Opinion: It’s Important to Know Yourself Before You Get Into a Relationship

With my current love. Photo: Supplied

Let me set the scene. I’m nineteen and I’ve fallen in love with a boy I just met. From the moment he walked into my friend’s kitchen and introduced himself, I knew I felt something for him.

A few hours later, I found out that he’d just come back from Colombia, where he’d left a girl he’d fallen in love with, to come back to Australia and finish uni. It was clear he felt something between us too because he only brought her up once out of necessity and refused to go into any more details throughout the day.

So, you’re probably thinking: RED FLAGS ALERT. That’s fair, there were extreme red flags and I noticed them. But pretended I didn’t.

I was nineteen. I was still under the impression that at least half of my success was defined by a man loving me back and I felt pretty ready to make that happen.

So, I allowed myself to not only fall in love with a man who was still in love with someone else but was also still dating her. Throughout our entire year-long relationship, he was in a long-distance relationship with someone else and although we never spoke about it, I know that he knew that I knew.

It’s sounding bad, I know, but we were really in love. When I look back on it now, it still feels like love. I made the choice to enter into a relationship with him, knowing full well that I was signing myself up for heartbreak. But I was willing to do it anyway. I’d been waiting for my dramatic love story since the start of high school.

As you can imagine, our relationship was pretty messy. He was really bad at replying to my messages and my entire emotional stability depended on him being in my life, so it wasn’t a healthy combo.

Every day for that entire year, I lived in fear that he’d decide he didn’t love me back.

But I didn’t know myself. I didn’t know what it was like to be a single woman, living in the world independently and with my own power. I’d had limited sexual experience, limited life experience and therefore, very limited confidence that I could be who I wanted to be on my own.

When we finally broke up, it was a relief. What I felt was the worst possible thing that could happen, had happened, and I felt free, knowing that I didn’t have to worry about making him love me anymore.

I began to explore the world on my own and it was empowering.

As young women, we’re taught that our entire purpose is to be desirable to men. When you wake up and realise that our purpose goes so far beyond men, relationships and being desirable, it’s overwhelming and exhilarating.

I moved to a new city. I had lots of sex. I made friends in random places and became a ‘yes’ person, who found herself in a different venue or at a different fabulous party every week.

I realised that I could control how people responded to me and that I could make decisions that felt true to me without having to explain myself to anyone. I began sleeping with women, I began writing in my journal again and I began to return to the individual I once was, who lived in a world of her own and didn’t need anyone else to feel whole.

This ‘finding yourself’ moment happens to all of us at different times throughout our lives, usually right after we’ve experienced something traumatic or extreme, that pushes us to start again.

During my period of figuring sh*t out, I attracted a lot of people that I wouldn’t necessarily call ‘right’ for me, but they were right for that moment… if you know what I mean? I had short relationships, flings and friendships with people whose lifestyles intrigued me or aligned with mine, that were fun and sometimes educational, but not long-term.

Through that process, I found my now-closest friends. They are from all different periods of my life and we’ve grown together and stuck together, which has bonded us in an unbreakable way.

And now, at age 26, I’m in a relationship that is right for me because I know myself better now. I know who I am when I’m alone, and I like that version of myself. I’m not afraid to be her anymore.

It is so different from my past relationships, I can barely recognise the girl who would have anxiety attacks waiting for her boyfriend to call her back.

As much as it’s cliche and regardless of how many times we’ve all heard it, you can’t expect to be able to give your heart to someone else, if you don’t know yourself. You’ll find yourself in a world of insecurity and anxiety instead of rewarding and enjoyable love.

My advice is this: don’t rush into a relationship. You have your whole life to fall in love and trust me, it will happen many times. Embrace being single and enjoy spending time with yourself. It takes practice but once you nail it, your love story will be just around the corner.

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