Oh, teenage Gemma. The things I wish you knew, about life, love, and so much more. But since that’s a lot to cover in one letter, let’s start with something a little simpler. Dating. The things you don’t know, teenage Gemma, could fill an O Chem textbook. If only I could share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned, sometimes the very, very hard way.
First, the basics.
Be honest with yourself, always. Do you like him, or do you like how much he likes you? Because, trust me, that will never be enough in the end. It’s flattering to have someone who clearly worships the ground you walk on, but don’t get so wrapped up in what he thinks of you that you don’t really think through what you think of him. It’s a two-way street, and there is nothing wrong with deciding that someone simply isn’t for you. Dating isn’t about long term commitment, it’s about trying something on for size. If it grows into something more serious, that’s fantastic, but if not, there is nothing wrong with deciding it’s not really for you. You’ll both hurt a lot more the farther you let it go.
In that same ‘be honest’ vein, be honest about yourself! If you think a band sucks, say so. Don’t pander to someone’s tastes to make them think you’re cool. You know what’s cool? Having opinions and sticking by them. Remember who you are, always. They should be as interested in learning from you as you are from them, and if they blow off your interests, that’s a pretty big red flag.
Balancing friends and a boyfriend is always tricky, but trust me, it can be done. I know you hate it when your friends disappear into relationship-land, and that your BF hates it when you ditch him all the time for your friends. It may not seem like it, but you’ve got time for everyone. You might have to shuffle some things around, and you might have less ‘you’ time, but it’s there.
Give people a chance! Just because someone doesn’t fit whatever idea you have of who your boyfriend will be, doesn’t mean that you couldn’t be great together. You’ll learn things, try things, and go places you probably never would have otherwise, and that is one of the beautiful things about relationships. You don’t need to date people who only like the same things you like. That would make life pretty boring, no?
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. How many times have you been disappointed and angry because someone let you down, when they didn’t even know what you were talking about? That’s what people mean when they say ‘good communication.’ The same applies for his side of the story. Are you listening to what he wants? Are you willing to compromise when the two opinions diverge? Pay him the sort of attention you want him to pay you, and expect the same in return.
Sadly and scarily enough, my analytical young one, there are no hard and fast rules about finding love, or learning what it is you do and don’t need in a relationship. There are no infallible examples to turn to. Don’t look to other couples to be models of what your relationship should be. Yours is yours alone, and you can’t judge what is ‘good’ or ‘right’ by what other people have. Are you happy? Really? Then that’s enough.
Finally, in my experience, the oldest advice remains the truest. He should always, and above all, make you laugh. There is no other way to live.
(Older and wiser) Gemma