Upon entering my sophomore year of high school, I had a hopeful vision for how that particular year would play out.
I knew it was the year I would finally, blissfully, manage to snag a boyfriend. I pictured myself walking the halls with him, laughing at something he said and tossing my perfect soft curls, my blue pastel pea coat appropriately fending off the fall chill.
First of all, I did not have soft, curly hair. I had thick, coarse hair that I can only also describe as lumpy. And I certainly did not own a blue pea coat. In fact, even if I had owned such a coat, I probably would have been too shy to wear it for fear of looking like I was trying to hard and instead settle for my usual American Eagle sweatshirt.
I believed dating someone would change me into the 16-year-old I actually wanted to be: poised, confident, and with better fashion sense.
Unfortunately, my high school boyfriends only made me acutely aware of my inability to not make out in public.
Relationships do change us, and hopefully for the better. Whether we learn more about ourselves through a breakup or live through the refinement of our own selfish hearts by putting another before ourselves, relationships shape us into different versions of ourselves.
I have now been in a relationship for almost a year and many of my perceptions about relationships, commitment, love, and myself have changed (for the much fuller and better!).
But there are three things I thought would change that actually haven't all that much:
A serious relationship did not change the way I feel about my friends.
From the outside looking in, I previously assumed my friends who are married or in serious relationships have less of a need for me. I mean, didn’t they have a best friend at their beck and call that they could also make out with? What did they need me for?
My relationship is fulfilling and meaningful, and he is truly one of my best friends, but that didn’t change the way I saw my best girlfriends.
My friendships were not suddenly less fulfilling to me, and I didn’t want to talk with them any less or share any less of my life with them. A romantic relationship is amazing, but my need for meaningful friendships has not changed in the way I feared it might (for which I'm grateful).
A serious relationship did not cancel out fear of my own inadequacies.
I always thought people in committed relationships were confident in what they were doing, like someone who has read Harry Potter eight times each and can tell you the proper outcome of each spell.
Experience adds expertise, but there is something deeply vulnerable about relationships that bring about questions for all of us at certain times.
I thought people in committed relationships looked at single people and thought,
“I have something figured out about love and life that you don’t.”
I don’t feel that way at all. I just happen to be in a relationship, and it happens to be going swimmingly.
I still have doubts about my own ability to put him before myself, to be happy in a full-time, hardcore relationship, to share my life with another person who also has a life. I don’t feel smarter or more capable or wiser than anyone else; I still feel like me, still trying to figure out my love life.
A serious relationship did not change the way I feel about couples on social media.
Here’s some real talk: Dear everyone, I am very much in love and often cannot believe my luck in the man I found. That being said, couples on social media are still kind of the worst.
Whenever I see a perfectly posed couple on social media, there’s still that little thing inside of me that says I should feel insecure.
I instantly think, People like them better, their love is perfect, they have it more figured out than me, they have mastered their epic hipster romance, etc.
Why do I do this? Why do we all compare ourselves to photos we see on social media that we know are edited and carefully selected?
Also, I still find myself overwhelmed by the amount of couple pictures I see every day on my feed. Like, does anyone hang out alone anymore?
These people have reached the point in their life where it is officially socially acceptable to have their own couple hashtag and post ten thousand couple selfies at a baseball game or with their goldendoodle puppy, and for that I congratulate them.
Though I am openly complaining about this, I truly wish I had more pictures to post of my boyfriend and I, because I get why people post these types of pictures.
It’s because you’re in love and you want to celebrate this person because they make you feel awesome and you do awesome stuff together, which is totally great!
But I also remember what it was like to be a deeply single person scrolling through Instagram and wondering why no one was in love with me and wondering if that would ever happen for me or if I was destined to die alone.
I am very aware of this, and not in a self-righteous way. I’m not trying to spare the poor single people from being sad at seeing my love. I’m trying to remember what it was like to be single and be aware that what you post affects other people -- people you may not even know.
I have found a relationship has changed me in ways I had always hoped for, but never could have predicted the wonderfulness of until I experienced it firsthand. And yet, there are things I carry into this relationship that still reflect me, whether its my fear of not doing this well or trying not to hate that couple who got married in a field in Iceland.
You can check out Cazey's guest post for Julia here: You Don't Need a Fairytale for a Happy Ending.
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