BY MANDY BALAK
“Married by 25, kids by 30.”
“Need a ring before moving in. “
“No sex on the first date.”
“Can’t say the L word for at least three months.”
Where do these rules come from? Why do we set these expectations and deadlines for ourselves when the factors are often out of our hands?
Rules usually stem from a caring place. Somewhere along the way, in an effort to guard our hearts and protect our dignity, we’ve set ambiguous guidelines of what we should and shouldn’t do. But the rules lack context. Every person is different, and the rules just aren’t tailored for individual situations or circumstances.
So, I’m calling bullshit. Enough is enough.
I’m breaking all of the rules and having all of the fun.
In a time when I lacked experience in the ‘art’ of relationships, I was in what I thought was a really good one, with a much older man. Barely twenty years old, I knew exactly what I wanted, or so I thought. Strangely- it was what he wanted.
I was smarter in my next relationship. Turns out there were different lessons to be learned and after five years what looked promising turned to heartache. This time hurt even more.
The older we get the more invested we are. It’s harder to bounce back. Or maybe, we are just trying harder to make our deadlines.
I learned a lot. Not only about relationships, but also about myself and what I needed in life and from a partner. I was almost unrecognizable from the girl I was five years prior.
For the first time in my life, I decided to do me. It was my time to shine.
I became comfortable with myself as an individual, alone. My focus was solely on building my dream.
Then there was a point, about eight months later, where everything was coming together. I had a lot to celebrate, but no one to celebrate with.
After my twenty-seventh birthday I wrote a list. I wrote down eleven must-haves for someone to even capture my attention. The non-negotiables.
Several guys, and many first-dates later, I was pretty over it. “Ain’t nobody got time for that” became my life motto. I quickly swore off dating and dedicated my time and energy back into other areas of my life. Areas that nourished me beyond a free meal with a side of empty small talk.
Two days later, I met him. The guy you dream about.
The energy was infectious. The conversation- stimulating. The attraction- mind-blowing.
Our first date was on a Tuesday night. By Saturday I realized every single one of those eleven must haves was checked. Not only that, we really liked each other.
For someone who hasn’t had a lot of time for much of anything besides work-all of a sudden making time became a thing, a priority.
We’ve since moved fast and furious into what feels too-good-to-be-true.
The older we get, the more important it is to evaluate what we make time for. The people we hold closest become a shorter list year after year.
In a world where people play it safe, I challenge you to stop fearing the unknown. Nothing GREAT ever came from comfort zones.
Don’t stay in a mediocre relationship just because you’re afraid of being alone.
Stop chasing the things you think you’re supposed to chase. Instead, be real with yourself about what you truly want. If you’re honest and open-minded, the things that really matter will find you.
The cool thing about life is that there’s no maximum capacity of mistakes we are allowed to make. And as you’ll find- they may not even be mistakes at all, just a rockier adventure.
Are we moving too fast? The rules may say so. But lucky for us, they no longer apply.
Instead of approaching relationships with a formal map, why not to try to figure out if that person you met is someone that walked into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. You might get you a little lost, but that’s usually the best way to find exactly what you’re looking for.
We are breaking all of the rules. But we’re having all of the fun.