourself love means you’re a little bit dead inside 3 of 12
It's true — all these attempts we make at romance make us vulnerable, but as Brene Brown would say, our vulnerability is our strength. Staying open to love is courageous, and courage is what leads to success and fulfillment.
If you haven’t had something in a while, it’s okay to crave it like candy 4 of 12
I was like super-seriously-single in the wake of my divorce. I didn't even consider dating anybody for a year-and-a-half. Then when I did start dating, I realized how affection-deficient I was. One of my sagest friends told me at that time, "If you haven't had something in a while, it's okay to crave it like candy." But we all know, even though candy tastes great, it can be bad for you if you eat it too much. So, make sure your long-term relationships are nutritious and good for you, and not just full of empty, sugary calories.
Just relax and enjoy things for what they are 5 of 12
If you date enough people, you realize that each dating relationship is unique and lasts for a particular amount of time, with its own purpose and lesson to offer you. If you haven't dated a lot of people, is that because you've tried to force what wasn't really meant to be a long-term thing into one? I can relate. Instead, try a new approach. Date somebody a few times, and rather than trying to make him/her be "the one," let him/her be who they truly are to you. I went out with a guy four times and knew we weren't meant to be together, but I will never forget those four dates because they were really fun. And they were really fun because (among other reasons) I wasn't forcing a long-term relationship to materialize. Don't pull a Miley Cyrus and come in like a Wrecking Ball when you're dating. Just relax and go with the flow.
Keep him/her in Missouri 6 of 12
Have you ever tried dating someone a second (or third ... or fourth) time? Most of us have, at one point or another. We like someone, but things aren't quite right, so we take a break and try again hoping the relationship will work out. For some people, these second chances do work. I have a friend who is happily married as a result of a second chance romance. One way to help these do-over affairs succeed is by doing what a smart, hilarious friend of mine told me to do when I was in Round Two with a boo. "Keep him in Missouri," she said. "It's the Show-Me State." Rather than do all the work in the relationship, she told me to let him show me he was interested in moving forward. I did hang back a bit more the second time, and it made me realize that he just wasn't as into being together as I was. Keeping him in Missouri saved me from a lot of misery in the end.
Trust your gut 7 of 12
I have learned this lesson (and/or not learned this lesson) over and over in romantic relationships. At this point, I'm able to discern when I feel uncomfortable or that the right chemistry isn't there, but what I needed help with was giving myself permission to respond accordingly to those clues. A friend told me, "It's okay to stop dating someone as soon as you realize it won't work." You don't owe anybody anything. You have given your date your time and your company — that is a fair exchange for his time and his company. Anyone who is making you feel guilty is bad news, and you should definitely find the strength to cut that kind of romance as short as possible before it becomes more toxic.
Make a list of what you love about everyone you’ve ever dated, then find those things in yourself 8 of 12
My Buddhist friend suggested this to me. You can't feel alone when you have a good relationship with yourself, so try supplying yourself with what you're looking for externally. Similarly, I suggested to a friend she make a list of everything she's looking for in a guy and cultivate those things in herself, thus drawing those qualities to her.
It’s awesome to be proud of abstaining 9 of 12
Face it, ladies: Sometimes it's more appealing to go home alone after a night at the club than to have terrible, awkward sex just to prove that you still can. Maybe men feel the same way. A friend of mine is so loud and proud about her periods of abstinence, she taught me not to feel ashamed of having either an accidental or purposeful dry spell. The same is true when it comes to being single or taking a break from dating. Ain't no shame in not playing the game!
Friendship is love, too 10 of 12
You don't have to feel lonely or empty if you're not dating anyone. Being single can be a powerful choice and a powerful experience, and there's lots of love around you as long as you've got friends. Don't be shy about reaching out to people to do stuff, to talk, to share feelings; people who took a happiness test showed as much as a 19% increase in happiness when they talked to someone important to them and explained why they were grateful for their friendship.
You’re never too old to find love 11 of 12
In moments of doubt, I sometimes wonder if I'm too old to find love again. I mean, I know I'm not "too old" because I'm still in my 30s, the age at which many of my peers are finally getting married. But finding love at any age is possible, in your 40s, 50s and beyond. A friend of mine found true love at 52. She says it's bliss and was well worth waiting for. There's a 103-year-old man in New York who is still looking for women to date! The point is, you're never past your prime when it comes to love.
When real love comes, you will be ready for it 12 of 12
I told a friend recently that I was scared that even if a real, kind, compassionate, gentle, nurturing love did walk into my life, I wouldn't know what to do with it. I'd probably feel overwhelmed and scared and run away or reject it. My friend responded: "That's not possible. Love is the universal language. Everyone understands it. So when it comes to you, you won't fear it and you can't screw it up. It's acceptance. You'll melt into it." I think she's right. And not just because that kind of love has the power to make you ready instantly, but because I think it probably waits for you to be ready (even if you don't realize you are) before it shows up.
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