There is no doubt that navigating love and romance is a journey of trial and error. It exposes us to the parts of ourselves that are still in progress and requires a level of honesty, vulnerability and self-exposure that few people are truly ready to experience. As a 30-something, previously engaged and still healing female-identifying person—there are so many things I had wrong about what love is and can be. Let's face it; books, TV, films, the relationships we've seen in our lives—they all blind us to the truth about what it will require of us to manifest the love we actually desire. Though our 20s are, usually, the time when our dating lives are the most exciting, they can also be the time when we learn our hardest and most painful lessons about love. 

Here are the things I wish I'd known then. 

Love Does Not Always Equal Compatibility

Yeah. This one can be a hard pill to swallow. Sometimes, you meet someone and the love is very real but where your lives are headed just doesn’t set a stable foundation for a healthy relationship. If you try to force it, it will, almost always, end up crumbling in a far worse way than if you’d just freed each other willingly. The love may never leave but at least you’re both better for having been able to go after a better fit. 

Love Takes Time

Media will have you think that unless you have an immediately passionate and all-consuming feeling for a person, it’s not worth having. This is idealistic and can be a recipe for disaster. Sometimes those over the top feelings we mistake for true love are nothing other than lust, trauma bonds and infatuation. Love, real love, takes time. Time to get to know someone on an intimate level. It takes communication and observing one another in good times and bad. Don’t rush the connection. Ease into it. And know that what is meant to be from this experience with this person will come to pass in due time. 

We Teach Others How To Love Us By How We Love Ourselves

As we’re navigating our personal growth, it can be tempting to pass of our needs to our partners. Whatever we may be lacking—-stability, security, understanding, compassion—-we expect them to provide. This puts them in a position of responsibility for the way you, ultimately, feel about yourself. And that’s a no no. Yes, the person you’re in an intimate relationship with should be able to speak your love language or, at least, want to try but they can’t be the only one filling your cup. You have to lead by example. Date yourself. Pamper yourself. Speak beautiful words about yourself. A healthy partner will recognize this, match it and, if they’re really intentional, surpass it. 

Where Love Is, Confusion Isn’t 

If you’re constantly in a spiral of trying to figure out where your partner stands on their feelings for you, chances are they’re not loving your properly. Does this mean they don’t love you at all? Maybe or maybe not. But what it does mean is that they’re not giving you what you deserve or what you need to feel secure in the relationship. If you have to guess, move on. 

Sometimes, No Matter What, Love Is Just Not Enough

And that is what we call…life.