This weekend before the Fourth, I was in Chicago to be part of my friend Jamie's wedding. Jamie and I went to school at Indiana University together. I stood as a bridesmaid, alongside three of our closest friends from college. The entire weekend was emotional for me - Jamie and Ray are one of those couples that feel so right. Seeing the way they've both grown together and as individuals during the last five years made me so proud of them and honored to have been able to watch the process.
At the reception, I was dancing with the other bridesmaids when I realized that all five of us are in healthy relationships that vary from 12 months to five years in duration. The thought caught me off guard.
You see, it has not always been this way for us. It took us a long time to collectively reach this point.
There has been heartache and heartbreak. There have been guys who never called back. And guys we didn't want to call back. There have been guys who disappeared out of thin air. There have been breakups and fizzle outs and good dates and bad dates and mediocre dates. There have been periods of many dates and periods of no dates.
There has been a whole mess of unrest that naturally occurs when you date in your 20s and are yearning to know what your future holds.
It got me thinking about people our age and how it's really important that we don't settle for the wrong guy.
When you are craving comfort, ease and companionship, it's easy to go down the wrong path with someone. When you want to be married or in a relationship so badly, it's easy to begin the process with the wrong person. When you're aching to be known and end the deep loneliness that your 20s can bring, it can be tempting to settle. Especially as more and more of your friends continue to get engaged and married and have babies. The comparison trap is real and deep.
But I think it's really important that we don't confuse settling down with settling.
It can be tempting to ignore that feeling in your gut or the thoughts in the back of your mind that it might not be right. A lot of the emails I receive ask me this question: how do I know if it's right?
I can't answer that for you (although I do have personal rules on how you know if you should break up with someone).
And I can confidently tell you this:
And I can confidently tell you this:
- If you find yourself constantly questioning your relationship
- If you are staying in it because you're afraid of being single or spending weekends and weddings alone
- If you find yourself worried that all the good guys are taken
- If you find yourself constantly annoyed of someone
- If you are vacillating between wanting him to propose and thinking you should break up with him
- If you find yourself wondering what else is out there
These are worth examining. These aren't necessarily reasons to end a relationship. But, I know for sure they aren't reasons that you should stay.
Each of those reasons is wrapped in fear and the worst thing we can do is let fear be our guiding light.
There was definitely a time when I was willing to accept mediocre relationships instead of full, joyful relationships. I was afraid to begin again. I was afraid to spend Friday nights alone. I was afraid to lose my dance partner at weddings. And, deep down, I don't know if I truly believed I deserved a full relationship with the best love.
If you're like I was, take it from me: you deserve a really great relationship. You deserve to be pursued, respected and treated well. You deserve laughter and joy and happiness.
Will it always be easy? Nope. Will there ever be frustration and pain? Yep. But you won't find yourself lying awake at night, wondering if you're in the right relationship.