It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and that means we’re going to be hearing plenty about how crappy it is to be single when everyone else isn’t. I’ll be honest with you and say I find that really annoying—but we can debate my reasons for that later. Friends, I have come to you to tell you how you can at last find love. How you can leave behind the horrors of modern dating, the dating sites and the ghosting and the friend zones, and finally have a good relationship. My credentials? Years of a blissfully happy relationship and no dramatic breakups to my name, ever. Ready for the secret?
Stop dating people who don’t respect you.
I have had plenty of friends who remained stuck in ambiguous relationships, flirting with people (mostly guys, let’s be honest) that were opaque about their real feelings. Dating was a minefield of mixed signals, where people connected over hours of talking late into the night and then ghosted each other the next day. The biggest common thread I noticed in these friends, though, was that they never set boundaries. They’d let these maybe-partners sleep on their couches, call them up anytime, eat their food, take their money, and they never got anything guaranteed in return. They’d show up to their partner’s big game, and then keep their hurt to themselves when their partner didn’t come to their dance recitals or art installations. The point isn’t that they needed to set rules. The point is, they weren’t dating people who showed respect for them.
If you want to find love, there is one rule you absolutely must follow: don’t let anyone in who doesn’t respect you. If their treatment of you is crappier than how you would treat a friend, drop them. Do they not show up when you had plans? Drop them. Do they refuse to participate in activities that are important to you? Drop them. Do they ignore your emotions and tune out your conversation? Drop them. I swear to god you don’t need them.
Being able to do this relies on your ability to wait for the right person. You can absolutely try to meet people as much as you want, but you will need to be able to feel secure in turning down a potential relationship with someone who isn’t right for you. That’s scary for a lot of people. They don’t want to find the right person, they want to find a person who is available and then make it work. You can do that, but please don’t complain about your complicating dating life to me if you do. It’s up to you. You can choose to have that drama, or you can choose to avoid it. The only thing you have to do is demand respect.
Respect isn’t reverence, or worship. Don’t expect your partner to gush over you or buy you fancy things. Your partner should respect your time, your efforts, your emotions. They should not belittle you for feeling something, or for pursuing something that makes you happy. They should not waste your time or take it for granted. Accidents happen, and apologies should be accepted, but if they make a pattern of treating you like a given, then they are not respecting you. But if you find a person who respects you, then you can make almost anything else work, with communication and maturity.
Respect is the first and foremost foundation of any kind of love, romantic or otherwise. This Valentine’s Day, give yourself the greatest gift you can—commit to only opening your heart to people who respect you.