Get Up, Stand Up! Stand Up for Your Rights (in Relationships)! [Confessions of a Twenty-Something]
Romantic relationships are tricky. They’re messy. They’re complicated. They’re completely consuming. They can leave us bruised, broken, and completely jaded from the heartbreak or dishonesty that usually come along for the bumpy ride. Romantic relationships can also be exhilarating and elating. They can make us the happiest we’ve been in our lives. They can leave us giggling and smiling like a goon for no reason other than because someone loves us. They can tear our whole world apart. They can put it all back together.
As twenty-somethings, our relationship with relationships changes faster than the Facebook layout, but no matter how our feelings sway, we somehow end up with a head full of complexity and a heart full of emotions for someone, somewhere. Why is it that during the most confusing time in our lives we are also forced to deal with love—the most intense and consuming idea of all human existence? That doesn’t seem fair, Universe. Cut us some slack!
I’ve always been pretty wary in my ability to take on any kind of “love trouble” that has come my way. I cannot sit here and lie to all of you. I’m not some love guru with all the answers and tips on how to “get the guy” because I am still trying to figure that out too. Is there even a “right” way to get a guy? I feel like my girlfriends who are in successful and healthy relationships each have a different way of approaching and handling their man. Maybe this means that everyone has to adopt his or her own style when it comes to dating. And like I’ve said in earlier posts, everyone just needs to be themselves. Even though that advice seems to be the common key for a successful relationship, I can’t shake the dreaded thought of being rejected for “being myself.” It has always loomed over and haunted me whenever I stumble (and trust me, I always stumble, and occasionally fall flat on my face) into a new relationship.
I’ve been hitting some rocky roads lately when it comes to the male species, and though I’m still maneuvering through this rough terrain, I’ve had an epiphany of sorts. When it comes to relationships and men in general, I’ve always beaten myself up when things don’t work out. I’ll toss and turn in my bed, begging for my mind to turn off (it always refuses), and question every fiber of my being.
What did I do wrong? What is wrong with me? Why did I do that? Why didn’t I say that instead? Is it my looks? Is it my body? Was I not funny enough? Not smart enough? Bad in bed? Did he get to know “the real me,” and that’s why he bailed?
It’s just an endless stream of “woulda-coulda-shoulda.” It’s a self-loathing festival in my mind. It’s completely unhealthy and childish. Why am I constantly putting myself down and automatically assuming that I was the one completely at fault because a relationship failed? Maybe he’s just an idiot. Maybe he’s the one with the problem. Maybe I was being too hard on myself. I’m sure there are things that we both screwed up. So why did I always take full responsibility?
After talking to a few of my girlfriends and my mother (who is never wrong, ever), I began to realize that I am worth something. Maybe there is nothing “wrong” with me. After past breakups (and I am not proud to admit this, but I’m living in my truth these days), I have begged to be taken back–literally begged. I have cried and pleaded and promised impossible promises because I was so desperate to change, so that I could continue to force love on someone who didn’t love me anymore. I look back on those times and just shudder. I’m embarrassed and ashamed that I acted that way, but I had to do those things to get to where I am today.
As women, we’re under an insurmountable amount of pressure to be this cookie-cutter version of “the perfect woman” that none of us will ever be. I am guilty of starving myself for weeks to lose a few pounds or endlessly trying to find the perfect makeup palette that looks natural and effortless to try and achieve this impossible goal of perfection. Why? So some guy (who has already proven not to be worth my time or energy) will love me under certain circumstances? That doesn’t compute with me anymore, and it shouldn’t for you either.
I am who I am. I look how I look. I snort sometimes when I laugh, and I can’t get through a day without spilling something on my clothes. But I’m smart and driven too. For every flaw, there is a quality to make up for it. And when I love someone, I love them with everything I’ve got. I’m loyal and caring and honest. I’m the Golden Retriever of love. And when it comes to relationships, I’ve now realized that the man on the receiving end of my love needs to be willing to put forth just as much effort as I am because I deserve it. You deserve it too.
Don’t let some asshole walk all over you and play with your emotions because he can. You’re too good for that. Stand up for what you want. If you want a quick catchup phone call every other day, then you ask for it. If he’s unwilling, he’s not for you. If you want to take it a bit slower physically and he’s pushing you in the other direction, I say girlfriend, stand your ground! If he loves you and cares about your feelings, he’ll respect what you want. Don’t settle. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a little confidence now and then, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
And in regards to my most recent relationship, I’ve realized that maybe the object of my affection is the one who is making a huge mistake. I know that I tried and put in all I had, but every relationship needs to be a 50/50 partnership. So there will be no begging or pleading on my end. There will be no whining or yelling. There will be no epic speeches or drunk texts. No cries of, “No one will ever love you like I will!”
I’m done convincing myself that I’m the one who messed it all up. I’m done believing that I’m the one who didn’t do enough to make him want to stay. Rather than cowering and settling for whatever he’s willing to give me, I’ll be the one shrugging my shoulders and saying, “Your loss, honey,” as I turn on one heel and walk away.
I think that means this twenty-something girl is growing up.
Katie is finishing up her undergrad at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. She enjoys wasting hours on Facebook and tweeting things no one cares about. When asked the question, “Do you do marathons?” She promptly responds, “Of course! Which show?” Follow her @KatieGarrity! Or read her personal blog where she talks incessantly about Ryan Gosling and hummus here!