Giving so much for so little?

Every relationship requires give-and-take between two people, this simply means both parties investing in each other and both getting something back from the relationship. However if one person is doing all the giving and the other just takes, then it isn’t a relationship… at least not a fulfilling one. Have you ever gone above and beyond for a partner to realise that they’re not willing to try as hard as you are? Sadly, this dynamic can have disastrous effects on you.

When you’re naturally a giving person, you might end up falling into the trap of being in a one-sided relationship. There’s been times when I’ve had relationships start off really well (of it does, that’s why they call it the “honeymoon” phase), then suddenly I feel like I’m “carrying” the weight of the relationship, putting in way more effort in terms of resource (time, money, emotional investment). I’ve tackled this situation in two different ways; firstly by raising my concerns and waiting for things to get better, or secondly by “letting it slide” in hopes that things will improve (I really don’t recommend this!) Regardless of how I dealt with one-sided relationships, the end result was that I had to walked away. One thing I’ve learned overtime is: No matter how difficult you think it’ll be, you must let go of anything that doesn’t serve you/make you happy — relationships, people, jobs, etc.

How do we know when we’re in a one-sided relationship?

It sounds like a question with an obvious answer but when people are emotionally invested, they can lose sight of what’s actually happening. Out of nowhere those rose tinted glasses just fall onto our eyes, blur our vision and we start falling for “potential” rather that what’s presented in front of us. According to Kelly Campbell, a professor of psychology and human, you should look out for these signs:

ALL THE EFFORT IS COMING FROM YOU
When you find yourself doing most or all of the cooking, cleaning, planning dates, making all the romantic gestures, it’s an indication that the relationship is unequal. Make a mental note (or an actual note) on how time is spent, including who does what. This will give you a better understanding of the extent of the one-sidedness.

LACK OF QUALITY TIME TOGETHER
Everyone has busy schedules. We all need to allocate time towards career aspirations, family and friends, our romantic partners, and ourselves. Often it’ll feel like a challenge to get the balance right, but if you’re frequently suggesting “date night” to your partner and they show no interest or put it off for another time… this isn’t a great sign. A serious lack of “quality time” together can chip away at the partnership’s foundation, and ultimately compromise the level of happiness you feel when you’re together.

THEIR CALENDAR TAKES PRIORITY
If you’re constantly moving your commitments around or waiting until you know if your partner is available before you make other plans, then yes, this is another sign. You’ll feel like everything else is more important than you which shouldn’t be the case. If your partner only wants to see you when it suits them, then this displays imbalance in the relationship.

MAKING EXCUSES FOR YOUR PARTNER’S BEHAVIOUR
When you’re defending someone’s bad behaviour, it simply suggests that you’re compromising and sacrificing too much… of your dignity! Sadly we’ll lie to ourselves because we don’t want to face reality, or the truth is unbearable. Please don’t fool yourself by making excuses for them, your partner should be showing you the love and respect you deserve.

Well, I don’t know about you, but re-reading my post thus far makes me feel attacked and pretty upset! 😩☹️ It’s a hard pill to swallow knowing that I’ve gone through the above bullshit, but I’m also thankful to God that I saw the light and found the courage to leave. If anyone is going through this current scenario, I urge you to read on and really think about your happiness above anything.

Before you decide to walk away…

One thing I go on about all the time is communication. Effective communication also involves the ability to listen to each other, understand and compromise. The issue with one-sided relationships is that more often that not, it’s just one partner initiating the talks. So when you do bring up the discussion, your partner may not respond favourably to the “problem.” Researchers have called this ‘demand-withdrawal’ which means one partner is initiating a discussion or requesting a change, while the other withdraws from the conversation. It’s always worth expressing how you feel before throwing in the towel. If your partner cares, then they’ll look to improve the balance and put in more effort, but if they don’t change after you’ve shared your concerns, then the partnership is likely not a good fit and you should consider moving on.

If the feelings are mutual, effort will be equal

Romantic relationships can be influential in many aspects of our lives, so when we stay in a unfulfilling relationship it can significantly impact our health and well-being. Balance in a relationship is so important, let’s use a set of scales as an analogy — when one side is putting in a lot more than the other, it will eventually tip and collapse.

Vulnerability: why we need to lean into discomfort.

Many people (myself included) find it incredibly difficult to be vulnerable, and judging from the numerous articles I’ve read, it seems to be a common fear. When we were young, we were carefree, rarely phased by anything; but over time factors such as our upbringing, our environment, our romantic relationships, our social circles gave us different experiences — both good and bad. Unfortunately at some point in life, people will hurt and disappoint us, so we end up building walls around our hearts to protect ourselves. At the same time, we’re unable to appreciate close relationships and intimacy… vulnerability is simply a double-edged sword. 

As humans we’re hardwired to connect with others. We live in families, we build families, we work in teams, we love as couples and thrive in friendships. It’s a scientific fact that our well-being is dependent on our connections. Yet more than ever, I’m witnessing more loneliness, more broken relationships, more disconnection… but what’s causing all of this? Being vulnerable means opening yourself up to new experiences, new people, and getting comfortable with uncertainty. It’s bloody terrifying but worth it, I trust that it creates many beautiful outcomes once you choose to receive with an open heart . The fact is, vulnerability is necessary. You can’t build genuine connections without it, but somehow society has turned it into a weakness.

I find it challenging expressing my emotions, I’m getting better but there’s still a lot of work to be done. I’ve previously been told that I’m cold or dead inside, that my wall is ridiculously high, and that I always keep people at arm’s length. Yeah… this is partially true (I don’t think I’m completely dead inside). In relationships, I try my best to communicate my feelings but sometimes I feel like it’s forced or I get extremely uncomfortable. When I’m hurt or upset, I tend to either shut down or choose to let that person go rather than let them in because it’s “safer” this way. I guess the good thing is that I recognise my issue and I’m making a conscious effort to improve on it.

Part of my resistance to vulnerability came from the fact that I’ve had toxic relationships, I’ve been a toxic person and I’ve attracted toxic people. Some of my relationships were very unhealthy, then there were others where I realised a compatibility issue. I don’t wish to relive any of these experiences but it’s hard to ignore the woes, and the fact that there’s an obvious recurring pattern of my relationships breaking down again and again. After tolerating a load of nonsense, I began viewing my “failed” relationships as a warning sign to pull back, build my wall even higher and go in fully armoured ready for the next “battle” (if there were to be a next). Clearly this was the wrong way to look at things. Relationships should never be seen as a war (and one that I wanted to win every single time)… perhaps I just got used to the toxicity. Anyway I eventually changed my mindset and saw it for what it was — simply a mismatch of people, a redirection, a learning curve and a step towards personal growth.

“You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again, and expect different results.”

If you’re someone who also struggles with embracing vulnerability. I feel you. Being vulnerable is an ongoing process that we fine-tune over time. So as we take small steps together and slowly lean into the discomfort, here are some reminders on how being vulnerable can actually enhance our lives.

DEVELOPING EMPATHY FOR OTHERS
When I’m pissed off, it’s highly likely the other party will feel my wrath. However this usually lasts for a very short period; so when I’m calm again, my compassion kicks in and I try to see things from their perspective… even if I think they’re in the wrong! It’s so easy to judge people harshly, especially when pride and ego gets in the way, but learning to relax and allow ourselves to move out of our comfort zone plays a massive part in being vulnerable. We’ve all been guilty of getting so caught up in our own lives that we forget the world doesn’t revolve around our needs.

BE AT PEACE WITH YOUR PAST
Those who aren’t scared of being vulnerable have already made peace with negative memories from their past. We’ve all made bad decisions and mistakes but we can’t keep storing our energy there. Dwelling on the past means we’re not fully present. Likewise, we shouldn’t worry too much about the future. Living in the moment and appreciating all the amazing moments right now is what we need to be focusing on.

I AM WHO I AM
By accepting our qualities and our “flaws”, by feeling comfortable in our own skin; we’ll learn to accept all the things that make us special and unique. Being confident and our genuine self also allows us to attract the right kind of people in our lives.

BUILDING EMOTIONAL INTIMACY
Speaking of being your true self — vulnerability creates greater emotional (and physical) intimacy. Sure, this is relevant to romantic relationships but it’s just as important to drop your guard around friends and family as well. It’s what creates a deeper sense of love and understanding. For real connections to flourish we have to be brave enough to reveal all of our layers.

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

Brené Brown 

Intuition or paranoia?

How do you tell the difference between intuition and paranoia? I have wondered this so much myself and I like to think I have an answer. Before I throw my thoughts out there, let me provide the definitions as they are remotely not the same thing… yet somehow many people manage to confuse the two. Intuition: the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning. Paranoia: suspicion and mistrust of people or their actions without evidence or justification.

If you’re generally a worrisome person and an over-thinker it’s challenging to distinguish between self-generated feelings and intuitive perceptions. As someone with a fair amount of anxiety (much as I don’t like admitting it), I’m constantly questioning whether my inner thoughts are simply a product of my anxious mind due to past experiences, or something more intuitive and real. It’s endlessly frustrating for me to express my worries and concerns to others, then receive advice like, “You just have to trust your gut.” To be honest, that doesn’t help a huge amount. It’s like when you’re angry and someone tells you to “calm down” 😒

If you’ve ever experienced the kind of paranoia that makes little sense to anyone but you, you know that trusting the voice inside your head is a lot more difficult than it seems. Research has found that intuitive decision making is impaired for those who are in a state of anxiety. With this in mind, does it mean there is no such thing as “trusting your gut” if you’re an individual who suffers from anxiety/paranoia?

Discerning between the two

Whenever I feel like my “intuition” is kicking in, I have all sorts of mental and physical reactions. My heart rate speeds up, I struggle to sleep, my concentration levels drop, I lose my appetite, I become snappy towards others and my mind begins to spiral. As I read back on my last sentence, it definitely sounds like anxiety to me… but in the moment, the differences between anxiety symptoms and gut reactions are blurred, both can feel one in the same.

There has been multiple occasions where I’ve mistaken my paranoia for a “gut feeling”. The last incident of this was a couple weeks ago where I very badly overacted towards a situation and went into full crazy bitch mode. What added fuel to the fire was the lack of communication towards the other party. Thankfully things were resolved in the end but in no way did I feel good about my behaviour or attitude, it was poor form on my part but that particular moment was certainly a turning point and massive learning curve.

Obsessive and demanding vs. Calm and subtle

So how can we prevent ourselves from freaking out or jumping to conclusions?
How can we get through the murky waters and understand what’s what?

 Intuition and paranoia feel like inner tugs, prompts and “knowing”, but the source is different. It’s important to recognise that paranoia is a thought process which is believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety, insecurity or fear, often to the point of delusion and irrationality. If we can get to a stage where we’re in touch with ourselves enough to know when those aspects are triggered, then we’re more likely able to figure this out — of course it comes with time, practice and a certain level of self-awareness.

I can’t stress enough how much communication helps; and I don’t mean asking friends and family for advice regarding the issues you feel concerned about. I mean having a deep, personal conversation where you really open up about negative life experiences, your childhood, past traumas, mental health… basically anything that might have impacted your character/behaviour over time. It’s a great and vital opportunity to learn about yourself. If you have someone you can trust and feel comfortable around then nominate them to be your “support”. Otherwise speak with a therapist, it may even be better to share this information with someone who doesn’t really know you, won’t be biased or say what you want to hear. Then once you get things off your chest, you can start gathering tools to better cope with any internal issues, therefore ensuring that it will no longer get in the way of your intuition. Here are a few other things to keep in mind.

1. Based on what I’ve felt in the past, paranoia is obsessive and demanding. It’s when the feeling takes up too much of your thoughts and energy. Paranoia tends to last for much longer — hours, days, weeks! It’s intense; it’ll keep you up at night, it’ll give you mood swings, you’ll feel on edge and it’ll send you straight into fight, flight mode. Whereas intuition is immediate, calm, subtle, like a small itch but fades in time if it isn’t scratched.

2. Paranoia is negative and fear-based. It usually presents itself as “what-if” and often future-focused in a very unhealthy way. If your head is filled with hypotheticals, worst case scenarios and you’re constantly honing in on things you can’t control… then it’s likely not your gut instinct. Intuition looks at the present and will come from a clear head and calm mind.

3. While both paranoia and intuition can create an unsettled feeling, paranoia will lean more towards stress and uncertainty — while intuition will feel more reasonable and concrete. I find that if you’re going back and forth, constantly undecided on what to do, then whatever is on the mind is likely anxiety-fueled.

Final thoughts

Feeling emotions is a natural part of being human but when the emotions start controlling us, it’s extremely difficult to tell the difference between trustworthy intuition and untrustworthy paranoia. But I always try my best to give people the benefit of the doubt, so I don’t think I’m paranoid. While you’re battling between head and heart, it’s tempting to follow your head because that’s where your “logic” lies but the mind’s ability to manifest is powerful enough that we’ll believe our fears which then becomes our reality.

If you’ve had a troublesome past then I think there’s little use trying to figure things out; for an over-thinking/worrier there is much greater use in speaking to the person directly and discuss the feelings you’re experiencing, that way you can at least verify reality and learn to trust as you go along. Trying to decide whether it’s intuition or paranoia just adds another layer to the anxiety and doubt, which will not help in building a fruitful relationship or a successful future together.

Red flags? No thanks, I want the green flags please.

Relationships play a massive part of our lives, I can’t think of anyone who wants to waste their time being unhappy and unfulfilled with the wrong partner. Most of us have had our fair share of drama and disasters in the past; so it’s understandable if someone enters a new relationship with a slightly pessimistic outlook. From online articles to social media posts and lifestyle magazines, we often hear about “red flags” in a relationship, but what about the lesser-discussed “green flags”? What are signs of a healthy and loving relationship that has true potential?

Sometimes we focus too much on the negatives and lose sight of the positive things (not just with relationships either) so today I’m discussing traits that’ll indicate whether a person is a keeper ☺️ I’ve prepared a rather hefty list on what I consider “green flags” based on my experience and learnings overtime…

1. YOU ARE NOT CONFUSED ABOUT THEIR FEELINGS FOR YOU (EMOTIONAL AVAILABILITY)
Spending too much energy trying to decipher their mixed feelings? Ain’t nobody got time for that!I’ll save you the stress now and tell you that mixed signals more often than not means they’re not that into you. Harsh but true. A sure sign of someone who’s emotionally available will be in tune with their feelings and can communicate them with you. Not only are they able to do this, but they’re actually willing to. Showing you vulnerability, ie. knowing if they’re afraid, if they really like you, if something bothers them — means you’re not left wondering, guessing, or worrying because they’ve consistently shown that you can trust their words and actions.

2. KNOWING HOW TO HOLD DIFFICULT, HONEST AND CONSTRUCTIVE CONVERSATIONS
Closely linked with point 1… it’s a cliché but I can’t emphasise enough: communication is key! For many it’s difficult to talk about your feelings and put yourself out there, but once you pluck up the courage to do so, you’ll realise that it really is the glue that holds relationships together. If you and your partner are able to talk on a level (even after a fight), if you’re able to express yourselves calmly, effectively and respectfully, particularly through conflict, then you’re in a very good place. Believe me it’s frustrating being with someone who’s equivalent to a brick wall (I’ve been on both sides).

3. A GREAT AND SIMILAR SENSE OF HUMOUR

Imagine cracking a joke that you thought was a funny, only to be met with deafening silence 😭😩 That would fill me with dread! So it’s nice to know your partner will get your weird and wonderful sense of humour. Making fun of each other, sarcasm, banter, having the ability to spar with each other verbally — that’s a green flag for sure.

4. YOU CAN BE YOURSELF

I don’t believe you should be putting on a facade when it comes to dating at any point but when you’re with someone you gel with, you should feel comfortable enough to act exactly as you do when you’re alone. You’re the real you, not a “representation” of you. You’ll feel like you can be honest and speak your mind without feeling like your partner will judge or put you down. Hiding your true self from the get-go means building your relationship on lies… and that never ends well!

5. THEY GIVE YOU ‘ME TIME’

Everyone needs a little alone time now and then. In a healthy relationship, both parties understand and respect the need for independence and “me time”.  It’s important to have your own interests, hobbies, routines and friends. What you don’t want to do is become all-consumed with your partner — not having and maintaining your identity outside of your relationship could quickly lead to neediness and resentment.

6. YOU FEEL RESPECTED

When we care about and value others, we respect their feelings, treat them well and make time for them. We act accordingly when we know someone’s worth and not want to lose them. A positive sign is when you don’t feel rushed into anything you’re not ready for, physically or emotionally. Your partner will listen and understand your point of view (even if they don’t agree). And they’ll treat you like a priority rather than a convenience. Valuing your presence in their life is a green flag.

7. SEXUAL CHEMISTRY
When I talk about sexual chemistry, I don’t just mean having that feeling of wanting to rip each others clothes off and experiencing mind blowing sex (although, that’s pretty hot!) But if our partner can feed our mind and soul, it enhances our feelings of physical/sexual attraction to them. When you’re comfortable enough to discuss bedroom antics, how to spice things up, turn-ons and being able to laugh about the sex, this helps to build a fantastic sex life together! 😏

8. GENEROSITY
I’m not just talking monetary value here, it can be in others forms such as time, effort, attention, positive feedback. Random acts of kindness towards your partner, giving little gifts, plenty of affection, being considerate, putting your needs first (in bed LOL 😜) — it’s this kind of generosity that can help nurture a relationship and keep the flame going.

9. YOU WANT SIMILAR THINGS IN LIFE

Shared goals, values, ideals, life directions, common interests — all of these are going to make the relationship easier for the long term without much discussion or conflict. Thus, it’s crucial to pay attention to see if you’re both aligned and share a similar vision of success. This is a conversation that should be addressed early on, and although that may sound pretty intense, it’s necessary because… well why would you want to water a dead plant?

10. YOU FEEL CHALLENGED (IN A GOOD WAY)

Compatibility in a relationship isn’t just about having great time with someone. Being with a mirror version of yourself won’t expose you to new things, or teach you much about life. Two people who have identical views, personalities, or backgrounds might seem reassuring but realistically it’ll lead you down a path to stagnation. Personally, I think it’s important to be with someone whose strengths offset your weaknesses, and vice versa. It’s better to be with someone who is accomplished in areas you struggle in. Appreciating each others differences as well as the traits that overlap with your own will make you realise that no one is perfect, and that we’re only humans who are constantly evolving 😊

11. CROSSING THE “COMPROMISE BRIDGE” TOGETHER

When you’re invested in a relationship and confident about your future together, the element of sacrifice/compromise will come into play. At some point, you and your partner will have a different approach or opinion which means together, you’ll need to agree on a solution that is mutually beneficial. Combining your perspectives and moulding a life together is a great sign for a thriving relationship between two individuals. That’s not to say you should give up your own identity and values for the sake of the relationship, but rather find the right balance and reach a place of understanding.

12. THEY KNOW HOW TO APOLOGISE

Being with someone who cannot admit when they’re wrong is a pain in the arsehole! When someone can genuinely apologise to you and show genuine changes in their behaviour, then that’s valuable. Of course it goes both ways too. Recognising your own shortcomings, knowing when you’re at fault shows that you understand boundaries and care enough to make amends. All I’m going to say is… choose people who choose you over their pride and ego!

That’s all folks!

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again… dating and relationships is not easy! With substantial amounts of advice and guidance from various sources out there, it can get incredibly overwhelming. On one hand, people say that you should never settle. But on another, people say it’s important to not get caught up in ideals and learn to accept people with flaws. The green flags mentioned above doesn’t solve all the problems, but I believe they do provide a pretty solid framework for the kind of people you should aim to add to your life. The fact of the matter is, the purpose of having people in your life is to improve the quality and make you happy. That’s it. So if they are not serving that purpose, then they’re simply not good for you. I’ll leave you with that thought.

Do you have any additional flags to add to the list? I’d love to know. Drop a comment below! 🙃

A story of conflict: Growing up with strict Asian parents and having an interracial relationship.

This is by far one of the most difficult posts I’ve ever had to write… it’s a sensitive subject, an extremely personal account and still to this day evokes so many negative emotions as I type. I can literally feel my heart tightening along with a slight rise in my blood pressure when I cast my mind back to that specific time in my life. Part of me doesn’t really want talk about this but I think it’s important to release memories that I’ve suppressed and highlight important topics/issues that I feel strongly about. I predict it’ll be quite a word-heavy post, I’m not sure how or where to start… so apologies in advance if it sounds like a bunch of word vomit. Everything is based on my own experience, I’m hoping this piece of writing in particular will give you raw insight on the difficult challenges I (and probably many other Asians — more so females) have had to face growing up in a traditional, strict Asian household… especially where dating is concerned.

Before I begin my account, I think it’s worth sharing some context on my ethic background. I grew up in a typical immigrant Chinese/Vietnamese household. I won’t dive into too much detail on my family history but in a nutshell it wasn’t long after the Vietnam War that my parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles had to flee the country. After many, many trials and tribulations, my parents eventually settled in the UK.

People who’ve come from a similar background as myself would probably hesitate to divulge too much information about our upbringing; some words that come to mind include shame, embarrassment and guilt. With this also comes fear. Fear of others judging or thinking less of you and your family. However, I don’t concern myself with the opinions of others, I’m very open and willing to address the elephant(s) in the room.

The way traditional Asian parents communicate their love is vastly different from western culture. There were no hugs, no “I love you”, no praises and compliments. Parents like mine were over protective, abusive (physically and verbally), and needed to have full control over their children. Yet they were incredibly hard working; certainly the most hard working people I know. Everything and anything they did was solely for my sisters and I to succeed in life and I’m very grateful.

An endless cycle of hostility

Now when you’re a 16 year old teenager who has grown up in a western society living under a roof with a Tiger Mum (sadly my dad passed away when I was 5)… there’s bound to be conflict. Lots of it. At that hormonal age, it was only natural for me to start thinking about partying, drinking, smoking, dating and having sex. Of course, I was constantly reminded to focus on my studies (which I did) but I also began to take an interest in boys.

Having a boyfriend at 16 was one problem… but the “types” of guys I was interested in was another (I’ll get to it shortly), I spent most of my teenage years living with resentment. My mum’s discipline and strictness pushed me to rebel and endure an endless cycle of hostility towards everyone.  I lied countless times just to be able hang out with my boyfriend, I snuck out many nights, got kicked out on a few occasions and even packed my things and left home on my own accord. I kept my relationship a secret from my mum for 3 years… although I’m pretty sure she knew but tried to turn a blind eye.

Perception

My boyfriend at the time was black and when it comes to dating, I’d rather not think about race, it holds no relevance to me. But that’s been hard to avoid especially growing up in my household. Unfortunately there is an inherent racist element in Asian culture towards black people. The rigid views and ideologies stem mainly from the older generation which gets passed down. Much of the dislike or reluctance comes from deep-seated racial stereotypes — and this all comes down to lack of knowledge, exposure and availability. Asians who’ve grown up in Asia tend to have very little knowledge of black men and black culture in general.

Frustratingly what makes it worse is that these negative stereotypes of black men have been perpetuated by the media, displaying them as irresponsible “bad boys” and thugs. Asian culture tends to be achievement oriented and “high status” conscious, therefore the qualities of black men depicted by the media are not desirable. The fact is many Asian parents overtly tell their daughters not to date black guys. I imagine there are many Asian girls/women who are attracted to black boys/men but are afraid to pursue such relationships because of how their family will react. Honestly, it isn’t easy for us, and depending on how headstrong we are as individuals, we have two options — either follow our parent’s instructions or don’t… and the latter will instantly label you as disrespectful because you’ve gone again their word and “shamed the family”.

In addition to this, there is a very archaic view on dark skin… it’s an unspoken thing but it exists. Historically many Asian countries believed that dark skin was associated with working in the fields, symbolising rural poverty. On the other hand, pale skin meant living a more comfortable life indoors, out of the sun. Skin colour is thus a sign of social class. I mean this doesn’t play a huge factor on what I’m discussing as this is more about how Asians see other Asians… but worth mentioning for insight.

So even though my mum turned a blind eye, inside I felt like I was committing the ultimate “sin”. It always seemed like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. The only thing that made it slightly bearable was that my sisters knew and understood the difficulties I was going through. But ultimately if I had admitted to dating a black boy to my mum’s face; I guarantee she would have beaten and disowned me… you think I’m being dramatic when I say it but trust me, I’m not.

World War III: The Dating Battlefield

I can only describe the whole situation as a hot mess and one of my biggest strains. It wasn’t just from the conflict between my mum and I either, the relationship itself wasn’t healthy. Don’t get me wrong, experiencing “young love “was wonderful in so many ways — there were a number of highs but far too many lows.

When we started dating, I didn’t even think to consider what my mum would have thought. We were so into each other, literally inseparable. As my first boyfriend, I just wanted to see him frequently and hangout like any normal teenage girl. Thankfully we went school together; so we’d meet at lunch, he’d wait for me after class, I’d jump into his arms every time I saw him, I’d sneak into his lessons, he’d sneak into mine, we’d get into trouble together for being late… it was a very typical “teenage love”.

Eventually I met his family, his mum was super lovely, I got along with his brothers well, his cousins were nice. His mum made me dinner regularly, I always felt so welcome in their home. I wanted nothing more than to do the same for him… but realised it wasn’t going to be possible which saddened me a lot. It was so unfair, why could I not just come from a “normal” family where parents were not so narrow-minded, judgemental and ignorant? The more I thought about it, the more angry and resentful I became.

In the first year or so, my mum was working outside of London at the time, I had the house to myself a lot which was perfect because I invited him over almost every day. Yeah spending all that time with him was great but the problem was that I was never able to fully immerse myself in those moments… not without anxiety, worry and paranoia sitting beside me. In my mind I’d visualise what would happen if my mum randomly came home early one day and found us in bed! A early grave for me for sure. My mum had a few friends that lived in the area too so whenever we went out, I found myself looking behind my shoulder in case someone would see me. Constantly feeling on edge brought me to tears a lot, and although he was very understanding, it didn’t make me feel any better about the bullshit situation.

What pissed me off even more was that the majority of my girl friends were Afro/Caribbean, and my mum was cool with that. No seriously, they’ve come to my house, she’s spoken to them, cracked jokes, they’ve been around for lunch or dinner… all of that! What the actual fuck? Why couldn’t she see and treat my boyfriend in the same way!? It irritated me to the core. And because of my frustrations and her absurd way of thinking… we were clearly unable to see eye to eye. Often we’d get into some real heated arguments… leading into verbal/physical abuse.

With all that rage inside me, I could only see red around her. She would say something and it would immediately trigger me or we’d be discussing something which would escalate into another topic. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in my life from just pure distress. At that age, the only way I could express anger was through shouting profanity at her, threatening her, slamming doors, throwing my weight, packing my stuff and leaving. There were many times I wanted to get physically violent with her.

Towards the end of the relationship, my boyfriend and I were very rocky… we had many issues. I felt like I was fighting fires everywhere. At this point, I was battling with him, at the same time trying to salvage my broken heart and the broken relationship. I was still at war with my mum, I felt like my sisters weren’t supporting me enough and fell out with them. I felt like I was drifting away from my friends. It was a turbulent time. As a teenager, it seemed like my world came crashing down. I felt lonely, trapped and so miserable.

I was 19 when I decided to call it quits, I couldn’t deal with the turmoil any longer. It was a hard, painful decision because I was so emotionally invested and attached but I knew in my heart the relationship was no longer serving me. It drained me physically and mentally. It took me a long time to get over him but even then, the hurt and issues that surfaced in those 3 years didn’t leave me until much later in life.

15 years later

It’s been 15 years since all of that happened, crazy how certain moments in life can really engrain in your mind. But I’m glad I was able to share this account with my readers. Personally I think it was an important topic to discuss, especially as we now live in a generation where we need to encourage and embrace cultural diversity. Fortunately, negative stereotypes are slowly dying out and as people become aware and travel more, there has been a growing acceptance of interracial dating/marriages globally.

For those with traditional Asian parents, if you’re facing a similar problem as I did, please do not start a feud and rebel against them. Trying to educate them about the black community is ideal but I’m sure it will be like talking to a brick wall… I would give it a go though. If I could travel back in time, I would have preferred to be honest (even if it meant getting a beating/disowned), I would remind my mum that the colour of someone’s skin does not define them and express how happy that person made me. It’s highly likely that it wouldn’t have gone down well but at least I would have freed myself from living in fear and been able to enjoy the moments without carrying all the emotional baggage every single second of the day.

In terms of my relationship with my mum now? It’s certainly improved. We get along much better. Maturity and gaining perspective has aided towards my overall attitude (and temper) but I’m not going to lie, I still hold a tiny bit of resentment towards her… I know I shouldn’t and I need to let it go, but it’s honestly so difficult. I read a lot of books and listen to various podcasts to help me manage and get past the emotions I hold onto… with time I believe I’ll get there. I’d never want to paint anyone of my family in a negative light, but this is the truth of my childhood but I understand that my mum also endured many difficulties throughout her life.

The eX-Files: Keeping memorabilia from past relationships.

Today I’m wondering… “Do you keep memorabilia from past relationships?” I think it’s a good question and I’m sure the answer varies from person to person. I honestly don’t. At least not on purpose. After a failed relationship, I purge anything and everything attached to an ex — especially if it was a bad relationship. It’s got nothing to do with being hurt or upset, but more for me to start with a clean slate. I’m quite cut-throat anyway so once I’m done with someone, I really couldn’t care less. Oh and also… I don’t like clutter!

I’m going to throw it out there and say that keeping old photos and gifts from a past love generally won’t be appreciated by a current partner, whether they like to admit it or not. What am I basing this on you ask? A lot of reading, secondary research and speaking to numerous people. I’d say the first thought people have when items like these come to light is “are they still holding on to old feelings?” The action of keeping memorabilia from past relationships is apparently called “Soul Ties” and causes one to be “locked in” to that person on an emotional and mental level. This is likely to be true if your partner is actually still clutching on to the past and hasn’t fully moved on emotionally from their last relationship.

However on the flip side, many choose to keep sentimental items from the past for different reasons. And after speaking to various friends, I think there are some good takeaways from these overall discussions. A couple of my girlfriends admitted to keeping memorabilia but have boxed the things up and stored it somewhere out of the way. They said that their current partners are obviously aware that they had a life before them; adding that everyone has a past and should have a right to keep what they want to keep. In one of their words: It’s not that I still have feelings for my ex or I’m looking for a reconciliation. I just find it hard to let go of memories of someone I once held dear. It feels like denying they ever were important to me.

I know some people have chosen to keep little objects like old cinema tickets or key chains from a date because in the future they want to have small reminders of what their teenage years were like (which is fair enough, I actually think that’s quite cute) Then I have guy friends who have kept items only if they serve a functional purpose, ie. NutriBullets, Cameras, Clothing.

Flipping the script

So how would I feel if I was dating someone and they kept old gifts or left photos of their ex on social media? Well… I reckon a few years back when I really struggled with my insecurities and paranoia — any of the above would have bugged the shit out of me. Today, if I saw old cards or love letters… I’m not going to lie, I’d probably have an issue with it so would raise my concerns. But with regards to old photos on social media, I might have a look at them (because it’s right there in my face) but I wouldn’t focus my energy on it. There are a few reasons (that aren’t linked to harbouring old romantic feelings) why people still have pictures of their exes. Firstly, your partner might not be that active on social media/hasn’t gotten around to deleting them. Secondly, they may still value his/her friendship; they don’t even have to be friends, perhaps they just broke up amicably. Thirdly, as my girlfriends mentioned, it’s just a memory of a life before you, there doesn’t have to be any meaning behind it.

I try my best not to jump to conclusions too much. If I find myself jealous or insecure about old photos then I’d say that’s my problem to deal with. At the same time, your partner should make you feel secure and not put you in a position where you have to question them. I’m a big believer in actions, so if your other half is clearly showing that you are their present and priority, then there’s absolutely no need to worry. Just concentrate on building happy memories with them!

If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve discovered items/photos from the past but it makes you feel uncomfortable, then I believe you have a right to express your feelings… in a calm manner! When you build up the courage to have the conversation, understandably it can feel awkward. You might even feel bad for bringing it up! Nevertheless, with all relationships, communication is very important. If something doesn’t sit right with you then it’s okay to be direct and have an open dialogue about it, but equally it’s important to refrain from sounding accusatory to avoid anything blowing up into a fight!

Do you still keep photos or items from past relationships? Does your current partner know? What is your feeling towards a significant other keeping sentimental memorabilia? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

When the past becomes our present.

Old emotional wounds have many ways of inserting themselves into existing and new relationships. When this occurs, they can prevent a connection from blossoming or slowly pull at a relationship until one or both parties suffocate. Some of our deepest wounds often come from childhood, and others will make an appearance at a later point in life.

Dealing with heartbreak, betrayal, having our ideas about love questioned and our spirits bruised are distressing experiences to go through. Mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually — these past traumas have the power to greatly impact our overall character; it can affect the way we think, the way we see ourselves, and the way we see others. When emotional pain cuts us deep, it can cause repeat unhealthy behaviours and offer a recipe for toxic relationships. Sometimes without even realising, few of us will continue living our lives holding onto negative, distorted thoughts in our unconscious mind. But one thing is for sure… none of this has to be permanent.

Cute but psycho

I’d be lying if I said freeing yourself from the past was an easy process. It really isn’t. Speaking from personal experience, I spent years convinced that I was healed from my first relationship. Unfortunately, feelings of resentment and bad memories can linger long after a previous split. The reality was that I had simply swept everything under the carpet and put in place a few coping mechanisms which involved: always having my guard up, purposely starting conflicts to make myself feel better and feel more in control, never communicating or addressing the root problem, and playing the blame game. After going through a couple superficial relationships in my emotionally unavailable state, it became clear that my issues were just adding this growing ball of toxic energy. The longer I left it to manifest, the worse I became.

I was cheated on in my first relationship but didn’t find out until a year later… and it was only by chance I had discovered the secret. Around the same time, the manipulative and controlling behaviour became more apparent (dictating what I could/couldn’t wear, where I could go, who I could talk to/hang out with, etc.), our heated arguments were pretty intense, we hurled things at each other then got into physical altercations. The atmosphere was always tense and disruptive, and not just between us but for others as well. When things were good, they were amazing; when things were bad, it was hideous. Being 16 at the time, in my first relationship; I was naive and “blinded by love”. I can’t even comprehend what was going through my mind back then. All I knew was that no matter what shit we had gone through, he was never wrong in my eyes. Eventually three and a half years later, I found the courage to leave. And by no means was it an easy exit.

I swiftly got into my next relationship about 5 months after but I was just a ticking time-bomb for my next partner… and the next one after that. When I look back, I feel awful for the way I treated some of my exes. Even thinking about it now makes me cringe and feel a lot of shame. I found myself creating worst-case scenarios in my head, getting easily triggered over certain things they’d say or do. I was always feeling hypersensitive, insecure and on-edge when they wanted to have a guys night out or attend a work do. I dealt with it all by self-sabotaging. I would go down their phones to check their call logs, messages, photos, social media. I looked through their draws, cupboards — I don’t exactly know what I was looking for but I needed anything to use as ammo so I could pull them up on it and accuse them of cheating on me. I honestly think I put more effort in my search for “evidence” than I did with the actual relationship. Messed up huh?

Road to recovery

When we’re stuck in trauma, our limbic system (basically an important part of the brain) can become impaired in its ability to regulate our emotions. As a result, our mood, sleep and thought patterns can be impacted and lead to symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, loss of appetite, low sex drive and even depression. It’s essential to understand how past issues are affecting your love life so that you can address them.

No one likes feeling vulnerable, disappointed or hurt, but how we deal with past issues determines the quality of our lives, our next relationship and ultimately helps to shape ourselves. As mentioned, it’s not a straightforward or quick practice, nonetheless I guarantee that taking an opportunity for self-reflection and learning can be the gateway to experiencing real joy and happiness. If you’re seeking some guidance on how to release those burdens, I’ve compiled some mindful tips to help loosen that grip on previous situations and move forward in a much healthier way.

IT IS WHAT IT IS
For some of us, “letting it be” or “letting it go” alludes to the idea that we’re wrong or it feels like we’re allowing someone else to be right. It also means letting go of your expectations of how things should have been. The fact is, what happened was all in the past and there’s nothing you can do about it. The drama, holding on… it’s all in your own mind. As you continue feeding the memories, you make what someone said or did even bigger and more powerful in your head than it might have been in reality. Accepting what happened gives you the ability to create empowering stories and discover valuable lessons to carry with you in the future.

DO NOT PUT EVERYONE IN THE SAME CATEGORY
Your new partner should not be punished for the pain you felt from previous relationship, just because someone did you wrong in the past, it doesn’t mean that your new partner will do the same. It’s an unfair position to put them in. It’s important to communicate, be open and honest, and explain why you might have certain hangups or sore spots. And if it’s a situation where you’re clinging onto hurt and anger but struggling or refusing to let it go, then perhaps you’re not in the right frame of mind for a new relationship.

TAKE YOUR TIME TO HEAL
There’s no timeline for healing from trauma, it can take months or even years. However, it’s vital to release the sadness and let yourself process all the emotions. Use the opportunity to self-discover and work on getting your mind back in a better place.

LET IT OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM
Some will feel better after verbal communication with a friend, family member or therapist, others might prefer writing down their thoughts in a journal. Either way, the cathartic release can do wonders for your mental health. You’ll find that self-expression helps to clarify your thoughts, feelings, reduce stress and even solve problems more effectively.

DO THINGS THAT YOU ENJOY
On your road to recovery, I reccomend channeling your energy into things you enjoy. Perhaps you let go of a hobby you used to love? Maybe you want to take up something new? Just go for it. Even if it’s a bit of therapeutic shopping, brunching with friends, binging on awful reality TV shows or treating yourself to a pamper session — stick to positive environments, surround yourself with good people and focus on finding happiness and inner peace.

I always encourage learning and growing from all our experiences in life. When we’re dealing with past trauma, concentrate on becoming stronger in the process, rather than carrying the baggage around like an anchor. Don’t let it weigh you down from living and enjoying your life. The past should be used as a reference to serve and support you for the present and future. Always keep in mind:

“Scars remind us of where we have been, not where we are headed.”

Getting undressed with Riley and Damsel.

Over the last 3 months, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with a number of friendly, genuine and supportive people. The dating community on Instagram has got to be one of my best social media discoveries and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. There are so many talented writers, poets, artists, speakers and entrepreneurs — all of us on the same path to pursue our passions and leverage our skills. More recently, I’ve been chatting away with fellow writer and author of Riley’s Raunchy Reads, you must check out her content. Riley will sweep you away into an erotic world of explicit, sexual interaction and steamy hot romances. I can only describe her creative pieces as jaw-droppingly insane!

With a mutual appreciation for each other’s work, we decided to team up on a blog post with a slightly different angle. Today we’ll be “undressing” ourselves and stepping into the spotlight. If you’re looking for some quick tips, guidance and insights on the realms of dating and writing, you’ve landed in the right place! Read on for our mini Q&A…


WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WANTING TO START UP THEIR OWN BLOG?

Damsel
The first thing I’d say is to find your niche. It definitely helps with the build up of content. Figure out what you’re passionate about and just go for it! Try not to worry about getting it right or perfect either. Honestly, I look back at my old blog posts and think “ugh what is this shit?” — but over time; you’ll learn, you’ll improve and you’ll figure out what works best.

Also, don’t forget that you’re telling your story. Don’t be worried about other blogs covering the same topics as you. You must remember that it’s about your perspective, your creativity and the value that you add — already it’s unique in its own right. Be real, be honest and really embody the stuff that you’re writing about.

Finally, use social media platforms to your advantage. It helps to connect with readers and other bloggers, perhaps even for inspiration, but don’t get too caught up in it. Don’t get hung up on the follows, likes, etc. Focus on your writing first then social media after.

Riley
*Do not start a blog if you are half hearted about it or unsure, speak to friends and get their advice about your ideas that you are potentially going to upload to this blog then make the decision.

Before I started my blog Riley’s Raunchy Reads (www.rrrox.co.uk), I created a notes list in my phone as to why I wanted to start my blog. This included the following questions: – Why do you want to start a blog? What is the blog going to be about? What is your niche going to be? What content do you want to deliver or create? Do you want to use any other social platforms to promote your blog? What colour theme are you going to follow? It is going to be illustrations, free pictures from the internet or art you create yourself? I felt these questions helped me create the base of my blog.

I then reached out to my friends and we discussed my ideas and I even gave them a short snippet of my first story to give them an idea of what it was going to entail. They thought it was a great idea and really pushed me forward to take the final steps of creating an Instagram account and blog. The Instagram account was so I could promote my blog and engage with my audience. 

Tip *I always tend to have one draft in the pipeline because you do not want to be stuck without any content for a long period of time. Allow yourself enough time to brainstorm ideas and take notes. I currently have about 5 different notes on my phone that I jot notes down when ideas come to me, it’s good to get into that habit. 

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF STARTING DATING STORIES BY ME / RILEY’S RAUNCHY READS SO FAR?

Damsel
I’ve been overwhelmed by the lovely community, the engagement and positive feedback. I’ve had people messaging me saying how my experiences and situations resonate with them, I’ve had some approach me for dating advice as well those who have been very complimentary about my writing style and tone. When I realised that my work was making an impact on others, that was my highlight moment. The support and kindness truly pushes me to keep writing and sharing.

Riley
I personally would say my highlight since starting Riley’s Raunchy Reads has been the relationships I have built with the talented and inspiring writers, sex educators and business owners that I follow on my Instagram. 

The collabs that I have done so far have been so eye opening to subjects I have not been aware of, products I wouldn’t even think of and it’s just been a great overall experience with each one of them. I look forward to any collabs I do in the future, whether that be an IGTV live, story or blog post. 

I’m excited for what is to come. 

WHAT WOULD BE YOUR TOP 3 DATING TIPS YOU’D GIVE?

Damsel
Be authentic –  Of course you want to put your best foot forward, but at the same time, you must accept and embrace all of who you are. Many daters dress, think and act in a way they believe their date would like them to, and in essence, they become someone they’re not, in hopes that this alter ego will help them find their perfect match. I guarantee you’ll have a lot more enjoyment and less pressure on dates if you trust the process by being genuine from the start.

Honesty is the best policy – Not everyone will agree with me on this but when I first meet someone, I’m always upfront and honest when it comes to what I think the other person should know about me. From personal experience, there’s actually a lot of good that can come from being honest in the dating realm. The more unapologetic and brutally honest I’ve become, the less I tolerate people manipulating me, using me, or being rude to me. Sure, I might get a “bad” reputation because of it, but at the very least, I’m no doormat!

Know your non-negotiables – Before you invest time and effort in anyone, make sure you know what your deal breakers are. Ask yourself what could you not accept, compromise on, or adjust to. Smokers? Non-monogamy? Substance abuse? Deal breakers will vary from person to person, and setting these out will not only ensure your core values are aligned with your romantic partner but also provide stability and structure to the relationship.

Riley
Always be yourself – do not change for anyone. Someone will love you for you, but first ensure you are happy within yourself before trying to find that special someone.

Be honest – there is no such thing as ‘too honest’ if people can’t handle it, they aren’t for you. 

Be respectful – The one quote I will always live by is ‘treat people how you want to be treated’ – says it’s all really. 

WERE THERE ANY SITUATIONS OR ANY PARTICULAR TRIGGERS THAT MADE YOU START TAKING YOUR WRITING SERIOUSLY?

Damsel
Lockdown made me do it! I started writing at the beginning of this year after experiencing another failed relationship and a couple of disastrous dates but it was something I’d do to pass time and showcase to my close friends. Then as I found myself stuck indoors, I felt like I needed an additional activity that would stimulate my brain, so that’s where the writing came in. The guy I’m dating at the moment also gave me a little push and encouraged me to go public, he’s been pretty helpful and supportive too.

Riley
It was when I started to enjoy sex and foreplay, I thought now I understand what it feels like, how new experiences should feel. At that point I was like I’m ready to change the way I write to incorporate this into my writing. Being able to explore my writing by using fantasises, some real-life experiences and ideas in my writing gave me the confidence to be like, YES, I’m ready let’s get this ball rolling. 

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE PIECE OF WRITING SO FAR?

Damsel
In terms of going down memory lane, it was certainly not one of my favourites… but with regards to writing, I’d say “I would rather adjust to your absence than be frustrated by your presence.” was pretty satisfying. This was the failed relationship that inspired me to start the blog! The trials and tribulations, all the bullshit, the audacity… like wow. I’m shocked at myself by how much ridiculousness I tolerated. Even now when I regurgitate the story to my friends, we can’t stop laughing. I see my blog as a bit of an outlet so it was like a breath of fresh air once I got it all out of my system. Although I look back in disbelief; overall it really helped me reflect, improve my mood and gain so much perspective.

Riley
I answered this in one of my IGTV videos and I still stand by my decision. So, at first, I was obsessed with my first story Pleasure by The Fire because it was what got my juices really flowing and my excitement back for getting back into writing. I still love that story don’t get me wrong but now my favourite would be Seduction under The Stars. It has had such good feedback and I really enjoyed including character names in that story, plus who doesn’t love a school reunion crush! 

ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR TIMES OR DAYS WHEN YOUR CREATIVE JUICES ARE AT ITS PEAK? (PUN NOT INTENDED!)

Damsel
Generally, on any given day, my juices start flowing in the evenings from 8pm onwards and I’ll find myself writing up until midnight. On occasions I’ll wake up early (around 6am) on the weekend and get a sudden burst of inspiration, from there I just pull out my laptop and start typing away!

Riley
I would say it depends on my mood and what I’ve got planned. If I’m off work and I watch something romantic on TV or read something on my Instagram like a quote or short story, I’ll think ‘Yes, that is what is missing’ and then start writing like a mad woman. I mean there have been plenty of times I’ve just been sat listening to music, especially the playlist from Fifty Shades of Grey and my creativity just appears. This is where I’ll start writing notes but if I feel like it could be a story, I grab my mac and away we go. 

We hope our readers found this post useful! And if you enjoyed our content, you can keep up to date via our Instagram pages: @datingstoriesbyme / @rrr_ox

The courage to forgive.

It’s easy to fall into a pit of despair, bitterness and grief when we’ve been deeply hurt. After someone has wronged us, the thought of forgiving them seems elusive. Where relationships are concerned, if we’ve been the victim of cheating, mental/physical abuse, being lied to or put up with toxic behaviour; these events will naturally stick with us due to our brain’s innate tendency to remember things that are emotionally impactful. This is why letting go, whether it’s feelings, people and/or relationships can be so difficult.

Forgiveness is no doubt one of the hardest challenges you will ever face in a relationship or post-relationship. Most of us assume that if we forgive, then the offenders are let off the hook while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We must remember that forgiving someone doesn’t mean condoning their behaviour or pretending it didn’t happen. In essence it’s about letting go of the desire to seek revenge towards the other party, eliminating negative emotions rooted from them and shedding the emotional baggage from the unpleasant incident. Unfortunately there’s no quick formula to recover from pain nor is it a linear process, but if we’re able to practice forgiveness, I guarantee that it will bring a kind of peace that will enable you to move on and live a happier, more meaningful life.

It was only 3 years ago when I truly learned how to forgive properly, since then I’ve reaped the benefits. My perspective in life, personal growth, attitude and relationships in general have improved vastly. Being able to finally get over a relationship wound that I was subconsciously holding onto for almost 10 years (!!!) instantly made me feel a huge sense of relief, freedom and strength. You just know when you’ve finally let that shit go… something instantly changes within you, it’s that kinda feeling.

Until that moment I really thought I had known how to forgive, but I hadn’t. The only thing I was doing was suppressing the memories; but through time, maturity and lots of self-reflection, it occurred to me that some of my behaviour patterns were very destructive. When it came to relationships, I struggled with communication (particularly when I was upset), I was easily triggered, I was defensive, paranoid and anxious often. When I had that moment of realisation, I knew something was going on with me deep down and I needed to fix it. Not just for future relationship but for myself.

If you’re going through a circumstance; whether you’re struggling to forgive someone, haven’t forgiven the past (and haven’t let go) or simply don’t wish to forgive, I get it. Sometimes stubbornness and ego gets in the way. And sometimes it’s just the principle! But if I can highlight just a few reasons why it’s essential to practice forgiveness, then I hope it will enable you to think or view the situation in a different light.

It helps you to recognise the pain in others
No one is born wanting to hurt others. Our life experiences shape us as we mature and learn over the years. If we can take some time to think about the person who has hurt us, we can often find clues that help to explain their behaviour. And when we’re able to do this, we can begin to see things from a bigger perspective. The person who caused us pain is just a human trying to cope with their challenges, just as we are.

It’s for your benefit
Forgiveness is not something we do for others, it’s something we do for ourselves. If you continue to feel like a victim, then you’re carrying a heavy burden. The act of forgiving allows you to drop the burden and free yourself by walking away.

You’ll build inner strength
It takes a lot of courage and mental strength to forgive someone that caused us significant pain. When we practice forgiveness, we’re releasing negative emotions that we’ve held on to. And if we can continue to maintain this powerful mindset, we’ll become more resilient as well as build greater relationships in future.

We can learn from past experiences
Whether we move on with or without the person who hurt us – be mindful of the lesson. During and after the situation, we should do our best to take a step back and learn something about ourselves. Understanding what pushes our buttons, at what point do we get sensitive, how do we handle our emotions, how do we deal with conflict. Gathering this knowledge enables us to be better equipped for the next dispute or relationship later down the line.

Improves wellbeing
Holding a grudge or holding on to any negative emotion affects the cardiovascular and nervous systems. According to a study, people who struggled to forgive had elevated blood pressure and heart rates, as well as increased muscle tension. Choosing to let go and offering forgiveness will help boost your feelings of wellness on a mental and physical level.

Forgiveness comes with many steps, and depending on the situation, it can take weeks, months, or even years to get over a painful experience. I wouldn’t want anyone to be a prisoner of someone else’s behaviour, and struggling to let go might mean that you’re the one who pays most in the long run. It’s important to remember that forgiving means to eliminate the suffering, not the wrongdoing. The offender might not deserve your pardon, but you definitely deserve to be at peace.

Red flags: some people aren’t looking for love, they’re looking for help.

If I were to sit down and have a conversation with myself say… 6 months into each of my relationships, I would not only advise on what characteristics I needed to work on as a person but firmly tell myself to open my goddamn eyes and take a good look at what’s waving right in front of me. Yes. We’re talking red flags.

Taking a chance on someone is necessary if you ever want to find a meaningful connection, no doubt any new relationship is full of challenges. As you get to know someone, there’s no telling whether things will go left or right. However, it’s difficult for the new romance to thrive if you cling on to resistance or fear. In a healthy relationship it’s important for both partners to trust and be trusted, to open up and be vulnerable with each other.

Generally dating and new relationships should be fun. As you transition from strangers to lovers, the most exciting part is learning all there is to know about someone on every level – emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. But sometimes when we’re filled with exhilaration we become blinded by those rose tinted glasses, thus end up overlooking the warning signs. From controlling behaviour to gaslighting to dishonesty; I’ve certainly experienced moments of tunnel vision in past and have been played the fool. While I’m no relationship expert, time and experience has helped me navigate my way through a lot of bullshit, enabling me spot that boundary-pushing behaviour early on. I’ve taken my learnings and would like to highlight some tactics that were used on me to cover up some serious flaws…

Catching someone in a web of lies
Oh jeez… this reminds me of my last relationship! You can read about that drama here. I think it’s fair to say that in life we all tell little white lies here and there, ie. “I’ll call you!”,“We must catch up soon!”, “Your haircut isn’t that bad!”, “I won’t be able to make it tonight, I’m feeling poorly.” These are not unheard of and have very low stake. However, if you’re catching someone fibbing time and time again, especially at the start of a relationship. My advice is to run. If they’re able to deceive you once, it makes it easier for them to lie more often. The more you catch them being dishonest, the more your trust will be tarnished. And what’s a relationship without trust? Sometimes you’ve really got to stop and wonder how honest this person actually is. What else could they be lying about? In fact, don’t even bother doing detective work, save your energy and just leave. Believe me, if you stick around… the pile of lies will post bigger problems down the road.

No life outside the relationship
There’s nothing wrong with valuing your time together, but if the person you’re seeing never mentions their friends, recent social gatherings, group activities, or anything to do with other people… it’s definitely an eyebrow raiser. I completely understand that some people suffer from social anxiety or are super introverted, that’s fair enough. Nevertheless, it’s usually a tell tale sign that the person is codependent and/or very possessive. I’ve been with a couple of guys who wanted my full attention, day in, day out. Apart from feeling like they’re draining the life and soul out of you, this behaviour displays unhealthy clinginess, a lack of self-sufficiency and insecurity. In a relationship, you shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to do your own thing nor should you feel the need to comply with their “rules” to appease them.

They don’t introduce you to their friends, family or anyone in their life
It takes time to meet the important people in your partner’s life. But if you’ve been dating for a while and you’ve been kept at a distance from everyone in their life, then that’s an issue. Unless you’re someone’s mistress or side piece, introducing each other to friends and family is a positive step. If you’re wondering why you haven’t reached that stage yet, it could be a sign that the person doesn’t take you or the relationship seriously… or there’s something shady going on. I suggest you call them out or call it quits!

You’re beginning to justify their behaviour
Toxic people are great at creating a false positive impression to worm their way into your heart. When they’ve done something that you deem unacceptable, somehow they’ll twist your mind to make you rationalise their wrongdoings. If you find yourself thinking or saying stuff like: “Oh he’s only like that because…” then perhaps it’s time to take a step back and really listen to what your gut is telling you.

You start to question your sanity
This is what happens when you’re being gaslighted. Briefly explained, it’s when your partner challenges your perception of situations, of yourself, of your thoughts, of your feelings, of their behaviour. The worst part is when you don’t even realise you’re being manipulated! It’s a gradual build up, these people normally appear very charming at first but soon enough you’ll recognise they’re all talk and no action. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse so it’s best to shut it down as soon as possible. If you feel like you’re starting to second guess yourself more than usual, I would recommend you go in for reality check by talking to your friends or family. Get them to be brutally honest.

Be observant of their behaviour from day one

These are just some of the key red flags I wanted to draw attention to. It’s always difficult to think logically when you find yourself in the situation and in your feelings, at times we even refuse to acknowledge these actions and behaviours. If you’re beginning to wonder how you even wound up in the mess you’re in now, think about the early warning signs. I want to end this post with a quote which rings true when thinking about this topic:

“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

– Maya Angelou