Originally published on YourEngagement101.com.
I’ve convinced myself that by the time I’m 30, I will have it all figured out. By then, I’ll be where I want to be in my career – with flashy bylines and book deals. I’ll be in the best shape of my life – after finally giving up late-night greasy food to run marathons. I’ll be with a man so wonderful I won’t believe I’m so lucky to have him – after so many no-good, terrible dates that left a bad emotional aftertaste. I’ll have more money saved in the bank for a future that seems bright and certain – because I was smart throughout my 20s and tucked away cash as I earned it.
But just like the other monumental years came and passed already – 18, 21, 25 – I’m sure when I reach 30, I’ll be looking forward to 35 to be the all-perfect age. That being said – I do believe your 20s are for making mistakes and learning the hard lessons of dating and love and well, life. And then (hopefully) your 30s are a time to rejoice in your newfound confidence, and reap the rewards of your hard work.
Or at least a gal can hope, right?
Though I still have five years to go, here are 15 things I think you need to know about love before you turn 30:
You can’t screw up what’s meant to be.
You can try really hard. And I mean really, really hard. But if you’re meant to be with someone, you will be with them. Let yourself off the hook for that total freakout moment with your boyfriend over the dirty dishes – if he’s the right guy, he’ll forget about it tomorrow.
You can’t love anyone until you love yourself.
And the relationship you have with yourself will be the most difficult, often most toxic and disappointing relationship of them all. It’ll require constant attention, change, acceptance and most of all, love. But you can’t be a great girlfriend or wife or mother until you’re a great you.
Men are people too.
That’s right, they’re not just meant for our enjoyment or to propose to us or to fix things. They are living, breathing humans that make mistakes and aren’t always perfect. Don’t put them on a pedestal or make unreasonable demands – love them as they are, or don’t love them at all.
Not all relationships are meant to be forever.
You may want to marry that guy that’s incredibly unavailable – but so charming. You might think you can wave a magic wand and change him. But you can’t. And you shouldn’t want to. Learn what you can from every relationship so you can bring those lessons to the relationship.
Love is going to suck. And it’s going to hurt.
There is really only one relationship in all of the relationships that you’ll be in that actually makes it. That means there will be more bad than good – but it’s always worth it in the end. Savor those tough times because they make you a better partner.
Even when all of your friends are happily in love. Or getting married. Or having babies. Do not find some guy to fit some checkbox. It’s better to be incredibly picky than to be unhappy in a marriage for the rest of your life.
You’re going to fall in love with ideas.
You’re going to meet a guy that seems so incredible and you’ll build him up in your head and he won’t be anywhere near that. You’re also going to like a guy and like all of the ideas about him on paper, but you won’t fall in love with him. Don’t stop dreaming, but don’t love ideas more than you love a man.
It’s not a race.
You don’t have to sleep with him on the third date (unless you want to). You don’t have to be married by the time you’re 30 (unless you found someone you want that kind of love with). You don’t have to get engaged after precisely two-and-a-half years of dating (so don’t give him an ultimatum). Slow down, enjoy the process. Trust.
You have to have your heartbroken a few times.
And it’s going to really, really suck. You’re going to feel like you will never, ever feel such a powerful connection with someone else again. You’ll feel worthless and hopeless and so lonely, but there’s sun at the end of the storm.
Dating can be educational.
On some dates, you’ll know within five seconds if you like them or not. On others, it might take a few to figure it out. Even if you don’t want to jump a guy’s bones, figure out what you can learn from this one-hour-drink-date and how it can be fun. Not all guys are winners, but they all teach you something.
He can’t read your mind. (And you can’t read his).
The minute you start expecting your partner to know everything about you and know the right thing to do in every situation… is the minute your relationship starts to crumble. Try not to overanalyze, try not to give more meaning than deserved. Try not to be too hard on him – or yourself. Communication is key.
Don’t underestimate sex.
Sex surely isn’t everything – but if you can’t connect under the covers, you’ll have a hard time getting through bumps in the future. The happiest of couples have a place – a bed – to come home to and reconnect. Don’t settle for lackluster, strive for fireworks.
It’s not going to look how you thought it would look.
You might think you’ll marry a banker with a head full of hair – and you may end up with a wonderful teacher that’s losing his. You might think you’d never date a guy who had kids from a previous marriage, but the way he parents may be something that makes you melt for him. Keep your standards and your preferences, but be open to a little change from the dream man in your head.
You’re worth it.
You’re not perfect, he’s not perfect – but you do deserve someone who sees all of those imperfections as things that make you wonderful. There is someone who will be madly, profoundly, incredibly in love with you. Wait for him. Believe he exists.
Don’t give up.
Love is everywhere around you, even when you don’t see it. And one day, it’ll find its way to your heart. No doubt about it. Just don’t give up on it… and it won’t give up on you.