In my early twenties, I made some mistakes in my relationship that almost cost me my life. I was engaged to someone whom I thought loved me dearly, even as I was badly treated, but still I stayed. When things got really out of hand and I almost committed suicide, I realized that being single was way better than being in a toxic relationship. I found the strength from close friends and family, and I picked the pieces of my life and moved on.
I have not looked back since. I was however wise enough not to play the blame game. I criticized my actions and tried to find out how I contributed to the bad situation. Yes, Kenny treated me badly, but if there had been some changes in my lifestyle or behavioural pattern; either he would have treated me better, or I would have left him sooner for better treatment elsewhere. If you are still in your early twenties and already looking to settle down, there are some lessons you need to be equipped with, because trust me, marriage ain’t college love. So, take notes and make lifestyle changes where need be….
Lesson One: Most guys do not mean “I love you”
Note, I didn’t say all guys don’t mean ‘I love you’s, but most do not…especially the young ones. A testosterone-filled twenty-five years old guy might really mean ‘I want to get in your pants’ when he says ‘I love you’. Men believe that they won’t get sex from a girl they like if we do not hear the L word, so they throw it around casually, looking deep in your eyes and trying to sound all romantic. Don’t fall for it…learn to take ‘I love you’ with a pinch of salt until you can tell that he means every word of it. It is hard to tell a guy that truly cares, so you have to do your background work and trust your instincts. However, some are not too coded and easy to detect; for example, if he is pestering you to visit him at his place, shoving his tongue down your throat every chance he gets or talks a lot about your physical beauty as against your character and soul, or doesn’t show genuine interest in your studies, work, hobbies or life. Try not to be the girl that gets down at the word love, let him prove it. If he says he would climb seven mountains and swim seven oceans for you, be sure to test those words. You would be surprised that he would give an excuse the first chance you ask him to accompany you to an audition, or help you work on a school project.
Lesson Two: Focus on your education
Back in college, I was a steady B+ student with some As as well, so I always knew that I was going to graduate with a high grade. In my final year however, my good grades were threatened and all because of a boy. Rumours were flying round that Kenny was seeing some girl in his class, and although he denied it, I feared it to be true. My studies suffered badly and I couldn’t even concentrate on my final year project. Whenever I was in class, I imagined both of them in their class, holding hands, sitting together and chatting or exchanging notes, winks and smiles with each other. Whenever, I was in my hostel with my book open, I would wonder if she was in his hostel, if I should pay him a surprise visit. Needless to say, I wasn’t prepared when final exams popped up, and I only managed to graduate with a 2.1 because of the good grades of my past years. Don’t get so hung up on a dude that you neglect your studies. Whether in a relationship or not, learn to control your emotions. There is nothing you would regret more than not putting your best efforts in school because you sacrificed your time and energy on a guy (who you would most likely not end up with).
Lesson Three: Lay a foundation for your career
A high percentage of successful people in their thirties and forties started taking baby steps towards their goal from their twenties. This decade is a learning process and a spring board for your career success. Instead of spending it worrying about boys, work part-time, intern in an organization, attend conferences and events that help you network. This would not only bolster your CV, but also help you develop personal skills and competences when you fully kick-start on your career. By now, you ought to know what you are interested and should have started making plans, drawing graphs and strategizing on how to go from where you are to where you want to be.
Lesson Four: Experiment and explore
When I was a teenager, I read an article in a newspaper that said one of the things you must do before you get married, is get broken hearted. I disagreed with the writer then as I believed that I was going to marry the first guy that I dated. Now, I look at myself and people around me and we are living true to that article. By now, you have probably experienced an heartbreak or two, maybe three. If you find it in your heart to forgive those persons that hurt you, you would realize some valuable life lessons that they taught you. From my heartbreak, I learnt never to be totally reliant on a man and never to make a man feel as though I couldn’t live without him. In recent years, I have not gotten into another relationship, because I am really taking my time, but I go on casual dates and explore the male species. I have learnt some vital truths about men from these casual dates, as they are usually open and sincere, since there is no pressure to impress. One important truth I have learnt is that, it is not your fault if a man is violent at you, it shows that he has some issues to deal with. It is however, your fault if you choose to remain in that relationship and suffer more abuse.
Lesson Five: Learn that you cannot change anyone
This is probably one lesson that most of us learn when we are already too deep into the relationship, but if you aren’t already down in that pit, I would save you the stress…you cannot change anyone! Whatever you think would change after marriage or a baby would only get worse. Thus, if you cannot cope with his drinking, smoking, gambling, flirting, violence, insults, borrowing or ego….nip that relationship in the bud now. Many ladies have continued with bad relationships, and when they had finally had enough, there were kids in the picture and they say “I have to stay because of the kids”. In my case, Kenny was sweet as first, so when he became sour, I kept hoping, praying and believing that he would go back to his usual self. By the time I knew that there was no change in the horizon, I had a baby to take responsibility of.
That’s my list of lessons that a 20 something year old should learn before getting married.
Food for thought!