For most people, dating is important. A lot of people plan to marry, and whether you’re monogamous or not, a majority of people choose one person to spend the rest of their life with. (On that note, if there’s a cool love story about a long term triad, et cetera, out there, please share it with me. My hopeless romantic poly friend will love it.) In order to find that person though, you’re going to have to dive into the dating pool and meet a few fish before you catch the big one. So who are the frogs you’ll have to kiss before you meet your prince, princess, or other royal figure?
1. Your First Love
While you might date a few other people before you meet your first love, this is the person to whom you will compare everyone else you date. By “first love” I mean first adult love. I fell in love for the first time when I was thirteen, and Brett* is definitely not the guy I have set as my standard. Instead, you’re going to compare the world to your Charlie – the first guy I slept with, the first guy I seriously dated, the first guy I fell in love with. Even if your first love ended up being more of a villain than a prince, you will always remember what it felt like to fall in love for the first time. Most first loves don’t last, so if you’re one of the many who ends up having to fall out of love, you’ll always remember what that’s like, too. The learning and drama associated with your first real, significant, loving adult relationship will teach you what it really means to be a good – or bad – partner.
2. The Not-Quite-Significant-Other
From the so-obviously-real to the so-obviously… not? In the modern dating world, so many people want to have everything that includes a relationship without, you know, the actual relationship. (Rolling my eyes at Raj right now.) Maybe things were always like this. Sixty years ago, after all, it was common to date multiple people at the same time before you decided to “go steady” with someone. But now, it’s highly possible to have someone you have sex with, go out one-on-one with, hang out with your friends with, and share apartment keys with…only for that person to not actually be your S.O. Often, one or both people want a relationship, but something is holding them back. But this experience is still important and valid. Having a Not-So-Significant Other can teach you a lot about what it means to let go and accept another person’s flaws. But when it falls apart, it will also teach you not to put up with anyone’s bullshit excuses – even if those excuses are your own. If they’re not ready to be serious with anyone right now, but expect you to give them everything except the label of relationship, it’s time to walk away – unless, of course, you’re both on the same page for whatever reason.
3. The Bad Guy
Sometimes “the bad guy” is just your typical textbook douchebag. Sometimes you just wind up in a toxic relationships. Other times, your partner might be abusive. Regardless of the situation, everyone ends up with that one person who deeply hurts them, with words, actions, or something else. Whether he cheated on you, threatened you, or lied to you, drop his ass, girlfriend. And remember – it’s not, and never will be, your fault. You are stronger than this moment. I got over my horrible (and thankfully short term) relationship with Alex, and you can do this too.
If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, there are many resources to reach out. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline in America is 1-800-799-7233 and the TTY hotline is 1-800-787-3224. Remember, you can always clear your browser history if you need to research more information in order to reach out or report abuse.
4. The One You Used
There will be, of course, be a situation where you are the bad guy. (Though if you fall into the Number 3 category, gross.) Maybe you’re just dating the person to make an ex jealous, or maybe you’re in a place where you need someone to love – and to love you. I’ve been the bad guy by entirely fibbing to myself and my ex, Allen, about loving him. It happens. The important thing is that after you move on, and you don’t do this to someone else. We’ve all been there and done that, and while it’s unfortunate for the other person, sometimes it takes a situation like this to realize that you really are capable of a healthy relationship. (Thanks, Allen, even if you’re also a Number 5 for me…)
5. The WTF?
You’re going to ask yourself five months from now, “Was I drunk the entire relationship?” Honestly, I was when I dated Allen. No matter how cringe-worthy this relationship was looking back on it, it happened. You liked this person. Maybe that shows that “your type” isn’t what you think it is. Regardless, it happened, and you can untag yourself in all of his Insta posts, but the internet never forgets.
6. The “One”
Lookin’ at you again, Charlie. This is the guy, or lady, you planned it all with. Oftentimes it’s your first love, but sometimes it’s a second or third. Maybe they seemed perfect on paper, but weren’t that way once you moved in together. Whether it’s a broken-off engagement or just a long-term relationship, you were in the process of planning the rest of your life with this person. But then for one, or both of you, things just stopped clicking. But the “not-one” was still such an important stepping stone. You worked together to create something beautiful, and had every intention of continuing that. That relationship taught you how to work together in a relationship, and you’ll use that again once you meet the partner you’ll spend your forever with.
7. The One
Well, I’m not here yet (or maybe I am and just don’t realize it yet, TONY WHOSE NAME I HAVE NOT really CHANGED) – but I have faith it’ll happen one day! All that practice from Brett and Charlie and Raj and Alex and Allen has taught me a lot – not to mention my experiences with the handful of other men I have dated and people I have hooked up with/crushed on. When I meet the one, I’ll know what I’m doing. And maybe I still have more to learn and a few more hearts to break in the process, but the hopeless romantic in me knows that one day I’ll settle down with Mr. Right.
* All names have been changed to protect the innocent. Sometimes the innocent was the guy in question, and sometimes the innocent was me.