It's okay not to get everything right all at once, but if the love problems you had in 2015 were the exact same love problems you faced in 2012 (or worse, for the past five years, maybe just with different guys), it's a signal you may be stuck. Here's how to brighten your chances for the kind of love that lasts. We're rooting for you!
If you're perennially single and dating:
You've been single and ready to mingle for so long, the mingling part has started to become a chore. The worst part is, you have no idea what you're doing wrong.
Everyone who knows you says you're awesome: You're pretty, you're smart, you have a creative spirit, and you have a kind heart. So how come all you seem to get are first dates, or a speech by the end of the second one about how nice you are, and maybe how you can be a "good friend?"
You should: Change important dating patterns.
A simple formula for "getting better" is: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you already have."
You may be smart, pretty, creative, and kind. But these things will get you a job, not a relationship. Instead of feeling like you have to highlight the reasons that make you a good catch, focus on just having fun. Also, don't grill your date like you're interviewing him for a top spot in your company. Unromantic but true: People do not fall in love with who you are. Instead, they fall in love with the way they feel when they are with you.
If you're in a dead-end relationship:
Your family and friends have been telling you to let go of the guy you're with. Maybe he's married. Maybe he hasn't had a job that lasted longer than a month. Maybe he's still dependent on his parents. Maybe he has an addiction. Maybe he has violent tendencies. Maybe he can't stop chasing after other girls.
Yes, you know all these things about him. But isn't love about accepting people for who they are, and loving them anyway? Besides, he makes you feel loved, and you feel happy when you're with him. Well, most of the time.
You should: Love yourself first.
Here's the harsh truth: A romantic relationship isn't necessarily a loving one. To avoid this pitfall, ask yourself this very basic question: "Would my five-year-old self honestly call this whole arrangement 'real love?'"
It's amazing how the things we once knew for sure as five-year-olds have become so muddled and confused be cause we've given up too many parts of ourselves to other people.
It's time to now what "healthy love" is. It's not, for example, "accepting people for who they are and loving them anyway," which only applies to those relationships that leave you holding the short end of the stick.
If you're waiting for the proposal:
Janice was in an exclusive relationshp with her boyfriend for 10 years before he proposed. They're now married, and have a wonderful baby boy.
Myra felt her boyfriend of four years had been focusing so much on his career that their relationship wasn't moving foreward. So she broke up with him. Two years later, she met someone else, to the deep regret of her ex, who realized he should've learned to balance both his career and relationship better.
Tess waited for a proposal from her boyfriend for 17 years, bu he broke off their relationship instead, and eventually married someone else.
All three women met their boyfriends in college. They all thought their guy was The One. But apparently there were major differences in what went on inside their relationships, which led to different endings.
You should: Grow your own life.
First: He needs to know he is ready to become a husband. This is a very different state of mind from simply knowing he loves you. Second: He needs to know you're the right person to spend the rest of his life with.
Now that you know these two things, you also need to know one more truth: He needs to make these decisions himself, and you can never force him to "be ready."
So instead of just hanging around waiting for him to propose, grow your own life outside of your relationship.
If you're heartbroken:
While everyone else is celebrating Valentine's, you're still reeling from the fact that you suddenly find yourself alone, while dealing with the pressure to put on a happy face for everyone else.
Your friends tell you "New year, new beginning," but although their words register in your head, they don't seem to make a difference in your heart.
You should: Allow yourself to heal.
Healing is a process, and it takes time. Most of all, healing is necessary: When you try to skip over or fast forward these painful parts of resolving an ended relationship, you only cover up the wounds and the pain temporarily. And the problem with hiding things is that they always reveal themselves again, most likely when you're trying to reach out and open yourself to a new relationship.
If you've got it bad, seek a support group or go on a counseling session with a professional. This not only helps you maintain good relationships with family and friends, but it also helps you truly come out better and stronger.
Remember: Experience alone is not the best teacher. Instead, it's the lessons you learn from your experience—and decide to actually apply—are the best teachers of all.
If you're getting married:
You don't just want a memorable wedding, you want an amazing marriage. You're about to start a new chapter in your life with the man you have chosen to be The One.
So, how do you not fail where many others before you have?
You should: Learn new skills.
The great news is that you've come this far. And if being married to your guy is something you actually look forward to, then this means you've been doing something right.
But the bad news is, being married is a comlpetely different story. You'll need to apply the same dedication you put into your career into the most important relationship of your life.
Great marriages don't just happen by chance, in the same way that fulfilling careers and successful businesses don't just come out of the blue when you're not paying attention. All of these important things in life happen only by choice.
This story originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine, February 2014.
* Minor edits have been made by Cosmo.ph editors