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Image / Self / Advice / Relationships

Lessons in love I had to learn the hard (and often mortifying) way in my 20s


by Sophie White
21st May 2021
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From the medicinal properties of quintessential break-up behaviours (do not bother resisting the ice cream bender) to cultivating some SELF ESTEEM, clearly Sophie White could really have used this list of lessons in love ten years ago.

Firstly, I apologise if some (most) of these seem incredibly basic, however, in all honesty, it fully took me a decade to work them out so perhaps they may be of use. Go forth and learn from my painfully cringe ways.

Lesson #1

If the person who is your boyfriend doesn’t want you to meet any of their friends then most likely they are embarrassed by you and are not deserving of your love. Maybe this problem was specific to me, in which case feel free to be utterly mortified by me, I know I am.

Lesson #2

When you have finally copped that said boyfriend is embarrassed by you, DON’T for God’s sake hold onto them even tighter, in a vice-like grip until your relationship starts to resemble a sad version of Fatal Attraction only with lower production values and less good looking people. Still just me? Oh god, I hated my 20s…

Lesson #3

When men (generalisation alert!) want to break up with you, there is a patented move many of them employ: Act like such a bastard that your girlfriend eventually tires of your behaviour, and utters the immortal words, “Do you just want to break up then?” At this point, the man (being such a coward that he cannot even say the words) usually just does a long awkward pause, leaving us to fill in the blanks.

Lesson #4

A person who breaks up with you over the phone is not right for you (tell this to me in 2007 – I continued to OBSESS over this person and doggedly tried to force them back into a relationship with me for an embarrassingly long length of time).

Lesson #5

Post-break up behaviours are pretty standard for a reason: They WORK. Here are some things that will absolutely help after someone stamps on your heart and sets fire to your soul (dumps you).

1) Watching crap movies. I recommend anything from the Sandra Bullock Oeuvre.

2) Eating nice food. Anything beige is good.

3) Getting drunk and TMI-ing anyone you can successfully corner. Make sure your make-up is trashed and you’ve got red wine teeth while you regale them with everything that was “so right” about this failed relationship. In fact dragging the relationship carcass out whenever possible to pick over with friends, no matter how unwilling they may be, is pretty much mandatory.

Lesson #6

You only meet good people when you’ve pretty much resolved that you’re not looking for a relationship – very irritating this.

Lesson #7

If anyone’s cheating on anyone… well… put it this way, in your early 20s, you’re both most likely at the peak of your hotness sooooooo if you’re getting off with other people at this point, it’s probably not great. This is not a hard and fast rule, however, some do make it back from this. Important to remember, however, that your friends will probably hold a grudge long after you’ve moved on and DON’T, whatever you do, tell your mother. Mothers never, EVER forgive the adulterous partners of their daughters, even if said partner eventually becomes an exemplary parent/citizen/charity worker/Oprah, your mother will never drop it.

“Seamus has just been promoted at work and he’s raised half a million euros for charity and he puts the kids to bed and rubs my feet every night while we watch whatever crap I want to watch on Netflix,” you might say to the mother, who will respond (looking dubious) with:

“Yes, but didn’t he shift Kate Ní Bhuachalla in Ayia Napa on the 6th year holiday? I wouldn’t trust him. Ever.”

Lesson #8

Don’t just sleep with any willing person (SOPHIE, are you listening to this?). I really needed to take this on board from years 2003-2007. There may have been some self-esteem issues.

Lesson #9

Run away very fast if….

a) The guy has a framed picture of Al Pacino/Robert De Niro/Steve McQueen on the wall.

b) Has a purple tie-dyed wall hanging with a marijuana leaves all over it, a lava lamp or burns incense.

c) Dresses like a cowboy.

or

d) Says Lost In Translation is his favourite film.

And yes, I had very specific, very bad taste in men.

Lesson #10

Sometimes love is unbelievably exciting and sometimes it’s kinda boring.

Lesson #11

Don’t confuse the drama with ‘passion’. Dramz is just two people too bored to break up with each other, prolonging the agony with meaningless arguments about perceived jealousies and whose turn it is to instigate sex.

Lesson #12

They say you can’t change a person but I’m not convinced of this. All the partners and spouses of my female friends have come a long way in the style stakes since being paired off. The brown cords and hoodies have been replaced by decent jeans and, well, slightly nicer hoodies. One of my friends did such a good job on her now husband that I’ve been trying to convince her to set up a boyfriend styling service called Pimp My Ride. But, yeah, beyond superficialities, you probably can’t really change a person.

Lesson #13

Find someone you absolutely wouldn’t want to change and then hold on tight. But not too tight, not creepy tight, see Lesson #2!

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