‘I love this face, I hope this face does well’

Wednesday marked three years since the day my boyfriend and I met. We don’t have an exact day that we started dating –– we’re really just wingin’ it over here guys –– so I consider the day we met to be our anniversary.

The days leading up to the day we met pretty accurately depicted our relationship to come. Because I didn’t want to hang out with him, then we made plans, then I ignored him for other plans, then he said we could hang out the next day and I nearly dubbed him again before finally agreeing –– roughly 30 minutes before –– to meet.

I consistently did my own thing, randomly and completely unorganized, all while he was patient and forgiving.

From that day forward, we saw each other at least every other day.

Now I promise this post isn’t going to be my sappy love story, because where’s the fun and self-growth in that? Today’s post is about how in the world I’m still with the same person who I never wanted to hang out with three years later, and what a healthy relationship has taught me about life, about myself and about learning how to be loved the right way.

Because believe me, I’ve been loved the wrong way.

I’ve been cheated on, lied to, exposed, gaslighted. But mostly, I’ve been exhausted. I’ve let myself get so invested in other people’s happiness that I forgot to care about my own.

My first ex-boyfriend and I dated for roughly three years, but let me tell you it was the longest three years of my life. After year two, we should’ve called it quits. He was depressed and instead of taking care of himself, he took it out on me. We were on and off, he was going out with other people and I was miserable.

I knew I deserved better, but I didn’t want it to be over.

And when we finally cut things off, I felt like I could finally have fun again. I could be myself and hang out with my friends and do things that my ex never wanted me to.

After spending three years defining myself as so-and-so’s girlfriend, I was finally my own person.

And so many people I know have felt the same way: trapped. In a relationship, a friendship, trapped in a date with a weirdo they met on the internet.

Because we do this all the time. We sacrifice our own happiness, whether for the length of one bad date or an entire bad relationship, and I think it’s because we just don’t adequately appreciate ourselves.

Think about it, if I knew my worth I would never have been in a three-year relationship with someone who said (to my face) that he was seeing other people. And this experience translates to basically every aspect of my life. If I appreciated myself I wouldn’t criticize my abilities; if I loved myself I wouldn’t tango with disordered eating; if I valued my mental health I wouldn’t be negative all the time.

Honestly, the hardest part of self-love for me has been that I always thought I had it. What I really had was an immense sense of insecure narcissism based in all of my flaws (but we’ll talk about that another day).

It wasn’t until I met my mans that I realized on the outside I was a bad bitch, but inside I was a fraud.

The realization wasn’t because of anything he did or said, but because of who he is at his core. Because he’s real and he challenges me and he has consistently inspired me to be a better version of myself.

Let’s talk about the big three from up top, today’s thesis: what my healthy relationship has taught me about life, myself and learning how to be loved. Now don’t get me wrong, all of these things I could have learned on my own or from my friends or family or strangers on the side of the street. Because you never need another person to make you whole, but when you find the right one they can inspire you to grow. But let’s get this show on the road.

Life: Over the past three years I’ve learned so much about positivity that it makes me want to throw up. But it’s never that “smile and the world will smile with you” garbage that some of you have pushed on me (you know who you are). It’s more real and tangible, about how looking on the bright side doesn’t just make other people happy, it makes you happy. ((*insert Dr. Laurie Santos*))

I’ve learned that everyone isn’t going to hurt you and the ones who are can’t be changed. I’ve learned to value my time and not give my time to everyone else. I’ve learned not to be scared of growing up or getting a job or where I’ll live because everything will fall into place. And that’s because I trust myself and that’s because I’m with someone I trust.

I’ve learned that having a savings is a good thing and that sometimes when you stomp your feet at 21 years old you get a stern side eye instead of getting your way. And I’ve learned that when you see a 20-year-old with a wad of cash, that doesn’t make them an adult, it makes them a drug dealer.

Myself: First of all I have a better understanding of how to take care of myself. Since dating my boyfriend I’ve learned to love my body as it is, because it’s healthy and good. I got in shape (another topic we’ll discuss in depth later) because I work out and eat healthy and don’t binge drink and eat Big Deal pizza three times a week (if you know, you know).

I also have a better understanding of my motivations and goals. Sure that’s probably because I’m growing up and my pre-frontal cortex is nearly developed thank God. But it’s also because I’ve had someone by my side who encourages me to figure out what I like, to seek out hobbies and to talk about things that make me uncomfortable (in great deal because of the Joe Rogan podcast so thanks for that, Joe).

And he –– my boyfriend, not Joe Rogan –– helped me see that I didn’t really know my worth, that sometimes I believed I was confident simply because I was the loudest person in the room. I can recognize my insecurities and be comfortable with them because that’s life, dude, it’s really as simple as that. (Except for when it’s not, which is another topic we’ll touch on in the future.)

How to be loved: First of all, Ru Paul taught me that “if you can’t love yourself how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” But my boyfriend taught me that love isn’t about having control. It’s not about whether he’s at my beck and call or whether I always get my way. It’s about mutual respect and genuinely caring about each other.

Dating someone isn’t about going through their phone or checking their Instagram likes or Snapchat score. It’s about trusting them so you don’t have to worry about those things. It’s about knowing that when you fall, you’re supported. It’s about when you take too much biotin and your skin starts peeling off and you ask if they still love you even though you’re ugly and they insist that you aren’t ugly at all.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we’ve been through it. The last three years hasn’t just been sunshine and rainbows; we’ve both yelled, cried, we’ve gone at least 24 hours without talking to each other. But at the end of the day, I know we’ll figure things out.

We might get mad or mess up or have bad days but we also recognize each other’s flaws. When your best friend gets mad and does irrational things you don’t judge them, you just get it. And while I definitely have best friends who aren’t my boyfriend –– I’m not nuts –– he’s definitely made his way into my top five.

So I guess the moral of the story today is that I’m grateful for the last three years, but because of more than just my relationship. I’m grateful that I’ve created a healthy life for myself and I hope y’all do the same.

And if you’re going through it, if you don’t trust people, if you’ve been cheated on or hurt in ways you can’t forgive, maybe just take a break sister. Go to the movies by yourself, drop $1,000 on shit you don’t need, do a face mask.

Just don’t let an unhealthy relationship diminish your self-worth, because you kick ass just how you are.

With love (and apologies for how corny this post was),

Jacklyn

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