The most dangerous thing about looking for and falling in love is dwelling in your head for too long.
I admit I love being in love. I love thinking about it. I love the Disney movies that celebrate it with those saccharine sweet story lines and the runaway pop hits. (No, I will not Let It Go!) I am a romantic at heart, and I admit to being very adept in using diction and charm to advance the cause of love in my own life, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.
Unfortunately, I have had three terrible habits that sabotaged relationships in the past, and they are all related to what we think and what we say. I am beginning to suspect, after many conversations as of late, that I am not the only one.
1. The Virtues and Vices of Living in the Future
The first is both cute and problematic, and it is projecting yourself and the would-be, should-be but is likely not the love of your life into a lifetime that hasn’t unfolded yet.
I admit that more than one man has been promised the spot of First Gentleman of the United States (hey, I’ve got plans, baby!). I weave a really amazing story about how beautiful our kids will be, and how the house we’re building one day is going to be so amazing, and how progressive and powerful we’ll be in society. It’s fun to dream, but it can also hurt you.
Aside from the potential of chasing off a sane, well-intentioned man, you also risk losing any ounce of truth in what is really in front of you. I’ve fallen in love with what I projected onto an otherwise really incompatible man twice in my life. The first time, it took me seven years to figure it out. The second time, it unraveled in month four, but I was too love blind to see it until he ended it for me in month 13.
So long as you can keep your feet planted firmly in reality, there is nothing wrong with exploring the possibility of a future together. Goal-setting as a couple is a beautiful thing, and I’ve watched my sister and brother-in-law conquer so many of their life goals together by doing just this. But, it’s probably best if you’ve known the guy more than two seconds before you start picking out paint colors for your unborn baby’s nursery.
2. Do Not Time Travel into Your Boyfriend’s Past
Did you tame yourself a beautiful former slore? Are you more than slightly curious about his ex, his past dalliances with what’s-his-butt, or the other guy he was talking to when you first started on your journey together? General questions are okay, but if you find yourself obsessing about whether his past is going to spill over into your own relationship, that’s when time traveling through his past life becomes a problem.
People change. A man can overcome obstacles within, or behaviors from the past. You cannot apply what happened with his ex to your relationship, and you surely cannot judge him for anything that you weren’t present to witness. If you have a problem with some of his past behaviors, don’t date him. But, if you do, don’t dwell on these things or they are going to drive you nuts. Simply put, if it happened before you, then it’s not about you.
There is only one single exception, and that is when inquiring about his sexual health. No man is above questions about his sexual history, and his status for HIV and other STIs. You and your health are worth this kind of query.
3. Finally, Don’t Judge a Man by the Misdeeds of Others
When you allow the hurt and the anguish of infidelity, disappointment and bitterness from past relationships to frame your point of view on the next guy, you deny both of you the chance to succeed. Not every man will hurt you or see you the same way someone else did. Please do not deny someone the benefit of the doubt.
Love takes vulnerability, openness and a little faith. Trust is earned, but it is also awarded. Let him prove himself without allowing negative expectations to cloud your vision.
We are all varied, and have different reasons for liking someone. You may have been used for your body, but the next person could love you for your mind. You might have been taken advantage of in the past, but you could be moments away from meeting the one who will lift you up and help you reach new places in your life and your thinking.
Let each man be an individual, and judge him according to his actions.
BRANDON de HOYOS is a writer and designer from Houston, Texas. His work has been seen in publications by The New York Times Co., Walt Disney Publishing, and Interactive One, among others. When he’s not busy writing sweet nothings, he is cooking, traveling and blessing others any way he can.