Hey ya’ll, it’s Brittany. You can typically find me over on brittanyhoell.com, but apparently some sad human being decided he felt compelled to hack my blog. So, since I currently have no access to my own website, Tony – the creator of Free & Above & an incredible friend – graciously offered me his blog as the home for my words today.

Today is Valentine’s Day. The day where you see excess amounts of red and pink floating through the world. The day of hearts, chocolates, and roses. The day where love is celebrated, love is mourned, and love is craved. Today is Valentine’s Day, the day of love.

While I’m currently single, I really enjoy dating. I love getting to know new people, and on the reare occasion that someone clicks just right with me, I love being in relationships too. That being said, none of my relationships thus far have worked out -hence the whole being single thing. Even though I’ve had my share of heartache, I don’t regret a single one of those relationships. I firmly believe that each and every person in your life teaches you something - & the people you date happen to teach you a lot of somethings.

So without further ado, here are a few of the things I’ve learned throughout the course of my crazy roller-coaster of a love life.

Make time for your friends.

It’s great when your partner is your best friend. Your partner should be your best friend.

But that being said, you should make time for your own friends too. Not the friends that the two of you share, but your own friends.

First & foremost, your friends have stuck with you through a lot. They’ve been with you through the tough times, they’ve supported you when you’ve needed them to, and they’ve celebrated your accomplishments with you. They deserve to still be a part of your life, and you need to remember to make time for them.

Second, while quality time is wonderful, sometimes you and your partner need time apart to be your own people. Ladies, let him have his guys’ nights. If you’re dating him, you should be able to trust him. Let him go out with his boys & let him do so without you having to text him and check up on him the whole time. You are a wonderful part of his life, but he needs to be with his friends too. Men, let your girl go out with her friends. You shouldn’t dictate whether or not she goes dancing with her girls or goes and hangs out with her friends from back home.

Trust each-other, and let them have time for themselves and their friendships too. Don’t forget to let them grow as an individual sometimes.

Make sure you are more valuable to them than just your body.

Physical aspects of relationships are dope. As long as things are consensual and safe, ya’ll do ya’lls thing.

But here’s the catch: you should be able to hang-out with your partner without things needing to get physical. If you want to watch Zootopia, he/she needs to be able to respect the fact that you legitimately want to watch a movie & you’re not looking to “Netflix & Chill”. If your partner is unhappy or angry when you suggest hanging out without anything happening, they may be valuing the physical benefits of the relationship more than the actual relationship.

Also, someone who really respects you will want to know your boundaries. Someone who truly respects you won’t pressure you to do things that make you uncomfortable – even if those things had been part of relationships for that person in the past.

I dated a guy once who sat me down one night & asked me to tell him exactly where I stood and how I felt about the physical aspect of our relationship. He wanted to establish clear boundaries & he let me know that my comfort level was more important to him than anything else- he told me that it was my body and that I should never feel pressured or uncomfortableabout anything regarding my body. It was a really emotional, tough conversation, but I gained so much respect and love for him during it. If the person you’re dating isn’t mature enough to have that conversation with you – to make sure that you two are on the same page when it comes to physical things – then you may need to reassess your relationship.

Don’t ever let your partner demean you or make you feel inferior.

Once, I dated a guy who constantly brought me down. No matter my accomplishments – no matter how good I felt about myself – he would feel the need to tear me down. He would feel the need to one-up my accomplishments or tell me how much better other people were than me, and it wore me down. It was exhausting to have to continuously try to prove myself worthy of his affection.

The relationship ended with me feeling inferior and ashamed of who I was.

Your partner should be proud of your accomplishments. He/she should be your #1 fan. You should be able to know that win or lose, they’ll be by your side supporting you. I’m not saying they have to tell you that you’re perfect, but when you mess up, they should be able to build you up & support you in ways that uplift you instead of degrade you.

You should never let someone make you feel like you aren’t enough. Trust me, I’ve been there. You are worthy of love, and if someone treats you like you’re not, that speaks volumes about who they are, not who you are.

Date to marry.

Geez, this one is scary.

I’m not saying you need to date someone & immediately start planning the names of your children. That’s crazy & I solidly advise against it.

That being said, the point of dating is to find a potential life-long partner. If you date someone and you start to realize that they’re lacking qualities or traits that you want in a future spouse, you’re probably wasting both of your time. If a guy cheats on you, think about what that suggests for your future together. If a girl is insanely possessive and jealous, think about what sort of wife she would make. If marrying a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim is important to you, and you don’t ever see the possibility of change in a person to become that, then you need to address that with them – instead of quietly hoping for the best.

Don’t let the fear of being lonely make you stay in relationship that doesn’t have a positive future ahead of it.

They should love your passion.

Let me explain.

They don’t need to be passionate about your passions. But they need to love your passion.

They need to love seeing you get excited about something you are passionate about, and they need to support your passions – even if they don’t understand them.

My mom is a violinist & she has a passion for playing her violin. My dad knows nothing about music, but he can listen to her play her violin for hours. It’s not that he loves classical music – it’s that he loves her passion for playing classical music. He loves watching her play & he loves supporting her when she performs on stage. He doesn’t love the violin; he loves her love for the violin.

Find someone who loves the passion in your eyes when you love something. Find someone who wants to listen to you ramble on and on about what you are passionate about. Find someone who is passionate about your passion.

They should make you a better, happier, more confident person.

You become like the people you surround yourself with. Don’t forget that.

The person you date should make you a better person. Even if the relationship ends, you should be able to leave the relationship a better person than you were going in.

I struggled with body image issues for years – and then I dated a guy who actually wanted to talk to me about it. He wanted to know why I hated my body & then he spent weeks and weeks and weeks trying to fix me. He made me talk about things I hated to talk about – insecurities I had never verbalized – and then he built me back up. He taught me how to love my body & he helped me see myself through a pair of loving eyes instead of through self-loathing eyes.

The relationship ended, but the positive things he taught me did not.

If the person you are dating is not building you up & if you are not building them up, then something is wrong. And if/when that relationship ends, you’ll be left feeling broken & defeated.

Sacrifice.

Sacrifice is such a big part of relationships, but I think it’s the part so many of us struggle with the most.

There’s the natural sacrifices that come along with a relationship – sacrificing “the single life”, sacrificing your free time, sacrificing your energy. But then there’s other sacrifices too – admitting you’re wrong in an argument, putting his/her needs before your own, changing negative habits to prioritize your partner.

A relationship should be about mutual sacrifice. If only one partner is sacrificing for the other, the relationship won’t work. It has to go both ways.

Sacrifices also can’t be used as currency.

“I did this for you so now you need to do that for me.”

Sacrifices shouldn’t be counted or kept track of. They shouldn’t be used to hold over someone’s head. A true sacrifice is done because you believe that the person you love is more important than yourself. You’re prioritizing their needs over your own, not acquiring bargaining chips.

Dates are important.

Want to know what’s really annoying?

“Hey, what do you want to do tonight?”

“I don’t care. Whatever you want to do.”

Ya’ll. Plan dates. This is not directed just to men either. Both of ya’ll need to plan dates.

Go hiking. Pack a picnic. Play Frisbee in the park. Cook dinner together. Go to a concert.

Dates do not need to be expensive, but they do need to exist. It’s so easy to fall into the same routine of doing the same thing every day. But dates show your partner that you care enough about them to put in effort and plan – they add fun & excitement to life. They add a spark to things. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple date – and remember that effort trumps money.

The best date of my life was a day spent hiking. We hiked 18 miles, set up hammocks in a tree, and read our favorite books while eating homemade trail mix. It wasn’t an expensive date, but he had put in the effort to remember the things I loved – books, food, and the outdoors – and he found a way to mix them all into one date.

Go. On. Dates.

Learn how to say you’re sorry & also learn how to forgive.

“I’m sorry.”

Those two words are hard to say, huh? But they’re crucial to a relationship. They take sacrifice – the sacrifice of your pride, but they’re so important. They show your partner that you value them and their feelings over your own ego.

You also need to learn how to forgive. If you tell someone that you forgive them, you have to mean it. You can’t continue to hold it over their head or bring it up every time you get mad at them. You can’t use your forgiveness as a bargaining tool.

You also need to give someone the chance to apologize. Shutting them out before they have the chance will ruin any/all attempts of continuing a relationship. If you truly love someone, you’ll at least offer them the chance to apologize – and you’ll listen to their apology – before making your decision to keep them in your life or not. If you truly love someone, you offer them forgiveness. It doesn’t mean you forget what they did – and it doesn’t mean that you have to stay with them – but offering them forgiveness gives them the chance to heal and move on. If you love someone, regardless of what they did, you should at least allow them the chance to heal.

Finally, prioritize your partner.

Your partner should be your priority. If you truly love someone, then you should be able to prioritize them. Maybe they need to be prioritized over your life of crazy partying. Maybe they need to be prioritized over a substance addiction. Maybe they need to be prioritized over something as simple as your bad mood.

Whatever it is that is hurting your relationship with your partner – figure out which is more important to you. If your partner is less important to you, maybe you should reevaluate your relationship. If your partner is more important to you, maybe you should act upon that and make them feel like they are as important to you as they actually are.

There are few things in life more painful than prioritizing someone who doesn’t see you as a priority.

I guess I’ve learned a lot.

This Valentine’s Day, I am sending you all so much love. I pray that each & every one of you finds someone who makes you feel worthy, respected, and absolutely, beautifully happy.

Love,

Brittany

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