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All the words I wish I could have told you

I got rid of my last photo of you, and I immediately regretted it. I realized that I will never be able to use the photos I took, documenting our love, as a bookmark.

I regretted that on any suspecting afternoon, with the sun gleaming just right twenty years from now, one of those photos will never fall out of an old book in front of my children and they won’t ask about the boy in the picture with curly hair and reddened cheeks.

I regretted it because you are – you were – my first love. And a person only gets one of those in a lifetime.

When I finally left I reacted curt toward you, almost passive or indifferent, because I didn’t want you to know that this was killing me too. Because I wanted to be strong – because the alternative was weak. Because we met un-intentionally and you immediately became forever etched into my soul.

I regretted it because we were damned from the start – because I found happiness in you before I found happiness in myself.

But, the reality is that I didn’t even know that I was looking for someone like you to save me from my misdirection. In fact, all I knew was that I liked the feeling in my stomach when your bright smile landed in my direction. I liked the comfort I felt in your eyes, I liked being desired. And, I liked how the beginning of our love story sprouted as if it were straight out of a Nora Ephron film.

The thing about those movies, however, is that they always ended just before the story actually began and reality set in.

For whatever reason, I thought myself righteous enough to pop our bubble. To be the one who decides that there is something better, grander, more extraordinary beyond the story of us.

So, I let it go. I convinced myself that I needed to get away so that I could start feeling again.

But seared inside my mind, hidden behind my self-proclaimed and glaring passions for the best love story known to man – and my belief that you couldn’t possibly give it to me – are the photos of you that I took in sepia. My hand on your chest. The back of your head against a sunset. Our hands holding one another. A kiss stolen in a gas station parking lot. Your eyes meeting mine with affection from the driver’s seat when we stopped at a red light and I told you to smile.

I regret that I didn’t give us the chance to seize just one more moment together. I regret that I didn’t give us a chance.

I know that you broke my heart in little ways for a long time, but I broke your heart in a big way all at once. One does not cancel out the other.

I loved you unconditionally. You knew it, too, but you lost me. I waited until I had enough and I left.

I realized that it is better to be single and search for myself, then to settle for something I feel insecure in.

Don’t get me wrong though. Our ending wasn’t nearly as tumultuous as I am making it out to be, nor as I would have liked it to be. One second we were, the next we were not. And that was it. We just ended. There was no thunder, no lightening. Nothing.

Even now as I am sorting through what exactly happened, I still can’t help but think that if you loved me the way you said you did you would have treated me the way you said you would.

I wouldn’t have had to beg.

Even when we did eventually try to talk about us, instead of ignoring the elephant in the room with banter or seduction, I’d be speechless. I didn’t know where to start.

But, please don’t mistake my silence for indifference. I do still love you. I always will, except it’s not the same. We spent so much time together and I know that I am saying so little right now to make up for it. I know that this is unbearable, but I promise you that every word I wish to utter to you is in my mind. I just can’t bring myself to speak when you look at me like that. When you draw yourself closer, it is a bribe which I can’t commit to. So please take a step back, I’m so tired of this. I am drained. If I stayed, I would spend a lifetime choking on words I wouldn’t ever dare to say.

I invested in you and I lost myself. I became dependent. And to be honest, this was the last thing I wanted. I spent close to a year relying on someone I didn’t want to rely on – nor could I. I knew it was the end long before you did, and I held on anyways, just in case, because I have a drastic fear of letting go and moving on.

But how can I reconcile breaking your heart and leaving everything we had together in just a few short minutes. You say that I took you by surprise, that you didn’t see it coming – but I don’t know how. I gave you all of the signs. You saw my silent tears. I always knew I wanted more. I was destined for something different. I felt it, deep in my bones, I just never faced it until I was forced to. I was able to ignore my confusion because we laughed with one another. We couldn’t take our hands off one another. We ran home in the pouring rain together, stopping only to kiss.

We experienced the best of one another for a short period of time, and I know that our relationship lasted as long as it was meant to. We loved each other until we couldn’t. We chewed us up and spit us out. We got everything we needed to get out of one another. We fell in and out of love from worlds apart. But I still feel terrible. And I feel like I should be feeling more even though I have been overcome with intense conflicting feelings every day since we said goodbye. Every day for close to a year.

I guess I just want you to know that I didn’t make this decision in haste. I needed to get away in order to understand more of myself.

I regret not thanking you enough for watching me blossom and believing in me so that I could believe in myself. I should have told you just how much you helped me realize the endless bounds of myself, for better or for worse.

I should have thanked you for letting me go, even though it hurt like hell.

I regret doing this to you because you waited for me. Because I gave you dozens of silent chances in my head. Because you would take me back in a second and I am here telling you that I am confused. That I need more time. That is – time to think. Time to learn and explore and dream. But all you hear is that I need to do all of these things away from you, that I need time alone. That I would rather work on building my sense of self alone than by your side.

But I deserve someone who makes me feel alive. Someone who is generous and who makes my heart jump when I tell people that they are mine. And you deserve someone who doesn’t give you an expiration date.

I am scared that maybe I made a mistake, that maybe I am foolish, or maybe that this is all that my love amounts to. I am having trouble accepting the normalcy of the end of us. The lack of explosion.

I am scared that I will forget. I am scared that after a few months everything we had will feel just like a dream. A dream that is open-ended, a dream that will constantly be on repeat in our respective minds until the end of time. Fated to carry each other’s baggage.

I regret that I now have to give you to someone else. That someone else will nuzzle into your chest, and devour your smell. I regret that I gave it all up so easily and have only in hindsight realized the weight of my naivety. Or did I? Because I also remember being so incredibly devastated, and being met with oblivion, with dismissive niceties. I remember my anxieties being belittled or made to feel small. I remember that I didn’t have the means, or the patience, to heal you.

I remember crying on the dance floor a year ago. Turning around so that none of my friends would see. I was staring at your messages. They were curt, broken and hard to make sense of. I remember being confused, I remember when someone told me for the first time that I deserved a love that was better. A love that nurtured. A love I didn’t have to settle for. A love that swept me off my feet.

I regret that we were different together than we were around everyone else. That no one got a real glimpse of us, in love. I regret being so quiet. I regret that I couldn’t love you like you loved me. I regret that you couldn’t love me the way I needed you to. I regret that we’ve run out of things to say.

I regret that our relationship was already broken even when your fingers were strumming through my hair or when we sat across from each other on the floor in a fit of laughter.

I regret knowing it was the end before you did, and holding on anyways just in case. I regret not telling you just how nervous I was and just how serious I was when I said that I thought we lost our spark. Our magic.

I regret it all because I wish that I held on to those pictures for a little while longer. I wish I studied them. Even though I knew the ending wouldn’t change.

Neither of us can fully heal our heartbreak unless we are apart. We have to heal for ourselves, rather than for the possibility that one day down the line we will be together again.

Seeing you that day, when you came by to collect your things, actually helped me realize that I am better off without you. That I am happy now. Really happy. And I no longer doubt myself. I no longer rely on you for happiness. I no longer get angry or sad because you couldn’t make me happy.

In hindsight I had absolutely no idea who I was when I met you. I still really don’t. I’m not even sure that I knew what genuine happiness looked or felt like.

Maybe that’s what ruined us after all. My indifference. My sadness. All of which at the end of the day amounted to nothing.

Soon I will be able to think about you without ripping my heart out.

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History Historical Badasses

You know Rosa Parks, but you don’t know Elizabeth Jennings and Claudette Colvin

For stories of Black history and excellence, check out our Black History Month series. Celebrate with us by sharing your favorite articles on social media and uplifting the stories, lives, and work of Black people.

We all know Rosa Parks, the American civil rights activist who is known for standing up against racial injustice. Okay, actually, she was seated when she took her stand, but you get what I mean. We learned about the pivotal role she played in the Civil Rights Movement several times in school and we rightfully still celebrate her today.

A picture of Rosa Parks smiling while sitting on a bench with Martin Luther King Jr. sitting in the background behind her.
[Image Description: A picture of Rosa Parks smiling while sitting on a bench with Martin Luther King Jr. sitting in the background behind her.] Via Flicker
















When she refused to give up her seat in the section designated to Black people to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, it led to her arrest. When she was arrested, she was met with support from her community and members of the Black community from across the country. This level of support is what initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott that lasted for 381 days.

Rosa Parks continued her work for racial equality and became an influential leader in the Civil Rights Movement.  However, she is not the first or only woman who fought against racial inequality by not getting up from her seat on public transportation. If you are surprised to hear this then I would like to share the stories of two women who also sat in their seats to take a stand.

Are you ready?

In 1854, Elizabeth Jennings, a free Black schoolteacher, was headed to church on a July Sunday morning. To get to church that day, she boarded a horsecar in Manhattan, New York. When she got into the car, she was told to get off and wait for a horsecar that operated for Black passengers. However, during this time, Black New York residents were expected to walk as horsecars designated for Black people were rarely available. In response, Jennings refused and resisted multiple physical attempts to remove her from the car until the police came to force her out of the car.

A black and white photo of Elizabeth Jennings posing in a long dress and standing with her arm resting on a chair.
[Image Description: A black and white photo of Elizabeth Jennings posing in a long dress and standing with her arm resting on a chair.] Via Zinnedproject










The Black community in New York responded just like the Black community in Montgomery would respond about 100 years later.  They held a rally at the church Jennings attended. Jennings sued the driver, conductor, and the Third Avenue Railway. She was represented by the future President Chester A. Arthur and won her case. Judge Rockwell from the Brooklyn Circuit Court ruled, “Colored persons if sober, well behaved and free from disease, had the same rights as others and could neither be excluded by the rules of the company nor by force or violence.”

Additionally, she received a total of $225 in damages.  Her court victory was a catalyst to the ongoing fight for equality in New York public transit. By 1873, the Civil Rights Act was passed in New York.  The act prohibited explicit discrimination on public transportation in New York, right before the New York subway first opened.

We also have Claudette Colvin, who refused to get up from her seat on the bus at the age of 15. Just 15! Colvin was arrested for not giving up her seat 9 months before Rosa Parks on the same bus system in Montgomery, Alabama. Colvin was on her way home from high school and when the bus driver told to get up to give her seat to a white woman. She responded by saying that she had paid to ride the bus and that it was her constitutional right. When she refused, she was put in handcuffs and was arrested.

A black and white head shot of Claudette Colvin. She is wearing a plain shirt, glasses, and has short curly hair.
[Image Description: A black and white head shot of Claudette Colvin. She is wearing a plain shirt, glasses, and has short curly hair.] Via Wikipedia

Colvin was charged with violating segregation laws.  She spent several hours in jail before her minister paid her bail. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People considered using her case to confront segregation laws. However, the association decided not to because of her age and her being pregnant at the time.

Despite the National Association for Advancement of Colored People not using her case, she became a plaintiff in the Browder v. Gayle case. The ruling of this case declared that the segregated bus system in Montgomery was unconstitutional.

We all know the story and the work of Rosa Parks, but few people know the stories of Elizabeth Jennings and Claudette Colvin.  Jennings and Colvin’s stories serve as a reminder that it takes more than one person to institute real change. We should always remember that there are many people that we do not learn about in our history books that made sacrifices and helped influence important changes.

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Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Have you ever felt unrequited love?

Usually when I think of unrequited love, I think of something great. Some sort of grand story full of catharsis. Unrequited is generally special.

A type of love that demands to be talked about for an eternity. Something electric, with compulsive wavelengths. Something like the movies that comes with its own playlist attached to it.

Something with late and long nights spent together in a damp minivan twinkling and spitting out dreams on a whim. Something with vicious fights fueled by our own desire. Something that makes my soul open up just as swiftly as it gets torn apart. And, somehow I wind up bursting at the seams yet feel completely unsatisfied. I always want more. 

Why do we long for the type of love that hurts so much it imprints our hearts? It is difficult to locate the line that separates struggle and triumph, as nearly every love story in popular media blurs the two. But unrequited love is so unbelievably magnificent and sad at the same time that it becomes all encompassing.

Unrequited love is an entire body, overwhelming, feeling. I have broken hearts before and I have had my heart broken, so I can tell you that the feeling never fades, one way or the other. It feels as if you are running fast, and for a long time, yet making no distance at all.

One time I waited two months for a guy to message me back before I realized that he just wasn’t going to. Ever. Again. And that entire time I couldn’t help but wonder why I cared so much. What we had wasn’t at all special, but I still was left longing for a distraction from the heartbreak. I was showered by his passivity instead of his kisses and I wanted him to know how much his absence hurt me, but he was so equally careless and carefree that none of it mattered.

Not even for a second. 

I felt unrequited love again while in a long-distance relationship. This kind of unrequited was different. It wasn’t one-sided. Instead, we felt tremendously for each other. It’s just that our bodies weren’t able to be physically together for some time. We were only long distance for the few months that I would be studying abroad, but it felt like an eternity. I remember being there and using all of my senses to try to gauge what his touch felt like.

Somedays I would wake up and watch the sun from my window, silently knowing that that same sun wouldn’t bounce to him for another six hours, and I would recall how that same sun looked dancing across his back at dawn. I’d lay in bed at night and want to tell him about my day, but I knew that I couldn’t. I was constantly reminded that he no longer took up the space in between my arms when we slept. But I was, and still am, fascinated by the immediate consumption of these moments. I am so grateful to have given him my heart. He still has it. 

The extent of passion is practically boundless. We should feel like we can fly on a whim, or scream and dance, when we are in love. Unrequited love just forces you to confront that intensity, those struggles and triumphs, head on. Some of it is beautiful; some not so much. I like to remind myself that love doesn’t need a reason, love just is. 

Unrequited love is messy, but worth it. It is a collection of fleeting moments. It teaches us that all love should be leaking, dripping, through every difficulty yet also a thread that is continuously weaving through and connecting our bodies and our souls. The whole point of longing is to continue, because there will always be potential to love someone rather than to have loved someone. They can’t be the one that got away if they weren’t the one in the first place.

Mind Love

Why the best crushes are the ones that can’t be anything more

The three stages of a standard crush are as follows: attraction, awareness, and decision to pursue. Attraction is self-explanatory – you see something you like in someone and it makes you pay a little more attention to them. Awareness requires you to be slightly more invested – noticing which one of your celebrity impressions makes them laugh the most, making sure they always see you from your good side, wondering what their favorite salad dressing is (balsamic vinaigrette implies understated sophistication, anything involving mayonnaise is a red flag).

The decision to pursue is where things tend to get a bit more complicated. You have decided you’re compatible with this person and are taking active steps to begin a relationship with them. Your thoughts become consumed by whether or not they reciprocate, and to what degree they return your interest. Every gesture, every word of theirs is a clue. Every gesture, every word of yours is an attempt to extract some more of these clues. In short, it’s agony – agony that may pay off, but agony nonetheless.

And that is precisely why the greatest crushes are the ones that cannot become anything more: your best friend’s brother, your happily married 19th-century poetry professor, cashier number eight at the grocery store on Tuesday evenings. The crushes that, due to some obstacle, impracticality or inconvenience, you can never, ever act on. You can observe, you can fantasize, and you can make sure your hair is always freshly washed and smelling of tropical fruit on a Tuesday, but that’s it.

The crush remains private and passive until you lose interest, lose touch, or both.

This is just as, if not more, agonizing, you say? Isn’t wanting something you can’t have worse than pursuing something you can? Allow me to plead my case. You say or do something crushingly embarrassing in front of your Nowhere Crush (henceforth used to refer to a crush that can’t go anywhere beyond distant attraction)? Who cares! Your crush has a peanut allergy but you can never give up peanut butter? Not an issue! Their singular (but inexcusable) flaw is that they clap when the plane lands? Doesn’t matter, you’re not going anywhere with them!

The pressure to pursue is killing our ability to crush for the joy of crushing. We are in such fear of missing fateful connections and overlooking big opportunities that we are blind to the quiet, consistent connections and opportunities we encounter every day. Not every feeling, every instance of subtle magnetism, requires us to do something about it. Some things can be enjoyed passively and carelessly, with no thought of consequences or commitment.

It is in the process of trying to do something about everything that we forget to take pleasure in all the best parts of having a crush. Eye contact that feels electric, careless banter, a single butterfly in your stomach. Crushes make us feel young and excited and alive; they remind us that we are always on the lookout for connection and feeling, no matter how small or inconsequential. Crush often, and crush without care.

Love Life Stories

How ‘The Spark’ could be working against you

We are all, through experience or observation, aware of ‘The Spark’. We’re told about it in all the stories of how our parents met, in the dating advice our friends give us, in the anecdote about how an uncle adopted a stray dog on a whim. Every story chronicling the beginning of a significant relationship features ‘The Spark’ in some way, shape or form. Maybe it’s romantic love at first sight, or laughing at the same joke and knowing you’ll be friends forever. Maybe it’s instant, intense hatred. What it’s not is casual interest, or indifference, or anything that doesn’t jolt you awake and make it very difficult to get back to sleep.

Using the evidence I have acquired by being in constant observation of feelings and art and other humans, I have formulated the following definition of ‘the spark’: ‘the spark’ is a definite and undeniable physical, emotional, and psychological indicator of belonging. It is the closest we get to proof that Fate really does exist and that she is sending us one of those signs we keep asking for.

Popular 'The Muppets' characters Kermit and Miss Piggy stare lovingly at each other in the midst of a crowd.
[Image description: Popular ‘The Muppets’ characters Kermit and Miss Piggy stare lovingly at each other in the midst of a crowd.] Via Giphy.
My mother says she felt it when she met my father. My cousin says she felt it when she met her fiancé. Almost anyone I know that’s in a healthy and committed relationship mentions knowing. Meet-cutes in movies and impassioned lyrics about love at first sight have only reiterated this narrative. But do we always know? And is knowing a prerequisite for a successful relationship? Or are the pressures we place on first impressions standing in the way of real connection?

The science behind love at first sight asks even more questions of it – whether it’s love or lust you’re experiencing, whether it’s still love if it is unrequited, whether there’s still a chance if ‘the spark’ doesn’t come into play at first. To answer the first question, a recent study concludes that a lot of the same areas of the brain respond to both lust and love, making it confusing to pinpoint which you’re feeling. The difference in how your brain processes love and lust, however, is that it treats the former as a more abstract, complex representation of the latter. Whether love grows out of lust or whether the two can exist simultaneously remains unanswered.

A redheaded man and a brunette man speak to each other at a bar. The latter says to the former, 'Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk in again?'
[Image description: A redheaded man and a brunette man speak to each other at a bar. The latter says to the former, ‘Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk in again?’] Via Giphy.
Love at first sight is, apparently, often one-sided, although one partner’s intense initial reaction may influence the other’s recollection of that first meeting. And as for whether a relationship can be successful if there is no spark present initially – only a third of Americans have reported experiencing love at first sight, and yet more than half of them are in relationships. So maybe there is life beyond ‘The Spark’. Why, then, am I still so preoccupied with the concept?

It could be because I’ve heard more success stories coming out of love at first sight than not. Or that I’ve watched Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes stare at each other from either side of a fish tank one too many times. Or that I’m surrounded by romantics who could have, in retrospect, projected the intimacy and affection they feel in their relationships currently onto its inception. Which is why I wonder whether ‘The Spark’, and my fixation with feeling it immediately, is standing in my way when it comes to forming meaningful relationships. I’ve built my expectations up so high for the first meeting that I won’t give anyone a chance unless, when we first meet, a solar eclipse, a medical miracle and world peace all occur simultaneously.

A young man and woman, playing Romeo and Juliet respectively, stare at each other in wonderment from either side of a fish tank.
[Image description: A young man and woman, playing Romeo and Juliet respectively, stare at each other in wonderment from either side of a fish tank.] Via Giphy.
Perhaps we should stop putting so much pressure on first meetings, on first impressions, on all kinds of firsts. Second, third, fourth chances are all opportunities for a delayed Spark. After that, I’m drawing the line. If it’s not love at fourth sight, then it’s not love. And if it doesn’t keep me up all night feeling like several sparklers are being lit in my stomach, brain, and heart, then it deserves to be slept on.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

My friends almost ruined my life when they tried to play “matchmaker”

I’ve been single in all my life. Being in an all-girls high school, there was hardly any chance for me to meet or talk to boys. All my best friends were girls and we kept it close-knit. We shared everything and did all the things together. We were like sisters.

Even though we rarely had opportunities to interact with boys, somehow they managed to get boyfriends. I didn’t. To be honest, I never even had crushes on anybody.

But one friend request changed everything.

This one boy from a nearby school sent me a friend request on Facebook. Without thinking, I accepted it. I didn’t expect us to become close, but in no time, we actually did.

My biggest mistake was telling my friends about this. They were all excited that I’d finally found my ‘first boyfriend’ after being single for my whole life. Every time they said it, I rolled my eyes. I had my first guy friend and immediately they thought we should be together?

At first, I didn’t take it seriously. But slowly it started to annoy me.

They became completely committed to being matchmakers. Through their attempts to set me up with him, my friends became close to him. In their eyes, we were a match made in heaven. But I didn’t want to make it into a big deal. After all, he didn’t feel anything for me.

Turns out, I was wrong. I found out he did feel something.

The moment my friends found out, they were ecstatic. Every time I was with them, they’d bring up his name and start teasing about us being together, making up romantic scenarios about our happy ending.

I told them to stop, but they didn’t listen. They thought I actually liked it when they were being playful and that I just pretended not to. It finally reached the point where I completely I lost it.

I argued with my friends, for the first time ever. My relationship with them turned sour. At the same time, I turned down this guy and we stopped being friends.

A few weeks later, my friends apologized.

Everything became normal again, just the way it was before. We spent our time, as usual, hung out, and enjoy our school days like we used to. I was relieved, thinking that it was finally over.

But then, this guy came back.

I tried my best to ignore him. But my friends were excited to start their matchmaking game again.

There were no jokes or teasing at first. But they tried to catch my attention by mentioning his name in every conversation we were in. It started to irk me again, but I pretended to be uninterested in talking about him. I couldn’t accuse them of trying to play matchmakers again because they weren’t bringing up their fantasy about our happy ending anymore, but I was still uncomfortable.

But their matchmaking schemes started to become clear pretty soon. 

They invited him to hang out with us, and then bailed so we could be alone. They always came up with creative excuses about why they had to leave. When we were in the same class, they intentionally arranged for us sit next to each other. It bothered me so much, I started to avoid all of them. But I couldn’t escape our chat group on social media.

Some of them shared pictures of him and me together, sitting next to each other in the class or cropped our group photos. Sometimes they put heart-shaped borders or effects in those pictures, and that really pushed me over the edge.

I confronted them.

We all met during lunch and I spilled everything out. I told them how much I hated them being matchmakers and how much it pissed me off every time I had to listen to their daydreams about me and this guy. I made it clear that I had no romantic feelings for him and that we were never going to happen.

I gave them a choice. They could keep playing matchmakers and I would stop being their friend or they could quit it and save the friendship.

Of course, they didn’t want our friendship to end because of that. They admitted it was all for fun though they really did want to see us together. They just wanted me to be happy, and in their minds that included me having a boyfriend.

Finally, they promised to stop. Thankfully, they were true to their words.

It took quite a while to get our friendship back to normal this time. But they understood that I was perfectly content with my single life. Alone didn’t mean I was lonely.

Eventually, I will find someone, but for now, I just want to enjoy my single life. And I’m glad my friends have chosen to respect that.

Love + Sex Love

These 10 signs will tell you how good your relationship REALLY is

No one said that relationships are perfect.

In fact, how can they be? The combination of two or more very different people deciding to make a commitment to one another can be a difficult space to navigate. You won’t always get along, and there won’t always be rose petals on hotel beds every Valentine’s Day.

But there are certain behaviors in relationships that are red flags for significant issues down the line. Abusive behavior manifests itself in ways that both the abuser and abused might not even realize, making it important to seek help when you feel confused or unsure.

And remember: heartbreak, though painful, is completely and totally normal. There are so many different ways to deal with it, but don’t let it scare you into making the right decision for your physical and emotional wellbeing.

1. They keep score.


Like I said, no relationship is perfect. You’ll have your ups and downs, that’s just part of getting to know someone.

But when your partner decides to keep a metaphorical ‘scorecard’ of every bad thing you ever did in your relationship, it’s time to consider whether or not they’re really happy being with you. Scorecard keeping is a sign that your partner may be unhappy but settled. It can also hint that they enjoy bringing up the past to put you down.

Healthy relationships mean having to forgive the past and move on.

2. They refuse to compromise.


Compromises are an important part of any relationship, and not just the small things either.

For example, if every time you go out on a date you’re doing what your partner wants to do, that might implicate that they don’t really care about your desires, your likes, and dislikes. They’re happy so long as they get their way, and that can have severe implications in the future.

Imagine that you’re both still paying off student loans but your partner decides to buy a new car without consulting with you. Or you want to have kids somewhere down the line but your partner won’t even entertain the conversation. All these big, important life decisions cannot be made by one person only.

Being able to compromise on decisions in a way that both parties can be content with is important for building a healthy, equal relationship.

3. They beat you when you’re down.


Everyone goes through rough times every now and then. It could be failing a test, losing a best friend or even being retrenched. Having a partner who will be there to support you through those tough times is fundamental for any healthy relationship.

But if your partner blames you for your difficulties, puts pressure on you to get over it or fix the situation, it is possible that they don’t really care about your emotional and mental wellbeing.

Tough times like the ones mentioned above can alter a person’s mental health for good. Many of us suffer from depression and anxiety because of the stresses of modern life. And you’re going to need someone who’s going to have your back; for better and worse.

4. They feel entitled to sex.


Consent. Consent. Consent.

A date does not entitle you to sex. Three months of dating does not entitle you to sex. Marriage does not entitle you to sex. Every single time you engage in sex with your partner or partners, each person needs to give their consent.

If you are in a relationship where someone is pressuring you to have sex when you’re not ready, or even when you just don’t feel like, that is constituted as sexual harassment. If they coerce or force you into sex, no matter what kind, it is considered rape.

If this happens to you, seek help immediately. Find a trusted friend or family member to turn to, or reach out to national hotlines and help centers for support. You can get out.

5. They cheat.


Of course, Beyoncé can forgive Jay-Z for cheating on her if she wants to, that’s her prerogative and it’s yours too.

But what I want to address here is cheating in polyamorous relationships. There are many misconceptions about polyamory, like believing that it involves no commitment or communication about sexual partners. In reality, it is possible to cheat in a polyamorous relationship. When a set of boundaries is established, they have to be respected. Partners who deviate from those boundaries are violating the trust of that relationship. In other words: cheating.

This goes for monogamous relationships too. For some, dancing with someone else at a club is not considered cheating. For others, mild flirting can be considered grounds for breaking up. Establish those boundaries and make sure that both you and your partner respect them.

6. They give you ultimatums.


“It’s either me or x-important-thing-in-your-life.” is the worst thing you could hear from a significant other.

Your partner could expect you to give up education, work, lifelong dreams, family and friends for them, and none of it is okay. But of course, we need to look at context.

For example, in same-sex relationships where one partner’s family is homophobic, it can be difficult to deal with that kind of rejection and animosity. But if you love your family and want them in your life, no one can ask you to give them up. Instead, you can work through it together and find a solution that doesn’t involve distancing yourself from those you love.

7. They try to fix your problems with marriage or kids.


Let’s be honest: lifelong commitments like marriage and kids will not solve your problems.

Sure, you may be going through a rough patch at the moment, but binding yourself to your partner is not going to solve anything. In fact, it is most likely going to result in resentment.

When it comes to marriage, of course you have the option to divorce or annul. But children are a no-going-back commitment. When you make the decision to bring a child into this world, you do it with the understanding that this kid is a whole human being, not an arts-and-crafts “I’m sorry!” card to stick in the middle of a feuding relationship.

8. They refuse to acknowledge their privilege.


My fiancé is white and I’m Indian, and to cut a long story short, our differences in race have been an issue.

When your partner has certain privileges that you don’t have it is important to acknowledge and talk about that with an understanding of systemic oppression. When my partner and I met we were just 16 and 17 years old, and barely knew how to comprehend our this.

But now that we’re older and wiser about issues like white privilege, we are able to talk about it openly and honestly. When I experience discrimination (because yes, racism does exist) I need my partner to be there for me. Not to defend white people’s actions with a young #notallwhites, but to listen and empathize with my situation. And hell, even defend me in the arena.

9. They verbally and physically abuse you.


Of course, any kind of verbal and physical assault is completely and totally wrong.

Your partner hurling insults and curse words is abuse.

Your partner hitting, punching or pinching you in any way is abuse. Things like throwing objects in your direction is also abuse. In fact, anything that puts your physical being in danger is considered abuse.

If this happens to you, seek help immediately. Find a trusted friend or family member to turn to, or reach out to national hotlines and help centers for support. You can get out.

10. They can’t accept change.


Repeat after me: everyone changes.

It is ridiculous for someone to expect you to remain the same from the time they meet you till five years down the line. People can even change from month to month, that’s a normal part of being a human being. You know what is strange though? Expecting someone to look and act the same way they did in high school, when they’re 28 years old.

Your partner being unable to accept change can be a sign that they aren’t happy with your growth. And if they simply aren’t happy with the person you’ve become, that’s normal too. It’s okay to break up with someone when transitioning into different stages of your life, in fact, it’s very, very normal.

Love + Sex Love

I love someone who doesn’t know I exist

You are the one whose photo I had downloaded off of Facebook, zooming in on your face on my tablet every other night before going to bed. I had memorized all of your features perfectly: the color of your eyes, the tiny freckles on your cheekbones, the way your bony hand had spider-like veins on it and how you were smiling freely at the camera.

You are the one whose copybook I had stolen – risking severe consequences – just so I could know what your handwriting looked like. Just so I could have something that belonged to you.

You are the one whose number I had looked for in the phone directory, and whose address I had learned by heart.

You are the one whom I dreamed of marrying in the far future, when everything would’ve magically worked out. I imagined myself living with you at that address, walking to the bakery (that I knew from my field research was nearby) every Saturday morning. I would get along great with your parents and siblings, and we’d have a son who looked just like you.

Like a foolish, stereotypical teenage girl à-la-Taylor Swift, I daydreamed and waited around for my happy ending. Even though I considered myself to be a hardcore feminist. Even though I was deeply aware of how strong, independent women do not require male validation, how they take the reins of their lives in their own hands. I handed my reins to a moron, knowingly.

I was Katniss at heart – but in real life, I just couldn’t help acting like Bella.

Why? Why do so many women struggle to act in accordance with their closely-held values when it comes to men? Why is it that, even though we cannot stand to see injustice being done to other women, even though we urge our friends to leave their douchey boyfriends, we sometimes just cannot bring ourselves to follow the principles that we ourselves set, to listen to our own advice?

I wonder if it’s human nature. Maybe men do the same, maybe they go against their core ideals just for the love of their lives too, who knows. But somehow, that image is hard for me to visualize. After all, how many guys name the kids that they want to have with their crushes? How many men take the time to painstakingly screen through a potential date’s Facebook every existing social media profile, eager to glean any info they can? How many teenage boys excitedly tell their best friend about how their crush had glanced at them for slightly longer than a millisecond?

I’ll tell you how many: not nearly as many as there are girls and women who do those things. Yes, we are socialized to be stereotypically feminine as kids – we are mothers of Barbie dolls as kids and lead characters of romance novels by the time we are teenagers. And then, at some point in our adolescence or adulthood we see the light and suddenly realize that we can be so much more. We try to break free from societal norms and the bullshit that the media feeds us, and finally, we say, we can start thinking for ourselves.

But now I wonder, what if the damage has already been done by then? And if so, then how do we cure ourselves?