Sunday, 12 November 2017

Five Relationship Lessons I'd Give My Teenage Self.



As much as I do tend to spend a lot of time worrying or fretting over things I can't change, I really have learnt a lot about relationships and people in the last 15 years (FIFTEEN YEARS since I became a teenager, grim). When I look back at it there are a few lessons I wish I could give to my younger self about dealing with others...

It's a cliché, but stop wasting time on people who really don't matter.

I lost my heart to numerous boys over the years, with one, in particular, taking up a lot of my time between the ages of 14 and 16. I seemed to gravitate to people who were angsty and emotional and hard work; people whose approval I was always seeking because it was so hard to gain. I tried so hard to make them happy when it was never my responsibility.

When I think about this now, it makes me feel so disappointed for Teenage Me. I accepted horrible behaviour from these people - words that still linger in the back of my head even now - because they were always followed up by the sliver of a compliment. I clung to the kind words, saved the sweet texts... and then six months later when I had been unceremoniously dumped by one boyfriend's best friend (yes, he got his friend to call and break it off because he hadn't got the balls) his new girlfriend showed me her own phone, filled with word-for-word carbon copies of the sweet nothings I'd held on to. So much for being special.

I wasted so much time on boys who cheated on me, who lied to me and who took out their own issues on me at a time when I was struggling myself. Even when I was in university aged 17, I fell for another guy's absolute BS. I seemed to believe that a relationship would save me - something I still have issues with. I'd love to be able to go back to Teenage Me and remind her that we always have options: don't settle for anything that doesn't make you happy just because you're scared of having nothing at all.

There's no such thing as a 'Cool Girl'.

In a somewhat related note, I'd also tell her to drop the idea of being a Cool Girl - you know, one of those types that prides themselves on how 'different' from other girls they are *rolls eyes*. I had quite a few male friends as a teenager, and I always wanted to be the kind of girl that boys would want to hang out with. I found some emails recently from back then that made me actually angry. These guys would mock me openly and I'd laugh along with them to prove that I wasn't uptight or unable to laugh at myself - 'like all the other girls'. But the things I was reading were so hurtful. 

I sacrificed time I could've been spending with girls who always treated me with respect in order to hang around with guys who treated me like a joke. I don't know why I craved their attention but I needed male approval to feel validated, even when it came in the form of abusive comments and jokes. That university guy I mentioned earlier? Same thing. Don't get me wrong, by the time I met him I'd started to fight back but I allowed comments to be made about me publicly, to be seen by all my friends and flatmates, and to be made to feel like shit - and yet I kept associating with him. Whyyyy?! *bangs head off desk repeatedly*. 

I hate the fact I grew up as someone who denigrated other young women - who acted like what they were interested in, how they interacted with each other and what they had to say was beneath me. I still hate when I see girls say "I prefer to hang out with boys because girls are bitches". I was that girl, and the only bitch was me. Yes, of course, some girls are bitches. But from looking at these emails it's crystal clear some guys are too! It's a case of finding a quality person instead of focusing on their gender. You just need to find your tribe and love them regardless of what genitalia they have. And you certainly don't need to put anyone of any gender down in order to be 'cool'. 


You can't change people.

Teenage Me used to think that I could mould others to get rid of certain less-than-positive traits. Truth is, this absolutely never works. You can't stop someone from doing what they want to. You can't make someone treat you with more respect or make someone consider your feelings when they decide to spend the whole weekend with their ex despite having cheated on you with them before (not that this is getting personal or anything...). You cannot change the way someone is - all you can do is change your reaction to it. 

You might think that shouting and yelling at someone will get your message across - and perhaps in some cases, it does. For me, though, it showed people that yes, I was angry, but I was still prepared to spend time on our relationship. It gave them security in knowing I still cared. It was only when I stopped yelling about "if you ever do this again..." and instead walked away that they even attempted to buck up their ideas. Luckily by that point, I had realised that their behaviours were nothing to do with me and were their own issues. I couldn't change them and I deserved better. If only Teenage Me had done the same!

Don't hold onto a grudge.

People mess up all the time. Friendships and relationships can end over such stupid things. I've lost friends I thought I'd have for life, and if I still acted the way I did as a teenager, I'd act like those people don't exist. But when you're carrying around that kind of negativity, who is it really hurting?

I know that putting time and effort into a grudge is exhausting and reductive. It doesn't do anything apart from making you unhappy. There are so many things to be directing your energy towards, why spend it all on something so nasty? When I finally learnt to let go of the past and the way other's had 'wronged me' I felt relief. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and my outlook on relationships became so much more positive.


COMMUNICATE.

I've said this so many times that it's probably really annoying, but it's something that Teenage Me really struggled with. People are not psychic. I know that I've spent days seething with rage about something that the other person isn't even aware has upset me. Who is that helping?!

Sometimes people do shitty things and they know they are shitty. Sometimes though they just don't see why you might find it shitty. People tend to be stuck in their own perspective which is understandable. However, sitting around sulking because they haven't magically understood that you are hurt is useless. You need to communicate with them.

I've talked about this before regarding my best friend from uni who just... stopped liking me. It was a gradual process that felt unstoppable, and perhaps it was. But the thing is we never, ever spoke about it. I never asked her if there was something I'd done or if there was anything I could make better. I never asked her why she was posting horrible stuff about me online. I still, ten years later, do not know what I did. I wonder whether we'd still be friends if I'd been brave enough to just talk to her.

It is so scary to acknowledge and confront a situation that is making you unhappy, but it really is the only way you'll get the answers you need. You might even be able to save a relationship - and that's definitely worth the risk.



What relationship lessons would you give to your younger self?
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8 comments

  1. "Stop wasting time on people who really don't matter." I love it. It's not even my teenage self that needed to learn that lesson, it's me 1 year ago. It took me so long to learn how to just cut my losses when relationships weren't making me feel good, but it's the most important lesson I've learned. Not just in my dating life, but in all of my relationships.

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  2. so true not only teenage self need to hear it alot of us adults need to hear this also!!
    www.mssparkleandglow.com

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  3. Girl, yes. This post is honestly so good. I especially relate to the first point - I was in a relationship from 14 to 17 with the same guy and I was treated like absolute crap. I’m now going to save this post and read through it again when I need to, as I think for me most of these also apply to friendships. I still need to hear this sometimes!

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  4. This. Is. A. Great. Post. So many truisms and so much good advice that's still valid for me today, never mind when I was a teenager. I think, for what it's worth, we sometimes need to experience certain things the hard way because that's the only way we'll ever learn what's really important. And who is really worth it, ourselves included. Thank you, Beth, this post really resonated with me. And your photos are gorgeous, as always. X

    Lisa | www.lisasnotebook.com

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  5. I wasted so much time on people that don't matter growing up. Not guys, but girls that I wanted to be friends with so badly!

    Corinne x
    www.skinnedcartree.com

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  6. Brilliant post lovely! Some really valuable lessons here. I also tend to gravitate towards boys / men who are emotional and hard-work as well. Nothing wrong with being emotional of course but there's a line for sure. I also wasted a LOT of time with someone around the age of 15/16 and I learnt a lot of lessons from that! I don't know if I'd change it because it was an experience and I supposed shaped me a bit - however dire it may have seemed at the time!

    Jenny
    http://www.jennyinneverland.com

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  7. Gosh I so agree with you. I’ve now been single for a year and totally loving finding me again. Before that I spent 5 years of my life on a relationship that was toxic and just awful (though it started off well, as they all do). A note to myself would be to pay attention to the early signs of disappointment and toxicity, and get out before you let it drag on for so long!

    Claudia xo

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  8. I would tell myself that boys and love really won't matter as much as you think it does when you get older, and that you don't have to try and be cool and get a boyfriend just because everyone else is doing it!

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