I’ve cheated on all my boyfriends, so I may not be the best one to dole out dating advice. I have made every mistake in the book.
But I’ve made enough mistakes to know that there is no book. Relationships aren’t easy. I am grateful for their forgiveness. Today I’m friends with all of my exes. Here are my ten rules I’ve taken from breaking hearts.
1: If something doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it.
Many people stay in difficult, painful relationships. These people are not happy. They hope to somehow return to the good days when everything felt like marshmellows, even though those days are long gone.
They stay to keep the other person from getting hurt. They stay because they’re accustomed to the fights and struggle and can’t imagine living any other way.
Don’t stay. No one is worth making you miserable.
All relationships have an expiration date. You may be together for thirty years, but at some point the blunt truth of death or the way we naturally change, the totally natural evolution of our needs and desires, will (and should) pull you apart. That’s okay. That’s life. No one is meant to be with you forever.
2: People don’t belong to people.
Taken from the mouth of Holly Golightly during the final car scene of Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
Relationships are things you do with people as their equal. You are free to engage and free to leave at any time.
3: If you don’t want to date, don’t.
Some folks will make many mistakes before they realize the truth: they want to be single. Others, like me, realize they don’t want to date the way they are expected to.
I want to date, but I’m not going to fit into society’s parameters of what constitutes a “real” or “normal” or “healthy” relationship. I know what’s a real, normal, healthy relationshp for me. That relationship doesn’t involve excluding myself sexually to one person.
4. If things aren’t working, break up.
You’re doing them a greater kindness by ending it rather than waiting around to watch the relationship crash and burn.
It’ll hurt. Breakups are terrible. But they are necessary.
“Relationships are work,” my detractors say. “You don’t just give up when things get tough.”
Yes, relationships are work. But they are not suffering. We have such short lives that there’s no sense in doing anything for long periods of time that makes you miserable. There comes a point when you need to stop working on fixing a broken thing and say, “I love you, but it’s time to move on.”
5: You cannot make someone love you.
Rejection is tough. Some people will simply not like you. Sometimes he will not love you back and there’s nothing you can do about it.
The kindest thing to do (in all situations, particularly this one) is be honest. Don’t drag someone through the experience of a relationship if you don’t share their feelings. That’s cruel.
6: If you want to be a slut, be a slut.
Own it. Wear it like a banner of pride. Do not let cultural shaming, religion, or any lie you’ve been told keep you from enjoying your body. Your body is awesome and you can do a lot with it if you so desire.
If you want to be a slut while also in a relationship, tell him so. Be honest. Work out some kind of nonmanogamous agreement where you can be slutty and still go home to him at night. If this is something he’s not okay with, you may have to compromise, or decide that maybe you two want different things.
Own your sluttiness so that you can talk about it honestly. Don’t put it in a cage and pretend it isn’t there.
7. Be honest.
There are only two hard rules you must follow for a relationship to work: Communicate Effectively and Be Honest. That’s it.
Learn how to talk openly about what you want and what you’re feeling. you feel. Tell the truth, even if it’s going to hurt them.
8. Put yourself first no matter what.
Never forfeit your happiness for theirs. In the holy words of RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love anyone else?”
9. You are completely free.
It doesn’t matter what label you put on yourself (Boyfriend, Partner, Wife). You are never chained to anyone. You never have to stay.
10. Sex and love are different things.
Don’t try to equate them, compare them, or link them as byproducts of each other. They’re not. Sex is physical, an animal instinct. Love is something we will never explain, but I define it as an emotional and mental state in which you cohabitate happily and effectively with someone else.
Sounds clinical, but think about it. I can’t think of anything more awesome, or anything more deserving of the label “love,” than a relationship in which you grow, solve problems, and learn from someone else over a period of time. That sounds beautiful.
You may have sex with people you love (I hope you do), but you may also have sex with people you do not love (I hope you do that too). You may love people you don’t fuck. Many people do.
Also, having lots of sex and being in love shouldn’t be seen as mutually exclusive experiences. You can have both. One doesn’t negate the other. Having sex with lots of people doesn’t make you love someone less.
Sex with ten guys whose names you don’t know, all at once, bare on a seedy hotel bed is an awesome, life-affirming experience too, if you’re into that. Sex with someone you love is also an awesome, life-affirming experience. Rather than say one has value over the other, admit that you can like both experiences, and both experiences are important. You can like ice cream and pizza without having to say definitively that one is better than the other.
That’s all I got. Now go forth and love/fuck passionately. You will learn the rest, my love.