Many people, myself included, have never been in a healthy relationship. We have taken abuse - both emotional and physical - and have been treated less than we deserve to be treated, partially because we didn't know we deserved any better. At least for me, I thought the constant anxiety and giving 110% just to get nothing in return, was normal. To me, that's what a relationship was.
When people started telling me that I deserved better, and when I finally realized I deserved better, I wondered, well how will I know once I'm in a healthy relationship? What does a healthy relationship look like?
Now that I'm (finally!) experiencing one, here's what I've learned:
1. They will respect your boundaries
I have never been good with boundaries, but I'm starting to practice them now. So, I set some up with my partner and got an "okay, cool. No problem" in response. And that was that. There was no bargaining, no "okay, but...." I expressed what I needed and my decision was respected. In a healthy relationship, each member should feel comfortable both setting up boundaries and respecting their partner's.
2. You will laugh all the time
This was one I didn't expect, but in my new, healthy relationship, I laugh. All the time. Neither of us take ourselves too seriously, and it's amazing. In a healthy relationship, laughter is a sign that you feel safe and comfortable with your partner.
3. It's not all about sex
Another shocker to me was that in healthy relationships, people talk about deep, personal things. They go out on dates to museums and movies. They share their favorite books and silly youtube videos with each other. They cry together. A healthy relationship is about so much more than physical intimacy or sexual satisfaction. And that's amazing.
4. You will feel safe
I never realized how not safe I felt in my previous relationships until I finally felt safe in this one. Feeling safe in a relationship means expressing your fears and desires and emotions without fear that the other person will judge you or leave you because of it. Feeling safe means falling asleep while cuddling, something I never thought was possible. Feeling safe means being 100% you and knowing that being yourself won't scare your partner away. In healthy relationships, both parties feel safe - safe to be who they are and say what they feel. And it's a beautiful thing.
5. The partnership will be equal
Being my codependent self, my previous relationships were all based on trying to be the perfect girlfriend, so that my partner wouldn't leave me. This meant having sex when I wasn't ready, driving ridiculously long hours when I wasn't asked to, and always paying when we went out for dinner. This meant texting them every day, to make sure that they still liked me. I was never asked to do these things - I felt obligated to. If I didn't go above and beyond what was asked of me, then they would leave me. I needed to give them an incentive to stay.
Now, I don't do that. I give as much as I want to give, and I receive in return. I'm not constantly worrying if I'm pretty enough or if I'm behaving like a good girlfriend should - because I know that they're not going anywhere. I trust my partner, and they trust me. Now, my relationship isn't work, it's effortless and freeing, like the most logical thing in the world.
6. You will be honest in your communication
Another thing that goes along with being codependent is wanting to be perfect all the time...well, spoiler alert: No one is perfect! But what this meant for me in relationships was that I would always hide how I really felt, if that emotion wasn't happiness or arousal. If I was worried or angry, I would swallow it. If I was sad, or nervous, or uncomfortable (especially uncomfortable) I wouldn't say a word. I had to be the perfect specimen all the time, because who wants a girlfriend with feelings, right? Wrong.
In healthy relationships, all emotions are authentic and expressed. And being angry or frustrated doesn't make your partner love you any less - It's just confirmation that you aren't a robot.
7. You will be excited about the future, while living in the present
Finally, healthy relationships bring excitement, and a desire to bring out the best in the other person and in yourself. But a healthy relationship is also realistic. There's no wedding planning before anyone is ready, and both parties understand that life happens and nothing is predictable. But in a healthy relationship, none of that unknowable future matters, because all you can think about is how happy you are today, and how much you want to make each second together count.
"A soulmate is the one person whose love is powerful enough; to motivate you to meet your soul - to do the emotional work of self-discovery; of awakening" - Mu'
I've never been one for "almosts." I tend to think in absolutes.
As a kid, I remember my grandpa always telling me, "close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades," and I guess that stuck, because I never wanted to just be "close" to something. I was always an all or nothing gal. I either got a 100% on an exam, or I didn't. It didn't matter if I still got an A. If it wasn't perfect, it didn't matter. I needed to get everything right, there was no room for error.
That's an exhausting way to live.
This aversion for "almosts" deterred me from trying many new things, because if I couldn't do it all at once, it wasn't worth doing at all. I'm still fighting this, especially when it comes to exercise, but my journey with food over the past few months has shown me that "almosts" are actually quite useful, and nothing to be ashamed of.
So here I am, almost vegan, and loving it.
How did I get here? I had been wanting to cut dairy out of my life for a few years now. My acne was out of control and I had tried just about everything with no luck. But the thought of giving up all dairy all at once was terrifying to me. I loved cheese. Like, really loved cheese. And I couldn't imagine life without it.
So, for my 2016 New Year's resolution, I opted for an "almost" --I decided to stop drinking dairy milk in my coffee. I couldn't commit to never eating dairy again (ice cream!? cheese?! yoghurt?!) but I could commit to ordering soy or almond milk every time I went to Starbucks or Einsteins. That I knew I could do.
And I did. Starting January 1, I stopped drinking cow's milk in my coffee. And guess what? something incredible and unexpected happened. I stopped craving dairy all together. Slowly, as I realized how much better I felt without cow's milk in my system, I started avoiding other dairy products. Naturally, without forcing anything, I started ordering dairy-free cheese on my pizzas, stopped buying yoghurt for breakfast, ordered hummus instead of cream cheese on my bagels. And I let it happen. Cutting dairy out of my life entirely was easy to do. My body was literally telling me it didn't want dairy in its system anymore. And then something else happened. My body stopped wanting meat. I would go out to eat at restaurants and crave the vegetarian option on the menu instead of the steak. I started eating veggie sandwiches instead of turkey. I became addicted to hummus and carrots.
Now, by no means am I telling you that I am 100%, completely vegan now. This is a blog post about "almosts," after all. I do eat meat and dairy occasionally, although I never feel good after I do. (I ate 2 mini York peppermint patties earlier this evening and my stomach is still screaming at me). I'm not sure where my vegan journey will take me, or if I will ever label myself as officially vegan, but I do know that this process has taught me the value of "almosts." Taking little baby steps to eat healthier and listening to what my body is telling me about what foods I put into my system has made me more self-aware than ever. (It's pretty incredible what your body will tell you if you just know how to listen to it).
So friends, embrace the "almosts" in life, because they are not failures, but beautiful, little successes.
(Also, shout out to anyone who gets the movie reference that inspired the title of this post)
I leave you with a food porn picture of my dinner from tonight. All vegan and delicious!
A 20-something trying to find what it means to be me!