“Yeah, I’ve been dating him for 2 months. He’s off for college right now — we’re doing long distance.”
I didn’t think too much as I casually answered the question. The words had been easily slipping out whenever someone would ask me how I’ve been as we swapped updates on our lives.
“Oh, well — two months, you know, that’s kind of a short time..”
I stopped in my tracks, confused; what were they trying to say?
“Yeah, I guess- but what do you mean?”
“Well, you know, he’s off to college, you’ve been dating him for a short time…”
Condescension is thrown into the dating life of young people casually and without remorse. We’re called out for having unrealistically idealistic mindsets; our feelings are deemed unreliable, as we tend to feel too strongly; above all, what do we know, anyway? We’re too young. I’ve always scoffed at girls claiming to be in love at seemingly the littlest stimuli: it seemed that every teenage girl was thirsty for the chance to feel special, for the opportunity to label herself to have passed this milestone in life. I’ve stared at “I love you”s plastered over my social media as teens professed their undying love for someone they’ve been dating for two weeks. I’ve secretly judged the seeming vapidity of those who took their relationship as if it was an eternal thing: you’re 17, for God’s sake. But as I observed some of my closest friends enter relationships and listened to the deeper insights they shared with me, and especially as I came to be in a relationship myself, I began to see what could have been lying behind my judging barrier the whole time. The fact stands that only the two people actually involved in the relationship know what the relationship is like.
As I stared at the person who just stated that my boyfriend was probably going to cheat on me as our relationship was too short to be significant, my mind sifted through different responses. First of all, I was mildly offended; who are you to tell me how my relationship will go down when all you know about it is the two-sentence summary I just offered you? I wasn’t about to launch into a soliloquy about how I’d been spent almost every single day with my boyfriend since the day I met him; about all the talks we had, in which he allowed me to learn more about not only him but also myself; about how being with him feels like home, somewhere where all judgments can be rid and I can be completely and happily myself, knowing that I will be met with unconditional acceptance. It felt strange that every emotion and experience shared with my boyfriend could be reduced to such a simple dismissal. But I just nodded my head and said, “yeah, thanks for your opinion!”, giving a person what I hope was a convincing smile.
Because I remember so clearly how I felt in the past – how insignificant relationships felt to me, especially at this age, when it seems like nothing will last. I, too, would have looked at a friend with hope about a long distance relationship worryingly, offering my own gentle let-downs and predictions in order to cushion her inevitable heartbreak to come. And I know that it would have been out of the good of my heart, out of care for my friend, just as I’m sure my adviser’s comment was. Because I realize that one can never truly know what any given experience consists of until it’s been experienced first hand, especially as I look at the anti-relationship me of the past. Indeed, maybe one day I will look back at my 17-year-old self and shake my head at the absurdity of my feelings: but why should that affect my current sentiments in any way? If my feelings are invalidated because I’m a damn teenager, then exactly when do I get to feel something and have the validation and approval of others that it’s “real”? What I feel is real, because that is what I’m feeling right now, in this moment.
People will always talk about others; people will always have their own opinions. I’ve chosen to be in a long distance relationship because it is what I believe to be sustainable and I can’t imagine it any other way. How others define my life, though it may affect me at times, is not my priority — as with all things, I only take into account the advice of those I trust the judgments of. If you run into a comment that you don’t agree with, by all means choose not to follow it, but do take time to reflect on the intentions and thought that that person may have invested in you. Live as you’d like, do what you want, and above all, feel what you feel. In the end, your intuitions should override other’s limited perceptions that may be projected onto you. You’re the one that’s in for the consequences and happiness to come.