5 Things to Know Before You Enter a Relationship


“Relationships are about two individuals who maintain their own lives and create another one together.” ~Unknown

I’ve never been one to casually date because I believe in the storybook romance of a whimsical love that withstands all odds.

I blame this on my parents who met as teenagers and have maintained their marriage through both triumphs and hardships. Because of this, I always believed that my first love was going to be my forever.

However, about a year ago I had to let go of the love of my life. He was my high-school sweetheart, and as we grew up through college and started taking our own paths after that, the pressure became too great.

We weren’t living in the same city and he was working full time, while I decided to go back to school and wait tables on the weekends. It became clear that we wanted to take different journeys with our lives.

Also, I began to realize that I fell in love with the man I wanted him to be rather than the man he was. I’ve carried a lot of guilt about this part of the relationship. He’s truly an amazing man, but I caught myself trying to change things about him.

It’s not fair to push your partner to be different. People have to change because they want to change, not because they feel forced to change to appease someone else.

I’ve spent the past year trying to understand and come to terms with my decision. I know I will always carry him in my heart, but I’ve learned that even the greatest of loves shouldn’t come between me and my intuition.

I’m now single and actively pursuing a career that will open a world of possibilities for me. I’d like to bring to my next relationship the understanding of these five things below.

Knowing and embracing these things will allow me to have a deeper understanding of myself, which will in turn allow me to maintain a healthy relationship with someone worthy of my love.

Five Things to Know Before Your Next Relationship

1. Know your worth.

Far too often we stay in relationships that are less than gratifying because we don’t value ourselves.

A fundamental change occurs once you realize what you are worth and what you deserve from a partner. Once you start believing that you deserve something deeply fulfilling, you will never settle for anything less.

Any effort to try and cheapen your value will be futile. The tide will have changed. Not only will you start respecting yourself, others will recognize this and respect you in return.

2. Know how to love with an open heart.

This is particularly difficult for me because I am so protective of my heart. It’s a defense mechanism that served me as a child, but it has hindered my ability to get close to people as an adult.

Loving with an open heart means embracing vulnerability. It’s essentially opening yourself up to the possibility of pain in order to strive for something beautiful. It’s not easy, but we can take solace in knowing we’re in all in this together.

We all want to be accepted and loved, and we are all terrified of heartache and pain. Once we understand this, it becomes easier to let our guard down and let others in.

Loving with an open heart takes extraordinary courage because nothing is more challenging than stepping out of the darkness and letting yourself be seen—but it’s worth it, because nothing is more fulfilling.

3. Know how to be compassionate.

The ability to recognize suffering and offer compassion is vital to a mutually supportive relationship.

We all have our own story of hardship, mistrust, and loss, as well as joy, love, and triumph. By listening with an open heart and mind, we can find commonalities in each other’s stories and foster compassion and love.

It’s not easy to nurture compassion in an egocentric society that sees emotion as weakness. Many of us focus on our own betterment without acknowledging the people around us, and repress our feelings to avoid judgment. But we need to embrace our own feelings to be able to embrace someone else’s.

4. Know your strengths and weaknesses.

Recognizing and understanding our limitations enables us to work on them and find partners who will complement us.

This can be tricky because our strengths and weaknesses are often one and the same. For example, I can be demanding, in that I am constantly trying to push my partners to be the best they can be. I place the same expectations on myself.

This is a weakness because I place heavy demands on partners, which can lead to disappointment and resentment. It’s a strength because it has pushed me to continue on my career path and achieve goals I’ve set for myself.

It’s perfectly okay to have qualities that are both redeeming and sometimes difficult. That’s what makes us unique. When we understand those qualities, we can both work on them and seek partners who will balance them.

5. Know what it’s like to be alone.

Too often we focus on romantic relationship because we fear being alone, and because it’s easier to get approval from someone else than it is to validate ourselves.

As a result, many people jump from one relationship to the next without fully understanding why the previous relationship didn’t work. This also leads incompatible people to get married or stay in relationships that no longer satisfy them.

Knowing who you are alone is the greatest gift you can give yourself. It pulls you away from the comforts of a relationship and allows you space to understand yourself and what makes you happy.

We all want to find our “other half,” but the best relationships occur when two whole people unite and allow their love to complement their already enriched lives.

These components were missing in the last chapter of my life, but I am looking forward to acknowledging them in the ones ahead.

Happy couple image via Shutterstock

About Sarah Farrell

Sarah Farrell graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010 and started on her Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2014. During 2011-2012, she spent a year living abroad in Santiago de Compostela, Spain where she taught English abroad in an elementary school.

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